Children’s Vision FAQ

Q: Our 3-year-old daughter was just diagnosed with strabismus and amblyopia. What are the percentages of a cure at her age?

A: With proper treatment, the odds are very good. Generally, it is better to treat strabismus and amblyopia in young childhood rather than waiting until after age 10. If your daughter’s eye turn (strabismus) is constant, it’s likely surgery will be necessary to straighten her eyes in order for her therapy for amblyopia (or “lazy eye”) to be successful. Strabismus surgery may be needed even if her eyes alternate in their misalignment.

Q: My 5-year-old daughter passed her vision screening at school. Does she still need an eye exam?

A: Yes. School vision screenings are not a substitute for a comprehensive eye exam — they are designed to detect only gross vision problems. Children can pass a screening at school and still have vision problems that can affect their learning and school performance. A comprehensive children’s eye exam by an optometrist can detect vision problems a school screening may miss.  Also, a comprehensive eye exam includes an evaluation of your child’s eye health, which is not part of a school vision screening.

Q: My daughter (age 10) is farsighted and has been wearing glasses since age two. We think she may have problems with depth perception. How can she be tested for this, and if there is a problem, can it be treated?

A: A very quick and simple in-office test called a stereopsis test can determine if your daughter has normal depth perception. In this test, she wears “3-D glasses” and looks at a number of objects in a special book or on a chart across the room. If she has reduced stereopsis, a program of vision therapy often can help improve depth perception.

Q: How often should children have their eyes examined?

A: Infants should have their first comprehensive eye exam at 6 months of age, and young children should have routine eye exams at age 3 and again at age 5 or 6 (just before they enter kindergarten or the first grade), says the American Optometric Association (AOA).

For school-aged children, the AOA recommends an eye exam every two years if no vision correction is needed. Children who need eyeglasses or contact lenses should be examined annually.

Q: What is vision therapy?

A: Vision therapy (sometimes called vision training) is an individualized program of eye exercises and other methods to correct vision problems other than nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. Problems treated with vision therapy include amblyopia (‘lazy eye”), eye movement and eye alignment problems, focusing problems and certain visual-perceptual disorders. Vision therapy usually is performed in an optometrist’s office, but most treatment plans also include daily vision exercises to be performed at home.

Q: Can vision therapy cure learning disabilities?

A: No, vision therapy cannot correct learning disabilities. However, some children with learning disabilities also have vision problems that interfere with learning. Vision therapy can correct such vision problems that may be contributing to a child’s learning problems.

Q: Our active 1-year-old boy needs glasses to correct his farsightedness and the tendency for his eyes to cross. But he pulls them off the second they go on. We’ve tried an elastic band, holding his arms, tape… He just struggles and cries. How do we get him to wear his glasses?

A: This is not an uncommon problem. Persistence is the key to helping your toddler get used to the sensation of wearing glasses. Insist that he put his glasses on as soon as he wakes up in the morning – this will help him adapt to the glasses easier.

If your child complains of not being able to see clearly with his glasses, it may be a good idea to return to your eye doctor and/or the optical store where you purchased the glasses to make sure the prescription is correct and his glasses were made correctly and are fitting properly.

Sometimes, the problem may be the eyeglass frames, not the lenses. Today there are many styles of frames for young children, including some that come with an integrated elastic band to help keep them comfortably on a young child’s head.

Q: We have an 11-year-old son who first became nearsighted when he was 7. Every year, his eyes get worse. Is there anything that can be done to prevent this?

A: Rigid gas permeable (GP) contact lenses may help. Research shows that, in many cases, fitting myopic youngsters with GP lenses may slow the progression of their nearsightedness. There also are special fitting techniques with GP contacts called orthokeratology (ortho-k) and corneal refractive therapy (CRT) that can temporarily reverse certain amounts of myopia.  Some studies suggest bifocals and/or reading glasses also may slow down the progression of myopia in some children.

Q: My 7-year-old son’s teacher thinks he has “convergence insufficiency.” What is this, and what can I do about it?

A: Convergence insufficiency (CI) is a relatively common learning-related vision problem where a person’s eyes don’t stay comfortably aligned when they are reading or doing close work. For reading and other close-up tasks, our eyes need to be pointed slightly inward (converged). A person with convergence insufficiency has a tough time doing this, which can lead to eyestrain, headaches, fatigue, blurred vision and reading problems. Often a program of vision therapy can effectively treat CI and reduce or eliminate these problems. Sometimes, special reading glasses also can help.

Q: My son is 5 years old and has 20/40 vision in both eyes. Should I be concerned, or could this improve with time?

A: Usually, 5-year-olds can see 20/25 or better. But keep in mind that visual acuity testing is a subjective matter – during the test, your child is being asked to read smaller and smaller letters on a wall chart. Sometimes, kids give up at a certain line on the chart when they can actually read smaller letters. Other times, they may say they can’t read smaller letters because they want glasses. (Yes, this happens!)

Also, if your son had his vision tested at a school screening (where there can be plenty of distractions), it’s a good idea to schedule a comprehensive eye exam to rule out nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism or an eye health problem that may be keeping him from having better visual acuity.

Q: My daughter has been diagnosed with refractive amblyopia due to severe farsightedness in one eye. She just got her glasses and the lens for her bad eye is much thicker than the other lens. She complains that the glasses make her dizzy and she refuses to wear them. Can anything be done about this?

A: In situations like this, where one eye needs a much stronger correction than the other, contact lenses are a better eyewear solution. With glasses, the unequal lens powers cause an unequal magnification effect, so the two eyes form images in the brain that are different in size. This can cause discomfort (and even dizziness and nausea) because the brain may not be able to blend the two separate images into a single, three-dimensional one. And, of course, the glasses are unattractive because one lens is much thicker than the other.

Even if your child is quite young, she can probably handle contact lens wear. Contact lenses of unequal power don’t cause the differences in image magnification that glasses do. Continuous wear lenses (worn day and night for up to 30 days, then discarded) or one-day disposable contact lenses may be good options.

Keep in mind that amblyopia is a condition where one eye doesn’t see as well as the other, even with the best possible correction lens in place. Simply wearing the contacts may not improve the vision in her weak eye. Usually a program of vision therapy also will be needed.

Article ©2011 Access Media Group LLC.  All rights reserved.  Reproduction other than for one-time personal use is strictly prohibited.

Computer Vision Syndrome

Computer vision syndrome (CVS) is a group of temporary physical and visual symptoms that many people experience after prolonged computer use.

Eye-related symptoms of CVS include eye strain, blurred vision, double vision, focusing problems, eye twitching and dry, irritated eyes. Other physical symptoms include headache, neck strain and backache.

These symptoms may occur after a full day of computer use or in as little time as an hour or two of concentrated computer work.

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), 50 to 90 percent of computer workers experience some degree of computer vision syndrome, and each year 10 million Americans have eye exams because of CVS symptoms.

Computer vision syndrome symptoms can occur among all computer users, including children, students, office workers and retired seniors.

The ergonomics behind CVS

Computer use is much more likely to cause eye strain, fatigue and other symptoms associated with CVS than reading, sewing and other near vision tasks.

This is because it is more visually demanding to focus for long periods of time on images created by illuminated pixels on a computer screen than focusing on static, non-illuminated images, such as the print on pages of a book.

Ergonomic factors —how you interact with your computer at your desk or workstation — also play a role. The position of your computer screen may force you to adopt unnatural postures that can cause muscle strain and fatigue, especially in the neck and shoulders. Also, your seating and the position of your arms and hands at your keyboard may cause backaches and other physical discomfort that contribute to computer vision syndrome.

