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Are Contact Lenses Safe For Young Children?

Here’s a question we often get at our practice: Is my child too young for contact lenses?’ This is an important question, and the answer may surprise you.

For children with myopia (nearsightedness), contact lenses can be a convenient method of vision correction. It allows kids to go about their day without having to worry about breaking or misplacing their glasses, and enables them to freely participate in sports and other physical activities.

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Some children and young teens may ask their parents for contact lenses because they feel self-conscious wearing glasses. Contact lenses may even provide children with the confidence boost they need to come out of their shell. Moreover, these days, it is very popular for children to wear single-use one-day disposable soft contacts, since there is no cleaning or maintenance involved.

Some parents may deny their child’s request for contacts due to concerns about eye health and safety. There’s no reason to worry: contact lenses are just as safe for children as they are for anyone else.

Dutchess Optometry Eye Clinic and Eye exam, contact lenses, myopia in Poughkeepsie and Red Hook, New York

Many eye diseases can be quickly and easily diagnosed during a comprehensive eye exam. If you were diagnosed with an eye disease, such as Cataracts, Glaucoma, Macular degeneration, Diabetic retinopathy, or Dry eye, you may be overwhelmed by the diagnosis and confused about what happens next. Will you need medications or surgery – now or in the future? Our Poughkeepsie and Red Hook eye doctor has prepared the following answers to your questions about eye disease.

At Dutchess Optometry, we provide children, teens, and patients of all ages with a wide variety of contact lenses. If you’re concerned about the safety of contacts for your child, we’ll be happy to explain and explore ways to ensure maximum safety, optimal eye health and comfort. To learn more or to schedule a pediatric eye exam for contact lenses, contact us today.

What Are the Risks of Having My Child Wear Contact Lenses?

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A study published in the January 2021 issue of The Journal of Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics found that kids aren’t at a higher risk of experiencing contact lens complications.

The study followed nearly 1000 children aged 8-16 over the course of 1.5-3 years to determine how contact lenses affected their eye health.

The results indicate that age doesn’t have an effect on contact lens safety. In fact, the researchers found that the risk of developing infections or other adverse reactions was less than 1% per year of wear — which is comparable to contact lens wearers of other ages.

But before you decide that contact lenses are right for your child, you may want to consider whether your child is ready to wear them. During his or her eye doctor’s appointment, the optometrist may ask about your child’s level of maturity, responsibility, and personal hygiene. Since many children are highly motivated to wear contacts, they tend to display real maturity in caring for their lenses. That said, in the initial stages, parents may need to play an active role, as their child gets used to inserting and removing the new contact lenses.

It’s important to note that just as with any other medical device, contact lenses are not risk-free. Anyone who wears contact lenses has a chance of developing eye infections or other complications with contact lenses. However, when worn and cared for according to your eye doctor’s instructions, contact lenses are low-risk and perfectly safe for children and teenagers.

So, go ahead and bring your child in for a contact lens consultation! We’ll help determine if your child is ready for contacts and answer any questions you or your child may have. To schedule your child’s contact lens fitting or eye exam, contact Dutchess Optometry in Poughkeepsie and Red Hook today.

Call Dutchess Optometry on 845-471-3650 to schedule an eye exam with our Poughkeepsie and Red Hook optometrist.

Alternatively book an appointment online here CLICK FOR AN APPOINTMENT

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Just in case you missed them, here are some of our previous blog posts :

How-to Guide for Buying Sunglasses

Decorative Lenses Could Cost You Your Vision

12 Tips for Optimal Eye Health

How to Safely View the Great American Eclipse of 2017

5 Reasons To Wear Sunglasses In The Fall

When we think of fall accessories, the first things that come to mind are warm sweaters, plush scarves, or a snug pair of boots. Here’s another essential item to add to your list: a good quality pair of UV-blocking sunglasses.

But why is it so important to protect your eyes when the sun seems to be hiding behind clouds on most days? While it may not make much sense, you’ll get a better understanding by the time you finish reading this article. So let’s dive in and explore the 5 reasons you should protect your eyes from the sun in the fall.

