Frequently Asked Questions


Frequently Asked Questions

Click a Question to reveal an answer. You can also visit www.geteyesmart.org for additional info about your eyes from the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Retinal Detachment

If you suddenly notice spots, floaters,  or flashes of light, you may be experiencing the warning signs of retinal tear or detachment. Your vision might become blurry, or see a shadow or a curtain coming across the vision. These signs can occur gradually as the retina pulls away from the supportive tissue, or they may occur suddenly if the retina detaches immediately.  There is no pain associated with retinal detachment. If you experience any of the signs, consult your eye doctor right away. Immediate treatment increases your odds of regaining lost vision.

Macular Degeneration

The eye acts like a camera, with light passing through the clear structures in the front of the eye and focusing at the back of the eye, specifically on the retina.  The retina acts like film in the camera, turning light into impulses that travel up the optic nerve to the brain.  The brain then interprets these impulses.  A specialized area of the retina called the macula is what allows us to see detailed, central vision.  In macular degeneration, the macula is damaged and results in extreme loss of central vision.  Research has not yet uncovered the cause of macular degeneration.  A visit to your eye doctor is your greatest defense in helping to preserve your vision.

Macular degeneration is the number one cause of legal blindness in people over the age of 60.   The risk increases if you smoke or have relatives with macular degeneration. Caucasians tend to get the disease more often than other races.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a serious eye disorder in which the optic nerve becomes damaged.  The optic nerve connects the eye and the brain; it must remain healthy for the eye to see.  High eye pressure is associated with many types of glaucoma.  Glaucoma can cause blindness if left untreated.  It is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States.

Glaucoma is detected by an ophthalmic examination in which your ophthalmologist uses a device called a tonometer to measure the pressure in your eyeball.  Assessment of peripheral vision is also an important part of the exam.  Anyone with a family history of glaucoma should be examined yearly, even a person younger than 40.

Glaucoma occurs mostly in adults over age 40, especially those who have a family history of the disease.  Glaucoma is four times more common in African Americans than in Caucasians.  Glaucoma in young children presents with unique aversion to light, red eye, tearing, enlarged and cloudy-looking eyes.  In some cases, glaucoma is linked to long-term use of steroids.  Glaucoma can also occur as a result of other eye disorders such as infections, injuries, and cataracts.

Eye Exams

Eye disease can occur at any age. Many eye diseases do not cause symptoms until after damage has occurred. If you have a chronic eye problem such as cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic concerns, etc. you may need to see an ophthalmologist frequently. People with nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), or difficulty with reading vision (presbyopia) are seen annually or at the doctor’s discretion.

Myopia or nearsightedness is a focusing defect created by an overpowered eye, one that has too much optical power for its length. Light rays coming from a distant object are brought to a focus before reaching the retina. Nearsighted people see close-up objects clearly but distance vision is blurry.

Hyperopia or farsightedness is a focusing defect created by an underpowered eye, one that is too short for its optical power. Light rays from a distant object enter the eye and strike the retina before they are fully focused. Farsighted people can see clearly in the distance but only if they use more focusing effort than those who have normally powered eyes.

Presbyopia, which means “old eye” in Greek, is the gradual loss of the eye’s ability to see things up close. Around the age of 40, many people start complaining that their arms are not long enough to read a menu or a telephone book. The natural lens inside the eye loses its ability to focus on near objects at the age of 40. Reading glasses help with this condition.

If your child is complaining about objects being blurred, fuzzy or doubled, they need an ophthalmologic exam. In addition, if you notice the child’s eyes turning in or out, squinting to focus, or having persistent redness and irritation, your ophthalmologist should be contacted. We usually see children at 5 years old and older. Children under the age of 5 should probably be seen by a pediatric ophthalmologist. We can refer you if needed.

Refraction is the testing that determines any changes in your vision as well as what we can best correct your vision to with glasses. This is required in order to determine your glasses prescription.

This evaluation determines the contact lens prescription needed to get you the best corrected vision. We also determine the lens’ fit on the eye to make sure that it is has proper placement while wearing. It is not the same as the refraction used for glasses prescriptions. However, the information obtained from the refraction is used to help determine your contact lens prescription.

Dry Eyes

Dry eye is more than just a comfort problem. It is a disease process and a complex disorder.
• Dry eye occurs when there are an insufficient amount of tears produced or the tears produced are poor quality.
• Dry eye is a chronic condition that can result in inflammation of the surface of the eye and inflammation of the glands that produce tears.
If left untreated, damage to the surface of the eye can occur

• Grittiness/feeling like something in your eye
• Burning/Stinging
• Redness
• Dryness
• Itching
• Pain
• Blurring of vision
• Sensitivity to light
• Episodes of excess tearing
• Stringy discharge
• Eye fatigue
• Decreased tolerance of reading or working at computer
• Decreased tolerance of dry environments (wind, airplane cabin, etc

Tears are much more than just water. Tears are composed of 3 major components or layers:

o Inner Mucus Layer – is produced by cells found on the surface of the eye. This layer helps the middle watery layer to stick to the eye and      spread evenly over the surface.

o Middle Watery Layer – is produced by the lacrimal gland. In addition to water, this layer is made up of proteins, electrolytes, and vitamins that are critical in keeping the surface of the eye healthy.

o Outer Oily Layer – is produced by the glands located near the base of our lashes. A smooth oil layer helps prevent the water layer from evaporating.

