Glaucoma – Are You At Risk?

January is Glaucoma Awareness Month and the perfect time to raise awareness for this disease. Early on there are no symptoms.  In fact, half of the people with glaucoma don’t even know they have it. Learn about glaucoma and the steps you can take to reduce your risk of vision loss.

There are several types of glaucoma, although the most common type of glaucoma is Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma, it begins at the peripheral working inward to weaken the central vision, this could lead to tunnel vision. It can cause irreversible and gradual damage of the optic nerve and vision.

You can prevent glaucoma with regular eye exams (with a visual field test) by an eye care professional and also by looking out for these subtle warning signs:

  1. Eye Pain
  2. Night Halos
  3. Tunnel Vision
  4. Blurred Vision
  5. Eye Swelling and Redness
  6. Nausea
  7. Sudden Visual Disturbance
  8. Severe Headache

Are you at risk?

Anyone can get glaucoma, but certain groups are at higher risk. These groups include African Americans over the age of 40, all people over the age of 60, and since it is hereditary, people with a family history of glaucoma, and people who have diabetes.

There are many steps you can take to help protect your eyes and lower your risk of vision loss from glaucoma. 

  1. If you are in a high-risk group, get a comprehensive dilated eye exam to catch glaucoma early and start treatment. Prescription eye drops can stop glaucoma from progressing.
  2. Even if you are not in a high-risk group, getting a comprehensive dilated eye exam by the age of 40 can help catch glaucoma and other eye diseases early.
  3. Open-angle glaucoma does not have symptoms and is hereditary, so talk to your family members about their vision health to help protect your eyes and theirs.
  4. Maintaining a healthy weight, controlling your blood pressure, being physically active and avoiding smoking will help you avoid vision loss from glaucoma.

Stay aware of the risks and symptoms and remember an annual comprehensive eye exam is key for early detection of glaucoma and other eye diseases.

Click here to learn more about Glaucoma.

Keep Your Eyes Comfortable During the Cold Winter Months

Harsh weather conditions can reduce the natural moisture in your eyes and the irritation usually results in a burning or itching sensation that often leads to rubbing or scratching your eyes which can worsen the symptoms. Sometimes it feels like there is a foreign object in your eye and for some, dry eyes can even cause excessive tearing, as your eyes try to overcompensate for their lack of protective tears. Prolonged, untreated dry eyes can lead to blurred vision as well. Between the harsh winter winds outside and the dry heat radiating inside, our eyes are very quickly irritated and dried in the winter months.  The result is itchy, dry eyes that may cause pain, blurred vision, a burning sensation, or even watery vision as our eyes try to compensate for the dryness.

What Are The Symptoms?

  • Uncomfortable, stingy, burning or scratchy feeling.
  • Stringy mucus in or around your eyes
  • Increased eye irritation from smoke or wind
  • Eye fatigue
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Eye redness
  • A sensation of having something in your eyes
  • Difficulty wearing contact lenses
  • Periods of excessive tearing
  • Blurred vision, often worsening at the end of the day or after focusing for a prolonged period

10 TIPS TO KEEP YOUR EYES COMFORTABLE DURING THE WINTER MONTHS

Whatever the symptoms, dry eyes can cause significant discomfort during the long winters and relief can seriously improve your quality of life.

