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5 Vision-Saving Tips for National Save Your Vision Month

March is here. And you know what that means…

It’s National Save Your Vision Month!

In honor of this special month, which not only signals the start of spring but reminds us to protect our eyes, we’ve put together a list of 5 essential ways that you can ‘save your vision.’

It goes without saying that routine eye exams are a top priority when it comes to taking care of your eyes, so here are 5 additional things you can do to keep your eyes healthy and your vision clear.

1. Maintain a Healthy Diet

You’re likely aware that a balanced diet consists of all different types of nutritious foods that contain the vitamins and nutrients you need to keep your body healthy and strong.

But did you know that certain foods actually promote eye health and can lower your risk of eye disease?

Eating foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as vitamins A, B, C and E, can protect your eye health and help save your vision from sight-threatening eye diseases, like age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.

If you don’t think your daily meals offer enough of these essential vitamins and nutrients, ask your doctor whether you should add a daily supplement to your diet.

2. Limit Screen Time

The digital world has created a new venue for working, communicating, socializing and entertainment. But it’s also brought about a new eye condition called computer vision syndrome (CVS) — also called digital eye strain (DES) — that’s a growing concern among eye care professionals.

Not only can too much screen time affect productivity in work and school, but it can also result in dry, red, irritated eyes, blurry vision, headaches, neck, back and shoulder pain, and even have a negative effect on your mood and quality of sleep.

So this month, take it upon yourself to be more aware of how much time you spend in front of a digital screen, and try to set boundaries whenever possible for you and your children. You can also practice the 20-20-20 rule — every 20 minutes, look at something at least 20 feet away for a minimum of 20 seconds.

3. Use Protective Eyewear

Every day, thousands of people receive emergency care for an eye-related accident — many of them resulting in permanent damage and vision loss.

The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is by wearing protective eyewear for all activities that pose an eye health risk — from sports and water gun fights to lightsaber tournaments and science experiments. And, of course, this also implies any type of home-improvement project that involves small particles like grass, saw dust or metal flying into your eye.

Protective eyewear can truly save your vision.

4. Wear Sunglasses All Year Round

Sunglasses are more than just a fashion accessory to enhance your look. They shield your eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays, which can damage your vision and lead to serious eye diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration.

Now you have an even better excuse to go out and buy yourself the new pair of shades you’ve been dreaming about. Just make sure they offer 100% UV protection.

Wear your new sunglasses all year round, even on cloudy and snowy days, because the sun’s UV rays can penetrate the clouds and reflect off the snow-covered ground, doubling your exposure.

5. Quit Smoking

If you’ve been thinking about quitting, now’s the time! Smoking is not only dangerous for your overall health, it increases your risk for sight-threatening eye diseases like glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.

So, for the sake of your vision and overall health, take the first steps toward kicking your smoking habit.

In honor of National Save Your Vision Month, why not try some of these vision-saving habits that can help you keep your eyes and vision healthy for a lifetime. Your future self will thank you.

Interested in learning more about how you can protect your eyes and vision? Contact Rostraver Eye Care in Belle Vernon today to schedule an appointment. We’ll be happy to answer any of your questions and to offer you the best possible eye care.

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Q&A With Our Eye Doctor in Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania

 

Do children need to wear sunglasses?

Yes, sunglasses are essential for protecting your child’s eyes both now and in the future. A child’s eyes are still maturing and are therefore even more susceptible to UV damage than adults. Encourage your child to wear sunglasses whenever they play outside by setting a good example and making sure to wear sunglasses whenever you venture outdoors.

What are sports goggles?

Sports goggles are a type of protective eyewear worn by many athletes. These goggles contain impact resistant, durable polycarbonate lenses, offering the ultimate eye protection during sports activities. If you or your child play sports, sports goggles are an essential accessory to your athletic gear.

What is Excessive Screen Time Doing to Your Kid’s Vision?

Schools across the country are learning virtually, which means kids are spending long hours staring at a computer screen. This has prompted eye care professionals everywhere to question the impact of prolonged screen time on children’s eyes.

