A Clearer View

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

Trouble Reading at 40? You’re Not Alone.

by Damion Wasylow 10 May 2021 02:58 AM

man straining to read laptop screen
It’s a common sign of getting older. Words that once looked crisp on the page or on the screen are suddenly blurry and hard to read. At first, you might write it off as poor lighting or tired eyes. Truth is, it’s likely your eyes are simply not what they used to be, and it may be time for your first pair of eyeglasses. 

Presbyopia at 40

Many people who have had perfect – or near-perfect – sight all their lives start experiencing vision problems in their 40s. The most common problem is with near vision, the ability to distinguish small, fine details close up. This inability to focus the eyes is called presbyopia, and it affects most people 40 and older.

As we age, the eye lenses become less flexible, which limits their ability to focus in on things close by. At first, this may lead you to hold books or your phone father away in order to read them. You may also experience eye strain or headaches after reading or focusing on small items close up for too long.

Diagnosing Presbyopia

Presbyopia is typically diagnosed through a comprehensive eye exam. The optometrist will perform a series of tests to determine your overall eye health, as well as your ability to see clearly at near, far and middle distances. With nearly 80% of people ages 45-55 having presbyopia, your eye doctor will be able to quickly recognize the signs and make the diagnosis.

Treating Presbyopia

The most common treatment for presbyopia is also the easiest – reading glasses. If your presbyopia is not too severe, over-the-counter reading glasses may be sufficient to allow you to read and see fine details normally again. More advanced presbyopia will likely require prescription eyeglasses

Contact lenses are also an option for many people with presbyopia. They can be just as effective as eyeglasses, while potentially providing a cosmetic or convenience factor you prefer. Of course, convenience is in the eye of the beholder. Some people find the recurring rituals of contact lens care to be burdensome. 

More aggressive treatments include refractive surgery, lens implants and corneal inlays. These types of surgical interventions require the talents of a specially trained ophthalmologist.

If you’re over 40 and starting to experience vision challenges, contact North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care to schedule your comprehensive eye exam. Call us today at 352-373-4300.

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Is Cataract Surgery Covered by Medicare?

by Damion Wasylow 29 April 2021 07:09 AM

medicare paperwork on desk
Medicare Part B
is frequently used to cover the majority of costs for both traditional and laser-assisted cataract surgery. Available to people 65 or older, younger people with disabilities, and people with End Stage Renal Disease, Medicare is an ideal means to pay for your cataract surgery.

Determining Medically Necessity

The first step in qualifying to use Medicare Part B to pay for your cataract surgery is having the procedure deemed “medically necessary” by your eye doctor. That just means that the severity of your cataract (or cataracts) interferes with your ability to perform normal daily activities. In early stages of development, your cataract condition may not rise to this level. Cataracts inevitably get worse with time, however, so your eye doctor will monitor the condition with you to determine when you reach the medically necessary threshold.

How Much of the Surgery Cost Does Medicare Cover?

Typically, Medicare pays 80% of the total cost for traditional cataract surgery. That includes preoperative exams, removing the cataract, implanting the lens, and postoperative exams. You must then pay the remaining 20% of the surgical cost out-of-pocket. 

If you elect to have laser-assisted cataract surgery, which is typically more expensive than traditional surgery, you will also be required to pay the difference in cost between the two procedures. Despite that added cost, many patients still opt for laser-assisted surgery due to the increased precision, faster, pain-free recovery, and improved long-term prognosis.

At North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care, we’ve provided state-of-the-art cataract surgery to literally thousands of patients who use Medicare. Our eye surgeons, Dr. Gregory Snodgrass and Dr. Matthew Gray, are specially-trained experts in cataract surgery. And our office staff will help make the Medicare paperwork easy, and payment options understandable, so you have one less thing to worry about.

To schedule your cataract consultation, contact our practice today by calling 352-373-4300.

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3 Steps You Can Take to Promote Eye Safety in Sports

by Damion Wasylow 31 March 2021 11:42 AM

little league baseball players sitting on the bench at a game
Data from the American Academy of Ophthalmology reveals more than 30,000 sports-related eye injuries are treated in U.S. emergency rooms each year. While one may be quick to associate many of these injuries with contact sports, like football, statistics show basketball, baseball and softball actually lead the list. Thankfully, up to 90% of these injuries can be prevented.

As you or your kids take to the field or the court this spring, a few simple precautions can go a long way to preserving your vision.

1. Wear Proper Safety Goggles

The eyes are delicate structures, prone to injury from most forms of contact. The ultimate way to protect them is with a physical barrier to prevent intrusion from any foreign object. Sports goggles come in a variety of shapes, sizes and styles, and feature impact-resistant lenses, often made of polycarbonate. They’re designed to fit snug to the face, preventing inadvertent contact with the eyes. Most sports goggles can be fitted with non-prescription or prescription lenses. While great for many sports, goggles are particularly important for basketball, where opponents’ fingers often make contact with the face while defending.

2. Use Helmets with Face Shields for Some Sports

High-speed projectiles and flailing sticks create unique risks in sports like baseball, softball, lacrosse and hockey. In these sports, goggles alone are often not enough. The blunt force of taking a speeding baseball or lacrosse stick to the face can shatter orbital bones and do irreparable harm to the eyes. For these sports, face shields (sometimes accompanied by goggles) should be standard equipment. Face shields are typically either built into helmets or they can be added. They are generally low-cost and provide substantial protection.

