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All About Vision

Presbyopia

As we reach middle age, particularly after age 40, it is common to start to experience difficulty with reading and performing other tasks that require near vision. This is because with age, the lens of our eye becomes increasingly inflexible, making it harder to focus on close objects. This condition is called presbyopia and eventually it happens to everyone who reaches old age to some extent.

To avoid eyestrain, people with untreated presbyopia tend to hold books, magazines, newspapers, and menus at arm’s length in order to focus properly. Trying to performing tasks at close range can sometimes cause headaches, eye strain or fatigue in individuals who have developed this condition.

Causes of Presbyopia

During our youth, the lens of our eye and the muscles that control it are flexible and soft, allowing us to focus on close objects and shift focus from close to distant objects without difficulty. As the eye ages however, both the lens and the muscle fibers begin to harden, making near vision a greater challenge.

Presbyopia is a natural result of the aging process and not much can be done to prevent it. Its onset has nothing to do with whether you already have another vision impairment such as nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism. Everyone will notice some degree of loss of near vision focusing power as they age, although for some it will be more significant than others.

Symptoms and Signs of Presbyopia

Presbyopia is characterized by:

  • Difficulty focusing on small print
  • Blurred near vision
  • Experiencing eyestrain, fatigue or headaches when doing close work or reading
  • Needing to hold reading material or small objects at a distance to focus properly
  • Requiring brighter lighting when focusing on near objects

Presbyopia can be diagnosed in a comprehensive eye exam.

Treatment for Presbyopia

There are a number of options available for treating presbyopia including corrective eyewear, contact lenses or surgery.

Eyeglasses

Reading glasses or “readers” are basically magnifying glasses that are worn when reading or doing close work that allow you focus on close objects.

Eyeglasses with bifocal or multifocal lenses such as progressive addition lenses or PALs are a common solution for those with presbyopia that also have refractive error (nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism). Bifocals have lenses with two lens prescriptions; one area (usually the upper portion) for distance vision and the second area for near vision. Progressive addition lenses or PALs similarly provide lens power for both near and distance vision but rather than being divided into two hemispheres, they are made with a gradual transition of lens powers for viewing at different distances. Many individuals prefer PALs because unlike bifocals, they do not have a visible division line on the lens.

Bifocal and Multifocal Contact Lenses

For individuals that prefer contact lenses to glasses, bifocal and multifocal lenses are also available in contact lenses in both soft and Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP) varieties.

Multifocal contact lenses give you added freedom over glasses and they allow you to be able to view any direction – up, down and to the sides – with similar vision. People wearing progressive lenses in glasses on the other hand have to look over their glasses if they want to view upwards or into the distance.

Another option for those that prefer contact lenses is monovision. Monovision splits your distance and near vision between your eyes, using your dominant eye for distance vision and your non-dominant eye for near vision. Typically you will use single vision lenses in each eye however sometimes the dominant eye will use a single vision lens while a multifocal lens will be used in the other eye for intermediate and near vision. This is called modified monovision. Your eye doctor will perform a test to determine which type of lens is best suited for each eye and optimal vision.

Surgery

There are surgical procedures also available for treatment of presbyopia including monovision LASIK eye surgery, conductive keratoplasty (CK), corneal inlays or onlays or a refractive lens exchange (RLE) which replaces the hardened lens in the eye with an intraocular lens (IOL) similar to cataract surgery.

Since it affects so much of the older population, much research and development is going into creating more and better options for presbyopes. Speak to your eye doctor about the options that will work best for you.

Preparing for an Eye Exam

For both adults and children, an eye exam is a critical part in maintaining your overall health and well-being, and therefore, regular eye exams should be incorporated into your health routine. Comprehensive eye exams assess your vision and the health of your eye, looking for early signs of disease that may not have obvious symptoms. You should not wait until you experience a vision problem or symptoms of an eye condition to schedule a routine exam.

Depending on your age, family history, general health and eye health, it is recommended to have an eye exam every one to two years. Of course if you experience any serious symptoms that affect your eyes or your vision, you should contact your eye doctor immediately.

The Difference Between an Optometrist (OD) and an Ophthalmologist (MD or DO)

Confusion about the difference between optometrists and ophthalmologists is common, and many people are not aware of how the two eye care professionals differ.

