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How Sleep Apnea Affects The Eyes

Did you know that some eye conditions are associated with sleep apnea? According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 18 million Americans have sleep apnea, and Health Canada reports similar prevalence. It’s a sleep disorder where people stop breathing — often multiple times per night — while sleeping.

If you have sleep apnea: it tends to take longer for your tears to be replenished, you’re more likely to have ocular irritation, you have a higher chance of developing floppy eyelids, and you’re at increased risk for glaucoma.

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

There are different types of sleep apnea. The most common one is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). During OSA, your airway becomes partially blocked due to relaxed muscles in your nose and throat. This causes apnea (the absence of breathing) or hypopnea (abnormally shallow, slow breathing). It’s twice as common in men, and is more likely to affect people with obesity, hypertension, diabetes or heart disease.

What are the common symptoms of sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax too much to allow normal breathing. These temporary breathing lapses cause lower-quality sleep and affect the body’s oxygen supply, which can lead to potentially serious health consequences.

While snoring is a common symptom, not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. Interrupted sleep can cause excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue, irritability or depression, headaches in the morning, difficulty concentrating and thinking, and a sore throat.

Which Eye Conditions Are Associated With Sleep Apnea?

Glaucoma

Glaucoma occurs when increased pressure within the eye damages the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, leading to vision loss and sometimes blindness. In some cases, it might be due to a drop in blood oxygen levels, which happens when you stop breathing. However, CPAP machines, one of the most common treatments for sleep apnea, can also cause glaucoma.

So, people with sleep apnea — even if it’s being treated — need to get their eyes checked on a regular basis for glaucoma.

Floppy Eyelid Syndrome

Floppy Eyelid Syndrome (FES) is an eye condition where a person has an unusually large and floppy upper eyelid. It can cause eye redness, irritation, discharge, or blurry vision — and over 90% of people with FES also have sleep apnea.

Non-Arteritic Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy

Non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION) is an eye condition that occurs when there is a loss of blood flow to the optic nerve. Patients typically complain of significant vision loss in one eye without any major pain. Approximately 70-80% of patients with NAION have been found to have OSA.

Retinal Vein Occlusion

Also referred to as an ‘eye stroke,’ retinal vein occlusion (RVO) is a blockage of the small veins that carry blood away from the retina. A recent study of 114 RVO patients found that sleep apnea was suspected in 74% of the patients that had previously been diagnosed with RVO.

Other Eye Health Issues Associated With Sleep Apnea

Some other ocular conditions that are more common in patients with sleep apnea include: papilledema, keratoconus, and central serous chorioretinopathy. Furthermore, in addition to glaucoma mentioned above, CPAP machines are associated with dry eye syndrome and bacterial conjunctivitis.

Talk To Your Doc

Get eye exams regularly to rule out eye disorders and prevent potential vision loss, especially if you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea. At Brooks Eye Center in Columbus we encourage you to share your medical history with us so we can better diagnose and treat any eye conditions or ocular diseases you may have, and help you keep your eyes nice and healthy.

Frequently Asked Questions with Dr. James E. Brooks, O.D.

Q: What Causes Sleep Apnea?

  • A: Sleep apnea occurs when in-part or completely stop breathing when sleeping. This causes your lungs to strain harder for oxygen, and makes the brain send signals that jerk your body awake to resume proper breathing.

Q: What are the Warning Signs of Sleep Apnea?

  • A: A common sign of sleep apnea is loud snoring. Snoring that is loud enough to disturb the sleep of the patient as well as others around, even across the walls. That said, not everyone who snores suffers from obstructive sleep apnea.

Quality Frames For Prescription Eyeglasses & Computer Glasses In Columbus, Mississippi. Visit Brooks Eye Center for an eye exam and eyeglasses that match your style.

3 Benefits of Anti-Glare Coating

Glare refers to the excessive brightness caused by direct or reflected light. It can cause eye strain, digital eye strain (when using a computer, for example), halos, and headaches. Glare can also reduce visibility, making it unsafe to drive.

Anti-glare coating, also known as anti-reflective (AR) coating, is a thin layer applied to the surface of your eyeglass lenses that allows more light to pass through your lenses. By reducing the amount of glare that reflects off of your lenses, you can see more clearly and experience more comfortable vision. You can request anti-glare coating for lenses when you buy eyeglasses.

