As adults age, many will develop eye diseases that could become debilitating if not treated in time. But people can protect themselves by having eye exams that can spot early and often hidden signs of eye disease. Find out how the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that you care for your eyes. Learn more at https://www.aao.org/eyesmart
Styes aren’t contagious, and most of the time you can treat them at home. Styes are very common. It’s kind of like a pimple on the eyelid. They will usually go away in a few days if you apply a clean, warm compress to your closed eyelid for 10 to 15 minutes, 3 to 4 times a day. Andrew Iwach, MD, tells you what you need to know about styes and how to take care of them. For more information about styes and other eye conditions, visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeSmart website: https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseas…
Making your eyes look cool for Halloween with decorative contact lenses can be dangerous if you don’t follow the right steps. Even those with perfect vision should get an eye exam and a prescription before buying any contact lenses. Say no to over-the-counter lenses. Learn more at http://www.geteyesmart.org.
Dry eye is a complex disease that has many causes that often overlap and interact. For many people, a few simple lifestyle changes can resolve dry eye. Dry eye occurs when the eye does not produce enough tears or when the quality of the tears can’t keep the surface of the eye adequately lubricated. It frequently occurs with other health conditions. Environmental triggers, such as pollution or the weather, play a role. Sometimes it’s caused by medications, such as antihistamines, asthma medication or birth control pills. It can be made worse by computer or contact lens use. If your eyes remain red and irritated after trying these tips, see your ophthalmologist, a physician who specialize in medical and surgical eye care.
Dry eye diseases can have a number of causes. There are a variety of treatment approaches are used. For most people with occasional or mild dry eye symptoms, over-the-counter eyedrops (artificial tears) can help significantly. If your symptoms are persistent and more serious, your eye doctor can offer other options or switch medications that may be inducing dry eye.
Here are some of the options to treat dry eye:
- Antibiotic to reduce eyelid inflammation. Inflammation along the edge of your eyelids can keep oil glands from secreting oil into your tears.
- Eyedrops to control cornea inflammation. Inflammation on the cornea, the surface of your eyes, may be controlled with prescription eyedrops that contain cyclosporine.
- Eye inserts that work like artificial tears. Inserted between your lower eyelid and your eyeball, these tiny inserts dissolve slowly, releasing an eye lubricant.
- Tear-stimulating drugs. These drugs are available as pills, gel or eyedrops.
- Tear-stimulating devices. A new device inserted in the nose stimulates a nerve to produce tears.
- Eyedrops made from your own blood. These are called autologous blood serum drops.
- Closing your tear ducts with a tiny silicone plug to reduce tear loss.
- Unblocking oil glands, using light therapy or eyelid massage.
- Treating an eyelid condition with surgery. Ectropion, a condition that turns lids outward, preventing the lid from closing completely.
Content provided by the AAO through the Eyesmart program.
January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma, a silent eye disease, is the most common form of irreversible blindness in the world. It is actually a group of diseases that causes progressive damage to the optic nerve.
- Glaucoma is a progressive eye disease that can lead to permanent vision loss if not controlled.
- There is currently no cure for glaucoma, but there are many treatments available for stopping and slowing the progressive damage to the eye. Treatment, however, can’t reverse damage that is already done.
- Glaucoma affects the optic nerve which sends visual information from your eye to your brain.
- Glaucoma is called the “Thief Sneak of Sight” because there are often no symptoms in the early stages such as pain or “pressure sensation” as one may expect, and by the time it is diagnosed there may already be permanent vision loss.
- When vision loss occurs, peripheral vision is typically affected before central vision. As a result, glaucoma is a major public health issue because individuals usually do not notice any problem with vision until end stages of the disease when there is severe and irreversible vision loss.
- Awareness and regular eye exams are key to early detection and preventing vision loss.
What Causes Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is caused by a buildup of natural fluid that doesn’t drain properly from the eye. The buildup of fluid can result in high pressure in the eye which is the most common cause of the condition. There are many types of glaucoma, which include:
Chronic (open angle) glaucoma occurs when pressure builds up over time, usually as a result of aging. This is the most common type of glaucoma.
Acute (angle closure) glaucoma is an acute condition where pressure builds up suddenly and demands immediate medical attention. Symptoms include blurred vision, eye pain, headaches, seeing halos around lights, nausea and vomiting.
Secondary glaucoma results from another eye disease, condition or a trauma to the eye.
Normal tension glaucoma is when there is no build up of pressure but the optic nerve is still damaged. We are still not yet sure what causes this type of glaucoma.
Who is at Risk for Glaucoma?
Everyone is at risk of glaucoma however there are certain factors which increase the likelihood of developing the condition. Vision loss from glaucoma can be greatly reduced when detected and treated early which is why knowing your risk factors can play a tremendous role in prevention.
Age is one of the biggest risk factors, as your chances of developing glaucoma increase significantly after the age of 40. In fact people over 60 years old are six times more likely to get the condition.
Ancestry and Family History
Individuals from African American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American or Aboriginal Canadian descent are at increased risk. Family history is a very strong factor as the condition occurs twice as much in people with close relatives who have had glaucoma.
Previous Eye Injury, Traumas or Surgery
Eye injuries, traumas or surgeries have been known to sometimes cause secondary glaucoma which can happen immediately after the injury or procedure, or even years later. Even childhood injuries can result in secondary glaucoma later in life.
Use of Steroids
Studies show that prolonged steroid use is linked to increased elevated intraocular pressure which increases the risk of open-angle glaucoma.
Certain medical and eye conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and high myopia (nearsightedness) also increase a person’s risk of developing glaucoma.
While there is no cure for glaucoma, there are treatments to slow down the progression of the disease including eye drop medications, iridotomies, iridectomies, laser procedures and surgeries.
Other than taking care of any underlying conditions that may increase the risk of developing glaucoma, there is little one can do in the way of prevention. You can however reduce your chances of suffering vision loss. The first step is knowing the risk factors and signs of the condition (even though as mentioned most cases have no symptoms in the early stages, until vision is already lost).
The best possible way to prevent vision loss is to have regular comprehensive eye exams to check the health of your eyes and if your eye doctors prescribes medication for glaucoma, make sure to diligently take them as directed. Your eye doctor will be able to conduct certain tests to detect eye diseases such as glaucoma before you even begin to notice symptoms. If you have any of the risk factors above, mention it to your eye doctor, and always be sure to schedule a yearly eye exam, or as often as your eye doctor recommends, to check the health of your eyes and rule out any underlying or developing eye conditions like glaucoma.
Each year during the month of January we recognize World Braille Day which gives us the opportunity to take a moment and appreciate the incredible gift that Braille has given to those who are blind or suffer from vision loss.
What is Braille?
Braille is a tactile representation of letters and numbers that can be utilized by people with vision loss to read using their fingers. The system uses combinations of six raised dots – three rows of two – that serve to represent the numbers, letters and even symbols such as music notes.
Braille was developed by a young Frenchman named Louis Braille and was first published in 1829. Braille invented the system at the age of 15 after he became blind as the result of an accident. The idea was originally based on night writing, a touch-based military code developed for Napoleon’s army by Charles Barbier as a strategy for soldiers to be able to communicate silently in the dark. Barbier’s code was ultimately rejected because it was too difficult to be used effectively by the soldiers. Barbier and Braille later met at the Royal Institute for the Blind in Paris and Braille was able to adapt the idea into a more functional system. In braille, the characters, or letters, are each represented by a cell or block with a particular arrangement of raised dots.
Not Just the ABC’s
While first developed for the French alphabet, braille has since been expanded for many languages including all the European-based languages, as well as Arabic and Asian languages. Even within those languages there are different forms of the system. For example, in English, there is Grade 1 braille which is composed of the representation of the 26 letters of the Roman alphabet and is primarily used for those learning to read and write the language. Grade 2 on the other hand is the type of braille you are likely to see written in public places such as menus or signs as it is more complex. Grade 2 includes higher level punctuation, abbreviations and contractions. Lastly, Grade 3 is a form of shorthand designed for personal use such as taking notes or writing letters.
In addition to the cells which represent the letters, braille may also include illustrations, graphs and symbols such as bullets or arrows. Further, a cell can also represent a number, a word or a punctuation mark. Because braille takes up more space than standard print there are many abbreviations or contractions that represent words or word sequences to save space. This also helps to improve the speed at which one can read and write using the system.
How To Write Braille
Writing braille requires some tools. To do it by hand you need a stylus, which is a metal tool that is used to create the dots, a slate, which is a type of stencil used to align the dots into neat cells and card-stock paper which is heavy enough to emboss. You can also write braille with a special braille typewriter or an electronic brailler as well as certain computer programs with a braille embosser printer.
Being able to read and write braille allows those with vision impairment to learn and express themselves in a way that they would otherwise not be able to. While newer technologies such as screen readers and other computer based programs have become more common in recent years, braille is the foundation of innovation in improving the lives of the blind and vision impaired.
Nerf Guns: Popular, Projectile… Safe?
With the newest Nerf guns and blasters reigning at the top of lists for the most popular toys this holiday season, many parents are excited to surprise their kids (or their spouses) with these coveted toy weapons. There is, in fact a whole culture behind these guns including a variety of themes, weaponry and ammunition, making finding the right Nerf gun for your loved one an additional part of the fun. Most don’t even bat an eye…(pun intended) about the possible dangers of these guns, specifically to the eyes and vision.
The truth is, Nerf guns have been reported to cause eye injuries including corneal abrasion (or scratch on the eye), internal bleeding in and around the eye, pain, blurred vision, and temporary loss of vision. Blurry vision is sometimes due to swelling in the retina after a traumatic injury. Experts warn that they can cause irreversible damage to the eye such as a torn or detached retina and vision loss. So this, of course, begs the question: Are these a dangerous toy to buy for my loved ones?
Well despite these troublesome facts, Hasbro, the company who manufactures the guns, claims that they go to extensive lengths to ensure the toys are safe. Based on years of research, consumer insights and rigorous testing, Hasbro assures that the toys “meet or exceed global standards and regulations” for safety. That is of course, when the toys are used properly and according to the recommended guidelines.
So if, when used according to the guidelines, Nerf guns are not inherently dangerous, it is up to the parent’s discretion to assess whether they are a good choice for their family. Parents (or users of any age) need to establish proper rules and ensure that those using the guns are responsible enough to follow those rules. They should also do their part to be informed and understand the dangers and precautions necessary for safe use.
Be Informed About Nerf Gun Safety
If you do chose to purchase a Nerf gun, make sure that you do the research to ensure that you are selecting the best and safest model and accessories for your desired use. While most models are designed for children ages 8 and up, there are a few models that are specified for older children, so pay attention to the age recommendations. Do not allow children under the age limitations to play with the guns. Further, it is recommended that all children are supervised by adults during play.
Nerf brand darts, blasters and foam rounds are made to meet strict safety regulations, while other brands that claim to be Nerf compatible may not be. Only Nerf brand bullets, designed for the specific product purchased should be used. In addition to other safety hazards, it has been seen that some bullets manufactured by other brands have a harder end which pose a greater threat for injury.
Think about eye safety. Rule number one should always be: Never aim at anyone’s face or eyes. A direct hit to the eye can cause serious damage and pain. Ideally, the guns should be used with eye protection such as sports or protective goggles to prevent accidental eye injury, so think about adding a couple of pairs into the gift package.
Never modify the guns, darts or blasters. There are many videos online that demonstrate how to modify the guns to shoot further, harder and faster. Tampering with the guns and ammunition in this way can undermine the safety measures built into the design of the toys and could result in more serious injury. Make sure to warn children against this as well.
So, what’s the verdict? Whether or not Nerf guns are the right choice for your family depends on how responsible your family members can be with their use. Like many other toys and machinery, they can pose a danger when not used properly so anyone that is gifted or using this toy should be aware of those possible dangers, as well as the rules that are in place for eye safety. If you or a loved one does get injured by such a toy, get a medical evaluation immediately, especially if the injured person is experiencing blurred vision.
Whether you live in a climate with cold winter weather or you are planning a ski trip up north, winter can be a challenge if you suffer from dry eyes. Dry, cool air, cold winds and even drier indoor heating can cause eye irritation, burning, itchiness and redness, and sometimes even excessively watery eyes as more tears are produced to compensate for the dryness. Many people have a chronic feeling that they have something in their eye and some even experience blurred vision. These symptoms can be debilitating!
Dry eyes is one of the most common complaints eye doctors get from patients during the winter season, especially in the cooler climates. That’s why we’d like to share some tips on how to relieve dry eye discomfort, and how to know when your condition is serious enough to come in for an evaluation.
Tips to Relieve Winter Dry Eyes:
- Keep eyes moist using artificial tears or eye drops. You can apply these a few times each day when the eyes are feeling dry or irritated. If over-the-counter drops don’t help or if you have chronic dry eyes, speak to your eye doctor about finding the best drops for you. Since not all artificial tears are the same, knowing the cause of your dry eye will help your eye doctor determine which brand is best suited for your eyes.
- Use a humidifier to counteract the drying effects of indoor heaters or generally dry air.
- Point car vents or indoor heaters away from your face when the heat is on. Try to keep your distance from direct sources of heating, especially if they blow out the heat.
- Drink a lot! Hydrating your body will also hydrate your eyes.
- Protect your eyes outdoors with sunglasses or goggles – the bigger the better! Larger, even wrap-around glasses as well as a hat with a wide brim will keep the wind and other elements out of your eyes. If you wear goggles for winter sports, make sure they fit well and cover a large surface area.
- Soothe dry eyes using a warm compress and never rub them! Rubbing your eyes will increase irritation and may lead to infection if the hands are not clean.
- Give your eyes a digital break. People blink less during screen time which is why extensive computer use can lead to dry eyes. Follow the 20/20/20 rule by taking a break every 20 minutes to look 20 feet away for 20 seconds and make sure you blink!
- For contact lens wearers: If you wear contact lenses, dry eyes can be particularly debilitating as the contact lenses can cause even further dryness and irritation. Contact lens rewetting drops can help your eyes feel better and may also allow you to see more clearly. Not all eyedrops are appropriate for use with contact lenses, so ask your optometrist which eyedrop is compatible with your contacts and cleaning solution. If rewetting drops don’t help, consider opting for glasses when your dry eyes are bad, and speak to your optometrist about which brands of contact lenses are better for dry eyes. Many people find dry eye improvement when they switch to daily single use contact lenses.
Chronic Dry Eyes or Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry eye syndrome is a chronic condition in which the eyes do not produce enough tear film, or do not produce the quality of tear film needed to properly keep the eyes moist. While winter weather can make this condition worse, it is often present all year round. If you find that the tips above do not alleviate your discomfort or symptoms, it may be time to see a optometrist to see if your condition requires more effective medical treatment.
Diabetes is becoming much more prevalent around the globe. According to the International Diabetes Federation, approximately 425 million adults were living with diabetes in the year 2017 and 352 million more people were at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. By 2045 the number of people diagnosed is expected to rise to 629 million.
Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness as well as heart attacks, stroke, kidney failure, neuropathy (nerve damage) and lower limb amputation. In fact, in 2017, diabetes was implicated in 4 million deaths worldwide. Nevertheless preventing these complications from diabetes is possible with proper treatment, medication and regular medical screenings as well as improving your diet, physical activity and adopting a healthy lifestyle.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the hormone insulin is either underproduced or ineffective in its ability to regulate blood sugar. Uncontrolled diabetes leads to hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, which damages many systems in the body such as the blood vessels and the nervous system.
How Does Diabetes Affect The Eyes?
Diabetic eye disease is a group of conditions which are caused, or worsened, by diabetes; including: diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, glaucoma and cataracts. Diabetes increases the risk of cataracts by four times, and can increase dryness and reduce cornea sensation.
In diabetic retinopathy, over time, the tiny blood vessels within the eyes become damaged, causing leakage, poor oxygen circulation, then scarring of the sensitive tissue within the retina, which can result in further cell damage and scarring.
The longer you have diabetes, and the longer your blood sugar levels remain uncontrolled, the higher the chances of developing diabetic eye disease. Unlike many other vision-threatening conditions which are more prevalent in older individuals, diabetic eye disease is one of the main causes of vision loss in the younger, working-age population. Unfortunately, these eye conditions can lead to blindness if not caught early and treated. In fact, 2.6% of blindness worldwide is due to diabetes.
As mentioned above, diabetes can result in cumulative damage to the blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue located at the back of the eye. This is called diabetic retinopathy.
The retina is responsible for converting the light it receives into visual signals to the optic nerve in the brain. High blood sugar levels can cause the blood vessels in the retina to leak or hemorrhage, causing bleeding and distorting vision. In advanced stages, new blood vessels may begin to grow on the retinal surface causing scarring and further damaging cells in the retina. Diabetic retinopathy can eventually lead to blindness.
Signs and Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy
The early stages of diabetic retinopathy often have no symptoms, which is why it’s vitally important to have frequent diabetic eye exams. As it progresses you may start to notice the following symptoms:
- Blurred or fluctuating vision or vision loss
- Floaters (dark spots or strings that appear to float in your visual field)
- Blind spots
- Color vision loss
There is no pain associated with diabetic retinopathy to signal any issues. If not controlled, as retinopathy continues it can cause retinal detachment and macular edema, two other serious conditions that threaten vision. Again, there are often NO signs or symptoms until more advanced stages.
A person with diabetes can do their part to control their blood sugar level. Following the physician’s medication plan, as well as diet and exercise recommendations can help slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy.
Scar tissues caused by the breaking and forming of blood vessels in advanced retinopathy can lead to a retinal detachment in which the retina pulls away from the underlying tissue. This condition is a medical emergency and must be treated immediately as it can lead to permanent vision loss. Signs of a retinal detachment include a sudden onset of floaters or flashes in the vision.
Diabetic Macular Edema (DME)
Diabetic macular edema occurs when the macula, a part of the retina responsible for clear central vision, becomes full of fluid (edema). It is a complication of diabetic retinopathy that occurs in about half of patients, and causes vision loss.
Treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy and Diabetic Macular Edema
While vision loss from diabetic retinopathy and DME often can’t be restored, with early detection there are some preventative treatments available. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (when the blood vessels begin to grow abnormally) can be treated by laser surgery, injections or a procedure called vitrectomy in which the vitreous gel in the center of the eye is removed and replaced. This will treat bleeding caused by ruptured blood vessels. DME can be treated with injection therapy, laser surgery or corticosteroids.
Prevent Vision Loss from Diabetes
The best way to prevent vision loss from diabetic eye disease is early detection and treatment. Since there may be no symptoms in the early stages, regular diabetic eye exams are critical for early diagnosis. In fact diabetics are now sometimes monitored by their health insurance to see if they are getting regular eye exams and premium rates can be affected by how regularly the patients get their eyes checked. Keeping diabetes under control through exercise, diet, medication and regular screenings will help to reduce the chances of vision loss and blindness from diabetes.
Brush Up Before You Dress Up
Halloween is one of the most fun times of the year for children and adults alike. When else do you get to dress up as anyone (or anything) you want, socialize with friends and eat lots of treats? Nevertheless, lurking behind those costumes and all that fun are some hidden dangers that you need to be aware of and many of them could affect your eyes and vision. Brush up on these preventative measures to help you and your children to stay safe and enjoy the holiday.
Masks can really make or break a costume but they can also increase danger, especially for children. Masks that block visibility or the ability to breathe can be extremely dangerous. You want to make sure that you and your children have a complete, unobstructed visual field, especially if they will be crossing streets.
Facepaint can be a great alternative to a mask, but it comes with its own set of precautions. Buy face paint that is hypoallergenic and do a spot test to make sure there is no allergic reaction anyway. Make sure to keep the paint out of the eyes and be careful during application especially with sharp, pointed brushes that can scratch the eye. If face paint or any other substances get into the eyes, immediately flush the eyes thoroughly with saline or water as chemical splashes can cause significant eye damage within minutes. This should be done before consulting your eye doctor. If irritation persists however, it should be looked at by an eye doctor.
Try to avoid costumes with sharp or pointed props such as spears, swords or guns that shoot. Warn children at play to never point an object at a person’s head or eyes.
That goes for spray cans of silly-string, as well. The chemicals in these products can be very dangerous to the eyes, risking chemical conjunctivitis and serious eye irritation. The pressure at which the string is sprayed can also cause eye damage including a corneal abrasion (a scratch to the surface of the eye) if sprayed into the eye at a close range. These popular Halloween products should be avoided or, if necessary, children should be seriously cautioned not to spray anyone near the neck or face.
Speaking of sight, you want to make sure that you and your children are visible to motorists on the streets. Chose brightly colored costumes and carry a flashlight to increase visibility. Consider adding some reflective tape to the costume or props as well.
Decorative Contact Lenses
Decorative contact lenses can look great, but they can cause serious damage. That’s why even non-corrective contact lenses are considered a medical device, which must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration or Health Canada, and require a prescription from an eye doctor.
Never buy fashion, decorative, cosmetic, colored or theater contact lenses (or any other name that they go by) from a beauty or costume supply store or any unauthorized vendor. You should purchase them only with a prescription from an eye doctor after an eye exam to measure your eye and assess your eye health.
Contacts obtained through an unauthorized source may not be safe to wear. They might cause a corneal abrasion, allergic reactions, infections and decreased vision which can even lead to blindness.
Plus, your optician or eye doctor will give you instructions for proper use and hygiene such as washing your hands, storing and cleaning the lenses properly and removing them as prescribed.
If you are wearing any type of contact lenses and you notice redness, pain or blurred vision, take them out immediately. If symptoms persist, see your eye doctor as soon as possible.
Don’t make Halloween into a truly scary holiday. Take heed of these potential dangers and take the necessary precautions to stay safe. Happy Halloween!