Optometrists

Optometrists or Doctors of Optometry attend optometry school which is usually at least four years of graduate level training. They are able to perform eye exams, provide prescriptions for eyeglasses and contact lenses, and diagnose and treat eye diseases as as glaucoma, dry eyes, or eye infections that may require medication or drops. They can consult with and co-manage patients in pre- or post-op surgical care, however they do not perform surgery.

Ophthalmologists

Ophthalmologists are medical doctors that attend medical school and later specialize in ophthalmology. They are able to do all of the services mentioned above but also perform eye surgeries such as cataract surgery, refractive surgery such as LASIK and deal with more urgent eye conditions such as retinal detachment.

Infant and Child Eye Exams

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA) children should have their eyes examined by an eye doctor at 6 months, 3 years, at the start of school and then at least every 2 years following. If there are any signs that there may be a vision problem or if the child has certain risk factors (such as developmental delays, premature birth, crossed eyes, family history or previous injuries) more frequent exams are recommended. A child that wears eyeglasses or contact lenses should have his or her eyes examined yearly.

Adult Eye Exams

Healthy adults under 40 with good vision and who do not wear eyeglasses or contact lenses are recommended to have an eye exam at least every two years. Those that do use vision correction or have a health issue such as diabetes, high blood pressure or another health condition that can have an impact on your eye health should schedule a yearly exam, unless the eye doctor recommends more frequent visits.

Once you reach 40, you become susceptible to a number of age-related eye conditions such as presbyopia, cataracts or macular degeneration, therefore annual or bi-annual exams are strongly recommended.

As you continue to age, particularly after age 55, the risks of eye disease increase, and early detection can be critical to preventing significant vision loss or blindness. Scheduling a yearly eye exam can make all the difference in maintaining your independence and quality of life.

How to Prepare for Your Exam

Prior to your exam you should decide whether you will be seeking special services such as a contact lens exam or LASIK consultation. These services may cost extra. Check with the doctor’s office or your insurance provider to see if they cover any of the exam expenses.

You need to know if you have medical insurance, vision plan coverage or both. Medical insurance usually does not cover “wellness/refractive” exams for glasses or contact lenses. Vision plans will cover exams for glasses or contacts, but usually cannot be used for red eyes, floaters, or other medical eye health problems. Please bring your insurance cards with you.

In addition to bringing your current pair of glasses or contacts if applicable, it is important to be aware of your personal and family history and to have a list of medications or supplements you are currently taking. Your pupils will probably be dilated as apart of your exam, so plan accordingly.

Contacts & Glasses that Enhance Performance

Every sports activity requires a different skill set for success, yet all sports share a critical need for good vision. Geraint Griffiths, a British optometrist, devised a study to determine the effects of visual acuity on sports performance. This study distributed special vision-blurring goggles to Wimbledon tennis players and UK national clay pigeon shooters. Their performance was studied while the goggles were worn. Even though the goggles only blurred their vision a bit, the marksmen and tennis players showed a 25% decrease in accomplishment. This study demonstrated clearly that vision and sports achievement are inextricably linked.

Visual clarity isn’t the only benefit provided by sports eyewear. There are a number of additional eyewear features that boost athletic performance and enhance eye safety.

Protect Your Eyes from Impact-Related Injuries

As reported by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, over 42,000 sports-related eye injuries occur in the United States each year. Approximately 43% of those injuries happen to children under the age of 15. The majority of these injuries can be prevented with protective eyewear, such as safety goggles with polycarbonate lenses.

Regular eyeglasses are designed for daily wear, and they aren’t resilient enough to handle the rough and tumble wear needed for sports. They also provide inadequate protection for your eyes. Contact lenses offer zero protection from sports-related eye injuries. In contrast, sports eyewear is constructed to be highly impact-resistant, thereby granting superior protection for your eyes and removing anxiety about potential eye injuries. Able to withstand the hit of a ball traveling at up to 90 miles per hour, polycarbonate lenses are about 10 times more impact-resistant than regular lenses.

Safety eyeglasses are advised for every activity that has the potential for injuries to the eye. Be aware that the following land sports run a higher risk to eyes: softball, baseball, hockey, football, basketball, handball, squash, racquetball, tennis, volleyball, soccer and lacrosse. In water, all swimming and pool sports require specialized eye gear. Paintball players should also make safety eyewear an essential part of their game.

