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6 Tips to Protect Your Eyesight

March is Save Your Vision Month. To celebrate, check out these six tips for reducing your risk of eye disease and keeping your vision sharp for years to come.

Over 20 million Americans suffer from functional vision problems or eye conditions such as macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma. Not all of these issues can be prevented, but there are important steps one can take to protect one’s eyes and preserve one’s vision.

In honor of March being Save Your Vision Month, here are six simple guidelines one can follow to stay healthy now and prevent vision loss down the road:

1. Eat Lots of Fish, Fruit, and Vegetables

Diet can have a major impact on one’s health — including one’s eye health. For instance, omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to lower the risk of eye disease and macular degeneration. In fact, a study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology revealed that women who ate canned tuna and dark-fish meat once a week reduced their risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by 42%.

Like the omega-3 fatty acids in fish, nutrients found in naturally colorful foods are also linked to eye health. The antioxidants in red foods like strawberries, cherries, red peppers, and raspberries can reduce the risk of cataracts, while lutein and zeaxanthin in leafy green vegetables can help prevent macular degeneration. A diet rich in zinc and vitamins C and E is beneficial as well, and can be achieved by eating lots of fruits and vegetables or taking nutritional supplements.

2. Reduce Screen Time

The brightness and glare from computer and phone screens can lead to eye strain and blurry vision. The UV rays from these devices may also damage one’s eyes, causing headaches, dryness, and difficulty focusing. To reduce the impact of screen glare, be sure to keep devices at least 16 inches away from the eyes. It’s also advisable to adhere to the 20-20-20 rule, which entails looking away from one’s screen every 20 minutes at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

3. Get a Yearly Eye Exam

It’s important to have one’s eyes checked by a professional at least once a year to monitor one’s overall eye health and make sure one’s prescription is up-to-date. Patients who have a family history of conditions like glaucoma or AMD may need to visit the eye doctor more frequently, and all patients should seek out a specialist immediately if they experience symptoms like pain behind the eyes or vision loss.

4. Take Proper Care of Glasses and Contacts

Many people experience eye strain and blurry vision simply because their glasses or contacts are out-of-date. This can be rectified by a trip to the eye doctor, who will be able to verify the accuracy of a prescription. Contact lens wearers should also remember to maintain proper hygiene when handling lenses. Avoid sleeping in contacts that are not intended for overnight wear, and be sure to use contact solution to lubricate lenses instead of water or saliva. These simple measures can go a long way toward preventing eye pain, corneal ulcers, and vision loss.

5. Wear Sunglasses

Prolonged exposure to UV rays can damage one’s eyes, leading to conditions like cataracts and AMD. That’s why it’s essential to wear protective sunglasses that can reduce the risk of eye disease and vision loss. The American Optometric Association recommends investing in sunglasses that block at least 99% of UVA and UVB radiation and screen out 75-90% of visible light. Hats and glasses can also protect the skin on the eyelids and around the eyes, preventing both wrinkles and skin cancer.

6. If Necessary, Invest in LASIK Surgery

Laser eye surgery can help one see clearly without the burden of glasses or contacts. It’s an effective option for treating nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. The procedure is performed by an ophthalmologist or ophthalmologic surgeon, who uses precise lasers to reshape the cornea and improve the patient’s vision. The recovery time is minimal, and the results generally last a lifetime.

If you’re interested in learning more about improving your vision with LASIK, or want to find out if the procedure is right for you, set up a free consultation with ICON Eyecare today.

Most Eye Floaters are Harmless, but Here’s When They’re Cause for Concern

While eye floaters are usually not a danger to your vision, there are instances in which you should consult with a doctor or seek immediate medical attention.

As we age, it’s important to know the difference between the harmless effects of getting older and related conditions that require prompt medical attention. While aging affects various parts of the body differently, it can cause optical phenomena known as eye floaters.

If you’ve ever looked up at a blue sky or at a blank wall and noticed specks or cobwebs moving across your field of vision, then you’re probably familiar with floaters. These small spots may be a temporary source of frustration, but people often get used to them. Additionally, while some people may be concerned by the appearance of floaters in their vision, they’re harmless in most instances.

However, there are occasions when floaters should be cause for concern and when it’s appropriate to reach out to an eye care specialist. Knowing the difference between these two situations is a must, especially as you get older and if you have other issues with your vision.