  1. To keep eyes moist, apply artificial tears/eye drops a few times a day. If you have chronic dry eyes, speak to your eye doctor about the best product for your condition.
  2. Drink a lot of fluids – keeping your body hydrated will also help maintain the moisture in your eyes.
  3. If you spend a lot of time indoors in heated environments, use a humidifier to add some moisture back into the air.
  4. Try to situate yourself away from sources of heat, especially if they are blowing. While a nice cozy fire can add to the perfect winter evening, make sure to keep your distance so dry eyes don’t ruin it. 
  5. Staring at a computer or digital device for extended amounts of time can further dry out your eyes. If you spend a lot of time staring at the screen, make sure you blink often and practice the 20/20/20 rule – every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Use artificial tears often to lubricate eyes during long periods of using your eyes.
  6. Avoid air blowing in your eyes. Don’t direct hair dryers, car heaters, air conditioners or fans toward your eyes. In your car, direct heat to floor vents and away from your eyes once your windshield is defrosted.
  7. Stop smoking and avoid smoky environments.
  8. Don’t rub your eyes! This will only increase irritation and can also lead to infections if your hands are not clean.
  9. Give your eyes a break and break out your glasses. If your contact lenses are causing further irritation, take a break and wear your glasses for a few hours or days. Also talk to your optometrist about switching to contacts that are better for dry eyes.
  10. Protect your eyes. If you know you are going to be venturing into harsh weather conditions, such as extreme cold or wind, make sure you wear protection. Try large, 100% UV protective eyeglasses and a hat with a visor to keep the wind and particles from getting near your eyes. If you are a winter sports enthusiast, make sure you wear well-fitted ski goggles.

If you find that after following these tips you continue to suffer, contact your eye doctor.

Chlorine & Your Eyes

Summer time is officially here and everyone enjoys a dip in a nice, cool pool during the summer months.  While swimming is a great form of exercise and a relaxing way to cool down, the water can be hard on your eyes.

What Chlorine Does to Your Eyes –

Yes chlorine can make your eyes red!  But the real dangers in pool water aren’t just a result of your eyes coming in contact with the chemical. The redness and discomfort that sometimes accompany swimming can be caused by bacteria that linger in the water. When submerged in chlorine-treated water, your eyes lose the tear film that protects against infection.  Even though the purpose of chlorine in pools is to reduce the amount of harmful bugs, some contaminants are resistant to the chlorine that is used. This means the health of your eyes can be compromised with infections caused by bugs still lingering in the water.  

This can result in these three common eye issues:

  • Pink eye or conjunctivitis – This is one of the most common eye infections swimmers can get, as it can be either viral or bacterial and spreads quickly and easily through the water.
  • Red, irritated eyes –  This is a result of your eyes becoming dehydrated due to the chlorine and the removal of your tear film. Sometimes you may also experience blurriness and distorted vision, this is usually only temporary.
  • Acanthamoebic keratitis – This is a severe eye infection that is caused by amoeba in the water becoming trapped between the cornea and the contact lens. It can begin to live there, which can result in ulcers on your cornea and permanent damage to your vision.

 

Swimming with Contact Lenses  

Wearing contact lenses in any type of water—including a pool, hot tub, ocean or lake—puts you at higher risk for a corneal infection. Bacteria and other microbes can grow on the lenses even after just one swim. Because contact lenses sit on your eyes for an extended period of time, your eyes are then continuously exposed to chemicals, bacteria, fungi or parasites after you swim. That can lead to a painful infection, corneal damage, and even loss of vision.

To avoid any kind of infection, remove contacts altogether when swimming or use swim goggles. You can get prescription swimming goggles to help keep your vision clear and eyes healthy in the pool. Talk with your eye care provider for more information about the different kinds of swim goggles available.

If you have any of these eye infection symptoms are increasing one hour or longer after swimming, see your eye doctor right away.

Redness
Pain
Tearing
Being very sensitive to light
Blurry vision
Sensation of having something in your eye
Discharge from your eye
Eye swelling
 

With all of these risks to your eyes from chlorine, swimming might seem a bit scarier than before. However, there is no need to panic!  By taking a few safety measures, you can protect your eyes and still enjoy your time in the pool.

 

  • Wear Goggles – Wear a pair of swim goggles every time you swim. Goggles keep pool chemicals out of your eyes.

 

 

 

 

  • Wash Your Eyes – Immediately after swimming, splash your closed eyes with fresh tap water.  This washes chlorine and other chemicals off your eyelids and eyelashes.

 

 

 

  • Use Eye Drops – Use over-the-counter lubricating eye drops before and after swimming to keep the tear film balanced and eyes comfortable.