A Barrier against UV Rays

Harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation can be just as damaging to your eyes as other injuries. A number of eye diseases, such as ocular tumors, macular degeneration, and cataracts, have been associated with exposure to UV rays. Photokeratitis, which refers to sunburn on your eye, is another hazard. This painful condition can cause long-term corneal damage.

Dangerous UV rays are more potent at higher altitudes and also bounce off snow or outdoor water, which increases exposure. It is imperative for skiers and anyone who enjoys outdoor water sports to wear sports sunglasses or tinted goggles that block 100% of the sun’s UV rays.

Some types of contact lenses provide UV protection, yet they only cover the central part of your eye. For this reason, sunglasses that block UV rays should still be worn, preferably in a wraparound style that also covers the delicate tissues surrounding your eyes. Hats with a wide brim will upgrade your protection by further reducing facial exposure to UV rays.

Enhance Your Game with Colored Lenses

Special tinted eyewear may add a winning edge to your game. Depending upon the lighting conditions, it’s not always simple to “keep your eye on the ball”. Hunters favor shooting glasses with amber tinted lenses, which highlight the contrast of birds flying against an overcast, dim sky. Golfers tend to gain the largest benefit from green tinted lenses.

A wide range of specialized tints for specific indoor and outdoor sports are available. These lenses can improve visibility and contrast in a diversity of environments. Ask your eye doctor or optician for more information about which lenses can help raise your scores.

Don’t Let Light Get in the Way

Reflective surfaces, such as a flat body of water, a sandy beach or even light-colored pavement, can disturb your vision with glare. Polarized sunglasses are one effective way to resolve this problem.

Another glare reducer is to add and anti-glare (AG) component to your lenses. At night, sports eyewear with anti-glare will diminish lens reflections when playing under bright lights or spotlights. It’s a good idea to apply anti-glare to the back surface of sport sunglasses in order to decrease the glare that bounces into your eyesight when sunlight hits the back of your lenses.

You can control the light that enters your eye by wearing photochromic lenses. These clear lenses transition automatically into dark lenses upon exposure to UV rays. They also offer 100% UV protection, and return quickly to their former clear state when you go indoors.

Contacts Provide Comfortable and Convenient Vision

Many advantages come along with wearing contact lenses for sports, even if you normally wear eyeglasses on a daily basis:

  • Unobstructed peripheral vision
  • Natural-appearing vision, with no changes in image sizes
  • No fogging lenses
  • Non-slip when perspiring

The best contact lens choice for sports is soft one-day disposables. There’s no need to clean them and you can toss them in the garbage at the end of the day. The flexible, oxygen-permeable material of one-day soft lenses also requires very little adaptation. They can be inserted easily and worn comfortably for a full day of physical activity.

Although contact lenses offer high convenience and comfort, there are still a number of disadvantages with wearing contacts for sports. No protection against eye injury is provided and they don’t offer sufficient UV protection. For ultimate performance and safety, you need to wear quality protective eyewear or sunglasses over your lenses.

Corneal Transplant

A cornea transplant, also known as keratoplasty or a corneal graft, replaces damaged tissue on the clear front surface of the eye.

When disease or injury damages the cornea, eyesight is affected. Light that enters the eye becomes scattered, resulting in blurred or distorted vision. When the cornea is extremely scarred or damaged, a corneal transplant is needed to restore functional vision.

Keratoplasty is performed routinely and is regarded as the most successful of all tissue transplants. According to the National Keratoconus Foundation, over 40,000 cornea transplants are done annually in the United States.

In recent years, an innovative type of corneal transplant has gained popularity. Known as Descemet’s Stripping Endothelial Keratoplasty (DSEK), this new procedure removes a smaller and thinner portion of the cornea. In 2009, DSEK was declared by the American Academy of Ophthalmology as superior to the conventional surgery because it may provide better vision outcomes and more eye stability. It is also associated with less risk factors. However, when the majority of the cornea is damaged, a more comprehensive removal may still be necessary to facilitate a successful transplant.

Criteria for a Corneal Transplant

A multitude of reasons indicate candidacy for a corneal transplant. Possible reasons include:

  • Eye diseases, such as keratoconus
  • Complications from laser surgery, such as LASIK
  • Extreme inflammation on the cornea
  • Scarring as a result of infections, such as eye herpes or fungal keratitis
  • Thinning of the cornea and an irregular shaped cornea
  • Hereditary factors
  • Corneal failure due to previous surgical procedures
  • Chemical burns or injuries that damaged to the cornea

Cornea Transplant Procedure

Once a patient has been recommended and approved for a corneal transplant to restore vision, the patient’s name is added to a list at an eye bank. The United States has a very advanced eye bank system, and the general wait time for a donor eye is one to two weeks. The tissue of donor corneas is checked for clarity and screened meticulously for disease before it is released for transplant.

