Allergies and your Eyes

May 18th, 2016

Spring is such a great season. Warm winds, longer daylight hours and, unfortunately, allergies. Do you get red, itchy, watery eyes every year around this time? One in five Americans get eye allergy symptoms at this time of year, so you are not alone. Finding relief may be hard, but we have a few suggestions for you so you can enjoy the outdoors, again, this spring and summer.

What are seasonal eye allergies?

Eye allergies are also called ocular allergies and have common symptoms that are both annoying and can be unsightly. Symptoms could include:

  • red, itchy, burning, and watery eyes
  • swollen or puffy eyelids
  • temporary blurriness

If using over the counter allergy medicines do not seem to reduce symptoms see your eye doctor to check for other eye disorders. Seasonal eye allergies happen only at certain times of the year—usually early spring through summer and into autumn. Usually the cause is pollen from trees, flowers, grasses or possibly the mold from spores in the yard.

Methods to Reduce your Eye Allergy Symptoms

  • Keep your windows shut during the night due to tree and flower pollen being released early in the morning.  Run the air conditioning during the night to keep air moving. This will keep pollen out of your bedroom and home.
  • Stay indoors when pollen counts are highest, usually in mid-morning and early evening.
  • Clean surfaces regularly to keep pollen from building up and irritating you in your home.
  • Wear sunglasses to block pollen from entering your eyes.
  • Don’t rub your eyes. That’s likely to make symptoms worse. Try cool compresses instead.

If you find that antihistamines and over the counter drops are not helping, you may need to see your eye doctor to rule out eye diseases that could be confused as eye allergies. Eye doctors can prescribe stronger medications to stop the allergy or, at least, reduce the symptoms. Call us at Boston Eye Physicians and Surgeons at 617-232-9600.

Infant Eye Issues

April 12th, 2016

As new parents you have a constant cycle going: cry, feed, change, burp, comfort, and the cycle goes on for what may seem like a sleep-deprived level of infinity. There are so many things to do and worry about. Worrying about your child’s eyesight should be on your radar but not cause you more sleepless nights.  Here are a few things to be aware of when it comes to your infant and his/her vision.

There are a number of common childhood diseases and disorders to be on the look out for in the early months that you should bring to the attention of your pediatrician.

  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)- This very contagious eye disease is notorious for causing red, itchy, crusty eyes in infants and young children. Usually the pediatrician can prescribe ointment or drops to clear up a bacterial infection. If it is viral in nature, waiting it out is usually the best course of action. Warm compresses can also alleviate the pain.
  • Clogged tear ducts – It’s common for newborn tear ducts to clog and for tears to overflow onto a baby’s cheeks, or crusty build up to occur in the corners of the eyes.  Again, a warm cloth compress can help but if the pus drainage and crusting last throughout the day, call your doctor.
  • Crossed eyes – Many babies cross their eyes because the muscles that control them are still weak. However, if your child is 4 months old or older and frequently cross-eyed, or if it occurs at the same time each day or during the same activity, an eye exam is warranted.
  • Sty A sty looks like a red, sore lump near the edge of the eyelid; it is caused by an infected eyelash follicle. Talk to your doctor about treatment methods and relief of pain for your infant.
  • Amblyopia (Lazy Eye) – Amblyopia is a term used to mean poor vision in an eye that has not developed normal sight (usually during early childhood). It occurs when visual acuity is much better in one eye than the other. Amblyopia is common and affects two or three of every 100 people in the U.S. Amblyopia can be a result of strabismus (misaligned eyes). Again, discuss your observations with your doctor. They may recommend an eye appointment for further evaluation.

What is Photophobia?

March 16th, 2016

Ever feel like the lights are too harsh or bright?  Does the sun’s glare really bother you?  Do the florescent lights at work cause you to squint and give you a headache?  There is a chance that you may be photophobic. Sensitivity to light, the inability to tolerate light, is medically known as photophobia. For someone with this type of sensitivity, any type of light source, whether it is sunlight, fluorescent light, or incandescent light, can cause discomfort. What are the symptoms of this disorder? What causes it? What can possibly help? Let’s take a closer look.

 

What are the symptoms of photophobia?

Photophobia typically causes a need to squint or close the eyes. Some people may develop a  headache, nausea, or other symptoms that may be associated with photophobia

What causes this disorder?

While the origin and management of light sensitivity remain elusive even today there are some common conditions that can be related to photophobia. For example:

  • Migraines – Migraines are headaches that can be triggered by a number of factors, including hormonal changes, foods, stress, and environmental changes. Photophobia is a common symptom of migraine headaches. Many people report needing to be in a dark room with something shielding their eyes to receive any comfort.
  • Brain Conditions such as: Encephalitis, Meningitis or Subarachnoid Hemorrhage. Light sensitivity is commonly associated with a few serious conditions that affect the brain. Due to inflammation, bleeding or an infection in the brain, light sensitivity may result. Treatment for these disorders may help photophobia.
  • Eye Disorders such as: Dry Eye Syndrome, Conjunctivitis, Corneal Abrasion or Scleritis. These eye disorders that should be examined and diagnosed by your eye doctor and treated for the root cause, not just the symptom of light sensitivity associated with it.