Also, studies have shown that people tend to blink far less frequently when working at a computer. This can cause dry eye problems, including blurred vision and red, irritated eyes after prolonged computer use. Improper lighting and dry, stale air also can contribute to CVS symptoms.

Reducing your risk of computer vision problems

One of the best things you can do to reduce your risk of computer vision syndrome is to take frequent breaks from your computer.

Some eye care professionals recommend the “20-20-20 rule” when working at a computer: every 20 minutes, look away from your computer screen and look at an object that is at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This simple measure relaxes the focusing muscle inside the eye, reducing the risk of eyestrain and eye fatigue. It also relaxes the muscles responsible for keeping your eyes in a converged position for near work, which can become fatigued during computer use.

When taking these breaks, stand up and stretch to relieve muscle tension in your back and shoulders, and blink fully and frequently to remoisten your eyes. Keep a bottle of artificial tears handy and use lubricating eye drops whenever your eyes feel tired or dry during or after computer work.

Have a ‘computer vision’ eye exam

If you work at a computer, it’s essential to have routine eye exams to make sure your eyes are functioning properly and your eyeglasses or contact lens prescription is up-to-date and accurate.

In addition to making sure any refractive error (nearsightedness, farsightedness and/or astigmatism) is fully corrected, your eye doctor can perform special tests to evaluate visual skills required for comfortable computer use. If problems in these areas are found, vision therapy or other eye exercises may be recommended to make your eyes more comfortable.

Your eye doctor also may recommend wearing eyeglasses rather than contact lenses during computer work or switching to a different brand of contacts if your lenses are drying out.

In some cases, special computer eyeglasses may be recommended. These glasses are designed to reduce focusing fatigue and help your eyes maintain comfortable alignment during computer use to decrease your risk of computer vision problems.

Computer eyewear can be especially helpful if you are over age 40 and currently wear bifocals or progressive lenses. Special multifocal lens designs for computer use can help you maintain better posture when working at a computer. Computer glasses also can widen your field of view and eliminate the need to tilt your head back to comfortably see your computer screen.

For more information on computer glasses and computer vision, visit AllAboutVision.com.

 

Article ©2011 Access Media Group LLC.  All rights reserved.  Reproduction other than for one-time personal use is strictly prohibited.

Eye Floaters and Spots

Floaters and spots are harmless tiny clumps of gel or cells embedded the vitreous – the clear, jelly-like fluid that fills the inside of your eye.

Floaters may look like specks, strands, webs or other shapes. They usually can be seen most easily when looking at a plain background, like a blank wall or overcast sky. Actually, what you are seeing are the shadows of floaters cast on the retina, the light-sensitive inner lining of the back of the eye.

Signs and symptoms of floaters and spots

During a comprehensive eye exam, your eye doctor can detect floaters in your eyes even if you don’t notice them yourself.

If a spot or shadowy shape passes in front of your field of vision or to the side, you are seeing a floater. Because they are inside your eye and suspended within the gel-like vitreous, they move with your eyes when you try to look directly them, creating the impression that they are drifting or floating.

What causes floaters?

Some floaters are present since birth as part of the eye’s development, and others occur over time.

As a normal aging change in adulthood, the gel-like vitreous in the eye begins to liquefy and contract. Some parts of the vitreous form clumps or strands inside the eye. The vitreous gel pulls away from the back wall of the eye, causing what’s called a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD). PVD is a common cause of floaters.

Floaters are also more common among people who:

Treatment for floaters and spots

Most spots and floaters in the eye are harmless and merely annoying. Many will fade over time and become less bothersome. People sometimes are interested in surgery to remove floaters, but doctors are willing to perform such surgery only in rare instances.

Removal of floaters from the eye is accomplished with a type of eye surgery called a vitrectomy. In this procedure, the vitreous and its contents are removed from the eye and replaced with a clear fluid.

Because a vitrectomy can cause serious complications such as a detached retina, surgery to remove harmless floaters typically is not advised.

Flashes of light

Flashes of light are visual phenomenon sometimes associated with eye floaters. These flashes occur more often in older people, but they can occur in people of any age.

Flashes usually are caused by mechanical stimulation of cells in the retina called photoreceptors when the vitreous is tugging on the retina. Sudden onset of flashes of light should be considered an eye emergency, as it could indicate the beginning of a retinal detachment. See your eye doctor immediately if you are experiencing floaters accompanied by flashes of light, or if you notice a significant and sudden increase in floaters.

Some people experience flashes of light that appear as jagged lines or “heat waves” in both eyes, often lasting 10-20 minutes. These types of flashes usually are caused by a spasm of blood vessels in the brain, which is called a migraine.

If a severe, one-sided headache follows the flashes, it is called a classic migraine headache. (A migraine headache without visual disturbances is called a common migraine.) However, jagged lines or “heat waves” can occur without a headache. Such a case is called an ocular migraine, or a migraine without a headache.

Article ©2011 Access Media Group LLC.  All rights reserved.  Reproduction other than for one-time personal use is strictly prohibited.

Eye Allergies

Eye allergies are overreactions of the body’s immune system when certain substances come in contact with the eyes of sensitive individuals.

These allergy-causing substances (called allergens) can include dust, pollen, mold and animal dander. Certain ingredients in cosmetics and eye drops also can cause eye allergies in some individuals.

Eye allergy signs and symptoms

The most common signs and symptoms of eye allergies include red eyes, swollen eyelids, itchy eyes and excessive tearing.

Eye allergy treatment

Avoidance. The best way to handle eye allergies is to avoid exposure to known allergens that are causing your problems. For example, if animal dander appears to be the problem, don’t allow your pet in your bedroom and avoid touching your eyes after handling your pet. Also, purchase a high-quality furnace filter that traps airborne pet dander.

Medications. If you’re not sure what’s causing your eye allergies, or you’re not having any luck avoiding known allergens that are causing problems, use doctor-recommended medication to alleviate your eye allergy symptoms.

Over-the-counter and prescription medications each have their advantages; for example, over-the-counter products often are less expensive, while prescription ones usually are stronger and might be more effective.

Eye drops are available as simple eye washes, or they may have one or more active ingredients such as antihistamines, decongestants or mast cell stabilizers to relieve allergy symptoms or reduce the severity of allergic reactions. Antihistamines relieve many symptoms caused by airborne allergens, such as itchy, watery eyes, runny nose and sneezing.

Decongestants clear up redness. They contain vasoconstrictors, which make the blood vessels in your eyes smaller, lessening the apparent redness. They treat the symptom, not the cause.

In fact, with extended use, the blood vessels can become dependent on the vasoconstrictor to stay small. When you discontinue the eye drops, the vessels might actually get bigger than they were in the first place. This process is called rebound hyperemia, and the result is that your red eyes worsen over time.

Some products have ingredients called mast cell stabilizers, which alleviate redness and swelling. Mast cell stabilizers are best taken prior to allergy symptoms to reduce your sensitivity to problematic allergens and can provide long-lasting relief.

Other medications used for eye allergies include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroids.  In some cases, combinations of medications may be used.

Immunotherapy. You also might benefit from immunotherapy, in which an allergy specialist injects you with small amounts of allergens to help your body gradually build up immunity to them.

Eye allergies and contact lenses

Even if you are a successful contact lens wearer, allergy season can make your contacts uncomfortable. Airborne allergens can get on your lenses, causing discomfort.

Allergens also can stimulate the excessive production of natural substances in your tears that bind to your contacts, adding to your discomfort and allergy symptoms.

Ask your eye doctor about eye drops that can help relieve your symptoms and keep your contact lenses clean. Certain drops can discolor or damage contact lenses, so ask your doctor first before trying out a new brand.

