Know the Facts About Cataracts

Did you know, cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the world? Cataracts affect nearly 20.5 million Americans age 40 and older.* If you are over the age of 50, you should have a yearly comprehensive eye exam to detect cataracts as they develop.

A cataract is the clouding of the lens in your eye. Many people describe the feeling as if you are looking through a foggy or frosted window.

What causes cataracts?

Clouding of the natural lens in your eye is caused by proteins clumping together within the lens. It is unknown why the eye changes as the body ages, but these changes may cause cataracts to grow larger over time, resulting in an increased difficulty to see clearly.

Some factors that have been linked to cataract development are diabetes, obesity, smoking, ultraviolet radiation, and family history.

Symptoms

Symptoms associated with cataracts can vary from person to person. However, there are a few key symptoms associated with most cases of cataract development. If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, schedule a visit with your eye doctor to discuss your risk or development of cataracts.

  • Slight blur in vision
  • Vision is cloudy
  • Sunlight or lamps feel too bright
  • Headlights have more glare and/or a halo around them
  • Colors no longer appear as bright as they once did

Types of cataracts

Subcapsular

Subcapsular cataracts typically occur in the back of the lens and are most common in individuals with diabetes or those taking a high dose of steroid medication.

Nuclear

Nuclear cataracts are associated with aging and occur in the central zone of the lens.

Cortical

Cortical cataracts occur in the lens cortex and are associated with streaks which interfere with light passage through the eye.

Congenital

Congenital cataracts are present at birth and may be due to genetics or intrauterine infection.

Are cataracts preventable?

No studies have shown a way to prevent cataracts, however, there are recommended practices to help maintain eye health and lower your risk of developing cataracts.

  • Yearly comprehensive eye exams help maintain eye health and detect the development of cataracts at an early stage.
  • Smoking has been linked to the development of cataracts. Quitting smoking provides a variety of health benefits lowering your risk for further cataract development.
  • Keeping up with treatment if you have diabetes or other medical conditions will help minimize your risk.
  • Maintaining a healthy diet, including fruits and vegetables, provides increased overall eye health.
  • Wearing sunglasses to prevent ultraviolet radiation will decrease your risk of UV damage which has been linked to the development of cataracts.

 

*National Eye Institute (https://nei.nih.gov)

Get the Facts About Lazy Eye

Lazy eye, or amblyopia, occurs when one eye fails to reach normal visual acuity, even with prescription lenses. In most cases, this begins in infancy and early childhood. If left untreated, lazy eye can result in blindness, loss of vision, or the abnormal development of a child’s eyes.

What causes lazy eye?

Lazy eye occurs when one eye experiences fewer visual signals from the brain in comparison to the other eye. In prolonged cases, the eyes may stop working together and eventually the brain may completely ignore the input coming from the “lazy” eye.

Strabismus

Strabismus, the most common cause of lazy eye, is when an individual has a crossed or turned eye. Due to poor alignment, the brain begins to ignore the input from the poorly aligned eye resulting in strabismic amblyopia.

Refractive

Refractive amblyopia is caused by unequal refractive errors in the eyes. For example, if one eye has an uncorrected nearsighted RX and the other does not, an individual will experience blurred vision in only one eye. In this example, the brain will eventually neglect the blurred vision and causes amblyopia from lack of use.

Deprivation

Deprivation amblyopia is caused by articles on the eye, such as a cataract, preventing light from entering the eye.

Signs and symptoms to look for:

Because lazy eye begins at such a young age, it is difficult to pinpoint exact symptoms. However, as a parent, there are signs you should look for to determine if your child may have a visual disability. These include:

  • Crossed eyes or misalignment
  • If a child cries or fusses when you cover one eye
  • Trouble reading
  • An eye which wanders inward or outward
  • Poor depth perception
  • Squinting or shutting an eye

Importance of early detection

Lazy eye will not subside on its own and can worsen over time. If left completely untreated, lazy eye could lead to permanent visual problems. It is important to have your child’s eyes examined at an early age to catch any signs of lazy eye and seek treatment if needed.

