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Did you know the winter sun sits lower in the sky and at a different angle compared to warmer seasons? Did you also know that the sun’s lower position causes more ultra-violet (UV) exposure to Earth’s surface? Don’t be fooled when you feel less heat from that winter sun. Research shows that UV rays can be damaging to various layers of the eye and can contribute to various eye diseases. Plus, wearing sunglasses all year long keeps your eyes from drying out and prevents windblown particles that can cause corneal abrasions. Those trendy sunglasses you bought in the summer are just as important in the winter.
The eye doctors at our practice in Princeton, NJ, consistently remind our patients of these 5 important facts about UV damage that can cause harm to your eyes:
UV damage to the eye is cumulative and often irreversible
40% of UV exposure occurs when we are not in full sunlight
Eyes are the only internal tissue directly exposed to UV
5-10% of skin cancer occurs on the eyelids
90% of visible premature aging around the eyes is caused by UV damage
Snow is also dangerous, as it can act as a mirror and reflect an increased amount of UV into your eyes. Anyone who has driven when there is snow on the ground knows of the risk of glare and how that can impair your vision. Polarized lenses enhance contrast and are effective in shielding your eyes from dangerous reflections, while still offering the highest grade of UV protection.
Opticians recommend high-quality sunglass brands for the best protection and superior lens quality and technology. Once you experience the difference between ophthalmic lenses and a cheap drugstore sunglasses, you’ll understand how important quality lenses truly are. Take the advice of experts and avoid intense UV damage during the winter by wearing high-quality sunglasses all year long.
It’s summer, and everyone is looking forward to those hard-earned vacation days spent at the shore or at some exotic beach in the Caribbean. It is the season of travel, outdoor sports, and family picnics. These activities, while fun, can leave us exposed to direct sunlight for longer periods of time, and we have to exercise some caution so we can diminish its adverse effects on our health.
Most of us are familiar with sun exposure’s detrimental effects on the skin and the increased risk of melanoma, so as an eye doctor, I’d like to focus instead on how such exposure can cause eye damage to varying degrees — and what we can do to protect ourselves. Here’s the advice we at Outlook Eyecare give our patients in the Princeton and Hamilton, NJ area.
How the Sun Damages Eyes
The sun emits UV-A, UV-B, UV-C, infrared, and blue light radiation.
Normally, our body makes good use of these rays as they stimulate the production of vitamin D, which strengthens our bones, immune system, and blood cell formation. Plus light helps our body regulate our sleep/wake cycle. But as with most good things, there are considerable side effects deriving from prolonged and unprotected exposure to sunlight.
Research-based evidence has shown that UV-B radiation has caused cataracts, both in high-intensity, short-term exposure (as with lasers) in animals and in chronic exposure in humans. As shown in the picture below, due to its shorter wavelength (280 nanometers to 380 nanometers), UV radiation primarily affects the front of the eye where cataracts are formed.
Research has also linked blue light radiation with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Due to its longer wavelength (450 to 495 nanometers), blue light affects the back of the eye, mostly therefore causing damage to the retina, both in acute and chronic exposure. In today’s world, we use digital devices and modern energy-saving lighting that emit a high level of blue light. Our exposure to this light when accumulated over time will lead to an increase in AMD.
Here are some other conditions caused by overexposure:
Photokeratitis occurs after overexposure to sunlight, mainly affecting people along the beach, snow, and sand because these environments are highly reflective.
Pterygium is a wedge-shaped, benign, elevated tissue in the conjuctiva (clear lining that covers the white part of the eye). Its cause is thought to be exposure to UV light, and it could grow to cover the pupil (black center of the eye). Surgical removal is recommended prior to reaching the pupil.
Pinguecula is a yellow-white conjuctival lesion caused by UV light that does not significantly harm vision but is cosmetically unpleasant for patients.
Solar or macular retinopathy consists of retinal damage due to high-energy light exposure. It occurs from viewing a solar eclipse, sunbathing, high-energy laser treatments, or mental disturbances due to neurological disorders. Most of the vision is recuperated without treatment over 1 to 2 months, but recovery could last up to a year. Prognosis depends on time of exposure and visual acuity prior to exposure.
Learn how the sun can damage the eyes and what you can do to prevent it.
How to Protect Yourself
Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself from sun overexposure:
Do not miss your yearly eye exams. A good doctor can see early signs of the conditions and the team of professionals at Outlook Eyecare will conduct a thourough exam of your eyes.
Wear the right contact lenses and glasses. There are many brands out there that offer blue light and UV protection. See your Outlook Eyecare team for options such as Crizal® Prevencia™ for your everyday eyewear and Xperio UV™ for your sunglasses needs.
Wear a hat, and try to avoid the “danger zone.” 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the summer. 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 2 to 4 p.m. in the winter.
Do you have other tips or strategies for protecting your eyes from the sun? Share them in a comment below.
According to www.diabetes.org, recent data has shown that 30 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes, and about 86 million are showing signs of pre-diabetes. With so many sufferers, our team of eye doctors in the Princeton and Hamilton, NJ areas see a lot of patients for diabetes-related eye care.
