Combating Dry Eye Syndrome

Do you experience itchy, burning, or dry eyes? You may be suffering from dry eye syndrome. Tears are necessary for overall eye health and clear vision, when there is insufficient moisture on the surface of the eye it can cause discomfort. Let’s looks at some common causes of dry eye syndrome, symptoms, and risk factors.

What are the causes of dry eye syndrome?
Tears keep the eyes surfaces moist and wash away dust, debris, and other microorganisms. Without constant, adequate moisture, dry eye will occur. Not enough oil in the tears causes them to evaporate too quickly, and without sufficient water production, eyes cannot maintain proper moisture.

Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome:
• Scratchy or gritty feeling
• Red eyes
• Blurriness
• Irritation from windy conditions
• Sensitivity to light
• Fatigued eyes
• Problems with contacts
• Excessive tearing
• Heavy eyes
• Sore eyes

Contact lenses and dry eyes
One of the most common complaints from contact lens wearers is their contacts make their eyes feel dry. If you experience dry eye symptoms while wearing your contacts or immediately after removing your contacts, talk with your eye doctor, as it is irregular to feel discomfort.

If discomfort occurs, it is possible you are using the incorrect solution with your contact lenses; not all solutions are made equally. Your eye doctor may also recommend you use eye drops to help temporarily relieve dry eye symptoms.

Another means to relieve symptoms is to change your contact lens type to a more breathable or moisture-focused lens, which is specially made to help retain moisture. You may also want to discuss with your eye doctor the option to switch from reusable contact lenses to single-use lenses. Single-use lenses will help prevent your lens from drying out and work to maintain moisture in your eyes.

Factors that Increase Risk of Dry Eyes
Dry eye symptoms stem from multiple risk factors, including health conditions, environments, and eyewear choice. If you are suffering from dry eye try some of the tips below to help reduce your symptoms.

• Computer use. Humans blink less frequently when working at computers, allowing for more evaporated tears. When working on a computer for an extended period of time, follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds to give your eyes a rest.
• Contact lens. Dry eye discomfort is a primary reason for wearers to stop using contacts. Use rewetting drops daily or talk with your eye doctor about contact lens types that work best for your eyes.
• Indoor environment. Air conditioning, fans, and air heating systems can decrease the humidity indoors and cause symptoms of dry eye. Try using a humidifier in your house if you notice the air getting dryer.
• Outdoor environment. If you are outdoors in dry or windy conditions, wear a pair of sunglasses or hat to reduce your exposure to the elements which can cause dry eyes.
• Smoking. Can cause eyes to dry over time and is the root of various other eye problems.
• Aging. Dry eye syndrome is more common after the age of 50.
• Menopause. Women who have completed menopause are at a greater risk for dry eye than men the same age.
• Health conditions. Certain diseases have a higher risk of contributing to dry eye- such as diabetes or thyroid diseases.
• Medications. Prescription and nonprescription medications can have dry eye as a side effect.

Please call our office if you have further questions about Dry Eye or any other eye disease or condition. Our core focus at Advanced Eyecare Professionals is “To Provide Exceptional Vision Care & Education.” Our doctors and staff are always happy to answer any questions, and provide additional education on specific eye diseases or conditions during your appointment.

Know the Facts About Cataracts

Did you know, cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the world? Cataracts affect nearly 20.5 million Americans age 40 and older.* Therefore, if you are over the age of 40, you should have a yearly comprehensive eye exam to detect cataracts as they develop.
A cataract is the clouding of the lens in your eye. Additionally, many people describe it as if you are looking through a foggy or frosted window.

What causes cataracts?
Clouding of the lens in your eye is caused by proteins clumping together within the lens. It is unknown why the eye changes as the body ages, but these changes may cause them to grow larger over time. Then, result in unclear vision. Furthermore, diabetes, obesity, smoking, ultraviolet radiation, and family history can influence your development of cataracts.

