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.

Vision Development and Children

Childhood is a critical time for vision development. Nearly 80% of what a child learns in school is presented visually. Arguably making vision the most important of the five senses. Visual skills start developing during pregnancy and continue to evolve and develop as a child grows. Undetected vision problems can cause developmental and educational delays in children.

Infant Vision Development

Your infant’s vision starts developing during pregnancy. It is crucial that toxins are not consumed during pregnancy as they can cause serious vision problems. At birth, babies only see black, white, and shades of gray. Infants are unable to focus on objects for several months and can only see the outline of objects.

As infants grow, they can distinguish between high contrast colors. By six months your child can see color, has sharper vision, and has begun developing hand-eye coordination skills. Schedule your child’s first eye exam at six months to make sure their eyes are healthy and on the right developmental track. Detection of eye health issues and vision problems at this stage in development can help to ensure your child does not experience setbacks in learning and growth.

When your infant begins to crawl and potentially walk they are learning to coordinate their body movements and their vision. Over time, your child will become better at judging distances. However, this is also a time when your child may grow more injury prone because they are exploring their environment. Bumps, bruises, eye injuries, and other injuries can occur which is why it is so vital to ensure that your infant’s vision is on track to prevent these injuries as much as possible.

Early Childhood Vision Development

During these years your child will be growing, developing, and improving their visual skills. It is recommended to schedule your child eye exam at three years old. Even if you don’t think your child has vision problems, your child is growing and changing. A comprehensive eye exam before your child enters school provides enough time to catch and correct any vision problems.

They are discovering how to integrate their vision and body position to complete new tasks. They learn this through playing games, throwing a ball, and riding a bike. Children are also working on developing their fine motor skills. The primary way preschool age children are learning this is through writing their name and the alphabet.

Between the ages of 3 to 6 is when you, as a parent, may begin to notice signs of a vision problem. If your child complains about headaches or tired eyes, this could potentially be due to a vision problem. Signs of vision problems include squinting, tilting the head, frequently rubbing eyes, and closing one eye to see. Additionally, look for sitting too close to a tv, holding a book too close, or avoiding activities that require near or distance vision. Some of these activities include coloring, reading, playing ball, or tag if you notice these signs in your child schedule an eye exam as soon as possible. Correct their vision before any learning is delayed!

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.

 

Know the Facts About Cataracts

Did you know, cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the world? Cataracts affect nearly 20.5 million Americans age 40 and older.* If you are over the age of 50, you should have a yearly comprehensive eye exam to detect cataracts as they develop.

A cataract is the clouding of the lens in your eye. Many people describe the feeling as if you are looking through a foggy or frosted window.

What causes cataracts?

Clouding of the natural lens in your eye is caused by proteins clumping together within the lens. It is unknown why the eye changes as the body ages, but these changes may cause cataracts to grow larger over time, resulting in an increased difficulty to see clearly.

Some factors that have been linked to cataract development are diabetes, obesity, smoking, ultraviolet radiation, and family history.

Symptoms

Symptoms associated with cataracts can vary from person to person. However, there are a few key symptoms associated with most cases of cataract development. If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, schedule a visit with your eye doctor to discuss your risk or development of cataracts.

  • Slight blur in vision
  • Vision is cloudy
  • Sunlight or lamps feel too bright
  • Headlights have more glare and/or a halo around them
  • Colors no longer appear as bright as they once did

Types of cataracts

Subcapsular

Subcapsular cataracts typically occur in the back of the lens and are most common in individuals with diabetes or those taking a high dose of steroid medication.

Nuclear

Nuclear cataracts are associated with aging and occur in the central zone of the lens.

Cortical

Cortical cataracts occur in the lens cortex and are associated with streaks which interfere with light passage through the eye.

Congenital

Congenital cataracts are present at birth and may be due to genetics or intrauterine infection.

Are cataracts preventable?

No studies have shown a way to prevent cataracts, however, there are recommended practices to help maintain eye health and lower your risk of developing cataracts.

