Health Blog - All About Eyes

Seeing Signs: Teen Driving

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Photo of a blurry stop sign.The beginning of the new school year for high schoolers often means the start of driver’s education courses and getting permits for most teenagers. While most kids focus on passing the written portion exam for their permit, there’s another, equally important exam to pass: the vision test. As part of the permitting process, eye exams are given at the state’s motor vehicle facility to ensure that peripheral (side) and distance vision are up to the task of driving.

It can also be a time when teens and their parents first learn about myopia, or “nearsightedness.”

As children grow into their teenage years, their eyes grow as well, and this can change the shape of the eye. This, according to the Mayo Clinic, causes light rays to bend (refract) incorrectly, focusing images in front of your retina instead of on your retina. Thus, making objects farther away, blurry. Objects like road signs and license plates in the car ahead.

Nearsightedness is a rapidly growing concern in the United States. From 1972 to 2004, myopia in people ages 12-54 increased from just 25 percent of the population to nearly 42 percent, according to the National Eye Institute. Why? Computers and hand-held devices are the culprits. The Nielsen Report, which monitors media usage, says that Americans are now spending upwards of 11 hours a day on their devices, up from 10 hours a day last year. All this time spent on computers and smartphones is causing problems for people in their distance vision.

Myopia, for some people, can be associated with other eye disorders like cataracts, glaucoma, and retinal detachment. Signs of the condition include squinting, eye strain, headaches, and feeling tired when driving. Nearsightedness can be corrected with prescription eyeglasses, contact lenses, and in some cases, refractive surgery.

Schedule a comprehensive eye exam today!


Effects of Smoking on the Eyes

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smoking-infographic-580x2218Smoking. It’s not just bad for your lungs, heart, and pretty much every organ in your body according to the Centers for Disease Control, but it’s detrimental for your eyes, too. In addition to increased risks of heart and lung cancer, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, smoking can dramatically increase your chances of vision loss as you age.

Eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) skyrocket by 25 percent for smokers. And it doesn’t end there: nonsmokers will double their risk of getting AMD just by living with a smoker and being exposed to second-hand smoke. AMD is an incurable vision disease that attacks the center part of the retina causing a dark spot in the center of your field of vision. Cataracts, a white, cloudy film that forms over the lens, are two times more likely to develop in a heavy smoker (15 or more cigarettes a day) than to a nonsmoker.

Smokers are twice as prone to uveitis (an inflammation of the iris area of the eye) and dry eye syndrome (where there aren’t enough tears to lubricate the eye).

And if all that wasn’t bad enough, the risk of developing diabetes is 30–40 percent higher for smokers, which can trigger eye diseases like glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.

Traditional cigarettes are not the only cause for concern amongst smokers either. According to Vaping Daily, an online trade magazine covering the latest trends in e-cigarettes (smoking e-liquids via an electronic cigarette), the vapor clouds that are created in exhalation are being studied for their effects on vision as well.

To increase your chances of slowing down or halting the onset of these diseases the solution is simple: stop smoking and limit your exposure to people who do in your environment.


National Sunglasses Day is Here!

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Get Your Sunnies On! National Sunglasses Day

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National Sunglasses Day will be on Wednesday, June 27, and it is a perfect day to celebrate protecting your vision with your sunglasses!

Why Sunglasses?

Sunglasses — not just any sunglasses but specifically those with Ultra Violet (UV) protection — can help to protect your eyes against sunburn (yes, your eyes can get sunburnt), pterygium (abnormal growths on your eyes), potential cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and squamous cell carcinoma (cancer).

What Are Symptoms of Sun Damage?

If you have been outside without sunglasses for a prolonged period of time or around highly reflective surfaces like lakes, the ocean, sand, or snow, you may find that your eyes are affected. The cornea, the outer layer of the eyeball, is like the top layer of skin on your body and can get sunburnt just as easily.

How do you know if your eyes are sunburnt? If you find they are red, swollen, and/or you have blurry vision and light sensitivity, your cornea may have been sunburnt. This is called photokeratitis. Your eyes may water and you may feel like you’ve got sand or grit in them. See your eye-care practitioner for eye drops and stay in a darkened room for at least a day to allow your eyes time to heal. The cornea will usually heal quickly.