 

 

  • or Use Gel Tears – If you have dry eye, thicker artificial tears called gel tears will help protect your tear film, use these drops before putting on your goggles.

 

 

  • Stay Hydrated – Don’t forget to drink plenty of water. Staying well hydrated is an important part of keeping your eyes moist and comfortable.

 


 

Don’t miss out on the fun this summer! By taking these easy steps whenever you decide to take a dive, you can have peace of mind that your eyes and your vision are protected.

 

 

Watery, Red, Itchy Eyes

Do you have watery, red, itchy eyes?

As brutal winter weather continues to grip many parts of the US, we just want to remind you to protect your eyes – see our post on Winter Weather and Your Eyes. But there are other conditions that can cause excessive tearing and itchy eyes.
wiping eyes watery, red, itchy eyes
While tears are an important element in clear vision and healthy eyes, helping to keep eyes moist, wash away foreign objects and spread nutrients across the eye; this is not the case if there are too many tears and they are accompanied by redness, discharge, puffiness and an itchy, burning sensation.

Here are three common causes you should be aware of:

1. Allergies – In the US, eye allergies affect one in five people. There are two types of eye allergies, seasonal that generally happen early spring to late fall, and perennial that occurs throughout the year. Triggers for seasonal allergies include airborne pollens from grasses, trees and weeds. Perennial triggers include dust mites, feathers, animal dander, cosmetics, perfumes and smoke.

The first thing you should do is limit your exposure to the allergens. This could include:

  • Stay indoors when pollen count is highest, usually mid-morning or early evening.
  • Close all windows and use air conditioning in both your home and car.
  • Consider an air purifier for your home.
  • Wear wraparound sunglasses to help shield your eyes from pollen.
  • Limit exposure to dust mites by enclosing pillows, comforters, mattresses and seat cushions in allergen-impermeable covers.
  • Have your pet spend as much time outside as possible, and keep it out of your bedroom – don’t let it share your bed.
  • Clean floors with a damp mop – sweeping just stirs up the allergens.
  • Don’t rub your eyes as it will likely make the symptoms worse. Try a cold compress instead.
  • Remove your contact lenses and wear glasses during allergy season because the surface of the lens can attract and accumulate airborne allergens. If you must wear contacts, consider daily disposable contacts to avoid the build-up of allergens on your lens.
  • Sterile saline rinses and eye lubricants.
  • Oral antihistamines such as Claritin or Zyrtec.
  • Eye drops can also provide relief. In most cases you can use over the counter (OTC) eye drops, but be aware that overuse of decongestant eye drops can cause a “rebound effect” where the situation could get worse. You are better off asking your doctor to recommend an OTC eye drop. However, if the problem persists or gets worse, you need to contact your eye doctor for prescriptions eye drops tailored to your needs. Here you can learn more about types of eye drops and how to successfully get them in your eyes.
  • watery, red, itchy eyes

2. Dry Eyes – It seems counterintuitive, but if your eyes feel dry and gritty your tear glands go into overproduction as a protective response. This can become even more of a problem as you age and your tear ducts tend to shrink. For more information on dry eye and treatment options see Dr. Arthur Epstein’s article on Dry Eye and Tear Dysfunction.

3. Blepharitis – Chronic blepharitis is generally caused by seborrheic dermatitis, an oil build-up because of excessive oil secretion. While this results in dandruff on your scalp, near the eyes it leads to eye irritation, redness, burning, itchy and dry eyes. The best treatment is to keep the eyelid area clean and free of discharge. This is done with the application of a warm compress to the outer eyelid and cleansing the eyelids with eyelid cleaner. If a bacterial infection occurs you will need your eye doctor to prescribe an antibiotic ointment.

Blepharitis doesn’t usually damage your eye or affect your vision, but if a bacterial infection is left untreated you can develop ulcerative blepharitis which can result in the loss of eyelashes, eyelid scarring and inflammation of the cornea. Eyelid hygiene is the key with treating blephartis.

