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Warm Compresses Can Relieve Dry Eye

protect your eyes 640x350What Is Dry Eye?

Our tears are made up of water and oil layers. Dry eye (also known as dry eye syndrome) occurs when the eyelids’ meibomian glands do not secrete enough natural oil into the tears. This causes the eyes to become dry, itchy, red, and painful. Environmental conditions like dry or windy air, and staring at a screen or book for a long time, can also dry out your eyes.

Here’s What To Do About It

One of the best ways to make dry, irritated eyes feel refreshed is with a warm compress. A warm compress will open the oil glands and soften oil blockages, allowing oil to flow into the tears. Wet a clean washcloth or place it in a microwave for 20 seconds. Touch it to your wrist to make sure it’s not too hot, then place the compress on your closed eyelids for a few minutes while tilting your head back or reclining. When the compress cools, reheat and repeat.

Compresses slow the evaporation of tears. Their warm moisture provides relief by stabilizing the eyes’ tear film and improving the meibomian glands’ production of oil. With your eyes now hydrated and lubricated, they can also expel bacteria more efficiently.

Certain prescription eye drops also address dry eye, and steroids can provide relief. Others provide additional lubrication. Please consult with our optometric team, who can recommend or prescribe the best drops for your eyes.

Other home remedies include:

  • An air filter to eliminate irritants
  • A humidifier to increase moisture in the air and decrease evaporation of your tears
  • Drinking water to stay hydrated
  • Wearing sunglasses to deflect ultraviolet rays and wind that dry the eyes

Please Keep the Following in Mind:

  • Don’t make the compresses or washcloths too hot.
  • Use a different compress for each eye to prevent spreading an infection between the eyes.
  • We recommend lightly cleaning with a swab or cloth, then wetting and wiping your eyelids several times each day. Doing so can prevent bacteria from entering your eyes.

If you are experiencing dry eye, please bring it to our attention. Untreated, dry eye can sometimes cause corneal abrasions or ulcers, inflammation, and even vision impairment.

 

 

At Kissel Eye Care, our optometric team will treat patients with dry eye from Lititz, Lancaster County, Elizabeth Township, East Petersburg, and throughout Pennsylvania.

References:

 

Request A Dry Eye Appointment
Do You Think You Have Dry Eye? Call 717-625-4989

Wearing Colored Contact Lenses This Halloween? Beware and Take Care!

Countless adults, teens and even children will be wearing colored contact lenses this Halloween, but few are aware of the risks involved. Ever wondered what those cat-eye contacts are doing to your eyes? If you got them without a prescription, beware of health complications.

Enjoy a safe and happy Halloween by educating yourself and others about the dangers of wearing colored contact lenses without a prescription.

Why Can Over-The-Counter Colored Contact Lenses Cause Eye Damage?

Contact lenses made to change one’s appearance go by many names: cosmetic, theatrical, Halloween, circle, decorative, colored, or costume contact lenses. While it’s illegal to sell colored contact lenses without a prescription, authorities rarely enforce the law — which means they’re still accessible in many places.

Many people believe that wearing non-prescription color contact lenses can cause no harm. This unfortunate myth has led to many contact lens complications. For instance, when a person feels that a contact lens is “dry”, it could be because the lens is not a good fit. Ideally, the lens should follow the contour of the eye, and stay centered, with enough lens movement to allow tear exchange beneath the lens. 

Furthermore, non-medical colored contact lenses are often produced by unlicensed manufacturers that tend to use inferior plastic and toxic materials, such as lead (often used in lens coloring), which can get absorbed through the eyes into the bloodstream. These illegal lenses may also contain high levels of bacteria from unsanitary packaging, shipping, and storage conditions.

Therefore, purchasing any kind of contact lenses without a prescription or medical oversight can result in a variety of eye complications, such as corneal abrasions, eye sores, conjunctivitis, other eye infections, vision impairment and, in rare cases, even permanent vision loss. 

Even if you have perfect vision, all contact lenses, including colored contacts, require a prescription and proper fitting by an optometrist.

Contact us at Kissel Eye Care and make an appointment with Dr. Collins to get properly examined for a contact lens prescription. 

