The Dangers of UV Rays

It’s always fun to go out in the sun, but sometimes, the sun can cause more harm than good. Many people are aware of the damage the sun can cause on the skin but don’t know about the impact on our eyes. Without proper protection, the sun’s UV rays can negatively impact the health of your eyes years down the road.

Eye Conditions Caused By UV Rays

Extended and unprotected exposure to the sun increases your risk of developing the following:

Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is the most common cause of vision loss occurring when the retina starts to deteriorate. Over time, macular degeneration will cause central vision loss, impacting your ability to see with fine detail.

Cataracts

A cataract is the clouding of the lens in your eye. Many people are unaware they have a cataract in its early stages. Over time, cataracts can blur your vision, make objects less colorful, and cause difficulties reading or doing other day-to-day activities.

Pterygium

A pterygium is a growth of the conjunctiva or mucous membrane covering the white part of your eye over the cornea. Often, a pterygium doesn’t cause vision problems or require any treatment, but this growth can be removed if it interferes with your vision.

Corneal Sunburn

Corneal sunburn is an effect of being exposed to high UV-B rays. Although temporary, corneal sunburn can cause a gritty feeling in your eyes, causing eye pain, tearing, swelling redness, or sensitivity to bright light.

UV Rays & Children

Typically, children are exposed to more annual sun exposure than adults. In addition to exposure time, a child’s lens cannot filter UV light or prevent it from reaching their retinas as effectively as an adult. As a result, by the age of 18, half of a person’s lifetime exposure to UV radiation has already occurred.

Sunwear is a Must-Have for All Ages

With the proper protection for all ages, you can keep your and your child’s eyes safe from UV damage. To best protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays, always wear sunglasses that block 100 percent of UV rays, as well as a pair that protects the skin around your eyes.

In addition to sunglasses, try wearing a wide-brimmed hat on sunny days. It has been shown that wearing a hat can reduce exposure to UV rays by up to as much as 50%.

So, are you ready to take the next steps in protecting your eyes from the sun and dangerous UV rays? Contact our office today to learn more.

Are You Overexposed to Blue Light?

Blue light is the type of light with the shortest wavelength and highest energy. It’s everywhere! Although many people associate blue light with technology, the sun is the primary source of these rays.

Many human-made devices also emit blue light, and in recent years, the time individuals are spending on these devices has increased dramatically.

Key Points

About Blue Light

The anterior structure of your eye, made up of the cornea and lens, is very effective at blocking UV rays from reaching the retina, located at the back of your eye. However, blue light cannot be filtered naturally by the eye and passes through the cornea and reaches your retina. Your retina’s continued exposure to these harmful rays can result in a higher risk of developing macular degeneration over time, and eventually, permanent vision loss.

Not all blue light is bad, though. Some exposure is proven to be good for your health. Blue light–taken in appropriate amounts–can boost alertness, improve memory and cognitive functions, and elevate your mood.

Symptoms of Overexposure

Some of the most notable signs of overexposure are:

  • Eye Strain
  • Headaches and Migraines
  • Blurry Vision
  • Dry Eyes
  • Inability to Focus
  • Disruptions in Sleep Patterns

Protecting Your Eyes

Digital devices aren’t going anywhere, so it’s essential to ensure that you are taking preemptive steps to protect your eyes from blue light. With electronic devices, consider these few tips to reduce the harmful rays reaching your retina.

  • Hold your Device at an Angle
  • Wear Blue Light Blocking Glasses
  • Use a Screen Filter
  • Install a Blue Light Blocking App
  • Take Advantage of “Comfort View” Settings

Ready to take protection to the next level? Ask us about computer eyewear! Computer eyewear will drastically reduce eye strain by filtering emitted light before it reaches your eyes. Many electronic devices are starting to offer apps or different settings that are intended to lessen the amount of blue light that is emitted so it’s less harsh on your eyes. While these settings don’t necessarily protect your eyes from the blue light, it does cut down on eye strain considerably by lessening the contrast.

Do you have more questions about how you can protect your eyes? Stop by our office or give us a call and we would be more than happy to answer your questions!

