January Is Glaucoma Awareness Month

Glaucoma is one of most misunderstood eye diseases that eye doctors treat. Most people have heard of glaucoma and know they don’t want to have it, but I’ve found that most of my patients aren’t really sure how it damages vision or how it gets treated. 2.7 million people in the United States have glaucoma and it is the second leading cause of blindness.

Certain types of glaucoma are painless, which gives the disease the dubious distinction of being called “the sneak thief of vision”. It is a disease that damages the optic nerve in the eye causing progressive loss of peripheral vision, and by the time someone notices that they have lost portions of their visual field it is too late, and that visual loss is irreversible. One of the variables that causes the optic nerve to sustain damage is elevated intraocular pressure. If the pressure in the eye is extremely high, the eye will be painful, but the majority of patients only have moderately elevated pressure and will not know it is high until it is detected on a routine eye exam. Factors that increase the risk of developing glaucoma include being African American, having a family history, hypothyroidism, being over 60, and previous eye trauma. Typically, the initial treatment modality is using eye drops that lower the intraocular pressure,  but more advanced or complicated cases may need laser or surgery.

A disease such as glaucoma is a perfect example of why everyone needs routine eye care, even if they have 20/20 vision, since evaluation of the optic nerve, peripheral vision, and eye pressure measurements in the office are key to preventing devastating and permanent vision loss. 

Makeup Tips For Contact Lens Wearers

cosmetic products

This month’s post was originally going to discuss eye makeup tips for everyone, whether you wear contacts or not, but an interesting patient encounter last week prompted me to address contact lens wearers first. A young woman came in for her yearly eye exam and contact lens renewal complaining that a few hours after putting her contacts in her eyes the lenses became foggy and she had trouble seeing. She was wearing a two week lens, meaning she takes it out every night and cleans it and puts in a fresh lens every two weeks. This kind of contact lens usage can lead to a condition called GPC (giant papillary conjunctivitis) where one becomes sensitive/allergic to the proteins that build up on the lens over time. At first I thought this is what she had but when I looked at her contacts under the biomicroscope I immediately saw that her contacts were coated with bronze shimmery deposits that looked nothing like anything found in nature and everything like someone took blobs of makeup and threw them on her contact lenses. This prompted a conversation about her makeup habits, which actually were not bad except that when the problem would not go away she decided to put her makeup on first and then put the contact lens in. Bad move, it only made things worse. Next month we will talk more about makeup and eyes but here are some quick tips specifically about contacts and makeup.

  1. Contacts first, makeup second, and wash your hands first!
  2. Using primer on your lids prevents eye shadow from creeping into your eyes and onto your contacts, I like the one by Urban Decay.  
  3. Do not use eyeliner on your waterline – it will clog every oil gland you own and cause dry eye as well as migrating onto your contacts. 
  4. Use high quality eyeliner – I love Urban Decay 24/7, NYX waterproof retractable eye liner and Marc Jacobs Highliner gel eye crayon – they stay put without sliding around.  
  5. At the end of the day remove contacts first then remove your eye makeup.
  6. Daily disposable contacts will help prevent sensitivity to accidental buildup of anything on your lenses, whether it be makeup or proteins, this is the safest and healthiest way to successfully wear contact lenses.  

Don’t Blame The French Fries!

bowl of french fries

Last month a story came out of England about a teenager who went blind from eating only junk food. I found this very interesting and bookmarked the article so I could blog about it when I had the time. Well oopsie, September passed by in a blur and the email I had saved with the link to the article got buried in my inbox until yesterday when in a frantic attempt to organize my life by starting with my work emails I encountered the article I had saved. After doing a little research on the story I was glad I waited to share the information because the initial story that most of the media outlets shared left out certain details that misrepresented the real lesson to be learned from this young man’s tragic vision loss.

The basic story is that a teenager in the UK whose diet consisted of Pringles, white bread, french fries and occasionally some ham lost his eyesight to a condition called nutritional optic neuropathy which like it sounds, develops due to the lack of the proper nutrients that the eyes need in order to function. Many of the articles used this story as a cautionary tale, admonishing junk food eaters and parents of picky eaters that this is what could happen if you don’t eat a healthy diet. Turns out the young man who went blind was not a “picky eater” but rather , he had an eating disorder called ARFID (Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder) which led to various nutritional illnesses. The media however jumped on the bandwagon of the evils of junk food and fad diets instead of using the story as an opportunity to bring awareness to the importance of detecting mental health disorders in children and teenagers. Does poor nutrition due to a diet limited to french fries lead to blindness? Absolutely that can happen, but this story was way more complex than simply blaming Pringles and fries. 

Can I Swim In My Contact Lenses?

woman in water clearing his face of waterNo, no and no. Not only can you not swim in them, but you can not expose your contact lenses to any type of water at all. This includes tap water, oceans, swimming pools, lakes, hot tubs, and even showers! Soft contact lenses absorb not only the water, but any viruses, bacteria, or other microbes that are living in the water. Although rare, an organism called Acanthamoeba which lives in impure water can attach itself to your contacts and cause your cornea to become extremely infected and inflamed and can cause permanent vision loss and/or a corneal transplant if not treated quickly and aggressively.  A couple of weeks ago a young man from the UK shared his personal story of how he contracted Acanthamoeba – he initially thought he just scratched his eye putting in his contacts, but instead of getting better over time it got worse. Ultimately he was diagnosed with Acanthamoeba keratitis and even after months of different treatments and procedures he unfortunately lost the vision in his eye. The doctors concluded that he contracted the infection because he showered daily in his contact lenses. Although this is definitely a worse case scenario at the very least the water can cause your contacts to tighten up on your eye and create discomfort or can wash away your natural tears causing dry eyes. Waterproof well fitting swim goggles can be worn over contacts but an even safer option is to purchase a pair of prescription swim goggles to eliminate all risks of contamination.

June = Cataract Awareness Month

pexels-photo-902194.jpegContrary to popular belief, a cataract is not an eye disease, rather it is a natural age related change to the lens of the eye which causes it to become opaque and difficult to see through. Generally cataracts are very slow growing and most commonly develop in people over the age of 55. Signs and symptoms can be subtle at first, ranging from blurry vision, glare from headlights, difficulty driving at night and frequent eyeglass prescription changes. Most people come into the office complaining that their glasses are not working when in reality they are experiencing blurred vision from cataracts.

So what exactly is a cataract? There is a part of the eye called the lens which is located behind the iris, the colored part of the eye and it functions to focus light on the retina. When we are young the lens is clear and flexible but as we age the lens becomes opaque or cloudy and consequently images on the retina become blurred. Cataracts can also form in patients with diabetes, smokers, and those on certain medications like steroids. There is no proven way to prevent cataracts but UV protection, smoking cessation and a healthy diet that includes antioxidants can help prevent their premature development.

pexels-photo-690887.jpegHow do we treat cataracts? When cataracts start to interfere with quality of life and ability to function, surgical removal of the cataract is indicated. The lens of the eye is removed and replaced with an artificial lens which greatly improves vision. The most common comment I get on the first day after the operation is how bright and beautiful colors look. As with any surgery there are risks, but we co-manage surgery with the best cataract surgeons in order to ensure the best possible outcomes.