Symptoms
Symptoms vary from person to person. However, there are a few key symptoms associated with most cases.
• Slight blur in vision
• Vision is cloudy
• Sunlight or lamps feel too bright
• Headlights have more glare and/or a halo around them
• Colors no longer appear as bright as they once did

Types of cataracts
Subcapsular
Subcapsular cataracts typically occur in the back of the lens. Most commonly found in individuals with diabetes or those taking a high dose of steroid medication.
Nuclear
Nuclear cataracts are associated with aging and occur in the central zone of the lens.
Cortical
Cortical cataracts are in the lens cortex and interfere with light passage through the eye.
Congenital
Congenital cataracts are present at birth and may be due to genetics or intrauterine infection.

Are cataracts preventable?
No studies have shown a way to prevent cataracts. However, there are recommended practices to help maintain eye health and lower your risk of developing cataracts.
Yearly comprehensive eye exams help maintain eye health. Additionally, they detect cataracts at an early stage.
Smoking can increase your risk for cataracts. Therefore, quitting smoking provides a variety of health benefits including lowering your risk for cataract development.
Keeping up with treatment if you have diabetes or other medical conditions will help minimize your risk.
Maintaining a healthy diet, including fruits and vegetables, provides increased overall eye health.
Prevent ultraviolet radiation damage and the development of cataracts through the use of sunglasses.

If you would like to view a short video on cataracts you can visit our additional resource page: /eye-disease/cataracts/

Please call our office if you have further questions on cataracts or any other eye disease or condition. Our core focus at Advanced Eyecare Professionals is “To Provide Exceptional Vision Care & Education.” Our doctors and staff are always happy to answer any questions, and provide additional education on specific eye diseases or conditions during your appointment.

*National Eye Institute (https://nei.nih.gov)

Flashes, Floaters, and Spots: What’s in my Vision?

Have you noticed tiny shadows cast upon objects you are looking at? Do you see small spots in your vision? You may be seeing floaters and spots in your field of vision.

What is the spot in my vision?
It is normal to see spots or floaters in your vision. As you age, the gel-like consistency in your eyes begins to dissolve creating floaters in the watery center of your eye. While you cannot see the particle floating in your eye, a shadow of these particles can be seen reflected in the objects you are viewing.

Do I need treatment for my floaters?
Typically, treatment is not necessary. The floaters and spots are harmless, and most will fade over time. However, if you are experiencing vision problems call our office to discuss options available to reduce these symptoms.

Why is there a flash in my vision?
When light enters your eye it sends a message to the retina, the retina then produces an electrical impulse which is sent to the brain. Then, the brain interprets this impulse as an image. Therefore, if the retina is tugged, torn, or detached from the back of the eye it is common to see a flicker of light. The flashes or flickers of light can be temporary or continue indefinitely depending on the severity of the retinal issue.

Is this ever a medical emergency?
Seeing a few new floaters is not an emergency. However, if you suddenly see a shower of floaters or spots this may be cause for concern. The sudden appearance of flashes of light could mean that damage is occurring to your retina. If any of these symptoms suddenly appear, call our office immediately to discuss with your eye doctor.
Conditions associated with eye floaters and flashes:
• Bleeding inside the eye
• Inflammation of the interior of the eye
• Nearsightedness
• Cataract surgery
• Laser eye surgery
• Diabetes
• Eye infections

If you are concerned about changes in your vision, call our office to schedule an appointment. Our core focus at Advanced Eyecare Professionals is “To Provide Exceptional Vision Care & Education.” Our doctors and staff are always happy to answer any questions, and provide additional education on specific eye diseases or conditions during your appointment.

Common Eyelid Bumps

Eyes are one of the most sensitive areas of the body and we tend to notice any pain related to our eyes relatively quickly. Here are a few common eye conditions and symptoms causing eyelid bumps. Have more questions? Give our office a call!

I have a red bump near the edge of my eyelid, what is this?
An infection called a stye causes this red bump. Bacteria enter the base of an eyelash and become infected. It can be contagious so it is important to wash your hands if you touch your eyes and not share any washcloths or hand towels with others. While a stye can be annoying, you should never pop or poke it. Eventually, a stye will heal on its own within a few days. Use a warm washcloth can help to alleviate some of the pain and speed up the healing process.

