Prevent Dry Eyes this Cold Season

Dry EyeDry eyes might not be a terribly debilitating condition on their own, but with cold season in full swing, they can lead to more severe problems.  People with dry eyes tend to rub them a lot, for one thing, which is unhygienic and encourages eye infections.

It’s best to do everything you can to keep your eyes well-hydrated from the outset, but it’s especially important when you have a cold.  Here are a few tips…

Keep Your Eyes Moist And Happy This Cold Season

1 – Approved Eye Drops

There are few better ways to combat dry eyes than with simple eye drops, available from virtually any pharmacy or convenience store.  However, only use fluids specifically designed to be put in your eyes – anything else may carry contaminants that do more harm than good.

2 – Air Humidifiers

During the Fall and Winter, a portable air humidifier will do a lot to keep some moisture in the air within your house, which in turn helps keep your eyes well-lubricated.  They’ll dry out more quickly in places with extremely low humidity.  (This is also true for doctor’s offices, airplanes, and other areas relying on recirculated air.)

3 – Lower Your Computer \ TV Screen

Here’s one you may not have known:  When your screen is above eye level, you open your eyes wider to see it.  This, naturally, leads to eyes drying out more quickly.  Keep the screen below eye level, and your eyelids will lower over the top part of your eye.

4 – Take Breaks From Eye-Intensive Activities

Reading, video games, close-up handiwork, and any other activity that requires constant sight work will tend to dry out eyes quickly.  Taking a break every hour or so will keep your eyes dry, especially if you take a couple minutes to close them so they can re-lubricate.

5 – Stop Smoking And/Or Avoid Smokers

Cigarette smoke is terrible for the eyes, as well as most every other part of the body.  Keep your eyes away from smoke at all times.

Remember: You only get one set of eyes.  Keep them protected to preserve your sight!

Spring Allergies and Eye Health

Phoenix_OptometryWhile most of us are happy that spring has arrived in Phoenix, spring brings with it a new eye health problem for millions of people: seasonal allergies. The blooms spring bring pollen… and therefore allergies.

The cause of allergies is easy enough to understand – allergy sufferers simply have over-active immune systems. When spring pollens hit, the defense mechanisms in your eyes, nose, and throat mistake it for a threat and start working to expel the “invader.” A runny nose and watery eyes is your body’s way of flushing out the system.

Unfortunately, the process isn’t exactly fun for allergy sufferers, and even potentially carries mild threats to your eye health.

Don’t Rub Those Itchy Eyes!

While it’s tempting, you and your family should try to not rub your eyes too often when suffering from seasonal allergies. The fine particles that fill the spring air can cause microabrasions – tiny tears – on your cornea which can build up over time, contributing to cataracts and other vision problems later in life.

Further, it’s easy to mistake common eye diseases for allergies, especially if you’re expecting spring allergies anyway.  If someone has an eye disease, rubbing their eyes just makes it easier for the disease to infect others. (I think we all know how quickly a pinkeye epidemic can spread!)

Treat Allergies Early And Often

For most people, standard over-the-counter antihistamines are all that are needed to keep seasonal allergies in check. Just remember that a person’s body can and will develop a tolerance to these allergy medications. Try rotating the antihistamines you use every now and then.

Allergies don’t have to be a threat to your eye health at all, as long as you take proper care of your eyes during allergy season!

Avoiding Winter Allergies

OptometryWhen you think of allergies, the image in many people’s minds is a field of spring flowers. While this may certainly get your sneeze factory going, wintertime is equally miserable for an allergy sufferer. An optometrist treats lots of itchy red eyes in the winter due to increased time spent indoors with allergens. Here’s how you can help:

Cleaning House

During the winter when more time is spent inside, household dust can take its toll. Pet dander, dust from holiday decorations and from organizing your home to meet those resolutions all contribute to indoor pollution. For that reason, it’s important to wipe down surfaces with a damp cloth regularly to remove built-up dust. Keep kitty or canine bathed and groomed to cut down on dander. Run the vacuum often and be sure to change or clean the filters of the machine when you are finished to further reduce the pollution factor.

Air Filters

Step two in improving the air in your home and removing allergens is to replace your furnace or HVAC filters regularly, and buy a quality filter. Those inexpensive blue filters may be tempting, but the truth is that they only remove very large particles from entering the system. Invest in a higher quality filter that is designed to remove the tiniest and most microscopic of debris, and replace it on schedule. You can also talk to your optometrist about household filtration systems that may provide additional benefit.

