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Are Your Eyes Sensitive to Light?

Light sensitivity, also known as photophobia, is a condition in which bright light – either natural sunlight or artificial light – can cause significant discomfort, pain and intolerance. People that experience light sensitivity will find themselves needing to close their eyes or squint when exposed to light and often experience headaches and nausea as well. In mild cases, the discomfort accompanies exposure to bright lights or harsh sunlight, but in severe cases even a small amount of light can cause pain and discomfort.

Photophobia is more common in individuals with light eyes. This is because the greater amounts of pigment in darker eyes help to protect the eye from the harsh rays of light. The darker pigment of the iris and choroid absorbs the light, rather than reflecting the light and causing internal reflection or glare experienced by those with lighter eyes. People with albinism, which is a total lack of eye pigment, also experience significant light sensitivity for this reason.

Acute photophobia is usually a symptom that accompanies a condition such as an eye infection or irritation (such as conjunctivitis or dry eyes), a virus, or a migraine (light sensitivity is one of the most common symptoms of migraines). It could also be caused by something more serious such as an eye condition like a corneal abrasion, a detached retina, uveitis or iritis or a systemic disease like meningitis or encephalitis. Light sensitivity is also a side effect of refractive surgery (such as LASIK) and some medications (such as tetracycline and doxycycline).

How to Deal with Photophobia

The most effective way to reduce the discomfort caused by photophobia is to stay out of sunlight and dim indoor lights as much as possible while you are experiencing symptoms. Wearing dark sunglasses and keeping your eyes closed may also provide some relief.

In the summer it is more common for UV to trigger corneal inflammation (keratitis) and cause photosensitivity as well. Wind and eye dryness can also set off photosensitivity, which are more good reasons to wear sunglasses.

If the sensitivity is new and the cause is unknown, you should seek medical attention immediately, especially if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Blurry vision
  • Burning or pain in the eye
  • Fever and chills
  • Confusion and irritability
  • Severe headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Stiff neck
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Numbness
  • Foreign body sensation

In cases where the photophobia is a symptom of an underlying issue, treating the issue will likely cause relief in your sensitivity. This will vary depending on the ailment but could include pain medications, eye drops or antibiotics, or anti-inflammatory medications. If the sensitivity is mild due to your genetic predisposition or a result of surgery, make sure you take your sunglasses every time you leave the house. People who wear prescription eyeglasses may consider photochromic lenses which automatically darken when exposed to light.

If you are uncomfortable, speak to your eye doctor about the best options for your condition.

Are You Ignoring Your Dry Eyes?

You Don’t Have to Live With Dry Eyes

Have you noticed that your eyes feel chronically dry, itchy, scratchy or even sometimes watery? Many people that have these symptoms just go on with their lives until the symptoms become unbearable. What they don’t realize is that these are signs that they might be suffering from dry eye syndrome, a condition in which the eyes are not able to produce enough tears to effectively lubricate the eyes. This is a problem that won’t just go away on its own.

What causes Dry Eye?

Dry Eye Syndrome, also known as Tear Film Dysfunction is characterized by a reduction in the amount or quality of tears that are produced. Tears are essential for optimal eye health, vision and comfort. Ideally, tear film covers the eyes at all times to prevent the eyes from drying out and to ensure clear vision. If the glands that produce tears start to produce fewer tears or tears that don’t have the proper balance of water, oils, proteins and electrolytes, the tear film with become unstable, allowing dry spots to form on the surface of the eye, and cause disruptions in outer barrier of the eye’s epithelial surface. This disruption in the outer barrier allows microbes to invade the eye, leading to irritation and infection. The condition can be caused by many factors, including tear gland dysfunction, eyelid problems, medications or environmental factors.

Symptoms of Dry Eye

As mentioned above, many of the symptoms of dry eye involve varying sensations of dryness including, burning, stinging, itching, grittiness, soreness or a feeling that there is something in the eye. The eyes may also be red and sensitive to light, wind or smoke. Vision may be blurred or doubled and the eyes may fatigue easily. Another common symptom is that vision seems blurry but clears when you blink (especially common when reading or using a computer). This is because the tear film does not form a smooth coat over the eye surface or it evaporates too quickly causing a blur.