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Sunglasses: Summer Vs. Fall

The Sun’s Position

While we may squint more in the summer, the sunlight’s path to the eyes is more direct in the fall as the sun sits closer to the horizon. This places our eyes at greater risk of overexposure to UV rays.

Changing Temperatures

Irritating symptoms like dry, red, or watery eyes are often due to the season’s cool and harsh winds. The colder the air, the stiffer and thicker the eyes’ tear oils (meibum) become. Because thicker meibum doesn’t spread as evenly over the surface of the eyes, the tears can’t offer sufficient protection and moisture.

Minimize irritation by shielding the eyes from cool winds with wraparound sunglasses.

Dutchess Optometry Eye Clinic and Sunglasses, Eye Protection and Fall Fashion in Poughkeepsie and Red Hook, New York

Many eye diseases can be quickly and easily diagnosed during a comprehensive eye exam. If you were diagnosed with an eye disease, such as Cataracts, Glaucoma, Macular degeneration, Diabetic retinopathy, or Dry eye, you may be overwhelmed by the diagnosis and confused about what happens next. Will you need medications or surgery – now or in the future? Our Poughkeepsie and Red Hook eye doctor has prepared the following answers to your questions about eye disease.

UV Rays

Exposing your eyes to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays is problematic year-round, as it can result in serious eye diseases, such as cataracts and macular degeneration. That’s why it’s important to wear 100% UV-blocking sunglasses anytime you’re outdoors, no matter the season.

Make sure to sport your sunnies even on cloudy days, as up to 90% of UV rays pass through clouds. Furthermore, outdoor objects like concrete and snow reflect a significant amount of UV rays into the eyes.

Fall’s Dangerous Sun Glare

Because the sun is positioned at a lower angle in the fall, it can produce a brutal glare that poses a danger for driving. Rays of light that reflect off of smooth surfaces like the metal of nearby cars can be so bright to the point of blinding the driver.

You can combat this dangerous glare by wearing polarized sunglasses. These lenses reduce the glare’s harmful effects by filtering out horizontal light waves, such as the ones reflected by a shiny car bumper.

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Looking for Sunglasses Near You?

Here’s the bottom line: you need to protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses in the fall and year-round, no matter the season or climate. Investing in a stylish pair of durable, UV-protective sunglasses is — simply-put — a worthwhile investment in your eye health.

So if you’re looking for advice about a new pair of high-quality sunglasses for the fall, with or without prescription lenses, visit Dutchess Optometry. If standard sunglass lenses are too dark for you at this time of year, ask us about green or brown tinted lenses; they transmit more light and contrast to the eyes than standard grey tints.

We’ll be happy to help you find that perfect pair to protect your eyes, suit your lifestyle needs and enhance your personal style. To learn more, call 845-471-3650 to contact our Poughkeepsie and Red Hook eye doctor today.

Call Dutchess Optometry on 845-471-3650 to schedule an eye exam with our Poughkeepsie and Red Hook optometrist.

Alternatively book an appointment online here CLICK FOR AN APPOINTMENT

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COVID-19: Protect Your Eyes From Too Much Screen Time

Can Your Eye Doctor See Floaters?

What Services Can I Get Using Tele-Optometry?

How Do We See?

How To Prevent “Mask Fog” on Your Glasses

If you wear glasses and a face mask, you’ve probably struggled with “mask fog.” Your lenses get all misty, requiring you to wipe your eyewear throughout the day. Below are a few strategies to help you prevent your eyeglasses from fogging up when wearing a mask.

But First, Why Do Glasses Fog Up?

Quite simply, condensation forms whenever moist warm air hits a cool surface. Your specs fog up when the mask directs your warm breath upward instead of in front of you — which is great for preventing virus transmission but bad for anyone with less-than-stellar eyesight.

Is Your Mask Well Fitted?

The mask should fit securely over your nose. Ideally, you’ll want to wear a mask with a nose bridge or one that can be shaped or molded to your face. When the mask fits properly, hopefully most of your breath will go through it, not out the top or sides.

