7 Warnings Signs for Vision Problems

Eye problems can strike at any age, with or without warning. Certain medical conditions can increase your risk of developing eye problems, but even healthy people are at risk for vision problems as they age. These warning signs should prompt you to schedule an immediate eye exam.

Increase in Floaters

“Floaters” are a normal occurrence caused by tiny particles of debris in the eye, passing through light. An increase in the quantity of floaters is a warning sign of a detached retina, requiring prompt attention.

Physical Eye Changes

White or cloudy spots over the pupil of your eye are one sign of a cataract. Surgical correction replaces the clouded lens with clear material, and may also improve your overall vision. Staying current with your eye exam schedule will help identify cataracts at an early stage.

Glare or Halo

Glare or halos can around light sources can make nighttime driving miserable. Cataracts could be the cause, but a rainbow colored halo can indicate glaucoma, where increased eye pressure affects the optic nerve and can cause blindness.

Peripheral Vision Changes

The narrowing of your field of vision can happen so gradually that you may not even notice. Glaucoma is one common cause of this problem, but a concussion sometimes presents this symptom. Ischemia, or “eye strokes,” and detached retina can have this effect to some degree as well.

Sudden Vision Loss

This can be a frightening situation, and a serious one. Diabetic retinopathy, in which the blood vessels of the retina are damaged by the effects of the disease can permanently steal your vision. Ischemia is another culprit of this problem.

Pain

Intense eye pain can mean the onset of Sudden Acute Glaucoma. During an attack, eye pressure rises suddenly and causes damage to the optic nerve that can result in permanent blindness. This is an emergency condition that requires immediately treatment.

Diminished Colors

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) can cause colors to appear dull and faded and cataracts may cause you to see colors with less distinction. Early detection is the best way to manage AMD, since it can be untreatable, and cataracts can be corrected with surgery.

Your vision is precious and irreplaceable. A regular eye exam can help identify many eye problems before they progress into loss of sight. Contact your eyecare specialist any time you notice unusual symptoms, and don’t miss your yearly appointment.

 

AMD/Low Vision Awareness Month

Welcome to February, one month closer to spring and an important month in eye health awareness. This month’s call to arms is for AMD, or Age-related Macular Degeneration, and general low vision issues. Understanding what these diseases are and how to manage them may one day save your own sight.

AMD
Age-related Macular Degeneration is a devastating condition affecting millions of people, many of whom are unaware that they have it, especially if they neglect their yearly eye exam. Contained within the eye are various components that help you see. One such component is the retina, responsible for transmitting the image to your brain in a way that can be interpreted. The retina includes the macula, specifically responsible for transmitting the central part of the image.

Imagine your field of vision as a person’s photograph. For a person with AMD, the person’s face would appear blurry, wavy, or completely missing. This painless disease occurs so gradually that you may not recognize the problem until your vision has been significantly diminished. Risk factors such as high cholesterol and blood pressure, being overweight, or smoking increase your chance of developing AMD.

Two types of AMD exist: Wet and Dry AMD. In the case of the more commonly occurring Dry AMD, color vision is compromised, caused by a thinning of the retina’s pigment epithelium. Dry AMD may develop into Wet AMD, where fluid or blood is leaked into the macula by malfunctioning blood vessels. Wet AMD is more rare, but more severe. Current technology promotes the use of omega 3′s and lutein to help prevent Wet AMD progression. AMD cannot be cured, but preventive measures may slow progress of the disease. A yearly eye exam is critical to catch AMD early.

Low Vision
Low vision is a catch-all phrase used to describe the effects of diminished sight. Vision reduction may be caused by cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy or detached retina. Some conditions are correctable with surgery, as in the case of cataracts and detached retina, but many destructive eye problems can only be managed. Early detection is the best tactic in fighting low vision.

Every year, eye doctors see even more patients with AMD or low vision. The best advice is to catch issues early during your annual eye exam. Being vigilant about your eye health now could preserve your vision for many more bright and colorful years.

Gas Permeable (GP) Contact Lenses

Gas permeable (GP) contact lenses, also known as rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses, are hard contact lenses made of silicone-containing compounds that allow oxygen to pass through the lens material to the eye. Though not as popular as soft contact lenses, GP lenses offer a number of advantages over soft lenses.