Another alternative is daily disposable contact lenses, which are designed to be worn once, and then discarded at the end of the day. Because you replace them daily, these lenses are unlikely to develop irritating deposits that can build up over time and cause or heighten allergy-related discomfort.

Article ©2011 Access Media Group LLC.  All rights reserved.  Reproduction other than for one-time personal use is strictly prohibited.

Your Infant’s Visual Development

The visual system of a newborn infant takes some time to develop. Knowing the expected milestones of your baby’s vision development during their first year of life can help you ensure your infant son or daughter is seeing properly.

During your pregnancy

Your child’s vision development begins before birth. How you care for your own body during your pregnancy is extremely important for the development of your baby’s body and mind, including his or her eyes and the vision centers in the brain.

Be sure to follow the instructions provided by your obstetrician (OB/GYN doctor) regarding good nutrition and the proper amount of rest during your pregnancy. And of course, avoid smoking and consuming alcohol or drugs during pregnancy, as these toxins can cause multiple problems for your baby, including serious vision problems.

At birth

At birth, your baby’s vision is quite blurred and comprises only shades of gray. This is because cells in the eyes and brain that control vision aren’t fully developed at this stage.

Also, your infant’s eyes don’t yet have the ability to change focus and see close objects clearly. So don’t be concerned if your baby doesn’t seem to be focusing on objects right away, including your face. It just takes time.

The first four weeks

Within the first few weeks of life, your baby begins to see colors. But visual acuity and eye teaming take a bit longer to develop — so if your infant’s eyes occasionally look unfocused or misaligned, don’t worry.

 

The eyes of infants are not as sensitive to visible light as adult eyes are, but they need protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Keep your baby’s eyes shaded outdoors with a brimmed cap or some other means.

Weeks eight to 12

At eight to 12 weeks, your baby’s vision and eye teaming skills continue to improve. Your child should be able to follow moving objects at this stage, and start reaching for things he or she sees. Also, infants at this stage are learning how to shift their gaze from one object to another without having to move their head.

Months four to six

By six months of age, significant advances take place in the vision centers of the brain, allowing your infant to see more distinctly, move his or her eyes faster and more accurately, and have a better ability to follow moving objects.

Visual acuity improves to nearly adult level at six months of age, and color vision also should be nearly fully developed as well.

Children also develop better eye-hand coordination at four to six months of age. They’re able to quickly locate and pick up objects, and accurately direct a bottle (and many other things) to their mouth.

Months seven to 12

At this stage, your child should be crawling and quite mobile. By 12 months of age, your young maturing infant also should be getting better at judging distances and more skilled at locating, grasping and throwing objects, too.

Because of the greater mobility young children have at this stage, be sure to watch them closely to keep them from harm as they explore their environment. Keep cabinets that contain cleaning supplies locked, and put a barrier in front of stairwells.

Eye exams for infants and young children

If you suspect something is seriously wrong with your baby’s eyes in their first few months of life (a bulging eye, a red eye, excess tearing, or a constant misalignment of the eyes, for example), call your eye doctor immediately for advice.

For routine eye care for infants and young children, the American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends scheduling your child’s first comprehensive eye exam at six months of age. Though your baby can’t yet read letters on a wall chart, your eye doctor can perform non-verbal testing to determine visual acuity, detect excessive or unequal amounts of nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism, and evaluate eye teaming and eye alignment.

Your eye doctor also will check the health of your baby’s eyes, looking for anything that might interfere with normal and continuing vision development.

We welcome providing eye care for even the youngest children. For more information about eye exams for kids or to schedule your child’s first eye exam, please call our office.

For more information on children’s vision, visit All About Vision®.

Article ©2011 Access Media Group LLC.  All rights reserved.  Reproduction other than for one-time personal use is strictly prohibited.

Amblyopia (Lazy Eye)

Amblyopia is reduced vision in an eye caused by abnormal visual development. Commonly called “lazy eye,” amblyopia usually occurs in just one eye, but both eyes can be affected.

Left untreated, amblyopia can cause legal blindness in the affected eye. About 2 to 3 percent of the American population has amblyopia.

What causes amblyopia?

The most common cause of amblyopia is strabismus, which is misalignment of the eyes. To avoid double vision caused by strabismus, the visual part of the brain suppresses visual information provided by one eye, causing that eye to be amblyopic.

Another cause of amblyopia is a significant difference in the refractive errors (nearsightedness, farsightedness and/or astigmatism) in the two eyes.

It’s important to correct amblyopia as early as possible to enable proper visual development and normal visual acuity in both eyes.

Amblyopia signs and symptoms

Amblyopia generally starts at birth or during early childhood. Because the vision in one eye usually remains normal, sometimes there are no symptoms of amblyopia until the “good” eye is covered.

If amblyopia is caused by strabismus, it is the misalignment of the eyes that often leads to the diagnosis of amblyopia after vision testing of each eye is performed.

Treatment of amblyopia

If amblyopia is caused only by unequal refractive error, sometimes full-time wear of glasses or contact lenses will be sufficient for vision to develop properly in the amblyopic eye. But in most cases, eye patching or some other technique to temporarily reduce the visual acuity of the “good” eye is needed to stimulate the visual development of the amblyopic eye.

Eye patching may be required for several hours each day or even all day long, and may continue for weeks or months. If you have a lot of trouble with your child taking the patch off, you might consider a prosthetic contact lens that is specially designed to block vision in one eye and is colored to closely match the other eye.

Another alternative to patching is the use of atropine eye drops in the non-amblyopic eye. The drops blur the vision of the good eye to force greater use of the amblyopic eye. Studies have shown use of atropine eye drops is comparable to eye patching for treating amblyopia and doesn’t require constant vigilance to make sure your child wears an eye patch.

In cases when the amblyopia is caused by a large eye turn, strabismus surgery is usually required to straighten the eyes. The surgery corrects the muscle problem that causes strabismus so the eyes can focus together and see properly.

In many cases, a program of active vision therapy also is recommended to speed the development of normal vision and visual skills in an eye with amblyopia. Vision therapy exercises the eyes and helps both eyes work as a team. Vision therapy for someone with amblyopia forces the brain to use the amblyopic eye, thus restoring vision.

Amblyopia does not go away on its own, and untreated amblyopia can lead to permanent visual problems and poor depth perception. If your child has amblyopia and his or her “good” eye develops disease or is injured later in life, this could cause a permanent disability.

For best results, amblyopia should be treated as soon as possible during childhood. If amblyopia is detected and aggressively treated before the age of 8 or 9, in many cases normal 20/20 vision can be achieved.

Article ©2011 Access Media Group LLC.  All rights reserved.  Reproduction other than for one-time personal use is strictly prohibited.

LASIK: Patient Selection Criteria

Laser eye surgery isn’t for everyone. Here are a few guidelines to help you decide if LASIK is right for you:

  • Are you an adult? You need to be at least 18 years of age to have LASIK. (Younger patients can sometimes be treated as an exception. Discuss this with your surgeon.)

 

  • Are your eyes healthy? If you have any condition that can affect how your eyes respond to surgery or heal afterwards, wait until that condition is resolved. Examples include chronic dry eyes, conjunctivitis (“pink eye”) and any eye injury. Some conditions, such as cataracts, keratoconus and uncontrolled glaucoma, may disqualify you completely.
  • Is your vision stable? If your prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses is still changing year-to-year, you are not a good candidate for LASIK. Make sure your prescription is stable for a 12-month period before having LASIK. Otherwise it’s possible your eyes will continue to change after surgery and you again will need glasses or another LASIK procedure to improve your eyesight.

