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Optometrists Conveniently Located in: O’Fallon, Wentzville, Hillsboro, Cottleville, Cave Springs/St. Peters, & Cuba, MO

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Author: regionaleyecare

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.

 

Does Smoking Affect Vision?

Eye Doctors Weigh In: How Smoking Can Harm Your Vision & Eye Health

We all know that smoking is bad for you, especially the risks that it poses to your heart and lungs. What many people do not know is that cigarette smoke negatively affects your eyes and vision too. As our eye doctor can explain during your next eye exam, smoking has been directly linked to an increase in the risks of both cataracts and macular degeneration, two leading causes of vision loss, and it is believed to be a factor in a number of other eye and vision issues.

Smoking and Cataracts

Studies show that smoking doubles the risk of cataracts and with heavy smoking, the risk triples. In fact, there seems to be a direct correlation between the amount of smoking and the likelihood of cataracts. Cataracts are characterised by the clouding of the lens of the eye and it is believed that smoking affects the cells of the lens, accelerating this process.

Cataracts are a leading cause of vision loss worldwide, however they can be treated surgically by removing the clouded lens and replacing it with an artificial one. Symptoms include:

    • Blurred, cloudy or dim vision
    • Sensitivity to light and glare
    • Presence of halos around lights
    • Increasingly poor night vision
    • Fading color vision
    • Double vision
    • and frequent prescription changes with minimal improvement in vision

Smoking and Age-Related Macular Degeneration

According to medical research, smoking increases the likelihood of developing age-related macular degeneration between two and four times the normal risk – the more you smoke, the greater the risk. Unfortunately, there is also an increased risk for those exposed to cigarette smoke for extended periods of time.

Age-related macular degeneration or AMD is a condition in which the macula, which is the center of the retina, begins to to deteriorate, reducing central vision and the eye’s ability to see fine details. The disease is characterized by blurred and distorted eyesight and blind spots in the central vision. With time, the disease can progress to leave the person with low vision, which is significant vision loss that cannot be corrected by eyeglasses, contact lenses or refractive surgery.

Other Eye and Vision Risks of Smoking

Smoking has also been linked to dry eyes, optic nerve damage and diabetic retinopathy (for those with diabetes).

“Eye Vitamins” are often used without doctor’s recommendations. Smokers are cautioned not to take beta-carotene supplements, specifically, (or multi-vitamins containing this ingredient) as studies indicate there is increased risk of cancer even in people who quit smoking.

What to Do?

Even if you have been smoking for years, quitting will reduce the risks of developing these conditions, for yourself and those around you. If you do smoke, make sure to schedule a comprehensive eye exam every year to catch any developing disease early. Early diagnosis and treatment can be the key to saving your vision and preventing permanent vision loss.

Sjogren’s Awareness Month – Understanding The Invisible Disease 

In honor of Sjogren’s Awareness month, eye care providers are helping to spread the word to increase awareness about this hard-to-diagnose disease.

As our eye doctor can explain during your next eye exam, Sjogren’s is a systemic autoimmune disorder that can affect the whole body. One of the primary symptoms is excessive dryness particularly in the eyes and mouth. Other serious symptoms include chronic fatigue and pain, specifically in the joints, as well as major organ dysfunction. The syndrome also increases chances of neuropathies and lymphomas.

The severity of the disease varies greatly, ranging from mild discomfort to debilitating symptoms that can seriously impair normal functioning in everyday life. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent serious complications and improve quality of life. There is currently no cure for Sjogren’s, yet there are treatments for many of the individual symptoms. On average patients are prescribed upwards of 8 medications to treat the wide range of symptoms.

Women are nine times more likely to develop Sjogren’s than men and diagnosis usually occurs around the age of 40. Unfortunately, because the symptoms vary from person to person, and the disease often occurs in the presence of or mimics other diseases (such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, menopause, allergies or multiple sclerosis) the disease is often misdiagnosed or overlooked. Further, because the symptoms can affect different parts of the body system such as the teeth, eyes or musculoskeletal system, various health professionals are sought to diagnose or treat specific symptoms (such as rheumatologists, dentists or eye doctors) while the big picture is often missed. On average it takes almost three years to obtain a Sjogren’s diagnosis once symptoms are noticed.

Since dry eye is one of the most common early symptoms of the disease, there has been an effort to educate eye care providers to recognize and to be aware to look for symptoms of the disease. Patients also need to be aware and proactive about speaking to their health care providers about potential diagnosis and treatment. Knowing the risk factors and symptoms can be imperative to a faster diagnosis.

Your eye doctor may be able to detect and diagnose Sjogren’s syndrome from dry eye symptoms as well as other diagnostic tests and review of symptoms. With this diagnosis the treatment will be different from typical dry eye disease. Since it is an autoimmune disease, lubricating eye drops may provide temporary relief but will not address the source of the problem. Your doctor may prescribe newer cyclosporine drops as well to treat the inflammatory response. If you have dry eyes and typical treatments aren’t working, it may be worthwhile to ask about Sjogren’s.