Fireplaces

The allure of a romantic winter fire is certainly wonderful, however it can be one of the most allergy-provoking things that you can do. Dust, ash, and carbon in the air have the potential to make your eyes and lungs burn, and send you to the optometrist for rescue. Limit exposure to fireplace and outdoor fires, or be prepared to handle the consequences.

Winter allergies are just as annoying as those in warmer months, but there are a few ways you can minimize the potential. If these methods aren’t enough, talk to your optometrist and allergist about treatments that will work for you.

Three Ways Cosmetics can be affecting your Eye Health

The majority of adult women wear some type of makeup, and many wear eye makeup. While cosmetics can boost self esteem and look attractive, they are not without a set of hazards. Here’s what eye doctors want you to know about the dangers of cosmetics to your vision.

Eye_CareAllergies

Cosmetics have many types of ingredients such as oil, minerals, pigments, and traces of metals. It’s not uncommon for a person to suffer allergic reactions to any of these elements, which can leave your eyes red, itchy, swollen, watery, and burning. Your vision may become blurry or you may have difficulty seeing due to the swelling. If you notice any of these symptoms after applying a cosmetic, remove it promptly, discontinue use, and consult eye doctors right away.

Introducing Germs

Your eye has a delicate system of moisture, drainage, and mucus membrane. A brief touch of your eye area with dirty hands could wreak havoc very quickly, and this is common with cosmetic use. Old cosmetics should be discarded and you should never use saliva to moisten products like mascara or eyeliner. NEVER share cosmetics, especially eye makeup. Doing so can introduce foreign bacteria or fungus to your eyes and facial skin. Wash your hands well before applying makeup to avoid inadvertently contaminating your eyes.

Harmful Ingredients

In the United States, the ingredients of cosmetics are regulated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) so harmful elements are banned for a consumer’s protection. This is not the case with cosmetics from other countries, which may contain heavy metals and dangerous ingredients. Kohl is one such product, which is especially dangerous to children due to its lead content. The FDA has gone so far as to publish a list of ingredients that are safe for cosmetic use. If ever in question about a new cosmetic, consult this list before using.

Cosmetics can be a fun way to express yourself, but caution should be taken to ensure their use is not harmful to your vision. Consult with  your Phoenix eye doctors with any cosmetic questions involving eye safety prior to wearing questionable products.

Do I need Eye Drops?

For people who suffer from allergies and people who work with computers, eye drops can seem like a miracle product. However, before you start using eye drops regularly, there are some facts your doctor of optometry wants you to know about the risks and benefits of eyedrop use.

Eye_ExamsThe Benefits

For patients who have issues with dry and irritated eyes, eye drops can provide significant relief. Red, itchy eyes feel better once the cooling effect of the drops kicks in. Fatigued eyes may feel refreshed and have an improved ability to focus. Eye drops also provide easy treatment of many eye health problems, such as allergy eyes, patients with glaucoma, people who’ve had surgery for cataracts or vision correction, and as a method of treatment for children who have “lazy eye” problems. Eye drops are a versatile, non-invasive way to manage various eye health issues.

The Risks

With all of the wonderful benefits that eye drops provide in optometry, the risks of using them are also very significant. Some drops conflict with other medications, which can increase eye pressure or make the eye drops either more or less powerful than they should be. Some people are allergic or sensitive to the ingredients in the eye drops, which leads to a worse situation when the already irritated eye reacts to the added allergen. Using eye drops often will cause blurry vision, and a risky situation if you need to drive or operate machinery.  Last but not least, eye drops are designed for short term use so prolonged application of certain medicated drops can cause long term trouble, such as glaucoma and cataracts, or decreased tear production.

Before using eye drops or any eye medication, talk to your Phoenix optometry specialist first so he or she can recommend the right product and dosage for your specific problem.

Pros and Cons of Using Eye Drops

Dry and itching eyes can make a suffering person pretty desperate for relief. Eye drops may be one solution you consider during allergy season, or if you are a person with sensitive eyes. You may wonder if eye drops are a good idea with regard to eye safety.

Pros

Eye drops help replace your eye’s natural moisture when your eyes aren’t making enough on their own. Artificial tears and eye drops help to relieve dryness and irritation, promoting comfort. Eyes that are burning or stinging can get relief, even if it is only the temporary kind. During allergy season, this can mean the difference between complete misery and moderate comfort.

If an eye safety related injury has occurred and the surface of your eye is scratched or damaged, eye drops will help heal the surface of the eye. This can expedite the healing of the injuries and can help the eye flush out contaminants and debris that may be lingering in the eye. Of course, any time an injury has occurred you should immediately proceed to an eye doctor for attention. Eye drops are often part of the remedy for injuries and infections since they keep the eye lubricated and help minimize the chance of the eye becoming further scratched or damaged from blinking.

