Health Blog - All About Eyes

Melanoma in Your Eyes

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Eye Graphic - Melanoma

Graphic courtesy of National Cancer Institute

When people generally think of melanoma, they usually think of skin cancer. And while it is rare, melanoma can develop in the eyes. It is called ocular melanoma and, according to the Ocular Melanoma Foundation, up to 2,500 Americans are diagnosed with this form of cancer each year.

“Melanomas are a type of cancer that develop in the cells that produce pigment. Pigment is the substance that gives your skin, hair and eyes color,” explains the American Academy of Ophalmology’s website. Melonaomas tend to develop in the uveal part of the eye, which is one of the three layers of the eye, the other two being the sclera (outer layer) and retina (innermost layer).

The problem with ocular melanoma is that it typically doesn’t have symptoms and is usually only detected during a routine eye dilation exam.

Who is at Risk?

Research suggests that there is a strong genetic component for people who develop eye cancer and that it tends to affect those with lighter skin tones who have blue or green eyes and of that group, it tends to affect people ages 50 and above. Another major factor, not surprisingly, is overexposure sunlight or ultraviolet light from tanning beds. The simple act of wearing sunglasses can go a long way toward reducing the risk of developing ocular melanoma.

How is it Detected?

As mentioned above, a routine eye exam where eyes are dilated is the best detection method, given that the cancer is relatively symptom-free. That said, if you notice dark spots on your iris (colored part of your eye), a change in the shape of your pupil, blurred vision, or a loss of vision, you should see your eye care professional. These issues can also be present for other eye problems, so further assessment will be needed.

If eye cancer is suspected during the routine eye exam, the next step may be to see a specialist for an ultrasound of the eye, a fluorescine angiography (where dye is injected into your body and a special camera takes pictures of the contrast image), or a biopsy (where eye tissue is removed and examined).

How is it Treated?

Depending on the severity of the ocular melanoma, radiation and/or surgery are the traditional treatments. In the last few years, medical oncologists at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center have been testing experimental drug therapies and are having promising results.


Itchy Eyes and Their Allergens

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Seasonal Allergic Conjunctivitis

Flowering Tree2It’s that time of year again – spring – or for 20 percent of the population, Seasonal Allergic Conjunctivitis (SAC) season. Seasonal allergies cause red, itchy, watery, and burning eyes, all thanks to blooming trees, flowers, and weeds releasing pollen. Sufferers may have chronic dark circles under their eyes, their eyelids may be puffy, and bright lights may be bothersome. If the eyes are rubbed too much, it can lead to secondary infections requiring medical attention.

When the pollen comes out, allergy sufferers should close their windows, turn on their air conditioning in their homes and cars, and stay indoors for the mid-morning and early evening time periods, when pollen counts are at their highest. If they do go outdoors, sunglasses or eyeglasses are their best defense against blowing pollen.

Obviously, pollen is not completely unavoidable, requiring a trip to the pharmacy for supplies to help alleviate the symptoms. Artificial tears, decongestant eye drops, and oral antihistamines can help to get through the season (just be aware that antihistamines can have a drying effect on eyes).

Perennial Allergic Conjunctivitis

While seasonal allergies tend to affect sufferers during the active growing months of plants (spring, summer, and fall), Perennial Allergic Conjunctivitis (PAC), is a year-long affair. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, perennial allergies are typically caused by the indoor allergens of dust mites, pet dander, mold spores, or other household/indoor irritants.

The symptoms will appear the same as for its seasonal allergy counterpart and is treated the same with over-the-counter remedies. Sufferers are strongly encouraged to keep their homes, offices, and cars (interior environments) clean and to regularly wash linens and other fabrics (i.e., rugs, draperies, curtains, upholstery) to eliminate dust mites, spores, and dander.

These two types of eye allergies are the most common, affecting 50-85 million Americans each year. If you find yourself being affected, wash your face, use a cold compress on your eyes, try the over-the-counter remedies, keep your environment clean, wipe surfaces with a damp cloth, and if all else fails, see your eye care professional for prescription medications.


It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Never mind, it’s just a floater.

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Floaters are tiny spots that randomly appear in your vision. According to the Mayo Clinic, “they may look like black or gray specks, strings, or cobwebs that drift about when you move your eyes and appear to dart away when you try to look at them directly.” They tend to be more visible when you look at bright surfaces such as computer screens, white paper, or a blue sky.

But where do they come from in the first place? Are they harmful? And can they be treated?

Drawing of the various components of the human eye.