Sjogren’s patients often feel misunderstood because most of the debilitating symptoms are not visible to others and the disease is often not recognized largely due to a lack of awareness. By increasing both public and professional awareness, the goal is to reduce diagnosis time and to advance research on the cure for this disorder.

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%

As our eye doctor can explain during your next eye exam, 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.

The Right (and the Wrong) Way to Clean Your Glasses

There is nothing worse than a dirty spot on your glasses – well except perhaps many dirty spots or smudges. When that happens, most of us are tempted to grab the corner of our shirt and wipe it off, but resist the temptation – this is actually not a good idea.

As our eye doctor can explain during your next eye exam, there is a right way and a wrong way to clean your glasses. Cleaning your glasses properly will not only remove irritating dirt and smudges, but will also prevent your lenses from getting scratched allowing you to see your best.

You want to make sure that the materials you use to clean your lenses are clean and soft. The reason your shirt corner is not the best option is because it likely contains dust or particles that can scratch your lens. However, you don’t need fancy, lens cleaners either. In truth the best cleaner for your glasses may be more simple than you expect –

Gentle Dish Soap

That’s right, a gentle dish soap, warm water and a clean, dry soft cotton towel are the best tools you can have for cleaning your lenses.

Simply rinse your glasses in warm water and apply a small drop of soap (make sure to use a brand of soap that is lotion and moisturizer free). Rub the soap into the lens with your fingers and rinse thoroughly until all of the soap has been removed. Gently shake the glasses to remove excess water and then dry with a clean, dry, lint-free towel.

You may be wondering about the microfiber lens cloths and spray cleaner you get from your optician. These lens cleaning packs are great for when you are on the go and don’t have access to a sink and dish soap. The microfiber cloths are also great for polishing dry lenses after any dust or particles are blown away- just make sure they are cleaned regularly. For a real, thorough clean however, we advise that you use the technique above.

Cleaning Don’ts

Don’t use vinegar, glass or window cleaner, bleach, ammonia or spit/saliva for cleaning your lenses. The chemicals could strip off the coatings on your lenses, and saliva – well, it just doesn’t work. In particular, many lenses these days have anti-glare treatments that are especially prone to damage if not cleaned properly and are particularly vulnerable to window cleaners and alcohol.

Remember once your glasses are scratched, there is little to do to repair them. If you see something on your lens try to blow or brush it away carefully before you use a cloth to clean your lenses.

Keeping Your Lenses Clean

To avoid dirt and smudges, always take your glasses off with two hands using the arms of the frame and avoid touching the lenses. Further, the best way to preserve your glasses and keep them clean is to keep them in a case when they are not in use. It’s worthwhile to get an extra case or two to have on hand in the car or in your purse for times that you need to take your glasses off. If you notice swirled or circular scratches on your lenses, those are almost always from improper cleaning so make sure to take the time to clean them properly the next time.

 

It’s Time to Talk About Blue Light

Teen Boy Blue Glasses

Workplace Eye Safety Month

Blue light. Do you know what it is? Do you know where it comes from, or how it can be harmful to your eyes? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you are not alone, yet it is important that you become aware to protect your eyes for now and the years to come.

As our eye doctor can explain during your next eye exam, the reason blue light is suddenly becoming a big issue is because other than the sun, which is the biggest source of blue light, a significant source of blue light emission comes from digital devices and artificial lighting. As our world becomes increasingly digital – think: HD televisions, LED lights, computers, smartphones, tablets – we are all exposing our eyes to more and more amounts of blue light than ever before. And we are only beginning to understand the long term effects this has on our bodies and our eyes.

One of the biggest issues with blue light is that whether it is through work or leisure, people are exposed to screens at a close range for a large portion of the day. A survey from the Vision Council entitled, “Blue Light Exposure and Digital Eye Strain” recently showed that 87% of respondents used digital devices for more than two hours a day and over 52% regularly used two digital devices as the same time. This shift has drastically increased exposure and the number of symptoms that are reported. To date, research has shown that there are a number of ways blue light can impact your eyes including digital eye strain, sleep disturbances and retina damage that can lead to long term problems including serious eye diseases.

Digital eye strain is a condition that is characterized by dry, sore, tired or burning eyes, eye fatigue and sensitivity to light. It can also cause blurred or double vision, headaches, back, neck and shoulder aches and difficulty focusing or concentrating. These symptoms are most common in individuals that sit in front of the computer for two or more hours a day.