What Causes Floaters?

Typically, floaters are caused by the breakdown of the vitreous. The vitreous, a gel-like fluid that makes up most of the eye’s interior and helps give it its shape, contains millions of fibers that are attached to the surface of the retina.

As we get older, the vitreous changes and gradually shrinks. When this happens, the fibers within the vitreous become more prominent, casting shadows on the retina that then seem to appear in front of your eye. Floaters usually settle below the field of vision after a time, but don’t go away completely.

However, there are other potential causes of floaters. Inflammation at the back of the eye, such as posterior uveitis, can cause inflammatory debris to break loose from the point of infection and appear as floaters. The same can happen with bleeding within the eye, with broken blood cells looking like floaters. Certain surgeries and medications can cause floaters to appear, as well, although these are typically temporary side effects

How Common are Floaters?

It may be a relief to hear that floaters are very common. Because the vitreous inevitably changes to some degree as we age, most people will experience some kind of optical changes, like floaters, as its fibrous material casts shadows on the retina.

With that said, there are some types of floaters that aren’t as common and that should be cause for concern. For example, a sudden increase in the number of floaters, subsequent deterioration of your peripheral vision, and flashes of light shouldn’t be waved off as common and temporary.   

When Should I See a Doctor?

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. While it’s possible you have posterior vitreous detachment (PVD), a common condition when the vitreous detaches from the retina that’s not an emergency, there’s also a risk that you’re experiencing retinal detachment. This condition is serious and needs immediate attention so that it doesn’t cause lasting damage and vision loss to your eyes.

If you’re worried about floaters or you’re experiencing a concerning change in the number of floaters you see, reach out to ICON Eyecare today. A consultation is a great way to develop a baseline for the number of floaters in your field of vision, but if it’s an emergency, be sure to schedule an appointment as soon as possible.

Is Glaucoma Genetic? The Truth about This Common Condition and Heritability

While everyone can be considered at risk for glaucoma, a family history of the condition or a particular racial background can increase your chances of developing the disease.

Glaucoma — also known as the “silent thief of sight” — is a group of eye disorders that irreversibly damage the optic nerve. With more than three million Americans living with the condition, glaucoma is the primary cause of permanent vision loss in the United States.

For patients concerned about eye health, especially those who are aging and worried about maintaining their vision as time passes, glaucoma is an understandably disconcerting condition. Because glaucoma develops so gradually, it can be difficult to know that you have it until it’s too late to meaningfully repair damaged vision.

While everyone should schedule regular check-ups to detect glaucoma early, there are genetic risk factors that may make some patients more likely to develop glaucoma than others. If you’re worried about your own possible genetic risk factors, keep reading to learn more about the different types of glaucoma and what contributes to them.

The Different Types of Glaucoma

Although we typically speak of glaucoma as if it’s a single condition, it’s actually a group of eye disorders that can have slightly different causes and effects. The most common form of glaucoma is primary open-angle glaucoma or POAG. Patients with POAG may experience damage to the optic nerve as the eye’s drainage mechanisms fail to function properly. This can cause intraocular pressure (IOP) to build up, which causes that damage.

The vast majority of those with glaucoma have POAG, but there are several other types. For instance, primary angle-closure glaucoma, or PACG, occurs when the fluid that flows between the iris and the lens of the eye is blocked. Another version, exfoliation glaucoma, or XFG, sets in when a white, protein-like material builds up deposits on the lens and within the drainage system that lets out fluid from the eye.

The Genetics that Contribute to Glaucoma

Because the effects of glaucoma are, at present, irreversible, researchers are racing to better understand the hereditary and genetic risk factors that may indicate a predisposition to the condition. So far, certain genes have been linked with each of the major types of glaucoma, although these are not surefire signs that glaucoma will inevitably develop.

Additionally, certain patients’ ethnic background, age, and family history may be glaucoma risk factors. For example, Africans Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans are all more likely to develop glaucoma than Caucasians, with Asian Americans at greater risk of PACG specifically. For patients over the age of 60 and with a family history of glaucoma, the risk of developing the condition is, likewise, several times higher.

