A Guide to Photophobia

The term “phobia” normally indicates a fear of some type. However, photophobia does not refer to a fear per se but rather to an extreme sensitivity to light.

What Is Photophobia?

Photophobia itself is not a a disease. It occurs most often as a symptom of an underlying health condition. Moderate cases cause you to squint when you’re in a brightly lit room or outdoors in sunshine, while extreme cases result in pain from exposure to almost any level of light.

Optometry Causes of Photophobia

While photophobia is usually associated with an eye condition, it can sometimes be a symptom of an illness unrelated to eyes. Here are some of the most common causes of photophobia:

  • Migraines
  • Corneal abrasions from sand or other irritants entering your eye
  • Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, which is an inflammation in the tissue covering the white of your eye
  • Dry eye syndrome, which occurs when your eyes remain excessively dry because your tear ducts cannot produce sufficient amounts of tears
  • Excessive use of contact lenses or ill-fitting lenses

Patients who have recently undergone eye surgery may also experience photophobia to one extent or another during their recovery.

Medical Treatment of Photophobia

You should always consult your optometrist if you are experiencing light sensitivity. They will perform an eye exam and ask questions to determine the severity of your case and possible cause.

Commonly prescribed treatments include eye drops and antibiotics for inflammation or infections. Use of artificial tears can relieve dry eye syndrome. Medication and rest is usually called for when dealing with migraines.

Home Treatment and Prevention

While your optometrist is the best source of treatment, there are measures you can take to provide relief for your eyes and help prevent future occurrences. It’s best to avoid sunlight and use limited or no artificial light when indoors. Dark tinted glasses can act to diffuse light.

Good hygiene is an important defense against photophobia. Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your eyes. Do not share products such as makeup that come into contact with eyes. If you suffer from migraines, do your best to avoid the triggers that set off your headaches.

Photophobia may be unpleasant, but you don’t have to suffer helplessly. Your Phoenix optometrist can help you determine a course of treatment to relieve your symptoms and make your eyes more comfortable.

Low Vision Awareness Month

Phoenix OptometristFebruary is the time to observe Low Vision Awareness Month. Here is some information to help you better understand this condition.

What Is Low Vision?

The term “low vision” refers to sight that cannot be corrected with glasses, surgery or medication. This condition makes even everyday activities such as cooking, shopping or watching TV a serious challenge.

What Causes Low Vision?

A major cause of low vision is age-related macular degeneration (AMD). As many as 15 million people over the age of 50 suffer from this condition which affects the macula, the part of your eye responsible for sharp detail. Other cases of low vision result from glaucoma, cataracts or diabetic retinopathy. Some individuals are born with low vision due to optic nerve damage.

It’s important to emphasize that low vision does not mean the normal changes in eyesight that come with aging. Low vision can affect people of any age. If you have a hard time seeing clearly even with glasses or contact lenses, you should be tested.

How Is Low Vision Detected?

Your Phoenix optometrist can conduct a low vision examination. This procedure takes into account your daily functions and whether or not your vision is at a level to comfortably accommodate those activities. A yearly exam increases the chances of early detection, which is key to successful treatment. Thanks to medical advances, people with low vision are able to lead full, productive lives. Schedule an appointment with your Phoenix optometrist to learn more about low vision and proper care of your eyes.

4 Facts about being Color Blind

Eye ExamBill Clinton and Matt Lauer are both color blind! And let’s not forget about Paul Newman and Mark Twain. It’s the reason why Mark Zuckerberg used blue as the predominant color of Facebook. What’s the common denominator? All five of these individuals have suffered from color blindness.

People sometimes joke about being color blind, but for those who have the actual condition it’s no laughing matter. Here are some surprising facts about color blindness or color vision problem, as it’s sometimes called.

Color Blindness Does Not Mean Absence of Color

Some people assume that individuals who are color blind literally see everything as black or white. While that is one form of color blindness known as monochromacy, this variety is extremely rare. Most forms involve difficulty distinguishing between particular colors, such as red and green. An eye exam can determine which form a person has.