Image Provided by National Eye Institute

Floaters, while an apt description, are actually formed from vitreous, the gel-like substance that makes up around 80 percent of the eyeball (see diagram) and helps to maintain the round shape of the eye. As we begin to age, it begins to shrink. During this process, microscopic vitreous fibers begin to clump together and they then form the floaters.

People who are nearsighted, those who have diabetes, or folks who have had cataract operations tend to have more floaters than others (National Eye Institute). While not harmful in and of themselves, as with most things, a sudden increase in their volume – to where they begin to affect your vision – can be problematic. If you lose your peripheral vision or see flashes of light with the increased floaters, you may have a retinal detachment, which is a serious condition requiring immediate medical attention.

In cases where the floaters are affecting vision and can no longer be simply ignored, a surgical procedure called a vitrectomy can be performed. In this surgery, the vitreous gel is removed from the eye and replaced with a salt solution. As with most surgeries, the risk of complications must be fully considered as your sight could be adversely affected.


Eye Emergency – What to do

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Red CrossEye injuries happen from time-to-time – even after all reasonable efforts to protect our eyes have been made. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Americans have over 2.5 million eye injuries every year. So if you find yourself in that statistic, it’s important to know what to do in case of emergency to help reduce an injury’s impact on your vision.

Common injuries include chemical burns, specks of debris (sand, dust, etc.), blows to the eye, and cuts/punctures. These types of injuries may result in either a trip to the emergency room or to your eye doctor.

 

Here’s what to do in case of emergency:

Chemical Burns

What it is:  Chemicals like shampoos, gasoline, cleaning products, etc., that splash into the eye and cause a burning sensation.

What to do: Immediately flush the eye with clean water for 15 minutes.

What not to do:  Do not bandage the eye.

Specks

What it is:  Any small foreign object like a gnat, dirt, sand, etc., that flies into your eye.

What to do:  Lift your upper eyelid over your bottom lid to help flush the eye with your tears. If that doesn’t work, use a commercial eye wash (saline solution) available from your local pharmacy.

What not to do:  Do not rub your eye. Do not use tweezers or any other object to try and dislodge the particle.

Blows

What it is:  A direct hit to the eye from a fist, baseball, or other objects.

What to do:  Apply a cold compress (i.e., ice pack, a bag of frozen peas) to the eye area. Check for any eye pain, blurry vision, protruding eyeball, blood, or discoloration.

What not to do:  Do not apply any pressure on the injured eye.

Cuts and Punctures

What it is:  Any cut or puncture to the eyelid, eyeball, or eye socket.

What to do:  Cover the eye area with a rigid shield to protect it and tape it in place. The bottom of a paper cup is a good quick-fix until you’re able to get to an emergency room.

What not to do:  Do not try to remove any object stuck in the eye. Do not wash the eye.

Remember:  If you feel any pain in your eye or have blurred vision after an injury incident, please see a doctor or eye care professional straight away.


All About Eyes – Favorite Songs About Eyes

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The staff at All About Eyes wish all our clients, readers, and friends a Happy New Year! To start the new year off with some fun, we decided to get musical and asked each of our staff members what their top three favorite songs are – and since we’re all about eyes – the songs are all about eyes. We’d love to hear what your favorites are as well!

Staff Picks:  Top Three Favorite Songs About Eyes*

 

Cheryl:

  1. In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel
  2. Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison
  3. Lyin’ Eyes by the Eagles

Dave:

  1. Suite: Judy Blue Eyes by Crosby, Stills & Nash
  2. Eye of the Tiger by Survivor
  3. Behind Blue Eyes by The Who

Karen:

  1. Dr. My Eyes by Jackson Browne
  2. My Eyes by Blake Shelton
  3. Lonely Eyes by Chris Young

Sarah:

  1. Goodbye in Her Eyes by the Zac Brown Band
  2. My Eyes by Blake Shelton
  3. Fresh Eyes by Andy Grammer

Anna:

  1. Fresh Eyes by Andy Grammer
  2. Hungry Eyes by Eric Carmen
  3. Can’t Take My Eyes Off You by Franki Valli

Nancy:

  1. Behind these Hazel Eyes by Kelly Clarkson
  2. Close Your Eyes by Michael Bublé
  3. Eyes Open by Taylor Swift

Fransheska:

  1. Spanish Eyes by Backstreet Boys
  2. Close My Eyes by Mariah Carey
  3. Open Your Eyes by John Legend

*Wherever possible, highlighted songs link directly to the artist’s official page/song.


Eye Checkup = Health Checkup

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Your eyes are more than the windows to your soul – with a comprehensive eye checkup – they are a doorway to your overall health

eye dropReasons to visit your eye-care professional for a checkup usually center on getting corrective lenses for your eyes when you notice your vision has changed. But did you know that there are many general health benefits to having a regular checkup as well?