Long periods of screen time have been associated with lasting effects on kids’ vision and physical health. Since much of the time spent on digital devices is for learning purposes and therefore unavoidable, it’s vital to teach kids healthy habits to prevent future eye problems. Our eye doctor near you summarizes the concerns and provides advice for how parents can help mitigate the effects.

Common Symptoms Caused by Screens

  • Eye strain and fatigue
  • Red eyes
  • Eye rubbing
  • General vision discomfort
  • Headaches

All of the above symptoms can make it harder for kids to learn and focus on the school work they need to get done. However, as children spend more and more time on computers, they often get used to the uncomfortable symptoms and assume they’re normal, so they won’t even complain. That’s why it’s up to parents to spot the signs and consult an optometrist near you. Neglecting to consult with an eye care provider for assistance and relief from the symptoms, may cause your child’s learning to suffer.

Vision Can Change

Hours spent learning online can also change your child’s vision prescription enough that new eyeglasses or contact lenses are required. By not visiting an eye clinic near you for an eye exam to check vision, kids may also begin to dread and avoid learning, because it’s simply too hard to see it clearly and comfortably. If your child’s grades begin to slip, it’s recommended to book an eye exam with vision testing by a qualified eye doctor.

Tips to Help Prevent Vision Problems

It’s essential to be proactive with pediatric vision and not simply to wait until problems surface. By practicing preventive eye care, you can help promote success for children in school and in life. In particular, we recommend kids who learn and play on a computer or other digital device, take regular breaks to play outdoors. Also, book routine pediatric eye exams. Yearly checkups are recommended for school-aged children; for kids under age 5, visit an optometrist near you at one, three, and five years of age.

Many eye diseases can be quickly and easily diagnosed during a Comprehensive eye exam, Pediatric eye exam and Contact lens eye exam. If you were diagnosed with an eye disease, such as Cataracts, Astigmatism, Pink Eye or conjunctivitis Myopia or Nearsightedness , 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? Is LASIK eye and vision surgery an option for you ? Our Belle Vernon eye doctor is always ready to answer your questions about eye disease and Contact lenses.

Book an eye exam at Rostraver Eye Care eye clinic near you in Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania to learn more about your candidacy for contact lenses and which type is right for you. Call 724-930-8250

Rostraver Eye Care, your Belle Vernon eye doctor for eye exams and eye care

Alternatively, book an appointment online here CLICK FOR AN APPOINTMENT

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  • My child is struggling in school. Should I have his/her eyes examined?

    A comprehensive eye examination by an optometrist can often determine if there are visual issues interfering with a child’s ability to perform in school. Many visual symptoms, some obvious, others less so, can contribute to a child’s poor academic achievement. The most common symptoms to watch out for: Blur at distance or near Skipping or re-reading lines or words Reduced reading comprehension Difficulty shifting focus from near to far or far to near Difficulty copying from the smart board Double vision Closing or covering an eye when working at near Headaches; especially in the forehead, temple, or eyebrow regions Difficulty attending to near work or an avoidance of reading Poor spelling Misaligning numbers in math Unusual head or body posture when working at near Some of these issues can be alleviated with a good pair of eyeglasses while others may require vision therapy. Vision therapy, like occupational therapy or physical therapy, is a systematic program where the body, in this case, the visual system, can be retrained and strengthened to improve its ability to function.

  • My child says it gets blurry when looking from his paper to the board at school, and getting him to read is difficult. Is there anything I can do to help?

    Your child is not alone. While we have seen some children with focusing problems for many years, there is a huge increase in accommodative(focusing) problems with children today. Dr. Edward B. Savarno has helped many children make reading easier and more enjoyable. Words shouldn’t move in and out of focus or move around when you are reading. Either with spec lenses with extra power for reading or multifocal contacts, we can make reading more comfortable for many children. There is no reason to make school and reading more difficult by straining and having the eyes work harder to see.

  • My child passed the screening test at school, isn’t that enough?