Dutchess Optometry Eye Clinic and Mask Fog, Optometry, Eye Health in Poughkeepsie and Red Hook, New York

Many eye diseases can be quickly and easily diagnosed during a comprehensive eye exam. If you were diagnosed with an eye disease, such as Cataracts, Glaucoma, Macular degeneration, Diabetic retinopathy, or Dry eye, you may be overwhelmed by the diagnosis and confused about what happens next. Will you need medications or surgery – now or in the future? Our Poughkeepsie and Red Hook eye doctor has prepared the following answers to your questions about eye disease.

Use Your Glasses To Seal the Top of Your Mask

This method works best with large, thick eyewear frames. By pulling your mask up higher on your nose and placing the lower part of your eyeglasses on the mask, you can get a snug fit that blocks your warm breath from escaping upward toward your eyewear.

Tape Your Mask to Your Face

You can always use tape to secure your mask across the bridge of your nose and the top of your cheeks. Use easy-to-remove tape, including adhesive, medical, or athletic. Just be sure to stay away from duct tape.

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Soap and Water Help Prevent Fogging

This trick is one that healthcare professionals regularly turn to. All you need for this hack is soapy water (dish soap works best) and a microfiber cloth. Stay away from soaps with lotions in them as they can leave a thick residue, making it even harder to see.

Simply rub both sides of your lenses with a drop of soap, then buff the lenses with a soft microfiber cloth. This effective trick helps prevent your lenses from fogging up as a transparent, thin film of soap acts as a barrier.

Anti-Fog Wipes and Sprays

Another option is to purchase wipes and sprays designed to tackle foggy lenses. Read the fine print, as certain anti-fog solutions may not work as well, or may even damage lenses with coatings that minimize glare and fingerprint smudges, for example.

To learn more about ways to keep your glasses from fogging while wearing a mask, contact Dutchess Optometry in Poughkeepsie and Red Hook today.

Call Dutchess Optometry on 845-471-3650 to schedule an eye exam with our Poughkeepsie and Red Hook optometrist.

Alternatively book an appointment online here CLICK FOR AN APPOINTMENT

FOLLOW US


Just in case you missed them, here are some of our previous blog posts :

8 Tips to Relieve Winter Dry Eyes

This Halloween Be Wary of Costume Contact Lenses

Hope in Sight for Low Vision

Poolside Eye Safety

Is Your Teen Ready for Contacts?

Many teens who wear glasses are eager to try out contact lenses for convenience, fashion or to just provide another option for vision correction. For teens who feel self-conscious in their glasses, contact lenses can be a way to improve self-esteem. Young athletes and swimmers find that contacts are an excellent option for sports, especially as younger kids are becoming involved in travel sports and club teams outside of school.

While contacts might appear to be the perfect solution for teens that need corrective eyewear, they are a convenience that comes with a lot of responsibility so it’s not a decision to take lightly. Improper use of contact lenses can cause severe discomfort, infections, irritation and, in the worst cases,eye damage or even permanent vision loss.

“With Privilege Comes Responsibility”

Contact lenses are a medical device and should always be treated as such. They should never be obtained without a valid contact lens prescription from an eye doctor, and always purchased from an authorized seller. Among other issues, poor fitting contact lenses bought from illegitimate sources have been known to cause micro-abrasions to the eyes that can increase the risk of eye infection and corneal ulcers in worst case scenarios.

Particularly when it comes to kids and teens, it is best to purchase contact lenses from an eye doctor as they possess the expertise to properly fit contact lenses based on the shape of the eye, the prescription, the lifestyle of the child and other factors that may influence the comfort, health and convenience of contact lens use.

There is some debate over the recommended age for kids to start considering contact lenses. While some experts will say the ideal age is between 11 and 14, there are many responsible children as young as 8 or even younger who have begun to successfully use them. When children are motivated and responsible, and parents are able to ensure follow-up to the daily regimen, earlier contact lens use can be a success. A good measure of whether your child is responsible enough to use contacts is whether they are able to keep their room clean, or maintain basic hygiene like brushing teeth regularly and effectively.