Eye Allergies in Every Season

Eye allergies are caused by the same substances that give you a runny nose and sneezing. Individuals with seasonal allergies typically experience various reactions to their allergens such as sneezing, itchy eyes, or a headache. Symptoms of eye allergies include itching, redness, burning, and clear watery discharge. Additionally, you may notice dark circles under the eyes and puffy eyelids. It is essential to manage your allergies to prevent these allergy symptoms and other eye infections related to seasonal allergies.

Winter Allergies

Indoor allergens are the most common cause of eye allergies during the winter months. Spending more time inside with the house closed up tends to worsen these allergens. We recommend using mite-proof bedding to limit exposure to dust mites. Frequently wash bedding, blankets, and furniture to decrease allergy symptoms from both dust mites and pet dander. Additionally, using a dehumidifier is the best way to control mold in your home mainly focused on basements and bathrooms.

  • Dust Mites
  • Mold
  • Pet Dander

Spring Allergies

Spring can be a dreaded season for seasonal allergy sufferers. Pollen is the primary cause of reaction during the spring months. With the trees, flowers, and plants coming into bloom their pollen can severely irritate your eyes. Wearing glasses or sunglasses outdoors can help to prevent pollen from entering your eyes.

  • Tree Pollen
  • Flower Pollen

Summer Allergies

During the summer months, grass pollen and mold spores are the most common allergens. On high pollen count days, we recommend staying indoors as much as possible. To limit your exposure to allergens we recommend keeping your windows closed and using air conditioning in your car and home. Avoid using fans, as they can draw pollen and mold into the house.

  • Grass Pollen
  • Molds Spores

Fall Allergies

As fall comes around, seasonal allergies come back on the horizon. Check the pollen count and avoid spending time outside during peak pollen times. Mold spores begin to grow on damp leaves in the fall. While it can be challenging to prevent seasonal allergens completely, we recommend limiting your exposure as much as possible. Additionally, replacing the carpet in your home with hardwood, tile, or linoleum helps to keep pet dander and pollen from settling in your home.

  • Ragweed
  • Mold Spores
  • Pet Dander

Don’t let eye allergies stop you from living your life. We can help you manage your eye allergies and control your symptoms. Give our office a call or request an appointment to discuss your allergies with your eye doctor!

Computer Vision Syndrome: Eye Strain

According to The Vision Council, 65% of adults experience some form of computer vision syndrome. Often individuals associate eye strain as a “normal” part of computer work. However, the eye strain you are experiencing is a symptom of computer vision syndrome and can be reduced or avoided!

What is Computer Vision Syndrome?

Computer vision syndrome is caused by the eyes and brain reacting to the characters on a computer screen. On-screen characters have less contrast than characters in print and are more challenging for our eyes to focus on. The difficulty of having to focus on the characters on computer screens is what causes eye fatigue and strain.

Symptoms of CVS

Depending on the individual they may experience one, several, or all symptoms of computer vision syndrome. These symptoms can cause discomfort for the individual and make it difficult to complete work effectively.

  • Headaches
  • Loss of focus
  • Burning eyes
  • Tired eyes
  • Red eyes
  • Double vision
  • Eye twitching
  • Blurred vision
  • Neck and shoulder pain

Ways to Combat CVS

Many computer users find their eyes feel strained working under fluorescent lights. Users feel more eye comfort when using floor lamps instead of harsh overhead lights. Minimize the reflection of glare off your computer screen by installing an anti-glare screen on your monitor. Consider closing the blinds to prevent the sun from reflecting off your computer screen as well.

The type of screen and settings of your screen can also impact your eye strain. We recommend making sure you have an LCD screen because it has an anti-reflective surface and is more comfortable for the eyes.

Additionally, you can adjust the settings of your screen for optimal viewing. A few settings to adjust are the brightness, text, and color temperature. The brightness should be the same as your surrounding workstation, the text size and contrast can be changed to your comfort level, and reducing the color temperature lowers the amount of blue light emitted by your screen.

Computer Eyewear

One of the best ways to reduce your risk of computer vision syndrome is to visit our office. Your eye doctor can perform a few tests to detect vision problems which could be contributing to your computer vision syndrome and help decide if computer eyewear is the solution for you. Many individuals discover computer eyewear helps reduce their symptoms and improves their productivity.