These are just three causes of watery, red, itchy eyes. While most are not a serious threat to your vision, you can relieve the discomfort yourself through lifestyle choices, good hygiene and OTC options. However, if you have tried to manage on your own and the condition does not seem to improve within a week, or gets worse, you should contact your eye care professional immediately.

2/24/15

Susan DeRemerSusan DeRemer, CFRE
Vice President of Development
Discovery Eye Foundation

Taking Control of Glaucoma

Taking control of glaucoma: The importance of adherence to glaucoma treatment


Glaucoma is known as the “silent thief of sight”: people with glaucoma usually have no symptoms. The only intervention that has been proven to reduce the risk of vision loss in glaucoma is lowering the eye pressure. The most common way to lower eye pressure is with eye drop medications. Glaucoma treatments do not improve vision, but they do to help prevent vision loss from happening.
taking control of glaucoma - eyedrops
What does it mean to be “compliant”?

Adherence (the newer term that is replacing “compliance”) with glaucoma treatment usually means taking your eye drops everyday and at the right times and coming to your glaucoma check ups. Your doctor needs to check your eye pressure regularly, as well as look at your optic nerves and measure your visual fields, to monitor your disease.

Why is it difficult to take eye drops everyday?

Some people with glaucoma only need 1 or 2 eye drops everyday to control their glaucoma, but some may need as many as 4 glaucoma medications, taken multiple times throughout the day. Imagine using 2 eye drops in the morning, 1 eye drop at noon, 1 at dinnertime, and 2 more in the evening, and doing this everyday for years and years, to help protect your sight. It is easy to see how people could miss some drops. Reasons can include forgetting them (or falling asleep before that bedtime drop), the cost of the medications, the side effects from the eye drops, and many others.

Why is adherence important for glaucoma patients?

In one word: blindness. The eye drops lower the eye pressure, which helps protect the eye from loosing vision from glaucoma. If a patient does not put in their eye drops, then the eye pressure will not be as low as it needs to be during that time and eye can be damaged. The damage from glaucoma is not reversible, so prevention is the goal.
Eyedrops2
What can you do?

If you have glaucoma and you take eye drops, use them everyday and as close to the right time as possible. Also, see your doctor for your glaucoma check-ups. Ask about your eye pressure readings, your optic nerve appearance, and your visual fields, so that you know what’s going on with your disease. If you are having any trouble getting your drops in (for example, increased cost due to change in insurance, always forgetting the morning drop, red eyes drawing attention at work), then tell your doctor about it, so you can make changes in your treatment plan.

Friends and family members can help, too. If someone you care about has glaucoma, think about asking them if they need any help with their drops. Some ways you might help: look at videos to see eye drop techniques, put in the drops for them, provide gentle reminders, or go with them to doctor’s visits to be a “second set of ears” on instructions and recommendations.

Taking eye drops for glaucoma is not easy, but it does work. Most people who are treated for glaucoma do not go blind. Take control of your disease, by taking your eye drops and going to your glaucoma check-ups.

For more information about glaucoma and treatment, visit www.nei.nih.gov/health/glaucoma.

1/29/15


Julia Rosdahl - coffee and glaucomaJullia A. Rosdahl, MD, PhD
National Eye Health Education Program Glaucoma Subcommittee
Duke Eye Center, Duke University

Proper Contact Lens Care Provides Best Vision, Comfort and Ocular Health

9/18/14

Proper contact lens care is essential for the best contact lens wearing experience. Mr. Ward, Director of the Emory Contact Lens Service has shared some valuable information about taking care of your contact lens in the article below. On Tuesday join us for additional tips for people who wear contact lenses and wear cosmetics.contact lens case - proper contact lens care

Contact lenses provide alternatives to spectacles, and contact lens wearers report better peripheral vision, depth perception and overall vision quality. Contact lenses can correct near-sightedness, far-sightedness, astigmatism and even correct the need for reading glasses. They are also used to manage some ocular surface diseases.