    Distance and reading are two different things. Someone with perfect distance vision can still have focusing problems up close. Doctors need to check for both, many children have undiagnosed accommodative (focusing) problems because no one ever looked for it before. We always check the distance and near vision of all ages because it is so important. Other areas that need to be checked are eye muscle alignment, color vision, depth perception, and overall health of the eyes.

  • What can I do about Digital Eye Strain?

    We can help! We offer a number of different eyeglass lenses that can help people of all ages relieve Digital Eye Strain and ease fatigue after extended reading or computer use. There are also lens treatments such as anti-reflective and blue light blocking to protect our eyes and make our eyes more comfortable. We also prescribe many different types of contact lenses to make reading more enjoyable and make it easier to focus from distance to near.

What Is the Long-Term Impact of Virtual Learning on Children’s Eyes?

Kids, like adults, are spending more time online. At some point during the COVID-19 pandemic, many children attended school via Zoom and completed assignments online. The trend toward more screen time — whether playing games or being in touch with friends — is likely to continue even after everyone returns to the classroom.

We already know that prolonged screen time can cause digital eye strain as well as dry eye symptoms, among other problems in children and adults. There is some indication that extended exposure to blue light may impact the development of retinal cells. However, studies on actual subjects still need to be done to establish a clear connection.

Dry Eyes

Spending a long time in front of screens can impact how quickly our tears evaporate, because we blink around 66% less when using a computer compared to other daily activities. When tears evaporate too quickly and aren’t replenished with blinking our eyes start to feel dry and gritty. So remember to blink every few seconds to prevent your eyes from drying out!

Blue Light Exposure

Screens, such as those that appear on computers, phones and tablets emit blue light. Recent studies have shown that overexposure to blue light can damage the retinal cells at the back of your eyes. This may increase the risk of vision issues such as age-related macular degeneration which eventually leads to permanent loss of vision.

Excess blue light has also been shown to disrupt the circadian rhythms that regulate our sleep patterns, as it tricks your internal clock into thinking that it is the middle of the day. This may lead to difficulty in falling asleep, insomnia, and daytime fatigue.

Digital Eye Strain

Nearly 60% of people who routinely use computers or digital devices experience symptoms of digital eye strain — also called computer vision syndrome. Symptoms of eye strain include eye fatigue and discomfort, dry eye, headaches, blurred vision, neck and shoulder pain, eye twitching, and red eyes.

Taking frequent breaks from your screen can help reduce eye strain and neck, back and shoulder pain during your workday.

It is recommended to take at least one 10-minute break every hour. During these breaks, stand up, move about and stretch your arms, legs, back, neck and shoulders to relieve tension and muscle aches.

Also, look away from your computer at least every 20 minutes and gaze at a distant object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This relaxes the focusing lens inside the eye to prevent fatigue.

How to Make Virtual Learning Safer For Your Child

The following tips can lessen the impact of screens on your child’s eyes:

  • Reduce overall screen time
  • Encourage frequent breaks
  • Use accessories that filter blue light (for example, blue light glasses)
  • Schedule regular eye exams

Make Sure Your Child Gets Routine Eye Exams

Children need comprehensive eye exams to assess the health of their eyes, correct their vision and spot potential problems which can affect learning and behavior.

To schedule a pediatric eye exam near you, call our optometrist in Belle Vernon today!

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Q&A With Our Eye Doctor in Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania

What are blue light glasses?

Blue light glasses, also known as computer glasses, effectively block the transmission of blue light emitted from devices and computer screens. They often include a coating to reduce glare to further reduce eye strain. These glasses can be purchased with or without a prescription.

What’s the 20-20-20 rule?

If you find yourself gazing at screens all day, whether your computer, smartphone, iPad or television, you’re at risk of experiencing eye strain. So make sure you schedule frequent breaks from your screen and follow the 20-20-20 rule; every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. And while you’re at it, use this time to get up, walk around, and stretch.

Do You Get Blurred Vision After Eating?

Have you ever gotten up from the table after enjoying a meal and noticed that things appeared fuzzy or blurry? If so, you may have experienced a temporary spike in blood sugar that affected your eyes.