Schedule an appointment with our office to discuss the impact computer work is having on your eyes and the best ways to reduce your eye strain and fatigue.

Bad Habits: Aging Your Eyes

Do you feel like your eyes have aged? Some bad habits can make your eyes appear more aged than they are. The best way to preserve your eye health and appearance is to cut these bad habits out of your life!

Rubbing Your Eyes

There are tiny blood vessels under their skin around your eyes, excessive rubbing can cause these vessels to break. As a result, you may notice dark circles, puffy eyes, premature crows feet, and drooping eyelids. We recommend you refrain from pulling or tugging this skin because it is very sensitive. If your eyes are irritated, place a damp cloth on them instead of rubbing.

Not Wearing Sunglasses

Protecting your eyes from the harmful UV rays of the sun helps your eyes to stay healthy and young. If you don’t wear sunglasses, you could damage the eyes or sunburn the eyelids. Additionally, you increase your risk for eye diseases such as cataracts, macular degeneration, pinguecula, and pterygium. To keep your eyes healthy, youthful, and safe wear sunglasses that block 100% of UV rays.

Smoking

Smoking is linked to eye diseases such as cataracts, macular degeneration, uveitis, dry eye, and diabetic retinopathy. This is a bad habit that drastically ages your eyes. Smokers are four times more likely to go blind than nonsmokers. Quitting smoking, no matter what your age, reduces your risk of developing severe eye conditions.

Not Sleeping Enough

Your eyes can appear aged if you don’t get enough sleep. Consequently, a lack of sleep can cause red bloodshot eyes, dark circles under the eyes, eye twitching, dry eyes, and blurry vision. Not sleeping is a bad habit for your overall health and wellbeing.

Dehydration

Not drinking water can make you dehydrated. When you are dehydrated your eyes do not produce enough tears. As a result, you may experience symptoms of dry eye.

Not Visiting Your Eye Doctor

The last bad habit you need to change is not visiting your eye doctor. Many eye diseases can go undetected and cause harm before you are even aware of changes in your vision. Some eye diseases have no warning signs and can cause irreversible vision loss. Regular visits to your eye doctor are the best way to protect the health of your eyes, detect vision problems, and find possible eye disease. Don’t forget to inform us of any family history that can help to protect the health of your eyes.

Eliminating these bad habits from your life can help to improve eye health and maintain a youthful appearance. Give us a call today to schedule your regular eye exam.

Prevent Glaucoma: Regular Eye Exams

Did you know, half of Americans with glaucoma don’t know they have it? Glaucoma is often called a silent thief of sight because the early stages often have no symptoms. In the US glaucoma is the second-leading cause of blindness.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is an eye disease damaging the optic nerve in the eye; the optic nerve connects the retina to the brain to produce sight. The most common type of glaucoma is called primary open-angle glaucoma. According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, over 3 million Americans have glaucoma.

Eye pressure is a significant risk factor for optic nerve damage. We recommend annual eye exams to measure eye pressure and detect glaucoma before you lose vision.

Populations at a Higher Risk Include:

  • African Americans over age 40
  • Everyone over age 60, especially Mexican Americans
  • People with a family history of glaucoma

Symptoms of Glaucoma

Typically glaucoma has no signs or symptoms, by the time you notice your loss of vision the disease has progressed to irreversible vision loss. Regular eye exams are the best way to detect and prevent glaucoma because several tests are performed to look for signs of glaucoma.

Potential Signs/Symptoms Include:

  • High Intraocular Pressure
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Vision Loss
  • Blurry Vision
  • Distorted Vision
  • Eye Pain

Can you reduce your risk for glaucoma?

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is essential to reduce your risk of developing glaucoma. A few ways to reduce your risk include not smoking and eating a varied healthy diet. Healthy weight and blood pressure are also essential to lowering your chance of getting glaucoma.

Recent studies have also found that physical exercise may also lower your intraocular pressure. Glaucoma development may be due to high intraocular pressure. Therefore, physical exercise and an active lifestyle are great ways to prevent glaucoma along with other serious health problems.

Puffy Eyes and Dark Circles

Ordinary swelling around the eyes is due to an excessive accumulation of fluids in the surrounding skin tissue. Puffy eyes and dark circles can occur for many reasons, and a visit to your eye doctor can usually detect the underlying cause behind your puffy eyes.