 

  • Are you pregnant? Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause swelling in your corneas, changing your vision. Dry eyes are also common when you’re pregnant. Also, eye medications (antibiotics and steroids) used during and after LASIK may be risky for your baby, whether unborn or nursing. Wait a few months after your baby is born before having LASIK.

 

  • Do you have any systemic and autoimmune disease? Problems like rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, HIV and AIDS can increase the risk that your eyes might not heal properly after LASIK. Professional opinions vary regarding which diseases are automatic disqualifiers and which ones might pose acceptable LASIK risks. Ask your eye surgeon for details.
  • Do you have very high amounts of nearsightedness or farsightedness? LASIK works best for mild to moderate amounts of myopia. If you are very nearsighted, it’s possible that too much corneal tissue would have to be removed during LASIK to correct your vision, which could put you at risk for serious LASIK complications. In such cases, an alternative refractive procedure such as phakic IOL implantation or refractive lens exchange might be a safer option and produce better outcomes.

 

Your eye surgeon will discuss these and other selection criteria with you at your LASIK consultation.

 

Article ©2011 Access Media Group LLC.  All rights reserved.  Reproduction other than for one-time personal use is strictly prohibited.

Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome (or “dry eye”) is the chronic lack of sufficient lubrication and moisture on the surface of the eye, causing discomfort, contact lens intolerance and increased risk of eye infections.

Dry eye is common, with some studies reporting that 10 to 20 million Americans experience some degree of dry eye syndrome.

Common risk factors for dry eye include increasing age, a dry environment and use of certain medications.

Signs and symptoms of dry eye

Signs and symptoms of dry eye syndrome include:

  • Red, irritated eyes
  • A burning or scratchy sensation
  • Feeling something is “in” your eye (called a foreign body sensation)
  • Fluctuating or blurred vision
  • Eye pain
  • Contact lens discomfort

It may seem odd, but another symptom of dry eye syndrome is a watery eye. This is because, as a reaction to dry eye irritation, the tear glands sometimes secrete very watery tears as a protective mechanism to prevent eye damage from a dry eye condition.

What causes dry eyes?

Dry eye is caused by the tear glands failing to secrete an adequate amount of tears or producing a tear film that, because of insufficient oiliness, evaporates too quickly.

These problems can be due to aging or a side effect of many medications, such as antihistamines, antidepressants, certain blood pressure medicines and birth control pills.

Dry eye can also be caused by chronic exposure to a dry, dusty or windy climate with low humidity. Air conditioning and forced air heating systems at home and at work also can dry out your eyes.

Another cause is failing to blink your eyes normally to remoisten them. This frequently occurs during computer work.

Dry eye syndrome also is associated with certain systemic diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, rosacea and Sjogren’s syndrome.

Long-term contact lens wear, incomplete closure of the eyelids, eyelid disease and a deficiency of the tear-producing glands are other causes.

Dry eye syndrome is more common in women, possibly due to hormone fluctuations. Recent research suggests that smoking, too, can increase your risk of dry eye syndrome.

Dry eye also has been associated with incomplete lid closure following blepharoplasty — a popular cosmetic surgery to eliminate droopy eyelids.

Treatment for dry eye

There are several treatments for dry eye, based on the severity of the condition.

For mild dry eye, your eye doctor might recommend artificial tears, which are lubricating eye drops that are designed to alleviate the dry, scratching feeling and foreign body sensation of dry eye. Prescription eye drops for dry eye go one step further: they help increase your tear production.

If you wear contact lenses, be aware that some artificial tears and lubricating eye drops cannot be used during contact lens wear. You may need to remove your lenses before using the drops and wait 15 minutes or longer (check the label) before reinserting them.

Use only the brand of artificial tears your eye doctor recommends. Avoid self-medicating a dry eye condition by choosing artificial tears randomly in a drug store. Some products might actually make your symptoms worse.

To reduce the effects of sun, wind and dust on dry eyes, wear sunglasses when outdoors. Close-fitting wraparound styles offer the best protection.

Indoors, an air cleaner can filter out dust and other particles from the air, while a humidifier adds moisture to air that’s too dry because of air conditioning or heating.

For more significant cases of dry eye, your eye doctor might recommend punctal plugs. These tiny devices are inserted in the tear drainage ducts in your eyelids to slow the drainage of tears away from your eyes, thereby keeping your eyes more moist.

Doctors sometimes recommend special nutritional supplements such as flaxseed oil or fish oil to decrease dry eye symptoms. Drinking more water also may relieve dryness symptoms.

If medications are the cause of dry eyes, switching to a different medication or a different medical treatment may resolve the problem. However, always consult with your doctor before switching or discontinuing any medication.

Treating any underlying eyelid disease, such as blepharitis, helps as well. This may call for antibiotic or steroid drops, plus frequent eyelid scrubs with an antibacterial shampoo.

If you are considering LASIK, be aware that dry eyes may disqualify you for the surgery, at least until your dry eye condition is successfully treated. Dry eyes increase your risk for poor healing after LASIK, so most surgeons will want to treat the dry eyes first, to ensure a good LASIK outcome. This goes for other types of vision correction surgery, as well.

Also, be aware that dry eye is a common side effect of LASIK eye surgery, especially if you have any signs or symptoms of dry eyes prior to surgery.

Article ©2011 Access Media Group LLC.  All rights reserved.  Reproduction other than for one-time personal use is strictly prohibited.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is damage to the light-sensitive retina at the back of the eye due to Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. It is the leading cause of blindness among Americans under the age of 65.

Currently more than 5 million Americans age 40 and older have diabetic retinopathy, and that number will grow to about 16 million by 2050, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other researchers.

Complications of diabetic retinopathy include retinal detachment and glaucoma.

Signs and symptoms of diabetic retinopathy

Signs and symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:

 

If you experience any of these symptoms, see your eye doctor immediately. If you are diabetic, you should see your eye doctor at least once a year for a dilated eye exam, even if you have no visual symptoms.

If your eye doctor suspects diabetic retinopathy, a special test called fluorescein angiography may be performed. In this test, dye is injected into the body and then gradually appears within the retina due to blood flow. Your eyecare practitioner will photograph the retina as the dye passes through the blood vessels in the retina.

Evaluating these pictures tells your doctor or a retina specialist if signs of diabetic retinopathy exist, and how far the disease has progressed.

What causes diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetes damages delicate blood vessels in the retina, causing them to bleed or leak fluid. It also can cause swelling of the retina, leading to blurred and distorted vision.

These early changes are called non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR).

In the advanced stage of the disease, called proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR), new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. These abnormal blood vessels can lead to serious vision problems because they can break and bleed into the interior of the eye. PDR is much more serious than non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy and can lead to blindness.

The risk of both forms of diabetic retinopathy increase the longer you have diabetes. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, all diabetics who have the disease long enough eventually will develop at least some degree of diabetic retinopathy, though less advanced forms of the eye disease may not lead to vision loss.

As soon as you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you need to have a dilated eye exam at least once a year.

How is diabetic retinopathy treated?

In most cases, significant vision loss from diabetic retinopathy can be avoided if treated in time.

Diabetic retinopathy can be treated with a laser to seal off leaking blood vessels and inhibit the growth of new vessels. Called laser photocoagulation, this treatment is painless and takes only a few minutes.

In severe cases of diabetic retinopathy where blood has leaked into the interior of the eye and is obscuring vision, a surgical procedure called a vitrectomy may be performed to remove the blood from the eye.

Recent research shows that certain medications injected directly into the eye may be able to slow or prevent vision loss from diabetic retinopathy. These medicines, called anti-VEGF drugs, are designed to stop or reduce the formation of abnormal retinal blood vessels and prevent or reduce swelling of the retina.