The State of Genetic Glaucoma Testing

Thankfully, a number of advances in glaucoma testing have made it possible for specialists to identify whether some patients face a greater risk. However, the field is still developing, as is the understanding of the underlying genetic conditions that give rise to the disease. While some patients may be able to benefit from genetic analysis, there aren’t many whose genetic profile would provide a clear-cut answer as to whether or not they will experience glaucoma.

Until such a time that this testing can advance to scale, it’s important to schedule regular check-ups with your eye care specialist. By making an appointment to detect glaucoma early, it’s possible to catch it and manage it effectively before it causes widespread damage.

If you’re looking to book a consultation today, reach out to ICON Eyecare. Our doctors are standing by and ready to help you learn more about glaucoma, your risk factors, and what you can do to stay on top of the condition.

7 Tips for Maintaining Eye Health as You Age

With approximately 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 every day, a growing cohort of older Americans needs to start considering how to best take care of themselves as they age. From supporting strong bones to promoting heart health, there’s a lot to consider as you work hard to enjoy a long, healthy retirement.

Among these concerns, it’s important to remember eye health. More than half of Americans will experience cataracts by the time they’re 75, so it’s clear that our eyes share in the burden of getting older. While the deterioration of your vision may not be fatal, it can have a direct impact on your quality of life, and that means that it’s important to understand what steps you can take to maintain eye health as you age.

Between lifestyle changes and medical due diligence, you can help protect your vision throughout your retirement. If you’re considering what you can do to keep your eyes healthy, consider the following seven tips.

  1. Eat Right

A healthy diet can give your eyes the building blocks they need to stay strong as you age. By eating foods rich in vitamins, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids, you’ll be providing your body with nutrients that are essential for healthy vision. Opt for leafy greens, salmon, and other ingredients as you build out your list of vision-friendly recipes. And, at the same time, cut down on junk food to maintain overall health.

  1. Stop Smoking

Lifelong habits can be hard to kick, but cutting back on harmful ones can keep your eyesight healthy in the long run. Smoking reduces the flow of nutrient-rich blood to the eyes and introduces toxins that your eyes may otherwise absorb, such as nicotine. Smokers have an increased risk of most major eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration, uveitis, cataracts, and dry eye. By quitting smoking, you’ll be doing your vision a huge favor.

  1. Wear Sunglasses

Reaching retirement might mean more time on vacation and in the sun, but that light can do real damage to your eyes if you don’t protect them. In fact, UV rays directly contribute to cataracts and can accelerate degeneration in the eye. This means that you should always wear sunglasses when you go outside — ideally those that have 100% UVA and UVB protection.

  1. Give Your Eyes a Rest

Overworking your eyes can have long-term, adverse health effects, especially as you age and especially if you spend a large part of the day staring at a computer, tablet, or smartphone screens. To protect your eyes from strain, it’s a good idea to follow the 20-20-20 rule. That is, every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

  1. Sleep and Exercise Plenty

Small lifestyle changes can go a long way toward healthier eyes. If you find yourself staying up too late or getting up too early, trying making some adjustments so you can get a full night’s sleep. Similarly, trying getting regular exercise into your weekly routine. By getting the blood pumping, you’ll be boosting circulation, which is great for your eyes.

  1. Trust Your Instincts

While you may have dismissed temporary issues with your vision when you were younger, it’s better to be proactive as you age. If you see flashes, experience cloudiness in your vision, or are troubled by eye pain, you should reach out to your doctor and discuss your symptoms. If something’s wrong, you can be ahead of the curve, and if nothing’s wrong, all the better.

  1. Schedule Regular Eye Exams

As you get older, you should schedule eye exams on a regular basis. Doing so will help both you and your eye care specialist determine what the baseline is for your eyesight. This helps you know when something might amiss and it helps your doctor track any new and worrying developments.

If you’re looking to get an eye exam on the books with trained and trusted specialists, schedule an appointment with ICON Eyecare. Our team can connect with you about any concerns with aging eyes and help you make lifestyle changes that fit your needs.

Not Sure If You Need Glasses? Here’s How to Tell.

Portrait of mature man with big black eye glasses trying to read book but having difficulties seeing text because of vision problems

Even if you haven’t needed glasses before, watch for these symptoms to ensure that your vision changes don’t go undiagnosed.

In adults, vision changes can creep up slowly. It may be months or years before you realize you can’t read the street signs that your friend can, or until you notice that you’re holding a menu further away from your face. Even if you’ve had perfect vision all your life, your eyes can change, and you may find yourself one of 150 million Americans who need some form of vision correction.

If you’re not sure if you need glasses, start to look out for symptoms like blurred or fuzzy vision, double vision, or the appearance of “halos” around objects. You may feel headaches or tired eyes, or find night driving difficult. Symptoms may point you toward one of these three common refractive errors:

Myopia

Myopia, or nearsightedness, is by far the most common refractive error for people under 40, and its ubiquity is growing. Up from just a quarter of the population a few decades ago, now a full 40% of the U.S. population is nearsighted.

The problem typically begins in childhood, and studies suggest that more focusing on up-close objects, along with increased time indoors away from sunlight, can cause developmental issues with the eyes. If you have myopia, the eyeball is too long, and the light rays fall in front of the retina, meaning that you are able to read a book or use a computer without difficulty, but you may squint, strain, or grow fatigued when looking at a distance.

Hyperopia

Hyperopia, or farsightedness, means that you can see at a distance more clearly than up close. Only 5-10% of people in the U.S. have this condition. In moderate cases, you may not notice the issue for a while, but eventually, you may realize that you have trouble reading or using a computer. You may experience headaches or eye strain.

Children are sometimes born hyperopic, with a too-short eyeball that means the light focuses behind the retina. Most children outgrow this over time, but in other cases, hyperopia can cause blurring at all distances, or double vision.

Presbyopia

Unlike hyperopia, presbyopia is typically related to age and happens to nearly everyone beginning in their mid-40’s. At this point, the lens of the eye begins to lose elasticity, and you’ll find that you cannot see nearby objects as clearly as you once could. You may find you hold reading material at a slightly further-away distance, in order to see text or images more sharply.

Your Options for Vision Correction

If you identify with any of the above symptoms, your best bet is to make an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam. Only an eye doctor can determine if your issues are caused by one of the above refractive errors, or by another issue, like astigmatism or cataracts. Don’t delay the exam — you may be putting your eye health at risk, or making activities like driving more dangerous.

Your vision correction options include glasses, contacts, and surgery. Glasses can let you make a fashion statement—but they can also run you hundreds of dollars and make athletic activities more difficult. Contacts have become increasingly popular, but the cost of disposable lenses adds up over time, and there are associated risks of irritation or infection.

Vision correction procedures do require an initial investment but offer a permanent solution for many patients. LASIK is a common treatment for myopia, while hyperopia can be treated with LASIK, PRK, or clear lens exchange, depending on a patient’s needs. Instead of bifocals or reading glasses, presbyopia patients may opt for LASIK, or multifocal intraocular lenses if they have cataracts.

At ICON Eyecare, we are familiar with the full range of refractive eye conditions and have successfully helped adults of all ages regain their quality of life. If you suspect that your vision is changing, schedule an appointment today for an eye exam. We can help you understand the diagnosis and can offer an initial consultation to see if LASIK may be an appropriate option.

Treating Glaucoma with “Natural Cures” is Unwise. Here’s Why.

Bottles of homeopathic globules. Thuja, Plantain, healthy infusion, mortar and basket of herbs. Homeopathy medicine.

Unregulated websites across the internet claim to offer homeopathic solutions for glaucoma, but the science behind them isn’t always sound.

Glaucoma affects more than 3 million Americans, making it one of the leading causes of vision loss in the country — and the leading cause of blindness for African Americans and Hispanic Americans. While many people may link glaucoma with high eye pressure, the latter is only a risk factor of the former rather than the sole cause. Instead, glaucoma is a group of eye disorders connected to a range of risk factors that pose a threat to the optic nerve.

Because there’s no cure for glaucoma, many patients are understandably curious about the options available for treating the condition before it worsens. As always, conferring with a qualified eye care specialist is your best bet at catching glaucoma early and making a plan to halt its progress.

However, some have become invested in homeopathic remedies for glaucoma — also known as “natural cures” — that claim to treat the condition if followed properly. While many of these remedies are not explicitly harmful, the science backing them up is thin. What’s more, unregulated websites published beyond the quality control of peer-reviewed scientific journals may be persuading patients to sit tight with natural treatments for a condition that needs to be identified and managed as early as possible.

For the 50% of patients who experiment with these remedies, it’s important to know the facts. If you’re following one of the following homeopathic regimens, you should consider reaching out to an eye doctor instead.

Vitamin Supplements

Patients could be forgiven for believing in the potential of vitamin supplements to support their bodies’ fight against glaucoma. However, because glaucoma is actually a group of related diseases — and a grouping that differs from one patient to the next — researchers haven’t been able to pinpoint exactly what combination of vitamins is needed to effectively treat glaucoma patients.

For patients trying their own natural cures, this makes finding the right mix of vitamins, or a mix that will do anything at all, challenging. For instance, vitamin C can potentially reduce intraocular pressure, but in order for it to be meaningfully effective, patients would have to take such high doses that they’d likely deal with complications such as diarrhea and dehydration.

Herbal Remedies

Similarly, herbal remedies that may benefit patients with unrelated health issues shouldn’t be used as the primary treatment when dealing with glaucoma. While herbs such as gingko biloba are useful with vascular disorders, for example, and have been shown to increase blood flow in the eye in some studies, other research hasn’t arrived at the same conclusions.

Again, patients may not be doing their bodies any harm by taking these supplements, but with conflicting studies disagreeing on the efficacy of herbal treatment, patients risk losing valuable time better spent on scientifically proven methods.

Cannabis

As the regulatory attitude toward cannabis has changed around the country, many patients are curious whether medical-grade marijuana can benefit eyes as they deal with glaucoma.

While cannabis has been shown in some studies to reduce intraocular pressure, the drop typically only lasts for a little while before the effects wear off. Additionally, because marijuana has so many substances that have received so little research attention because of federal substance controls, more studies will need to be done in order to understand what role they play in treating glaucoma.

Anti-Inflammatory Diets

It’s always wise to watch what you eat — especially if you’re struggling with serious health conditions like glaucoma. However, websites that claim that anti-inflammatory diets alone can stop or even reverse glaucoma are doing patients a disservice. It’s true that leafy greens and limited salt intake can help prevent inflammation — something that’s important when dealing with this condition — but they can’t carry the weight of treatment alone.

Receiving Qualified Attention

The bottom line? It’s best to have a comprehensive discussion with an eye care specialist about what your fight against glaucoma will look like. They may well recommend vitamin supplements and an anti-inflammatory diet, but they’ll also provide you with essential recommendations when it comes to medication and procedures that you’ll need to protect your vision.

Additionally, glaucoma can be difficult to spot until it’s already begun to damage the optic nerve. This means that attending regularly scheduled check-ups is important if you want to detect the condition as early as possible.

If you’re wondering where to start, schedule a consultation today with ICON Eyecare. Our team can get you the information you need to start a well-informed treatment plan today.

A Primer on Diabetic Retinopathy

Hand holding blood sugar test device

Diabetic retinopathy can affect anyone with diabetes. Learn how to spot symptoms of the condition and discover the treatment options available.

Anyone with diabetes is at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy — in fact, between 80 and 85 percent of people with Type I or Type II diabetes will develop some degree of the disease during their lifetime. People with Type I diabetes are at slightly higher risk of developing retinopathy than people with Type II diabetes, but both are susceptible.

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when excessive sugar in the blood leads to blockage of the small blood vessels that nourish the retina, so the longer you’ve had diabetes and the less controlled your symptoms are, the more likely it is that you’ll develop the condition. Once those blood vessels are blocked, the body responds by trying to build new blood vessels. However, those blood vessels don’t develop properly and can easily leak into the eye.

Fortunately, careful management of your diabetes and familiarity with the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy can help you protect your vision. Controlled blood sugar, regular exercise, and a healthy weight are some of your best defenses against the disease, but it’s also important to recognize symptoms before they progress.

Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

Some people may not have symptoms at all in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, which is why it’s important for people with diabetes have yearly eye exams with a vision professional. However, if any of these symptoms begin to appear, you should see your eye doctor right away.

Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:

  • Mild blurriness in near or distance vision
  • Spots or dark strings in your vision, called floaters
  • Dark and/or empty areas in your vision
  • Sudden loss of vision

If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can cause severe vision loss or even blindness. On the other hand, when the disease is detected and treated early on, the patient’s prognosis is usually very good. While doctors cannot cure diabetic retinopathy or reverse the damage that it’s caused, they can halt its progression and stabilize the patient’s vision.