Causes

The skin around your eyes is the thinnest skin on your body; therefore it shows swelling and discoloration more prominently. There are various factors which can cause puffy eyes, a few of the most common causes include:

  • Overconsumption of salt
  • Allergies
  • Sinus problems
  • Dehydration
  • Fatigue and lack of sleep
  • Stress
  • Crying
  • Aging
  • Inherited facial features

Why are my eyes puffy in the morning?

Some individuals may notice their eyes are puffy when they wake up in the morning. Since we don’t blink when we sleep, this allows fluids to settle or get trapped in the skin around the eyes. As soon as you wake up and start blinking this swelling will begin to diminish. Likewise, some individuals develop swelling in their lower extremities while sleeping, which reduces upon walking.

Medical condition

In some situations, puffy eyes can be due to an underlying medical condition. Those with thyroid disease can develop swelling around their eyes. Eye allergies can cause swollen eyelids due to the release of histamine. Additionally, eye infections such as pink eye can cause swelling and puffiness. However, the best way to detect the cause of your puffy eyes is through a comprehensive eye exam by your doctor.

What can be done?

To find the best solution or remedy to your puffy eyes, your eye doctor must first determine the underlying cause. Temporary solutions include eye drops, hydration, iced compresses, cucumber slices, creams, reducing salt in your diet, and getting plenty of rest. In other circumstances, cosmetic solutions may be the only long term way to reduce swollen eyes.

To learn more about your puffy eyes, schedule an appointment with our office. We are here to answer all of your questions and advise you on the best steps to alleviate your puffy eyes.

FAQ: Cataracts

Think you may be at risk for developing cataracts? Here is an overview of the most frequently asked questions about cataracts, including potential cataract treatment and congenital cataracts. Give our office a call and schedule an appointment to have your questions answered!

What are cataracts?

Cataracts are a clouding of the eye’s natural lens and are the most common cause of vision loss in the world. According to Prevent Blindness America, more than 22 million Americans have cataracts.

Who gets cataracts?

Cataracts begin to form in those over the age of 40. However, it is typically after age 60 that cataracts cause problems with vision.

Are there any signs or symptoms?

Cataracts start small and have little effect on your vision at first. However, you may notice symptoms once the cataract is well developed.

Potential symptoms include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Cloudy or foggy vision
  • Light from the sun or a lamp feels too bright or glaring
  • Oncoming headlights while driving cause more glare
  • Colors appear dimmed or faded

What causes cataracts?

As we age the natural protein in our eyes can clump together and cover a small area of the lens. Over time this may grow larger and cloud more of the lens. This cloud is what we refer to as a cataract.

Can I prevent cataracts?

It is not believed that there is anything you can do to prevent cataracts. However, there are a number of things you can do to reduce your risk of developing cataracts. Nutrients such as vitamin E and vitamin C are believed to reduce your risk. Eating a healthy and well-balanced diet can help. Additionally, wearing sunglasses that block 100 percent of UV rays can reduce cataract risk.

What increases my risk for cataracts?

  • UV radiation
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Family history
  • Significant alcohol consumption
  • Certain medications

Is there cataract treatment?

The treatment for cataracts will vary for each person. When symptoms begin to appear patients may use new stronger prescription glasses. Cataract surgery will become an option if the cataract progresses far enough to impair your vision. Cataract surgery is the most frequently performed surgery in the United States and is successful in restoring vision.

What are congenital cataracts?

Congenital cataracts occur in newborn babies because the eye’s natural lens is cloudy instead of clear. Often this results in vision problems for the child. However, this occurs in only 0.4% of all births and is relatively uncommon.

To discuss your risk for developing cataracts schedule an appointment today! The best way to prevent vision loss is by having regular eye exams.

 

Flashes, Floaters, and Spots: What’s in my Vision?

Have you noticed tiny shadows cast upon objects you are looking at? Do you see small spots in your vision when looking at a clear or overcast sky? You may be seeing floaters and spots in your field of vision.

What is the spot in my vision?

It is completely normal to see spots or floaters in your vision. As you age the gel-like consistency in your eyes begins to dissolve creating floaters in the watery center of your eye. While you cannot see the particle floating in your eye, a shadow of these particles can be seen reflected in the objects you are viewing.