What is the bump inside my eyelid?
An infection called chalazion causes the bump inside your eyelid. This is similar to stye but found inside the eyelid on an oil gland. Typically, this red swollen bump is benign and containings fatty secretions that normally help lubricate the eye. Chalazions are not infectious and typically resolve on their own within a few days to a week. Try using a warm compress to help relieve discomfort and move along the healing process. If you are experiencing pain or discomfort from a chalazion and it does not heal on its own, call our office to schedule an appointment!

Why does my baby have tiny bumps on and around the eye area?
Milia are the tiny white or yellowish bumps seen around a baby’s eyes. These look similar to a whitehead but are not acne. Milia occur in clusters and are caused by dead skin cells getting trapped under the surface of the skin. Most commonly, they occur in babies but can be found at any age. Parents can expect milia on newborns to resolve on its own within a few weeks. Do not try to pop or remove milia yourself.

Why is my eyelid swollen?
Inflammation or excess fluid surrounding the eye causes a swollen eyelid. Eye infections, injuries, trauma, and allergies are the most common causes of a swollen eyelid. Whether or not you experience pain and how long the healing process will take is determined by the cause of the swelling. Are you experiencing swelling surrounding your eye from an unknown cause or for an extended period of time? Call our office to schedule an appointment or consult with your eye doctor.

Have more questions?
If your eyelid condition or concern does not fit into one of these categories or you have additional questions please call our office to schedule a consultation. Our core focus at Advanced Eyecare Professionals is “To Provide Exceptional Vision Care & Education.” Our doctors and staff are always happy to answer any questions, and provide additional education on specific eye diseases or conditions during your appointment.

Macular Degeneration

Individuals over the age of 50 are at a higher risk for developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is a condition that causes gradual vision loss. Blurry vision is a key symptom.

As a result, those over the age of 50 should contact our office if they notice changes in their vision. Schedule an appointment with the doctor to discuss your risk for AMD.

What is Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration is a condition in which the macula in the eye breaks down resulting in gradual central vision loss. It is most common in individuals over the age of 50. Therefore, vision loss is commonly referred to as age-related macular degeneration. Early signs of this condition include shadows in your central vision, fuzzy vision, or distorted vision. While AMD is not curable, early detection, prevention, and treatment can help slow or stop the progression.

Symptoms of AMD
• Straight lines appear wavy
• Fuzzy vision
• Night vision problems
• Gray, dark, or empty area in central vision
• Dramatic vision loss

Types of macular degeneration
Dry macular degeneration is the most common type of AMD, diagnosed in nearly 90% of cases.* Dry macular degeneration causes yellowish deposits to form in the retina resulting in deterioration. Dry AMD is not curable or reversible. However, it will not result in full vision loss. By maintaining good health and protecting your eyes from UV rays, you can decrease your risk and prevent early development of dry macular degeneration.

Wet macular degeneration is a severe form of AMD and accounts for about 10% of macular degeneration cases.*Wet macular degeneration occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina and macula in the eye. However, Wet AMD is an advanced form of macular degeneration and can result in full loss of central vision. As these blood vessels start to leak blood and fluid into the eye, the macula is forced to lift away from its base causing distorted central vision.

Who is at risk?
Macular degeneration primarily affects female Caucasians over the age of 50 people. Smoking is one of the highest risk factors for developing macular degeneration. Additional risk factors include obesity, high blood pressure, lighter eye color, and a family history of AMD.

If you are concerned about changes in your vision or suffer from one of these risk factors, call our office to schedule an appointment. Our core focus at Advanced Eyecare Professionals is “To Provide Exceptional Vision Care & Education.” Our doctors and staff are always happy to answer any questions and provide additional education on specific eye diseases or conditions during your appointment.

If you would like to view a short video on macular degeneration you can visit our additional resource page: /eye-disease/macular-degeneration/

*American Macular Degeneration Foundation

Most Americans Unaware of One of the Leading Causes of Blindness Among Seniors

Advanced Eyecare Professionals and the American Academy of Ophthalmology reminds the public that a simple eye exam is key to saving sight against Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is one of the leading causes of blindness among seniors, affecting approximately 2.1 million people nationwide . By 2050, it is expected that the number will more than double to 5.4 million . People may be putting themselves at unnecessary risk of vision loss by neglecting to have sight-saving eye exams. Throughout February, Advanced Eyecare Professionals joins the American Academy of Ophthalmology in emphasizing AMD awareness and encouraging those who are most at risk to ensure the health of their eyes by getting an eye exam from an ophthalmologist – a physician who specializes in the medical and surgical treatment of eye diseases and conditions.

