By Johnson City Eye Clinic and Surgery Center
Did you know regular eye exams should begin at the age of 6 months? Your eye care physician will test for excessive or unequal amounts of nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism, eye movement ability and other eye health problems. While these problems are not common, it is important to identify them early on. Vision development and eye health problems are easier to correct if treatment begins early.
Protective eyewear is essential to those who are participating in contact sports, as are sunglasses for protection from harmful UV radiation. Your eye care provider recommends that you wear 99 percent and higher UV (ultraviolet radiation) – absorbent sunglasses whenever you are in the sun for long periods. During the summer the level of ultraviolet radiation (UVA and UVB) is at least three times higher than during the winter months. Consider wearing sunglasses that offer 100 percent UV absorption particularly when you are outdoors, at the beach or in the water. Sunglasses with UV absorption are also a must if you are using medications that may cause light sensitivity or if you wear contact lenses. Most brands of contact lenses do not offer UV protection.
Diabetic patients are at a greater risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, a condition that can be caused by long term increased levels of glucose in the small blood vessels in the eyes. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the blood vessels in the eye’s retina (the light sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye) swell, leak or close off completely – or if abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. Diabetes can cause changes in your vision even if you do not have retinopathy. If you have diabetes or a family history of diabetes, it is important to have an annual eye exam.
Avoiding or quitting smoking is one of the best investments you can make in your long-term eye health. Smoking increases your risks for cataract and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Smoking also increases the risks for cardiovascular diseases that indirectly influence your eyes’ health.
Even second hand smoke is an irritant that worsens Dry Eye, a very real and uncomfortable eye condition that is most common in women after menopause. Pregnant women should not smoke as they are more likely to give birth prematurely, putting their babies at higher risk for a potentially blinding disease, retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). ROP primarily affects those babies born at 2 ¾ lbs. or less that are born before 31 weeks.
A woman’s eyes may also change during pregnancy due to fluid retention, increased blood volume, hormonal fluctuations and other physical shifts that are part of pregnancy. Usually these changes are temporary and resolve after the baby is born. Vision changes tend to be minor and do not require a new eyeglass prescription. LASIK surgery should not be done while a women is pregnant or breastfeeding. If vision does become very blurry during pregnancy, it may signal high blood pressure or pregnancy-related diabetes and a visit to the doctor is essential.
Eye infections can be caused from bacteria, fungi, or viruses and can occur in different parts of the eye, affecting one or both eyes. Two most common eye infections are Conjunctivitis (pink eye), most prevalent in children and very contagious, and Sties, a bump on the eyelid, which happens when bacteria from your skin get into the hair follicle of an eyelash. Sties are many times associated with a condition called Blepharitis. Symptoms of eye infections may include redness, itching, swelling, discharge, pain, or problems with vision. Treatment depends on the cause of the infection and your doctor may prescribe compresses, eye drops, creams or antibiotics. If you are experiencing an eye infection, it is important to discontinue wearing your contact lenses. You should also replace any exposed contact lens after the infection has cleared and you resume wear.
Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss among adults 55 and older. Most cataracts tend to advance slowly and can take years to mature. A yearly visit to your eye doctor can help to identify cataracts early on, but there are some symptoms you can look for including cloudy vision, difficulty seeing at night, halos around lights, frequent changes in glasses or contact lens prescriptions, double vision in one eye, poor night vision, light sensitivity or seeing faded colors. Cataracts are a clouding of the lens in the eye – the part of the eye that focuses light and produces clear images. The natural lens is contained in a capsule inside of the eye. As older cells die they are trapped within this capsule. The accumulation of these cells causes the lens to cloud, making images look blurry, fuzzy or faded.
The decision to have cataract surgery is up to the individual and based upon his or her daily activities and related vision needs. If activities like driving or reading are becoming more difficult and uncomfortable, it may be time to schedule surgery.
Cataract surgery is typically an outpatient procedure and can be performed in less than 30 minutes. The surgery commonly requires only mild sedation and, generally, no stitches are required. Until recently the surgeon would use a scalpel to create incisions necessary to perform cataract surgery. New state-of-
the-art bladeless laser guided cataract surgery is now available for those patients who elect to have this revolutionary technology. Most major medical and Medicare will cover the cost of cataract surgery and most people notice a marked improvement in their vision within a few days. Once vision has stabilized, the doctor will prescribe new glasses if necessary. However, there are many options when considering replacement lenses. New technology lenses are an option for many patients today. Talk with your eye doctor about multi-functional replacement lenses that help to decrease your dependency on glasses.
Johnson City Eye Center