Cons

As much as eye drops can be a boon to eye safety and health, at times they can have a negative effect. Many varieties contain preservatives that can trigger allergic reactions in some patients, which makes a bad situation worse. Some drops can even make eye dryness worse as the relief wears off.

Continuous use of eye drops may mask symptoms that truly should be handled from the source, rather than just the effects of a problem. Certain medications could cause extremely dry eyes. Rather than continuing to treat with eye drops, a switch in medication might be helpful.

Eye drops may not work well enough to provide you long-lasting comfort so you may be repeatedly applying them. This can be annoying, inconvenient and expensive. Interrupting your life to apply eye drops is not a long term solution.

If you suffer from dry eye, or have an eye safety issue, talking to your Phoenix eye doctors will help you get the appropriate course of treatment prescribed. Emergencies should always be handled immediately to preserve your vision, and eye drops should only be used as recommended.

What Causes Your Winter Allergies?

For people with allergies, you may think of spring as the worst time of year. While often that is true, winter should not be taken lightly. An optometrist will frequently see allergy sufferers who are just as miserable in the colder months as in typical blooming seasons. Following is a list of the most common winter allergens and how to help mitigate their effects.

Dust Mites

These organisms are microscopic and live almost everywhere. They frequently fester in bedding, carpet, dust, and our bodies. Dust mites are frequently the culprit of allergy issues since they leave their skeletons and waste behind. To manage this allergy, bedding should be frequently washed and dried at high temperatures, including pillows. Carpets should be cleaned thoroughly or even eliminated in favor of hard surfaces. Regular dusting using a damp cloth will help keep dust, and therefore dust mites, from recirculating into the air. An optometrist can prescribe eye drops to help with the symptoms of this allergy.

Mold

Damp areas such as bathrooms and basements can be a hotbed for mold or mildew. A home with a mold problem can be extremely dangerous to someone with this type of allergy, as spores can also be airborne. People allergic to mold often have severe respiratory issues like asthma which can be deadly, especially in the case of toxic black mold.

Phoenix Optometrist BlogAnimals

While your fluffy critters may not cause an allergic reaction during other seasons, having a house closed up during winter or turning on the heat may cause animal dander in the air to increase or become more airborne. This can trigger the red and watery eyes often seen by an optometrist. Clean carpets (or again, eliminate carpet), keep pets groomed, change your HVAC filters regularly, and use a topical product on pets to cut down on the disbursement of dander.

Winter Pollen

As with any time of the year, winter blooming plants and trees can exacerbate pollen allergies. Don’t forget about the Christmas tree, which is a frequent source of misery for allergy sufferers. Keep blooming plants out of the house and use artificial greenery during the holidays to manage pollen.

Wintertime allergies are certainly not a trivial matter to those who are afflicted. Effectively managing these common allergens can make winter far more survivable for them. For more advice on preventing and treating seasonal allergies, please see an optometrist and an allergy specialist.

Arizona Low-Allergy Plants

As recently as a few decades ago, eye doctors would send allergy patients to the Valley of the Sun for relief. As these areas became more populated, that relief disappeared. Air pollution, dust, development, and non-native planting all combine to wreak havoc on sufferers’ respiratory and eye health. One way to help manage the misery of allergies is to landscape using low allergy plants.

In general, brightly colored flowering plants are pollinated by insects and birds rather than by wind. Using plants that reproduce via creatures will help reduce airborne pollen. Some specific examples are as follows:

Succulents and Cacti

The majority of these plants types will be minimal pollen generators. Their bright blooms invite creature pollination, rather than releasing shotgun blasts of pollen into the air. Agave, yucca, prickly pear, saguaro, cholla, organ pipe and barrel cacti are all safe choices for a low-allergy garden.

Palms and Trees

A critical factor in selecting low-allergy trees is to be absolutely certain that the tree is not the pollen producing gender of its species. For example, female palms will produce fruit, whereas the males create blooms that distribute a plethora of pollen. In the interests of your respiratory and eye health you may want to consult a professional when selecting palms and trees to ensure you’ve chosen the correct gender. Most female palms will be low on the allergy scale. Other trees that are acceptable include silk and orchid trees, the female variety of pistachio, and Jujubes.

Flowering Vines and Shrubs

Bougainvillea is a beautiful grower with bright fuchsia blooms. They are plentiful in the southwest and airborne pollen is minimal with this creature-pollinated plant. Lady Banks Roses, Tombstone Roses, and Trumpet Creepers also fall into the low-allergy classification of vines. Flowering shrubs that are beneficial for a sufferer’s garden are Bird of Paradise, sage, many breeds of myrtle, and Ruellia.