AR Coating Offers 3 Major Advantages

Better Appearance

Without an anti-glare coating on your glasses, camera flashes and bright lights can reflect off your lenses. This can hinder your appearance when speaking to people or in meetings, cause flash reflections when picture-taking, and make it difficult to find the right angle for video calls. Anti-reflective coating eliminates the harsh reflections and allows others to clearly see your eyes and face.

Reduced Digital Eye Strain

You know that tired, irritated feeling you get after staring at a digital screen for several hours? That’s digital eye strain. Anti-glare coating helps reduce digital eye strain by lowering exposure to excessive glare from digital devices and lighting.

Safe Driving at Night

The bright headlights from cars driving in the opposite direction can pose a serious danger when driving at night. These sudden glares can lead you to momentarily lose focus of the view ahead. AR coating on your prescription eyewear effectively reduces reflections from headlights at night, allowing you to enjoy a better view of the road and safer driving at night.

Let your eyes look and feel better every day with anti-glare coated lenses. Contact us to book your appointment today!

Frequently Asked Questions with James E. Brooks, O.D.

Q: Can you request lenses made from glass? Is glass still used for lenses?

  • A: Yes. Opticians still sometimes use glass for lenses. However, glass is not used very often because they aren’t as safe. If these glass lenses breaks, they can shatters into many pieces and can injure the eye. Glass lenses are much heavier than plastic lenses, so they can make your eyeglasses less comfortable to wear.

Q: Can a coating be added to eyeglasses to protect them from further scratches?

  • A: A protective coating can’t be added to a lens after it’s scratched. The coating is applied when the lens is manufactured and can’t be put on later.

Quality Frames For Prescription Eyeglasses & Computer Glasses In Columbus, Mississippi. Visit Brooks Eye Center for an eye exam and eyeglasses that match your style.

How To Prevent Your Lenses From Scratching

If you wear glasses, then you know what a nuisance a scratched lens can be. Scratched or chipped lenses can interfere with your vision, making glasses uncomfortable to wear. Here’s what we recommend to keep your lenses scratch-free.

How to Avoid Scratching Your Lenses

Use a Protective Case

Using a sturdy eyeglass case will prolong the life of your lenses. No matter what kind of glasses you wear — standard, sunglasses, bifocal — you’ll want to protect them.

Be sure to choose a hard case with a soft inner lining and always have one on hand, either in your purse, backpack, or car.

When placing the glasses in their case, make sure the lenses are facing downwards, as this can reduce the risk of them being scratched. Additionally, avoid putting anything else in the case along with the glasses, especially sharp or metal objects.

Choose Anti-Scratch Lenses

Although no lenses are completely scratch-proof, there are certain coatings that can be added to the front and back of your lenses to make them more scratch resistant. Many lenses already come with this option, but sometimes it’s an optional addition. Anti-scratch coatings are particularly helpful for children’s glasses.

Remove Your Glasses Carefully

Handle your glasses by the temples (arms) and not the rims. This way, your fingers avoid the frame and lens area altogether, reducing the chance of inadvertently scratching them. Additionally, holding them by the temples with both hands ensures a better grip, so you’ll be less likely to drop them.

Set Them Down Properly

Never put glasses down with the lenses facing downward, unless it’s into a lens case. If you need to put them down and don’t have a case, rest them with the temples open and upside down — glasses tend to be more stable in this position.

Avoid placing them in a place where they’ll be easily knocked over or splashed on, like near a sink. Setting them down in the same place consistently will also reduce your risk of losing them.

Use the Right Lens Cleaner

It’s all too common for people to wipe their glasses with their clothing or other abrasive material. Doing so can scratch the lenses, especially if they’re dry.

Always clean your lenses with a soft microfiber cloth and specialized lens cleaning solution, items your optometrist’s office can provide.

When to Visit Your Optometrist

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to completely prevent your lenses from ever becoming scratched over their lifetime. Once they are scratched, there is little that can be done to repair the lenses. Most of the time the lenses need to be replaced.

At Brooks Eye Center, we offer a wide array of frames and lenses, so you’re sure to find a pair to suit your eyes and needs.

Call Brooks Eye Center in to schedule your eye exam or with any further questions.

At Brooks Eye Center, we put your family’s needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 662-222-0202 or book an appointment online to see one of our Columbus eye doctors.

Frequently Asked Questions with James E. Brooks, O.D.