When you think your child might be ready, you should schedule an appointment with your eye doctor for a contact lens exam and fitting. The process will take a few visits to perform the exam, complete a training session on how to insert, remove and care for lenses, then to try out the lenses at home and finally reassess the comfort and fit of the contacts. You may try out a few varieties before you find the best fit.

What Kind of Contact Lens Is Best for My Teen?

The good news is that contact lens use has become easier than ever, with safety, health and convenience being more accessible as technology improves. There are a number of options including the material used to make the lenses (soft or rigid gas permeable), the replacement schedule (if disposable, how often you replace the pair – daily, weekly, biweekly or monthly) and the wear schedule (daily or extended overnight wear).

Single use, daily disposable lenses have become very popular, particularly with younger users, because they are easy to use, requiring no cleaning or storing, and therefore they reduce the risk of infection and misuse. You simply throw out the lenses at night and open a new one in the morning. Your eye doctor will be able to help you and your teen determine the best option.

Tips for Contact Lens Wearers

Following are some basic contact lens safety tips. If your teen is responsible enough to follow these guidelines, he or she may be ready for contact lens use:

  1. Always follow the wearing schedule prescribed by your doctor.
  2. Always wash your hands with soap before applying or removing contact lenses.
  3. Never use any substance other than contact lens rinse or solution to clean contacts (even tap water is a no-no).
  4. Never reuse contact lens solution
  5. Follow the eye doctor’s advice about swimming or showering in your lenses
  6. Always remove your lenses if they are bothering you or causing irritation.
  7. Never sleep in your lenses unless they are extended wear.
  8. Never use any contact lenses that were not acquired with a prescription at an authorized source. Never purchase cosmetic lenses without a prescription!

Contact lens use is an ongoing process. As a child grows, the lens fit may change as well, so it is important to have annual contact lens assessments. Plus, new technology is always being developed to improve comfort and quality of contact lenses.

Contact lenses are a wonderful invention but they must be used with proper care. Before you let your teen take the plunge into contact lens use, make sure you review the dangers and safety guidelines.

Technology in the Classroom and the Eyes

 

girl using computerThe use of technology has become commonplace in the classroom. So much so that today’s generation of students, from kindergarten to university, navigates computers, smartphones, and tablets all the time. Many schools have even implemented the use of smart boards and bring your own device (BOYD) programs.

However, as amazing as this educational technology can be, it is important to be aware of the potential visual challenges that can arise from the prolonged use of digital technology.

According to a recent study by the American Optometric Association’s (AOA), 85 percent of parents surveyed said their children use an electronic device for up to four hours every day. The survey also found that 41 percent of children have their own smartphone or tablet while 32 percent use both e-books and textbooks at school. Additionally, 66 percent of children use a computer or tablet to do homework or study.

Staring at a screen for a few hours a day can cause visual discomfort and interfere with your child’s ability to focus. Although regular use of digital devices won’t damage vision, extended use of technology at school or for homework can lead to a temporary vision condition called computer vision syndrome (CVS). Symptoms of CVS include eye strain, fatigue, burning or tired eyes, the inability to focus, headaches, blurred vision, double vision or head and neck pain. To alleviate and prevent CVS, teach your child the 20-20-20 rule when using technology or doing near work: take a 20-second break, every 20 minutes to look at an object 20 feet away.

There are also a number of physical indicators that parents should be aware of that indicate vision problems. These include squinting or covering an eye to see a screen, repeated eye rubbing, and excessive blinking. If your child complains of headaches or swimming words on a screen, consistently performs below his or her potential and has challenges completing homework, it is important to schedule a comprehensive eye exam to assess whether there may be any vision problems.

In addition, your child should hold any digital device a half to a full arm’s length away from the eyes and slightly below eye level. Parents should encourage children to take breaks regularly while at the computer. Kids should also use ergonomic desk areas or gaming chairs to ensure comfort and proper posture. You can prevent glare on screens by using low-wattage light bulbs, dimmers, or curtains in the room. Avoid staring at screens in a completely dark room, and adjust the brightness and background color settings on the device.