Color Blindness Can Affect Women

It’s a common misconception that color blindness affects only men. This is most likely due to the fact that less than one percent of women are color blind compared to approximately eight percent of men.

Color Blindness is Not Always Hereditary

Most cases of color blindness begin at birth due to genetics. However, it is possible to develop a color vision problem later in life. Causes include aging and injury along with diseases such as glaucoma and macular degeneration.

Color Blindness Cannot Be Cured

At present there is no cure for hereditary color blindness. Special lenses are available that can help with color perception, but most individuals are able to develop coping mechanisms allowing them to perform everyday functions with little difficulty.

Early detection is important for successful treatment of color blindness. A relatively simple eye exam is used to screen for the condition. Talk to your optometrist regarding any questions you may have regarding you or your children.

How Does Diabetes Affect Glaucoma?

Optometrist_PhoenixAs January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, it’s a great time to educate yourself on this serious eye health risk. If you or a loved one have Diabetes, chances are good that you’ve heard eye problems like this one are an associated hazard. What you may not understand is why the two are connected and how they may be managed together.

The Connection

Your eye’s structure includes many tiny blood vessels and drainage canals. For a diabetic patient with difficulty controlling their blood sugar, eye problems often result due to swelling of these vulnerable tissues. Glaucoma occurs as fluid fails to drain through the swollen canals and internal eye pressure sharply increases. The nerves of the eye are damaged as a result and the patient may lose partial or total sight.

Symptoms

One of the greatest problems with Glaucoma is that a victim may have little or no symptoms until it’s too late and permanent vision loss has occurred. Others may be fortunate to have signs before this happens and could experience headaches, unusual changes in vision, watery eyes or halos that appear around light sources. It’s important to act quickly and get to your ophthalmologist right away should you notice symptoms like these.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Be sure that your eye doctor knows about your diabetic condition as this will help him or her perform the right tests and be alert for eye conditions related to diabetes. To diagnose Glaucoma, the doctor may perform tests like eye pressure measurement or checking for optic nerve problems in addition to monitoring vision changes.

If your eye doctor confirms that you are developing the condition, you may be given prescription eye drops or oral medication to reduce your eye pressure. You may be referred to a specialist for laser eye surgery to correct drainage or eye circulation issues. For diabetics, the annual eye exam can mean the difference between blindness and sight. Follow your exam schedule and do your best to keep your blood sugar controlled.

Glaucoma can be a silent thief of sight for a diabetic patient. If you are diabetic, discuss your risks of this disease and other related eye health issues so that you can prevent vision loss and ensure that your eyes are healthy for years to come.

4 Common Eye Care Problems

Eye_CareIn the office of an eye care specialist, many non-routine visits are the cause of the same culprits. Some conditions are simply annoying while others present a real hazard to your vision. Here is what you should know about four common eye problems.

Dry Eyes

A miserable eye care problem, dry eyes may burn, itch and feel like they are on fire. There are various reasons for dry eyes including allergies, wind, pollution, certain drugs, dry air, some medical conditions or simply age. Workers with heavy computer use may develop dry eye, since less frequent blinking occurs and females may be more prone to dry eye than males. Treatment for dry eye may include antibiotics, artificial tears (only as recommended by your eye doctor), procedures to modify your tear ducts or a lubricating daily eye-insert.

Foreign Particles

Whether it is an errant eyelash or construction debris, having something in your eye is definitely something to cry about. Should you experience this you must be very careful when dealing with the issue. Rubbing your eyes can scratch your cornea — a serious eye care incident that may easily result in vision loss. With clean hands, flush the eye with sterile saline until the debris is washed away and follow up with your eye doctor. If a flush does not help, keep your eye gently closed and have someone drive you to an emergency eye care professional as quickly as possible.