Q: Can you request lenses made from glass? Is glass still used for lenses?

  • A: Yes. Opticians still sometimes use glass for lenses. However, glass is not used very often because they aren’t as safe. If these glass lenses breaks, they can shatters into many pieces and can injure the eye. Glass lenses are much heavier than plastic lenses, so they can make your eyeglasses less comfortable to wear.

Q: Can a coating be added to eyeglasses to protect them from further scratches?

  • A: A protective coating can’t be added to a lens after it’s scratched. The coating is applied when the lens is manufactured and can’t be put on later.

Quality Frames For Prescription Eyeglasses & Computer Glasses In Columbus, Mississippi. Visit Brooks Eye Center for an eye exam and eyeglasses that match your style.

Want to Learn More? Read on!

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REFERENCES

https://www.southparkoptical.com/how-to-avoid-scratches-on-your-glasses

https://www.allaboutvision.com/eyeglasses/how-to-clean-glasses.htm#:~:text=To%20avoid%20scratches%2C%20blow%20any,you%20clean%20the%20cloths%20frequently

https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-remove-scratches-from-glasses

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 in Columbus can help diagnose, manage and treat your night blindness with specialized digital eye exams, so that you can enjoy being out and about 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 Brooks Eye Center in Columbus to schedule your appointment today.

Frequently Asked Questions with James E. Brooks, O.D.

Q: Can you request lenses made from glass? Is glass still used for lenses?

  • A: Yes. Opticians still sometimes use glass for lenses. However, glass is not used very often because they aren’t as safe. If these glass lenses breaks, they can shatters into many pieces and can injure the eye. Glass lenses are much heavier than plastic lenses, so they can make your eyeglasses less comfortable to wear.

Q: Can a coating be added to eyeglasses to protect them from further scratches?

  • A: A protective coating can’t be added to a lens after it’s scratched. The coating is applied when the lens is manufactured and can’t be put on later.

Quality Frames For Prescription Eyeglasses & Computer Glasses In Columbus, Mississippi. Visit Brooks Eye Center for an eye exam and eyeglasses that match your style.

15 Things You Do That Can Harm Your Eyes

Eye health isn’t just about going for that yearly eye exam. Certain actions you take (or don’t take) in your daily routine can also have drastic effects on the health of your eyes and vision. Here’s our list of 15 things you may be doing that could pose damaging risks to your eyes.

It’s important to note that before changing any of your habits, consult with a medical professional to make sure they are right for you and your overall health.

1. Smoking

We all know that smoking can cause heart disease and cancer, but its effects on the eyes are far less known to many. The truth is that smoking can actually lead to irreversible vision loss by significantly increasing the risk of developing macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. It can also cause dry eye syndrome. If you are a smoker, do your eyes (and body) a favor and try to kick or reduce the habit.

2. Not Wearing Sunglasses

Exposing your eyes to the sun’s harmful UV radiation can damage the eye’s cornea and lens. Overexposure to UV rays can also lead to cataracts and even eye cancer. That’s why it’s important to always wear 100% UV-blocking sunglasses while outdoors, all four seasons of the year. Always check the sunglasses have FDA approval.

3. Sleeping with Makeup On

When you sleep with eyeliner or mascara, you run the risk of the makeup entering the eye and irritating the cornea. Sleeping with mascara on can introduce harmful bacteria to the eye and cause an infection. Abrasive glitters and shimmery eyeshadow can scratch the cornea as well. Be careful to remove all makeup with an eye-safe makeup remover before going to bed.

4. Buying Decorative Contact Lenses Without a Prescription

Although ordering decorative lenses without first visiting your optometrist may sound more convenient, purchasing them without a prescription isn’t worth the long term risks. Decorative contact lenses are sometimes made by unlicensed manufacturers who tend to use poor-quality or toxic materials that can get absorbed through the eyes into the bloodstream. They also may contain high levels of microorganisms from unsanitary packaging and storage conditions.

5. Not Washing Your Hands Thoroughly

Frequently washing your hands helps to reduce the possibility of bacteria and viruses entering the eye. Pink eye (conjunctivitis) and corneal ulcers are common eye conditions that can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites. When washing your hands, be sure to use warm water, soap, and thoroughly wash in between each finger and over the entire palm area. If you plan to insert or remove your contact lenses, wash and then dry your hands completely with a lint-free cloth or paper towel.