You may also notice pain, some discharge from the eye (especially upon waking in the morning) and experience discomfort when wearing contact lenses. One of the most confusing symptoms of dry eye is actually excessive tearing, which occurs because the eyes are trying to compensate for the lack of moisture – however the tears produced are low quality and don’t properly hydrate the surface of the eye.

Reducing Symptoms

The first thing to look at when you have dry eyes is whether you are taking any medications, engaging in certain behaviors or being exposed to environmental factors that may be causing the condition. Medications that may cause dry eye as a side effect include:

  • Antihistamines and Decongestants
  • Diuretics
  • Sleeping pills
  • Birth Control pills
  • Antidepressants
  • Acne medications
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
  • Opiate-based painkillers such as morphine

Important! Never stop medication without the approval of your doctor! If you are taking a medication that may be causing dry eye, don’t stop taking the medication without speaking to your healthcare provider first. Treating dry eye symptoms may be a simpler solution than stopping or switching medications.

You may be able to alter your environment to reduce symptoms of dry eye as well. Environmental factors that can exacerbate dry eye include:

  • Wearing contact lenses
  • Extended use of computers or other electronic devices
  • Exposure to dry, windy climates or blowing air (such as an air conditioner or heater).
  • Exposure to smoke
  • High altitudes

Treatment for Dry Eye

If you are experiencing dry eye symptoms, make an appointment with your optometrist. The diagnosis and treatment will be based on a complete examination of your eyes, your medical history and your personal circumstances around the condition. The doctor may decide to perform a tear film test that can determine the quantity and quality of the tears and whether your tear glands and tear film are functioning properly.

The type of treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the problem. Treatment may include behavioral or environmental changes such as using a humidifier, wearing sunglasses in windy weather, reducing computer time or changing to a different type of contact lens, as well as medical treatments that may include:

  • Artificial tears, eye drops or ointments to lubricate eyes
  • Steroid or antibiotic drops or pills may be used for certain conditions such as blepharitis
  • Reducing the drainage of tears by blocking tear ducts with silicone plugs
  • Medications such as Restasis which reduce inflammation and trigger tear production
  • In some situations a surgical procedure might be recommended
  • Scleral lenses that hold moisture on the surface of the eyeball

The most important thing you should know about dry eyes is that you do not have to suffer. Treatments are available to increase moisture on your eye and reduce the uncomfortable and sometime debilitating symptoms. If you are suffering, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor and get the relief you deserve.

Does Smoking Affect Vision?

Our Lancaster Eye Doctors Weigh In:
How Smoking Can Harm Your Vision & Eye Health

We all know that smoking is bad for you, especially the risks that it poses to your heart and lungs. What many people do not know is that cigarette smoke negatively affects your eyes and vision too. As our eye doctor in Lancaster, OH can explain during your next eye exam, smoking has been directly linked to an increase in the risks of both cataracts and macular degeneration, two leading causes of vision loss, and it is believed to be a factor in a number of other eye and vision issues.

Smoking and Cataracts

Studies show that smoking doubles the risk of cataracts and with heavy smoking, the risk triples. In fact, there seems to be a direct correlation between the amount of smoking and the likelihood of cataracts. Cataracts are characterized by the clouding of the lens of the eye and it is believed that smoking affects the cells of the lens, accelerating this process.

Cataracts are a leading cause of vision loss worldwide, however they can be treated surgically by removing the clouded lens and replacing it with an artificial one. Symptoms include:

    • Blurred, cloudy or dim vision
    • Sensitivity to light and glare
    • Presence of halos around lights
    • Increasingly poor night vision
    • Fading color vision
    • Double vision
    • and frequent prescription changes with minimal improvement in vision

Smoking and Age-Related Macular Degeneration

According to medical research, smoking increases the likelihood of developing age-related macular degeneration between two and four times the normal risk – the more you smoke, the greater the risk. Unfortunately, there is also an increased risk for those exposed to cigarette smoke for extended periods of time.

Age-related macular degeneration or AMD is a condition in which the macula, which is the center of the retina, begins to to deteriorate, reducing central vision and the eye’s ability to see fine details. The disease is characterized by blurred and distorted eyesight and blind spots in the central vision. With time, the disease can progress to leave the person with low vision, which is significant vision loss that cannot be corrected by eyeglasses, contact lenses or refractive surgery.