The Dos and Don’ts of Colored Contact Lenses

  • DO make sure you undergo a comprehensive eye exam by an optometrist who will measure your eyes and properly fit you for contact lenses.  
  • DO get a valid prescription that includes the measurements, expiration date and the contact lens brand name.
  • DO purchase the decorative contact lenses from a reliable retailer (hint: they should demand a prescription.)
  • DO follow the contact lens hygiene directives (cleaning, inserting and removing lenses) provided by your eye doctor. 
  • DO make sure to undergo follow-up eye exams as directed by your eye care professional.
  • DON’T ever share contact lenses with anyone else.

So don’t let an eye infection get in the way of your fun this Halloween. Wearing decorative lenses without a valid prescription can result in serious harm to your eyes, which can haunt you long after October 31st.  

Get your comprehensive eye exam and contact lens fitting by an eye doctor in Lancaster County at Kissel Eye Care.

Sports-Related Eye Injuries

September Is Sports Eye Safety Month!

Ocular sports trauma is among the leading causes of permanent vision loss in North America. Tens of thousands of people get treated for sports-related eye injuries a year, with the most common injuries occurring during water sports and basketball. Infections, corneal abrasions, eye socket fractures, and detached retinas are just a few of the typical cases eye doctors encounter on a regular basis.

Sports Eye Safety Month is sponsored by Prevent Blindness America (PBA) to remind people to protect their eyes when playing sports. Though young children are usually the most vulnerable to eye injuries, it should be noted that professional athletes can also suffer eye injuries while on the job. 

Eye accidents can happen in a split second – the effects can last a lifetime…

By wearing protective eyewear, you can safeguard your eyesight without compromising on your favorite sports activities. Athletes who wear contact lenses still need additional eye protection for relevant sports.

At Kissel Eye Care, our eye doctor is experienced and trained to treat sports-induced eye injuries sustained by our active patients. Dr. Collins and our dedicated staff are committed to providing the most comprehensive eye care to help get you back on the field again. Furthermore, we provide consultations on a wide array of protective eyewear for all your sporting needs. 

What Eye Injuries Can Be Caused by Sports?

Corneal Abrasion

A corneal abrasion, also known as a scratched cornea, is the most common sports-related eye injury. When someone gets poked in the eye, the eye’s surface can get scratched. Symptoms may include acute pain and a gritty or foreign body sensation in the eyes, as well as redness, tearing, light sensitivity, headaches, blurry or decreased vision. Medical care includes prevention or treatment of infection, and pain management. If you suspect that you have suffered a corneal abrasion, make sure to see an eye doctor right away. 

Traumatic Iritis

Iritis is an inflammation of the iris, the colored part of the eye. The condition rapidly develops and typically affects only one eye. Symptoms include pain in the eye or brow region, blurred vision, a small or oddly-shaped pupil, and sensitivity to bright lights. 

Hyphema

Hyphema is among the more common sports-related eye injuries, with racquet sports, baseball and softball accounting for more than 50% of all hyphema injuries in athletics. 

A hyphema is a broken blood vessel inside the eye which causes blood to collect in the space between the cornea and iris, also known as the “anterior chamber”. Although the main symptom is blood in the eye, it can be accompanied by blurry or distorted vision, light sensitivity or eye pain.  

If you recognize the signs and symptoms of hyphema, make sure to seek immediate medical attention in order to avoid secondary complications. 

Angle recession

Angle recession can develop from an eye injury or bruising of the eye, caused by getting punched, elbowed, or hit with a ball. The trauma damages the fluid drainage system of the eye, which causes it to back up, increasing the pressure in the eye. In 20% of people with angle recession, this pressure can become so severe that it damages the optic nerve, and causes glaucoma (known as “angle-recession glaucoma”). 

You may not notice any symptoms at first, and it may take years before you experience any signs of vision loss. Therefore, it’s critical to visit the eye doctor as soon as possible for a complete eye exam and make sure that you follow-up with routine screenings. 

Retinal tear or detachment

Retinal detachment is a condition in which the retina gets lifted or pulled away from its normal position at the back of the eye. If not treated immediately, retinal detachment can develop permanent vision loss.

Symptoms include seeing flashing lights, floaters or little black spots in your vision. A retinal detachment is a medical emergency and requires an eye doctor’s immediate attention – surgical intervention may be necessary.