What can help?

While there is no definitive cure, yet, there are some steps you can take to help alleviate the discomfort of photophobia.

Home-care – Stay out of the bright light when you are most affected. Use tinted glasses that can protect you from damaging rays of the sun and provide some protection from the glare and painful brightness.

Medical treatment – The type of treatment you need will depend on the underlying cause. Types of treatment include:

  • medications and rest for migraines
  • eye drops that reduce inflammation for scleritis
  • antibiotics for conjunctivitis
  • artificial tears for mild dry eye syndrome
  • antibiotic eye drops for corneal abrasions
  • anti-inflammatory medications, bed rest, and fluids for mild cases of encephalitis; severe cases require supportive care, such as breathing assistance
  • antibiotics for bacterial meningitis; the viral form usually clears up on its own within two weeks
  • surgery to remove excess blood and relieve pressure on your brain for subarachnoid hemorrhage

What to Expect During an Eye Exam

February 17th, 2016

Heading off to a doctor’s appointment can be an anxiety-ridden event for many people.  Going to the eye doctor should not induce stress and nerves however, if you know what to expect.  Eye exams are fairly straightforward and usually involve minimal discomfort.  Let’s take a look at what you can expect from a typical eye exam.

A comprehensive eye exam can take about an hour or so depending upon the tests your optometrist or ophthalmologist wants to perform.  These may include:

  • Visual Acuity Exam – One of the initial tests your doctor will perform will be an examination of the sharpness of your vision.   These types of tests are usually performed using a projected eye chart to measure your distance visual acuity and a small, hand-held acuity chart to measure your near vision.
  • Screening for Color Blindness – In addition to detecting hereditary color vision deficiencies, color blind tests also can alert your eye doctor to possible eye health problems that may affect your color vision.
  • Retinoscopy – This test can give the doctor an approximation of what your prescription for your eye glasses will be.  Usually it involves looking at a chart and examining whether the letters/numbers look sharper in one lens or the other.
  • Refraction – This is the test that your eye doctor uses to determine your exact eyeglass prescription. During this test an instrument called an instrument called a phoropter in front of your eyes and shows you a series of lens choices. He or she will then ask you which of the two lenses in each choice looks clearer. Or the doctor may use an autorefractor or aberrometer to automatically determine your prescription.
  • Slit Lamp or Biomicroscope Exam – This allows your eye doctor to get a highly magnified view of the structures of your eye to thoroughly evaluate your eye health and detect any signs of infection or disease.
  • Glaucoma Test – There are a couple different ways your doctor could examine your eyes for glaucoma.  One is the well-known “puff of air” test and the other is the  exam using numbing eye drops and the applanation tonometer, which will measure the pressure of the eye.
  • Pupil Dilation – Your doctor may choose to dilate your pupil to get a better look at the structures of your eye.   Dilation will make your eyes sensitive to sunlight so you may want to bring sunglasses.

Nearsighted: Causes and Treatments

January 13th, 2016

Has your child begun to have trouble seeing the board at school or squints at the TV or movie screen?  Do street signs and people’s faces seem out-of-focus or blurry until they get a bit closer?  If you or your child are experiencing any of these symptoms, you may be suffering from a medical eye disorder known as myopia – also known as nearsightedness. Nearsightedness is a very common vision condition affecting nearly 30 percent of the U.S. population. Let’s examine this prevalent eye disorder including: symptoms, causes and treatments.

Nearsightedness –

This disorder allows for clear vision for objects that are near but blurry vision for items that are further away – thus the name nearsighted.  People who are afflicted with this may notice blurred vision or fuzzy vision, and possibly experience eye strain headaches.

Causes- 

The main cause of nearsightedness is the excessive curve or shape or the cornea directing the image not squarely on the retina.  As a result, the light entering the eye isn’t focused correctly and distant objects look blurred. Some research finds that nearsightedness is inherited from relatives who also experienced this eye disorder.  Other research shows evidence that eye strain and too much close work is to blame for this disorder.

Treatments –

  • Corrective Lenses – After a comprehensive optometrist examination glasses or contact lenses may be prescribed for patients experiencing this blurriness. Depending on the amount of nearsightedness, you may only need to wear glasses or contact lenses for certain activities, like watching a movie or driving a car. Or, if you are very nearsighted, they may need to be worn all the time.
  • Surgery – Laser Surgery – Reshaping the curve of the cornea is possible in some cases of nearsightedness and will result in no corrective lenses being needed. Refractive surgery procedures are also now available. These procedures involve implanting a small lens with the desired optical correction directly inside the eye.