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which an individual has increased levels of blood glucose or sugar. The pancreas is the vital organ that is responsible for producing the hormone insulin, which converts sugar into energy for the body. Blood sugar levels increase in the absence of insulin or when the body doesn’t respond appropriately to the insulin that is produced.
As is the case with most medical conditions, early detection is the key to minimizing or even negating diabetes’ long-term effects on the body. A number of the early signs of diabetes have to do with the health and function of the eyes.
Earliest symptoms of diabetes can be one or any combination of the following:
Trouble reading signs or books
One or both eyes hurt for no apparent reason
Prolonged red eyes
Feeling pressure in the eyes
Seeing spots or floaters
Straight lines look bent
Diminished peripheral vision
Secondary Eye Complications
Aside from those relatively minor vision concerns, other more serious eye conditions can result from diabetes, including:
Diabetic retinopathy: This condition is the leading cause of blindness in American adults. The accumulated effect of increased blood sugar over time damages the blood vessels in the retina (the light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye). These blood vessels enlarge, leak fluid, and create new, weak blood vessels that don’t supply proper blood flow in the eye.
Cataract: In this condition, the natural lens of the eye becomes cloudy as we grow older. Patients with diabetes tend to get cataracts at a younger age and have them advance faster than the general population. Cataracts can be easily removed, but in patients with diabetes recurring and additional complications might arise.
Diabetic macular edema: Once leaky blood vessels are damaged by uncontrolled blood sugar, the macula, which is responsible for sharp central vision, swells and causes blurry vision.
Neovascular glaucoma: This condition occurs when pressure builds up inside the eye due to new blood vessels growing on the iris (the colored part of the eye), closing off the fluid flow in the eye.
Retinal detachment: This occurs when the new blood vessels form scar tissue in the retina. The scars shrink, causing the retina to wrinkle and pull from its normal position.
Poor control of blood sugar levels can also lead to changes of the refractive status of the eye.
How We Can Help
Our experienced team of doctors at Outlook Eyecare can help you detect early damage along with diagnosing these symptoms and recommending the best course of treatment. The annual dilated diabetic eye exam includes measuring the fluid pressure inside your eyes (tonometry) to rule out glaucoma and checking each tissue inside the eye to rule out any signs of bleeding, fluid leakage, or new blood vessel formation. The eye is the only organ in the human body that allows us as eye doctors to see with the naked eye how the blood vessels behave in diabetes and other systemic diseases.
As always, a healthy lifestyle goes a long way toward your well-being. Exercising, healthy eating habits, and regular monitoring of your blood sugar and blood pressure will help win the fight against diabetes and its detrimental effects on your vision.
For most people, spring brings with it short sleeve shirts, outdoor activities, no more cold weather, and fun days in the sun. However, for some it means another dreaded season plagued with allergies. As an eye doctor serving Princeton, Hamilton, and other New Jersey communities, I see a lot of patients who are affected by allergies in the area.
Seasonal allergies are brought on by an immune response in certain individuals with sensitivity to certain allergens, such as pollen. As the pollens are inhaled, allergy sufferers experience rhinitis, or inflammation of their nasal passages. Symptoms include a runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, and itching.
If the pollens come in contact with the eyes or ocular surface, it can result in allergic conjunctivitis, otherwise know as allergic pink eye. Around 50% of allergy sufferers experience ocular symptoms. Symptoms generally include red eyes, itching, burning, and tearing. Symptoms can range from mild to very severe.
The best treatment for allergies is avoidance of the offending allergen, although this is often very difficult in regards to seasonal allergies. Some patients get relief from their eye symptoms with oral allergy medicines such as Claritin®. However, a large portion of patients require topical allergy and anti-inflammatory drops. These drops concentrate the anti-allergy effect right in the eyes. In mild cases of eye allergies, I generally prescribe drops such as Pazeo® and Lastacaft®, which helps inhibit the action of histamine and even prevents certain cells from releasing it.
I also recommend using artificial tears. They help to dilute and wash away any pollens or allergens from the ocular surface. Patients can even refrigerate the tears, which gives a soothing sensation when they use them. In more moderate cases of allergic conjunctivitis, especially when the pollen counts are high, I will add a steroid drop to help suppress the immune response. This generally produces very quick relief of symptoms.
I would urge anyone suffering from allergies to seek medical treatment. Too often, I find patients taking over the counter “get the red out” drops, because they believe these are the only therapies available. These medicines generally don’t treat the problem at its source and only mask the symptoms. I also find that I have to directly ask my patients if they experience eye allergies. Many don’t report their ocular allergy issues because they feel it’s just the norm to endure the bad months when pollens are high and their symptoms are severe. Untreated, seasonal allergies can leave a patient miserable; however, with proper medicines, patients can enjoy the spring and summer months as they should.
Outlook Eyecare’s team of licensed professional ophthalmic-dispensing opticians works closely with our ophthalmologists and optometrists to ensure that each patient’s individual needs are not only met but exceeded when it comes to eyeglasses. Through years of experience serving Monroe Township, Princeton, Hamilton, and other New Jersey communities, we’ve learned one of the most common patient needs is for top-of-the-line multifocal options. That’s why we’re proud to offer the latest and best progressive addition lenses.
