Q: How do allergies directly affect the eyes?
A: Chronic allergies may lead to permanent damage to the tissue of your eye and eyelids. If left untreated, it may even cause scarring of the conjunctiva, the membrane covering the inner eyelid that extends to the whites of the eyes. Ocular allergies can make contact lens wear almost impossible and are among the many causes of contact lens drop-out. Most common allergy medications will tend to dry out the eyes, and relying on nasal sprays containing corticosteroids can increase the pressure inside your eyes, causing other complications such as glaucoma.
Q: What are the common symptoms of OCULAR allergies?
A: Excessive tearing, frequent eye rubbing, constant irritation especially in the corners of your eyes closest to the nose, lid swelling or puffy eyes, and red or pink eyes are some of the most common ocular allergy symptoms.
Q: What is meant by the term allergic conjunctivitis? Is that the same as “pink eye”?
A: Allergic conjunctivitis is the clinical term for inflammation of the lining or membrane of the eye, called the conjunctiva, caused by allergic reactions to substances. Although a patient may present with red or pink eyes from excess inflammation, the common term "pink eye" can signify a broad range of conditions and can be misleading, as viruses, bacteria, fungi, and other irritating substances can cause redness resembling a "pink eye." Your eye doctor can differentiate between an allergy and a true infection, which can lead to faster healing with the right treatment.
Q: What is the difference between seasonal and perennial allergies? How would I know the difference?
A: Simply put, seasonal allergic conjunctivitis (SAC) is a more common and persistent form of ocular allergies that occurs during changes in season, which include outdoor weeds, grasses, and tree pollen. Whereas perennial allergic conjunctivitis (PAC) is a more mild and chronic presentation that occurs year-round from common indoor allergens, such as animal dander, molds, fungus, and even dust mites.
Q: I have seasonal allergies. How come my eyes are still itchy even after I take a Claritin pill?
A: You may need an anti-allergy eye drop to target the symptoms in the eye. Sometimes, oral antihistamine medications are not that effective at treating the ocular symptoms, especially within the first few days of treatment. In fact, many of them can cause dry eyes, which worsens eye discomfort. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, over-the-counter or prescription-strength eye drops can provide relief.
Q: Why does allergy season affect my eyes?
A: It’s that time of the year for allergies, and for those who suffer, it’s more than just sneezing. It can mean months of itchy, watery, and puffy eyes. Because many of the allergens are in the air, they easily get into the eyes and cause problems. For some people, a sudden case of red and watery eyes can feel like an infection when really, it’s just allergies. Eye allergies, known as “allergic conjunctivitis”, can often be treated with over the counter medication, but for some, it is not enough. Let us help you manage your allergies this season.
Q: How will I know if my child's amblyopia is getting better? Is it too late to help if the problem is detected after age 6?
A: Lazy eye will not go away on its own. We have what is called electrodiagnostic testing which can determine the effectiveness of amblyopia treatment without relying on the response of the child to "tell" us how well they are seeing. Oftentimes, parents worry that the eye exam is not accurate if their child is not old enough to read the chart or is uncooperative due to anxiety surrounding an eye exam. This test is non-invasive and fast (30 minutes) and can be done right here in our office for patients of all ages, starting in infancy. We can track over time how the therapy is working and the prognosis of their vision.
Q: What is Amblyopia?
A: Sometimes called Lazy eye, it is the underdevelopment of central vision in one or sometimes both eyes; it also prevents both eyes from working together.
Q: What exactly is astigmatism?
A: Astigmatism is usually caused by an irregularly shaped cornea, the front surface of the eye. Instead of being a perfect sphere, like a ball bearing or a marble, it can become a little more like a football, being more curved in one direction than the other. This brings light into focus at more than one point on the retina at the back of the eye, resulting in blurry or distorted vision.
Q: My previous eye doctor told me I have “stigma!” Am I going to go blind?
A: Stigma is actually referring to a type of refractive error known properly as astigmatism, and no, you will not go blind from having astigmatism; it is not a disease. In fact, this condition is relatively common. There are three types of refractive errors: myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism. The former two are also known to as nearsighted (cannot see far away) and farsighted (cannot see up close). Astigmatism is simply the third category; it can affect both the near and far vision. Much like nearsightedness or farsightedness, astigmatism is corrected using glasses or contacts. Technically speaking an eye with astigmatism requires two different prescriptions to correct vision in one eye, due to the more oval shape of the cornea. For contact lens wearers, this will require a more specialized contact lens and a more in-depth fitting procedure.