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage 

This happens when a blood vessel breaks on the white part of the eye. In addition to a sport-related injury, it can be induced by rubbing the eye, heavy lifting, sneezing or coughing. For those with subconjunctival hemorrhage, the eye appears intensely red – though this minor condition will often clear up within a couple weeks on its own without treatment.

Orbital Fracture 

This occurs when one or more of the bones around the eyeball break, often caused by a hard blow to the face – such as by a baseball or a fist. This is a major injury and should be assessed by an eye doctor, like Dr. Collins, along with X-Rays or CT scan imaging to help confirm the diagnosis.

Black Eye or Periorbital Hematoma

A “shiner” can occur when a blunt object such as a fist or ball strikes the eye-area of the face and causes bruising. Typically, this kind of injury affects the face more than the eye. Blurry vision may be a temporary symptom, but it’s a good idea to get a black eye checked out by an optometrist in any case, because sometimes there is accompanying damage to the eye which could impact vision.

How Does One Prevent Sports-Related Eye Injuries?

One of the most important things one can do in order to prevent eye injuries is to wear protective eyewear. In fact, wearing eye protection should be part of any athlete’s routine, and should be prioritized just like wearing shin guards or a helmet. 

Below are a few tips to prevent sports-related eye injuries: 

  • Wear safety goggles (with polycarbonate lenses) for racquet sports or basketball. For the best possible protection, the eye guard or sports protective eyewear should be labeled “ASTM F803 approved” – which means it is performance tested.
  • Use batting helmets with polycarbonate face shields for baseball.
  • If you wear prescription eyewear, speak with Dr. Collins about fitting you for prescription protective eyewear.
  • Sports eye protection should be comfortably padded along the brow and bridge of the nose, to prevent the eye guards from cutting into the skin.
  • Try on protective eyewear to assess whether it’s the right fit and size for you and adjust the straps as needed. For athletic children who are still growing, make sure that last-year’s pair still fits before the new sports season begins. Consult Dr. Collins to determine whether the comfort and safety levels are adequate. 
  • Keep in mind that regular glasses don’t provide nearly enough eye protection when playing sports. 

For athletes, whether amateur or pro, there is so much more at stake than just losing the game. Fortunately, by wearing high-quality protective eyewear, you can prevent 90% of all sports-related eye injuries. 

Speak with Dr. Collins at Kissel Eye Care about getting the right sports-related protective eyewear to ensure healthy eyes and clear vision. Our eye care clinic serves patients from Lancaster County and the surrounding areas. 

Summer Heat Wave and Your Eyes

This summer, heat waves with scorching temperatures have hit communities nationwide, making an already hot summer even hotter. With high temps and heat waves in certain areas, it’s now more important than ever to protect yourself.

For best practices and tips for maintaining healthy vision in the summer heat, talk to the Kissel Eye Care.

How Can Heat Affect Vision?

Staying out in the sun too long can give you a sunburn and make you feel exhausted. Did you know that it can affect your vision, too?

If you get dehydrated, lack of moisture can make it hard for your eyes to naturally produce enough tears, which can contribute to seasonal dry eye. If you already have dry eye, extremely dry heat can exacerbate your symptoms of itchy, red, sore, and irritated eyes.

Do you sit in front of a fan or air conditioning system? That may feel great, but it can also contribute to dryer and less comfortable eyes.

To give your eyes some temporary relief, keep artificial tears on hand. If your eyes still feel dry or uncomfortable, contact Kissel Eye Care.

If You Love the Sun, Read This

Golden sunshine may sound dreamy, but too much isn’t a good thing.

The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can be very harmful, and your eyes are no exception. UV radiation, which can gradually contribute to eye conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration. Dr. Collins recommends that you always wear sunglasses with 100% of UVA and UVB light blocking protection. There’s no shortage of trendy and sunglasses, designed with a flair for fashion, so you won’t have to compromise on style while protecting your eyes from dangerous UV rays.

Excessive sun exposure can cause headaches, blurry vision, eye pain, and eyestrain. So while you’re out at the pool, hanging out at the beach, sunbathing, or at a backyard barbeque, pay close attention to how much time you’re outside.