AMD is a degenerative disease that damages the retina, which is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye that focuses images and relays information to the brain. Over time, retinal damage can lead to permanent loss of central vision, limiting the ability to drive, read and recognize faces.

There are two forms AMD – wet and dry. While the dry form of AMD leads to gradual vision loss, the wet form progresses at a faster rate and is responsible for 90 percent of all AMD-related blindness. Recent advancements in treatment options have significantly decreased the incidence of blindness. However, it is critical to get diagnosed and begin treatment as soon as possible to protect vision.

“Degenerative diseases, such as AMD, can now be successfully treated, but early detection is imperative to avoid lasting damage,” says Michael Flohr, M.D., an ophthalmologist with the AEP eye care team. “The risk of eye disease increases with age for everyone, but if there is a positive family history it is particularly important to have complete eye exams.”

The Academy recommends the following steps to help potentially avoid AMD and other eye diseases:

  • Get regular comprehensive medical eye exams. AMD often has no early warning signs, so getting regular comprehensive eye exams from an ophthalmologist is critical to diagnosing and treating the eye disease in its early stages. The Academy recommends that people over age 65 get an exam every one to two years, even if they have no symptoms of eye problems.
  • Quit smoking. Numerous studies have shown smoking to increase the risk of developing AMD and the speed at which it progresses. If you smoke, you are twice as likely to develop macular degeneration compared with a nonsmoker.
  • Know your family’s eye health history. If you have a close relative with AMD, you have a 50 percent greater chance of developing the condition. Before you go in for your next eye exam, speak with your family about their eye health history. Sharing this information with your ophthalmologist may prompt him or her to recommend more frequent eye exams. The earlier AMD is caught, the better chances you may have of saving your vision.
  • Eat a diet rich in omega-3s and low in cholesterol and saturated fat. Several studies have shown that people who had a reduced risk of AMD had diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish. In one study of patients who were at moderate risk for AMD progression, those who reported the highest omega-3 intake (not in the form of a supplement) were 30 percent less likely to develop advanced AMD after 12 years. In another study, an increased risk of AMD was found in individuals who had a higher intake of saturated fats and cholesterol and in those with a higher body mass index.
  • Exercise regularly. Many studies have shown that getting regular exercise can benefit your eyes. One study found that exercising three times a week reduced the risk of developing wet AMD over 15 years by 70 percent.

“There are now new treatments for macular degeneration that can dramatically improve or preserve vision, “ says David Harrell MD, an AEP eye care team ophthalmologist. “Some of this treatment is administered in the form of an injection by a retinal specialist. In our area this has usually meant a drive into Grand Rapids for service. However, we are pleased to announce to now have a once a month visiting retina specialist, Dr. Kathleen DeHorn from Vitreo-Retinal Associates (VRA) come into our AEP Ionia location to give patients another option.”

For more information on age-related macular degeneration or other eye conditions and diseases please call our office.

Glaucoma: The Silent Thief of Sight

Did you know, nearly 2.2 million people in the United States are affected by glaucoma?* Due to the lack of symptoms in the early stages, almost half of Americans with glaucoma do not know they have it. As a result, it is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States and worldwide.

What is glaucoma?
It is an eye condition that damages the optic nerve in the eye. If left untreated can result in blindness. High pressure within the eye causes damage to the optic nerve. Which then prevents the nerve from sending messages from the eye to the brain.
Typically, there are no symptoms or pain associated with glaucoma until severe vision loss has occurred. At this point, there is permanent vision loss. Additionally, the degree of vision loss differs for each individual.

