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Cataracts Eye Care Eye HealthMore than 22.3 million Americans currently have cataracts, making it one of the most common health issues in the country today. Additionally, more than half of all Americans have cataracts by the time they are 80 years old.

For some, cataracts are a frightening prospect, due to their prevalence and potential to affect the way we see. However, while they are a leading cause of blindness, cataracts are also very treatable! So to help our patients see this vision issue for what it is, we’re exploring and explaining this vision issue in honor of Cataract Awareness Month:

What Are Cataracts?

A cataract is a clouding of the eye's lens that can result in a change in vision. As the clouding develops, it either completely blocks or simply changes the passage of light into the eye via the lens.

As a result of this blockage, the retina - which sends information to the brain via the optic nerve - does not receive clear information from the lens. And instead of seeing the world clearly, your vision becomes blurry, all because the retina and brain cannot process and project a clear picture for you to see.

Why Do We Get Cataracts?

The exact cause of a cataract is unknown. We do know that as you age, you are at a higher risk of developing a cataract. We also know from research that long-term exposure to UV rays from the sun, illnesses such as diabetes, some medications, genetics, some eye injuries, and smoking can all increase your chances of developing a cataract.

The potential influences on cataract develop are so varied that, if you are worried about them, it’s best to discuss them with your doctor. This will allow you to address any specific risk factors that come up in your own lifestyle and medical history.

Can We Prevent Cataracts?

There is no guaranteed way to prevent cataracts at this time. However, there are things we can do to reduce our risk of getting them:

  • Eat right. A healthy diet has been linked to a lower risk of many eye diseases, including cataracts. A healthy diet includes five to nine daily servings of fruits and vegetables, at least three daily servings of 100 percent whole grains each day, and two servings of fish each week if possible. Ideally this diet will be low in fried, processed, and sugary foods.
  • Quit Smoking. Smoking has been linked to a number of eye problems, as the chemicals that come with this habit produce toxins within our bodies. If you’re struggling to quit smoking, consider talking to a doctor about tools and resources that can help!
  • Wear sunglasses and hats. UV rays contribute to your risk of cataracts. Blocking those rays and reducing your eyes’ exposure to them is one way you can reduce your risk of developing blurry vision.
  • Control your blood sugar. People who have diabetes are more likely to develop cataracts than people who don’t. Controlling your blood sugar can minimize its effects and help to reduce your risk of developing cataracts.

What Should I Expect If I Get A Cataract?

Firstly, know that your doctor will provide you with an in-depth review of your individual case should you develop a cataract! Every case is different and is treated as such. There are, however, some things that you are likely to experience should you need to address a cataract.

You may initially be able to combat the symptoms of your cataracts with simple adjustments, such as wearing new eyeglasses or improving the lighting in your home and office. This is something our team in particular considers very early on when cataracts develop. Only when the symptoms become so severe that they interfere with your day-to-day (i.e. affecting important tasks like reading and driving) will surgery be recommended.

Surgery involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial lens. Should you need surgery, your doctor will guide you through the process of booking the procedure, assuming you decide that surgery is right for you. If the time doesn’t seem right for surgery, you will not suffer any long-term damage from delaying the procedure.

Still have questions? At Everett and Hurite, we aim to provide our patients with treatment plans that they are comfortable with. Contact us and set up an appointment if you have questions about your cataract risk, or if you are looking for opinions on how to address your cataracts at this time. Our team is ready to help you make a decision that best addresses your needs and your health.

Image courtesy of wikipedia.org 

Spring Cleaning for Eye Care & Eye HealthDid you know that May is Healthy Vision Month? As of 2004, blindness or loss of vision affects over 3.3 Americans 40 years of age and older. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that number is predicted to double by 2030 due to an increase in diabetes and chronic diseases, as well as our aging population.

A few months ago, we shared tips and habits for healthier eyes this spring. As we wrap up Healthy Vision Month, we want to send you off into the following warmer months with more knowledge of eye health strategies to help prevent vision loss and blindness and make eye hygiene a priority.

