A Clearer View

Latest treatment options and news about cataracts, dry eye syndrome and other eye care topics.

Over-the-Counter Red-Eye Drops: Are They Safe?

by Damion Wasylow 5 November 2018 12:50 PM

closeup of eye drops going into an eye
A nationally publicized murder case has many red-eye sufferers questioning whether the drops they use for relief of their red, irritated eyes could be deadly. York Country, South Carolina sheriff’s deputies say 52-year-old Lana Clayton recently confessed to killing her husband. And she did it by poisoning him with over-the-counter eye drops.

Clayton apparently learned that many popular over-the-counter eye drops – including Visine, Murine Plus, Altazine, Clarine and others – use the ingredient tetrahydrozoline to constrict blood vessels in your eyes. That’s how they “get the red out.” When ingested in significant quantities, however, the chemical can result in death.

When taken internally, tetrahydrozoline acts like a potent high blood pressure medication. Symptoms of tetrahydrozoline ingestion include drowsiness, low blood pressure, slowed heart rate, impaired breathing and possibly even coma. Children are at particular risk, as even relatively small quantities can trigger these symptoms.

Dr. Mark Morocco, an emergency room physician at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center says tetrahydrozoline eye drops are safe and effective, but like any medication, they should only be used as directed. “This drug is a little bit of a wildcard drug, when it's not used correctly. Put it in your eyes, it works great. [It] makes your red-eye go away, [it's] very safe. If you drink it or inject it, it gets into your bloodstream and behaves in ways that we don't quite understand.”

Red-eye is a common eye irritation symptom, potentially attributable to several root causes, including environmental conditions, infections, eye allergies, digital eye strain and contact lens issues, among others. And while over-the-counter eye drops can help reduce symptoms, people with dry eye syndrome can often benefit from more comprehensive treatment. 

Through our Dry Eye Center for Excellence, the physicians at North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care provide complete dry eye diagnosis and treatment. By helping patients identify the true cause of their dry eye symptoms, we are able to apply the most effective treatment regimen.

If you or someone you love is tired of constantly using eye drops without experiencing true ongoing relief of your dry eye symptoms, contact North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care at 352-373-4300 today to schedule an appointment.

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Is Laser Cataract Surgery Safe?

by Damion Wasylow 5 November 2018 12:41 PM

patient talking with surgeon
When considering any type surgery, it’s smart to weigh the possible complications against the potential benefits. Thankfully, cataract surgery is one of the most common surgical procedures in the world, and is recognized as being safe and effective. And laser-assisted cataract surgery offers more precision and less eye trauma, resulting in faster recovery and fewer complications. 

Procedure

Laser-assisted cataract surgery begins by using micro-imaging cameras to map the eye’s surface. The surgeon uses the resulting image to identify the best location for the necessary incision in the cornea, and directs the laser to make a tiny, precise cut at that point. A small probe inserted through the incision applies ultrasonic energy to break up the cataract-damaged lens and extracts the pieces. A second probe delivers and positions the artificial lens. Once that probe is removed, the incision self-seals. No stitches required.

Recovery

Following surgery, patients spend a short time in the recovery room while their eyes quickly adjust to the new lens. Many laser-assisted cataract surgery patients report improved vision before even leaving the recovery room. Typically after just 30-60 minutes, a patient is released to go home. Cataract surgeons generally recommend patients wear an eye shield off-and-on for up to a few days, and patients are often prescribed eye drops and a protective shield to help with any short-term blurriness or redness. Most surgeons ask patients to come into the office for a follow-up visit the day after surgery. The doctor then performs an examination to ensure everything is healing normally.

Outcomes

The American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS) reports an overall success rate of 98% or higher for the more than three million cataract surgeries performed in the U.S. each year. By replacing the damaged natural lens with an artificial lens, surgery provides a permanent fix for cataracts. 

Possible Complications

There may be some temporary blurring, cloudiness or redness immediately following cataract surgery, but those usually clear up within a few days. Some patients may also experience short-term grittiness, redness or irritation, halos, faint floaters and/or discharge. The risk of more serious side effects is less than 0.5%, making cataract surgery one of the safest procedures in the country.