Usage of digital devices will likely increase as technology advances. Teach your children good habits to keep their eyes comfortable and to protect their vision.

How to Safely View the Great American Eclipse of 2017

On August 21st, for the first time since 1979, a solar eclipse will be visible across North America. What’s even more historic is that it will also be the first time an eclipse will be visible across the continent, from coast to coast, since 1918. If you want to bear witness to this historic event, it is important to do so safely which means being knowledgeable about the event and prepared to protect your eyes from potential serious damage and vision loss.

First of all, here are the facts about the upcoming eclipse. A total solar eclipse is when the moon completely blocks the face of the sun (called the photosphere) leaving only the sun’s outer ring, called the corona, in view. This event happens briefly, and will only be visible for certain parts of the United States for up to two minutes and forty seconds during the upcoming celestial event. All of North America, including mainland US and Canada, however, will be able to view a partial eclipse for the duration of about two to three hours. You can search online to see which part of the eclipse will be visible from your location and what time you will be able to see it.

With 500 million people in the viewing range of the eclipse, thousands are excitedly preparing for what could be for many a once-in-a-lifetime experience, however, it’s crucial to make sure that this is done safely to protect your eyes and vision from serious damage that can occur from viewing an eclipse without proper eye protection.

Looking at a Solar Eclipse

Viewing a solar eclipse without proper eye protection is extremely dangerous and can cause permanent vision loss. Looking directly at the sun can cause a condition called Solar Retinopathy or retinal burns which can cause damage to and destroy cells in the retina, which communicates visual cues with the brain. It can also burn the macula which is responsible for central vision. While we usually have a hard time looking directly at the sun which helps to protect us from this condition, during an eclipse because the sun is partially covered by the moon, looking directly at the sun becomes less difficult. Nevertheless, the exposure to the damaging rays of the sun is just as strong and therefore the risk just as great.

It’s important to note that solar burns to the retina do not cause symptoms during that time that you are looking at the eclipse. There is no pain or discomfort. However, the longer you look at it, the deeper the hole that burns through the retina and you would not notice the vision loss until hours later. There is no treatment for solar retinopathy. Many will notice recovery in vision, but depending on the severity of damage there may be only partial recovery which may take up to 6 months after viewing the eclipse.

Eclipse Glasses: Solar Eclipse Eye Protection

Do not view the eclipse without proper eye protection. Protecting your eyes during an eclipse with specially designed eyewear or solar viewers is a must. The American Optometric Association and NASA have released the following statement regarding eye protection: “There is only one safe way to look directly at the sun, whether during an eclipse or not: through special-purpose solar filters. These solar filters are used in “eclipse glasses” or in hand-held solar viewers. They must meet a very specific worldwide standard known as ISO 12312-2.”

It’s important to note that regular sunglasses are not sufficient in protecting your eyes. Here are some additional safety tips issued by NASA for viewing the eclipse:

  • Stand still and cover the eyes with eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the bright sun. After glancing at the sun, turn away and remove the filter—do not remove it while looking at the sun.
  • Do not look at the un-eclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars or other optical device. Similarly, do not look at the sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewer—the concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eye(s), causing serious injury.
  • If you are within the path of totality, remove your solar filter only when the moon completely covers the sun’s bright face and it gets quite dark.

If you plan to view the eclipse, make sure that you plan ahead and obtain eclipse glasses or solar viewers for every person that plans to enjoy the experience. Keep this once in a lifetime experience a safe and enjoyable one.

To obtain eclipse glasses, contact your local optometrist, or visit the American Optometry Association website for more information.

Are Your Eyes Sensitive to Light?

Light sensitivity, also known as photophobia, is a condition in which bright light – either natural sunlight or artificial light –  can cause significant discomfort, pain and intolerance. People that experience light sensitivity will find themselves needing to close their eyes or squint when exposed to light and often experience headaches and nausea as well.  In mild cases, the discomfort accompanies exposure to bright lights or harsh sunlight, but in severe cases even a small amount of light can cause pain and discomfort.  

