A Clearer View

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

Sleeping with Contact Lenses Poses Serious Risks

by Damion Wasylow 17 October 2019 00:48 AM

woman putting in her contact lens
Nearly 45 million people in the United States wear contact lenses for vision correction. When used as directed, contacts are a safe and effective option that offer wearers unparalleled lifestyle flexibility. Unfortunately, studies show 40% to 90% of contact lens wearers do not properly follow care instructions, even sleeping with their contacts in, placing them at serious risk for dangerous infections and blinding ulcers. 

When you sleep with contact lenses in your eyes, your risk of corneal infection increases tenfold. That’s crucial enough to restate…you are TEN TIMES more likely to suffer an infection of your cornea if you wear your contacts while you sleep overnight.

The cornea – the eye's clear, protective outer layer – is a living, breathing tissue. In fact, it’s the only part of the body that receives oxygen directly from environmental air instead of through the body’s bloodstream. Without sufficient oxygen, corneal cells break down, making it easier for bacteria and viruses to infect the eye.

Wearing contact lenses limits the amount of oxygen available to corneal cells. When worn as directed during waking hours, the reduction is manageable and considered safe. When you then sleep with your contacts in, however, your closed eyelids further limit oxygen exposure for an extended period, and cells can begin to die. 

“The excess risks of developing corneal infection with overnight wear of contact lenses has been recognized for many years,” explains Dr. Oliver Schein, professor of ophthalmology, and vice-chair for quality and safety with the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University. 

Dr. Schein also points out that wearing contact lenses overnight reduces tear production, increases temperature and elevates humidity while trapping microbes against the eye surface, a recipe for germ growth and, “microtrauma to the surface of the cornea.”

At North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care, we’ve seen the results firsthand. Just last week, a patient visited our practice complaining of sore eyes and poor vision after wearing her contact lenses too long. Upon evaluation, we determined that over-wear of her contacts resulted in serious damage to her corneas, requiring a delicate surgical procedure. Thankfully, our own Dr. Matthew Gray is a corneal specialist. Dr. Gray performed the surgery a few days later and the patient is now on the road to recovery.

If you’re considering contact lenses for your vision correction, are interested in a new contact lens prescription or need treatment for any contact lens-related issues, call North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care today at 352-373-4300. Our talented team of opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists are here to provide the guidance and care you need to improve your vision and keep your eyes healthy for years to come.

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Are Vision Problems Limiting Your Child’s Learning?

by Damion Wasylow 9 August 2019 13:18 PM

child not engaged in the classroom
One of the most common contributors to children’s struggles in the classroom is undiagnosed vision problems. Poor vision can make learning extremely stressful and frustrating, leading children to withdraw, act out or give up entirely. 

According to the National Institutes of Health, one in five U.S. preschoolers have vision problems, and one in four will need or wear corrective lenses by the time they enter school. 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.

When you consider that the vast majority of what a child learns in school is through visually presented information – in books, on screens, on the blackboard, through demonstrations, etc. – the magnitude of the problem becomes clear. Imagine trying to take notes without being able to quickly change visual focus from the teacher to the paper in front of you. Think how hard it would be to absorb concepts while fighting through double vision.

Many parents mistakenly believe that if a child is having difficulty seeing, they’ll say something, but according to Dr. Michael Earley, associate dean of academic affairs at The Ohio State University, that’s not the case. "Kids don't say anything,” explains Dr. Earley. “Kids don't know what their vision is supposed to look like. They don't volunteer these things or complain, which is why we have to do a comprehensive eye exam.”

And school vision screenings do little to help. In fact, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force found that school vision screenings miss on identifying up to 75 percent of children with vision problems. Even when problems are identified, the same research found that 61 percent never follow up with an eye doctor. This is why it is so important to get your child a comprehensive eye exam from a local eye doctor leading into the school year.

You should also watch closely for these symptoms throughout the year:

  • Headaches and eye strain
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Dislike or avoidance of reading and close work
  • Short attention span during visual tasks
  • Covers one eye frequently
  • Relies on finger as a reading guide
  • Reads slowly or has poor reading comprehension 

If you have any reason to suspect your child may have an undiagnosed vision problem, or if you just want to ensure your child’s eyes are as healthy as they should be, contact North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care today. We’re experts at diagnosing and treating all forms of children’s vision problems, so your son or daughter can have the best shot at classroom success. Call us at 352-373-4300 or just stop by one of our two convenient optical locations in Gainesville.