Prevention of diabetic retinopathy

You can significantly reduce your risk of diabetic retinopathy by using common sense and taking good care of yourself:

  • Maintain a healthy diet.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Have routine physical exams and eye exams.
  • If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar regularly and keep it under control.

Following these simple guidelines can prevent many cases of Type 2 diabetes and diabetic retinopathy.

Article ©2011 Access Media Group LLC.  All rights reserved.  Reproduction other than for one-time personal use is strictly prohibited.

Styes

A stye (or hordeolum) on the eyelid occurs when a gland at the base of an eyelash becomes infected. Resembling a pimple, a stye can grow on the inside or outside of the lid.

Styes are not harmful to vision, and they can occur at any age.

Signs and symptoms of styes

A stye typically causes redness, tenderness and swelling at the eyelid margin, and then a small pimple appears. Sometimes just the immediate area is swollen; other times, the entire eyelid swells. In some cases, styes also can cause watery eyes, a feeling like something is in the eye (called a foreign body sensation) or increased light sensitivity.

What causes styes?

Styes are caused by staphylococcal bacteria. This bacterium is commonly found in the nose, and it’s easily transferred to the eye by rubbing first your nose, then your eye.

Treatment for styes

Though styes often heal within a few days on their own, you can speed the process by applying hot compresses for 10 to 15 minutes, three or four times a day over the course of several days. This will relieve the pain and bring the stye to a head, much like a pimple. The stye ruptures and drains, then heals.

Never “pop” a stye like a pimple; allow it to rupture on its own. If you have frequent styes, your eye doctor may prescribe an antibiotic ointment to prevent recurrences.

Some styes that can form deeper inside the eyelid either disappear completely or (rarely) rupture on their own. This type of stye can be more serious, and may need to be opened and drained by your eyecare practitioner.

Chalazion: Another type of eyelid bump

Often mistaken for a stye, a chalazion (shah-LAY-zee-on) is an enlarged, blocked oil gland in the eyelid. A chalazion mimics a stye for the first few days, and then turns into a painless hard, round bump later on. Most chalazia develop further from the eyelid edge than styes.

Although the same treatment used for styes can speed the healing of a chalazion, the bump may linger for one to several months. If the chalazion remains after several months, your eye doctor may drain it or inject a steroid to facilitate healing.

Article ©2011 Access Media Group LLC.  All rights reserved.  Reproduction other than for one-time personal use is strictly prohibited.

Contact Lens Basics

Contact lenses, like eyeglasses or vision surgery, can correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. About 20 percent of Americans who need vision correction for these refractive errors wear contact lenses.

While some people enjoy making a fashion statement with eyeglasses, others prefer their appearance without them. Contact lenses offer the ability to be glasses-free without expensive vision surgery. Contacts also provide a wider field-of-view than glasses, which is great for driving and sports.

Contact lenses have been around for more than a hundred years, and today just about everyone can wear contact lenses. If you were told in the past that you couldn’t wear contacts, odds are you can today. There are more convenient and healthy contact lens options than ever, including many contact lenses that can correct astigmatism.

The first step in being fitted for contacts is to see an eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam. In the United States, contact lenses are considered medical devices and must be prescribed and properly fitted by an eye care professional (ECP). Your ECP will evaluate your visual needs, your eye structure, and your tears to help determine the best type of contact lenses for you.

Contact lenses are classified according to:

  • The lens material
  • The lens design
  • How long you can wear them without removal
  • How long you can use them before they should be discarded

Contact Lens Materials

There are four types of contact lenses, based ion the material they are made of:

  • Soft lenses are thin lenses made of gel-like, water-containing plastics. More than 90 percent of contact lenses worn today are soft lenses. They generally are easy to adapt to and cover the entire cornea (the clear front surface of your eye).
  • Gas permeable lenses (also known as GP, RGP or rigid gas permeable lenses) are smaller lenses made from rigid, waterless plastics. In many cases, GP lenses provide sharper vision than soft lenses.
  • Hybrid lenses have a central GP zone, surrounded by a border made of a soft lens material. These lenses provide the crisp optics of a GP lens, with comfort that rivals soft lenses.
  • Hard lenses are similar in appearance to GP lenses, but they are made of rigid plastic that is not permeable to oxygen. Hard lenses have virtually been replaced by GP lenses and rarely are prescribed today.

The most popular contact lenses worn today are a special type of soft lens called silicone hydrogel lenses. These lenses allow more oxygen to pass through them than conventional soft lenses, reducing the risk of contact lens discomfort and complications.

Contact Lens Wearing Time

There are two types of contact lenses based on recommended wearing time:

  • Daily wear contacts — Lenses that must be removed nightly
  • Extended wear contacts — Lenses that can be worn overnight

“Continuous wear” is a term that’s sometimes used to describe 30 consecutive nights of lens wear — the maximum wearing time approved by the FDA for certain brands of extended wear lenses.

Contact Lens Replacement Frequency

Even with proper care, contact lenses (especially soft contacts) should be replaced frequently to prevent the build-up of lens deposits and contamination that increase the risk of eye infections.

Soft lenses have these general classifications, based on how frequently they should be discarded:

  • Daily disposable — Discard after a single day of wear
  • Disposable (used for daytime wear) — Discard after two weeks
  • Disposable (used for overnight wear) — Discard after one week
  • Continuous wear (used for 30-day wear) — Discard monthly
  • Planned replacement — Discard at intervals of one to three months

Gas permeable contact lenses are more resistant to lens deposits and do not need to be discarded as frequently as soft lenses. Often, GP lenses can last a year or longer before they need to be replaced.

Contact Lens Designs

Several contact lens designs are available to correct various types of vision problems:

  • Spherical contact lenses are the most common design. Spherical soft lenses correct nearsightedness and farsightedness. Spherical GP lenses can correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism.
  • Toric lenses (soft and GP) have multiple lens powers to correct astigmatism.
  • Bifocal and multifocal contact lenses (soft and GP) contain different zones for near and far vision to correct presbyopia.
  • Orthokeratology (ortho-k) and corneal refractive therapy (CRT) lenses are specialty GP lenses designed to reshape the cornea during sleep and temporarily correct myopia and other refractive errors for clear vision without glasses or contacts during the day.

Custom soft and GP lens designs also are available for hard-to-fit eyes, including eyes with keratoconus.

More Contact Lens Features

Colored Lenses. Soft contact lenses are available in a variety of colors that can enhance the natural color of your eyes — to make your green eyes even greener, for example. Other colored lenses can change the color of your eyes entirely — from brown to blue, for example.

Special-Effect Lenses. Also called theatrical, gothic, Halloween or costume lenses, these soft lenses take coloration one step further to make you look like a cat, a zombie, or another alter-ego of your choice.

Prosthetic Lenses. These custom-made color contact lenses are used to restore a natural appearance to eyes that have been disfigured by injury or disease. In cases when only one eye is affected, a prosthetic lens is designed to closely match the appearance of the normal eye.

Which Contact Lens Is Right for You?

The first step in finding the best contacts for you is to schedule a comprehensive eye exam and contact lens consultation with your eye doctor. During this exam, your doctor will make sure your eyes are healthy enough to wear contact lenses and advise you regarding what to expect when wearing contacts.

Next is the contact lens fitting itself. Detailed measurements of your eyes are taken, and trial lenses often are applied to achieve the best possible fit and determine if you can comfortably wear contacts.

A contact lens fitting takes several office visits and you will be asked to return a number of times to make sure the lenses continue to fit properly and remain comfortable after prolonged periods of wear. In some cases, changes of lens size or design are needed before the fitting process is complete.