Photophobia is more common in individuals with light eyes. This is because the greater amounts of pigment in darker eyes help to protect the eye from the harsh rays of light. The darker pigment of the iris and choroid absorbs the light, rather than reflecting the light and causing internal reflection or glare experienced by those with lighter eyes. People with albinism, which is a total lack of eye pigment, also experience significant light sensitivity for this reason. 

Acute photophobia is usually a symptom that accompanies a condition such as an eye infection or irritation (such as conjunctivitis or dry eyes), a virus, or a migraine (light sensitivity is one of the most common symptoms of migraines). It could also be caused by something more serious such as an eye condition like a corneal abrasion, a detached retina, uveitis or iritis or a systemic disease like meningitis or encephalitis. Light sensitivity is also a side effect of refractive surgery (such as LASIK) and some medications (such as tetracycline and doxycycline).  

How to Deal with Photophobia

The most effective way to reduce the discomfort caused by photophobia is to stay out of sunlight and dim indoor lights as much as possible while you are experiencing symptoms. Wearing dark sunglasses and keeping your eyes closed may also provide some relief. 

In the summer it is more common for UV to trigger corneal inflammation (keratitis) and cause photosensitivity as well. Wind and eye dryness can also set off photosensitivity, which are more good reasons to wear sunglasses. 

If the sensitivity is new and the cause is unknown, you should seek medical attention immediately, especially if you experience any of the following symptoms:  

  • Blurry vision
  • Burning or pain in the eye
  • Fever and chills
  • Confusion and irritability
  • Severe headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Stiff neck
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Numbness
  • Foreign body sensation

In cases where the photophobia is a symptom of an underlying issue, treating the issue will likely cause relief in your sensitivity. This will vary depending on the ailment but could include pain medications, eye drops or antibiotics, or anti-inflammatory medications. If the sensitivity is mild due to your genetic predisposition or a result of surgery, make sure you take your sunglasses every time you leave the house. People who wear prescription eyeglasses may consider photochromic lenses which automatically darken when exposed to light. 

If you are uncomfortable, speak to your eye doctor about the best options for your condition.  

Got a Shiner!

What Exactly Is a Black Eye?

A black eye, also known as a periorbital hematoma, is usually not an injury of the actual eye (which is why it is called “periorbital”- around the eye). It typically occurs when there is an injury to the face or the eye socket which causes bleeding beneath the skin and bruising. The term, “black eye” comes from the dark coloring of the bruising that occurs underneath the skin around the eye.

When a blunt force hits the eye socket, this can cause capillaries in the area to burst, causing hemorrhaging, also known as a hematoma. This blood can accumulate in the eye socket and as it begins to be reabsorbed into the surrounding tissues, the colors of the bruising begin to change. That’s why you will often notice the coloring of the black eye to go from a dark purplish-red color to brownish and then yellow. 

Sometimes along with the external bruising, you might also notice a small amount of bleeding on the white surface of the eye, which is called a subconjunctival hemorrhage. This is when the tiny blood vessels on the white sclera are broken and leak blood. It’s generally harmless but sometimes looks scarier to the patient than the black eye does. This condition will also reabsorb on its own and is nothing to be concerned about. 

While most black eyes can look pretty serious due to the dramatic color, an uncomplicated black eye will typically heal within a week to ten days. If it doesn’t, there could be a more serious issue such as a bone fracture or an orbital blowout fracture.This could present with restricted eye movement, especially if looking up or down, and numbness of the cheek and/or upper lip on the same side as the black eye. The eye may even appear sunken in. Further, if there is bleeding within the actual eye (called a hyphema) or floaters or flashes in the vision, then it is definitely advisable to see your eye doctor as soon as possible. These could be signs of more serious damage such a corneal or retinal damage and can lead to vision loss. 

Treatment for a Black Eye

Usually, the best treatment for a black eye is to apply a cold compress (or even better, a bag of frozen vegetables, which is more flexible and can conform to the contours of the face) directly on the area. The cold will reduce swelling and constrict capillaries to reduce internal bleeding as well. Apply the cold for about 15-20 minutes every hour.  If there is pain, over the counter pain medications can help. 