How to Protect Your Eyes

IMG_2525It’s easy to protect your eyes, and stylish, too! All About Eyes has a variety of sunglasses to choose from and they are all UV protected.

And it’s okay to go all “Hollywood” and wear your sunglasses on cloudy days, as the sun’s UV rays are present then, too.

Join the fun, share your #SunglassesSelfie on #NationalSunglassesDay and wear your sunnies!


Eyelid Cancers – Shade Your Eyes in Summer!

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SunWith the summer months stretching out before us, there will be plenty of opportunities to be outside. And that means exposure to the sun will increase along with those opportunities. Most people think to apply suncream to protect their skin but they don’t always think about protecting their eyelids from the sun. The eyelid area, according to SkinCancer.org is where up to 10 percent of all skin cancers happen. Most of those, 90 percent, are basal cell carcinomas (benign), just over 5 percent are squamous cell carcinomas, and 1-2 percent are malignant melanomas.

Symptoms

Since most of the tumors grow undetected at first, there are several things to look for — and note that most eyelid cancers happen on the lower lid:

  • Change in appearance
  • Bleeding lump or bump
  • Swelling
  • Sudden loss of eyelashes
  • Chronic infection that doesn’t respond to treatment
  • Wound that won’t heal
  • Spreading, colored mass
  • Flat, irregularly shaped, pigmented lesions

 

Treatment

Once a biopsy has been performed (where they remove a portion of the affected area to test it) and cancer has been diagnosed, a team of doctors will help you. The team usually consists of an ophthalmologist, dermatologist, surgeon, radiation oncologist and/or a medical oncologist.

Surgery can remove the cancerous tissue. In some severe cases, the eye will need to be removed and a prosthetic added, and radiation/chemotherapy treatment may be necessary to prevent cancer from causing tissue damage or spreading to the nasal and orbital cavities behind the eyes.

Prevention

Sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection, along with a wide-brimmed hat will go a long way toward preventing eyelid cancers. There is also suncream available for the eyelid with an SPF15 that can help, too. As always, regular comprehensive eye exams with your eye-care professional can help to detect cancers early, leading to faster treatment.

Next month celebrates #NationalSunglassesDay and All About Eyes has a wide-array of sunglasses to choose from! Come see us to get a head-start on prevention!


Life After Enucleation Surgery: Prosthetic Eyes

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Losing an eye, whether due to an injury, birth defect, or diseases — such as end-stage glaucoma, diabetes, or cancers like retinoblastoma and choroidal melanoma — can be an emotionally and physically traumatic experience. But all hope is not lost. While vision itself cannot be restored in the affected eye, appearance can be, and for most, this is an important aspect of restoring self-esteem.

After the enucleation surgery has been performed to remove the affected eye from the socket, usually keeping the muscles and bone structure intact, a temporary prosthesis is inserted to allow the patient time to heal. A specialist known as an ocularist makes a custom designed artificial eye and can expertly match iris colors to the remaining eye and form the eye shape to the existing socket. Once the inserted, the muscles and blood vessels can conform to the new prosthetic, allowing for both eyes to track objects simultaneously. The result is a restored appearance.

The prosthetic must be checked yearly and polished to maintain it. As age, weight, and movement all affect the eye socket over time, adjustments will need to be made to the artificial eye to keep it in good shape and in good condition. For people who are blind, ocular prosthetics are available. These are similar to contact lenses and are called scleral covers.

Prosthetic EyeProsthetic eyes have been around for a long, long time and, thankfully, have come a long way! The ancient Roman and Egyptian priests in the fifth century B.C. were known to have crafted painted clay eyes attached to cloth that were then worn on the outside of the eye socket. Fast forward several centuries later, and you’ll find the first in-socket artificial eyes made out of gold and colored with enamel. Venetians in the 16th century started making glass eyes and dominated that market until the 18th century, when the Germans perfected the technique. In the United States, glass eyes were made starting in the 19th century but stopped during World War II, as the glass was being imported from Germany, and developed plastic polymers instead. Today, prosthetic eyes are largely crafted from acrylic or silicone polymers as well as glass. With the advent of 3-D printing capabilities, there is hope that prosthetic eyes might one day be able to incorporate Wi-Fi signals and transmit visuals to the wearer.