Contact lenses fall into two basic material types: soft contact lenses (SCL) and rigid gas-permeable (GP) lenses. Soft lenses account for the great majority of the contact lens market. GP lenses require more precise fitting and are often used as specialty devices to correct high prescriptions and/or to manage various ocular disorders and may require longer lens-adaptation time. Regardless of lens type, careful attention to lens care instructions can provide good vision and life-long lens wearing comfort.
Proper lens care depends on the lens type, wearing schedule and other factors. Single-use or daily-disposable soft lenses are prescribed to be worn once and discarded. This is theoretically the safest lens wearing modality in that no lens cleaning, lens care or storage case is required for this modality. Other daily wear soft lenses may be replaced every 2 weeks, monthly or by other schedule. Any and all lenses that are removed each day must be cleaned and disinfected prior to their reuse. Your eye care practitioner should provide specific instructions relative to your lens wear and care needs. General lens care instructions and Dos and Don’ts are bullet-listed below.

A word of caution –
Contact lens wear is quite safe as long as proper lens and storage case care are followed. However, improper lens wear and care can put the lens wearer at risk for serious consequences. Sight-threatening microbial keratitis (corneal ulcer) is the most significant adverse event associated with contact lens wear and is largely preventable. The contact lens storage case is the most likely potential reservoir for contact lens related ocular infections. Therefore, lens storage case care should be high on the list of important lens wearing instructions. Contact lens cases are not meant to be family heirlooms; cases should be replaced regularly, at least every 1-3 months.

The Bullet List of Contact Lens Care Recommendations

  • Hand washing: Always wash your hands before handling contact lenses. Use mild, basic soap and avoid antibacterial, deodorant, fragranced or moisturizing liquid soaps (many liquid soaps have moisturizers that can contaminate your contacts from handling).
  • Cleaning, rinsing, and disinfecting: Digital cleaning (rubbing the lens with your finger in your palm) removes dirt and debris and prepares the lens surfaces for disinfection. Rub & rinse thoroughly, even if the product is labeled “No Rub”. Lens storage solutions contain chemicals that inhibit or kill potentially dangerous microorganisms while the lenses are soaked overnight.
    • Contact lenses should be cleaned when removed from the eye.
    • Do not re-use old solution or “top-off” the liquid in the lens storage case. Empty the storage case daily and always use fresh solution.
    • Do not use lens care products beyond their expiration dates. Discard opened bottles after 28 days.
    • Do not allow the tip of the solution bottle to come in contact with any surface, and keep the bottle tightly closed when not in use.
    • Do not transfer contact lens solution into smaller travel-size containers.
  • Keep your contact lens storage case clean (inside and out).
    • All lens storage cases should be emptied, rinsed, wiped, and air-dried between uses.
    • Keep the contact lens case clean and replace it regularly, every one to three months.
    • Do not use cracked or damaged lens storage cases.
    • Take care to remove residual solution from surfaces of lens case and solution bottles.

Other Dos and Don’ts

  • Do not wear your lenses during water activities (swimming, hot tubs, showering, etc).
  • Soft contact lenses should not be rinsed with or stored in water. Soft lenses will change size and shape if exposed to water.
  • Do not put your lenses in your mouth.
  • Do not use saline solution or re-wetting drops in an attempt to disinfect lenses. Neither is capable of disinfecting contact lenses.
  • Wear and replace contact lenses according to the prescribed schedule.
  • Follow the specific contact lens cleaning and storage guidelines from your eye care professional.
  • Do not change lens care products without first checking with your eye care practitioner.
  • Spare rigid (GP) lenses should be stored dry for long term storage { clean, rinse, dry}. New or dry-stored GP lenses should be re-cleaned and disinfected prior to lens wear.
  • Do not store soft lenses in the storage case for an extended period of time. “Spare” soft contact lenses should be new and stored in their original and unopened packaging.
  • Do not sleep in your contact lenses unless specifically approved to do so by your eye care practitioner.