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What are the Most Common Eye Disorders?

by Damion Wasylow 2 August 2019 08:14 AM

three generations of women smiling in glasses
Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults have some degree of vision loss. Of those, seven million are legally blind. While dozens of diseases and disorders can affect the eyes, the majority of vision problems can be attributed to these five conditions…

Refractive Errors

Refractive errors, including nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism, are the most common causes of vision loss. Refractive errors occur when light is improperly bent (or “refracted”) while passing through the cornea. This produces a flawed image. Thankfully, refractive errors are correctable with eyeglasses, contact lenses or surgery. Scheduling a comprehensive eye exam at an optical shop near you is the first step.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

The leading cause of vision loss in adults over the age of 60, Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) results from thinning of the macula, a component of the retina. With AMD, central vision is adversely impacted, reducing one’s ability to make out fine details. Over time, complete loss of central vision is possible. Early diagnosis and treatment can slow the progress of AMD, so regular eye exams are critical, particularly as you get older

Cataracts

Cataracts can develop in one eye or both. As they do, vision gradually gets worse. Cataract symptoms usually include cloudy or blurred vision, double vision, lens discoloration, light sensitivity, glare and halos. Without surgery, cataracts eventually lead to total blindness. Thankfully, cataract surgery has an extremely high success rate – 98% or higher for the more than three million cataract surgeries performed in the U.S. each year.

Diabetic Retinopathy

People with diabetes are susceptible to diabetic retinopathy, a condition that occurs when high blood sugar levels damage blood vessels in the retina. This initially allows fluid to leak within the eye. Later, swelling and scar tissue can cause the retina to detach, resulting in irreversible vision loss. Regular eye health monitoring can help spot warning signs so you can make healthy choices.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma usually results from elevated eye pressure, which damages the optic nerve. That damage prevents proper transfer of visual information from the eye to the brain. Depending on the type of glaucoma (open-angle, or normal-tension or low-tension), symptoms can include gradual loss of peripheral vision, tunnel vision, severe eye pain, nausea and vomiting, blurred vision, halos and red eyes. Like several of the conditions outlined above, early diagnosis is the key to slowing the conditions progress in order to maintain vision.

If you have symptoms of vision loss, or if you just haven’t been to the eye doctor in a while, contact North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care today at 352-373-4300. Our team of opticians and ophthalmologists can evaluate your overall eye health and, if necessary, prescribe glasses or contacts, perform corrective eye surgery or make recommendations to help you maintain your vision. We’re here to help you see clearly.

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Your Eye Health: The Dangers of UV Rays

by Damion Wasylow 22 July 2019 12:23 PM

dad and daughter wearing sunglasses at the beach
By now, most people know that overexposure to the Sun can result in serious skin damage and even skin cancer. What you may not know, however, is that those same ultraviolet (UV) rays can lead to severe eye damage. Cataracts, corneal sunburn and macular degeneration are just a few conditions that can be initiated or worsened by UV exposure.

UV Safety Month is a national public awareness campaign that reminds us all to make healthy choices. In support, we offer these crucial tips to help you protect your eyes this summer and beyond.

Select and Wear Sunglasses with UV Protection

Not all sunglasses are made the same. Some offer very little UV protection. To adequately shield your eyes, always look for sunglasses that filter 100% of both UV-A and UV-B rays. These will typically be labeled either “UV400” or “100% UV protection.” Even with that label, however, you should be vigilant to evaluate the quality. Cheaply made sunglasses may boast a UV400 rating, but only offer a superficial film that can quickly wear off with cleaning. For a wide variety of sunglasses that look great and offer reliable UV protection, a local optical shop is usually your best bet.

Limit Your Exposure

Even while wearing UV blocking sunglasses, it’s important to keep your eyes additionally shielded from the Sun. UV rays have a way of seeping in around the edges of sunglasses and causing damage. A wide brimmed hat is an excellent second layer of defense. If you’ll be outside for an extended period – watching sports or lounging by the pool, for example, take advantage of a tent of umbrella. Whatever you do, never look directly at the Sun. And don’t get a false sense of security from the presence of clouds. UV rays pass right through.

Choose Your Outdoors Time Wisely

UV rays are generally strongest from 10am-4pm in late spring and early summer and during daylight savings time. Planning outdoor events earlier or later in the day will help limit your UV exposure. You should also keep an eye on your local weather forecast for an expectation of the day’s Ultraviolet (UV) Index in your area. The UV Index uses a 0-11+ scale (with zero being the lowest and 11 or more being the highest) to describe the day's likely levels of UV ray exposure. Days with a rating of 7 or higher may be best spent indoors.

At North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care, we offer a variety of stylish, UV-protectant sunglasses for the whole family – prescription and non-prescription. Stop by one of our convenient Gainesville optical shops (NW 8th Avenue and 43rd Street or Tioga Town Center) today, or call us at 352-373-4300.

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How to Know When it’s Time for New Eyeglasses

by Damion Wasylow 7 July 2019 12:14 PM

handsome man in stylish glasses
Some people get really attached to their eyeglasses. Or at least it seems that way. They’ll hold on to the same pair of glasses for years and years, even as those glasses stop delivering the same level of vision improvement. Perhaps they don’t know a new eyeglass prescription could offer renewed vision, or maybe they just don’t the signs that point to the need for new eyeglasses.

Headaches

Wearing glasses with an out-of-date prescription can cause headaches due to eyestrain. More frequent headaches, particularly during or after extended periods of wearing your glasses, is a common sign you should see your local eye doctor.

Squinting

Squinting can be a clear indication that your glasses are no longer working as they should. It’s your body’s way of trying to improve focus by reducing the amount of light entering the eye. Proper eyeglasses should make this unnecessary.

Eye Fatigue

Recurring eye fatigue results when the muscles and components of the eye work overly hard to compensate for vision challenges. The right pair of new prescription eyeglasses can help alleviate eye fatigue almost immediately.

Blurred Vision

As obvious as it may seem, blurry vision is the most common sign that it’s time to see your eye doctor for new glasses. It’s also the most commonly overlooked sign. Some glasses wearers mistakenly accept a little bit of a blur as part of aging, when an updated eyeglass prescription could quickly bring life back into focus.

Damaged Lenses

Even the toughest eyeglass lenses inevitably get damaged. Scratches and scuffs can obscure your vision. UV protection and other coatings may break down over time, and become hazy and difficult to clean. 

If you’re getting regular comprehensive eye exams, as experts and healthcare professionals recommend, your eye doctor will help you identify when it’s time for a new eyeglass prescription. 

If you haven’t had an exam in a while, or you’re experiencing any of the symptoms described above, contact North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care today. Our team of optometrists and licensed opticians can evaluate your vision, provide the right prescription and fit you for a new pair of glasses – all in one place. Our in-house optical shops feature state-of-the-art frames to fit every style and budget. 

Call us today at 352-373-4300 to schedule your exam.

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Cataract Awareness Month Shines Light on Leading Cause of Blindness

by Damion Wasylow 5 June 2019 07:17 AM

attractive elderly mother and adult daughter outside
More than 20 million Americans over the age of 40 have cataracts, a condition that can lead to blindness, but few people understand the causes, symptoms and available treatment options. That’s why Prevent Blindness America declared June as Cataract Awareness Month. By bringing attention to this devastating – yet curable – disorder, healthcare professionals and advocates hope more people will make smart eye health choices and seek treatment to restore their vision. 

What are cataracts?

A cataract is a clouding of the eye lens resulting from a build up of naturally occurring proteins. It prevents light from being properly focused onto the retina, causing visual impairment or even blindness. Cataracts can occur in one or both eyes, and the damage is permanent, requiring surgery to correct.

What causes cataracts?

The primary cause of cataracts is aging. As we get older, the eye lens thickens, making it less transparent. By age 80, 50% of people have some level of cataract development. Cataracts can, however, develop much earlier in life. It’s even possible for babies to be born with cataracts. Genetics, over-exposure to sunlight, smoking, heavy alcohol use and certain medications can increase your risk. 

What are the symptoms of cataracts?

The most common cataract symptom is cloudy or blurred vision. It may only impact a small area of vision at first, but will eventually overtake the patient’s entire field of view. Double vision, light sensitivity, glare and halos are also common. The symptom most people associate with cataracts is lens discoloration. Cataracts can cause colors to dull or be distorted, as if there is a brown or yellow film over the eye.

How are cataracts diagnosed?

When cataract symptoms are identified, your optometrist or ophthalmologist will take a medical history and perform a series of eye tests to diagnose your cataracts. These tests often include a visual acuity test to identify signs of impairment, a slit-lamp test to detect tiny irregularities in the other structures at the front of your eye and a retinal exam to inspect the retina for signs of cataracts.

How are cataracts treated?

Surgery is the only effective treatment for cataracts. The damaged lens must be surgically replaced with an artificial lens. Effective cataract surgery – whether traditional or laser-assisted – can permanently restore the patient’s vision. Cataract surgery is one of the most common and safest medical procedures in the U.S. Approximately 3 million Americans per year have cataract surgery with 99.5% experiencing minor or no postoperative complications, according to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If you or someone you love may have cataracts, contact North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care today at 352-373-4300 to schedule a consultation. We’ll evaluate your symptoms, diagnose the root cause and recommend a treatment plan that’s right for you. Call us today.