The actual surgery is generally performed as an outpatient procedure that does not require hospitalization. General or local anesthesia may be used, depending upon the patient’s preference, age and health condition. Local anesthesia is injected into the skin surrounding the eye, which relaxes the muscles that control movement and blinking. Eye drops numb the eye itself.

Once the anesthesia has taken effect, the surgeon inspects and measures the damaged corneal area in order to decide upon the size of the transplantation. Eyelids are held open during this time. The surgeon then removes a round, button-shaped piece of the corneal tissue and replaces it with a nearly identical sized button of donor tissue. The new, healthy tissue is sutured into place. The entire procedure takes approximately one to two hours.

Following the surgery, a plastic shield must be worn over the eye in order to protect it against any inadvertent bumps or rubbing.

Rejection of the Corneal Graft

Although the vast majority of cornea transplants are successful, sometimes the new tissue is rejected. Warning signs of rejection include:

  • Extreme sensitivity to light
  • Redness
  • Pain
  • Decreased vision

These symptoms may be experienced as soon as one month after the surgery, or as delayed as five years later. Medications can be prescribed to reverse the rejection process. If the corneal graft fails completely, the transplant can be repeated and the outcome is generally positive. Yet the total rejection rates do increase with the total number of corneal transplants.

Recovery and Healing

It can take up to a year or longer to heal completely from a corneal transplant. At the beginning, vision is blurry and the transplant site is often swollen and thicker than the rest of the cornea. As vision returns, patients are able to return to normal daily tasks and most people can return to work within three to seven days after surgery. However, heavy lifting and exercise must be avoided for the first few weeks.

To help the body accept the corneal graft, steroid eye drops must be applied for several months. A pair of eyeglasses or a protective shield must also be worn for eye safety. Depending upon the health of the eye and the healing rate, stitches may be removed at any time from three months to more than a year later. Astigmatism often occurs as a result of an irregular corneal surface, and adjustments may be made to the sutures around the new cornea in an effort to reduce this problem.

Vision after a Cornea Transplant

Vision improvement after a cornea transplant is a process that can last up to one year later. Eyeglasses or contact lenses must be worn immediately after the surgery, since the curvature of the corneal transplant will not precisely match the natural corneal curve.

When healing is complete and stitches are removed, laser surgery may be indicated to correct vision. LASIK or PRK are both procedures that can help decrease dependence on eyeglasses or contacts. An irregular corneal surface may point to the need to wear rigid gas permeable (GP) contact lenses for vision correction.

Causes of Cataracts

Cataracts are part of the natural aging process of the eye and therefore, if you live to an old age, you will likely eventually develop one. While most cases of cataracts develop as part of this process, there are instances of congenital cataracts which are present at birth. Further, secondary or traumatic cataracts can occur at any age as a result of an eye injury, surgery or disease.While the risk of developing a cataract does increase as you age, it is not the only risk factor. Research shows that there are environmental, health and behavioral risk factors that can also play a role in cataract development. Many of these risk factors are avoidable and preventable. These risk factors include:

  • Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption
  • Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or other sources
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Certain medications such as steroids or statin medications
  • History of eye injury or eye surgery
  • Family history

Since they are largely a part of the the natural aging process of the eye, cataracts can’t necessarily be avoided, however knowing if you have additional risk factors can help you to take preventative steps to delay the onset of the condition.

Dry Eye After Menopause

Dry Eye Disease is a common eye condition – studies show that nearly 20% of North Americans middle aged and older suffer from dry eye disease. The probability of you developing dry eye if you are a woman, and older than 50, increases. Hormonal changes that older women undergo make it much more likely that they will suffer from dry eye as they age, including symptoms such as blurry vision and irritation of the eyes, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

What are the biological changes that happen during menopause which affect your eyes? The tear film in the eyes relies on certain chemical signals to remain stable, and these signals get disrupted during and after menopause. Some doctors believe that androgen, a hormone implicated in menopause, may be the culprit causing dry eye problems for menopausal women. Eyes may become inflamed, which leads to decreased tear production, and possibly dry eye disease. Add in a dry environment and many medications and the risk factors for menopausal women increases exponentially.

