Q: What is the difference between seasonal and perennial allergies? How would I know the difference?
A: Simply put, seasonal allergic conjunctivitis (SAC) is a more common and persistent form of ocular allergies that occurs during changes in season, which include outdoor weeds, grasses, and tree pollen. Whereas perennial allergic conjunctivitis (PAC) is a more mild and chronic presentation that occurs year-round from common indoor allergens, such as animal dander, molds, fungus, and even dust mites.
Q: I have seasonal allergies. How come my eyes are still itchy even after I take a Claritin pill?
A: You may need an anti-allergy eye drop to target the symptoms in the eye. Sometimes, oral antihistamine medications are not that effective at treating the ocular symptoms, especially within the first few days of treatment. In fact, many of them can cause dry eyes, which worsens eye discomfort. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, over-the-counter or prescription-strength eye drops can provide relief.
Q: Why does allergy season affect my eyes?
A: It’s that time of the year for allergies, and for those who suffer, it’s more than just sneezing. It can mean months of itchy, watery, and puffy eyes. Because many of the allergens are in the air, they easily get into the eyes and cause problems. For some people, a sudden case of red and watery eyes can feel like an infection when really, it’s just allergies. Eye allergies, known as “allergic conjunctivitis”, can often be treated with over the counter medication, but for some, it is not enough. Let us help you manage your allergies this season.
Q: How will I know if my child's amblyopia is getting better? Is it too late to help if the problem is detected after age 6?
A: Lazy eye will not go away on its own. We have what is called electrodiagnostic testing which can determine the effectiveness of amblyopia treatment without relying on the response of the child to "tell" us how well they are seeing. Oftentimes, parents worry that the eye exam is not accurate if their child is not old enough to read the chart or is uncooperative due to anxiety surrounding an eye exam. This test is non-invasive and fast (30 minutes) and can be done right here in our office for patients of all ages, starting in infancy. We can track over time how the therapy is working and the prognosis of their vision.
Q: What exactly is astigmatism?
A: Astigmatism is usually caused by an irregularly shaped cornea, the front surface of the eye. Instead of being a perfect sphere, like a ball bearing or a marble, it can become a little more like a football, being more curved in one direction than the other. This brings light into focus at more than one point on the retina at the back of the eye, resulting in blurry or distorted vision.
Q: My previous eye doctor told me I have “stigma!” Am I going to go blind?
A: Stigma is actually referring to a type of refractive error known properly as astigmatism, and no, you will not go blind from having astigmatism; it is not a disease. In fact, this condition is relatively common. There are three types of refractive errors: myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism. The former two are also known to as nearsighted (cannot see far away) and farsighted (cannot see up close). Astigmatism is simply the third category; it can affect both the near and far vision. Much like nearsightedness or farsightedness, astigmatism is corrected using glasses or contacts. Technically speaking an eye with astigmatism requires two different prescriptions to correct vision in one eye, due to the more oval shape of the cornea. For contact lens wearers, this will require a more specialized contact lens and a more in-depth fitting procedure.
Q: I've heard that blue light is dangerous, like UV radiation. Do I need to protect my eyes from it and, if so, how?
A: We all know about ultraviolet (UV) sun damage, but recently, the optical community has found that high-energy visible light (HEV) or "blue light" from digital screens may cause long term damage to the eye, too. Over time, exposure can increase the risk of macular degeneration, and other problems. Similar to anti-reflective and UV-protective coatings, a new lens coating has been developed to protect our eyes by blocking out blue light rays coming from our handheld devices, computers and fluorescent bulbs.
Q: What is blue light and why is it dangerous?
A: Blue light is part of visible light and has a wavelength close to UV rays on the light spectrum. It is naturally produced by the sun, given off by fluorescent light bulbs, and emitted by LED screens on computer monitors, tablets, and smartphones. The eye's natural filters do not block blue light and chronic exposure may increase your risk for age-related macular degeneration. Evidence also shows that blue light exposure can lead to sleep problems.
Q: Does reading my smartphone or tablet in the dark damage my eyes?
A: Reading from a tablet or smartphone in the dark is okay for your eyes, as long as it's not for a long period of time. These devices have decent lighting and good contrast. However, they give off blue light, and long-term exposure may cause damage to the structures of the eye. As well, studies have shown that blue light at night disrupts melatonin production and interferes with healthy sleep cycles. Optometrists recommend wearing blue light blocking eyewear for extended digital device use, and limiting screen time during the last hour before bedtime.
Q: My doctor says I have a cataract, but he wants to wait a while before removing it. Why?
A: A cataract usually starts very small and practically unnoticeable but grows gradually larger and cloudier. Your doctor is probably waiting until the cataract interferes significantly with your vision and your lifestyle. You need to continue to visit your eye doctor regularly so the cataract's progress is monitored. Some cataracts never really reach the stage where they should be removed. If your cataract is interfering with your vision to the point where it is unsafe to drive, or doing everyday tasks is difficult, then it's time to discuss surgery with your doctor.
Q: What are cataracts and how can they be treated?
A: Cataracts are a clouding of the lens inside the eye. They are common with age, certain medications and medical conditions. Patients usually feel like they are looking through a dirty window, cannot see colors the way they used to or have increased difficulty with glare. Currently, the treatment is surgery to remove the cloudy lens. Stay tuned for medical advances in cataract treatment in the future!
Q: What are cataracts and how can they be treated?
A: Cataracts occur when the natural lens of the eye, positioned just behind the pupil, changes from clear to cloudy. This causes increasingly blurry vision that eyeglass prescription changes cannot help. When the blurriness worsens to the point that it interferes with a person’s ability to read or drive or hinders their lifestyle, the cloudy lens is surgically removed and replaced with a clear plastic one, restoring clear vision. These days, cataract surgery can take as little as 20 minutes, and with little down-time and excellent outcomes.
Q: Can younger people get cataracts?
A: You may have a cataract from birth. Yes. Very rare but you could be born with cataracts or cataracts could be caused from injury or surgery. Some cataracts may have a little dot - congenital cataract that doesn't affect your vision and you won't even notice. The doctor may see it on exam.
Q: What are cataracts and how do they affect my vision?
A: A cataract is a gradual clouding of the crystalline lens, located inside the eye, causing decreased vision. Cataracts most commonly occur with aging, and are a normal part of the aging process. Other causes of cataract development include ocular trauma/surgery, radiation, smoking, systemic disease (metabolic and genetic conditions), and certain medications (particularly corticosteroids). Symptoms of cataract vision loss depend on the type, location, and severity of the cataract. Cataracts may cause gradual blurry vision, halos around lights, poor night vision, prescription changes, and glare symptoms. A cataract is treated with outpatient surgery, in which the crystalline lens is removed and replaced with a clear lens implant. Surgery is typically done with local anesthesia, with minimal or no complications. Nearly all patients achieve improved vision and often do not require glasses post surgery. Cataract surgery is one of the safest and most common surgeries performed in the United States. Your optometrist will evaluate your eyes for cataracts at each comprehensive eye exam. Please let your optometrist know if you experience any of the above symptoms.
Q: Do I have to wait until my cataracts are "ripe" before I can have them removed?
A: No! Waiting for cataracts to get "ripe" refers to an outdated surgical technique. Today, we recommend cataract removal when your quality of vision interferes with your quality of life. It is possible to have 20/20 vision, yet be so disabled by glare from headlights or sunlight, that cataract surgery may be the right treatment. We will monitor your cataract progression and help you decide the proper timing of cataract surgery.