Treatments for Diabetic Retinopathy

While prevention is always your best defense against diabetic retinopathy, there are many treatments available. Laser treatment is one of the most common treatment options; the laser controls and shrinks the leaking blood vessels and prevents the growth of new blood vessels. Laser treatment does not cure diabetic retinopathy, but it can slow or stop the progression of the disease.

Diabetic retinopathy can also be treated with a vitrectomy. In some cases of the condition, the vitreous (the middle of the eye) can become flooded with blood. A vitrectomy involves draining blood from the vitreous and replacing it with a clear saline solution. This procedure requires local or general anesthesia.

Some patients who are unresponsive to traditional treatments may require intravitreal injections or injections of medicine into the eye. The medicine can help to stop the growth of new blood vessels. Your doctor can help to determine the best treatment for you in the case that you begin to develop diabetic retinopathy. While there’s no cure for the condition, it doesn’t have to lead to serious vision loss.

Whether or not you believe you have diabetic retinopathy, if you have diabetes, you should see an eye doctor regularly. Schedule a consultation with ICON Eyecare today to talk to one of our specialists about your vision treatment.

5 Tips for Beating Winter Dry Eyes

Pedestrians and traffic on a winter day

Colder conditions outside and dry heat indoors can make the winter a difficult time for your eyes. Here’s how to keep them healthy and hydrated.

Protecting your eyes from dryness may be a challenge throughout the year, but it’s especially difficult during the colder months. As temperatures drop outside and we compensate with arid indoor heating, it’s no wonder that patients have a hard time with itchy, burning eyes every winter.

Unsurprisingly, dry eye syndrome affects millions of Americans. While quick fixes for dry eye symptoms abound, there are long-term steps you can take to protect your eye health this winter — and for winters to come. Consider the following tips the next time you find yourself rubbing your eyes during the colder months.

  1. Choose the Right Eye Drops

During the winter, colder, windier conditions outside and hotter, drier conditions inside sap away the eye’s natural moisture. This can make your eyes feel like they itch or burn and increase your urge to rub them, something that can make your symptoms worse.

By choosing eye drops that fit your needs, you can help replace the moisture that’s been wicked away. However, not every type of eye drop will be right for you. For example, consider brands that allow you to use them as many times as you need without causing additional irritation. If you wear contact lenses, you’ll need special drops made for use with contacts.

  1. Be Aware of Heat Sources

Excessive exposure to sources of heat can accelerate dryness already caused by harsh outdoor conditions. Accordingly, be mindful of how close these heat sources may be to your eyes. If you’re driving, for instance, direct the heat vents away from your face. This will help your eyes retain their natural moisture and take a break from extreme temperatures.

  1. Drink Fluids and Take Vitamins

While this may seem like a no-brainer, it’s important to drink plenty of water if you need to replace your eyes’ fluids. Dehydration will only make it more difficult for your eyes to retain their natural moisture.

Additionally, consider taking vitamins that promote eye health, such as omega-3 fatty acids — also referred to as fish oils. With supplements approved by your eye care specialist, you can help your body repair your tear film and glands.

  1. Buy a Humidifier

If your bedroom, living room, or office — basically, anywhere you spend a considerable amount of time — has become dried out from indoor heating, you’ll need to introduce moisture back into the room. A humidifier can make this easy. By getting a model that’s meant for the size of the space you have in mind, you can help protect your eyes’ natural moisture.

 

  1. Talk to an Eye Care Specialist

Although there are home remedies for dry eyes, it’s always best to consult an expert. If your dry eyes have become a cause of concern or you need insight into the best products to get some relief, reach out to your eye care specialist today.

By scheduling a consultation with ICON Eyecare, you can get the attention you need for those itchy, burning eyes. Our trained specialists will sit down with you and help you enjoy your favorite wintertime activities.

For National Diabetes Month, Learn How to Protect Your Eyes.

Young woman measuring blood sugar level and using mobile phone

By staying on top of your diabetes, you can keep your eyes healthy and avoid adverse health effects — now and in the future.