For more information, visit the websites of the American Society of Ocularists so and the National Eye Institute.


Are Those Stars in Your Eyes? Or is it VIIP?

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Image of stars.

NASA

Space travel, it’s the future. We’ve been hearing about it for decades. But with NASA’s commitment to a mission to Mars by 2030, Elon Musk’s Space X company single-handedly reigniting the excitement of building better rockets, and the International Space Station (ISS) orbiting Earth for nearly 18 years, life among the stars appears to be humanity’s destiny. But before we jump into our spaceships and don our space suits, there are some down-to-Earth, practical matters to attend to: vision issues.

It all started in 2005 when astronaut John Phillips noticed something when he looked down at planet Earth from the space station: it was blurry. Astronauts are expected to have 20/20 vision, so suddenly developing vision problems was, well, a problem. It’s not like you can schedule a visit to your eye doctor three months into your mission to Mars!

NASA Twins

Mike (left) and Scott Kelly. NASA Astronauts.

Years later, and now with 80 percent of long-duration mission astronauts reporting nearsightedness during and after their missions, NASA has been studying what’s happening up in space and has identified the condition as Vision Impairment and Intracranial Pressure (VIIP). In fact, the vision study is one of ten studies commissioned by NASA in their Twin Study this past year. In this study, identical twin brothers Scott and Mike Kelly are being observed for the biological effects of long-duration missions. Scott Kelly was in the ISS for 340 days while his brother Mike remained on Earth.

While the study on the effect on eyes hasn’t been completed yet, preliminary results are that being in a zero-gravity environment does affect the structure of the eyes. On Earth, we have gravity, which pulls our fluids down toward our feet. In space, there is no gravity, so those fluids can remain in the brain, putting pressure on the eyes and flattening the back of them out, causing nearsightedness. This study will help scientists plan for future space travel.


Seeing Double, Double Vision

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double visionAs the name suggests, double vision, called diplopia, is when you see two images of a single object. Double vision can happen in one eye (monocular) or both (binocular). The treatment for diplopia will largely depend on the type you have, and the underlying cause.

Diagnosis

To detect if diplopia is in one eye or both, your eye-care professional will cover one eye at a time during their exam and may use prisms to see what the level of double vision is. Not surprisingly, it is easier to detect in adults, as they can describe what they’re seeing. With children who are unable to talk about their vision, parents may need to watch for various behaviors: squinting, covering one eye to look at things, head tilting, or looking at things sideways.

Monocular Diplopia

According to Harvard Health, the causes of double vision in one eye can be cataracts, astigmatism, keratoconus (where the cornea becomes cone-shaped), pterygium (a growth of tissue on the eyeball), dislocated lens, swelling or mass in the eyelid, or dry eyes (Sjogren’s disease, etc.).

Binocular Diplopia

The causes of double vision in both eyes can be strabismus (crossed eyes), nerve damage, diabetes, myasthenia gravis (neuromuscular/autoimmune illness), Grave’s disease (hyperthyroidism), multiple sclerosis, migraines, stroke, or trauma (black eye).

Treatment

As mentioned above, treatment of diplopia largely depends on what is causing it. If other diseases such as diabetes, Sjogren’s, Grave’s, etc., are at the root of the problem, those conditions will need to be treated independently, and then the double vision problem can be revisited with your eye-care professional. For other issues — such as trauma, cataracts, or astigmatism — surgery or lens correction may resolve the double vision.


Eyelids: Focus on Blepharitis

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Eyelids are the thin skin folds covering our eyes. We use them to blink an astonishing 15-20 times per minute/1,200 times an hour to keep our eyes moist and dust-free. Eyelids block out the light when we sleep. And for some, eyelids are a canvas for applying colorful powders and mascara. From time-to-time, eyelids can develop infections that cause them to become swollen and sore. This condition is called Blepharitis.

Types of Blepharitis

There are two types of Blepharitis, anterior, meaning the outside/front of the lid, and posterior, which is the inner part of the lid, next to the eyeball itself.