If you love the sunshine, you just need to protect yourself. Wear hats, sunscreen, and, of course, 100% UV protective polarized sunglasses. But if you experience discomfort or symptoms that don’t go away on their own, then it’s time to visit your eye doctor.

Computer Vision Syndrome in the Summer

There’s nothing quite like a family road trip or flying to a vacation getaway over the summer. Yet something about being stuck in the backseat of a car or inside of an airplane makes kids feel closed in and restless. It’s then that many kids will play on a smartphone, iPad, or gaming device over many hours to help pass the time.

When it comes to kids and computer use, they’re just as susceptible to the effects of digital eye strain, also called Computer Vision Syndrome, as adults are. In fact, studies show that 25% of children spend more than 3 hours each day on digital devices.

In the summer, when the heat is sizzling, it’s tempting for kids to spend more time than usual watching TV, using a computer, or playing games on their smartphones. To help ease the effects of digital eyestrain, Dr. Collins suggests following the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds to look at something at least 20 feet away. It’s a great way to counteract the effects of Computer Vision Syndrome and let the eyes rest.

This summer, however you choose to beat the heat, don’t forget to protect your vision and keep your eyes strong and healthy. The Kissel Eye Care is always here to help if you have any questions.

Have a great summer!

Routine Eye Exam or Neurovisual Exam?

Do you find yourself complaining about blurry vision, unable to read road signs, or enjoying books you love? Do you occasionally get headaches or notice yourself squinting often to see things more clearly? You more than likely need a routine eye exam. Most people know how this exam works, the optometrist checks for common eye disorders, checks the basic health of your eye, and sends you with a prescription lasting 1-2 years. According to The Vision Council, in December of 2015, 188.7 million Americans are wearing some sort of vision correction. It is not uncommon to have a visual issue whether it be nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. Common symptoms of a visual issue are blurry vision, headaches, flashes/floaters, any sudden changes in your vision. While these symptoms are seen by Optometrists every day, you may be experiencing different symptoms that you may not even know are related to your eyes!

Ask yourself this: do you experience any of the following?

  • Migraines
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Neck pain
  • Cutting corners/ running into things often

As shocking as it may sound, these could all be related to your eyes. Those are just a few symptoms of binocular vision disorder. If it sounds like you can relate to any of these, we recommend you come in for a Neurovisual Exam with Dr. Kathryn Collins. This questionnaire will ask you a series of questions, which once completed will be scored, so we can see how severe your symptoms are. (There are no right or wrong answers, just how you feel day to day. Everyone is different.) Once we get your results, we will schedule an examination. This exam will look for vision disorders such as, Binocular Vision Dysfunction, vertical heterophoria or convergence issues. BVD, is when your eyes have trouble working together due to misalignment. You may check out our Neurovision website for more information on BVD.

During the Neurovisual exam, Dr. Kathryn Collins will do in depth tests that will give her answers that cannot be determined during a routine eye exam. If BVD is diagnosed during your exam, the doctor will come up with a treatment plan which usually includes prescribing special prismatic lenses which will help correct the misalignment in your eyes.

If any of the above symptoms seem to be causing a disturbance in your everyday life, or if you have any questions for us, give us a call at (717) 568-0058.

Where clarity meets comfort

Dr. Collins in the News

dr collins w patient wio 2015 300×165Kathryn Collins, OD, of Lititz, Pennsylvania, read about an interesting case that a fellow OD posted on the social media forum ODs on Facebook. The patient in the case had been in a car accident, and despite working with neurologists, physical therapists (PTs) and occupational therapists (OTs), her progress had stalled because she couldn’t see well. Dr. Collins reached out to the colleague, Margaret Shirk, OD, also from Pennsylvania. Dr. Collins sent Dr. Shirk a validated questionnaire for the patient, which could help them determine if the patient could benefit from the neurovisual optometry services she offers.

In 2013, Dr. Collins read an article in Women In Optometry magazine featuring Debby Feinberg, OD, who had started a neurovisual optometry practice in Michigan. In that story, Dr. Feinberg had said she was drawing patients from as far as Pennsylvania. Dr. Collins recalls thinking that wasn’t right. So she contacted Dr. Feinberg to ask how she could bring neurovisual services to her community. Dr. Collins and another OD went to Dr. Feinberg’s office and spent a week learning and training with Dr. Feinberg and her patients with traumatic brain injuries, binocular vision disorders and other imbalance issues.