If you or someone you love is considering cataract surgery, schedule an appointment with North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care. We offer state-of-the-art laser-assisted cataract surgery using the LenSx system. Our own Dr. Gregory Snodgrass has performed more than 20,000 cataract surgeries and was the area’s first surgeon to use the revolutionary LenSx system. 

Contact North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care today at 352-373-4300.

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Elderly Parents Sometimes Need a Loving Nudge to Seek Cataract Treatment

by Damion Wasylow 10 October 2018 08:51 AM

elderly father embraces adult son
As parents age, they may need assistance with everything from getting around town to figuring out the TV remote. When they do, they often turn to those they trust most, their adult children. The same is true for healthcare decisions, including when to seek cataract treatment.

Many seniors can be reluctant to accept or admit that their vision is failing, seeing it as an unwelcome sign of aging. In some cases, denial leads to lack of treatment, robbing them of quality of life.

Researchers found that adult children are more likely than spouses or friends to observe and point out changes in their parents’ vision, with study author and ophthalmologist, Brian C. Stagg, MD, suggesting that an adult child who visits their parent might notice vision changes that others have not.

Plus, the opinions, recommendations and research provided by adult children may carry more credibility. After all, who else could have your parents’ best interests more at heart?

If you suspect your mom or dad may have cataracts, watch for the warning signs. They may have particular trouble seeing at night, or be especially sensitive to bright light. In later stages, you may even notice a visible clouding of his or her eye lens.

Talk with your parent open and honestly, and do some research into cataract treatment options. Then, schedule an appointment for mom or dad to get a comprehensive eye exam and cataract screening.

At North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care, we offer both traditional cataract surgery and state-of-the-art laser cataract surgery. To find out how we can help permanently correct your parent’s cataracts, contact us today at 352-373-4300.

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5 Tips to Reduce Digital Eye Strain

by Damion Wasylow 28 September 2018 13:05 PM
young woman with irritated eyes in front of computer


If you’re like the majority of Americans, you spend a fair amount of your day in front of a computer, tablet or phone screen. Data from The Vision Council shows 80 percent of U.S. adults use digital devices for two hours or more each day, and 59 percent report experiencing symptoms of digital eye stain.

Digital eye strain – also known as computer vision syndrome – can result from extensive, continual or improper viewing of digital screens. Symptoms can include headaches, blurred vision, dry, burning and irritated eyes, watery eyes, light sensitivity, difficulty keeping your eyes open and more, both during and following time spent with screens.

If that sounds all too familiar, don’t worry, there are steps you can take to reduce digital eye strain symptoms without eliminating your use of digital devices. Here are our top five…

1. Give Yourself Some Space

It’s important to allow enough space between your device and your eyes. In the case of a computer monitor, experts recommend 25 inches away, with the top of the screen at or just below eye level. For smartphones, approximately 12 inches is sufficient. Be sure to adjust text sizes, screen zoom, brightness and contrast to levels that are comfortable for you.

2. Blink

Blinking plays a critical role in eye health, spreading oils and fluids to moisturize and refresh your eyes. Often, when viewing content on screens, however, people blink half as often as normal. So, don’t stare, and blink often. If necessary, over-the-counter artificial tears eye drops can help relieve temporary dryness.

3. Take a Break

Vision ergonomics specialists recommend using the “20-20-20 rule.” After every 20 minutes of screen time, look at an object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This helps your eyes relax and reset. Take a longer break, 15 minutes or more, after every two hours spent on devices.

4. Improve Lighting and Reduce Glare

Your device screen should not be brighter than the room you’re in. So, turn on room lights, reduce your screen brightness or both. Find a happy medium where the light levels aren’t competing. You should also limit glare by ensuring room or ambient lights aren’t reflecting off your screen. Using an anti-glare screen filter and ensuring your screen is free of dust can also help.

5. Wear the Right Glasses or Contacts

People who wear eyeglasses or contact lenses may be more susceptible to digital eye strain if they don’t have the right prescription. Not all lenses are designed for mid-range viewing of digital screens. If you wear contacts, try switching to your glasses for extended screen viewing. If you wear glasses, and regularly experience eye strain, talk to your eye doctor. You may benefit from a second pair of glasses made specifically for viewing digital screens.