If your vision is often blurred after meals, you should schedule a visit to your optometrist and general practitioner to rule out diabetes and other conditions.

The Link Between Blood Sugar and Vision

Diabetes is characterized by excessively high blood sugar levels. In some people it causes food to be digested faster than usual, leading to rapid spikes in blood sugar. Elevated blood sugar can lead to fluid to build up in the eyes, resulting in blurry vision.

The eye’s natural crystalline lens and cornea are responsible for focusing light onto the retina for clear vision. The lens changes its shape to accommodate focusing on near or far objects. In some cases, when the eye swells due to excess fluid resulting from the high blood sugar, it temporarily doesn’t focus light with the same accuracy.

Foods that are high in sugar and other carbohydrates are most likely to cause blood sugar to spike. Some examples include:

  • White rice and pasta
  • Most breakfast cereals
  • Potatoes in all forms
  • Sugary sodas and beverages
  • Candies and baked goods
  • Fruit juice

Other Possible Causes of Temporary Blurred Vision

Temporary eyesight changes don’t always mean diabetes. Intermittent blurred vision can be caused by other problems or conditions, including:

Many of these conditions will also present with symptoms other than blurred vision, so be sure to be open with your optometrist if you experience any unusual visual symptoms.

If you notice blurred vision only following a high-carb meal, it may be worth tracking your meals and symptoms to try and find a pattern. This information will be valuable for your optometrist and other health care professionals.

How We Can Help

At Rostraver Eye Care, we offer a wide range of eye care services, such as eye exams and eye disease management, including diabetic eye disease. If you’re concerned about temporary blurred vision after eating or any other visual symptoms, contact us to schedule your comprehensive eye exam.

If signs of diabetes are discovered during your visit, don’t worry. We’ll explain the next steps to take, to ensure the best possible outcome. Our goal is to provide top-notch eye care delivered with a smile for all of our patients.

To schedule your eye examnear you, call Rostraver Eye Care in Belle Vernon today!

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Q&A With Our Optometrist in Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania

How often do I need an eye exam?

The American Optometric Association recommends that adults have their eyes checked by an optometrist every 1-2 years. For high risk patients, patients who wear glasses or contact lenses, or those over the age of 65, annual eye exams are recommended. Certain conditions like diabetes may make it necessary to visit your optometrist more often.

Does being diabetic make a person more likely to experience vision loss?

Diabetes can negatively impact your eyes in more ways than one, but preventing vision loss and blindness is becoming easier with new technology and treatments. Having undiagnosed diabetic retinopathy puts a person at a much greater risk of going blind. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with diabetes, be sure to schedule regular diabetic eye exams including retinal scans, to significantly reduce the chances of experiencing permanent vision loss.

What You Should Know About Night Blindness

If you don’t see well while driving at night, there’s a chance you have night blindness. Night blindness, or nyctalopia, is the inability to see well at night or in dim lighting. It’s not considered an eye disease, but rather a symptom of an underlying problem.

Our eye doctor can help diagnose, manage and treat your night blindness so that you can enjoy being out at night again.

Here are 4 things you should know about night blindness:

Causes of Night Blindness

The inability to see well at night can be the result of a condition such as:

Vitamin A Deficiency — Vitamin A helps keep your cornea, the layer at the front of your eye, clear; it’s also an important component of rhodopsin, a protein that enables you to see in low light conditions. Although uncommon in North America, deficiency of this vitamin can induce night blindness.

CataractsA buildup of protein clouds the eye’s lens, leading to impaired vision, especially at night and in poor lighting conditions.

Diabetic RetinopathyDamage to the eyes’ blood vessels and nerves can result in vision loss, including difficulty seeing at night.

GlaucomaThis group of eye diseases is associated with pressure build-up in the eye that damages the optic nerve. Both glaucoma and the medications used to treat it can cause night blindness.

MyopiaAlso called nearsightedness, myopia makes distant objects appear blurry, and patients with it describe a starburst effect around lights at night.