  • Yearly comprehensive eye exams help maintain eye health and detect the development of cataracts at an early stage.
  • Smoking has been linked to the development of cataracts. Quitting smoking provides a variety of health benefits lowering your risk for further cataract development.
  • Keeping up with treatment if you have diabetes or other medical conditions will help minimize your risk.
  • Maintaining a healthy diet, including fruits and vegetables, provides increased overall eye health.
  • Wearing sunglasses to prevent ultraviolet radiation will decrease your risk of UV damage which has been linked to the development of cataracts.

 

*National Eye Institute (https://nei.nih.gov)

Get the Facts About Lazy Eye

Lazy eye, or amblyopia, occurs when one eye fails to reach normal visual acuity, even with prescription lenses. In most cases, this begins in infancy and early childhood. If left untreated, lazy eye can result in blindness, loss of vision, or the abnormal development of a child’s eyes.

What causes lazy eye?

Lazy eye occurs when one eye experiences fewer visual signals from the brain in comparison to the other eye. In prolonged cases, the eyes may stop working together and eventually the brain may completely ignore the input coming from the “lazy” eye.

Strabismus

Strabismus, the most common cause of lazy eye, is when an individual has a crossed or turned eye. Due to poor alignment, the brain begins to ignore the input from the poorly aligned eye resulting in strabismic amblyopia.

Refractive

Refractive amblyopia is caused by unequal refractive errors in the eyes. For example, if one eye has an uncorrected nearsighted RX and the other does not, an individual will experience blurred vision in only one eye. In this example, the brain will eventually neglect the blurred vision and causes amblyopia from lack of use.

Deprivation

Deprivation amblyopia is caused by articles on the eye, such as a cataract, preventing light from entering the eye.

Signs and symptoms to look for:

Because lazy eye begins at such a young age, it is difficult to pinpoint exact symptoms. However, as a parent, there are signs you should look for to determine if your child may have a visual disability. These include:

  • Crossed eyes or misalignment
  • If a child cries or fusses when you cover one eye
  • Trouble reading
  • An eye which wanders inward or outward
  • Poor depth perception
  • Squinting or shutting an eye

Importance of early detection

Lazy eye will not subside on its own and can worsen over time. If left completely untreated, lazy eye could lead to permanent visual problems. It is important to have your child’s eyes examined at an early age to catch any signs of lazy eye and seek treatment if needed.

Children should have their first eye exam at 6 months old, another at 3 years old, and again before starting school. Regular comprehensive eye exams help ensure your child’s eyes are developing normally and allow for early detection and treatment of eye-related conditions.

Myth or Fact

Bangs cause lazy eye. MYTH. Lazy eye cannot be caused by bangs or other cosmetic modifications unless it causes the eye’s line of sight to be blocked all day and night.

Patching is a common way to treat lazy eye. FACT.

Older children and adults with lazy eye cannot receive treatment. MYTH. An individual can receive treatment for lazy eye at any time. The effectiveness of treatment depends on a variety of factors including development stage and early detection.

The eye becomes “lazy” because the brain has decided not to process visual information from the eye. FACT.

Treatment is most effective if lazy eye is detected before age 7. FACT.

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

FAQs: About My Symptoms

An overview and explanation of common eye symptoms.

Whether you or someone you know is suffering from a common eye-related condition, we know that you want the facts! Here are some of the most common questions and eye-related disorders we see in our office every day. If you are experiencing any of these eye symptoms or have questions about your eye health, give us a call to schedule your next appointment today.

Why are my eyes red?

Red or bloodshot eyes are a common problem caused by swollen or dilated blood vessels on the outer surface of the eye. Sometimes red eyes bother people because they are in pain, but that’s not always the case.

Potential causes of red eye include:

  • Allergies
  • Pink eye
  • Eye trauma

Why are my eyes itching?

Itchy eyes are one of the most common eye-related condition that patients experience. When an allergen (irritating substance) enters the eyes, your immune system responds with a natural defense mechanism by releasing a chemical causing the itching sensation.

Potential causes of itchy eyes include:

  • Allergies
  • Prolonged use of digital devices
  • Contact lens usage

How do I reduce my symptoms of itchy eyes?

To reduce your allergy symptoms try using eye drops to help lubricate your eyes. While rubbing can provide temporary relief it puts you at risk for damaging your cornea or adding even more allergens and bacteria into your eye.