Other Eye and Vision Risks of Smoking

Smoking has also been linked to dry eyes, optic nerve damage and diabetic retinopathy (for those with diabetes).

“Eye Vitamins” are often used without doctor’s recommendations. Smokers are cautioned not to take beta-carotene supplements, specifically, (or multi-vitamins containing this ingredient) as studies indicate there is increased risk of cancer even in people who quit smoking.

What to Do?

Even if you have been smoking for years, quitting will reduce the risks of developing these conditions, for yourself and those around you. If you do smoke, make sure to schedule a comprehensive eye exam every year to catch any developing disease early. Early diagnosis and treatment can be the key to saving your vision and preventing permanent vision loss.

Are You Missing Your Child’s Hidden Vision Problem?

Cute smiling boy with glasses 1280x853

Your toddler may show every sign of good eyesight including the ability to see objects in the distance, however that doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she doesn’t have a vision problem.

Amblyopia is one common eye condition that is often hidden behind the appearance of good eyesight.

Also known as “lazy eye” it usually occurs when the brain begins to ignore the signals sent by one eye, often because that eye is weaker and doesn’t focus properly. Sometimes it can occur in both eyes, in which case it’s called bilateral amblyopia. This eye condition is especially common in preemies, and tends to run in families as well, so it’s important to provide your eye doctor with a complete medical and family history.

There are several factors that can cause amblyopia to develop. These include:

  • astigmatism,
  • high nearsightedness or farsightedness,
  • uneven eye development as an infant,
  • congenital cataract (clouding of the lens of the eye),
  • strabismus (where the eyes are misaligned or “cross-eyed”)

However in many cases of amblyopia there may be no obvious visible structural differences in the eye. In addition to the fact that the eyes may look normal, vision often appears fine as the brain is able to compensate for the weaker eye by favoring the stronger one. Because of this, many children live with their eye condition for years before it is diagnosed. Unfortunately, as a person ages, the brain loses some of its plasticity (how easy it is to train the brain to develop new skills), making it much harder – if not impossible – to treat amblyopia in older children and adults. That’s why it’s so important for infants and young children to have a thorough eye exam.

Are There Any Signs of Amblyopia?

If you notice your child appears cross-eyed, that would be an indication that it’s time for a comprehensive eye exam to screen for strabismus and amblyopia development.

Preschoolers with amblyopia sometimes show signs of unusual posture when playing, such as head tilting, clumsiness or viewing things abnormally close.

However, often there are no signs or symptoms. The child typically does not complain, as he or she does not know what normal vision should look like. Sometimes the condition is picked up once children begin reading if have difficulty focusing on the close text. The school nurse may suggest an eye exam to confirm or rule out amblyopia following a standard vision test on each eye, though it might be possible to pass a vision screening test and still have amblyopia. Only an eye doctor can make a definitive diagnosis of the eye condition.

So How Do You Know If or When To Book a Pediatric Eye Exam?

Comprehensive eye and vision exams should be performed on children at an early age. That way, hidden eye conditions would be diagnosed while they’re still more easily treatable. An eye exam is recommended at 6 months of age and then again at 3 years old and before entering first grade. The eye doctor may need to use eye drops to dilate the pupils to confirm a child’s true refractive error and diagnose an eye condition such as amblyopia.

Treatment for Amblyopia

Glasses alone will not completely correct vision with amblyopia in most cases, because the brain has learned to process images from the weak eye or eyes as blurred images, and ignore them. There are several non-surgical treatment options for amblyopia. While your child may never achieve 20/20 vision as an outcome of the treatment and may need some prescription glasses or contact lenses, there are options that can significantly improve visual acuity.

Patch or Drops

In order to improve vision, one needs to retrain the brain to receive a clear image from the weak eye or eyes. In the case of unilateral amblyopia (one eye is weaker than the other), this usually involves treating the normal eye with a patch or drops to force the brain to depend on the weak eye. This re-establishes the eye-brain connection with the weaker one and strengthens vision in that eye. If a child has bilateral amblyopia, treatment involves a regimen of constantly wearing glasses and/or contact lenses with continual observation over time.