KeratoconusAn irregularly shaped cornea causes blurred vision and may involve sensitivity to light and glare which tend to be worse at night.

Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP)A progressive genetic eye disease which can be associated with other diseases, RP leads to night blindness and peripheral vision loss.

Usher SyndromeThis genetic condition causes both hearing loss and vision loss, including night blindness and RP, mentioned above.

Symptoms of Nyctalopia

Since night blindness is a symptom of some serious vision problems, it’s important to get your eyes checked regularly to ensure that everything is in good working order. Contact your eye doctor as soon as possible if you notice that you don’t see as well in dim light as you used to, such as when driving at night or when adjusting from being outdoors in the sunshine to being indoors.

Symptoms of Night Blindness Include:

  • Reduced contrast sensitivity
  • Difficulty seeing people outdoors at night
  • Difficulty seeing in places with dim lighting, like a movie theater
  • Trouble adapting to the dark while driving
  • Excessive squinting at night
  • Trouble adjusting from bright areas to darker ones

Treatments for Night Blindness

Your eye doctor will want to diagnose the cause of your night blindness in order to treat it. For example, in the rare case of vitamin A deficiency, it can be treated with vitamin supplements and vitamin-A rich foods; myopia can be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses. Other conditions may require medications or surgery.

If night blindness is caused by a birth defect, Usher syndrome, or retinitis pigmentosa, low vision aids and devices can help you make the most of your remaining vision.

Prevention

While there is no proven way to prevent night blindness resulting from genetic conditions or birth defects, consuming healthy, nourishing foods and taking certain vitamin supplements may prevent or slow the onset of some eye conditions that cause night blindness.

If you experience poor vision at night or in dim lighting, we can help. Contact Rostraver Eye Care in Belle Vernon to schedule your appointment today.

How Can My Child’s Myopia Be Corrected?

Myopia, or nearsightedness, is one of the most common eye conditions affecting millions of people around the world.

Myopia is a refractive error in which the eyes are unable to focus clearly on images or objects. This results in blurry vision when looking at something at a distance, such as people walking down a street, a school board, or even the TV. However, images that are closer can be seen more clearly. Children with uncorrected myopia tend to experience eye strain, eye fatigue, or headaches in an effort to see images in the distance clearly.

Fortunately, eyeglasses or contact lenses work wonders to correct vision. In this text, we’ll discuss both glasses and contacts as options for myopia correction.

 

Methods of Myopia Correction

Contact Lenses

Contacts can be a great choice, especially for physically active children or teens who don’t want to worry about breaking or misplacing their eyeglasses.

Corrective contact lenses are usually placed in the eyes upon waking and removed at night before bedtime. We offer a range of brands of soft contact lenses, such as daily disposables and extended-wear disposables. Speak with Dr. Edward B. Savarno to determine whether your child is ready for contact lenses.

Prescription Glasses

Glasses are a popular choice among our younger patients. Choosing from an array of styles makes the process not just fun and exciting, but allows the child to be an active participant in selecting eyewear, which, in turn, increases the likelihood that they’ll actually wear them. We offer strong, flexible and resilient frames which both look great and are feel comfortable.

The optician can customize the lenses with additions, like impact-resistant or shatter-proof materials, scratch-resistant and anti-reflective coatings, UV filters, and transition lenses that darken in the sun.

We Can Help Correct Your Child’s Myopia

If you’re located near Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania, visit us for an eye exam to determine your child’s exact prescription and ask us any questions you may have about your child’s eye health and vision.

At Rostraver Eye Care, our friendly and knowledgeable staff will be happy to recommend the most suitable method of correcting your child’s myopia to meet his or her individual needs. Thanks to the wide range options available, your child will walk away with eyewear that will both look and feel great.

Let us help your child see the world in a whole new light. To schedule your child’s annual eye exam or to learn more, contact Rostraver Eye Care at 724-930-8250 today.