Your prescription for contact lenses is written only after the contact lens fitting process is completed and your doctor is satisfied with the long-term fit of your lenses and how well your eyes tolerate contact lens wear.

Contact Lens Care

Caring for your contact lenses — cleaning, disinfecting and storing them — is much easier than it used to be. In most cases today, only a single care solution is required for cleaning, rinsing and storing your lenses. And if you choose daily disposable soft lenses, routine lens care can be eliminated altogether.

Your eye doctor or contact lens technician will teach you how to apply, remove and care for your lenses during your contact lens fitting.

Article ©2011 Access Media Group LLC.  All rights reserved.  Reproduction other than for one-time personal use is strictly prohibited.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma refers to a group of related eye diseases that cause damage to the optic nerve that transmits visual information from the eye to the brain. Glaucoma usually, but not always, is associated with increased pressure inside the eye (called intraocular pressure, or IOP).

Glaucoma typically affects your peripheral vision first. There typically is little or no discomfort with the onset of glaucoma, and you can lose a great deal of your vision from the disease before you are aware anything is happening. If uncontrolled or left untreated, glaucoma can eventually lead to blindness.

Glaucoma currently is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States, with an estimated 2.5 million Americans being affected by the disease. Due to the aging of the U.S. population, it’s expected that more than 3 million Americans will have glaucoma by the year 2020.

Signs and symptoms of glaucoma

Glaucoma sometimes is called the “silent thief of sight,” because most types typically cause no pain and produce no symptoms. For this reason, glaucoma often progresses undetected until the optic nerve already has been irreversibly damaged, with varying degrees of permanent vision loss.

But one type of glaucoma — acute angle-closure glaucoma — has a sudden onset and can be accompanied by symptoms of intense eye pain, nausea, and vomiting. If you have these symptoms, make sure you immediately see an eye care practitioner or visit the emergency room so steps can be taken to prevent permanent vision loss.

What causes glaucoma?

The cause of glaucoma generally is a failure of the eye to maintain an appropriate balance between the amount of fluid produced inside the eye and the amount that drains away. The reason for this imbalance varies, depending on the type of glaucoma you have.

The eye needs internal fluid pressure to retain its globe-like shape and ability to see. When glaucoma damages the ability of internal eye structures to properly regulate IOP, eye pressure can rise to dangerously high levels and cause permanent vision loss.

Types of glaucoma

The two major types of glaucoma are primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) and acute angle-closure glaucoma. The “angle” refers to the structure inside the eye that is responsible for the normal drainage if intraocular fluid, which is located near the junction between the iris and the front surface of the eye near the periphery of the cornea.

Primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG): About half of Americans with POAG (also called chronic glaucoma) don’t know they have it. POAG gradually and painlessly reduces your peripheral vision. Often by the time you notice it, permanent vision loss already has occurred. If your IOP remains high, the destruction can progress until tunnel vision develops, and you will be able to see only objects that are straight ahead.

Acute angle-closure glaucoma: Angle-closure or narrow-angle glaucoma produces sudden symptoms such as eye pain, headaches, halos around lights, dilated pupils, vision loss, red eyes, nausea and vomiting. These signs may last for a few hours, and then return again for another round. Each attack takes with it part of your field of vision.

Normal-tension glaucoma: Like POAG, normal-tension glaucoma (also called normal-pressure glaucoma, low-tension glaucoma, or low-pressure glaucoma) is an open-angle type of glaucoma with little or no discomfort. In normal-tension glaucoma, the eye’s IOP remains in the normal range and damage to the optic nerve may not be detected until significant loss of peripheral vision has occurred.

The cause of normal-tension glaucoma is unknown, but some experts believe it is related to poor blood flow to the optic nerve. Risk factors for normal-tension glaucoma include being of Japanese descent, female gender and a history of vascular disease.

Congenital glaucoma: This inherited form of glaucoma is present at birth, with 80 percent of cases diagnosed in the first year of life. Infants with congenital glaucoma are born with narrow angles or some other defect in the fluid drainage system of the eye. Symptoms include a cloudy, hazy or protruding eye. Congenital glaucoma typically occurs more in boys than in girls.

Pigmentary glaucoma: This rare form of glaucoma is caused by pigment from the iris floating freely in the anterior chamber of the eye and eventually clogging the drainage angle, preventing intraocular fluid from leaving the eye. Over time, an inflammatory response to the blocked angle damages the drainage system. Typically there are no early symptoms of pigmentary glaucoma, though some pain and blurry vision may occur after exercise or other physical exertion. This type of glaucoma most frequently affects white males in their mid-30s to mid-40s.

Secondary glaucoma: This is the term used to describe chronic glaucoma that develops after an eye injury, infection or inflammation, or is caused by some other abnormality such as a tumor in the eye or an enlarged cataract.

How is glaucoma detected?

Routine eye exams are required for the diagnosis and management of glaucoma.

The “glaucoma test” during an eye exam actually is just a simple procedure called tonometry that measures your intraocular pressure. Two common methods to measure IOP are Goldmann applanation tonometry (GAT) and a non-contact tonometry (NCT).

For GAT, numbing eye drops are used and a small probe gently rests against your eye’s surface. Because iof its direct contact with the eye, Goldmann applanation tonometry generally is considered the “gold standard” for IOP measurement.

With non-contact tonometry, nothing touches your eye but a puff of air. Many studies have shown NCT measurements are comparable to GAT measurements, without the need for numbing eye drops and touching the eye’s surface.

An abnormally high IOP reading indicates a problem with the amount of fluid inside the eye. Either the eye is producing too much fluid, or it’s not draining properly.

Additional tests used for the diagnosis and management of glaucoma include retinal photography other imaging techniques such as optical coherence tomography (OCT) to monitor the health and stability of the head of the optic nerve that is visible inside the eye.

Visual field testing also is essential to monitor whether blind spots are developing in your field of vision from glaucoma damage to the optic nerve. Visual field testing involves staring straight ahead into a machine and clicking a button when you notice a blinking light in your peripheral vision. This testing typically is repeated at regular intervals so your eye doctor can determine if there is progressive vision loss from glaucoma.

Your eye doctor may also visually inspect the drainage angle of the eye using special lenses that enable him or her to see the angle from different vantage points. This is called gonioscopy.

Glaucoma treatments

Depending on the severity of the disease, treatment for glaucoma can involve the use of topical and oral medicine, conventional (bladed) surgery, laser surgery or a combination of these treatments. Medicated eye drops aimed at lowering IOP usually are tried first to control glaucoma.

Since there typically is no eye pain associated with glaucoma, people sometimes become careless about using their glaucoma medicines as directed by their eye doctor. In fact, non-compliance with a program of prescribed glaucoma medication is a major reason for blindness resulting from glaucoma.

If you find that the eye drops you are using for glaucoma are uncomfortable or inconvenient, never discontinue them without first consulting your eye doctor about a possible alternative therapy.

Glaucoma surgery procedures (whether laser or non-laser) are designed to decrease the production of intraocular fluid or increase the outflow (drainage) of this same fluid. Occasionally, a procedure will accomplish both.

Currently the goal of glaucoma surgery and other glaucoma therapy is to reduce or stabilize intraocular pressure (IOP). When this goal is accomplished, progressive damage to the optic nerve and vision loss often can be prevented or halted.

Early detection is key

Early diagnosis and treatment is the best way to prevent vision loss from glaucoma. See your eye doctor routinely for comprehensive eye exams that include a check of your IOP.

People at high risk for glaucoma due to elevated intraocular pressure, a family history of glaucoma, advanced age or an unusual optic nerve appearance may need more frequent exams.