Presbyopia

December 15th, 2015

You start to notice it slowly.  The fine wrinkles at the corner of your eyes.  The hairs that look like they might be gray.  And the reading material that looks blurry.  Growing older has it’s downside for sure.  While we can’t help you with the wrinkles or the hair we can tell you what might be going on with your vision.

If you find that the morning newspaper needs to be held further and further away to be clear or the text in your book looks blurry then you may have Presbyopia.  Presbyopia is the gradual loss of your eyes’ ability to focus on nearby objects. It’s a natural, often annoying part of aging. Many people become aware of presbyopia when they start holding books and newspapers at arm’s length to be able to read them. A basic eye exam with your eye doctor can confirm presbyopia.

What are the Symptoms of Presbyopia?

The American Optometric Association explains the main signs that you may be developing presbyopia. . .

  • Holding reading materials at arm’s length
  • Blurred vision at normal reading distance
  • Eye fatigue
  • Headaches when doing close work (sewing, handwork, reading, computer work)

What Causes Presbyopia?

As we age, the crystalline lens in the eye that bends the light in order to hit the retina loses elasticity. As your lens becomes less flexible, it can no longer change shape to focus on close-up images. As a result, these images appear out of focus.  Its effects can begin suddenly, usually around age 40, and can worsen over time.

How common is this and what are the risk factors involved in developing Presbyopia? 

This eye disorder is extremely common.  Millions of Americans report having Presbyopia.  The largest grouping are people over the age of 40.  Age is, in fact the greatest risk factor in developing presbyopia.  Almost everyone experiences some degree of presbyopia after age 40. Having other medical conditions can also be a factor leading to this.  For example, being farsighted or having certain diseases — such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis or cardiovascular diseases — can increase your risk of premature presbyopia, which is presbyopia in people younger than 40. Finally, certain medications are also associated with presbyopia.  For instance antidepressants, antihistamines and diuretics can be factors in premature presbyopia.

 

What are the Treatments for Presbyopia?

Eyeglasses are the simplest and safest means of correcting presbyopia. Eyeglasses for presbyopia have higher focusing power in the lower portion of the lens. This allows you to read through the lower portion of the lens and see properly at distant through the upper portion of the lens. It is also possible to purchase reading eyeglasses.For people who already wear eyeglasses bifocals may be an option.  Talk to your eye doctor about what options may be available for your unique eyes.

 

What is a Retinal Detachment?

October 13th, 2015

The National Institute for Heath and the Mayo Clinic both describe a retinal detachment as an emergency situation in which a critical layer of tissue (the retina) at the back of the eye pulls away from the layer of blood vessels that provides it with oxygen and nourishment. This lack of oxygen leaves the cells at risk and possible vision loss in the affected eye.  For this reason, if you suspect that the symptoms listed below are happening to you please contact your doctor immediately.

Warning Signs of a Retinal Detachment –

  • Appearance of floaters (bits of floating debris through your field of vision). They may look like string, dots or webs.
  • Flashes of light in the affected eye.
  • Shadow or dark area in field of vision. (Think of it as a curtain coming down.)

Types of Retinal Detachments –

  • Rhegmatogenous – This most common type of tear or detachment and happens when liquid gets under the retina and separates it from the retinal layer.
  • Tractional – This type is caused by scar tissue on the retina.  As it retracts and causes the detachment.
  • Exudative – Often caused by retinal disease, this type of detachment is often caused by an injury or trauma to the eye.

Causes of Retinal detachment can be a number of things including:  a trauma to the eye, advanced diabetes, an inflammatory disease or shrinkage of vitreous. People who are at a higher risk for this event are: over 40 years old, have extreme myopia, have a history of retinal detachment, previous cataract surgery and/or an eye trauma.

Treatment Methods – Most tears and detachment can be treated with laser surgery or a freeze treatment called cryopexy. These procedures are usually performed in the doctor’s office. During laser surgery tiny burns are made around the hole to “weld” the retina back into place. Cryopexy freezes the area around the hole and helps reattach the retina.

If any of these symptoms are happening seek immediate medical help.

 

What is a Corneal Abrasion?

September 15th, 2015

Ever been at the beach gotten sand in your eyes?  Or had a grandchild poke you in the eye inadvertently?  Or possibly, have you had a piece of debris get caught in your eyelash only to hurt your eye when you try to rub it out?  Any of these things, although they may seem minor, could lead to a corneal abrasion.  Let’s look at corneal abrasion causes, symptoms and treatment methods.

To understand what a corneal abrasion is first you must understand a little about the parts of the human eye.  The cornea is the clear, protective covering over the iris, which is the colored part of the eye, and the pupil — the black circle in the middle of the eye. The cornea is important for both vision and protection of the eye.  A corneal abrasion  then, is a scratch on that outermost covering of the eye.  Common causes include: being poked in the eye (makeup or finger), getting debris in the eye, aggressively rubbing the eye, bad hygiene with contacts, or potentially chemical burns.  If any of these events or circumstances have happened and you are experiencing pain and discomfort then you may have a corneal abrasion.  Symptoms that may also give evidence to this include:  tearing of the eye, feeling like something is in your eye, redness, eye pain, stinging or even blurred vision.

No one likes having something in their eye or even the feeling like something is in the eye.  One of the most important things to remember, should this happen to you, is NOT to rub the eye.  This could lead to the abrasion or cause more damage.  instead let the eye water to flush debris out, pull the top eyelid over the bottom eyelid and allow for watering or gently wash the eye with warm water.  If this does not rid your eye of the symptoms and pain see your doctor.

If your eye doctor believes you have suffered a corneal abrasion he/she may give you eye drops or ointment to prevent infection and to stop the pain.  In the case of a minor corneal abrasion the scratch will most likely heal on its own.  Larger or deeper scratches make take longer to heal and will require a patch, discontinued use of contacts and shaded glasses to shield the eye.

 

Eye Floaters

August 12th, 2015

Do you experience small moving spots that appear in your field of vision?  Do you notice these “floaters”  more when there is bright light or the background is a solid color like a blue sky or a solid white wall?  Then you may be experiencing eye floaters.  While these shadows or spots may be annoying at times they rarely interfere with good vision.  Lets look at what these floaters are and what may be causing them.

What are Floaters?

According to the Mayo Clinic, Floaters are  spots in your vision. They may look to you like black or gray specks, strings or cobwebs that drift about when you move your eyes and appear to dart away when you try to look at them directly. Symptoms may include: spots of black or grayish blobs, spots that drift through your field of vision, spots that move when your eyes move, or possibly squiggly lines that are fairly transparent.

Causes of Floaters

Eye Floaters are usually caused by small flecks of a protein called collagen. The most common causes of these flecks of protein include:

  • Age-related eye changes- As we age the vitreous jelly that fills our eyeballs begins to liquify.  As the vitreous shrinks and sags, it clumps and gets stringy. Bits of this debris block some of the light passing through the eye, casting tiny shadows on your retina.
  • Inflammation – This swelling at the back of the eye called the uvea  may be causing the floaters to appear.
  • Bleeding in the eye. Bleeding into the vitreous can have many causes, including injury and blood vessel problems. Seek immediate medical attention of floaters appear after a blunt injury to the eye.
  • Torn Retina – Retinal tears can occur when a sagging vitreous tugs on the retina. Without treatment, retinal tear may lead to retinal detachment. Due to this more serious cause it is imperative to see a doctor if you are suddenly getting many more floaters than usual.  It is also important to immediately seek medical help if these floaters not only increase in numbers and frequency but also are accompanied by flashes of light.  Retinal tears are sight threatening conditions that should be treated immediately by an eye doctor.

What causes Strabismus and how can it be treated?

July 15th, 2015

While holding or playing with your child, you notice that something is not quite right with the movement of his/her eyes.  Maybe one is looking in one direction and the other is off by a bit.  Or maybe you notice that when your child looks back and forth the eyes are not moving in coordination with each other.  What is this crossing of the eyes and how serious is it?  The first thing you should do is set up an appointment with your child’s pediatrician who will most likely do an eye exam and (depending upon the age of the child) recommend a visit to an ophthalmologist.  In the end the diagnosis could be strabismus.

What is strabismus?

Crossing of the eyes, or strabismus as it is medically termed, is a condition in which both eyes do not look at the same place at the same time. It occurs when an eye turns in, out, up or down and is usually caused by poor eye muscle control or a high amount of farsightedness. The disorder is very common in children, affecting four percent of children age 6 and younger. It does tend to run in families.  It is normal for children under 6 months of age to experience occasional crossed eyes because their brains are still developing the ability to see normally.  They will likely grow out of it. However in the case your child is being monitored for this and the symptoms do not disappear there are treatments available.

Treatment for Strabismus

Common treatments for these and other kinds of strabismus include special eye drops, eye patches, appropriate eyewear, vision therapy, and—in extreme cases—surgery. Most of the time, strabismus can be fixed if caught early enough and treated appropriately.

  • Eyewear – his method may help people who have crossed eyes due to an uncorrected farsightedness
  • Eye patches are commonly used to cover the stronger eye to build up the muscles in the weaker eye.  Eye drops to blur the vision of the stronger eye can also be used to get the same results.
  • Surgery – Eye muscle surgery may be needed if the eyes still do not move correctly. Different muscles in the eye will be made stronger or weaker.