Studies show that exposure to blue light right before bedtime can cause disruptions in sleep and wakefulness because it causes a shift in the levels of melatonin, a hormone which affects your circadian rhythm and therefore your sleep patterns. So if you are using your smartphone to wind down in bed, put it down and dust off an old hardcover book!

Retina damage has been found to be a possible result of long term blue light exposure causing damage to the retinal cells in the eye which are responsible for clear vision. There has been evidence that this type of damage can lead to age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts later in life. In certain cases, your doctor might recommend Lutein and Zeaxanthin nutritional supplements to protect the macula from blue light damage.

Despite these risks, few people are taking action to protect their eyes from blue light. A recent study from Transitions Optical, The 2017 Employee Perceptions of Vision Benefits Survey, showed that there is also a significant generational difference in knowledge, habits, and attitude regarding blue light with millennials being more aware and concerned about the health effects it has on their eyes. Millennials are more likely to request prescription eyewear that has blue light protection and to know whether their current pair has that extra coverage. However, even the millennial generation is significantly lacking in awareness and prevention.

The best way to gain awareness of and protection against blue light is to speak to your eye doctor. There are a number of ways you can protect your eyes which include computer glasses, blue light lens filters, or even blue light filter screen protectors or apps that reverse screen colors for those that don’t use prescription eyewear. Each individual can find the best solution based on lifestyle, work environment and personal comfort. The most important takeaway is that you understand that blue light is an issue, take responsibility for your eye health and speak to your eye doctor about the best blue light solutions for you and your family.

 

Eye Allergies

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Along with congestion, runny nose, coughing, sneezing, headaches and difficulty breathing, individuals with allergies often suffer from eye allergies or allergic conjunctivitis resulting in red, watery, itchy and sometimes swollen eyes. Just as irritants cause an allergic response in your nasal and respiratory system, your eyes also react with an oversensitive immune response, triggered by an environmental substance that most people’s immune systems ignore. Millions of North Americans are affected by allergies, particularly with seasonal allergic conjunctivitis (SAC) which is common during the spring, summer and fall.

What Causes An Eye Allergy

Eye allergies, or any allergies for that matter, occur when the immune system is hypersensitized to a stimulus in the environment that comes into contact with the eye. The allergen stimulates the antibodies in the cells of your eyes to respond by releasing histamine and other chemicals that cause the eyes and surrounding tissue to become inflamed, red, watery, burning and itchy.

Eye allergens commonly include:

 

  • Airborne substances found in nature such as pollen from flowers, grass or trees.
  • Indoor allergens such as pet dander, dust or mold.
  • Irritants such as cosmetics, chemicals, cigarette smoke, or perfume.

 

Tips for Coping With Eye Allergies

To reduce exposure to allergens:

  1. Stay indoors and keep windows closed when pollen counts are high, especially in the mid-morning and early evening.
  2. Wear sunglasses outside to protect your eyes, not only from UV rays, but also from airborne allergens. Wraparound styles may offer more protection than others.
  3. Avoid rubbing your eyes, as this can intensify symptoms and increase irritation. When the eyes get itchy, it is difficult not to rub and scratch them. However, rubbing the eyes can aggravate the allergic cascade response, making them more swollen, red, and uncomfortable.
  4. Check and regularly clean your air conditioning filters.
  5. Wash your hands after petting an animal that you may be allergic to.
  6. Use dust-mite-proof covers on bedding and pillows and wash linens frequently.
  7. Clean surfaces with a damp cloth rather than dusting or dry sweeping.
  8. Remove any mold in your home.
  9. Reducing contact lens wear during allergy season, and make sure to clean them thoroughly at the end of the day, or switch to daily disposable contact lenses.

Treatment for the uncomfortable symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis includes over-the-counter and prescription drops and medications. It is best to know the source of the allergy reaction to avoid symptoms. Often people wait until the allergy response is more severe to take allergy medication, but most allergy medications work best when taken just prior to being exposed to the allergen and it builds up in your system, so it’s best to take allergy medication consistently according to your doctor’s advice, rather than “as needed”. Consult your eye doctor to find out the right treatment for you.

 

Non-prescription medications include: Prescription medications include:
  • Artificial tears (to reduce dryness)
  • Decongestant eyedrops
  • Oral antihistamines
  • Eyedrops such as antihistamines
  • Mast-cell stabilizers or stronger decongestants
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroids.

 

Immunotherapy which are allergy injections given by an allergist are sometimes also helpful to assist your body in building up immunity to the allergens that elicit the allergic response.

If no allergy medicine is on hand, even cool compresses and artificial tears can help alleviate symptoms.

Allergies can go from mildly uncomfortable to debilitating. Knowing how to alleviate symptoms and reduce exposure can greatly improve your comfort and quality of life, particularly during allergy season which can last from April until October. Finding the right treatment for your allergies can make all the difference in your quality of life, particularly during the time of year when most of us like to enjoy the outdoors.