For information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, see:
www.cdc.gov/contactlenses/
www.cdc.gov/contactlenses/cdc-at-work.html

Michael Ward - proper contact lens careMichael A. Ward, MMSc, FAAO
Director, Emory Contact Lens Service
Emory University School of Medicine

 

Little Bottle, Big Relief

6/3/14

What you need to know about eye drops.

Have you been staring at a computer all day and your eyes are tired? Have allergies been making your eyes watery and itchy? Are your contact lenses irritating your eyes? If you have experienced any of these conditions, you have probably turned to eye drops for relief.

While eye drops are an easy and effective means of treating a number of eye issues, there are many different eye drops available, both over the counter (OTC) and by prescription. It is wise to know what your underlying condition is before trying to get relief.
eye drops 6.3.14
If your eyes are red and you may want to try a decongestant eye drop, which will shrink the tiny blood vessels in the “whites” of your eyes (sclera), but they also cause dryness so may not be a good choice if you wear contact lenses.
For lens wearers you are better off with a re-wetting drop to lubricate the eye and lens making you more comfortable. Another problem with the decongestant eye drops is over use – which can cause irritation and an increased tolerance that could lead to more redness.

If you suffer from allergies and antihistamine eye drop would be the best choice for relief from itchy, watery, red and swollen eyes. They work by reducing histamine in the eye tissue.

Lubricating eye drops, also known as artificial tears, are for short-term relief caused by temporary situations such as eye strain form computer use, being tired or being outdoors in windy and/or sunny conditions. If the condition is chronic, a prescription eye drop will be the best choice.

It is important to remember that if any of the above symptoms worsen or continue for an extended period of time, it is time to see your eye doctor to determine the underlying cause of your issue and to rule out eye disease. Postponing a visit could also lead to an eye infection.

Prescription drops are used to treat a wide variety of eye diseases such as glaucoma, dry eye and the symptoms of ocular herpes. They are also used to help with healing from cataract surgery, corneal transplants, glaucoma surgery and even Lasik. it is extremely important to use them as often as your ophthalmologist recommends to improve healing and prevent infection.

Because of the ease of applying eye drops researchers are working toward using them to treat other eye diseases. Ocular herpes symptoms are sometimes treated with antiviral and steroid drops. But this only is targeted at the symptoms and not the underlying cause, the herpes simplex virus. Lbachir BenMohamed, PhD and Steven Wechsler, PhD at the University of California, Irvine, Gavin Herbert Eye Instittue have been working to determine what reactivate the herpes simplex virus and develop an eye drop that would either stop the reactivation of the virus or kill it.

Using eye drops to treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is also being explored. Researchers at the Institute of Ophthalmology at University College London are working with nanoparticles to deliver anti-VEGF drugs such as Lucentis and Avasitn to the back of the eye via drops. “The study shows that Avastin can be transported across the cells of the cornea into the back of the eye, where is stops blood vessels from leaking and forming new blood vessels, the basis for wet AMD.” While researchers in the Department of Ophthalmology, Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston “reported in their “proof of concept” study that topical application of a compound called PPADS inhibits damage to the tissues in the eye that impacts the individual’s ability to see color and fine detail, as well as reduces the growth of extraneous blood vessels in the back of the eye related to AMD.” It would work in both dry and wet AMD reduce the need for direct injections.

Eye drops, when properly applied, can provide temporary relief from symptoms of eye discomfort. But if the symptoms worsen or continue for an extended period of time, consult your eye doctor. To make sure you apply the eye drops correctly check out the article in our February 2013 newsletter for 12 easy steps to get the drops into your eyes and avoid infection.

One final note – keep your eye drops out of reach of children. Eye drops come in small bottles that are the perfect size for small hands and don’t have the same security tops found on other medications. The FDA has warned that ingredients found in some eye drops that relieve redness have caused abnormal heart rate, decreased breathing, sleepiness, vomiting and even comas in children five and younger that have ingested them. If you child has swallowed eye drops, call the Poison Help Line 800-222-1222.

Susan DeRemerSusan DeRemer
Vice President of Development
Discovery Eye Foundation