8 Tips to Relieve Winter Dry Eyes

Whether you live in a climate with cold winter weather or you are planning a ski trip up north, winter can be a challenge if you suffer from dry eyes. Dry, cool air, cold winds and even drier indoor heating can cause eye irritation, burning, itchiness and redness, and sometimes even excessively watery eyes as more tears are produced to compensate for the dryness. Many people have a chronic feeling that they have something in their eye and some even experience blurred vision. These symptoms can be debilitating!

Dry eyes is one of the most common complaints eye doctors get from patients during the winter season, especially in the cooler climates. That’s why we’d like to share some tips on how to relieve dry eye discomfort, and how to know when your condition is serious enough to come in for an evaluation.

Tips to Relieve Winter Dry Eyes:

  1. Keep eyes moist using artificial tears or eye drops. You can apply these a few times each day when the eyes are feeling dry or irritated. If over-the-counter drops don’t help or if you have chronic dry eyes, speak to your eye doctor about finding the best drops for you. Since not all artificial tears are the same, knowing the cause of your dry eye will help your eye doctor determine which brand is best suited for your eyes.
  2. Use a humidifier to counteract the drying effects of indoor heaters or generally dry air.
  3. Point car vents or indoor heaters away from your face when the heat is on. Try to keep your distance from direct sources of heating, especially if they blow out the heat.
  4. Drink a lot! Hydrating your body will also hydrate your eyes.
  5. Protect your eyes outdoors with sunglasses or goggles – the bigger the better! Larger, even wrap-around glasses as well as a hat with a wide brim will keep the wind and other elements out of your eyes. If you wear goggles for winter sports, make sure they fit well and cover a large surface area.
  6. Soothe dry eyes using a warm compress and never rub them! Rubbing your eyes will increase irritation and may lead to infection if the hands are not clean.
  7. Give your eyes a digital break. People blink less during screen time which is why extensive computer use can lead to dry eyes. Follow the 20/20/20 rule by taking a break every 20 minutes to look 20 feet away for 20 seconds and make sure you blink!
  8. For contact lens wearers: If you wear contact lenses, dry eyes can be particularly debilitating as the contact lenses can cause even further dryness and irritation. Contact lens rewetting drops can help your eyes feel better and may also allow you to see more clearly. Not all eyedrops are appropriate for use with contact lenses, so ask your optometrist which eyedrop is compatible with your contacts and cleaning solution. If rewetting drops don’t help, consider opting for glasses when your dry eyes are bad, and speak to your optometrist about which brands of contact lenses are better for dry eyes. Many people find dry eye improvement when they switch to daily single use contact lenses.

Chronic Dry Eyes or Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome is a chronic condition in which the eyes do not produce enough tear film, or do not produce the quality of tear film needed to properly keep the eyes moist. While winter weather can make this condition worse, it is often present all year round. If you find that the tips above do not alleviate your discomfort or symptoms, it may be time to see a optometrist to see if your condition requires more effective medical treatment.

Diabetes and Your Eyes

Diabetes is becoming much more prevalent around the globe. According to the International Diabetes Federation, approximately 425 million adults were living with diabetes in the year 2017 and 352 million more people were at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. By 2045 the number of people diagnosed is expected to rise to 629 million.

Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness as well as heart attacks, stroke, kidney failure, neuropathy (nerve damage) and lower limb amputation. In fact, in 2017, diabetes was implicated in 4 million deaths worldwide. Nevertheless preventing these complications from diabetes is possible with proper treatment, medication and regular medical screenings as well as improving your diet, physical activity and adopting a healthy lifestyle.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the hormone insulin is either underproduced or ineffective in its ability to regulate blood sugar. Uncontrolled diabetes leads to hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, which damages many systems in the body such as the blood vessels and the nervous system.

How Does Diabetes Affect The Eyes?

Diabetic eye disease is a group of conditions which are caused, or worsened, by diabetes; including: diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, glaucoma and cataracts. Diabetes increases the risk of cataracts by four times, and can increase dryness and reduce cornea sensation.

In diabetic retinopathy, over time, the tiny blood vessels within the eyes become damaged, causing leakage, poor oxygen circulation, then scarring of the sensitive tissue within the retina, which can result in further cell damage and scarring.