Your eye doctor will prescribe the number of waking hours that patching is needed based on the visual acuity in your child’s weak eye; however, the periods of time that you chose to enforce wearing the patch may be flexible. During patching the child typically does a fun activity requiring hand eye coordination to stimulate visual development (such as a favorite video game, puzzle, maze etc) as passive activity is not as effective.

The earlier treatment starts, the better the chances are of stopping or reversing the negative patterns formed in the brain that harm vision. Amblyopia treatment with patches or drops may be minimally effective in improving vision as late as the early teen years (up to age 14) but better results are seen in younger patients.

Vision Therapy

Many optometrists recommend vision therapy to train the eyes using exercises that strengthen the eye-brain connection. While success rates tend to be better in children, optometrists have also seen improvements using this occupational therapy type program to treat amblyopia in adults.

The key to improvement through any non-surgical treatment for amblyopia is compliance. Vision therapy exercises must be practiced on a regular basis. Children that are using glasses or contact lenses for treatment, must wear them consistently. Your eye doctor will recommend the schedule of the patching, drops, or vision therapy eye exercise and the best course of treatment.

Amblyopia: Take-home Message

Even if your child is not showing any signs of vision problems, and especially if they are, it is important to have an eye examination with an eye doctor as soon as possible, and on a regular basis. While the eyes are still young and developing, diagnosis and treatment of eye conditions such as amblyopia are greatly improved.

Dry Eye Syndrome Causes and Cures

cactus2

Why Are My Eyes So Dry?

Do you experience dry, scratchy, burning eyes, redness or pain, a gritty feeling like something is in your eye? Or perhaps, excessive tearing, blurred vision, eye fatigue or discomfort wearing contact lenses? There could be a number of causes for your symptoms including allergies, reactions to an irritant or medication or an infection. As our eye doctor in Lancaster, OH can explain during your next eye exam, you could also have a chronic condition called Dry Eye Syndrome.

It’s estimated that one out of every eight adults suffers to some extent from dry eye syndrome, which can range from mild to severe. Despite the fact that it is one of the most common eye problems, a surprisingly large percentage of patients are not aware of it.

What is Dry Eye Syndrome?

Your eyes need a layer of tears to lubricate the surface and keep the eyes comfortable, clean and clear. These tears also wash away particles, dust and bacteria that can lead to infection and eye damage. Dry eye syndrome occurs when there is a chronic lack of lubrication on the surface of the eye either because not enough tears are being produced, the quality of the tears is weak or they evaporate too quickly. This causes the common uncomfortable symptoms including:

  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Redness
  • Soreness or pain
  • Dryness (and sometimes even excessive tearing because the eyes are trying to compensate)
  • Light sensitivity
  • Eye fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Grittiness or a feeling like there is something in your eye
  • Vision seems to change when blinking

Factors that Contribute to Dry Eye Syndrome

There are a number of factors that can increase your risk of suffering from Dry Eye Syndrome. While some of them are inherent, there are some environmental factors that can be changed to reduce your risk or symptoms. Risk factors include:

  • Aging: While it can occur at any age, dry eye is more common in individuals over age 50.
  • Women: Likely related to hormonal fluctuations, women are more likely to develop dry eyes than men, especially during pregnancy, menopause or when using birth control pills.
  • Digital screen use: Whether it is a computer, a smartphone or a tablet, when our eyes are focused on a digital screen we tend to blink less, increasing tear evaporation and increasing dryness, blurriness and discomfort. Remember to regularly take a break, look away from the screen and blink several times.
  • Medications: A number of medications – both prescription and nonprescription – have been found to cause dry eye symptoms including certain blood pressure regulators, antihistamines, nasal decongestants, tranquilizers and antidepressants.
  • Contact lenses: Dry eyes is a common problem in contact lens wear. Several manufacturers have started offering lenses that hold more moisture to combat this common issue.
  • Dry air: Whether it is the air conditioning or forced-air heating inside or the dry, windy climate outside, the environment of the air around you can contribute to dry eyes by causing your tears to evaporate too quickly.
  • LASIK: One side effect of LASIK and other corneal refractive surgery is dry eyes, which usually lasts about 3-6 months and eventually resolves itself.
  • Eyelid conditions: Certain conditions which prevent the eyelid from closing completely when sleeping or even blinking can cause the eye to try out.
  • Allergies or infections: Chronic inflammation of the conjunctiva which is often caused by allergies or infections such as Blepharitis can result in dry eyes.
  • Systemic diseases: People with autoimmune diseases or systemic conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disease, Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are also more prone to Dry Eye.