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Where Can I Find a Cataract Surgeon?

by Damion Wasylow 24 May 2019 05:28 AM

woman looking at her phone in the kitchen
Selecting the best eye surgeon
for your cataract surgery often requires a little bit of homework, but that effort is well worth your time. No two cataract surgeons are the same. You’ll want to find one with extensive experience, the best surgical technology and a reputation for treating patients with honesty and compassion. So, where can you start?

Talk to Your Optometrist

While your optometrist may be able to diagnose cataracts, only an ophthalmologist is qualified to perform cataract surgery. Through the years, your eye doctor has likely referred numerous patients to a variety of local cataract surgeons. They will have a really good sense of which ophthalmologists delivered successful surgeries and great patient experiences.

Search Online for Local Cataract Surgeons

Performing searches online for terms like “cataract surgeons near me” or “north florida cataract surgeon” will reveal links to a number of local cataract surgeons’ websites. Often, a physician’s character is reflected by his practice’s website. Take some time to explore a handful of sites. Is it helpful? Compassionate? Does it provide insight into the surgeon’s background and the types of cataract surgery he performs? Once you feel good about what you’re seeing online, call to schedule an in-person consultation

Read Testimonials

There’s no substitute for hearing directly from someone who has already traveled the road that lies ahead of you. Patients whose vision has been permanently restored through cataract surgery often have glowing things to say. WCJB TV20 interviewed North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision care patient Sally Thompson, who said of the experience, “It’s the easiest thing you could ever imagine. I’ve had more pain with a paper cut. I had the surgery in the morning. I was out by noon. I went home and took an hour nap and I went back to work. I worked until 5:30 that day." 

If you’re ready to explore your cataract surgery options, we invite you to contact North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care at 352-373-4300. Dr. Gregory Snodgrass is among the region’s most experienced cataract surgeons, with more than 20,000 successful cataract surgeries to his credit. He was also the first local eye surgeon to use the state-of-the-art LenSx laser cataract system.

Schedule your consultation today.

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Healthy Vision Month Highlights Importance of Regular Eye Exams

by Damion Wasylow 23 May 2019 13:39 PM

young woman making a heart shape with her hands
By now, most people appreciate the value of maintaining a healthy body, understanding that when our bodies are strong, we tend to look better, feel better and perform better. Too often overlooked, however, is the importance of eye health. Your eyes are your windows to the world, and without proper care, they could be ailing without you even knowing it. That’s why, in 2003, the National Eye Institute (NEI) established May as Healthy Vision Month. 

Healthy Vision Month is a reminder for all of us to take better care of our eyes. From using proper eyewear during potentially dangerous activities to eating a diet rich in eye-healthy nutrients, there are several steps you can take today to ensure your eyes are on the right path to deliver optimum vision throughout your life. And it all starts with getting regular comprehensive eye exams.

5 Ways to Protect and Improve Your Eye Health

1. Get an Eye Exam

Half of all Americans have vision problems, many of which are undiagnosed. The most effective way to identify these eye health issues is through a comprehensive eye exam. During a comprehensive exam, your eye doctor will evaluate everything from peripheral vision and pupillary response to eye muscle strength and eye pressure, among other things. This can reveal most eye health issues. 

2. Use Protective Eyewear

Eye injuries are a major cause of blindness among adults and the leading cause of blindness for U.S. children. On the job or on the playing field, protective eyewear is a must when participating in any potentially dangerous activity. Safety glasses, goggles, safety shields and the like can go a long way towards protecting your eyes from injury.

3. Wear Sunglasses

The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause serious damage to unprotected eyes. Your eyes can even get sunburned. Exposure to sunlight also increases your risk of cataracts, retina damage and growths on or around the eye. Quality UV-blocking sunglasses are your first line of defense. Select sunglasses that block out 99-100% of both UV-A and UV-B radiation and 75-90% of visible light. 

4. Eat Well

Nutrition plays an critical role in keeping your eyes healthy and working well. Several foods, including leafy greens like kale and spinach, oily fish like tuna and salmon, nuts, beans, citrus and berries have key nutrients that promote eye health. And, of course, carrots are also a great source. The beta-carotene in carrots helps prevent cataracts, macular degeneration, blindness and more.

5. Don’t Smoke

Smoking increases your risk for a variety of eye diseases, including cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma and more. It also increases your chances of developing diabetic retinopathy and uveitis, a condition affecting the middle layer of the eye. Smoking can also make dry eye symptoms worse.

