Winter eye care – How can I protect my eyes during winter?

Photo credit: adwriter from Flickr

Photo credit: adwriter from Flickr

Got dry eyes?

We are now in the heart of winter, which means I have seen a number of patients come in with complaints associated with the season.  A common complaint? Dry eyes.  With cold weather comes increased use of heating systems both in our houses and cars. While the  warm air certainly feels great, the heat and decreased humidity dry your skin and eyes.  This is particularly true for my contact lens patients. An easy way to stay comfortable is to keep artificial tears handy and to point vents away from your face.  Also, a humidifier can come in very handy for both your eyes and other sensitive tissues like the inside of your nose.

Playing in the snow?

Photo credit: LaRimdaME from Flickr

Photo credit: LaRimdaME from Flickr

I also had a couple patients tell me they were going on a winter sports trip in the mountains. While playing in the snow is definitely fun, it can be unhealthy for your eyes.  Ultraviolet light is even more powerful when reflected off of snow and with increased altitude.  Too much exposure to ultraviolet light can cause a condition called photokeratitis.  Unfortunately, I had a mild case of this after building a snow fort as a child.  While the fort turned out great, my eyes did not.  My eyes stung and my vision was blurry for about a day.  Some people suffer much worse, so it is very important to use UV-protecting sun glasses when hitting the slopes.

Interestingly, a new coating for your glasses has been invented that eliminates fogging.  So, if you find yourself going from hot to cold environments quickly for work or play, or eating a hot bowl of soup on a cold day, you may want to ask your doctor about this new technology. As you can see with a few simple steps, your eyes can be healthier and better protected in winter. So get out there, stay protected and have a great time!

~David C. Ardaya, OD
California Optometric Association
http://www.coavision.oeg

Hitting the slopes? Be prepared for snow blindness.

Courtesy of kasiat on Flickr.

Courtesy of kasiat on Flickr.

Tis’ the season to go skiing and snowboarding.  Ski resorts all over the state are opening this month.  It is a well-known fact that spending time outdoors is healthy for not only your body, but your eyes too.  So get ready, get set, and go!  But before you swish down the mountain, ask yourself if you have taken the necessary steps in protecting your eyes from developing snow blindness – a specific form of something called Photokeratitis or Ultraviolet Keratitis.

Snow blindness can be thought of as a really bad sunburn of your eyes (cornea and conjunctiva).  It is caused by exposure of your unprotected eyes to natural sunlight that is reflected off of the snow or ice.  With just the right mix of high altitude and freshly packed snow, your eyes may be subjected to as much as 80% of UV radiation damage in a very short period of time.

After exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, the white part of your eyes (conjunctiva) may look extremely red and the clear covering of your eyes (cornea) may take on a glassy appearance.

Overall, your eyes will not be feeling too great.  With every blink, you may experience unrelenting pain, intense tearing, sandy and gritty feeling, eyelid twitching, discomfort with bright lights and a natural tendency to want to blink more rapidly or shut your eyes tight.  Your vision may be reduced to varying degrees.

The best way to prevent snow blindness is to wear UV-blocking sunglasses or goggles that only allow a certain amount of visible light through. Also, remember to don that protective eyewear whether it is a sunny or a gloomy, overcast day – UV rays can reach your eyes under any condition.

Courtesy of tk-link on Flickr

Courtesy of tk-link on Flickr.

In the event that you forget to bring your sunglasses or you lose them on the way down the slopes and sustain subsequent sun damage to your eyes, your friendly optometrist can promptly treat your symptoms and provide comfort and relief.

While snow blindness is a one form of Photokeratitis,  there are also other forms of which you should be aware, including artificial lights from suntanning beds, electric sparks, halogen desk lamps, flood lights, and arc welding (welder’s flash, arc eye, flash burn) just to name a few.  The prevention is the same.  Wear your UV-blocking sunglasses or goggles to not only look stylin’, but to preserve the health of your eyes and sight.

See you on the slopes!

~Judy Tong, OD, FAAO, FAAO
California Optometric Association
http://www.coavision.org

A Cutting Edge Treatment for Dry Eye – Scleral Contact Lenses

What are Scleral Lenses?

Meet my patient, a 58-year-old female who came to my office with terrible redness, burning, tearing eyes and sensitivity to light. She has used many treatments previously without success. I made the diagnosis of severe dry eye. The patient was fit with scleral lenses and was able to see better than 20/20 in each eye. In addition, she is able to wear the lenses all day long comfortably. Scleral lenses are large diameter gas permeable lenses that rest beyond the limits of the cornea on the sclera. They were first used in late 1800s and early 1900s however now the manufacturing process is more reproducible.

Courtesy of maikel_nai on Flickr

Courtesy of maikel_nai on Flickr

When do you need scleral lenses?

– primary and secondary corneal ectasias

– post-corneal transplants

– corneal scars

– corneal dystrophies or degenerations

– severe dry eyes

– graft versus host disease

– Sjogren’s syndrome

– Stevens-Johnson syndrome

– neurotrophic keratopathy

– chronic inflammatory conditions such as limbal stem cell deficiency or ocular cicatricial pemphigoid.

Clearance (the space between the cornea and scleral lens) is a key advantage to scleral lenses. The cornea is bathed all day long with saline, which rejuvenates the ocular surface. This is unlike other types of contact lenses (including soft and small diameter gas permeable lenses) that may compromise the ocular surface.Sleral lenses

Scleral lenses are a life-changing opportunity for many. In my practice, scleral lenses have helped people who previously have not been able to see or function with other types of contact lenses or glasses.

There have been numerous advancements in scleral lenses in the past year. Multifocal scleral lenses are now available allowing both distance and near vision are now available.

~Melissa Barnett, OD, FAAO