So Dr. Collins recognized the symptoms of dizziness and instability that Dr. Shirk’s patient, Debra, presented with. Debra came to see Dr. Collins, who determined after a detailed examination that eyeglasses with a small amount of vertical prism would help her symptoms. “After she received her glasses, Debra was able to return to the rehab hospital because the OTs and PTs thought that she could make progress again. The patient was hoping to return to work where she teaches inner-city kids. Now she can,” Dr. Collins says.

Neurovisual optometry isn’t like vision therapy, where patients return to the practice for weeks or even months. “We’re fitting them with glasses that have been shown to reduce patients’ symptoms so they can get back to work, driving and normal life. Sometimes, that means that they can continue on to vestibular, occupational, physical and/or vision therapy with greater success,” she says. But most times, it is not needed.

For the past two years, she has been offering these services in her primary care office. “I hope at some point to be doing mostly neurovisual optometry. I have local patients, but many are coming from as far away as North Carolina and Virginia, so there are enough patients in our communities for many more of us to be offering these services,” she says. Her patients are often referred by neurologists, who think there may be some visual component to a patient’s problem; rheumatologists, whose patients have myofascial pain; and PTs, whose patients continue with dizziness and imbalance. “Many of their debilitating symptoms can be alleviated by realigning the patients’ eyes. In the past, that wasn’t successful because we were not asking the right questions, measuring the right parameters or knowing what to do with the information once we had it. But with the proper research, education and digitally designed lenses, we can prescribe smaller amounts of prism, and it is really helping.”

Neurovisual exams typically last about 90 minutes for a first exam. “But the response is amazing. I’ve gotten more hugs and shared more tears in the two years I’ve been offering neurovisual optometry than I have in my whole career. Patients are so appreciative.”

8 Tips to Relieve Winter Dry Eyes

Whether you live in a climate with cold winter weather or you are planning a ski trip up north, winter can be a challenge if you suffer from dry eyes. Dry, cool air, cold winds and even drier indoor heating can cause eye irritation, burning, itchiness and redness, and sometimes even excessively watery eyes as more tears are produced to compensate for the dryness. Many people have a chronic feeling that they have something in their eye and some even experience blurred vision. These symptoms can be debilitating!

Dry eyes is one of the most common complaints eye doctors get from patients during the winter season, especially in the cooler climates. That’s why we’d like to share some tips on how to relieve dry eye discomfort, and how to know when your condition is serious enough to come in for an evaluation.

Tips to Relieve Winter Dry Eyes:

  1. Keep eyes moist using artificial tears or eye drops. You can apply these a few times each day when the eyes are feeling dry or irritated. If over-the-counter drops don’t help or if you have chronic dry eyes, speak to your eye doctor about finding the best drops for you. Since not all artificial tears are the same, knowing the cause of your dry eye will help your eye doctor determine which brand is best suited for your eyes.
  2. Use a humidifier to counteract the drying effects of indoor heaters or generally dry air.
  3. Point car vents or indoor heaters away from your face when the heat is on. Try to keep your distance from direct sources of heating, especially if they blow out the heat.
  4. Drink a lot! Hydrating your body will also hydrate your eyes.
  5. Protect your eyes outdoors with sunglasses or goggles – the bigger the better! Larger, even wrap-around glasses as well as a hat with a wide brim will keep the wind and other elements out of your eyes. If you wear goggles for winter sports, make sure they fit well and cover a large surface area.
  6. Soothe dry eyes using a warm compress and never rub them! Rubbing your eyes will increase irritation and may lead to infection if the hands are not clean.
  7. Give your eyes a digital break. People blink less during screen time which is why extensive computer use can lead to dry eyes. Follow the 20/20/20 rule by taking a break every 20 minutes to look 20 feet away for 20 seconds and make sure you blink!
  8. For contact lens wearers: If you wear contact lenses, dry eyes can be particularly debilitating as the contact lenses can cause even further dryness and irritation. Contact lens rewetting drops can help your eyes feel better and may also allow you to see more clearly. Not all eyedrops are appropriate for use with contact lenses, so ask your optometrist which eyedrop is compatible with your contacts and cleaning solution. If rewetting drops don’t help, consider opting for glasses when your dry eyes are bad, and speak to your optometrist about which brands of contact lenses are better for dry eyes. Many people find dry eye improvement when they switch to daily single use contact lenses.