If however, you experience any of the following symptoms, you should seek medical attention:

  • Blood on the surface of the eye or a visible incision on the eye
  • Vision changes such as double vision, blurred vision, loss of vision or the appearance of floaters
  • Loss of consciousness, dizziness or fainting
  • Loss of eye movement
  • Persistent headaches
  • Blood or fluids coming from the ears or nose
  • Vomiting
  • Signs of infection such as excessive swelling, pus, redness or a fever
  • Severe pain

In addition to blunt trauma, black eyes can be caused by sinus infections, nasal or eye surgery or other infections in the area such as the teeth infections or cellulitis (a serious infection that can occur around the eyes). A skull fracture can also cause both eyes to turn black, sometimes known as raccoon eyes. 

Unless you notice any severe symptoms you can rest assured that your black eye is a bruise just like anywhere else on the body and with a little care, rest and patience, it will clear up in no time. 

Cataract Awareness and Prevention

It’s National Cataract Awareness Month

According to the World Health Organization, cataracts are responsible for 51% of cases of blindness worldwide – although this blindness is preventable with treatment. In fact, research shows that in industrialized countries about 50% of individuals over the age of 70 have had a cataract in at least one eye. This is partially because cataracts are a natural part of the aging process of the eye, so as people in general live longer, the incidence of cataracts continue to increase.

What are Cataracts?

Cataracts occur when the natural lens in the eye begins to cloud, causing blurred vision that progressively gets worse. In addition to age, cataracts can be caused or accelerated by a number of factors including physical trauma or injury to the eye, poor nutrition, smoking, diabetes, certain medications (such as corticosteroids), long-term exposure to radiation and certain eye conditions such as uveitis. Cataracts can also be congenital (present at birth).

The eye’s lens is responsible for the passage of light into the eye and focusing that light onto the retina. It is responsible for the eye’s ability to focus and see clearly. That’s why when the lens is not working effectively, the eye loses it’s clear focus and objects appear blurred. In addition to increasingly blurred vision, symptoms of cataracts include:

“Washed Out” Vision or Double Vision:

People and objects appear hazy, blurred or “washed out” with less definition, depth and color. Many describe this as being similar to looking out of a dirty window. This makes many activities of daily living a challenge including reading, watching television, driving or doing basic chores.

Increased Glare Sensitivity:

This can happen both from outdoor sunlight or light reflected off of shiny objects indoors. Glare sensitivity causes problems with driving, particularly at night and generally seeing our surroundings clearly and comfortably.

Dulled Colors:

Often colors won’t appear as vibrant as they once did, often having a brown undertone. Color distinction may become difficult as well.

Compromised Contrast and Depth Perception:

These eye skills are greatly affected by the damage to the lens.

Darkened Vision:

Often individuals with cataracts find that they require more light than they used to, to be able to see clearly and perform basic activities.

Cataract Treatment

Early stage cataracts may be able to be treated with glasses or lifestyle changes, such as using brighter lights, but if they are hindering the ability to function in daily life, it might mean it is time for cataract surgery.

Cataract surgery is one of the most common surgeries performed today and it involves removing the natural lens and replacing it with an artificial lens, called an implant or an intraocular lens. Typically the standard implants correct the patient’s distance vision but reading glasses are still needed. However as technology has gotten more sophisticated you can now get multifocal implants that can reduce or eliminate the need for glasses altogether. Usually the procedure is an outpatient procedure (you will go home the same day) and 95% of patients experience improved vision almost immediately.

Cataract Prevention

While doctors still don’t know exactly how much each risk factor leads to cataracts there are a few ways you can keep your eyes healthy and reduce your risks:

  • Refrain from smoking and high alcohol consumption
  • Exercise and eat well, including lots of fruits and vegetables that contain antioxidants
  • Protect your eyes from UV radiation like from sunlight
  • Control diabetes and hypertension

Most importantly, see your eye doctor regularly for a comprehensive eye exam. If you are over 40 or at risk, make sure to schedule a yearly eye exam.

Are You Ignoring Your Dry Eyes?