  • Get a Comprehensive Dilated Eye Exam. According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), over 23 million American adults have never had an eye exam. Their rationale? If it doesn’t feel like their eyes are unhealthy, it isn’t a concern. But often, vision related health depends on preventative care, which starts with getting a comprehensive eye exam. During this exam, an eye care professional will inspect each eye for signs of vision problems and eye disease.
  • Know your Family Eye Health History. When you set up an appointment with your primary care physician, you are typically asked questions about your family health history. Did you know that your family eye health history is just as important? There are many eye diseases - including congenital cataracts, congenital glaucoma, retinal degeneration, optic atrophy, and eye malformations - that run in families. Knowing your family eye health history can help inform whether or not you are at a higher risk for eye disease.
  • Use Protective Eyewear When Necessary. Protecting your eyes is important, especially when you are working or participating in an activity that puts your eye safety at risk. Whether you play a sport such as baseball or soccer, go for bicycle rides, swim, work in a lab, or even just mow the lawn, wearing protective eyewear is a good precautionary measure. This also includes wearing sunglasses, which protect your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.
  • Eat Healthy and Stay Active. Did you know that what you eat can influence the health of your eyes? A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids can help protect your vision. Exercise has also been proven to help keep eyes healthy. Aside from short-term benefits, exercising can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your risk for diabetes and other health problems that potentially lead to vision loss.

Taking preventative measures when it comes to your eye care will help keep your eyes healthy and your vision clear for years to come. And we can help you get started with this list today! If you are ready for your next eye exam, contact us today to make an appointment with our team.

woman-2889882_1280.jpgDid you know that women make up the majority of the 4.4 million Americans age 40 and older who are visually impaired or blind? In response to this growing problem, Prevent Blindness has, in their words, “designated April as Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month in an effort to educate women about the steps they can take today to help preserve their vision in the future.” Our staff are also taking steps to share information about women’s eye health this season, as we know all too well how much any change in vision can impact the lives of our patients.

Why is Women’s Eye Health An Important Subject?

According to Prevent Blindness, more women than men have age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma. These are all diseases that cannot be cured, but which can be addressed and lessened with early treatment and care. And before care can be administered, an eye exam is needed to diagnose the problem.

Yet, according to online research, as many as one in four women have not received an eye exam in the past two years. Surveys also indicate that 86 percent of women incorrectly believe that men and women are equally likely to develop certain eye problems. In reality, women generally live longer than men, and also have hormonal fluctuations during their lives that negatively affect their eyes. These two factors mean women are more likely to develop eye problems than men.

Why Are Women Missing Appointments?

Eye exams are any patient’s best resource in obtaining good eye care - so why are so many women potentially missing appointments? In the online study, respondents reported that the cost of vision care and exams was their number one reason for not going to the doctor. This answer was provided regardless of whether or not the individual had vision insurance.

People also cited were transportation issues and their busy schedules as reasons why they were unable to make it to their eye doctors for regular exams.

Is This A Serious Problem?

Any online study needs to be taken with a grain of salt, and is ideally followed-up on with official studies to provide more accurate data. However, even if more information is needed, we take these findings very seriously. Other polls and research have suggested that less than 10 percent of American women realize that women are at a greater risk of suffering permanent vision loss than men. Combined with the possibility that women are missing key appointment, this means that patients across the country may be missing important opportunities to take care of their eyes.

What Can Be Done About This Issue?

To help address this issue, we recommend that women begin committing to keeping regular eye exams in their planner. Friends and relatives can help by reminding their loved ones to visit their doctors.

We also recommend the following to all of our patients:

These actions can go a long way in helping you see clearly for years to come. If you are ready to make an appointment, or you have any specific questions we can address, contact us today to ask about available appointments with our team.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

spring-allergies-eyecareThe days are growing longer and spring is just around the corner! And with a new season just ahead of us will come a new set of eye care guidelines. To help you prepare for the change, we’ve put together a quick list of things everyone can do to care for their vision this spring:

  1. Beware of the sun. In a cloudy city like Pittsburgh, it's easy to skip out on using a hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses. Who needs them, right? We all do - because UV rays can penetrate both clouds and glass. While sunscreen will help protect your skin, a hat and sunglasses will help to protect your eyes - and by reducing your UV exposure, you will reduce your risk of cataracts, macular degeneration, and other eye problems.
  2. Report redness. Redness. Itching. Teary eyes. These are all symptoms associated with allergies - but they can also be symptoms of infections, dry eye disease, or other inflammatory problems. Rather than assume the symptoms are nothing, it’s best to report them to your doctor and schedule time for a quick exam. When it comes to our vision, it’s always better safe than sorry.
  3. Don't forget protective eyewear. As the weather warms up we're all likely to spend more time outside. Some of us will play recreational sports; and some of us will work in our garages or yards. Either way, these activities and more all have the potential to cause serious eye injuries. That’s why you should always make sure that you wear appropriate protective eyewear, that fits properly, before engaging in them. This will reduce your risk of being in an accidental eye injury that requires hospitalization - and which may compromise your vision.
  4. Wash those hands. Allergens and germs alike can reach your eyes via your hands, which many of us use to rub our faces throughout the day. Regular hand washing can help remove infection-causing germs as well as irritating pollen throughout the day - although, it’s best not to rub red and itchy eyes at all!

These four simple tips can go a long way make your spring season much more comfortable. Remember: if you are experiencing any odd symptoms, or have any follow-up questions about this advice, contact us today to ask about available appointments with our team. Our staff are here to make sure your spring season is as healthy and comfortable as possible!

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com 

 

Talk to your doctor about your medicine and how it will affect your eye health.One of the best things you can do before any medical appointment is gather information about the medications you're taking. That’s because any medication can cause a range of side effects. And sometimes the side effects of medications include changes to our eyes and vision. In the more minor cases, the effects are limited to discomfort such as dryness. In the extreme, though, those effects can contribute to vision loss.

All of this means that failing to tell an eye doctor about your medications can leave your care provider half-blind - preventing them from caring for your vision effectively. So today, we want to make sure our patients know exactly how to work with their eye doctor in managing their medications, and watching for potential side effects between appointments.

Always Keep Your Doctor In The Loop

To reduce your risk of feeling the worst effects of a medication, always tell your doctors - including your eye doctors - which medicines you take. If you take multiple medications, write them down. That means all your prescriptions, all your over-the-counter purchases, and even all of your herbal supplements. That way, you won’t forget to tell your eye doctor about any of them in the appointment.

Once your doctors know what you’re using - and why - they can help you either adjust your dosages or effectively treat the symptoms of a medication, depending on your individual medical needs.

Remember, it becomes even more important to bring this list to your doctor if you are living with a chronic condition. Diabetes, for example, is known to affect your eyes and can leave you more susceptible to the side effects of certain medications.

Watch Out For & Report Your Symptoms

Don’t just talk to your doctor during your annual visit - if a new symptom develops between appointments, it’s worth reporting it. This is especially important since the side effects of medications can feel just like the symptoms of aging, looking at a screen too long, or just being tired. Additionally, sometimes medications can trigger chronic eye issues - so reporting a new symptom ASAP will be the key to your care.

Consider the following health issues and symptoms, which are all examples of how medications can affect your eyes:

  • Dry eye. Some medications suppress your eyes' ability to produce tears - and without tears, your eyes begin to dry out. A lack of moisture can also make your eyes hurt, burn, or become sensitive to light. Antidepressants, birth control, cholesterol medications, and more can all lead to dry eye. And heads up: before you use eye drops to treat this symptom, it's best to visit with an eye doctor and to discuss how your medications can be causing the problem. Otherwise, it's possible for the ingredients in the over-the-counter drops to make your dry eye worse!
  • Light sensitivity. Light sensitivity by itself can also be brought on by certain medications. Acne medicine, antibiotics, and some anti-inflammatory drugs can all contribute to light sensitivity. So if you’re always reaching for your sunglasses or shielding your eyes from the light, an appointment with your doctor is a must.
  • Cataracts. If you take corticosteroids - whether for asthma, allergies, arthritis, or skin conditions - then your prescription can raise your risk of developing cataracts. Corticosteroids can be prescribed as a cream or a pill, both of which can cause swelling in the back of the eye or retina and potentially lead to cataracts. While cataracts themselves can be treated, it’s best to discuss your medications with a doctor as soon as possible after starting them, to ensure that steps are taken to protect your vision.
  • Glaucoma. Some medications - including those used for depression, Parkinson’s disease, seizures, ulcers, asthma, arrhythmia, hemorrhoids, and allergies - can actually raise your risk of glaucoma. This eye disease develops when the optic nerve in your eye is damaged, often due to rising eye pressure. Doctors aren't sure exactly why medications may cause glaucoma; one theory is that these medications change the eye’s structure and allow fluid and other materials to build up, putting pressure on the nerve. Fortunately, providing a full list of your medications will allow your doctor to focus on potentially risky medicines, and to schedule additional eye exams and treatments as needed to help protect your vision.