Photo of a stye in the eye/Blepharitis

Photo Credit: Andre Riemann

Anterior Blepharitis is caused by bacterial infections or scalp dandruff. Posterior Blepharitis tends to be caused by clogged oil glands known as the meibomian glands. These glands can become infected due to acne rosacea or scalp dandruff.

In some cases, parasites (Demodex eyelash mites) can cause the infection. Blepharitis often occurs with pink eye (conjunctivitis), a stye (a tender, red lump near the eyelashes) and/ or a chalazion (a painless, firm lump).

Symptoms of Blepharitis

  • inflamed, red eyelids
  • burning eyes
  • crusty debris at the base of the lid
  • watery eyes
  • dry eyes

 

Treatment

The most important aspect of treating Blepharitis, according to the National Eye Institute is keeping the eyelid clean. As it is difficult to get rid of, people who get this infection will need to practice good eyelid hygiene for the rest of their lives to keep recurring infections to a minimum. To keep the eyelid clean, a warm compress on the lid will help to soften the crusty bits on the eyelashes, then a diluted solution of water and baby shampoo is used with a clean, fresh cotton swab to gently and carefully scrub the debris away. A fresh cotton swab should be used for each eye to avoid cross-contamination.

If the above solution doesn’t work, your eye-care professional may prescribe antibiotics or, if needed, steroid eyedrops.

In the cases where scalp dandruff present, then dandruff shampoo for the scalp is recommended. Similarly, acne rosacea is causing the infection, then acne treatment under the care of a dermatologist is recommended. By treating these other contributing factors, it can help to reduce the cause of inflammation in the eyelid.


General Info on Age-Related Macular Degeneration

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Image Credit: National Eye Institute

Image Credit: National Eye Institute

For 10 million Americans ages 50 and over, macular degeneration looms on the horizon of age-related concerns. Macular degeneration is an incurable vision disease that attacks the center part of the retina (at the back of the eye) where “millions of light-sensing cells that provide the sharp, central vision” reside (National Eye Institute). The macula records the images we see and relays them to the optic nerve, which then passes the information to the brain.

These cells are responsible for our ability to read, to recognize faces, for driving, and for doing any close-up, detail work such as needlepoint. If these cells become damaged, the central field of view can become blurry, distorted, or form dark splotches.

Detection of Macular Degeneration

Comprehensive eye exams are the first line of detection for macular degeneration. During the visual acuity and eye dilation portion of the exam, eye-care professionals are able to look for yellowish deposits called drusen and for any pigment changes in the retina. The size of the drusen deposits will determine how advanced the macular degeneration (if any) has become.

Stages of Macular Degeneration

There are three distinct stages of this disease:

  • Early:  In this stage, the drusen deposits are medium-sized. There typically is no change in vision for the patient.
  • Intermediate:  At this point, the drusen will be large, and there may also be changes in the retina’s pigment.
  • Late:  Drusen deposits will be large, pigment changes will be present, and there will be vision loss at this stage. According to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation, the degeneration will be classified as either atrophic (dry) or exudative (wet).
    • Atrophic cases tend to be age-related, and 85-90 percent of macular degeneration falls into this classification. There is no leakage of blood or serum into the eye. Vision may still be good but may be fluctuating. Patients may have limited reading ability in dim lighting (such as in restaurants at night).
    • Exudative cases make up the remaining 10-15 percent. Exudative – or wet – macular degeneration occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina and bleed or leak fluid. This distorts vision.
Prevention and Treatment 

While there is no cure for macular degeneration, there is strong evidence that leading a lifestyle that promotes wellness will go a long way toward staving off the advancement of the disease. Not smoking, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet with plenty of green leafy vegetables, and maintaining normal blood pressure levels, will all go a long way toward overall good health as well as preserving vision.

For intermediate- and late-stage atrophic (dry) macular degeneration, studies have shown that high doses of vitamins C and E, along with zinc and copper, can reduce the disease by up to 25 percent. For the exudative (wet) cases, anti-VEGF treatment (periodic injections in the eye of Avastin or Eylea) allows patients to remain stable instead of getting progressively worse.

The National Eye Institute has more comprehensive information available on the studies.