Chronic Dry Eyes or Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome is a chronic condition in which the eyes do not produce enough tear film, or do not produce the quality of tear film needed to properly keep the eyes moist. While winter weather can make this condition worse, it is often present all year round. If you find that the tips above do not alleviate your discomfort or symptoms, it may be time to see a optometrist to see if your condition requires more effective medical treatment.

Diabetes and Your Eyes

Diabetes is becoming much more prevalent around the globe. According to the International Diabetes Federation, approximately 425 million adults were living with diabetes in the year 2017 and 352 million more people were at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. By 2045 the number of people diagnosed is expected to rise to 629 million.

Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness as well as heart attacks, stroke, kidney failure, neuropathy (nerve damage) and lower limb amputation. In fact, in 2017, diabetes was implicated in 4 million deaths worldwide. Nevertheless preventing these complications from diabetes is possible with proper treatment, medication and regular medical screenings as well as improving your diet, physical activity and adopting a healthy lifestyle.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the hormone insulin is either underproduced or ineffective in its ability to regulate blood sugar. Uncontrolled diabetes leads to hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, which damages many systems in the body such as the blood vessels and the nervous system.

How Does Diabetes Affect The Eyes?

Diabetic eye disease is a group of conditions which are caused, or worsened, by diabetes; including: diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, glaucoma and cataracts. Diabetes increases the risk of cataracts by four times, and can increase dryness and reduce cornea sensation.

In diabetic retinopathy, over time, the tiny blood vessels within the eyes become damaged, causing leakage, poor oxygen circulation, then scarring of the sensitive tissue within the retina, which can result in further cell damage and scarring.

The longer you have diabetes, and the longer your blood sugar levels remain uncontrolled, the higher the chances of developing diabetic eye disease. Unlike many other vision-threatening conditions which are more prevalent in older individuals, diabetic eye disease is one of the main causes of vision loss in the younger, working-age population. Unfortunately, these eye conditions can lead to blindness if not caught early and treated. In fact, 2.6% of blindness worldwide is due to diabetes.

Diabetic Retinopathy

As mentioned above, diabetes can result in cumulative damage to the blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue located at the back of the eye. This is called diabetic retinopathy.

The retina is responsible for converting the light it receives into visual signals to the optic nerve in the brain. High blood sugar levels can cause the blood vessels in the retina to leak or hemorrhage, causing bleeding and distorting vision. In advanced stages, new blood vessels may begin to grow on the retinal surface causing scarring and further damaging cells in the retina. Diabetic retinopathy can eventually lead to blindness.

Signs and Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

The early stages of diabetic retinopathy often have no symptoms, which is why it’s vitally important to have frequent diabetic eye exams. As it progresses you may start to notice the following symptoms:

  • Blurred or fluctuating vision or vision loss
  • Floaters (dark spots or strings that appear to float in your visual field)
  • Blind spots
  • Color vision loss

There is no pain associated with diabetic retinopathy to signal any issues. If not controlled, as retinopathy continues it can cause retinal detachment and macular edema, two other serious conditions that threaten vision. Again, there are often NO signs or symptoms until more advanced stages.

A person with diabetes can do their part to control their blood sugar level. Following the physician’s medication plan, as well as diet and exercise recommendations can help slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy.

Retinal Detachment

Scar tissues caused by the breaking and forming of blood vessels in advanced retinopathy can lead to a retinal detachment in which the retina pulls away from the underlying tissue. This condition is a medical emergency and must be treated immediately as it can lead to permanent vision loss. Signs of a retinal detachment include a sudden onset of floaters or flashes in the vision.

Diabetic Macular Edema (DME)

Diabetic macular edema occurs when the macula, a part of the retina responsible for clear central vision, becomes full of fluid (edema). It is a complication of diabetic retinopathy that occurs in about half of patients, and causes vision loss.

Treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy and Diabetic Macular Edema

While vision loss from diabetic retinopathy and DME often can’t be restored, with early detection there are some preventative treatments available. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (when the blood vessels begin to grow abnormally) can be treated by laser surgery, injections or a procedure called vitrectomy in which the vitreous gel in the center of the eye is removed and replaced. This will treat bleeding caused by ruptured blood vessels. DME can be treated with injection therapy, laser surgery or corticosteroids.

Prevent Vision Loss from Diabetes

The best way to prevent vision loss from diabetic eye disease is early detection and treatment. Since there may be no symptoms in the early stages, regular diabetic eye exams are critical for early diagnosis. In fact diabetics are now sometimes monitored by their health insurance to see if they are getting regular eye exams and premium rates can be affected by how regularly the patients get their eyes checked. Keeping diabetes under control through exercise, diet, medication and regular screenings will help to reduce the chances of vision loss and blindness from diabetes.

Diabetes and Your Eyes

Diabetes is becoming much more prevalent around the globe. According to the International Diabetes Federation, approximately 425 million adults were living with diabetes in the year 2017 and 352 million more people were at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. By 2045 the number of people diagnosed is expected to rise to 629 million. 

Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness as well as heart attacks, stroke, kidney failure, neuropathy (nerve damage) and lower limb amputation. In fact, in 2017, diabetes was implicated in 4 million deaths worldwide. Nevertheless preventing these complications from diabetes is possible with proper treatment, medication and regular medical screenings as well as improving your diet, physical activity and adopting a healthy lifestyle.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the hormone insulin is either underproduced or ineffective in its ability to regulate blood sugar. Uncontrolled diabetes leads to hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, which damages many systems in the body such as the blood vessels and the nervous system.  

How Does Diabetes Affect The Eyes?

Diabetic eye disease is a group of conditions which are caused, or worsened, by diabetes; including: diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, glaucoma and cataracts. Diabetes increases the risk of cataracts by four times, and can increase dryness and reduce cornea sensation.

In diabetic retinopathy, over time, the tiny blood vessels within the eyes become damaged, causing leakage, poor oxygen circulation, then scarring of the sensitive tissue within the retina, which can result in further cell damage and scarring. 

The longer you have diabetes, and the longer your blood sugar levels remain uncontrolled, the higher the chances of developing diabetic eye disease. Unlike many other vision-threatening conditions which are more prevalent in older individuals, diabetic eye disease is one of the main causes of vision loss in the younger, working-age population. Unfortunately, these eye conditions can lead to blindness if not caught early and treated. In fact, 2.6% of blindness worldwide is due to diabetes. 

Diabetic Retinopathy

As mentioned above, diabetes can result in cumulative damage to the blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue located at the back of the eye. This is called diabetic retinopathy. 

The retina is responsible for converting the light it receives into visual signals to the optic nerve in the brain. High blood sugar levels can cause the blood vessels in the retina to leak or hemorrhage, causing bleeding and distorting vision. In advanced stages, new blood vessels may begin to grow on the retinal surface causing scarring and further damaging cells in the retina. Diabetic retinopathy can eventually lead to blindness. 

Signs and Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

The early stages of diabetic retinopathy often have no symptoms, which is why it’s vitally important to have frequent diabetic eye exams. As it progresses you may start to notice the following symptoms:

  • Blurred or fluctuating vision or vision loss
  • Floaters (dark spots or strings that appear to float in your visual field)
  • Blind spots
  • Color vision loss

There is no pain associated with diabetic retinopathy to signal any issues. If not controlled, as retinopathy continues it can cause retinal detachment and macular edema, two other serious conditions that threaten vision. Again, there are often NO signs or symptoms until more advanced stages. 

A person with diabetes can do their part to control their blood sugar level. Following the physician’s medication plan, as well as diet and exercise recommendations can help slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy. 

Retinal Detachment

Scar tissues caused by the breaking and forming of blood vessels in advanced retinopathy can lead to a retinal detachment in which the retina pulls away from the underlying tissue. This condition is a medical emergency and must be treated immediately as it can lead to permanent vision loss. Signs of a retinal detachment include a sudden onset of floaters or flashes in the vision. 