The longer you have diabetes, and the longer your blood sugar levels remain uncontrolled, the higher the chances of developing diabetic eye disease. Unlike many other vision-threatening conditions which are more prevalent in older individuals, diabetic eye disease is one of the main causes of vision loss in the younger, working-age population. Unfortunately, these eye conditions can lead to blindness if not caught early and treated. In fact, 2.6% of blindness worldwide is due to diabetes.

Diabetic Retinopathy

As mentioned above, diabetes can result in cumulative damage to the blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue located at the back of the eye. This is called diabetic retinopathy.

The retina is responsible for converting the light it receives into visual signals to the optic nerve in the brain. High blood sugar levels can cause the blood vessels in the retina to leak or hemorrhage, causing bleeding and distorting vision. In advanced stages, new blood vessels may begin to grow on the retinal surface causing scarring and further damaging cells in the retina. Diabetic retinopathy can eventually lead to blindness.

Signs and Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

The early stages of diabetic retinopathy often have no symptoms, which is why it’s vitally important to have frequent diabetic eye exams. As it progresses you may start to notice the following symptoms:

  • Blurred or fluctuating vision or vision loss
  • Floaters (dark spots or strings that appear to float in your visual field)
  • Blind spots
  • Color vision loss

There is no pain associated with diabetic retinopathy to signal any issues. If not controlled, as retinopathy continues it can cause retinal detachment and macular edema, two other serious conditions that threaten vision. Again, there are often NO signs or symptoms until more advanced stages.

A person with diabetes can do their part to control their blood sugar level. Following the physician’s medication plan, as well as diet and exercise recommendations can help slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy.

Retinal Detachment

Scar tissues caused by the breaking and forming of blood vessels in advanced retinopathy can lead to a retinal detachment in which the retina pulls away from the underlying tissue. This condition is a medical emergency and must be treated immediately as it can lead to permanent vision loss. Signs of a retinal detachment include a sudden onset of floaters or flashes in the vision.

Diabetic Macular Edema (DME)

Diabetic macular edema occurs when the macula, a part of the retina responsible for clear central vision, becomes full of fluid (edema). It is a complication of diabetic retinopathy that occurs in about half of patients, and causes vision loss.

Treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy and Diabetic Macular Edema

While vision loss from diabetic retinopathy and DME often can’t be restored, with early detection there are some preventative treatments available. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (when the blood vessels begin to grow abnormally) can be treated by laser surgery, injections or a procedure called vitrectomy in which the vitreous gel in the center of the eye is removed and replaced. This will treat bleeding caused by ruptured blood vessels. DME can be treated with injection therapy, laser surgery or corticosteroids.

Prevent Vision Loss from Diabetes

The best way to prevent vision loss from diabetic eye disease is early detection and treatment. Since there may be no symptoms in the early stages, regular diabetic eye exams are critical for early diagnosis. In fact diabetics are now sometimes monitored by their health insurance to see if they are getting regular eye exams and premium rates can be affected by how regularly the patients get their eyes checked. Keeping diabetes under control through exercise, diet, medication and regular screenings will help to reduce the chances of vision loss and blindness from diabetes.

April is Women's Eye Health and Safety Month

Hey women! Did you know that women are more likely to suffer from vision problems and are at higher risk of permanent vision loss than men? Well 91% of the women surveyed recently didn’t know that, which means that many of them aren’t taking the necessary precautions to prevent eye damage and vision loss.  

According to a recent study, the statistics for many of the major vision problems show that women have a higher percentage of incidence than men. These include:

  • Age-related Macular Degeneration 65%
  • Cataracts 61%
  • Glaucoma 61%
  • Refractive Error 56%
  • Vision Impairment 63%

Women are also more susceptible to develop chronic dry eye, partially because it is often associated with other health issues that are more common in women such as ocular rosacea which is three times more prevalent in women.  Hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause can also contribute to dry eye.  