Q: I've heard that blue light is dangerous, like UV radiation. Do I need to protect my eyes from it and, if so, how?
A: We all know about ultraviolet (UV) sun damage, but recently, the optical community has found that high-energy visible light (HEV) or "blue light" from digital screens may cause long term damage to the eye, too. Over time, exposure can increase the risk of macular degeneration, and other problems. Similar to anti-reflective and UV-protective coatings, a new lens coating has been developed to protect our eyes by blocking out blue light rays coming from our handheld devices, computers and fluorescent bulbs.
Q: What is blue light and why is it dangerous?
A: Blue light is part of visible light and has a wavelength close to UV rays on the light spectrum. It is naturally produced by the sun, given off by fluorescent light bulbs, and emitted by LED screens on computer monitors, tablets, and smartphones. The eye's natural filters do not block blue light and chronic exposure may increase your risk for age-related macular degeneration. Evidence also shows that blue light exposure can lead to sleep problems.
Q: Does reading my smartphone or tablet in the dark damage my eyes?
A: Reading from a tablet or smartphone in the dark is okay for your eyes, as long as it's not for a long period of time. These devices have decent lighting and good contrast. However, they give off blue light, and long-term exposure may cause damage to the structures of the eye. As well, studies have shown that blue light at night disrupts melatonin production and interferes with healthy sleep cycles. Optometrists recommend wearing blue light blocking eyewear for extended digital device use, and limiting screen time during the last hour before bedtime.
Q: What are multifocal lens implants?
A: Multifocal lens implants are often used in cataract surgery to reduce the dependency upon glasses for both distance and near vision after the surgery is completed. As with other medical technology, not everyone will be a good candidate for this type of surgical implant. Patients with corneal scarring or significant astigmatism, as well as surgical candidates with eye diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and macular degeneration, may not receive the full benefit from these lenses. Your eye care professional can help determine if this lens implant option is right for you.
Q: My doctor says I have a cataract, but he wants to wait a while before removing it. Why?
A: A cataract usually starts very small and practically unnoticeable, but grows gradually larger and cloudier. Your doctor is probably waiting until the cataract interferes significantly with your vision and your lifestyle. You need to continue to visit your eye doctor regularly so the cataract's progress can be monitored. Some cataracts never really reach the stage where they should be removed. If cataracts are interfering with your vision to the point where it is unsafe to drive, or doing everyday tasks is difficult, then it's time to discuss surgery with your eye doctor.
Q: What are cataracts and how can they be treated?
A: Cataracts are a clouding of the lens inside the eye. They are common with age, certain medications and medical conditions. Patients usually feel like they are looking through a dirty window, cannot see colors the way they used to or have increased difficulty with glare. Currently, the treatment is surgery to remove the cloudy lens. Stay tuned for medical advances in cataract treatment in the future!
Q: What are cataracts and what's the best treatment?
A: Cataracts occur when the natural lens of the eye, positioned just behind the pupil, changes from clear to cloudy. This causes increasingly blurry vision that a higher vision prescription cannot help. When the blurriness worsens to the point that it interferes with a person’s ability to read or drive, or otherwise hinders their lifestyle, the cloudy lens is surgically removed and replaced with a clear plastic one, restoring clear vision. These days, cataract surgery can take as little as 20 minutes, with little down-time and excellent outcomes.
Q: Can younger people get cataracts?
A: Yes, it's very rare but some people are born with cataracts, or acquire them early in life as a result of an injury or surgery. Some such cataracts don't affect vision, but the eye doctor may detect it during an eye exam. Occasionally a child does have a cataract that interferes with vision development and requires treatment.
Q: What are cataracts and how do they affect my vision?
A: A cataract is a gradual clouding of the crystalline lens located inside the eye, which causes decreased vision. Cataracts most commonly occur with aging, and are a normal part of the aging process. Other causes of cataract development include ocular trauma/surgery, radiation, smoking, systemic disease (metabolic and genetic conditions), and certain medications (particularly corticosteroids). Symptoms of cataract vision loss depend on the type, location, and severity of the cataract. Cataracts may cause gradually worsening blurry vision, halos around lights, poor night vision, prescription changes, and glare symptoms. A cataract is treated with outpatient surgery, in which the crystalline lens is removed and replaced with a clear lens implant. Surgery is typically done with local anesthesia, with minimal or no complications. Nearly all patients achieve improved vision and often do not require glasses post surgery. Cataract surgery is one of the safest and most common surgeries performed in the United States. Your optometrist will evaluate your eyes for cataracts at each comprehensive eye exam. Please let your optometrist know if you experience any of the above symptoms.
