A Clearer View

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

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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What to Do When Your Glasses Stop Working

by Damion Wasylow 7 May 2018 14:29 PM

woman extending a pair of eyeglasses towards the camera
If you have vision challenges, your eyeglasses are arguably the most important thing you put on each day. Depending on your level of impairment, being without your glasses could prevent you from reading, limit your ability to discern faces or impact your ability to drive or even walk down the street safely. Nearly as bad as losing your eyeglasses is when your existing eyeglasses stop providing adequate vision improvement. If this happens to you, follow these three steps to see clearly again.

Step 1: Clean your eyeglasses

When your eyeglasses don’t work as well as they once did, it’s highly possible it’s just a case of dirty lenses. Few people clean their eyeglasses as often or as thoroughly as they should. Eyeglass lenses collect dust and debris from the air and bacteria and oil form your skin. Proper daily cleaning is recommended.

To clean your eyeglass lenses safely and effectively, start by washing and drying your hands. Then, rinse your glasses with warm water. Next, use your fingers to gently rub the lenses with a drop or two of dishwashing liquid. Rinse the lenses, and carefully dry them with a clean, lint-free towel.

Be sure to inspect your lenses for any remaining dirt or smudges, as well as scratches. Excessive scratches can also diminish the effectiveness of your eyeglasses.

Step 2: Get an eye exam

If, after a thorough cleaning, your eyeglasses still aren’t performing as expected, your next step should be calling your eye doctor to schedule a comprehensive exam. It’s possible that your eyes have changed since your last appointment, requiring a new lens prescription to normalize your vision.

It’s also possible that something completely new is happening with your eyes. While most patients initially get eyeglasses to address nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism, many diseases can impact visual acuity.

Glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and cataracts are just a few common eye conditions that can limit or negate the effectiveness of your eyeglasses. You are more likely to experience these diseases as you age. A comprehensive eye exam from an experienced ophthalmologist or optometrist can lead to diagnosis and treatment of these conditions, along with a new eyeglasses prescription. 

Step 3: Schedule regular exams

The best way to identify, treat and limit potential problems is through regular, recurring eye exams. Be sure to schedule your next appointment before leaving your current one. With your glasses working well again and no obvious symptoms of new vision problems, it will be easy to forget to schedule your next exam in a timely manner. That could put you at unnecessary risk of letting an eye disease go unnoticed when early detection could have slowed its progress.

The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends an eye exam every two years for adults ages 18 to 60, and annual exams for people ages 61 and older.

If your eyeglasses just don’t seem to work as well as they once did, now is the time to contact North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care for a comprehensive eye exam. Call us today at 352-373-4300 to schedule an appointment at any one of our three convenient locations.

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What’s the Definition of Legally Blind?

by Damion Wasylow 7 May 2018 14:15 PM

woman taking vision test by reading exam poster
Legally blind is a term that is often misunderstood and misused. Many people believe a person who is legally blind has no sight at all, but the truth is, a legally blind person may be able to see well enough to read this article...although they will likely need to zoom in quite a bit.

An estimated 1.1 million Americans are legally blind, a designation government agencies use when evaluating who gets certain disability and other benefits. According to current government standards, any person whose vision is below 20/200 is legally blind. 20/200 vision means the person must be within 20 feet in order to clearly see what a person with normal vision sees at 200 feet.

The government also considers someone legally blind if their visual field is 20 degrees or less, meaning they have a very narrow field of clear vision.

How is legal blindness tested?

Your eye doctor can perform a comprehensive eye exam to determine whether you qualify as legally blind. If you wear contact lenses or eyeglasses, your eyesight will also be measured while wearing these corrective lenses. To be considered legally blind, your vision will need to be 20/200 or worse while wearing your lenses, or you must meet the visual field criteria. Your doctor will also need to be able to show that this condition has been present for 12 months or more or that it is likely to continue for at least 12 months.

What can lead to legal blindness?

Any condition that can result in complete blindness may first cause legal blindness. These include congenital diseases passed down through genetics, physical traumas from accidents or injuries or any of a number of eye diseases.

Among the most common eye diseases that lead to legal blindness are diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Identified early, steps can be taken to slow the progression of these diseases, and in the case of cataracts, surgery can permanently correct the problem

Effects of legal blindness

Vision loss can be traumatic, especially the kind of extreme loss of sight defined as legal blindness. Depression and isolation from family and friends often accompany severe vision loss. The American Foundation for the Blind offers resources to help.

Being legally blind can also impact your ability to work in your chosen field, or to progress professionally. That’s part of the reason the U.S. Social Security Administration offers disability benefits to legally blind citizens. To apply for these benefits, you must first have an appropriate diagnosis from an ophthalmologist or optometrist.