It’s important for women to know the risks for eye-related diseases and vision impairment and the steps they can take to prevent eventual vision loss.  Here are some ways that you can help to protect your eyes and save your eyesight:

  • Find out about family history of eye diseases and conditions.
  • Protect your eyes from the sun by wearing 100% UV blocking sunglasses when outdoors.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Consume a healthy diet with proper nutrition and special eye health supplements as prescribed by an eye doctor.
  • Adhere to contact lens hygiene and safety.  
  • Adhere to cosmetic hygiene and safety precautions. 
  • Protect your eyes against extended exposure to blue light from computers, smartphones and LED lamps. 
  • If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant and have diabetes, see an eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam. In women who have diabetes, diabetic retinopathy can accelerate quickly during pregnancy and can present a risk for the baby as well. 

Mothers are often charged with caring for the eye health of the entire family, but too often their own eye health needs fall to the wayside. It is critical that mothers take care of their eyes and overall health so that they can be in the best condition to care for their families. 

Speak to your eye care professional about your personal eye health and vision risks and the precautions and measures you should take to protect your eyes.  Encourage the other women in your life to do so as well.  Once vision is lost, it often can’t be regained and there are many steps you can take to prevent it with proper knowledge and awareness.  

The most important way to prevent vision loss is to ensure you schedule regular eye exams. Don’t wait for symptoms to appear as many eye issues are painless and symptomless, and sometimes by the time you notice symptoms, vision loss is untreatable. 

Understanding Eye Color

eyes green close up woman

Eye color is a hereditary trait that depends on the genes of both parents, as well as a little bit of mystery. The color of the eye is based on the pigments in the iris, which is a colored ring of muscle located at the center of the eye (around the pupil) that helps to control the amount of light that comes into your eye. Eye color falls on a spectrum of color that can range from dark brown, to gray, to green, to blue, with a whole lot of variation in between. 

Genetics

The genetics of eye color are anything but straightforward. In fact children are often born with a different eye color than either of their parents. For some time the belief was that two blue-eyed parents could not have a brown-eyed child, however, while it’s not common, this combination can and does occur. Genetic research in regards to eye color is an ongoing pursuit and while they have identified certain genes that play a role, researchers still do not know exactly how many genes are involved and to what extent each gene affects the final eye color.

The Iris

Looking at it simply, the color of the eye is based on the amount of the pigment melanin located in the iris. Large amounts of melanin result in brown eyes, while blue eyes result from smaller amounts of the pigment. This is why babies that are born with blue eyes (who often have smaller amounts of melanin until they are about a year old) often experience a darkening of their eye color as they grow and develop more melanin in the iris. In adults across the globe, the most common eye color worldwide is brown, while lighter colors such as blue, green and hazel are found predominantly in the Caucasian population. 

Abnormal Eye Color

Sometimes the color of a person’s eyes are not normal. Here are some interesting causes of this phenomenon.

Heterochromia, for example, is a condition in which the two eyes are different colors, or part of one eye is a different color. This can be caused by genetic inconsistencies, issues that occur during the development of the eye, or acquired later in life due to an injury or disease. 

Ocular albinism is a condition in which the eye is a very light color due to low levels of pigmentation in the iris, which is the result of a genetic mutation. It is usually accompanied by serious vision problems. Oculocutaneous albinism is a similar mutation in the body’s ability to produce and store melanin that affects skin and hair color in addition to the eyes.

Eye color can also be affected by certain medications. For example, a certain glaucoma eye drop is known to darken light irises to brown, as well as lengthen and darken eyelashes.

Eye Color – It’s More Than Meets the Eye

It is known that light eyes are more sensitive to light, which is why it might be hard for someone with blue or green eyes to go out into the sun without sunglasses. Light eyes have also shown to be a risk factor for certain conditions including age-related macular degeneration (AMD).  

Color Contact Lenses

While we can’t pick our eye color, we can always play around with different looks using colored contact lenses. Just be sure that you get a proper prescription for any contact lenses, including cosmetic colored lenses, from an eye doctor! Wearing contact lenses that were obtained without a prescription could be dangerous to your eyes and your vision.