Ground Cover

In general, grasses can be one of the worst triggers for hay fever. Many non-native grasses have been imported into the southwest and result in not only a burden on irrigation but an allergy sufferer’s worst nightmare. Establish desert landscaping or plant ground cover and native grasses instead, choosing varieties like Morning Glory, Gazania, and Mexican Evening Primrose.

For those living in Arizona, your respiratory and eye health will thank you for planting sensibly. Consult a garden professional for more help selecting low-allergy varieties of plants, and enjoy the outdoors again!

Natural Ways to Fight Allergies this Season

Allergies are a miserable affliction that can occur any time of year. Sneezing, itching, congestion, and eye health issues can be a gruesome burden. Combating allergies can be equally terrible since many common treatments leave users either drowsy or overstimulated. This season, try some natural remedies first to help you cope.

Supplements

As with any ingested substance, consult your doctor before taking any natural supplements. Ask about interactions with your medicines, and heed product warnings. That said, allergy sufferers may find relief in combinations specifically designed for allergies or with individual herbs. Some herbs that may help include butterbur, grape seed extract, quercetin, and stinging nettle.

Nasal Flush

One way to help you breathe again is to use a neti pot containing saline solution to flush your nasal passages. The saline solution is a simple formula consisting of sea salt or canning salt (do not use table salt), baking soda, and lots of boiled and cooled water. The pot will rinse out pollen, mucus, or irritants that are causing trouble. Check with your allergist or eye health provider about adding ingredients like eucalyptus or goldenseal tonic for even greater benefit.

Check Your Diet

One way to calm your body’s reaction to allergens is to start with your diet. Those with certain types of allergies, such as ragweed or pollen, may need to avoid certain foods like sunflower seeds, cucumbers, chamomile or echinacea tea or supplements, bananas, and melons. While you are investigating your diet for possible allergy stimulants, add some spice to your meals as that will help thin mucus and clear out your sinuses while delighting your taste buds.

Acupuncture

Another chemical-free method of combating allergy symptoms is through acupuncture. Children and adults alike have had considerable success in minimizing allergy trouble by undergoing regular acupuncture sessions. This can be combined with massage sessions, which has also been shown to help allergy sufferers.

The best allergy defense is to protect yourself from allergens as much as possible. If you must do yard work, protect your sinuses with a dust mask and your eye health with goggles. Keep your home dust and dander free. Start treatment with supplements or acupuncture about 3-4 weeks before allergy season to help your body better manage its response to the onslaught of allergens. Some simple preparation and use of natural remedies can help you stay clear-headed and comfortable through the coming allergy season.

Are Eye Lash Extensions Safe for Your Eyes?

A new trend has reared its head in the fashion industry these days, modifying an unexpected area of the body — your eyes. Ads for eye lash extensions and lash boosters are popping up everywhere and it can be hard to resist the allure of having long, luxurious lashes. Before taking the plunge, please consider the cautions optometrists have about this style trend.

Phoenix Eye Care If you are considering eye lash extensions, there is one MAJOR factor that should be considered non-negotiable:  Using a trained, experienced professional housed in a sanitary facility. Having work done in such a vulnerable area of the body can result in disaster if bacteria enters the equation or your consultant is unsure of the process. He or she should be using sterilized tools in a clean setting. Be sure to ask about the type of glue to be used in the process and  steer clear of those using formaldehyde, low quality glues, or industrial glue products. Glue should be pharmaceutical grade, designed for this specific use and used sparingly so lashes don’t clump together unnaturally.

After selecting your extension technician, there are a few other issues to consider. Most people will find eye lash extensions to be a fairly benign style accessory, with some very notable exceptions. Eye lash extensions are generally synthetic products, but some on the market are made from animal products such as horsehair or mink. This can present a problem to people with animal allergies but should generally be avoided by any user due to the potential for a reaction. Also consider that the glue used in the application process may be another potential allergy source.

An additional risk of having eye lash extensions is that they can be rubbed free of the graft to your natural lash. If you are someone with a tendency to rub your eyes or are a face sleeper, extensions may not last very long for you and can rub off into your eye. This may lead to irritation, infection, or even scratches to the surface of your eye.

In general, proper application of a quality eye lash extension is safe. Given the extreme cost of the initial process and the need for frequent touch-ups, optometrists and plastic surgeons alike may steer you toward a more economical and longer lasting solution such as a lash growth product, which will lengthen and fortify your own lashes.

Photo credit: ashley rose, / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND