A Clearer View

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

The Value of Seeing a Licensed Optician

by dwasylow 16 December 2013 12:05 PM

At Gainesville Eye Physicians and Optical we are committed to delivering the highest quality of healthcare. That’s why we hire licensed opticians to treat patients in our optical department. Not every optical shop can claim that. In fact, most retail eyeglass outlets don’t employ licensed opticians. So, why is that important for your eye health?

Let’s begin with a definition. An optician is someone who interprets the prescriptions created by ophthalmologists or optometrists to produce contact lenses or eyeglasses. They often use a series of tests and technologies to determine how a patient can best benefit from the lenses and frames they select. These evaluations take into consideration both vision needs and lifestyle preferences.

Accurately translating the physician’s prescription into a set of lenses that address your vision needs is, of course, a critical step. It’s not uncommon for a patient to complain that an eye doctor inaccurately diagnosed their condition, when the breakdown actually occurred in the creation of the lenses.

Becoming a licensed optician requires a great deal of education, apprenticeship and testing. The State of Florida requires an optician to apprentice for 6250 hours before they can take the necessary tests to be licensed, some of these hours can be accounted for through a formal post-secondary educational program. Following this training, they take multiple board examinations to ensure their expertise.

Many retail optical shops put responsibility for your lenses in the hands of lesser-trained individuals. In fact, they may have no formal training beyond the company’s in-house instruction. This can result in glasses that fail to correct your vision problems and may even make them worse.

Gainesville Eye Physicians and Optical is blessed to have two of the best trained and best liked opticians in all of Florida, Mindy Tillman and Fagan Arouh, and they are both licensed. That means their education and skills surpass many others in our area.

When selecting someone to fill your eyeglass or contact lens prescription, remember to ask if he or she is a licensed optician. At Gainesville Eye Physicians and Optical, the answer will be yes.



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Best Practices for Eye Safety in the Workplace:

by dwasylow 26 November 2013 10:26 AM

It’s an unfortunate fact: work-related eye injuries happen. Can these injuries be avoided? Safety experts and eye doctors around the country say, yes. In fact, they believe 90 percent of eye injuries in the workplace could have been prevented with proper protection and safety habits.

It’s not surprising that many injuries come from industrial environments. On the job, our eyes are vulnerable to various hazards - projectiles, open chemicals and radiation in the form of UV and infrared light, just to name a few. High-risk jobs include:

  • Manufacturing
  • Carpentry
  • Electrical work
  • Auto repair
  • Plumbing
  • Welding
  • Maintenance
  • Mining

If you find yourself in one of these careers you’ll want to ask your employer to assess the work environment for eye safety. The employer can remove or reduce eye hazards where possible, and provide appropriate safety eyewear as well as require workers to use it.

You need to make sure you are using proper glasses, goggles, face shields or helmets specifically designed for your task. It’s the easiest and most effective way to keep your eyes safe.

If needed, your ophthalmologist or eyecare provider can assist your employer in determining potential eye hazards and evaluating the need for eye protection.

Do you work in an office job, and believe your eyes are pretty safe from hazards? Not so fast.

Office jobs where at least six hours per day is spent looking at some form of digital screen put eyes at risk as well. We subject ourselves to what is called digital eye strain.

We’re all familiar with the symptoms of digital eye strain:

  • Eye redness or irritation
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry eyes
  • General fatigue
  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Headaches

Fortunately these too can be avoided, or at least lessened. Increasing the font size on your screen, setting up an “eye-gonomically” friendly work station or even using computer eyewear can all dramatically reduce the effects of digital eye strain.

A report from The Vision Council provides tips for preventing digital eye strain by adjusting both internal and external factors while at the workplace.

External Factors:

  • Reduce glare – Adjust the brightness of your screen to match the appropriate light level. Wiping down your screen with a clean cloth every so often can also help reduce glare.
  • Make sure lights around you are dim – If your screen isn’t competing for brightness with overhead or surrounding lights, your eyes will be less strained. 
  • Distance is healthy – Keep enough space between your eyes and the screen. For best practice, you should be far enough away where you can extend your arm and comfortably high-five the screen with your palm; if you can’t fully extend your arm, you’re too close to the monitor.

Internal Factors:

  • Blink, blink, blink – In addition to keeping your eyes moist throughout the day – staring at a screen can really dry them out – blinking helps your eyes refocus every so often.
  • 20-20-20 – It’s recommended you take a 20 second break every 20 minutes, and during that break look at something 20 feet away. This will give your eyes a nice rest every so often. 
  • Consider special eyewear – First and foremost, check to see if your prescription is up to date for corrective lenses. This can help alleviate a lot of strain. There are also glasses specifically designed to reduce glare from digital screens – to achieve this special tints and coatings are applied directly to the lenses. They’re available in both prescription and non-prescription lenses.

No matter where we work, eye safety should be in the back of our minds. Eyes are windows to our world, and we should do everything we can to protect and keep them healthy.



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Warning Signs of Cataracts

by dwasylow 12 November 2013 04:00 AM

Like so many diseases, few people know the warning signs of cataracts, or what to do about them. Cataracts are cloudy areas in the lens of the eye. They prevent light from passing through the lens (or lenses if both eyes are affected) and, as they become progressively worse, can make the patient’s vision similar to looking through frosted glass.

Below are symptoms that may indicate you are developing cataracts.

Cloudy or blurred vision

Cataracts start off small, so only a minimal area of your vision is initially impacted. You may occasionally look a specific direction and notice a blurred spot. It’s fairly common for patients to brush off these early signs. That clouded area will eventually grow, however, and overtake your full vision.

Lens discoloration

Cataracts cause a discoloration of the lens that result in patients beginning to notice that colors aren’t as bright as they once were. It’s like looking at life through a yellow or brownish film. Blues and purples are especially hard for the patient to distinguish as cataracts progress.

Light sensitivity, glare and halos

Cataracts can cause sunlight and lamps to seem uncomfortably bright. They can also cause patients to see glare around these light sources. When driving at night, a person developing cataracts will often see halos around the headlights of oncoming traffic.

Double vision

Double vision in one eye is common in cataract patients. Oddly enough, this may improve as the cataract grows larger and covers a larger portion of the lens’s surface. This is a dangerous symptom because it can throw off a person’s balance, so it should be checked out immediately.

Temporarily improved near vision

As strange as it may sound, some farsighted patients experience short-term vision improvement due to the impact cataracts have on the shape of the lens. They may even be able to read without the assistance of glasses for a short time. The improvement is only temporary, however.

Changes in vision

As pointed out above, cataracts can dramatically change your vision as they progress. As a result, patients developing cataracts frequently need changes to their eyewear prescriptions. A trained optometrist or ophthalmologist should be able to quickly recognize this issue in a patient.          

Presence of the symptoms above – individually or in combination – does not necessarily mean a patient has cataracts. Some symptoms can result from other eye diseases. Contact Gainesville Eye Physicians and Optical for a comprehensive exam, diagnosis and treatment plan.



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Halloween Hazard: Colored Contact Lens Dangers

by Stephanie 19 October 2013 04:10 AM
Halloween is a popular time for people to use colored contact lenses to enhance their costumes.  From crimson vampire eyes to glow-in-the-dark lenses, costume contact lenses can add a spooky touch to your Halloween attire.  However, few people know the risks associated with these lenses.  Most people believe that decorative contact lenses do not require the same level of care or consideration as a standard contact lens because they can be purchased over the counter or online.  This assumption is far from the truth.

It is, in fact, illegal to sell colored contacts without a prescription in the United States.  All contact lenses are medical devices that require a prescription and proper fitting by an eyecare professional.  Retailers that sell contacts without a prescription are breaking the law, and could be fined up to $11,000 per violation.

Never buy contact lenses, costume or otherwise, from a retailer that does not ask for a prescription.  There is no such thing as a "one-size-fits-all" contact lens, and the lenses offered online or in novelty shops are most likely not approved by the FDA.  Lens that are not properly fit to your eye may scratch the cornea or cause other damage, even if worn only a few hours.  

To safely wear costume contact lenses for Halloween or any time of year, follow these guidelines:
  • Get an eye exam from a licensed eyecare professional who will measure each eye and instruct you regarding proper contact lens care.
  • Obtain a valid prescription that includes the brand name, lens measurements, and expiration date.
  • Purchase the colored contacts from an eye product retailer who asks for a prescription.
  • Never share contacts with another person.
  • Get follow up exams with your eyecare provider.
If you notice redness, swelling, discharge, pain or discomfort from wearing contact lenses, remove the lenses immediately and seek medical attention from your eyecare provider.



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Computers and Your Eyes

by Stephanie 12 October 2013 05:01 AM
Staring at your computer screen, smartphone, video game, or other digital devices for long periods won't cause permanent eye damage, but may cause your eyes to feel dry and tired.  Normally, humans blink about 18 times per  minute, but studies show we blink half that often while using computers and other digital screen devices.  Here are some tips to reduce eyestrain from computer use:
  • Sit about 25 inches from the computer screen and position the screen so your eye gaze is slightly downward.
  • Reduce glare from the screen by lighting the area properly; use a screen filter if necessary.
  • Every 20 minutes, shift your eyes to look at an object at least 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds (the 20-20-20 rule).
  • Use artificial tears intermittently to refresh your eyes when they feel dry.
  • Take regular breaks from computer work, and try to get enough sleep at night.  

If you have to be at your computer for an extended period of time, take regular rest breaks if possible.  If your eyes begin to feel irritated and tired, apply a washcloth soaked in warm water to your closed eyelids for a few minutes.  If you are a contact lens wearer, give your eyes a break and switch to glasses during a "marathon" computer session.



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Connection Between Glaucoma and Sleep Apnea?

by Stephanie 28 September 2013 03:41 AM
Over the years, studies have demonstrated an increased rate of glaucoma among people with sleep apnea, but these studies only proved that the sleep disorder was a marker for poor health in general.  However, new research from Taipai Medical University shows that sleep apnea itself is an independent risk factor for open-angle glaucoma.

The retrospective study took information from data collected across the population and found that those who had been diagnosed with sleep apnea were 1.67 times more likely to have open-angle glaucoma in the five years after diagnosis  than those without the sleep condition.

Glaucoma affects nearly 60 million people worldwide and is the second-leading cause of blindness.  If not treated, glaucoma reduces peripheral vision and eventually may cause blindness by damaging the optic nerve.  Half of the people who suffer from glaucoma are unaware of it, because the disease is painless and vision loss is typically gradual.

Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that blocks breathing during sleep for more than 100 million people worldwide.  In obstructive sleep apnea, the airway becomes blocked, causing breathing to stop for up to two minutes.  Symptoms include loud snoring, choking or gasping while sleeping, morning headaches and persistent sleepiness during the day.

The researchers hope the study will encourage doctors to mention the increased risk of glaucoma to patients with obstructive sleep apnea and recommend treatment for those who need it.  While the association between the two conditions is clear, the reasons for this connection is not yet understood.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends all adults get a baseline eye exam from an ophthalmologist by age 40, when early signs of disease and vision changes may start to occur.



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Smoking and Eye Health

by Stephanie 6 September 2013 01:10 AM
Avoiding or quitting smoking is one of the best investments you can make in your long-term eye health.  Smoking-even at a young age when your senior years seem far away- increases your future risks for cataracts and age related macular degeneration.  And the more a person smokes, the higher the risks.  The good news is that after people quit smoking, their risks for these eye diseases become almost as low as for people who never smoked.

Smoking also raises the risks for cardiovascular diseases that influence your eyes' health.  And tobacco smoke, including second-hand smoke, is an irritant that worsens dry eye syndrome, a very uncomfortable eye condition that is most common in post-menopausal females.

Smoking increases the risk of serious vision loss in people with other eye diseases.  And when women smoke during pregnancy they are more likely to give birth prematurely, putting their babies at higher risk for a potentially blinding disease called retinopathy of prematurity as well as other health problems.



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Cataract Surgery From the Patient's Perspective

by Stephanie 20 July 2013 06:45 AM
This blog post is an unedited account of a patient's cataract surgery experience:

"I Wish That I Had Not Waited So Long"

Dr. Marshall told me I was developing cataracts in both eyes during my annual appointment several years ago.  Dr. Marshall then told me that the cataracts had advanced to the point that the surgery would have to occur in the coming year during my appointment in October 2012.  I had by then noticed that the lighting in my home and office seemed to have dimmed and I was replacing bulbs with the strongest strength bulbs that the fixtures would safely burn.  I constantly thought the lenses in my glasses needed to be cleaned, I could no longer shoot my bow, I was running into the edges of tables, I was cutting my fingers in the kitchen, and I had suffered a series of falls.  The world in general was becoming a dim and narrow place with muted colors.  I had begun to have trouble driving at night by the end of February of this year so I knew that I simply had to find the time to have the surgical procedure.  I decided that Dr. Gregory Snodgrass was the surgeon that I wanted to operate on my eyes since Dr. Snodgrass is a surgeon with many years of experience with an excellent reputation and does a large number of these surgeries.  An added plus is that Dr. Snodgrass is a member of a practice that prides itself on individual patient attention.

I was fortunate enough to be scheduled for the April surgical schedule.  The pre-op preparation was simply incredible.  Two obviously well-trained and experienced med techs spent at least two hours independently measuring the specifications for my artificial lenses including talking with me together the better part of a half hour about the types of artificial lenses to assist me in making my choice of lens.  Your type of lens choice is pretty much a final choice.  I chose the type of lens that would give me crisp and sharp mid and far distance vision accepting the need for reading glasses since there would be a 20%-30% chance that I would need readers if I chose the multi-focal lens type.

The surgery itself is pretty much an anti-climax.  You are awake but medicated so that you are not in any way uncomfortable during the surgical procedures that I have an impression lasted only 15 or 20 minutes each.  Dr. Snodgrass works with an anesthetist (who insists that you call him Tim), who I think has ways to know if he needs to adjust your medication so that you remain comfortable.  The medication is administered through an IV placed on the top of the hand on the side of the eye that is being operated on that day.  A topical anesthetic is administered to the top of the hand before the IV is placed.  I was aware enough during the surgeries to realize that Dr. Snodgrass himself prepped my eyes for surgery.  The staff in the surgical suite even knew from the pre-op interview that I needed to have my left shoulder supported because an injury to the shoulder back when I was in high school makes it difficult for me to lie on my back.  I was home reading the newspaper by 9:30 a.m. and went to work the next day after both surgeries.  The time between the first and second surgery was the only difficult time in the whole process. You have one eye with crisp, sharp, bright and colorful 20/20 vision, you are wearing your old glasses with a lens trying to correct the vision in the other eye, and you find that you can hardly wait for the day of the second surgery.

As with any medical procedure, I was informed that there is a small risk of a bad result that becomes much lower if you use your three antibiotic and anti-inflammation prescription eye drops four times a day for a month and wear the special sunglasses that Dr. Snodgrass provides when out in direct sunlight for several weeks.  I was informed that the eye drops do have a brief stinging sensation with some patients and I was one of them but the sensation lasts just a moment.  The eye drops simply have to be used as prescribed.

It is hard to describe the joy that I felt when I walked out of my home the morning after the second surgery and saw the world again as it really is.  A real payoff came several mornings later when the weather had cleared and I went outside before daylight to pick up the newspaper.  I had forgotten that you can see craters on the face of the moon.

I regret that I waited so long to have Dr. Snodgrass fix my eyes and I am most grateful to Dr. Snodgrass and his staff for giving me my vision back.  There is no way that I can recover two years of gradually dimming and stumbling time in my life but you can avoid a similar loss if advised that you need a lens replaced.  Do not wait like I did.  Please contact Dr. Snodgrass' staff if you have any hesitation about the process or the surgery itself and the staff will put you in touch with me.  I will be happy to discuss the process with you.        

Phil D.



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Healthy Eyes During Pregnancy

by Stephanie 7 July 2013 11:55 AM
Eyes may change somewhat during pregnancy due to fluid retention, increased blood volume, fluctuation of hormones and other physical changes that are part of pregnancy.  Usually these changes are temporary and resolve after the baby is born, or after weaning a breast-fed child.  Vision changes tend to be minor and don't require a new eyeglass prescription.  LASIK or other refractive surgeries should not be performed when a woman is pregnant or breast-feeding.

A condition known as dry eye syndrome may result from hormonal fluctuations.  Talk to your eye physician about lubricating drops and other treatment options that are safe during pregnancy.  Wearing contact lenses may be uncomfortable when dry eye is present.  Eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, walnuts, and flax seeds, may help improve dry eye syndrome and also supports good overall health.

If your vision becomes very blurry, it may signal serious conditions such as high blood pressure or gestational diabetes.  If this occurs, you should contact your obstetrician immediately.



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Exercise Benefits Your Eyes and Vision

by Stephanie 23 May 2013 01:27 AM
It is already well known that 30 minutes of physical exercise daily can benefit your heart, your waistline and your energy level, but it can also do your eyes a world of good.  It's simple logic that your eyes would receive the same benefit that the rest of your body does when you exercise.  Many eye diseases are linked to other health problems, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol levels.  Exercise can help keep these problems under control and limit their impact.

Two recent studies have shown that people who exercise regularly were less likely to develop serious eye disease.  In one study, it was found that people who engaged in moderate physical exercise were 25 percent less likely to develop glaucoma than people who were largely inactive and lead a sedentary lifestyle.  In another study, researchers looked at the medical history of more than 3,800 people to see if there was a relationship between developing age-related macular degeneration and being physically inactive.  The scientists found that people who exercised three times a week were less likely to develop ARMD than people who didn't exercise.

If you already have a disease, exercise can help you manage it better.  For example, physical activity can help people with diabetes keep their disease under control.  That reduces the risk of complications, including diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of vision loss among working age adults.

The good news about exercise is that you don't have to be a marathon runner to reap the benefits.  Check out your local health and fitness club for a program that would fit your age and lifestyle.  Taking a brisk daily walk, climbing the stairs, and dancing are all great ways to get a good workout that will help you and your eyes stay healthy.



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