Sty

This painful condition is the result of a swollen or infected gland in your eyelid that looks like a raised and red lump. A sty can be painful and cause the eye to swell, perhaps completely closed. For many people, a hot compress on the eye may relieve the problem. If that method fails, you may need antibiotics from your eye doctor.

Eye Infection

Pink eye is a very common (and quite contagious) type of eye infection. Schools and work environments are incubators for the spread of this irritating infection. Eye infections may be fungal, bacterial, or viral and treatment is different for each type. Change your contacts as scheduled and never touch your eyes with unwashed hands.

Preventing eye care issues is often very easy. Use protective eyewear when needed for work, sports and home chores. Get help for an eye incident right away to prevent permanent damage. Talk to your optometrist for more tips on preventing eye problems.

Eye Health and Diabetes

Eye HealthWhile every month is a good time to focus on eye health, November is Diabetic Eye Disease Month. Diabetes ravages the body in many ways, and could have a serious impact on your sight. Many diabetic patients are not aware of the possibility that they could lose their vision. If you or someone you love suffers from diabetes, here are some of the eye troubles you should know about.

Background

For diabetic patients, controlling blood glucose (sugar) levels carefully is key to overall health, and therefore ocular health. High blood glucose causes swelling in the soft tissues and vessels of the eye. This swelling contributes to a multitude of eye problems that may ultimately lead to blindness. Diabetic complication is a common cause of blindness in adults, however it is preventable.

Diabetic Retinopathy

The retina converts light entering the eye into a signal, which is what the brain “sees” as an image. In a case of diabetic retinopathy, this component is flawed, usually due to damage to the tiny blood vessels of the eye. An annual eye exam is a critical tool in catching and preventing permanent damage. An advanced case may lead to permanent blindness. Blood pressure control is especially important for a diabetic patient to reduce risk of retinopathy, as well as abstaining from smoking.

Cataracts

A surprising majority of aging adults will develop cataracts, where the lens of the eye becomes cloudy or discolored. Low-light conditions can be very challenging if you have cataracts, so night-time driving is dangerous. Diabetic patients can be more prone to developing cataracts in addition to other eye health issues. Fortunately, cataracts are treatable with laser surgery.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma occurs when pressure inside the eye rises, causing damage to the optic nerve. This could occur very suddenly or develop over time. Due to the swelling of soft tissues that may happen with diabetes, glaucoma is much more prevalent for diabetic patients. Catching this problem early can help prevent permanent vision loss.

Patients with diabetes face many challenges, including serious eye health issues. The best way to protect your sight are to keep your blood sugar under control, and have an annual eye exam so your optometrist can spot problems in their earliest stages.

How Can I Protect My Eyes In The Winter?

Eye CareSummer might seem to be a more obvious time for eye injuries, but winter is no time to disregard your eye care and safety. Bright conditions and wintertime activities can be just as hazardous to your precious peepers. Fortunately, most eye injuries are preventable.

Sunglasses All Year

The brightness of the sun glancing off of snow or water isn’t just annoying, it’s detrimental to your eye health. UV rays are present all year round, and the reflection of the sun off of those surfaces means double the chance for UV rays to find your eyes. Wearing the right UV-blocking and polarized sunglasses will protect your vulnerable eyes from conditions such as skin cancer and cataracts. Sunglasses are also a benefit in windy conditions that typically make your eyes water and burn.

The Right Sporting Goods

The best piece of sports equipment you can invest in is a proper pair of protective glasses or goggles for your sport. If you’re planning on snowboarding or skiing this winter, make sure to buy goggles that fit your face and protect your eyes. Today’s protective equipment is light and far more stylish than in the past, plus you can often kill two birds with one stone and get a pair that is UV-blocking and polarized. You’ll protect your eyes from the elements, plus see everything crisply during play.

Dry Eyes

When you participate in wintertime activities, the colder temperatures and windy conditions can make your eyes feel gritty and dry. Keeping your eyes as moist as possible will improve your comfort, and prevent your vision from becoming blurry or obscured. Ask your optometrist about moisturizing drops, wear sunglasses outside and make sure you give your eyes an occasional break from the winter weather.