Q: Do I have to wait until my cataracts are "ripe" before I can have them removed?
A: No! Waiting for cataracts to get "ripe" refers to an outdated surgical technique. Today, we recommend cataract removal when your quality of vision interferes with your quality of life. It is possible to have 20/20 vision, yet be so disabled by glare from headlights or sunlight, that cataract surgery may be the right treatment. We will monitor your cataract progression and help you decide the proper timing of cataract surgery.
Q: What is a cataract? How will I know when I have one? What can be done to fix it?
A: A cataract is a clouding of the crystalline lens. The crystalline lens sits behind the iris, or the colored part of the eye. Its function is to fine tune our focusing system by changing shape as we view objects at different distances. Our lens eventually loses its ability to change shape; this is when we require reading glasses or bifocals. In addition, the crystalline lens can become cloudy or yellow as a part of normal aging. This is also known as an age-related cataract. Normal, age-related cataracts are unavoidable and everyone will develop them at some point if they live long enough. The discoloration of the lens leads to an overall blur, a decrease in contrast sensitivity, and a worsening of glare, especially at nighttime. Because they tend to develop gradually, the symptoms are often unnoticed by the patient. A yearly eye exam will allow your optometrist the opportunity to identify the cataracts and advise on how to proceed. When you and your optometrist determine that your cataracts are affecting your vision and are advanced enough to require removal, you will meet with an ophthalmologist. Cataract surgery is a safe and effective out-patient procedure that will reverse any vision loss caused by the cataracts; and it is usually covered by your medical insurance.
Q: My child saw 20/20 at their school physical. That's perfect vision for back to school, right?
A: Maybe! 20/20 only tells us what size letter can be seen 20 feet away. People with significant farsightedness or eye muscle imbalances may see "20/20", but experience enough visual strain to make reading difficult. Eighty percent of learning is visual so include a thorough eye exam in your child's Back-to-School list.
Q: Why is my child having trouble reading and concentrating on schoolwork?
A: Your child may have an underlying refractive issue, such as farsightedness, nearsightedness or an astigmatism that maybe be causing blurred vision, making it hard for your child to concentrate and focus. There may also binocularity issues, which is how well the two eyes work together, or focusing issues that can affect a child's schoolwork. When working with your child, we will evaluate the visual system including binocular and accommodative systems to determine if his/her vision may be interfering with academic success.
Q: One of the greatest tasks of a school-aged child is learning to read and in older children, the amount of reading required. What should parents be on the lookout for concerning their child’s reading and potential vision problems?
A: We often discuss vision problems as they relate to sitting in a classroom, but what about the playground or vision acuity’s effect on socialization and play?
Q: Today it seems that many children are very quickly diagnosed as learning disabled or dyslexic. Does vision play a role?
A: In some cases a large undetected prescription (farsightedness or astigmatism) or an eye muscle imbalance (binocular vision problem) can make reading and learning a challenge. Once properly diagnosed and treated, reading and learning tasks can become much more comfortable, visually.
Q: My child is struggling in school. Does he / she need an eye exam?
A: A comprehensive eye examination by an optometrist can often determine if there are visual issues interfering with a child’s ability to perform well in school. Many visual symptoms, some obvious, others less so, can contribute to a child’s poor academic achievement. The most common symptoms to watch out for: blur at distance or near, skipping or re-reading lines or words, reduced reading comprehension, difficulty shifting focus from near to far or far to near, difficulty copying from the smart board, double vision, closing or covering an eye when working at near, headaches -- especially in the forehead, temple, or eyebrow regions, difficulty attending to near work or an avoidance of reading, poor spelling, misaligning numbers in math, unusual head or body posture when working at near. Some of these issues can be alleviated with a good pair of eyeglasses while others may require vision therapy. Vision therapy, like occupational therapy or physical therapy, is a systematic program where the body, in this case the visual system, can be retrained and strengthened to improve it’s ability to function.
Q: My child says it gets blurry when looking from his paper to the board at school, and getting him to read is difficult. Is there anything I can do to help?