6. Overwearing Contact Lenses

Wearing contact lenses for longer periods of time than intended can lead to inflammation of the cornea (keratitis), conjunctivitis, eyelid swelling, and contact lens intolerance. Always follow the recommended wear time as instructed by your optometrist.

7. Being Nutrient Deficient

Poor nutrition can cause permanent damage to the visual system. Try to include lots of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables in your diet, along with adequate amounts of Omega-3. Some of the best vitamins and nutrients for eye health include Vitamins A, C, E, lutein, zeaxanthin, and zinc.

8. Using Non-FDA Approved Products

Whether it’s eyebrow enhancers, eye makeup, or eyelash growth serums, always choose products that have been FDA approved and/or meet government safety regulations. Non-approved products have been known to cause infections or allergic reactions in or around the eye area.

9. Not Cleaning Your Contacts Properly

If you are wearing contact lenses that need to be replaced once every two weeks or once a month, maintaining the highest level of contact lens hygiene is essential. Optometrists will tell you that a common reason patients come in to see them is due to an eye infection from contact lenses that haven’t been properly cleaned or stored. Some patients use their contact lens cases for too long, which can also cause eye irritation. To avoid eye infections, carefully follow your eye doctor’s instructions on how to clean, store, and handle your contact lenses.

10. Showering or Swimming with Contact Lenses

There is a significant amount of bacteria that can be carried in tap water and swimming pools. For this reason, it’s important to make sure that water and contact lenses don’t mix. If you need vision correction while swimming, it may be worth investing in a pair of prescription swimming goggles.

11. Not Following Medication Instructions

When it comes to eye disease, following the medication instructions is crucial. Forgetting to insert eye drops, or administering the incorrect dosage could dramatically reduce the effectiveness of treatment, or even do harm. Speak with your eye doctor if you’re not sure about when or how to take your medication.

12. Not Taking a Holistic Approach

Your eyes are just one part of the whole system — your body. Ignoring health conditions you may have, like high blood pressure or elevated blood sugar, can pose serious risks to your eyes.

13. Not Wearing Protective Eyewear

Shielding your eyes with protective glasses or goggles while working with potentially sharp or fast-moving objects, fragments or particles (wood working, cutting glass, welding, doing repairs with nails, certain sports) is the best defense against eye injury. In fact, 90% of all eye injuries could have been prevented by wearing protective eyewear.

14. Using Unsafe Home Remedies

Some might think that because something is “natural” that it is safe for use around the delicate eye area. Home remedies, like using breastmilk to cure pink eye, could introduce harmful bacteria to the eye and cause infection. If your eyes are giving you trouble, make an appointment to see your local optometrist.

15. Skipping Your Recommended Eye Exam

Your eye doctor will advise you how often you need to come for an eye examination. Adults should visit their eye doctor at least every year for a comprehensive eye exam to determine whether their optical prescription is up-to-date, and to check for the beginning stages of eye disease. Catching eye diseases in their early stages offers the best chance of successful treatment and preserving healthy vision for life.

At Brooks Eye Center, we put your family’s needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 662-222-0202 or book an appointment online to see one of our Columbus eye doctors.

Want to Learn More? Read on!

Does Obesity Impact Eye Health?

What Will Optometry Practices Look Like Post-COVID?

What You Should Know about Diabetes and Your Vision

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World Braille Day 2019

Each year during the month of January we recognize World Braille Day which gives us the opportunity to take a moment and appreciate the incredible gift that Braille has given to those who are blind or suffer from vision loss. 

What is Braille?

Braille is a tactile representation of letters and numbers that can be utilized by people with vision loss to read using their fingers.  The system uses combinations of six raised dots – three rows of two – that serve to represent the numbers, letters and even symbols such as music notes. 

Braille History:

Braille was developed by a young Frenchman named Louis Braille and was first published in 1829. Braille invented the system at the age of 15 after he became blind as the result of an accident. The idea was originally based on night writing, a touch-based military code developed for Napoleon’s army by Charles Barbier as a strategy for soldiers to be able to communicate silently in the dark. Barbier’s code was ultimately rejected because it was too difficult to be used effectively by the soldiers. Barbier and Braille later met at the Royal Institute for the Blind in Paris and Braille was able to adapt the idea into a more functional system. In braille, the characters, or letters, are each represented by a cell or block with a particular arrangement of raised dots.