Symptoms
• Most often has no symptoms
• Damage starts in peripheral vision
• Blurred vision
• Distorted vision
• Vision loss

Who is at risk?
According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, African Americans are three times more likely to be affected, and six times more likely to suffer from blindness as a result. Hispanics and Latinos have the second highest risk. Those with a family history and diabetes are also at a higher risk. In order to help with early detection and to prevent irreversible vision loss, be sure to notify your eye doctor if you fit any of these categories.

Primary Types of Glaucoma
Primary open-angle: Primary open-angle causes peripheral vision to gradually reduce without any other symptoms. If not controlled or discovered, it can progress to tunnel vision and ultimately lead to blindness.
Acute angle-closure: Acute angle-closure produces a variety of sudden symptoms such as eye pain, headache, halos, dilated pupils, vision loss, nausea, and vomiting. Each onset of new symptoms causes additional vision loss.
Normal tension: Normal tension occurs in patients with a normal pressure within their eye and typically has no symptoms associated until tunnel vision occurs.

If you would like to view a short video on glaucoma you can visit our additional resource page: /eye-disease/glaucoma/

Please call our office if you have further questions on glaucoma or any other eye disease or condition. Our core focus at Advanced Eyecare Professionals is “To Provide Exceptional Vision Care & Education.” Our doctors and staff are always happy to answer any questions and provide additional education on specific eye diseases or conditions during your appointment.

*Glaucoma Research Foundation

Early Detection Critical to Treating Glaucoma

Advanced Eyecare Professionals and the American Academy of Ophthalmology remind the public of the importance of eye exams

Glaucoma is a major cause of vision loss worldwide. It affects more than 3 million people in the United States—nearly half of whom are unaware they have the disease. During Glaucoma Awareness Month in January, Advanced Eyecare Professionals (AEP) joins the American Academy of Ophthalmology in reminding the public that early detection and treatment can help protect your sight.

Glaucoma damages the optic nerve, which transmits visual information from the retina to the brain. “In many cases, Glaucoma starts symptomless to patients and has no warning signs. However, permanent, irreversible vision loss can already be taking place,” says Michael Flohr, M.D., an ophthalmologist with the AEP eye care team.

The Academy recommends that everyone have a comprehensive eye exam, and if you have never had one, to for sure have one at the age of 40. This exam provides ophthalmologists – physicians who specialize in medical and surgical eye care – an opportunity to carefully examine the eye including the optic nerve for signs of damage and other possible problems that may affect vision. Individuals at greater risk for developing glaucoma include people:

  • over age 40;
  • of African, Asian or Hispanic heritage;
  • who have high eye pressure detected during an eye exam;
  • who are farsighted or nearsighted;
  • who have experienced eye trauma or eye injury;
  • whose corneas are thin in the center;
  • or who have health problems such as diabetes, migraines, high blood pressure or poor blood circulation.

Appropriate treatment for glaucoma depends on the specific type and severity of the disease. Medicated eye drops or laser treatments are the most common initial approach. These techniques work by lowering eye pressure to reduce the amount of fluid in the eye, and by increasing fluid outflow from the eye.

“Detecting glaucoma early is possible during the testing performed in a routine eye exam,” says David Harrell, M.D., an AEP eye care team ophthalmologist. “For this reason, annual eye examinations are vital. Vision loss due to glaucoma cannot be restored. However, if glaucoma is detected early, there are excellent treatments to prevent damage from progressing and preserving vision.”

For more information on glaucoma or other eye conditions and diseases, call our office.

Sixty Percent of Americans with Diabetes Skip Annual Sight-Saving Exams

Advanced Eyecare Professionals and the American Academy of Ophthalmology reiterate the importance of dilated eye exams in preventing vision loss.

People with diabetes are at increased risk of developing serious eye diseases, yet most do not have sight-saving, annual eye exams, according to a large study. Advanced Eyecare Professionals (AEP) joins the Academy in reiterating the importance of eye exams during the month of November, which is observed as Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month.

Researchers at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia have found that more than half of patients with the disease skip these exams. They also discovered that patients who smoke – and those with less severe diabetes and no eye problems – were most likely to neglect having these checks.