Do your eyes a favor during Healthy Vision Month by contacting North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care to schedule a comprehensive eye exam. Our talented eye physicians will evaluate your overall eye health and identify any issues you should be aware of today or looking ahead to the future.

Call our practice today at 352-373-4300.

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Nearsighted, Farsighted, What’s the Difference?

by Damion Wasylow 11 May 2019 12:58 PM

woman seen through glasses she's putting on someone else
If you wear glasses, you’re probably quite familiar with the difference between nearsightedness and farsightedness. These conditions are among the most common vision problems in the U.S. and the world. For those experiencing vision challenges for the first time, however, nearsightedness and farsightedness are easily confused. So, which is which, and what can be done to correct the conditions? 

Nearsightedness

Also known as myopia, nearsightedness is characterized by difficulty clearly seeing objects that are far away. That might seem counterintuitive, so you can remember it this way…if you are nearsighted, you CAN clearly see things that are NEAR

Nearsightedness is a type of refractive error. That means your eye shape does not bend light appropriately. With nearsightedness, instead of light focusing correctly on your retina, it focuses in front of the retina, resulting in a blurred image.

Nearsightedness is typically genetic and usually diagnosed through an eye exam during childhood. It often progresses substantially as the body grows rapidly through early adolescence.

Prescription glasses or contact lenses are the most common treatments for nearsightedness. Expertly crafted lenses from your optician help to better focus light on the appropriate part of the retina. Lens prescriptions vary greatly, and are commonly represented by a negative number. The more negative the number, the stronger the lenses that are required to correct your vision. 

Surgery can also correct nearsightedness for many patients, and may offer lifelong vision improvement.

Farsightedness

Also known as hyperopia, farsightedness is less common than nearsightedness, but still among the most frequently diagnosed vision problems in the U.S. People who are farsighted have trouble seeing things that are near them. In other words… if you are farsighted, you CAN clearly see things that are FAR AWAY

Like nearsightedness, farsightedness is a refractive error. In this case, it’s generally the result of either your eyeball being shorter than normal or your cornea being curved too little. 

As a refractive error, farsightedness is also treated with either corrective lenses or surgery. Your farsightedness lens prescription will feature a positive number. The bigger that number, the more powerful the required lens. 

If your vision is blurred or you experience double vision, haziness, glare, halos, eye strain or recurring headaches, contact North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care today to schedule a comprehensive eye exam. We’ll diagnose the cause of your vision problem and recommend treatment options to dramatically improve your vision.

Call us today at 352-373-4300.

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When is the Right Time for an Eye Exam?

by Damion Wasylow 11 May 2019 12:45 PM

young man getting an eye exam from his optometrist
If you’ve never been diagnosed with vision problems, you likely assume your eyes are in great shape. What you may not notice, however, are small vision problems that inevitably get worse over time. Undetected and untreated, your eyes strain to overcome those minor challenges. Before you know it, the problems grow substantially worse and your quality of life suffers. That’s why it’s critical to get regular eye exams.

According to a study by the National Eye Institute (NEI), half of all Americans have some sort of vision problem. By analyzing data on 12,000 people aged 20 and older, NEI researchers found more than one-third were nearsighted, more than one-third had astigmatism and nearly four-percent were farsighted. For your long-term eye health, it’s important to find out sooner rather than later if you’re also among that group. 

The best way to determine your eye health is through a comprehensive eye exam. These exams, which are administered at your local eye doctor’s practice, are much more inclusive than standard vision screenings. Vision screenings generally consider only visual acuity and often miss more substantial yet less obvious vision challenges.

A comprehensive eye exam reviews everything from peripheral vision and pupillary response to eye muscle strength and eye pressure, among other things. This can reveal most eye health issues, as well as a number of undiagnosed health concerns throughout the body. In some cases, brain tumors, diabetes, high cholesterol and more can be initially detected through an eye exam.

Even if you don’t have apparent vision loss or symptoms of eye disease, The Mayo Clinic recommends the following schedule for regular eye exams:

Children under 5 years old

First comprehensive exam between three and five years old, unless your child’s pediatrician notices obvious symptoms earlier 

Older children and teens

Prior to starting first grade, then every one to two years

Adults

Assuming no obvious symptoms of vision impairment, every five to 10 years in your 20’s, every two to four years in your 40’s to mid-50’s, every one to three years in your mid-50’s to mid-60’s, every one to two years after that

If you notice vision challenges at any age, of course, schedule an eye exam right away. And if you have known problems or a family history of eye disease, you should be on a more frequent eye exam schedule. In these instances, you should have an exam at least once per year.

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

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