Children should have their first eye exam at 6 months old, another at 3 years old, and again before starting school. Regular comprehensive eye exams help ensure your child’s eyes are developing normally and allow for early detection and treatment of eye-related conditions.

Myth or Fact

Bangs cause lazy eye. MYTH. Lazy eye cannot be caused by bangs or other cosmetic modifications unless it causes the eye’s line of sight to be blocked all day and night.

Patching is a common way to treat lazy eye. FACT.

Older children and adults with lazy eye cannot receive treatment. MYTH. An individual can receive treatment for lazy eye at any time. The effectiveness of treatment depends on a variety of factors including development stage and early detection.

The eye becomes “lazy” because the brain has decided not to process visual information from the eye. FACT.

Treatment is most effective if lazy eye is detected before age 7. FACT.

Preventing Snow Blindness, Sunburn for Your Eyes

We take many precautions to avoid sunburn on our skin, face, and lips, but have you ever thought about your eyes? Many are surprised to learn our eyes can also acquire sunburn. This condition is known as photokeratitis or snow blindness.

What causes Snow Blindness?

Snow Blindness occurs when your eyes are exposed to ultraviolet light for an extended period of time, causing sunburn. It most commonly occurs in snowy areas because snow reflects 80% of UV rays.* Snow blindness can also occur in highly reflective environments with water or white sand.

In addition to natural UV rays, man-made sources of ultraviolet radiation can cause snow blindness. Typically, man-made UV rays only damage your eyes when the proper eyewear is not being worn. This can happen when working with a welder’s torch or using tanning booths or sunlamps.

Can I lose my vision completely?

No, Snow Blindness is temporary and doesn’t cause actual blindness, it typically impairs your vision for 24 to 48 hours.

Symptoms of Snow Blindness

  • Eye pain
  • Burning, red, or watery eyes
  • Gritty sensation
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Blurry vision
  • Swollen eyes or eyelids
  • A headache
  • Glare and halos around lights

Risk factors for snow blindness?

You and your family are at an increased risk for snow blindness when involved in sports with highly reflective surfaces. When skiing, snowboarding, and snow sledding, you should ensure everybody’s eyes are protected with snow goggles that provide 100% UV protection.

Altitude plays a big role in the risk for snow blindness. At higher altitudes, UV rays are stronger. Therefore, when high altitudes, such as mountains, are combined with snow, the risk of Snow Blindness doubles.

Don’t forget, water sports such as water skiing, knee boarding, and surfing require protective eyewear as well. A great option is wraparound sunglasses that block out 100% of UV rays and remain on your head throughout the duration of the activity.

How do I prevent snow blindness?

  1. Anytime you are outside, you should wear sunglasses that block 100% of UV rays.
  2. Remember, UV rays can penetrate clouds, so sunglasses are required even on cloudy days.
  3. Always wear snow goggles when skiing, snowboarding, and mountain climbing.
  4. Wear wraparound sunglasses when you plan to be on or near water for extended periods of time.
  5. Ensure you have eye shields to wear in tanning beds and booths. Never tan without eye shields.
  6. Use the recommended safety eyewear for your job if you are working with harmful light.

 

*The United States Environmental Protection Agency

Eye Color & Genetics

Ever wonder why your eyes are blue, green, brown, or somewhere in between? The colored part of your eye, the Iris, contains pigmentation which determines our eye color. Your parents pass on chromosomes which combine to customize your eye color.

How eye color develops

Eye color is not as simple as other genetic traits. Three different genes contribute to your eye color. Due to dominant gene types, darker colors like brown overpower lighter colors like blue and green. Colors such as gray, hazel, and multiple combinations are not as common and are not yet completely understood.

Most babies are born with blue eyes, but did you know their eyes can darken for three years? Melanin is a pigment not present at birth, which develops with age and causes eyes to darken. The more melanin someone has, the darker their eyes will be.

Facts About Common Eye Colors:

  • Brown: Most common eye color worldwide. This varies between dark brown, light brown, and honey brown eyes.
  • Blue: People with blue eyes have less melanin in their eyes than any other color. Blue eyes are thought to come from a genetic mutation of one individual.
  • Green: Thought to be the most attractive and one of the rarest eye colors.
  • Hazel: The hue of hazel eyes changes based on what you are wearing and the type of lighting you are in. Hazel eyes host a variety of colors.