Advantages of gas permeable lenses

  1. GP lenses allow your eyes to “breathe” better. GP lenses allow more oxygen to reach the front surface of the eye. This reduces the risk of eye problems caused by hypoxia (reduced oxygen supply). Gas permeable lenses provide a better oxygen supply than most soft lenses because:

The silicone-containing lens materials of GP lenses are more permeable to oxygen than many soft lens materials (though new “ silicone hydrogel” soft lenses are comparable to GPs in oxygen transmission).

GP lenses are smaller in diameter than soft lenses, so they cover up less of the front surface of the eye (the cornea).

Gas permeable lenses hold their shape and move on the eye with each blink. This movement pumps oxygen-containing tears under the lens. Soft lenses conform to the shape of the cornea and have only minimal movement with blinks, so little or no tears circulate under soft lenses.

  1. GP lenses provide sharper vision. Because they are custom-machined to a smooth surface and maintain their shape on the eye, GP lenses provide sharper vision than soft lenses, which can fluctuate in shape and clarity if they start to dry out. Gas permeable lenses also provide a more stable and accurate correction of astigmatism.
  2. GP lenses last longer. GP lenses are rigid, so there’s no worry about ripping or tearing them. They are also easier to keep clean and don’t need to be replaced frequently like soft lenses. With proper care, a single pair of GP lenses can last a year or longer. And since they’re long-lasting, GP can be less expensive than soft lenses in the long run.
  3. GP lenses may slow the progression of nearsightedness. In addition to their other advantages, some research suggests that wearing gas permeable lenses may slow the progression of myopia (nearsightedness) in some children. GPs are also used for orthokeratology, where specially designed contacts are worn during sleep to reshape the cornea and improve vision.

The Downside of GP Contact Lenses

So why doesn’t everyone wear GP lenses? Potential disadvantages of GP lenses (compared to soft lenses) include:

1.  Need for adaptation. Unlike wearing soft lenses (which are comfortable right from the start), you may need few weeks before you can wear GP lenses comfortably all day. Initially, you may be able to wear the lenses only a few hours daily until your corneas adapt to them. But if you can tough it out for those first few days, you may be pleasantly surprised at how comfortable GP lenses become. Many people who switch from soft lenses to gas permeable lenses say GP lenses are more comfortable than soft lenses (after their eyes fully adapt) and their vision is noticeably clearer.

2.  Inability to wear part-time. To fully adapt to GP lenses and to stay comfortable wearing them, you have to wear them every day. If you stop wearing them for several days, you will be more aware of the lenses on your eyes and you’ll have to re-adapt to the lenses.

3.  Increased possibility of dislodging. Because they are smaller than soft lenses, gas permeable lenses can dislodge from your eyes during contact sports or if you rub your eyes aggressively.

4.  Vulnerability to sand and dust. GP lenses don’t conform to the shape of your eye like soft lenses do, so it’s possible sand or dust can get under your lenses at the beach or on a windy day. (You can minimize this risk by wearing wrap-style sunglasses outdoors.)

5.  Higher lens replacement costs. Unlike soft lenses, which come in limited sizes, GP lenses are custom-made to the shape of your eye. This makes GP lenses more expensive to replace if you lose them. Also, it can take up to a week to get a GP lens replaced.So it’s a good idea to purchase a spare pair to avoid the inconvenience of being without your GP lenses if you lose or break one.

Best of Both Worlds?

Since comfort is the primary barrier to GP use, an interesting innovation is the hybrid contact lens. These lenses have a GP center, surrounded by a soft lens “skirt.” The goal of hybrid lenses is to provide the clarity of a gas permeable lens and wearing comfort that rivals that of a soft lens.

Call for more information and a trial fitting

To see if gas permeable lenses are right for you, call our office for more information and to schedule a trail fitting.

For more information on GP contact lenses, visit All About Vision®.

Tips for Coping With Vision Loss

Many normal, age-related problems affecting vision can be addressed with practical solutions, such as extra lighting for reading recipes or tinkering with garage projects.

In fact, after about age 60, you may find you need additional illumination for most tasks performed indoors or in darker conditions outdoors. This is because your eye’s pupil no longer opens as widely as it once did to allow light to enter. Because less light is reaching your retina where vision processing occurs, images are no longer as sharp as they once were.