Article ©2011 Access Media Group LLC.  All rights reserved.  Reproduction other than for one-time personal use is strictly prohibited.

Lens Options for Eyeglasses

Your options in eyeglass lenses go far beyond the simple choice of conventional glass or plastic lenses.

Whatever you desire — thinner, lighter lenses; impact-resistant lenses; or lenses that eliminate reflections and look nearly invisible — there is a lens material and design that fits the bill.

Thinner, lighter “high-index” lenses

Nearly everyone can benefit from thinner, lighter lenses. High-index plastic lenses can be up to 50 percent thinner than regular glass or plastic lenses, and they’re usually much lighter, too.

Though high-index lenses are especially beneficial if you have a strong eyeglasses prescription, they can make a noticeable difference in the appearance of virtually any pair of glasses. High-index lenses bend light more efficiently than regular glass or plastic lenses, so less lens material is required to correct your vision.

There is a range of high-index lenses to chose from, each having a different price point based on how much thinner the lenses are compared with regular plastic lenses. All high-index lenses are classified by their “index of refraction” (or “refractive index”).

Generally, lenses with a higher index of refraction will be thinner (and usually more expensive) than lenses with a lower index. The index of refraction of regular plastic lenses is 1.50. The refractive index of high-index plastic lenses ranges from 1.53 to 1.74. Those in the range of 1.53 to 1.59 are about 20 percent thinner than regular plastic lenses, whereas 1.74 high index lenses are up to 50 percent thinner than regular plastic lenses.

High-index lenses are available in virtually all lens designs (single vision, bifocal, progressive, photochromic, etc.) and your professional optician can advise you regarding the combination of lens material and design that best fits your needs and budget.

Note: High-index lenses reflect more light than regular glass or plastic lenses, so anti-reflective (AR) coating is highly recommended for these lenses (see below).

Aspheric lenses for a slim profile

To make high-index lenses even more attractive, most of them have an “aspheric” design. This means that instead of having a round (or “spherical”) curve on the front surface, these lenses have a curve that gradually changes from the center to the lens to the periphery. This makes aspheric lenses noticeably flatter for a slimmer, more attractive lens profile.

Aspheric lenses are particularly beneficial if you are farsighted. The flatter profile of aspheric lenses greatly reduces the magnified, “bug-eye” look caused by regular, highly curved lenses for farsightedness, and they greatly reduce the “bulge” of the lenses from the frame.

Because of their slim profile, aspheric lenses also have less mass, making them much lighter than conventional eyeglass lenses. Aspheric lenses also provide superior peripheral vision compared with conventional lenses.

Note: Because they have flatter curves than regular lenses, aspheric lenses may cause more noticeable reflections. Anti-reflective (AR) coating is recommended for these lenses (see below).

Polycarbonate and Trivex lenses: Tough as nails

Polycarbonate and Trivex lenses are special lightweight high-index lenses that offer superior impact resistance. These lenses are up to 10 times more impact resistant than regular plastic lenses, making them an ideal choice for children’s eyewear, safety glasses, and for anyone with an active lifestyle who wants a thinner, lighter, safer lens.

Polycarbonate lenses have a refractive index of 1.59, making them 20 to 25 percent thinner than regular plastic lenses. They also are up to 30 percent lighter than regular plastic lenses, making them a good choice for anyone who is sensitive to the weight of eyeglasses on their nose.

Trivex lenses may be slightly thicker than polycarbonate lenses in some prescriptions, but they provide comparable impact resistance and, like polycarbonate lenses, they block 100 percent of the sun’s harmful UV rays.

Anti-reflective coating: A benefit for all lenses

All eyeglass lenses reflect some light, reducing the amount of light that enters the eye to form visual images. This can affect your vision, especially under low-light conditions such as driving at night. Lens reflections also cause glare, further reducing vision in these situations.

The amount of light reflected from eyeglass lenses depends on the lens material. Conventional glass or plastic lenses reflect about 8 percent of incident light, so only 92 percent of available light enters the eye for vision. Thinner, lighter high-index lenses reflect up to 50 percent more light than regular glass or plastic lenses and therefore can cause more problems with glare unless something is done to reduce reflections.

Anti-reflective (AR) coating reduces lens reflections and allows more light to enter the eye for better night vision. Regardless of the lens material, eyeglass lenses with AR coating transmit more than 99 percent of available light to the eye.

By eliminating surface reflections, anti-reflective coating also makes your lenses nearly invisible. This greatly improves the appearance of your eyewear and allows others to see your eyes, not the reflections in your glasses.

Be sure to use only products recommended by your optician when cleaning lenses with anti-reflective coating. Because AR coating eliminates reflections that hide small scratches, you’ll want to take care not to scratch AR-coated lenses, as scratches on these lenses may be more visible than scratches on uncoated lenses.

Scratch-resistant coatings

No eyeglass lenses — not even glass lenses — are scratch-proof. However, lenses that are treated front and back with a clear, hard coating are more resistant to scratching, whether it’s from dropping your glasses on the floor or occasionally cleaning them with a paper towel.

Kids’ lenses, especially, benefit from scratch-resistant coatings.

Nearly all high-index lenses (including polycarbonate) come with a factory-applied scratch-resistant coating for added durability. This coating is optional for regular plastic lenses. However, to safeguard your eyewear investment, scratch-resistant coating should be considered for all eyeglass lenses. The only exception is glass lenses, which are naturally hard and scratch-resistant.

To further protect your eyeglasses from scratches, keep them in a protective case when you’re not wearing them. Also, never clean your lenses without first rinsing them with water or an approved cleaning solution. Rubbing a dry, dusty or dirty lens with a cleaning cloth or towel can cause scratches, even if the lens is treated with a scratch-resistant coating.

Ultraviolet (UV) treatment

Just as you use sunscreen to keep the sun’s UV rays from harming your skin, UV treatment for eyeglass lenses blocks those same rays from damaging your eyes. Overexposure to ultraviolet light is thought to be a cause of cataracts, retinal damage and other eye problems.

Most high-index lenses have 100 percent UV protection built-in. But with regular plastic lenses, a lens treatment is required for these lenses to block all UV rays. This UV treatment does not change the appearance of the lenses and is quite inexpensive.

Photochromic lenses: Sun-sensitive lenses

Photochromic lenses are convenient indoor-outdoor eyeglass lenses that automatically darken to a sunglass shade outside when exposed to sunlight, and then quickly return to a clear state indoors. Photochromic lenses also provide 100 percent protection from the sun’s UV rays and are available in a wide variety of lens materials and designs, including bifocal and progressive lenses.

The amount of darkening that most photochromic lenses undergo depends on how much UV radiation they are exposed to. As a general rule, these lenses won’t get as dark inside a car or truck because the glass windshield blocks out much of the sun’s UV rays that cause the lenses to change color.

For driving on sunny days, polarized sunglasses usually are the best solution to reduce glare and improve visibility.

Your optician can help you choose

With so many new lens products available, it’s hard to know all your options and decide which lenses are best for you. A professional optician can make selecting your eyeglasses easy and fun and help you find the perfect eyewear for your personal style and vision requirements.

Article ©2011 Access Media Group LLC.  All rights reserved.  Reproduction other than for one-time personal use is strictly prohibited.

Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)

Pink eye is an acute, contagious form of conjunctivitis – inflammation of the clear mucous membrane that lines the inner surface of the eyelids and overlies the “white” of the eye (sclera). The underlying cause of most cases of pink eye is a bacterial or viral infection.

The term “pink eye” often is used to refer to any or all types of conjunctivitis, not just the acute, contagious form.