You Don’t Have to Live With Dry Eyes

Have you noticed that your eyes feel chronically dry, itchy, scratchy or even sometimes watery? Many people that have these symptoms just go on with their lives until the symptoms become unbearable. What they don’t realize is that these are signs that they might be suffering from dry eye syndrome, a condition in which the eyes are not able to produce enough tears to effectively lubricate the eyes. This is a problem that won’t just go away on its own.

What causes Dry Eye?

Dry Eye Syndrome, also known as Tear Film Dysfunction is characterized by a reduction in the amount or quality of tears that are produced. Tears are essential for optimal eye health, vision and comfort. Ideally, tear film covers the eyes at all times to prevent the eyes from drying out and to ensure clear vision. If the glands that produce tears start to produce fewer tears or tears that don’t have the proper balance of water, oils, proteins and electrolytes, the tear film with become unstable, allowing dry spots to form on the surface of the eye, and cause disruptions in outer barrier of the eye’s epithelial surface. This disruption in the outer barrier allows microbes to invade the eye, leading to irritation and infection. The condition can be caused by many factors, including tear gland dysfunction, eyelid problems, medications or environmental factors.

Symptoms of Dry Eye

As mentioned above, many of the symptoms of dry eye involve varying sensations of dryness including, burning, stinging, itching, grittiness, soreness or a feeling that there is something in the eye. The eyes may also be red and sensitive to light, wind or smoke. Vision may be blurred or doubled and the eyes may fatigue easily. Another common symptom is that vision seems blurry but clears when you blink (especially common when reading or using a computer). This is because the tear film does not form a smooth coat over the eye surface or it evaporates too quickly causing a blur.

You may also notice pain, some discharge from the eye (especially upon waking in the morning) and experience discomfort when wearing contact lenses. One of the most confusing symptoms of dry eye is actually excessive tearing, which occurs because the eyes are trying to compensate for the lack of moisture – however the tears produced are low quality and don’t properly hydrate the surface of the eye.

Reducing Symptoms

The first thing to look at when you have dry eyes is whether you are taking any medications, engaging in certain behaviors or being exposed to environmental factors that may be causing the condition. Medications that may cause dry eye as a side effect include:

  • Antihistamines and Decongestants
  • Diuretics
  • Sleeping pills
  • Birth Control pills
  • Antidepressants
  • Acne medications
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
  • Opiate-based painkillers such as morphine

Important! Never stop medication without the approval of your doctor! If you are taking a medication that may be causing dry eye, don’t stop taking the medication without speaking to your healthcare provider first. Treating dry eye symptoms may be a simpler solution than stopping or switching medications.

You may be able to alter your environment to reduce symptoms of dry eye as well. Environmental factors that can exacerbate dry eye include:

  • Wearing contact lenses
  • Extended use of computers or other electronic devices
  • Exposure to dry, windy climates or blowing air (such as an air conditioner or heater).
  • Exposure to smoke
  • High altitudes

Treatment for Dry Eye

If you are experiencing dry eye symptoms, make an appointment with your optometrist. The diagnosis and treatment will be based on a complete examination of your eyes, your medical history and your personal circumstances around the condition. The doctor may decide to perform a tear film test that can determine the quantity and quality of the tears and whether your tear glands and tear film are functioning properly.

The type of treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the problem. Treatment may include behavioral or environmental changes such as using a humidifier, wearing sunglasses in windy weather, reducing computer time or changing to a different type of contact lens, as well as medical treatments that may include:

  • Artificial tears, eye drops or ointments to lubricate eyes
  • Steroid or antibiotic drops or pills may be used for certain conditions such as blepharitis
  • Reducing the drainage of tears by blocking tear ducts with silicone plugs
  • Medications such as Restasis which reduce inflammation and trigger tear production
  • In some situations a surgical procedure might be recommended
  • Scleral lenses that hold moisture on the surface of the eyeball

The most important thing you should know about dry eyes is that you do not have to suffer. Treatments are available to increase moisture on your eye and reduce the uncomfortable and sometime debilitating symptoms. If you are suffering, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor and get the relief you deserve.