Treatments for Dry Eye in Menopausal Women

Estrogen hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is sometimes used to treat menopausal symptoms, as the female hormone estrogen is one of the hormones that decreases during and after menopause. However, studies have shown that this treatment does not relieve symptoms of dry eye.

Refractive Eye Surgery

Refractive eye surgery, such as LASIK and PRK, may not be advised if you are 40 or older, and have dry eye disease. These procedures can affect nerve function in your cornea (the clear surface of your eye), which could worsen your dry eye problem. If you want to have a consultation regarding LASIK or PRK, it’s important that your eye doctor know about your dry eye condition. In that case, your eye doctor will know to do the appropriate tests to make sure that there is enough moisture in your eyes for laser vision correction.

There are other health conditions that are associated with dry eye and aging. These conditions include thyroid autoimmune disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. If you suffer from dry eye, make sure your doctor screens you for these diseases.

Allergies may cause eye inflammation, and may be the cause of your dry eye. Prescription and over-the-counter eye drops might relieve your dry eye and allergy problem. Your eye doctor will advise you as to which eye drops would be best for you.

Sometimes commonly prescribed medications can worsen, or even cause, dry eyes. Some of these medications are antidepressants and diuretics, which are often prescribed if you have a heart condition. Make sure to talk about this with your doctor if you suspect that one of the medications you are taking may be causing your dry eye problems. Perhaps changing your medication will be as effective, and won’t cause dry eye disease.

LASIK Risks and Complications

LASIK is the most common refractive eye surgery, partially due to the fact that the risks and complications are low. The majority of patients don’t experience any long term complications as a result of the surgery. Nevertheless, as with any surgical procedure there are some risks, however rare they are and it is important to know them and to discuss them with your eye doctor or surgeon prior to undergoing the surgery.

Side effects of LASIK

There are a number of side effects that are somewhat common immediately post-op and in some instances can last longer – sometimes indefinitely. Those include:

Dry Eyes

About half of LASIK patients experience dry eyes, which are usually a temporary side effect that resolves within 3-6 months after the surgery. Your doctor will likely prescribe artificial tears in the days and weeks following the surgery which should be continued as long as the symptoms persist. Because of this, it is usually recommended that patients with a history of chronic dry eyes opt for another type of refractive surgery such as PRK, another style of laser refractive surgery with reduced risk.

Eye Infection or Irritation

While not common due to the eye drops and checkups prescribed post surgery, there is a chance of developing an eye infection. If this does occur, it can be treated with antibiotic eye drops, anti-inflammatories or sometimes may require other treatment such as oral antibiotics. If you are experiencing symptoms of an eye infection such as redness, pain, discomfort, discharge or any change in vision, see your eye doctor immediately. As a precaution, it is imperative to follow your surgeon’s instructions for your post-operative care including prescription medications and doctor’s visits.

Vision Issues

Following surgery, you may experience certain vision issues such as such as poor night vision, double vision, halos around lights or glare. These side effects are common and can last up to a few weeks, but typically go away. Some patients report a lasting reduction in vision in low light conditions and may require vision aids for seeing better at night.

Other risks of LASIK include surgical errors, many of which can be corrected by a follow-up surgery. These include:

Overcorrection or Undercorrection

The key to vision improvement in LASIK is accurate reshaping of the corneal tissue. If too much is removed or not enough is removed, your vision will remain imperfect and when possible may require a follow up procedure to obtain the clear vision being sought.

Flap Complications

Perhaps the greatest risk involved in LASIK is the accurate creation and healing of the flap of the cornea that is lifted to reshape the underlying tissue and replaced after. If the flap in the cornea is not made accurately, cut too thick or too thin and not carefully replaced back on the eye, it can cause complications in the shape of the eye surface and therefore clear vision. Studies indicate that these complications occur usually in under 6% of cases and the experience and skill of the surgeon play a large role.

There can also be complications in the healing process of the flap which include infection or excessive eye tearing.

Vision Loss

There is a chance, albeit small that the surgery can result in a loss of vision or reduction in visual clarity due to complications with the surgery.

It is quite rare for any permanent damage or vision loss to occur as a result of LASIK and usually any vision problems can be corrected by a follow-up procedure. However, as with any surgical procedure, there are risks, so it is important to reduce your risks by finding an experienced surgeon and carefully considering your suitability for the surgery in the first place.