For more than 100 million Americans, diabetes and prediabetes are a part of everyday life. While a range of factors may have contributed to your condition, many diabetes patients can maintain a healthy and active lifestyle with the right management techniques.

November is National Diabetes Month, so now’s a great time to understand how taking care of your diabetes can also mean taking care of your eyes. Because high blood sugar can pose short- and long-term risks to eye health, keeping your diabetes under control will also keep your eyesight in tip-top shape.

What Does Diabetes Have to Do with Eye Health?

Put in the simplest terms, diabetes makes it difficult for the body to produce and effectively use insulin, which regulates the amount of glucose in the blood. While glucose is an essential part of many bodily functions, an overabundance of it can cause lasting damage.

While diabetes can affect critical organs like your heart and kidneys, it can also affect your eyesight. The National Eye Institute reports that, through a condition known as diabetic retinopathy, diabetes is the leading cause of vision impairment and blindness among working-age adults.

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when a surplus of glucose in the blood affects small blood vessels in the eye’s retina. If above-average blood glucose levels are sustained for too long, these blood vessels can leak fluid into the eye that can impair your eyesight. It can also cause ineffective new blood vessels to develop on the surface of the retina, further harming your vision.

While those who don’t effectively manage their blood sugar are putting themselves at risk of diabetic retinopathy, certain populations face a greater chance of developing the condition. If you’re pregnant, have high blood pressure, or have had diabetes for a long period of time, you may be looking at increased risk.

What Can I Do to Protect My Eyes?

While it’s imperative that people with diabetes track their blood glucose levels regularly, there’s more that patients should do when it comes to maintaining eye health. Indeed, according to the CDC, about 90% of vision loss caused by diabetes is preventable so long as issues are detected early.

First and foremost, diabetics should schedule regular eye exams. With the right attention from eye care specialists, it’s possible to work with experts to detect early warning signs of vision loss and develop strategies to prevent further deterioration.

If you’re worried about diabetic retinopathy and want to speak with an eye care specialist, consider scheduling your consultation with ICON Eyecare. Together, you and your doctor can discuss what risks you face from diabetes and agree on how best to move forward.

Sleeping in Contact Lenses Can Be Dangerous. Here’s Why.

Woman using a contact lens

Wearing contact lenses around the clock may seem convenient, but it drastically increases the risk of infection.

For 45 million Americans, contact lenses are a convenient way to correct vision problems without the hassle of glasses. However, without proper hygiene, contact lenses can lead to serious health issues that need medical attention. While many wearers keep to typical best practices — soaking contact lenses in cleansing solutions overnight, for example — a new CDC report shows that a surprising number of Americans don’t.

Indeed, in its weekly report “Corneal Infections Associated with Sleeping in Contact Lenses — Six Cases, United States, 2016–2018,” the CDC estimates that one in three Americans sleeps in their contact lenses. Although some contact lenses advertise extended wear, the CDC report finds that sleeping with contact lenses increases the risk of infection by six to eight times.

Knowing the Risks of Sleeping in Contact Lenses

During the day, regular blinking cleans your contact lenses for you and provides oxygen to the eye. This effectively prevents the build-up of bacteria around the contact lens. When you sleep, however, you’re not blinking, and this makes it easier for bacteria to spread in dark areas that are cut off from the flow of oxygen.

The resulting infections are known as microbial keratitis. While many types of keratitis can be cured with antibiotic drops administered over weeks or months, it can cause lasting damage if left untreated, including permanent vision loss.

How to Avoid Infection from Contacts

First and foremost, eye care specialists recommend that you don’t sleep with contact lenses in. Many even recommend that you take contact lenses out for naps. When you’re not wearing your contact lenses, be sure to soak them in cleansing solutions before you put them back in.

Additionally, it’s important that you don’t wear contact lenses past their suggested duration of use. If your contact lenses are only designed for thirty days of wear, for example, discard them at the end of that cycle.

While contact lenses can be a convenient way to avoid wearing glasses, it’s clear that wearers need to be careful about hygiene during use. If taking your contact lenses in and out, cleaning them regularly, and ordering new pairs seems like a hassle, you may want to consider alternatives.

LASIK surgery, for example, offers the clarity of contact lenses without the trouble of daily maintenance. If you’re curious whether LASIK could be right for you, schedule a consultation today at ICON Eyecare.

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