The researchers collaborated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to review the charts of close to 2,000 patients age 40 or older with type 1 and type 2 diabetes to see how many had regular eye exams. Their findings over a four-year period revealed that:

• Fifty-eight percent of patients did not have regular follow-up eye exams
• Smokers were 20 percent less likely to have exams
• Those with less-severe disease and no eye problems were least likely to follow recommendations
• Those who had diabetic retinopathy were 30 percent more likely to have follow-up exams

One in 10 Americans have diabetes, putting them at heightened risk for visual impairment due to the eye disease diabetic retinopathy. The disease also can lead to other blinding ocular complications if not treated in time. Fortunately, having a dilated eye exam yearly or more often can prevent 95 percent of diabetes-related vision loss.

“Vision loss is tragic, especially when it is preventable,” says Dr. Michael Flohr, M.D., an ophthalmologist with the AEP team. “During Diabetic Awareness month and always, we want to help educate people on sight saving preventative care. Please make your eyes a priority and get an annual dilated eye exam.”

Eye exams are critical as they can reveal hidden signs of disease, enabling timely treatment. This is why the Academy recommends people with diabetes have them annually or more often as recommended by their ophthalmologist, a physician who specializes in medical and surgical eye care.

“Diabetes can cause serious vision loss that can often be prevented by regular annual eye exams and early detection of changes that may not give patients symptoms until damage is more advanced,” says Dr. David Harrell, M.D., an AEP eye care team ophthalmologist.

The Academy offers an animated public service announcement on their aao.org website to help educate people about the importance of regular exams and common eye diseases including diabetic retinopathy.

Find more information on diabetic eye care contact our office.

Pink Eye Prevention

Pink eye might look and sound scary, but it is a common and easily treatable eye irritation. Also called conjunctivitis, pink eye most commonly affects those working in close proximity to one another. While anyone can get pink eye, schoolchildren, college students, teachers, and daycare workers are at a higher risk. Understanding the symptoms and causes is the best strategy for pink eye prevention.

What is pink eye?
Pink eye is inflammation in the clear covering of the white part of the eye. It is a highly contagious viral infection caused by several types of viruses.

Symptoms of pink eye
• Pink appearance in the eye
• Watery eyes
• Itchy eyes
• Sticky eye discharge
• Waking up with eyes stuck shut

What causes pink eye?
A virus, such as the common cold, causes viral conjunctivitis. Typically, this will clear up on its own after a few days.
Bacteria entering the eye causes bacterial conjunctivitis. Doctors treat this type of conjunctivitis.
Allergic conjunctivitis is caused by allergy irritants, which could include pollen, dust, and animal dander.

Tips for pink eye prevention
1. Do not share washcloths, hand towels, or tissues.
2. Never share contact lenses (prescription, colored, or special effect).
3. Cover your mouth when coughing.
4. Wash your hands, often.
5. Use hand disinfectants or hand sanitizers frequently.
6. Clean shared surfaces such as counters, door handles, faucet handles, and phones.
7. Properly clean your contact lens.
8. Wear swim goggles to prevent bacteria from entering your eyes.
9. Before going into the water of any kind, remove your contact lenses.

Pink Eye Q&A
How long does pink eye last?
Depending on the type of infection you have it can last a few days to a few weeks. If you experience prolonged discomfort or suspect you have pink eye, give us a call to schedule your next appointment today.

How long is pink eye contagious?
It can be contagious for several days to several weeks, depending on the type of infection.

How long should I wait to return to work or school after pink eye?
Typically, you may return once the signs of pink eye are gone. Usually ranging from 3 to 7 days. Check with the facility to see if they have specific requirements for returning after experiencing pink eye.

Is there a strategy for pink eye prevention if someone else in my house has the infection?
The best way to avoid contracting pink eye in close quarters is to clean all surfaces touched by the infected individual, frequently wash your hands, and avoid sharing washcloths and towels.

Do I need to come to the doctor if I think I have pink eye?
We recommend visiting our office if you have symptoms of an eye infection.

Please call our office if you have further questions about pink eye or any other eye disease or condition. Our core focus at Advanced Eyecare Professionals is “To Provide Exceptional Vision Care & Education.” Our doctors and staff are always happy to answer any questions, and provide additional education on specific eye diseases or conditions during your appointment.

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