These lenses, unlike the lined bifocals of past generations, have a gradient of increasing lens power. This design has 2 main benefits for our patients. First, progressive addition lenses don’t just provide optimal vision at 2 distances; rather, their gradient nature offers seamless progression for all viewing distances. Second, no one else can tell that you’re wearing a multifocal lens.
Our opticians work with the industry’s latest lens designs. They are educated directly by the manufacturers of progressive addition lenses, including Essilor (Varilux®), HOYA®, Shamir®, and ZEISS®. From basic surfacing to the latest free-form technology, our opticians can determine which design is best suited for your needs.
If you are in need of multifocal vision correction, we encourage you to visit us for a one-on-one discussion with our opticians to uncover the best lens and frame solution for you. Our opticians have more than 60 years of optical experience among them. We’re eager to help you find a lens that looks great and works well for your eyes.
In recent years, it has become more popular for people who wear eyeglasses to buy them online. At our optical shops serving Princeton, Hamilton, and other New Jersey communities, we now see a lot of patients who come in with ill-fitting, uncomfortable frames or low-quality lenses saying they got a good deal online. Here are 5 reasons this so-called “savings” isn’t really worth it:
Nothing compares to having the frames in your own hands. You get to physically try on the frame instead of seeing a virtual frame imposed on your uploaded picture (how most online shops let you “try on” their frames). Beyond seeing how the frames look, you get to feel the quality of the metals and plastics of the frames, test out the hinge or flexible metal, feel the weight of the frame, and so on.
Quality of the materials and lenses bought online is usually lower. Most online optical retailers do not offer today’s latest technologies when it comes to frame and lens designs, or they have bought frames in bulk that have been discontinued. This is done to offer designer frames at what they state are huge savings. But, in fact, if you are purchasing a discontinued frame and you need repairs or parts in the future, it will be highly difficult to find what you need.
Deciding what frame best suits your prescription can be tricky. An optician takes many considerations into account when helping you choose the best frame for you. The right frame consists of more than just what looks good. Just as one size frame does not fit all faces, one type of frame does not work for all prescriptions. An optician helps guide you into a frame that cosmetically makes your prescription look ideal. He or she can also help you determine what lens materials and options best suit your lifestyle and take your vision to the best levels possible.
It’s imperative that measurements are done correctly. Pupillary distance measurements are just one of many important measurements and requirements for eyeglasses to work properly. Some lens designs and prescriptions are frame-specific and not general for all patients. While helping you select frames, your optician is doing more than just showing you frames that fit your needs cosmetically and prescription-wise — that person is also paying close attention to your general stance and head positions while the 2 of you discuss options. The optician also asks open-ended questions to help determine which lens design will best meet all of your needs and concerns. All of these subtle observations play a huge roll in how opticians measure you for your eyeglasses. Your optician is making several mental notes during the process to help make your experience and result the best they can possibly be.
Problems can arise after you receive your new glasses. Your glasses may not seem right once they arrive at your door. Did you enter the prescription correctly? Did you take the right measurements or choose the correct lens design for the tasks you need the glasses to help you perform? Did the online shop make them correctly or even verify that it did so before it packaged them and shipped them to you? Perhaps the glasses do work correctly but now you need them adjusted, repaired, or simply maintained. You are likely now spending any money that you may have saved from ordering the glasses online with trips back and forth to the doctor trying to figure out what’s wrong. Or you will now have to find an optician to help you adjust or repair your glasses. Because the glasses were ordered online, opticians in your area may not be willing or able to repair, adjust, or troubleshoot them. More charges may occur, and your frustration may build. The few dollars you may have saved will now seem not worth all the inconvenience and additional fees you have incurred.
Although the Internet can be a great resource, one thing is perfectly “clear.” Online eyeglass ordering is not the best solution for your eye care needs. A brick-and-mortar optical shop will have your best interest at heart and solutions at hand. They provide a service that no online optical service can come close to meeting. If you’re still not convinced and have ordered your eyeglasses online, we suggest you have an optician inspect the glasses to make sure they are made correctly.
During our years providing the Hamilton and Princeton areas with ophthalmology services, we have heard from many patients who have simply felt overwhelmed by the amount of information available on the Internet about their eye needs. That’s why we’ve added a blog to our site. We hope this platform will serve as a trustworthy, easy-to-use resource for both our patients and other people researching eye care topics.
We’ll be sure to keep the blog regularly updated with the topics that matter most to you, including:
News from the field of ophthalmology, including FDA approvals and emerging science
Announcements related to our practice, such as new treatments or staff members
Answers to common questions and concerns regarding eye conditions and procedures
General tips to keep your eyes at their best
We also want this forum to be a way to connect directly with you, our valued patient. You can expect candid advice from our experienced team, and we invite you to ask us questions and leave comments about what’s on your mind.
Do you have a topic about which you’d like to learn more? Leave us a comment, and we’ll do our best to address it in an upcoming post. Be sure to check back regularly to keep yourself in the know about what’s going on at Outlook Eyecare!