As we discussed in last month’s blog post, Your Eyes and Diabetes, getting an annual comprehensive eye exam performed will shed light not only on your vision issues, but overall health issues as well. In addition to detecting diseases like diabetes, your eye-care professional will be able to tell if you have hypertension, high cholesterol, thyroid issues, tumors, sexually transmitted diseases, autoimmune disorders, and even cancer.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, “The eye is the only place in the body where a doctor can have an unobstructed view of our blood vessels, nerves, and connecting tissue — without any need for surgery. Because the eye has the same microscopic tissue as our other major organs, and is an important part of our larger nervous system, abnormalities spotted in the eye may signal the same changes in other parts of the body.”

So, it’s a good idea to have your eyes checked regularly, as a visit to your eye-care professional could literally save your life through early detection of some serious health issues! You can schedule an appointment by calling 609-653-9933 or using our online scheduler.

Don’t forget that now is a good time to use any remaining eye care benefits or flex spending before the end of the year!


Learn About Your Eyes and Diabetes

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November is National Diabetes Month

Did you know that this disease can be detected through a routine, comprehensive eye exam? The American Optometric Association says that diabetes is the leading cause of vision loss for Americans under the age of 74. If left untreated, it may lead to blindness, so it is important to keep diabetes under control through dietary choices, exercise, not smoking, and if needed, medicine.

DEDInfographic

What is diabetes?

The Diabetes Research Institute describes this condition as, “A group of diseases where there is too much sugar (glucose) in the blood. Sugar comes from the foods we eat, like bread, cereals, pasta, rice, fruit, starchy vegetables and dairy items. Sugar is used by the body for energy. Insulin is a hormone that is made in the pancreas and works like a key to a door – insulin opens the door of the cells of our body allowing the sugar to go from the bloodstream into the cells where it is then used for energy. If there is not enough insulin or if the insulin can’t open the door to the cell, the sugar levels rise in the blood and diabetes occurs.”

The most common type of the disease is type 2 diabetes (a chronic condition that affects the way the body processes glucose), type 1 diabetes (also a chronic condition where the pancreas produces little or no insulin), prediabetes (where blood sugar is high, but not high enough to trigger type 2 diabetes), and gestational diabetes (which affects pregnant women).

The primary effects of diabetes are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a lack of blood glucose control.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

Typically, people with diabetes will feel thirsty, hungry, tired, have to urinate frequently, and have blurry vision.

How does diabetes affect the eyes?

Because diabetes increases blood sugars in blood vessels, causing them to swell and leak, it can affect the blood vessels in the eyes as well. This can lead to several eye conditions, most noticeably in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye.

A major complication of the disease is diabetic retinopathy, which is a condition causing progressive damage to the tiny blood vessels in the retina.

According to the American Diabetes Association, having diabetes may increase your chances of having additional eye-related complications as well: a 60 percent increased risk for cataracts, a 40 percent increased risk for glaucoma.

How can comprehensive eye exams help?

During the comprehensive eye exam, eyes are dilated with eye drops, allowing a clear view of the blood vessels at the back of the eye. By having yearly exams, an eye-care professional can detect retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma early and start treatment programs.

 

 

 


Glaucoma: Closed-Angle – Part two

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closedangleglaudoma

Graphic: Glaucoma Research Foundation

This is part two of a two-part series on glaucoma that includes the main types of the disease, the symptoms and risk factors, and treatments available to combat the disease.

In last week’s post, the focus was on the most common form of glaucoma, open-angle, which affects about three million Americans and accounts for 90 percent of all glaucoma cases. The next most common type is called closed-angle glaucoma (also known as narrow-angle glaucoma and/or angle-closure glaucoma).

Closed-Angle Glaucoma

While the drainage canals are also blocked as with open-angle glaucoma and this causes eye pressure, in this form of the disease, the angles are narrow or closed, which can result in sudden, severe pain, requiring immediate medical attention.

Risk Factors

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, people with a family history of closed-angle glaucoma, those of Asian descent, and people with hyperopia (farsightedness) tend to be at risk of developing this type of glaucoma. As with glaucoma in general, age is also a factor. 

Symptoms and Treatment

Typically, closed-angle glaucoma is a medical emergency with an onset of severe eye pain, blurry vision, a headache, nausea, and seeing halos around lights. People at risk for developing this form of glaucoma often have no symptoms ahead of an acute attack. Once an acute attack happens, the patient will need to seek medical care straight away, otherwise, they risk permanent vision loss in that eye.