How we treat dry eye symptoms in Lancaster, OH

If you have dry eyes, you don’t need to suffer. There are a number of treatment options that can help, depending on the severity and cause of your condition, which can reduce symptoms and enhance your comfort.

Treatments for dry eyes can include non-prescription or prescription eye drops, omega 3 supplements, special lid therapies, punctal plugs, ointments, different contact lenses, goggles or ergonomic changes to your work station. Speak to your eye doctor to discuss the cause of your dry eye and the best remedy for you. Even when it comes to the seemingly straightforward treatments like over-the-counter eye drops, they aren’t all the same. Different ingredients are tailored towards different causes of dry eye.

Get Help for Dry Eyes Today!

If you are experiencing the symptoms above, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor to find out the best solution for you.

10 Tips to Teach Children About Eye Safety

girl in funny glasses

It is important to teach your children about eye health and safety from a young age. This includes awareness about how your overall health habits affect your eyes and vision as well as how to keep your eyes safe from injury and infection. As our eye doctor in Lancaster, OH can explain during your next eye exam, starting off with good eye habits at a young age will help to create a lifestyle that will promote eye and vision health for a lifetime.

10 Eye Health Tips for All:

  1. Eat right. Eating a balanced diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables (especially green leafies such as kale, spinach and broccoli) as well as omega-3s found in fish, such as salmon, tuna and halibut, help your eyes get the proper nutrients they need to function at their best.
  2. Exercise. An active lifestyle has been shown to reduce the risk of developing a number of eye diseases as well as diabetes – a disease which which can result in blindness.
  3. Don’t Smoke. Smoking has been linked to increased risk of a number of vision threatening eye diseases.
  4. Use Eye Protection. Protect your eyes when engaging in activities such as sports (especially those that are high impact or involve flying objects), using chemicals or power tools or gardening. Speak to your eye doctor about the best protection for your hobbies to prevent serious eye injuries.
  5. Wear Shades. Protect your eyes from the sun by wearing 100% UV blocking sunglasses and a hat with a brim when you go outside. Never look directly at the sun.
  6. Be Aware: If you notice any changes in your vision, always get it checked out. Tell a parent or teacher if your eyes hurt or if your vision is blurry, jumping, double or if you see spots or anything out of the ordinary. Parents, keep an eye on your child. Children don’t always complain about problems seeing because they don’t know when their vision is not normal vision. Signs of excessive linking, rubbing, unusual head tilt, or excessively close viewing distance are worth a visit to the eye doctor.
  7. Don’t Rub! If you feel something in your eye, don’t rub it – it could make it worse or scratch your eyeball. Ask an adult to help you wash the object out of your eye.
  8. Give Your Eyes a Break. With the digital age, a new concern is kids’ posture when looking at screens such as tablets or mobile phones. Prevent your child from holding these digital devices too close to their eyes. The Harmon distance is a comfortable viewing distance and posture – it is the distance from your chin to your elbow. There is concern that poor postural habits may warp a child’s growing body. Also, when looking at a tv, mobile or computer screen for long periods of time, follow the 20-20-20 rule; take a break every 20 minutes, for 20 seconds, by looking at something 20 feet away.
  9. Create Eye Safe Habits. Always carry pointed objects such as scissors, knives or pencils with the sharp end pointing down. Never shoot objects (including toys) or spray things at others, especially in the direction of the head. Be careful when using sprays that they are pointed away from the eyes.
  10. Keep Them Clean. Always wash your hands before you touch your eyes and follow your eye doctors instructions carefully for proper contact lens hygiene. If you wear makeup, make sure to throw away any old makeup and don’t share with others.

By teaching your children basic eye care and safety habits you are instilling in them the importance of taking care of their precious eye sight. As a parent, always encourage and remind your children to follow these tips and set a good example by doing them yourself.

Of course don’t forget the most important tip of all – get each member of your family’s eyes checked regularly by a qualified eye doctor! Remember, school eye screenings and screenings at a pediatrician’s office are NOT eye exams. They are only checking visual acuity but could miss health problems, focusing issues and binocularity issues that are causing health and vision problems.