Not Just the ABC’s

While first developed for the French alphabet, braille has since been expanded for many languages including all the European-based languages, as well as Arabic and Asian languages. Even within those languages there are different forms of the system.  For example, in English, there is Grade 1 braille which is composed of the representation of the 26 letters of the Roman alphabet and is primarily used for those learning to read and write the language. Grade 2 on the other hand is the type of braille you are likely to see written in public places such as menus or signs as it is more complex. Grade 2 includes higher level punctuation, abbreviations and contractions. Lastly, Grade 3 is a form of shorthand designed for personal use such as taking notes or writing letters. 

In addition to the cells which represent the letters, braille may also include illustrations, graphs and symbols such as bullets or arrows. Further, a cell can also represent a number, a word or a punctuation mark. Because braille takes up more space than standard print there are many abbreviations or contractions that represent words or word sequences to save space. This also helps to improve the speed at which one can read and write using the system. 

How To Write Braille

Writing braille requires some tools. To do it by hand you need a stylus, which is a metal tool that is used to create the dots, a slate, which is a type of stencil used to align the dots into neat cells and card-stock paper which is heavy enough to emboss.  You can also write braille with a special braille typewriter or an electronic brailler as well as certain computer programs with a braille embosser printer. 

Being able to read and write braille allows those with vision impairment to learn and express themselves in a way that they would otherwise not be able to. While newer technologies such as screen readers and other computer based programs have become more common in recent years, braille is the foundation of innovation in improving the lives of the blind and vision impaired. 

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.

7 Eye Symptoms You Shouldn't Ignore

While we all know that regular eye exams can help detect warning signs of disease and prevent vision loss, many people fail to seek medical attention when there is an acute problem with the eye. In fact, only about half of Americans that are at risk for serious vision loss have been examined by an eye doctor within the last year, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

While it’s true that some eye symptoms resolve on their own, it’s better not to take the chance when your eyesight is at risk. Here are seven eye symptoms that should be checked out by an eye doctor immediately, as they could indicate a serious underlying condition that could threaten your vision. Remember, even if you think the issue is minor, getting proper medical attention could be vital to saving your vision. 

  1. Frequent Floaters

    Floaters are shadows or spots that appear to float through your field of vision, particularly when you are looking at a solid colored or bright background such as the blue sky or a white wall. They can appear in a variety of shapes such as a shower of dots or mosquito shaped for example. It is common to see floaters on occasion, however if you experience a sudden increase, especially in combination with pain, flashes or loss of peripheral vision, you should see a doctor immediately. Flashes of light may appear as a quick spark or jagged streaks of light or arcs among other shapes. This could be a sign of a very serious problem such as detached or torn retina, a hemorrhage or bleeding inside the eye, an inflammation of the vitreous or retina caused by an infection or injury or an eye tumor. In the case of a retinal detachment, the different pattern of floaters or flashes depend on how the retina tears, so if you suddenly notice a distinct pattern of floaters or light in your vision, don’t delay: seek medical attention within 24 hours. 

  2. Persistent Redness or Irritation

    While minor redness can simply be a result of allergies, exhaustion or extended contact lens wear, there are some more serious causes of eye redness, especially if it persists or is accompanied by pain, swelling, discharge, vision disturbance or severe itchiness. Along with conjunctivitis (or pink eye) which can be a very contagious eye infection, redness can indicate a corneal scratch, uveitis or glaucoma. 

  3. Excessive Watery Eyes 

    Whether you have a foreign object in your eye or are experiencing dryness due to allergies or environmental factors, eye watering is a natural response to keep your eyes healthy, comfortable and safe. When it is constant and disruptive, however, this is no longer normal. Excessive eye watering could indicate a chronic condition such as dry eye syndrome, tear duct problems or problems with the cornea such as a scratch or an ulcer.

  4. Foreign Body in the Eye

    If you experience a foreign object in your eye, the first thing to do it try to flush it out. Never rub the eye as it could cause even greater damage. If your efforts to flush the object out are not successful it is time to see a doctor. Additionally, if you are experiencing vision disturbances, pain or redness while the object is there or after you think you have removed it, see an eye doctor immediately. 