However, yearly eye exams can help in detecting this form of the disease, which can allow the patient the opportunity to have an iridectomy performed in a non-emergency situation. An iridectomy is a procedure whereby a laser beam is used to create a drainage hole in the iris, which provides relief of eye pressure. The procedure is done on an out-patient basis and has minimal recovery time.

Don’t let glaucoma steal your vision, contact All About Eyes and get your eyes examined today!


Glaucoma – A two-part series

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This will be a two-part series on glaucoma that will include the main types of the disease, the symptoms and risk factors, and treatments available to combat the disease.  

What is Glaucoma? 7544734516_bc4180a6f4_z

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases which produces increased pressure within the eye, due to a fluid build-up. Over time, according to the Glaucoma Foundation, this pressure can cause damage to the optic nerve and cause vision loss. The optic nerve is part of the central nervous system and carries the visual information from the eye to the brain. Once pressure builds on this nerve, it can start to die, and may lead to blindness.

There are several types of glaucoma, but the two most common are open-angle and closed-angle, with open-angle being far more common of the two. In fact, it is estimated that at least 90 percent of all glaucoma cases are this type, affecting about three million Americans.

Open-Angle Glaucoma

Open-angle glaucoma tends to develop slowly over time and does not present with noticeable symptoms until well into the disease. The Glaucoma Research Foundation says, “Glaucoma is an eye disease that gradually steals vision.” By the time the patient is aware of vision loss, it is often too late to prevent it. Vision loss due to glaucoma is permanent. Open-angle glaucoma is caused by the slow clogging of drainage canals within the eye structure, which results in increased eye pressure. The aspect of “open angle” refers to the angle where the iris meets the cornea is as wide and open as it can be.

Risk Factors 

So the question begs, if you don’t know it’s happening, how can you prevent it or stop it? One way is to understand common risk factors. Knowing your family medical history is an excellent place to start since glaucoma tends to be hereditary. Those of African-American or Latino descent are also at risk. And those who are diabetic, obese, or have cardiovascular disease may also be at higher risk of developing glaucoma. Of course, age plays a factor as well.

Prevention

Knowing if you are at risk is just one part of the equation, however. The best line of defense is getting annual check-ups with your eye-care professional. They will perform a comprehensive dilated eye exam, which will help to diagnose early signs of glaucoma.

Treatment

If it is determined that you have open-angle glaucoma, medications are available to help reduce eye pressure, and several different types of surgery are available as well, including selective laser trabeculoplasty and argon laser trabeculoplasty.

Part two of this series will focus on closed-angle glaucoma and will be posted on Monday, October 10. 

 


Aging Eyes

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 Reading Newspaper It starts out simply enough. One day, you hold the newspaper, magazine, book, or menu you’re reading a little farther away than you did before. Time marches on and a while later – after you’ve been slowly adjusting – you realize that you’ve run out of arm to hold your newspaper and that’s when it dawns on you: either your arms have gotten shorter or your eyes are starting to go.

Welcome to middle age.

According to the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), right around the age of 40, many adults begin to develop age-related eye conditions. The most noticeable one is called presbyopia (prez-bee-OH-pee-uh), a loss of near vision. This happens when the lens of the eye starts to stiffen, making it harder to see close objects. In addition to your vision changing, the National Institute on Aging says presbyopia can cause headaches or strained, tired eyes. A visit to an optometrist will help you to identify if just a pair of reading glasses or a bifocal or multi-focal prescription is necessary. All About Eyes has a wide variety of eyeglasses available to choose from.

Aging Eyes

In addition to presbyopia, some adults will begin to see a need for better lighting when they read. When the lens of the eye becomes less transparent, it makes it harder for light to pass through to the retina. The Merck Manual, a reference for doctors, says that adults ages 60 and above need three times more light to read than a 20-year-old.

Other issues that can affect aging eyes are changes in how color is perceived, due to the lens yellowing over time, making it harder to spot the difference between shades of the same color or similar colors. Dry eyes can also start to happen, where the fluid lubricating the eyeball begins to diminish. And then, there are the floaters. As we age, more floaters will begin to appear in our field of vision. The spots can look like clear or dark strings. You may notice them more when looking at the sky during daytime or other bright, plain surface. They are made up of bits of normal fluid that have solidified. And finally, cataracts may also develop as we age. Cataracts are a clouding of the lens in the eye which causes the vision to progressively get blurrier. They can be removed by surgery.

Regular check-ups with your optometrist can help to identify – and in many cases – correct all of these aging eye issues.