To help offset this problem, you might consider extra steps such as:

  • Installing task lighting underneath kitchen cabinets or above stoves to help illuminate darker corners.
  • Making sure you have enough lighting to brighten work surfaces in your garage, sewing room or other areas where you need to see fine details.
  • Asking your employer to install additional lighting, if needed, at your work space.

Age_related_visionAlso, make sure you have regular eye exams that include critical tests for older eyes to rule out potentially serious age-related eye diseases that may affect vision quality. Your eye doctor also can advise you about the best vision correction options to reduce the effects of normal age-related declines in near vision, color vision and contrast sensitivity.

Cataracts, which are very common in the over-60 age group, also can cause cloudy or hazy vision. Cataracts usually are easily remedied with surgery that removes the eye’s cloudy lens and replaces it with an artificial one.

What can you do about permanent vision loss?

Unfortunately, some serious vision losses are due to blind spots caused by age-related eye diseases including glaucoma, advanced macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

Many low vision devices are available for people with permanent vision loss, to assist them with daily living tasks. These devices include:

  • Strong magnifying lenses with extra illumination, for reading and other near vision work.
  • Audio tapes, specially adapted computer or television screens, and telescopes.
  • Lens filters and shields to reduce glare.

Vision loss and the elderly

One disturbing trend noted in recent years has been an increased tendency in our society to overlook or neglect the vision correction needs of elderly citizens, including those living in nursing homes.

As an example, researchers say almost one third of older Americans diagnosed with glaucoma receive no treatment for this potentially blinding eye disease.

Consequences of delaying vision correction or needed treatment, especially in elderly people, can be severe. Uncorrected vision problems can contribute to falls that seriously injure elderly people and greatly reduce their confidence in their ability to live independently.

If you have older relatives or friends living alone or in a nursing home, consider serving as their advocate to make sure they receive appropriate vision care and treatment of age-related eye diseases, to maximize their quality of life.

For more information on low vision, visit All About Vision®.

Free images from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How To Cope With Low Vision

low vision valley eyecareLow vision is the term used to describe reduced eyesight – either blurred vision (usually 20/70 or worse) or an incomplete field of view – that cannot be fully corrected with eyeglasses, contact lenses or eye surgery. The primary causes of low vision are eye diseases, such as macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. But low vision also can be inherited or caused by an eye or brain injury.

A person with low vision is not blind: they have some useful sight. But the degree of their visual impairment can make daily tasks, such as reading and driving, difficult or impossible.

Though children as well as adults can be visually impaired, low vision is mostly a problem that afflicts seniors. Vision loss after a lifetime of good eyesight can be very traumatic, leading to frustration and depression.

Many people who develop eye problems that cause low vision lose their jobs. According to Lighthouse International, among visually impaired Americans of ages 21 to 64, only 43.7% are employed. Among normally-sighted people in this age group, 80% are employed.

Not being able to drive safely, read quickly, or easily see images on a television or computer screen can cause people with low vision to feel shut off from the world. They may be unable to get around town independently, earn a living or even shop for food and other necessities. Some visually impaired people become completely dependent on friends and relatives, while others suffer alone.

Thankfully, in many cases, people with impaired vision can be helped by low vision devices, which include eyeglass-mounted magnifiers, handheld magnifiers and telescopes, and stand-alone magnifiers. There are many ingenious low vision devices and strategies that can help visually-impaired individuals get the most out of their remaining sight and, in many cases, continue to live independently.

If you have hazy or blurred vision, light sensitivity, loss of peripheral vision, night blindness, a need for more light than before, unusual floaters or spots, or difficulty reading — your first step is to see an eyecare professional for a complete exam.

These could be the first signs of a serious eye disease such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, or retinitis pigmentosa. Or, they could mean you are developing a cataract that needs removal. Whatever the case, it’s wise to take action before further vision loss occurs.

If Valley Eyecare finds you have a vision loss that cannot be corrected with eyewear, medical treatment or surgery, they can refer you to a low vision specialist. Usually an optometrist, a low vision specialist can evaluate the degree and type of vision loss you have, prescribe appropriate low vision aids, and help you learn how to use them.

The low vision specialist can also recommend non-optical adaptive devices, such as large-print books, audio tapes, special light fixtures and signature guides for signing checks and documents. If necessary, your eye doctor or low vision specialist can also refer you to a counselor to help you cope with your loss of vision.

 

 

 

 

Image: Jeroen van Oostrom / FreeDigitalPhotos.net