Although eye strain symptoms can be uncomfortable, they don’t generally produce long-term damage. These symptoms can, however, be indicative of underlying eye conditions that require diagnosis and treatment. If you regularly experience eye strain or dry eye symptoms, contact North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care today at 352-373-4300.

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5 Unexpected Benefits of Cataract Surgery

by Damion Wasylow 30 July 2018 08:53 AM

three generations of men celebrating something on tv
Three million Americans have cataract surgery each year, with an overall success rate of 98 percent or higher, and the positive impacts on patient vision are obvious. Many patients who choose laser-assisted cataract surgery report improved vision before even leaving the recovery room. What you may not realize, however, is just how much cataract surgery can benefit you in all areas of life. 

1. Improved Mood

Life with cataracts can be very lonely. Cataract sufferers may be embarrassed by their limited vision, leading them to isolate themselves from family and friends, and even avoid going out in public. A study by the American Academy of Optometry found depression symptoms were 33 percent more likely in people with cataracts. Cataract surgery empowers these people to confidently re-enter the world, and take back their lives and joy.

2. Renewed Enjoyment

Cataract surgery allows patients to return to the activities they love most, whether it’s reading, watching TV, driving a car, or enjoying sporting events. Being able to engage in these activities directly contributes to improved quality of life. A 2012 study of cataract surgery patients concluded that cataract surgery, “greatly improved quality of life and was highly cost effective.” In fact, that study identified a 36.2% improvement in quality of life resulting from cataract surgery. 

3. Increased Independence

Loss of visual acuity due to cataracts robs many otherwise capable people of the ability to live independently. It’s difficult to live on your own when you can’t read medicine bottles, drive for errands or safely navigate your home. Cataract surgery can remove these obstacles from patients’ lives and allow them to once again enjoy true independence.

4. Fewer Injuries

Cataracts surgery helps to reduce the risk of accidents, falls and injuries. An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported fewer hip fractures in people who had successful cataract surgery than in their peers. That study went on to conclude, “people who receive cataract surgery are less likely to experience adverse disability trends than people who do not receive cataract surgery.” 

5. Longer Life

This may seem surprising, but the data backs it up. A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found the life expectancy of people 65-years-old and older increased by nearly two years from 1992 and 2008. That study attributed the increase to a variety of factors, most notably better cardiac care and improved vision related to cataract surgery. A similar study published in the journal Ophthalmology in 2013 found improved vision led to better physical and emotional well-being, contributing to the longer life span.

If you or someone you love needs cataract surgery, contact North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care today at 352-373-4300.

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3 Ways to Protect Your Child’s Eyes from Vision Loss

by Damion Wasylow 27 July 2018 08:47 AM

child posing for an eye exam
The start of a new school year provides kids the chance to reunite with friends, explore new activities and gain knowledge they will build on for the rest of their lives. Educators suggest that 80 percent of what children learn comes through their eyes, making protecting your children’s eyesight critical.

Here are some tips to help ensure your children enjoy quality vision throughout school and beyond… 

1. Get Your Child an Eye Exam

The American Optometric Association suggests all children should have a comprehensive eye exam prior to starting first grade, and every two years thereafter. Children at higher risk for vision problems – those with certain genetic conditions or developmental delays, for example – should be examined more frequently. Note that these examinations should be comprehensive eye exams, not just vision screenings. A comprehensive exam can identify eye diseases and conditions easily overlooked by a standard vision screening. Early diagnosis and treatment give your child the best chance for a strong recovery. 

2. Insist on Protective Eyewear

Eye injuries are the leading cause of blindness among U.S. children. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) estimates that more than 50,000 children suffer eye injuries each year. Sports eye injuries are particularly common among children ages 5-14. Still, surprisingly few youth sports leagues require the use of eye protection. Safety glasses, goggles, safety shields and the like can go a long way towards protecting your child’s eyes from injury. In fact, the AAO, estimates that more than 90 percent of children’s eye injuries could be prevented through the use of suitable protective eyewear.

3. Encourage Healthy Eating

As a parent, you understand the importance of a healthy diet for your growing child, but you may not realize how much your child’s diet directly impacts their vision. Researchers have linked certain eye-friendly nutrients to reducing the risk of certain eye diseases. A diet that contributes to great eye health requires a blend of nutrients from a combination of foods. Fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel provide omega-3 fatty acids. Leafy greens provide high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin. Berries and citrus deliver invaluable Vitamin C to strengthen your child’s immune system. See our “8 Foods that Promote Eye Health” article for a complete list of recommendations.

As summer gives way to fall, and the new school year is on the horizon, now is the perfect time to schedule your child’s comprehensive eye exam. At North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care, our eye care professionals deliver the highest level of care in an environment that’s friendly and welcoming. Call us today at 352-373-4300 to schedule your appointment at one of our convenient locations.

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Is Cataract Surgery Right for Me?

by Damion Wasylow 9 July 2018 13:37 PM

older man considering his options
As your vision declines due to cataracts, it’s natural to wonder when and if surgery should be in your future. Ultimately, the choice is very personal, and should be made following a consultation with an experienced cataract specialist. Here are three important aspects to consider...

Impact on Quality of Life

Thankfully, cataracts won’t rob you of your vision overnight. They develop slowly over time, making symptoms increasingly worse. Some patients can live comfortably with eyeglasses or other vision correction for years after being diagnosed with cataracts. Eventually, however, cataracts will negatively impact your quality of life. If you are nearing the point where you can no longer enjoy daily activities – whether reading, playing cards, driving a car, or any other common tasks – it may be time for surgery. Surgery is the only effective, long-term treatment for cataracts, and can allow you to once again enjoy these activities.

Access to State-of-the-Art Treatment

Cataract surgery is a specialty in every sense of the word, and your eyes are too valuable to trust to anyone but the best. If you are considering cataract surgery, do your homework to identify a qualified eye surgeon who offers state-of-the-art technology and treatment options. Many patients today opt for laser-assisted cataract surgery. Laser-assisted surgery is pain-free and more precise that its traditional surgical alternative. Dr. Gregory Snodgrass of North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care was the area’s first eye surgeon to use the LenSx laser-assisted cataract surgery.

Recovery Time

Cataract surgery recovery times differ based on the type of procedure you choose. Traditional cataract surgery often requires a longer recovery and more discomfort during the recovery process compared to laser-assisted cataract surgery. Laser-assisted surgery causes less trauma to the eye, leading to quicker and easier recovery. With laser-assisted surgery, patients are typically released from the surgery center 30-60 minutes after the procedure. And many patients report improved vision in that time. Patients are then generally recommended to wear an eye shield off-and-on for up to a few days.

If you have questions about cataract surgery, or are ready to explore your cataract surgery options, call 352-373-4300 to today to contact North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care. Our physicians and staff look forward to hearing from you.

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The Importance of Vision Care for Your Child’s Education

by Damion Wasylow 8 July 2018 06:43 AM

school-aged girl in glasses in front of a chalkboard
Educators suggest that eighty percent of what children learn comes through their eyes. Vision challenges dramatically impact a child’s ability to achieve. Parents are often left completely unaware of a child’s vision problems, because children don’t know how to convey their frustrations.

So, just how prevalent are vision problems in children, and how much impact can those issues have on your child’s education. 

According to the American Optometric Association, one in five preschool children have vision problems. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control found 12.5 million school-age kids are unable to see the blackboard, and only 10 percent of children ages nine-15 who need glasses actually have them.

A child’s vision challenges can have long-lasting effects. Limited vision in early childhood can lead to developmental delays and other brain development issues.

Left untreated, vision issues can lead to cognitive issues, social challenges, classroom frustrations and even physical and coordination concerns. Vision irregularities or eye muscle imbalances often affect depth perception.

Commonly undiagnosed vision challenges in children include:

  • Refractive errors
    These are the most common vision issues – nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism
  • Amblyopia
    Poor vision in an eye that appears to be normal – sometimes called “lazy eye”
  • Strabismus
    A misalignment of the eyes that causes eyes to wander – commonly known as cross-eyes

Untreated, amblyopia and strabismus eye muscle imbalances can lead to permanent vision loss, which can result in coordination issues.

Any and all of these conditions can limit a child’s ability to absorb or convey what they learn in school. And, in some cases, children with ADHD may benefit from corrected vision.

Even if your child has yet to display outward symptoms of limited vision, it’s a good idea to have his or her eyes checked prior to the next school year. Too many vision challenges go undiagnosed. A brief eye exam could reveal opportunities to change your child’s life for the better.

To schedule your child’s eye exam, contact North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care today at 352-373-4300.

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June is Cataract Awareness Month: 3 Things You Should Know

by Damion Wasylow 11 June 2018 09:06 AM

happy retired couple sitting under a tree
June is an important time of year at North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care, as it’s National Cataract Awareness Month. Of course, cataracts are top of mind for our physicians and staff all year around, but this month really puts a spotlight on our nation’s leading cause of vision loss. 

With that in mind, here are three things you should know about cataracts…

1. How Common are Cataracts?

Most cataracts develop as a result of aging. As we get older, proteins in the eye lenses degrade, creating thicker and less transparent lenses. More than 22 million Americans over the age of 40 have cataracts. By the age of 80, more than 50% of American’s have cataracts. And, as more people live to 80 years and beyond, cataracts are increasingly common.

2. What are the Symptoms of Cataracts?

Cataract symptoms generally include a combination of cloudy or blurred vision, double vision, lens discoloration, light sensitivity, glare and halos. Symptoms increase and get worse over time. Left untreated, cataracts inevitably result in complete blindness. Thankfully, these symptoms are usually enough to inspire patients to schedule a medical evaluation, during which a cataract diagnosis is made through a combination of a visual acuity test, slit-lamp test and retinal exam.

3. How are Cataracts Treated?

The damage caused to the eye’s lens through the formation of cataracts is permanent. The lens cannot be repaired. That makes surgery to replace the natural lens with an artificial lens implant the only effective treatment option. Many patients today opt for laser-assisted cataract surgery, as it is 100% pain-free, offers more precision and requires less recovery time than traditional surgery.

If you or someone you love experiences cataract symptoms, North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care is here to help. Our doctors have the expertise and training to provide reliable diagnoses and state-of-the-art treatment. In fact, Dr. Gregory Snodgrass was the area’s first eye surgeon to use the LenSx® laser-assisted cataract surgical system. Contact us today at 352-373-4300 to schedule an evaluation.

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Telescopic Eyeglasses Bring Distance Vision into Focus

by Damion Wasylow 11 June 2018 09:00 AM

doctor gregory snodgrass wearing telescopic eyeglasses
Macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and other retinal disorders can result in significant visual impairment that cannot be fully corrected with traditional eyeglasses, contact lenses, medication or surgery. This type of low vision affects the ability to see close and at distance. And while many people are familiar with treatment options for improving near vision, few know about an exciting new option for conveniently improving distance vision.

In the image above, Dr. Gregory Snodgrass of North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care models a pair of telescopic eyeglasses for patients with low vision. Specialty glasses like these make objects appear larger, much like binoculars, while also making the image brighter and sharper. This can improve patients’ ability to see faces, watch TV, enjoy outdoor events and even drive.

Telescopic eyeglasses offer numerous benefits over previous solutions. For example, unlike a classic monocular telescope, telescopic eyeglasses leave your hands free. You can fully enjoy a range of activities without having those activities cut short by arm fatigue from holding a monocular up to your eye.

The magnification level of your telescopic eyeglasses can also be customized based on your vision and lifestyle. Your eye doctor will talk with you to determine which activities you value most. Maybe you love going to football games, attending theater performances or taking nature hikes. Telescopic lenses can make all those activities so much more enjoyable.

Loss of distance vision can be isolating. By allowing patients to enjoy their favorite activities again, telescopic eyeglasses can also promote improved mental and emotional health.

If you know someone frustrated by low vision, North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care may be able help. Dr. Christa Morris received special training in low vision at Nova Southeastern University, and conducts low vision clinics twice each month. Contact us today at 352-373-4300 to schedule your consultation.

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