Why are my eyes puffy?

Swelling around the eyes is due to excessive fluids in the skin tissue. As this fatty tissue gains fluid it begins to push forward and “bags” form under the eye.

Excessive fluid and puffy eyes can be caused by:

  • Allergies
  • Sinus problems
  • Dehydration
  • Overconsumption of salt
  • Fatigue or lack of sleep
  • Stress
  • Aging
  • Crying  

What is causing my burning, itchy eyes?

The sensation of burning eyes can be caused by a variety of everyday environments. For example, exposure to products such as makeup, facial cleansers, or shampoo may cause burning or itchy symptoms. Other factors like allergies, wind, and environmental irritants can also cause burning in your eyes. Keep track of what surroundings or products are causing these symptoms and try to reduce your exposure. If you live in a high wind or sandy environment, try wearing a pair of wraparound sunglasses to protect your eyes from the elements when outdoors.

I’m seeing spots and floaters, why?

Spots and floaters are a shadow in your vision caused by bits of protein and tissue in the gel-like matter in your eyes. It is normal to occasionally see spots or floaters in your vision and will become more common with age as the gel-like material in your eye begins to dissolve and liquefy.

I am experiencing eye pain, what should I do?

If you are experiencing prolonged eye pain or have a foreign object enter your eye, call our office immediately. It is important not to rub your eyes or try to remove the object yourself as this may irritate your eye further.

Describing Your Symptoms

Being able to describe the type of pain you are experiencing will help your eye doctor diagnose the problem. For example, pain behind the eye can be attributed to migraines or sinus infections.

Use descriptor from the list below to help describe the pain to your eye doctor.

  • sharp or dull
  • internal or external
  • constant or inconsistent
  • stabbing or throbbing

Eye Exams 101

Regular comprehensive eye exams are key to early detection of eye-related diseases to keep you seeing your best every day. Adults should have a comprehensive eye exam every 1-2 years. Children should have an eye exam as early as 6 months, before they start school, and then every 1-2 years. If you or your family need a comprehensive eye exam, contact our office to schedule an appointment.

We often get questions about what an eye exam is like, so we’ve created an overview of a typical eye exam in our office.

Eye Exam Basics

What does an eye exam test for? Eye exams test your visual acuity and the overall health of your eye.

Why is an eye exam important? Eye exams check for early signs of serious eye and health problems; some of which may not present with any symptoms.

Who gives an eye exam? Your eye exam is performed by a licensed eye doctor.

Terms to know:

  • Ophthalmologist: An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor (MD) who specializes in eye care. Ophthalmologists can prescribe eyeglasses and contacts but commonly specialize in treating medical conditions of the eye and performing eye surgery
  • Optometrist: Optometrists are eye doctors who prescribe glasses, contacts, vision therapy, and medication to treat eye diseases. Optometrists are not trained or licensed to perform eye related surgery.
  • Optician: An optician is not an eye doctor, but is an eye care professional who fits, adjusts, and repairs your eyeglasses. They can also help patients learn to apply, remove, and care for contact lenses.

What to prepare for your appointment?

Before your comprehensive eye exam, there are several materials you can prepare. First, create a list of all your prescription and non-prescription medications you take along with the dosage. This will help your eye doctor determine any vision risks you may have. Bring your most recent pair of eyeglasses or contact lenses, if you have them. Don’t forget to have a copy of your vision insurance card and other medical insurance cards with you. To learn more about the insurance providers our office accepts and other payment options, please call our office directly. Finally, bring a list of questions or concerns you may have about your eyesight to discuss with your eye doctor.

What to expect during your appointment?

Prepare for your eye exam to take an hour or more depending on the number of tests your eye doctor needs to evaluate your vision and eye health. A typical comprehensive exam is a series of visual tests to inform your eye doctor about your vision.

These tests help determine:

  • Sharpness of near and distance vision
  • Color blindness
  • Lazy eye
  • Ability to follow moving object and/or move between two separate fixed objects
  • Depth perception
  • Determine your eyeglass prescription
  • Structures of the eye
  • Glaucoma test
  • Eye drop test to look inside your eyes
  • Blind spots

What to do after the exam?