How to Cope with Low Vision

adjusting the lighting can help with low vision

Reduced vision is defined as vision that can not be corrected completely using either contact lenses, eyeglasses, or surgery, and is blurry (at the level of at least 20/70), or limited in its view field. Low vision is sometimes caused by injury to the eye or brain, and it can be inherited. However the main cause of low vision is eye disease, including diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and macular degeneration.

If you have low vision you have some sight. However completing normal activities, including driving and reading, can be hard or even impossible.

Low vision is a condition that the elderly suffer from, although it is possible for children and middle-aged patients to have low vision. After a life of seeing normally, losing your vision can be hard, or even traumatic, and can potentially lead to frustration, or even depression.

Low Vision, Working and Independence

What is especially hard about low vision is that many people are unable to work, and lose their existing jobs. In 2010 the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey showed that the employment rate for Americans with low vision was 24 percent.

If you have low vision, you probably feel disconnected from the rest of the world. With low vision, it’s hard to read, see images on television or a computer screen, and impossible to drive. You may not be able to be independant and run your own errands, shop for food, or visit friends and family. Sometimes people with a vision impairment suffer with this burden alone, while others must rely completely on friends and relatives on a daily basis.

There are many devices and ways to manage low vision, which can help people suffering with low vision to continue leading productive and independent lives. Some of the devices that can help make the most out of remaining vision are magnifiers, both handheld and mounted on eyeglasses, and telescopes.

Symptoms of Low Vision

Signs that it is time to see an eye doctor include loss of peripheral vision, blurry vision, sensitivity to light, night blindness, needing more light to see, spots or floaters, and reading difficulty. This symptoms could indicate that a cataract is beginning in your eye. Or these problems could be signs of an eye condition such as glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa, or macular degeneration. Make sure to see your eye doctor before any eye condition becomes so serious that vision loss occurs.

If it’s not possible to correct your vision loss with surgery, medical treatment, or eyewear, your eye doctor will send you to a specialist in low vision care. A low vision specialist, who is usually an optometrist, will evaluate your vision loss. Once he or she determines the type and degree of vision loss you are suffering from, this specialist can create a treatment plan including low vision aids, and guidance in using devices that help you to live with vision loss.

Additionally, a low vision specialist has knowledge of many different types of aids for low vision, including large-print and audio books, specially-designed lights, and signature guides that are used to sign checks and other documents. Sometimes eye care professionals that are treating vision loss recommend counseling to help their patients learn to live with the changes that low vision brings.

Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)

Pink eye or conjunctivitis is one of the most common eye infections, especially in children. The infection is an acute inflammation which causes redness and swelling of the conjunctiva, which is the clear mucous membrane that lines the eyelid and the surface of the eye. Pink eye can be caused by a virus, bacteria or even allergies such as pollen, chlorine in swimming pools, and ingredients in cosmetics or other products that come in contact with the eyes. Some forms of pink eye can be highly contagious and easily spread in schools and at home.

Symptoms of Pink Eye

Pink eye develops when the conjunctiva or thin transparent layer of tissue that lines the eyelid and the white part of the eye becomes inflamed. Symptoms can occur in one or both eyes and include:

  • Redness in the white part of the eye
  • Itching or burning
  • Discharge
  • Tearing
  • Swollen eyelids and
  • Crusty eyes in the morning

Causes of Pink Eye

There are three main types of pink eye infections: bacterial, viral and allergic conjunctivitis.

Viral Conjunctivitis

Viral Conjunctivitis is usually caused by an adenovirus, the same virus that produces the recognizable red and watery eyes, sore throat, cough and runny nose of the common cold or upper respiratory infection. Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious usually spread because of poor hygiene especially a lack of hand washing.

Symptoms of viral conjunctivitis usually last from five days to a week but may last longer. Since there is generally no medical treatment for a viral infection you have to wait for the infection to run its course. To avoid spreading the infection to others, it is recommended to stay home from school or work until the symptoms disappear which is usually after 3-5 days or up to a week.

Viral conjunctivitis typically causes a light discharge and very watery, red eyes. To relieve discomfort, you can apply cool compresses to the eyes and artificial tears.