Diabetic Macular Edema (DME)

Diabetic macular edema occurs when the macula, a part of the retina responsible for clear central vision, becomes full of fluid (edema). It is a complication of diabetic retinopathy that occurs in about half of patients, and causes vision loss. 

Treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy and Diabetic Macular Edema

While vision loss from diabetic retinopathy and DME often can’t be restored, with early detection there are some preventative treatments available. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (when the blood vessels begin to grow abnormally) can be treated by laser surgery, injections or a procedure called vitrectomy in which the vitreous gel in the center of the eye is removed and replaced. This will treat bleeding caused by ruptured blood vessels. DME can be treated with injection therapy, laser surgery or corticosteroids. 

Prevent Vision Loss from Diabetes

The best way to prevent vision loss from diabetic eye disease is early detection and treatment. Since there may be no symptoms in the early stages, regular diabetic eye exams are critical for early diagnosis. In fact diabetics are now sometimes monitored by their health insurance to see if they are getting regular eye exams and premium rates can be affected by how regularly the patients get their eyes checked. Keeping diabetes under control through exercise, diet, medication and regular screenings will help to reduce the chances of vision loss and blindness from diabetes. 

 

Inside a Life With Color Vision Deficiency

What’s it like to be color blind? Contrary to what the name implies, color blindness usually does not actually mean that you don’t see any color, but rather that you have difficulty perceiving or distinguishing between certain colors. This is why many prefer the term color vision deficiency or CVD to describe the condition. CVD affects men more than women, appearing in approximately 8% of men (1 in 12) and .5% of women (1 in 200) worldwide. 

Having color vision deficiency means that you perceive color in a more limited way than those with normal color vision. This ranges from mild, in which you may not even be aware that you are experiencing color differently, to severe, which is perhaps the more appropriate from to be called “color blind” and involves the inability to see certain colors. 

CVD can be inherited; it is caused by abnormalities in the genes that produce photopigments located in the cone cells in your eyes. The eyes contain different cone cells that fire in response to a specific color, blue, green or red and together allow you to see the depth and range of colors that the normal eye can see. The type of color blindness and therefore the type of color vision that is impaired, is based on which photopigments are abnormal. The most common form of CVD is red-green, followed by blue-yellow. Total color blindness or the complete inability to perceive color is quite rare. About 7% of males have congenital color blindness that they inherit from the mother’s X-chromosome. 

Color blindness can also be the result of eye damage, specifically to the optic nerve, or to the area in the brain that processes color. Sometimes an eye disease, such as cataracts, can also impact one’s ability to perceive color. Systemic diseases such as diabetes or multiple sclerosis can also cause acquired CVD. 

Living with CVD

Red-green color blindness does not mean only that you can’t tell the difference between red and green, but rather that any color that has some red or green (such as purple, orange, brown, pink, some shades of gray, etc) in it is affected. 

You many not realize all of the ways you use even subtle distinctions in color in your daily life. Here are some examples of ways that CVD can impact your life and make seemingly everyday tasks challenging:

  • You may not be able to cook meat to the desired temperature based on color. 
  • Most of the colors in a box of crayons will be indistinguishable.
  • You may not be able to distinguish between red and green LED displays on electronic devices that indicate power on and off. 
  • You may not be able to tell between a ripe and unripe fruit or vegetable such as bananas (green vs. yellow) or tomatoes (red vs green). 
  • Chocolate sauce, barbecue sauce and ketchup may all look the same. 
  • Bright green vegetables can look unappealing as they appear greenish, brown or grey. 
  • You may not be able to distinguish color coded pie charts or graphs (which can cause difficulty in school or work). 
  • Selecting an outfit that matches can be difficult. 

Knowing that one is color blind is important for some occupations that require good color discrimination such as the police officers, railway workers, pilots, electricians etc.  These are just a few of the ways that CVD can impact one’s daily life. So is there a cure? Not yet. 

While there is no cure for CVD, there is research being done into gene therapies and in the meantime there are corrective devices available including color vision glasses (such as the Enchroma brand) and color filtering contacts that for some can help to enhance color for some people. If you think you might have CVD, your optometrist can perform some tests to diagnose it or rule it out. If you have CVD, you can speak to your eye doctor about options that might be able to help you experience your world in full color.