A deficiency in any one or more of these layers can result in dry eye

• Environmental changes can be an important part of managing dry eye. Avoiding drafts, lowering computer screens to below eye level, and increasing room humidity are a few simple approaches.
• Artificial tears are over-the-counter products that come in liquids, gels, or ointments. These products only function to supplement your own tears and help lubricate the eye. Artificial tears do not address any underlying causes of dry eye disease. Preservative-free artificial tears are best because they contain fewer additives that could further irritate the eye.
• Prescription medications are available to help address the inflammatory component of dry eye disease and to help increase the production of natural, healthy tears.
• Conserving healthy tears by plugging the tear drainage opening is a simple, painless procedure that can be used as additional treatment if necessary.
• Addressing contributing eyelid disease with the use of prescription eye drops or ointments, warm compresses and a lid massage, and eyelid cleansers should not be neglected.
• Nutritional supplements in the form of omega-3 fatty acids, specifically, DHA and EPA are very helpful in managing dry eye disease. Staying hydrated by drinking 8 glasses of water a day is also helpful.
• There is no “cure” for dry eye disease. Many of the treatments may require several months to reach maximum results.  Some treatments are long term and may require continuous care.

When tear production is reduced, your eyes feel dry, scratchy and irritated.  Ironically, the tear producing glands sometimes react to the dry, scratchy feeling by watering more than normal.  These “reflex tears” do not relieve the dryness because they lack a natural component that is essential to lubricate the cornea properly.  If you experience one or any combination of the following symptoms, you may be suffering from a medical condition known as Dry Eye.  Symptoms may include the following:

*Burning and stinging
*Gritty feeling when there is nothing in your eye
*Dryness
*Itching
*Sensitivity to bright lights
*Mucous secretions in the eye

For patients with less severe dry eye symptoms, artificial tears can often offer immediate relief.  An ophthalmologist may use a combination of several methods to determine whether you have dry eye and to treat dry eyes.

• Changes in the production of tears are a part of the natural aging process.
• Women are more likely to be affected due to changes in hormones secondary to pregnancy, the use of oral contraceptives, and menopause.
• Certain medications including, antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medication, and antidepressants can cause a reduction in the amout of tears produced.
• Medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, diabetes, and thyroid disease are more likely to be affected by dry eye.
• Environmental conditions including chronic exposure to irritants such as chemical fumes, smoke, or dry air can cause dry eye symptoms. Staring at a computer screen can also contribute to drying of the eyes.
• Other factors that may contribute to the development of dry eye include chronic inflammation of the eyelids (blepharitis), long-term use of contact lenses, and refractive surgeries such as LASIK.

Corneal Abrasion

A corneal abrasion is an injury to the very front of the eye called the corneal epithelium.  Abrasions are painful.  Common causes of corneal abrasions include fingernails, paper cuts, tree limbs or rubbing of the eye.  Contact lenses may also cause abrasions that become infected quickly.  It is best to see an ophthalmologist if you think you have an abrasion.

Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, or tissue lining the white part of the eye.  When the conjunctiva becomes irritated or inflamed, the blood vessels which supply it enlarge and become much more prominent, and the eye turns red.  A common cause of conjunctivitis is the virus that causes “pink eye.”

Many different sources of eye irritation can cause conjunctivitis.  The most common are infections, allergies, and environmental irritants.  Infectious causes of conjunctivitis include bacteria and viruses. Both of these can be quite contagious, so contact with the patient’s tears should be avoided.  Wash your hands frequently, and avoid touching or rubbing your eyes. Don’t share washcloths, towels or pillowcases with anyone else.  Don’t share eye drops or cosmetics such as eyeliner, eye shadow or mascara.  Replace them after you’re healed to avoid re-infection. Your eye doctor may recommend that you discontinue contact lens wear if you are diagnosed with conjunctivitis or replace your contact lenses after you’re healed.  See your ophthalmologist if conjunctivitis is suspected.

Chalazion

A chalazion is a small lump in the eyelid caused by obstruction of an oil-producing or meibomian gland.  Chalazia may occur in the upper or lower lids, causing redness, swelling and soreness in some cases.  They may be painless if they have been present for some time.  A stye or hordeolum may also occur in either lid and cause an acute painful, swollen area to the eyes.  See your ophthalmologists for either of these eyelid problems.

Cataracts

Cataracts are the clouding of the eye’s natural lens.  The lens normally focuses images on the retina.  When the clouding occurs in the lens, blurred vision is the result.  Some people describe their vision as if they are looking through waxed paper or a waterfall.  In fact, the word cataract in Greek means “waterfall.”  Other symptoms include glare and halos around lights, starburst with oncoming headlights, or the inability to distinguish images at near or distance with normal lighting.

Cataracts usually form in the elderly.  However, cataracts can be formed at birth by a genetic disorder or from an injury or disease.  Long-term use of steroids can also cause cataracts.

The clouded lens is removed in a surgical procedure.  It usually takes about 20 to 30 minutes and is commonly done on an outpatient basis.   An intraocular lens (IOL) is placed in the eye to replace the eye’s natural lens.  Usually, patients will go home the same day as their cataract surgery with a patch and a shield covering the eye.  They will come back the next morning to see the doctor. The patient will wear the shield at night for another week and will be given some sunglasses to be worn as needed.  A regimen of drops will be prescribed.

As with any surgery, there are risks.  This procedure is the most common eye surgery performed and is extremely successful in most cases.  The doctor will explain the various risks.

Surgery is usually performed when the cataract interferes with the patient’s daily life or when a new prescription for glasses will no longer improve your vision.

In general, the limitations are light.   No bending, lifting or straining is usually recommended for one week.  Your doctor will discuss further limitations that specifically apply to you.

Blepharitis

Blepharitis is a persistent inflammation of the eyelids that can cause an irritated eye.  Symptoms include irritation, itching, and occasionally, a red eye.  This condition frequently occurs in people who have a tendency towards oily skin, dandruff, or acne rosacea.  An ophthalmologist should be seen to properly diagnosis this condition.