Bacterial Pink Eye

Bacterial pink eye is usually caused by Staphylococcus or Streptococcus bacteria and is often characterized by a significant amount of yellow, sticky discharge. Also contagious, bacterial pink eye can be picked up from bacteria found anywhere and often spread to the eye by touching them with unclean hands. Contact lens wearers are at a higher risk for bacterial pink eye due to the handling of lenses and unclean contact lens cases.

Treatment is usually administered by antibiotic eye drops which should begin to show improvement after three or four days, however the infection can also resolve itself after a week to 10 days without treatment. If you do use antibiotic drops, you can return to work or school 24 hours after you being treatment.

Allergic Conjunctivitis

Allergic conjunctivitis is not infectious or contagious as it is an allergic reaction to something in the environment such as pollen, pet dander or smoke. Symptoms, which occur in both eyes, include redness, itching and excessive tearing.

The first step in treating allergic conjunctivitis is to remove or avoid the irritant, if possible. Applying cool compresses and artificial tears can help to relieve discomfort in mild cases. In more severe cases, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and antihistamines might be

prescribed. In cases of persistent allergic conjunctivitis, topical steroid eye drops are used.

Pink Eye Prevention

In all cases of pink eye, practicing good hygiene is the best way to prevent from catching and spreading the infection. Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently and don’t touch your eyes with your hands, especially if you work with or around small children.

If you have allergies, try to stay indoors on days with a high pollen count and to keep doors and windows closed. Inside the house, clean air duct filters, vacuum and dust frequently to reduce the presence of allergens.

Why are Eye Exams Important?

For both adults and children alike, eye exams are an important part of one’s general health maintenance and assessment. Your eyes should be checked regularly to ensure that you are able to see as best as possible. Regular eye health exams will also check for signs of eye disease or conditions that can affect not only your vision but your overall health. Vision and eye health is such a critical part in learning and development, therefore, we highly recommend eye exams for infants and children.

Vision Screening vs. an Eye Exam

When we recommend regular eye exams, this should not be confused with a vision screening. A vision screening is a basic test that indicates if you have difficulty seeing and require further assessment and corrective measures. It can be performed by anyone, whether it is a school nurse, a pediatrician or even a volunteer at a vision clinic. A vision screening usually only checks vision, it does not check eye health. Also, most vision screenings for kids only check for nearsightedness (when you can not see far), but what happens when the majority of children are farsighted? Most of the time many of these kids get overlooked.

A comprehensive eye exam on the other hand, can only be performed by an eye doctor as it requires special knowledge and equipment to look around and into your eye to check your eye and vision health. Such an exam can assess whether there are underlying causes for vision problems and whether there are any signs of disease which can threaten your site and the health of your eye. A comprehensive eye examination can also diagnose symptoms of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, tumors, cancer, autoimmune disorders, and thyroid disorders. A comprehensive eye examination will also provide an accurate prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses.

Eye Exams for Eye Health

Eye exams are critical because many vision threatening eye diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts, or diabetic retinopathy have no or minimal symptoms until the disease has progressed. In these cases, early detection and treatment is essential to halting or slowing down the progression of the disease and saving eyesight. During a comprehensive eye examination, your eye doctor will be looking for initial signs of these diseases. If a problem with your eyes arises such as red eyes, eye allergies, dry eyes, eye swelling,eye pain, always seek an eye doctor as your first doctor to call since they are specifically trained to treat eye diseases.

Eye Exams and Children

If your child is having developmental delays or trouble in school there could be an underlying vision problem. Proper learning, motor development, reading, and many other skills are dependent upon not only good vision, but your eyes functioning together. Children that have problems with focusing or hand-eye coordination will often experience frustration and may exhibit behavioral problems as well. Often they don’t know that the vision they are experiencing is abnormal so they aren’t able to express that they need help. Many conditions are much easier to treat when they are caught early while the eyes are still developing, so it is important to diagnose any eye health and vision issues as early as possible.

Eye Exams Over 40

Just like the rest of our bodies, our eyes begin to weaken as we age. There are a number of common age-related eye conditions such as presbyopia, cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration that can begin to affect your vision and your daily life. While some of these conditions are more of an inconvenience, others could lead to vision loss and dependency.

In addition to regular yearly eye exams, it is important to be aware of any changes in your eye health and vision. Also know your potential risk factors as well as your family ocular and medical history. Over half of the vision loss worldwide is preventable with proper treatment and care.

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