Pink eye signs and symptoms

The hallmark sign of pink eye is a pink or reddish appearance of the eye due to inflammation and dilation of conjunctival blood vessels. Depending on the type of conjunctivitis, other signs and symptoms may include a yellow or green mucous discharge, watery eyes, itchy eyes, sensitivity to light and pain.

Signs and symptoms of pink eye can vary, depending on the underlying cause:

  • Viral conjunctivitis usually causes excessive eye watering and a light discharge.
  • Bacterial conjunctivitis often causes a thick, sticky discharge that typically is yellow or green in color.
  • Allergic conjunctivitis affects both eyes and causes itching, redness, watery eyes and a runny nose.
  • Giant papillary conjunctivitis (GPC) usually affects both eyes and causes contact lens intolerance, itching, a thick discharge, tearing and red bumps on the underside of the eyelids.

To pinpoint the cause and then choose an appropriate treatment, your eye doctor will ask some questions, examine your eyes and possibly collect a sample on a swab to send out for analysis.

Causes of pink eye

Though pink eye can affect people of any age, it is especially common among preschoolers and school children because of the amount of bacteria transferred among children.

Conjunctivitis also may be triggered by a virus, an allergic reaction (to dust, pollen, smoke, fumes or chemicals) or, in the case of giant papillary conjunctivitis, a foreign body on the eye, typically a dirty contact lens. Bacterial and viral infections elsewhere in the body also can induce conjunctivitis.

Treatment of pink eye

Avoidance. Your first line of defense is to avoid the cause of conjunctivitis, such as contaminated hand towels. Both viral and bacterial conjunctivitis, which can be caused by airborne sources, spread easily to others.

To avoid allergic conjunctivitis, keep windows and doors closed on days when the airborne pollen count is high. Use high efficiency furnace filters to reduce airborne allergens inside your home.

Stay in well-ventilated areas if you’re exposed to smoke, chemicals or fumes. If you do experience exposure to these substances, applying a cold compress over your closed eyes can be very soothing.

If you’ve developed giant papillary conjunctivitis, odds are that you’re a contact lens wearer. You may need to stop wearing contacts for a period of time to allow the GPC to resolve during treatment. Your eye doctor also might recommend that you switch to a different type of contact lens, to reduce the chance of the conjunctivitis coming back.

Medication. Often viral conjunctivitis will clear up on its own within a few days without the need for medical treatment. Your eye doctor might prescribe an astringent to keep your eyes clean, or an antibiotic eye drop to prevent a bacterial infection from starting. Artificial tears also may be recommended to relieve dryness and discomfort.

Antibiotic eyedrops or ointments will alleviate most forms of bacterial conjunctivitis, while antibiotic tablets are used for certain infections that originate elsewhere in the body.

Antihistamine allergy pills or eyedrops will help control allergic conjunctivitis symptoms. In addition, artificial tears provide comfort and are helpful to dilute or rinse away irritating allergens in the tear film. For giant papillary conjunctivitis, your doctor may prescribe eye drops to reduce inflammation and itching.

Usually conjunctivitis is caused by a minor eye infection. But sometimes it can develop into a more serious condition. See your eye doctor for a diagnosis before using any eye drops in your medicine cabinet that were prescribed for previous infections or eye problems.

Prevention tips

Because young children often are in close contact in day care centers and school classrooms, it can be difficult to avoid the spread of bacteria that causes pink eye. However, these tips can help you reduce the possibility of your child contracting a case of pink eye:

  • Encourage your child to wash his or hands frequently at home and school.
  • Avoid sharing hand towels and/or wash them frequently.
  • Encourage your child to use tissues and cover his or her mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Discourage eye rubbing and touching, to avoid spread of bacteria and viruses.
  • Use antiseptic and/or antibacterial solutions to clean and wipe toys, counter tops, telephones, computer keyboards, television remote controls and other items your children touch frequently.

If your child is diagnosed with pink eye, remove him or her from school (and other crowded environments) for a few days to reduce the risk of spreading conjunctivitis to others.

Article ©2011 Access Media Group LLC.  All rights reserved.  Reproduction other than for one-time personal use is strictly prohibited.

The Basics of Eyeglasses

For most people, eyeglasses remain the preferred choice for vision correction, despite innovations in contact lenses and vision correction surgery.

Eyeglasses are both a means of vision correction and a fashion item, and there are more choices than ever in frame and lens materials and frame styles, shapes and colors.

Options abound, including hypoallergenic frame materials for people with sensitive skin and frames made with highly flexible metal alloys, which reduce the possibility of breakage. Spring hinges are another popular feature for added durability, especially for children’s eyewear.

Eyeglass frames styles

Often the best choice is to select more than one pair of eyeglasses to complement your lifestyle and wardrobe.

Multi-colored inlays, composite materials, designer emblems, and enhancements such as insets of precious stones are popular features in many of today’s frame styles.

Rimless styles are an understated way to wear eyeglasses without obvious frames. In these styles, plastic or metal temples attach directly to the lenses rather than onto a rim surrounding the lenses.

Advances in eyeglass lenses

You also have many options when choosing lenses for your eyeglasses. Popular eyeglass lens designs and materials include:

  • Aspheric lenses, which have a slimmer, more attractive profile than other lenses and eliminate that magnified, “bug-eye” look caused by some prescriptions.
  • High index lenses, which are made of special plastic materials that enable the lenses to be noticeably thinner and lighter than regular glass or plastic lenses.
  • Polycarbonate lenses are thinner, lighter and up to 10 times more impact-resistant than regular plastic lenses. These lenses are great for safety glasses, children’s eyewear, and for anyone who wants lightweight, durable lenses.
  • Photochromic lenses are sun-sensitive lenses that quickly darken in bright conditions, and quickly return to a clear state in ordinary indoor lighting.
  • Polarized lenses reduce glare from flat, reflective surfaces (like water) for greater viewing comfort outdoors and less eye fatigue.

Eyeglass lens coatings

Anti-reflective (AR) coating is beneficial for virtually all eyeglass lenses, particularly high index lenses that reflect more light than conventional glass or plastic lenses. AR coating eliminates distracting lens reflections and reduces glare for better visibility for night driving.

Other lens coatings include scratch-resistant, ultraviolet treatment, and mirror coatings for sunglasses.

Eyeglass lenses for presbyopia

Presbyopia is the normal, age-related loss of near focusing ability that makes reading and other close-up tasks more difficult after age 40.

The primary symptom of presbyopia is the need to hold reading material farther away to see it clearly. Eventually, presbyopia worsens to the point that bifocal or other multifocal eyeglass lenses are needed.

Multifocal eyeglass lenses available for presbyopia correction include:

  • Bifocals: These lenses have two powers – one for distance and one for near – separated by a visible line.
  • Trifocals: These multifocal lenses have three powers for seeing at varying distances – near, intermediate and far – separated by two visible lines.
  • Progressive lenses: These lenses have many lens powers that gradually change with no visible lines. Because they have no lines, progressive lenses allow a smooth, comfortable transition from one distance to another.

If you’ve never needed glasses to see clearly prior to the onset of presbyopia, simple reading glasses with single vision lenses may be all you need to restore your near vision. But reading glasses are for near vision only, and objects across the room will appear blurred through the lenses.

Advice for Buying Eyeglasses

When choosing eyeglasses, be sure to consider your appearance, personal taste and lifestyle as well as your eyeglass prescription needs. A professional optician can help you choose frames and lenses that both complement your appearance and satisfy your lifestyle and vision needs.

Article ©2011 Access Media Group LLC.  All rights reserved.  Reproduction other than for one-time personal use is strictly prohibited.