Depending on the state in which you live, legal blindness may also impact your ability to legally drive. In Florida, the law requires minimum vision acuity of 20/70 or better in both eyes.

If you or someone you love is experiencing vision loss, take action today to preserve or extend the vision you have left. To schedule your eye exam, contact North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care today at 352-373-4300.

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Considering Contact Lenses? Here’s What You Should Know

by Damion Wasylow 6 April 2018 13:24 PM

woman with contact lens on her fingertip
People with vision challenges may choose contact lenses over eyeglasses for a variety of reasons. For some occupations and activities, contacts are simply easier to manage. Many contact wearers also find they see better with contacts due to the reduction in glare and distortions. And some people simply prefer the look.

If you’re considering contact lenses for your vision improvement, here are a few things you should know going into the process…

Soft Lenses vs Hard Lenses

One of the first choices you will make with your eye doctor is whether to go with soft or hard contact lenses.

Soft contacts are made out of light, flexible plastic infused with water to allow oxygen to flow through the lens. This helps keep your eye healthy, and makes the lens comfortable to wear for extended periods. Some brands can be worn for days without needing to be removed. Soft contacts are also very easy to put in, and tend to stay in place well. 

Some contact lens wearers prefer hard contacts for durability and ease of care and handling. Like soft contact lenses, today’s hard contacts also allow oxygen to pass through to the eyes. Hard contacts, however, are more susceptible to scratches and more easily shift positions from the center of your eye. 

Specialty Lenses

Like eyeglasses, contact lenses are available in a variety of specialties. Multifocal contacts combine multiple prescriptions in a single lens to provide clear vision at all distances. Tinted contacts can improve contrast, compensate for color blindness or be used for cosmetic reasons. Hybrid lenses provide the best benefits of hard contacts with the flexibility of soft contacts. Talk to your eye doctor to determine if any of these specialties may be right for you. 

Lens Duration

Soft contacts may last up to a year. Hard contacts often last even longer. Disposable contacts, on the other hand, last as little as a single day to as long as two weeks. The viable duration of your contact lenses can be impacted by the quality of the lens material, your lifestyle and the overall health of your eyes. Your eye doctor will work with you to set a replacement schedule. 

Care and Maintenance

Whether you choose standard soft or hard contacts, you will need to follow some best practices to keep your eyes healthy and contact lenses in great shape. Always wash your hands with a mild soap and dry them with a lint-free towel before handling your contacts. Be sure to use contact lens solution, eye drops and cleaners recommended by your doctor, and never rinse your lenses with tap water. Just as important as cleaning your lenses is cleaning your contacts case. It should be cleaned well after every use, using either a sterile solution or hot water.

Eye Doctor Visits

For contact lens wearers, it’s especially important to visit the eye doctor at least once a year. Unlike glasses, contact lenses actually touch the surface of the eye, and to a degree, limit the amount of oxygen that makes it to the surface of the eye. Without regular monitoring this could impact eye health over time. 

If you are considering contact lenses for your vision correction needs, call North Florida Cataract and Vision Care today at 352-373-4300 to schedule a consultation. We have two convenient optical locations in Gainesville – on the corner of NW 8th Avenue and NW 43rd Street and in Tioga Town Center.

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Cataracts vs Macular Degeneration: Understanding the Difference

by Damion Wasylow 2 April 2018 13:36 PM

retired couple smiling closely
Many people are understandably confused about the difference between cataracts and macular degeneration. After all, you rarely need to know which is which until you or a loved one has to deal with one or both of these conditions. And, yes, you could experience both at the same time. 

To bring a little clarity to the subject, let’s compare the two eye diseases in three critical areas…

What are the Causes?

Cataracts: Proteins that make up the eye’s lens clump together, creating a cloudy area in the visual plane. Cataracts generally develop as a person ages and progressively get worse, although they can also occur in children and young adults, often as a result of genetic factors. Smoking, diabetes, traumatic injury, medications, UV exposure and alcohol can all be contributing factors. The number one cause, however, is simply aging.

Macular Degeneration: Aging is also the chief culprit when it comes to Macular Degeneration. In fact, in these instances, it’s known as Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD). With ARMD, the macula – the part of the retina responsible for central vision and fine details – begins to breakdown. The American Macular Degeneration Foundation lists smoking, being overweight and having high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease as contributing factors.

What are the Symptoms? 

Cataracts: Cloudy or blurred vision, double vision, light sensitivity, glare and halos and lens discoloration are all symptoms that could indicate cataracts. Cataract symptoms usually come on slowly. Often, patients simply attribute the gradual loss of vision to their eyes “getting old.” Diagnosis and treatment of cataracts can provide a path to improved vision for the rest of the patient’s life. 

Macular Degeneration: Like cataracts, ARMD symptoms often progress slowly. Vision blurs over time, particularly when trying to focus on objects close up. The biggest difference compared to cataract symptoms is likely the presence of dark areas in the center of the patient’s vision. They may also experience whited-out areas in their vision.

How is it Treated? 

Cataracts: Surgery is the only effective treatment option for cataracts. For vision to improve, the affected lens must be surgically removed and replaced with an intraocular lens implant. Today’s laser-assisted cataract surgery procedures allow most patients to see better before they even leave the recovery room. They often experience no pain and recover completely in hours or a few days. 

Macular Degeneration: Little can be done to improve the eyesight of a patient with Age-Related Macular Degeneration, but the speed of vision decline can be slowed with early detection and treatment. Understanding the disease, watching for symptoms and visiting your eye doctor for regular exams can help extend your vision quality. 

Cataracts and macular degeneration pose unique challenges for patients and their eye doctors. If you believe you are experiencing symptoms of either condition, please see you eye doctor as soon as possible. Early detection and diagnosis go a long way to improving your quality of life. 

Contact North Florida Cataract Specialist and Vision Care today by calling 352-373-4300 or contact us online. We will gladly answer all of your questions and work to find a treatment plan that matches your needs.

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3 Early Warning Signs of Age-Related Macular Degeneration

by Damion Wasylow 13 February 2018 12:37 PM

older man squints to read the newspaper
It’s no secret that as we age, parts of our bodies stop performing as well as they used to. But that doesn’t mean you should write off a loss of ability as, “just part of getting older.” Quite the contrary, there’s often much you can do if you recognize the early warning signs and take action. Such is the case with the vision loss that accompanies age-related macular degeneration (ARMD).

ARMD is a breakdown of the macula, the part of the eye that helps you see fine details. The exact cause of the condition isn't known, but as indicated by the name, age-related macular degeneration typically affects people more as they get older. Some patients experience symptoms in their 50s and 60s, and the likelihood increases dramatically as people enter their 70s and 80s.

Here are three warning signs to be aware of… 

Warning Sign 1: Blurred Vision

ARMD usually produces symptoms slowly. Your vision blurs over time, particularly when trying to focus on things close up. You may find you need more light for reading, or can’t quite make out the writing on a medicine bottle. Straight lines may also appear distorted and/or wavy. These symptoms continually get worse.

Warning Sign 2: Dark Areas in Your Central Vision

If you notice a blurred area or dark spot in the center of your vision, age-related macular degeneration may be to blame. Shadowy sections in the middle of your focal area are a strong indicator of ARMD. In some cases, the condition can also produce a whited-out area in your vision.

Warning Sign 3: You Just Celebrated Your 50th Birthday

If you’re 50 or older, it’s a good idea to have a comprehensive eye exam every 2-4 years, and with increasing frequency as you age, to help detect vision problems including ARMD. Your eye doctor can often detect early signs of macular degeneration before you experience symptoms.

While ARMD cannot be cured, when diagnosed early, you may be able to slow the progress of the condition by making smart lifestyle choices, so it’s important to watch for the warning signs, and see your eye doctor if you have any reason for concern.

At North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care, our physicians and staff diagnose a wide variety of vision issues, including ARMD. Contact us today at 352-373-4300 to schedule an appointment.

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Slowing the Progress of Age-Related Macular Degeneration

by Damion Wasylow 13 February 2018 12:28 PM

woman in glasses squinting to see phone screen
Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) slowly robs patients of their vision over time, eventually leading to blindness. In fact, ARMD is the leading cause of blindness in people 55 and over in developed countries, affecting more than 10 million people in the United States alone. 

Sadly, there is no cure for age-related macular degeneration, but you can take steps to slow the progress of ARMD, if you recognize the warning signs and are diagnosed early.

Quit Smoking

As if you needed one more reason to quit, right? Studies show smoking is the biggest modifiable risk factor for age-related macular degeneration. The chemicals in cigarette smoke can damage the retina, and activate the immune system, causing harmful inflammation.

Eat Right

Like all organs, the eyes are greatly impacted by the nutrients we put into our bodies. Antioxidants from fruits and vegetables, zinc from high-protein foods like beef and yogurt, and healthy unsaturated fats from olive oil, avocados, almond butter and the like can limit the progression of ARMD. Omega-3 fatty acids from salmon, tuna and walnuts also contribute to the fight.

Get Plenty of the Right Vitamins

If your diet doesn’t provide enough of the right vitamins, take a supplement. Studies show lutein and zeaxanthin play an important role in limiting ARMD symptoms. And the American Academy of Ophthalmology says, for patients at more advanced stages of macular degeneration, there’s a benefit in taking supplements that, in addition to lutein and zeaxanthin, include vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc oxide and cupric oxide.

Take Care of Your Total Health

Your body’s systems rely on each other for support. When one starts to fail, it often damages another. Keep your weight in check and exercise regularly to ensure your heart and blood pressure are in good shape, as these directly affect the blood vessels in your eyes.

If you’ve been diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration, you and your ophthalmologist will want to closely monitor the progression of your ARMD symptoms, so visit your eye doctor regularly.

In Gainesville, the physicians and staff at North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care are experts in the diagnosis of age-related macular degeneration. They will gladly evaluate your symptoms, answer questions and recommend the best steps to help you maintain your vision.

Contact us today at 352-373-4300 to schedule your consultation.

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Can Cataracts Cause Blindness?

by Damion Wasylow 6 February 2018 12:44 PM

blind man with seeing eye dog in the park
The development of cataracts can be quite scary. Vision degrades slowly over time. With each passing day, week and month, cataract symptoms worsen, and you lose visual clarity. If you or someone you love is currently experiencing this, you probably wonder if it will end at some point, or if you are destined to lose your vision completely.

The sad truth is that without treatment, cataracts inevitably lead to legal blindness and, eventually total blindness, in one or both eyes. The great news is that with effective treatment, the negative impacts of cataracts can be completely and permanently corrected.

Effective cataract treatment

The damage a cataract does to your eye lens is irreversible, as naturally occurring proteins within the eye lens clump together, creating clouded vision. As this continues over time, your vision gets worse. No form of medication or so-called cataract eye drops can correct these symptoms. Surgery to replace your eye lens with an artificial lens implant is the only effective treatment. 

Your surgical options

When you seek treatment from a local cataract eye surgeon, you will likely be presented with two options for your cataract surgery: traditional and laser-assisted. Many patients today choose laser-assisted for its numerous advantages over traditional cataract surgery. Laser-assisted cataract surgery uses advanced computer imaging to map and provide detailed measurements of the eye to the surgeon, making the procedure up to 10 times more precise. Laser-assisted surgery is also pain-free and leads to speedier recovery.

How to get started

Your first step is to schedule a consultation with an ophthalmologist. Dr. Gregory Snodgrass is a well known as one of the North Florida’s finest eye surgeons, having performed more than 20,000 cataract surgeries. Dr. Snodgrass and his team will perform a comprehensive eye exam including specialized cataract diagnosis. Together, you will then discuss the results, review any questions you may have and determine if now is the right time for surgery. 

Don’t let cataracts rob you or someone you love of the beautiful world around us. You don’t have to lose your sight forever. The most important step towards maintaining your vision is the first one. Contact North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care today to schedule your cataract consultation.

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Progressive Lenses vs. Bifocals – Which are Best for You?

by Damion Wasylow 6 February 2018 12:21 PM

man in glasses looks down at tablet computer
Many people start having difficulty focusing on close up objects some time after age 40. This age-related farsightedness usually results from presbyopia, a loss of eye lens elasticity. If you’re in this age group, you may find yourself extending your arms farther to read documents, or pushing your chair back from the computer to read small text on the screen. For people who already wear glasses to correct another vision problem, this new challenge requires a new set of lenses.

Bifocals

Invented by Benjamin Franklin, bifocal eyeglasses have been around for more than 200 years. The idea is simple, divide the overall lens to provide areas for two corrective prescriptions. The top section is generally used to allow the wearer to see objects clearly at a distance, while the lower section allows the wearer to see objects clearly close up. The dividing line between the two prescriptions is obvious within the lens, with the lower portion often shaped like a capital letter D turned on its belly.

Progressive Lenses

Progressive lenses (also referred to as no-line bifocals, no-line trifocals or vari-focals) are increasingly popular, and preferred over bifocals by most presbyopia patients. Progressives work on the same concept as bifocals, but without the concrete delineation between the prescriptions. Instead of looking and behaving like a lens wedged within another lens, progressives provide the wearer a gradual transition from seeing clearly at a distance to seeing clearly close up.

Pros and Cons

Many people prefer progressives over bifocals simply for the look, either feeling that wearing overtly multifocal lenses ages them, or simply disliking the lens-within-a-lens aesthetic. It is true, however, that some people have trouble adapting to progressive lenses, as they typically provide a narrower lens area for reading and computer work. Most other common concerns about progressive lenses can be avoided by working with experienced licensed opticians.

At North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care, our two convenient Gainesville optical shops are staffed by trained, licensed opticians, eager to answer your eyewear questions. Contact us today to schedule your comprehensive eye exam or walk-in anytime to check out our selection of designer eyeglass frames.

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