Do I need treatment for my floaters?

No, most of the time treatment is not required for floaters in the eye. The floaters and spots are harmless, and most will fade over time. If your vision is inhibited by large floaters, give our office a call to discuss options available to reduce these symptoms.

Why is there a flash in my vision?

When light enters your eye it sends a message to the retina, the retina then produces an electrical impulse which is sent to the brain. The brain interprets this impulse as an image. If the retina is tugged, torn, or detached from the back of the eye it is common to see a flicker of light. The flashes or flickers of light can be temporary or continue indefinitely depending on the severity of the retinal issue.

Is this ever a medical emergency?

Seeing a few new floaters is not an emergency, however, if you suddenly see a shower of floaters or spots this may be cause for concern. The sudden appearance of flashes of light could mean that damage is occurring to your retina. If any of these symptoms suddenly appear, call our office immediately to discuss with your eye doctor.

Conditions associated with eye floaters and flashes:

  • Bleeding inside the eye
  • Inflammation of the interior of the eye
  • Nearsightedness
  • Cataract surgery
  • Laser eye surgery
  • Diabetes
  • Eye infections

Combating Dry Eye Syndrome

Do you experience itchy, burning, or dry eyes? You may be suffering from dry eye syndrome. Tears are necessary for overall eye health and clear vision, when there is insufficient moisture on the surface of the eye it can cause discomfort. Let’s looks at some common causes of dry eye syndrome, symptoms, and risk factors.

What are the causes of dry eye syndrome?

Tears keep the eyes surfaces moist and wash away dust, debris, and other microorganisms. Without constant, adequate moisture, dry eye will occur. Not enough oil in the tears causes them to evaporate too quickly, and without sufficient water production, eyes cannot maintain proper moisture.

Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome:

  • Scratchy or gritty feeling
  • Red eyes
  • Blurriness
  • Irritation from windy conditions
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Fatigued eyes
  • Problems with contacts
  • Excessive tearing
  • Heavy eyes
  • Sore eyes

Contact lenses and dry eyes

One of the most common complaints from contact lens wearers is their contacts make their eyes feel dry. If you experience dry eye symptoms while wearing your contacts or immediately after removing your contacts, talk with your eye doctor, as it is irregular to feel discomfort.

If discomfort occurs, it is possible you are using the incorrect solution with your contact lenses; not all solutions are made equally. Your eye doctor may also recommend you use eye drops to help temporarily relieve dry eye symptoms.

Another means to relieve symptoms is to change your contact lens type to a more breathable or moisture-focused lens, which is specially made to help retain moisture. You may also want to discuss with your eye doctor the option to switch from reusable contact lenses to single-use lenses. Single-use lenses will help prevent your lens from drying out and work to maintain moisture in your eyes.

Factors that Increase Risk of Dry Eyes

Dry eye symptoms stem from multiple risk factors, including health conditions, environments, and eyewear choice. If you are suffering from dry eye try some of the tips below to help reduce your symptoms.  

  • Computer use. Humans blink less frequently when working at computers, allowing for more evaporated tears. When working on a computer for an extended period of time, follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds to give your eyes a rest.
  • Contact lens. Dry eye discomfort is a primary reason for wearers to stop using contacts. Use rewetting drops daily or talk with your eye doctor about contact lens types that work best for your eyes.
  • Indoor environment. Air conditioning, fans, and air heating systems can decrease the humidity indoors and cause symptoms of dry eye. Try using a humidifier in your house if you notice the air getting dryer.
  • Outdoor environment. If you are outdoors in dry or windy conditions, wear a pair of sunglasses or hat to reduce your exposure to the elements which can cause dry eyes.
  • Smoking. Can cause eyes to dry over time and is the root of various other eye problems.
  • Aging. Dry eye syndrome is more common after the age of 50.
  • Menopause. Women who have completed menopause are at a greater risk for dry eye than men the same age.
  • Health conditions. Certain diseases have a higher risk of contributing to dry eye- such as diabetes or thyroid diseases.
  • Medications. Prescription and nonprescription medications can have dry eye as a side effect.

Grand Rapids Eye Care