Your eye care is something you should think about at all times of the year, but winter brings its own form of eye care problems. Talk to your optometrist for suggestions on wintertime eyewear and other methods to defend your sight this season!

 

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!

Symptoms Of Early Cataracts

Male ophthalmologist conducting an eye examinationOne of the many conditions that can be detected through yearly eye exams is the early onset of cataracts. This painless but sight-stealing condition happens to many people as they age, but can also affect a younger person. Here are the symptoms that should prompt an immediate call to the optometrist.

Cloudy Vision

As a cataract begins to develop, the changes are very slight. The lens of your eye becomes cloudy, and you may not catch it for a while. Vision in low light conditions may start to be noticeably difficult, and you may catch yourself squinting during nighttime driving. This is exactly the type of symptom that annual eye exams are designed to detect, since the doctor will notice them well before they can cause you trouble.

Sudden Shift in Vision

Have you been nearsighted most of your life, or had issues seeing up close? A sudden change in your ability to see near and far may indicate a cataract. This generally points to a more advanced condition, and your sight is likely to decline further from that point.

Glares and Halos

Night vision can be quite a challenge once cataracts begin to form. Not only can dark conditions make it difficult to see shapes and surfaces, but the glare from light sources (such as headlights and street lamps) can be nearly blinding. A bright ring will encircle light sources and may cause you to be temporarily blinded. Night driving can be quite a hazardous activity for those who have forming cataracts.

Double Vision

Last but not least, a symptom such as double vision is a strong indicator of cataract formation. This often happens in the beginning of the cataract’s life cycle, and may eventually fade as the cataract develops over time.

Early formation of cataracts can be brought on by diabetes, cancer treatments using radiation, and lifestyle choices such as alcohol and tobacco use. If you fall into any of those categories, eye exams are even more important for you. If you develop any of the above symptoms, call your Phoenix optometrist right away.

Are Women More Likely To Have Eye Problems?

 

Eye_HealthDid you know that women are more likely to develop eye health issues than men?

In fact, according to the Women’s Eye Health Task Force, nearly two-thirds of people suffering from blindness or high levels of visual impairment are women.  Domestically, it’s much the same:  Prevent Blindness America reports the same figures here at home.

This is a medical statistic that’s only started to become widely-known, and doctors around the world are just beginning to look into the reasons why.

Links Between Women And Vision Trouble

Why do women have more vision problems around the world?  There are several proposed reasons for this, and it’s likely they’re all contributing to the issue:

1 – Women live longer than men, statistically.  In the US, for example, women live roughly five years longer.  Since vision problems accrue over time, and are worst in old age, this is going to naturally increase the number of blind women, relative to men.

2 – Hormonal changes.  Men don’t suffer menopause, or anything like it, which removes this as a risk factor.  The hormonal changes in a woman’s body later in life can cause changes in eye shape or composition, especially if “bloating” is involved.  This can lead to ocular hypertension and other eye disorders.

3 – Lower access to health care.  While not globally true, in many places in the world -and even in America- women generally have lower access to health care than men, especially among the low-income.  Many eye conditions are treatable if caught early on, but can lead to irreversible damage if left untreated.

Along with this, there are the environmental and behavioral issues that both men and women share.  However, due to women’s existing higher chances of vision problems, that means problems like smoking, or high blood pressure, carry a greater chance of vision damage.

Keep Watch On Your Eyes Past Forty

The best eye health measures are preventative.  Our eyes are fragile, and there are many things in this world which can damage them irreparably.  Optometrists recommend women over 40 to have an eye checkup at least once a year.  This is especially important in the first year or two past menopause, when many new problems may develop.

Women may have higher chances of eye disease, but it’s not inevitable.  Consult with your Phoenix Optometrist if you’d like more recommendations on how to reduce your own chances of vision loss.