Changes in eye color

When your pupil changes size, the pigments in the iris of your eye compress or spread apart causing the color of your eyes to change. Your pupils change size for a variety of reasons including changes in light and the distance of the object you are focusing on. Emotions can also change the pupil size and iris color.

Heterochromia

Heterochromia is a condition in which a person’s eyes are different colors, caused by one eye having more melanin than the other. Typically, present at birth and is not considered an eye disease as it does not commonly cause vision problems.

Enhancing your eye color

  • Wear eyeglass frames to compliment your eye color and skin tone.

Example: Determine if you are “warm” or “cool” toned skin and eye color then match your frames with a complementary color.

  • Use eye makeup to bring out the color of your eyes.

Example: Pinks, purples, and silvers bring out the warmth in brown eyes.

  • Wear clothing which compliments or contrasts your eye color.

Example: Orange, red, and gold highlight the natural hue of blue eyes.

  • Choose hairstyles and colors to accentuate your eyes.

Example: Bangs and layers which frame the face draw more attention to your eyes.

  • Colored contact lenses give you the opportunity to try out a new look.

Combating Dry Eye Syndrome

Do you experience itchy, burning, or dry eyes? You may be suffering from dry eye syndrome. Tears are necessary for overall eye health and clear vision, when there is insufficient moisture on the surface of the eye it can cause discomfort. Let’s looks at some common causes of dry eye syndrome, symptoms, and risk factors.

What are the causes of dry eye syndrome?

Tears keep the eyes surfaces moist and wash away dust, debris, and other microorganisms. Without constant, adequate moisture, dry eye will occur. Not enough oil in the tears causes them to evaporate too quickly, and without sufficient water production, eyes cannot maintain proper moisture.

Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome:

  • Scratchy or gritty feeling
  • Red eyes
  • Blurriness
  • Irritation from windy conditions
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Fatigued eyes
  • Problems with contacts
  • Excessive tearing
  • Heavy eyes
  • Sore eyes

Contact lenses and dry eyes

One of the most common complaints from contact lens wearers is their contacts make their eyes feel dry. If you experience dry eye symptoms while wearing your contacts or immediately after removing your contacts, talk with your eye doctor, as it is irregular to feel discomfort.

If discomfort occurs, it is possible you are using the incorrect solution with your contact lenses; not all solutions are made equally. Your eye doctor may also recommend you use eye drops to help temporarily relieve dry eye symptoms.

Another means to relieve symptoms is to change your contact lens type to a more breathable or moisture-focused lens, which is specially made to help retain moisture. You may also want to discuss with your eye doctor the option to switch from reusable contact lenses to single-use lenses. Single-use lenses will help prevent your lens from drying out and work to maintain moisture in your eyes.

Factors that Increase Risk of Dry Eyes

Dry eye symptoms stem from multiple risk factors, including health conditions, environments, and eyewear choice. If you are suffering from dry eye try some of the tips below to help reduce your symptoms.  

  • Computer use. Humans blink less frequently when working at computers, allowing for more evaporated tears. When working on a computer for an extended period of time, follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds to give your eyes a rest.
  • Contact lens. Dry eye discomfort is a primary reason for wearers to stop using contacts. Use rewetting drops daily or talk with your eye doctor about contact lens types that work best for your eyes.
  • Indoor environment. Air conditioning, fans, and air heating systems can decrease the humidity indoors and cause symptoms of dry eye. Try using a humidifier in your house if you notice the air getting dryer.
  • Outdoor environment. If you are outdoors in dry or windy conditions, wear a pair of sunglasses or hat to reduce your exposure to the elements which can cause dry eyes.
  • Smoking. Can cause eyes to dry over time and is the root of various other eye problems.
  • Aging. Dry eye syndrome is more common after the age of 50.
  • Menopause. Women who have completed menopause are at a greater risk for dry eye than men the same age.
  • Health conditions. Certain diseases have a higher risk of contributing to dry eye- such as diabetes or thyroid diseases.
  • Medications. Prescription and nonprescription medications can have dry eye as a side effect.