These are just a few examples of the potential side effects caused by medication. Any medicine comes with risks of side effects, and even affects different people in different ways. Fortunately, you don’t have to decipher the confusing and complicated world of medical side effects alone.

If you have not told your eye doctor about your most recent prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, contact us today to ask about available appointments with our team. Our staff are ready to update your files and ensure that the medicine you’re taking is helping your entire body - including your vision - reach its healthiest potential.

cataract_mature_needs_surgery.jpg What sorts of vision problems do you associate with aging? Chances are that you thought of cataracts. Cataracts are very common in the elderly. And by the age of 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery.

Having cataracts treated and removed is often very liberating for patients. But new research has added a new benefit to the surgical process. Not only does it help restore clear eyesight to a cataract sufferer - it may extend their life.

These exciting findings are the result of a 20-year long study, according to a recent New York Times article. Incredibly, the study found a 60 percent lower risk of death among patients who underwent cataract surgery, compared to those who did not. The findings were published last fall in JAMA Ophthalmology by Dr. Anne L. Coleman and her colleagues at the Stein Eye Institute of the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, with Dr. Victoria L. Tseng as lead author.

 

Understanding Cataracts

Understanding the nature of cataracts can help shed light on the study’s spectacular findings. Cataracts are a clouding of the lens in our eyes; and the term “lens” refers to a transparent structure that sits behind the iris, or the colored part of the eye. Normally, this lens is clear, and helps process light. This processed light is then refracted onto retina of the eye, where the information is turned into a clear picture. Because the lens helps to process light and therefore the world around us, it’s vital part of healthy vision.

Cataracts, however, get in the way of seeing normally. By clouding over a lens, they interfere with its ability to process light. This creates a “foggy” frame of vision in the place of a clear picture, as cataract creates a filter overtop the lens. This makes it difficult - and eventually, even impossible - for patients to read, drive, or navigate through their daily routine.

 

Understanding The Research

It’s important to note that simply undergoing surgery wasn’t what extended the lives of patients in this 20-year long study about cataracts. Rather, the surgery was the catalyst for a number of major changes.

Because cataracts interfere with a patient’s ability to see, it also makes it hard for a patient to take care of themselves. In fact, the subjects of this study reportedly suffered from heart attacks, chronic pulmonary disease, peptic ulcers and glaucoma.

However, according to the study's team of researchers, patients who underwent surgery could move more; get more exercise; see and take their medicine without assistance; and experienced a decreased risk of an accidental fall. While they came into the study in poor health, many of them completed the study in an improved state of health!

 

What This Means For You

As you plan for your future, preparing to possibly address a cataract will likely be on your to do list. This study helps to highlight the importance of treating a cataract when it interferes with your daily life. At this point, it won’t just be an inconvenience - it will be a detriment to your physical health.

Regular visits with an eye doctor will help to ensure that cataracts are spotted sooner rather than later, allowing you to plan for treatments when the time comes. And while cataracts are very common, you can still work to reduce your risk of developing them at any age. Exposure to sunlight, regularly smoking, being overweight, having high blood pressure, being diabetic, or having a family history of cataracts are all known risk factors. And since many of these risk factors can be controlled by your healthy living habits, it’s not impossible to begin working now so you can help prevent the need for cataract surgery later!

Do you have additional questions about cataract prevention or treatment? Reach out today to ask about available appointments with our team. At Everett and Hurite, our staff can assist you with any questions and concerns regarding your eyes, vision, and care needs. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and to begin working on a clearer future! 

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