  5. Ptosis (Droopy Eyelid) 

    Ptosis or drooping eyelids is seen in one or both eyelids and can be caused by benign conditions such as allergies or merely part of the aging process. Nevertheless, it can also be a sign of a serious condition such as nerve damage, a stroke, brain tumor or a condition called myasthenia gravis, which is a neurological condition that affects the muscles of the eye. It is also sometimes a result of eye surgery or injury. Often ptosis will resolve gradually on its own, however it is something that should be checked out, especially if it occurs suddenly, to ensure there is no serious underlying cause. 

  6. Bleeding Eyes 

    A subconjunctival hemorrhage in the eye is when a blood vessel right under the surface of the eye breaks. You will see that the white part or sclera of the eye has turned red. Usually, this common occurrence is nothing to be concerned about as this can happen from something as simple as straining, a sneeze or cough. In this case there is nothing to do and it will resolve on its own. If however, the redness comes after an injury to your eye or head it could indicate that there is bleeding in the brain and should be examined immediately.

  7. Moderate to Severe Eye Pain 

    There are several causes of eye pain, the most serious of which is acute angle closure glaucoma or uveitis. Other causes of pain can include corneal abrasions and ulcers, scleritis, orbital cellulitis and sinusitis. 

When it comes to problems with the eye, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and get them checked out. Doing otherwise, could cost you your eyesight. Your eye doctor can help.

Inside a Life With Color Vision Deficiency

What’s it like to be color blind? Contrary to what the name implies, color blindness usually does not actually mean that you don’t see any color, but rather that you have difficulty perceiving or distinguishing between certain colors. This is why many prefer the term color vision deficiency or CVD to describe the condition. CVD affects men more than women, appearing in approximately 8% of men (1 in 12) and .5% of women (1 in 200) worldwide. 

Having color vision deficiency means that you perceive color in a more limited way than those with normal color vision. This ranges from mild, in which you may not even be aware that you are experiencing color differently, to severe, which is perhaps the more appropriate from to be called “color blind” and involves the inability to see certain colors. 

CVD can be inherited; it is caused by abnormalities in the genes that produce photopigments located in the cone cells in your eyes. The eyes contain different cone cells that fire in response to a specific color, blue, green or red and together allow you to see the depth and range of colors that the normal eye can see. The type of color blindness and therefore the type of color vision that is impaired, is based on which photopigments are abnormal. The most common form of CVD is red-green, followed by blue-yellow. Total color blindness or the complete inability to perceive color is quite rare. About 7% of males have congenital color blindness that they inherit from the mother’s X-chromosome. 

Color blindness can also be the result of eye damage, specifically to the optic nerve, or to the area in the brain that processes color. Sometimes an eye disease, such as cataracts, can also impact one’s ability to perceive color. Systemic diseases such as diabetes or multiple sclerosis can also cause acquired CVD. 

Living with CVD

Red-green color blindness does not mean only that you can’t tell the difference between red and green, but rather that any color that has some red or green (such as purple, orange, brown, pink, some shades of gray, etc) in it is affected. 

You many not realize all of the ways you use even subtle distinctions in color in your daily life. Here are some examples of ways that CVD can impact your life and make seemingly everyday tasks challenging:

  • You may not be able to cook meat to the desired temperature based on color. 
  • Most of the colors in a box of crayons will be indistinguishable.
  • You may not be able to distinguish between red and green LED displays on electronic devices that indicate power on and off. 
  • You may not be able to tell between a ripe and unripe fruit or vegetable such as bananas (green vs. yellow) or tomatoes (red vs green). 
  • Chocolate sauce, barbecue sauce and ketchup may all look the same. 
  • Bright green vegetables can look unappealing as they appear greenish, brown or grey. 
  • You may not be able to distinguish color coded pie charts or graphs (which can cause difficulty in school or work). 
  • Selecting an outfit that matches can be difficult. 

Knowing that one is color blind is important for some occupations that require good color discrimination such as the police officers, railway workers, pilots, electricians etc.  These are just a few of the ways that CVD can impact one’s daily life. So is there a cure? Not yet. 

While there is no cure for CVD, there is research being done into gene therapies and in the meantime there are corrective devices available including color vision glasses (such as the Enchroma brand) and color filtering contacts that for some can help to enhance color for some people. If you think you might have CVD, your optometrist can perform some tests to diagnose it or rule it out. If you have CVD, you can speak to your eye doctor about options that might be able to help you experience your world in full color.