Following your exam, you will have the opportunity to explore the various frames and lenses found in our optical space. An optician will be available to assist you in selecting a pair of eyewear that best fits your lifestyle needs. If you choose to wear contact lenses, you will need to schedule a contact lens fitting appointment.

Once your new eyewear is ready to be picked-up, an optician will adjust your frame to fit you best and make it comfortable for everyday wear.

Finally, schedule your follow-up appointment for the next year. Regular comprehensive eye exams are essential in maintaining healthy vision. If you ever experience any sudden vision changes or eye injuries be sure to contact our office.

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.

What is a Black Eye?

A black eye forms when blood and fluids collect in the space around the eye causing swelling and discoloration. Typically, a black eye is considered a minor injury.

What causes black eyes?

A black eye is caused by bruising surrounding the eye, not inside the eye. This bruising is caused by broken blood vessels under the skin. A blow to the eye, nose, or head is the most common cause for a black eye, but surgical procedures near the eye or nose could also cause a black eye.

Symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Discoloration
  • Headaches
  • Temporary blurry vision

How do I prevent black eyes?

You cannot always foresee an eye injury, but one way to prevent black eyes is to wear protective eyewear. If the activities you participate in require or recommend eyewear, such as safety glasses, face shields, or goggles, abiding by these recommendations and wearing eye protection will significantly decrease the risk of a face or eye injury and can keep you in the field or in the game.

How do I get rid of a black eye?

Typically, most black eyes heal on their own within one to two weeks. While healing, the black eye will change color varying in shades of purple, blue, green, or yellow. There are, however, a few steps you can take to help the healing process and relieve pain.

  • Apply a cold compress. A cold washcloth, bag of peas, or chilled spoon can help to alleviate pain and bring down swelling within the first 24 hours.
  • Taking pain medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help to relieve pain.
  • Apply a warm compress. After applying cold packs for the first day or two, apply a warm compress to the eye to increase blood flow in the area.
  • Lightly massage the area surrounding the bruise a few days after injury.
  • Snack on pineapple. Pineapples have enzymes to help reduce inflammation.

If your black eye does not subside, vision changes, bleeding occurs within the eye, or you notice other signs of infection, schedule an appointment or give our office a call. This could be a more serious issue that should be examined by an eye doctor.

We are happy to be back seeing routine eye care! When you come in for your next appointment you will see we have made several changes to prevent the spread of COVID-19,  including the following: 

1)  The number of patients we see in a day will initially be reduced.  Both the number of available exam appointments and optical encounters will be kept to a minimum to allow for appropriate social distancing and limit the number of patients in our clinic at any given time.

2) When you arrive for your appointment, we kindly ask you please call our office (651-457-2020) to let us know you have arrived.  Our doors will remain locked for the time being. When we are ready for your appointment, we will meet you at the front door and screen for temperature.  If you have a mask of your own, please bring it along to your appointment.  Otherwise, we will provide a mask if you do not already have one. It will be required that you wear a mask for the entirety of your visit within the clinic. 

3) We will continue curbside dispenses glasses, contact lens and eye vitamins.  If you need to pick up any of these items, please call our front desk and a staff member will bring them directly to your car.

4) We require that patients arrive for their exams alone.  Patients can only be accompanied by one other person if they are either a) a minor or b) have mental/physical disabilities.  Again, any patient or caretaker entering the building must wear a mask.  Any accompanied person will be screened for temperature as well.

5) In addition, all of our staff and doctors will have their temperature checked prior to beginning their work day.  All staff will have proper PPE compliant with new regulations.  Although it may seem impersonal, we at Dakota Eye Care are working and will continue to work tirelessly to ensure the safety of both our staff and patients.  Our new policies in regards to social distancing, clinic hygiene, etc. will be posted for you to review.

We have spent the several weeks ensuring we're in compliance with every CDC hygiene guideline for safety of our doctors, staff and patients.  We are excited to get back to work, but in the safest environment possible.  If you have any questions on our new protocols, do not hesitate to ask.  We hope to see you soon and please stay safe!