A: Your child is not alone. While we have been seeing children with focusing problems for many years, there is a huge increase in accommodative (focusing) problems with children today. Our eye doctor works with children to make reading easier and more enjoyable. Words shouldn’t move in and out of focus or move around when you are reading. For example, spec lenses with extra power for reading or multifocal contacts, can make reading more comfortable for many children. School is challenging enough as it is, without the added difficulty of eyestrain and the eyes working hard just to see.
Q: How can a child's learning in school be affected by their vision?
A: A child's ability to learn is strongly dependent on having a normal visual system. Visual acuity (being able to see the letters on the chart with the big E) is only one aspect of about 17 visual skills that are required for reading and learning. Vision therapy is a treatment program that can remediate mal-developed visual skills and certain vision disorders, helping children reach their maximum learning and reading potential.
Q: My child is struggling in school. Should I have his/her eyes examined?
A: A comprehensive eye examination by an optometrist can often determine if there are visual issues interfering with a child's ability to perform in school. Many visual symptoms, some obvious, others less so, can contribute to a child's poor academic achievement. Some of these issues can be alleviated with a good pair of eyeglasses while others may require vision therapy. The doctors at our eye clinic are trained in the diagnosis of vision related learning problems.
Q: What are some of the learning difficulties a child may encounter if they have vision issues?
A: Children may have difficulty reading if their near vision is blurry or the words jump around the page. Older children may have difficulty copying from the board at the front of the class or may struggle with math homework that has multiple questions on the page.
Q: My child passed the screening test at school, isn’t that enough?
A: Distance and reading are two different things. Someone with perfect distance vision can still have focusing problems up close. Eye doctors check for both. Many children have undiagnosed accommodative (focusing) problems because no one ever looked for it before. We always check the distance and near vision of our patients of all ages because it is so important. Other areas that need to be checked include: eye muscle alignment, color vision, depth perception, and overall health of the eyes.
Q: What is color blindness?
A: Color blindness describes the inability to see colors in a normal way. Most often, color vision deficiency is when someone cannot distinguish between certain colors, usually between greens and reds, and occasionally blues. In the vast majority of cases, it's genetic, and is inherited from their mother's side of the family, affecting males more often than females. Acquired color vision deficiency can be caused by certain diseases such as multiple sclerosis, drugs or chemicals, but it's rare.
Q: What's color blindness?
A: Color blindness is actually called color vision deficiency. It is the inability to distinguish between certain colors – usually red and green. This results from an absence of color sensitive pigment in the cone cells of the retina and is usually hereditary.
Q: What can I do about Digital Eye Strain?
A: We can help! There are various eyeglass lenses and lens coatings for people of all ages to relieve digital eye strain and ease fatigue after extended reading or computer use. Lens treatments, such as anti-reflective and blue light blocking coatings, protect your eyes and increase comfort. We also prescribe many different types of contact lenses to reduce reading discomfort and make it easier to switch focus from near to far.
Q: Does reading on my smart phone or tablet in the dark damage my eyes?
A: Reading from a tablet or smart phone in the dark is okay for your eyes, as long as it's not for a long period of time. There is good lighting from these devices, with good contrast. There is, however, blue light emitted from these devices. Blue light is a short wavelength light, with high energy that may cause damage to the structures of the eye if exposed for a long period of time. As well, studies have shown this blue light can disrupt melatonin production which is required for a healthy sleep cycle. Optometrists recommend limiting screen use during the last hour before bedtime.
Q: Why do my eyes tear up when I am reading or spending time in front of a computer?
A: This may be due to a decreased rate of blinking as you concentrate on reading or working on the computer. When you blink less, less tears are pumped out of the tear drainage system, leading to a welling of the tears. Also, if you have an unstable tear film in conjunction with a decreased rate of blinking, this could lead to reflex tearing. Patients who experience this often have evaporative dry eye, which could be diagnosed with some additional testing.
Q: I work all day on my computer. How can I reduce the strain to my eyes?
A: Usually we recommend that the height of the monitor should be level with the tip of your nose. The screen should be 26 - 30 inches away from your eyes. You can prevent glare from the screen and the harmful effects of blue light by wearing anti-glare lenses and blue light protection. In addition you should follow the 20-20-20 rule. For every 20 minutes of computer use, you should take a break for 20 seconds by looking at an object that is 20 feet away from you. If you feel that your eyes are suffering from computer use, please call to make an appointment so we can evaluate your condition.