3. Guard Against UV Exposure

While traumatic injuries may pose the most obvious threat to eye safety, excessive exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can also have lasting negative impacts on vision. Long hours on a sunny practice or playing field can increase the risk of serious eye diseases, including eye cancers and cataracts. Whether you’re a participant or a spectator, if the sport takes place outdoors, it’s a good idea to wear sunglasses that provide 100 percent protection from UVA and UVB rays, the variations of ultraviolet rays that can be damaging to your eyes. Many sports goggles and shields come with UV protection, but check the label to be sure.

If you or someone you love enjoys participating in or watching sports in-person, now is the time to take these simple precautions to preserve your eye health. Talk to your optometrist to determine which equipment may be best for you.

To schedule your appointment to meet with an optometrist, contact North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision in Care today by calling 352-373-4300.

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Will Cataract Surgery Improve My Vision?

by Damion Wasylow 25 January 2021 11:10 AM

elderly man having his eyes examined
Successful cataract surgery can dramatically, and almost instantly, improve vision for people suffering from cataracts. It’s one of the most effective surgical procedures in the world, and once the surgery is complete, cataracts can never come back.

Here’s some valuable information you should know about cataracts and cataract surgery...

Cataract Symptoms

Cloudy or blurred vision is the most common cataract symptom. People with cataracts may also experience poor night vision, glare, light sensitivity, halos, double vision and/or “ghosting” around objects. Cataract-related lens discoloration can also make colors dull, as if looking through a brown or yellow film.

The Right Time for Surgery

In early stages, cataract symptoms may be light enough not to impact your quality of life. But cataracts always get worse over time, eventually leading to blindness. As cataract symptoms progress, they will begin to impact your quality of life. You’ll find it increasingly difficult to read, drive, watch TV, recognize faces and more. Ultimately, determining the right time for your cataract surgery should be based on evaluation of your symptoms and discussions with your eye doctor.

Cataract Surgery Procedure

Cataract surgery is one of the most common surgical procedures in the world and is recognized as safe and effective. Whether you and your ophthalmologist elect to go with traditional surgery or laser-assisted cataract surgery, the procedure is fundamentally similar.

The surgeon makes a small incision in the cornea (the eye's outermost lens). A probe is inserted through the incision and applies ultrasonic energy to break up the cataract-damaged lens into tiny pieces. Those pieces are then removed using suction. A second probe is then used to insert and position the new artificial lens implant.

Cataract Surgery Outcomes

Cataract surgeries performed in the U.S. have an overall success rate of 98% or higher, according to research by the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS). Recovery time and impacts vary some between traditional and laser-assisted cataract surgical procedures, with laser-assisted being preferred for most patients. Many laser-assisted cataract surgery patients report improved vision before even leaving the recovery room. By replacing the damaged natural lens with an artificial lens, both versions of the procedure provide a permanent fix for cataracts

If you or someone you love is experiencing cataract symptoms, contact North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care today at 352-373-4300. Drs. Gregory Snodgrass and Matthew Gray have performed thousands of successful cataract surgeries. The doctors and our entire staff would be honored to help you see clearly again, too.

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Over 40? A Glaucoma Exam May Prevent Blindness

by Damion Wasylow 12 January 2021 12:15 PM

woman in her 40s getting an eye exam
Glaucoma
is the world’s leading cause of irreversible blindness. Called “the silent thief of sight,” glaucoma often presents no symptoms at all until substantial and irreparable damage to the optic nerve has already occurred. Early diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma, however, can help protect your eyes against serious vision loss. And that starts with a comprehensive eye exam.

Regularly scheduled eye exams are always important for maintaining good eye health, and they become particularly critical at age 40. The Mayo Clinic recommends a comprehensive eye exam every two to four years for adults in their 40’s. The recommended frequency increases to every one to three years for people with identified glaucoma risk factors.

Glaucoma Risk Factors

While glaucoma can affect anyone, the following factors – alone or in combination – increase your likelihood of developing the condition.

  • Age 40 or older
  • African American, Hispanic or Asian heritage
  • Family history of glaucoma
  • High eye pressure
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Heart Disease
  • Being extremely nearsighted or farsighted
  • History of ocular injury or a certain type of eye surgery
  • Diabetes
  • Long-term steroids treatment

Diagnosing Glaucoma

Nearly three million people in the United States have glaucoma, and that number is expected to rise dramatically in coming years. Studies indicate that nearly half of people with glaucoma don’t even know they have it, due largely to the fact that up to 50% of optic nerve tissue needs to be damaged before vision changes are noticeable for the individual.

A comprehensive eye exam is critical for identifying and diagnosing glaucoma before symptoms are present. During the exam, your eye doctor will perform a series of tests to determine the overall quality of your vision, assess eye function and evaluate your complete eye health, including identifying any possible glaucoma development.

Glaucoma Treatment

While no treatment can reverse damage done to the optic nerve by glaucoma, treatment can slow or prevent further damage. Prescription eyedrops to reduce intraocular pressure are the most common treatment.

Laser treatments, such as argon laser trabeculoplasty and selective laser trabeculoplasty are often used to treat glaucoma in patients that do not respond well to drop therapy. Surgical procedures may also be recommended for patients with severe glaucoma. 

If you’re 40-years-old and have not had a comprehensive eye exam in recent years, do so now, especially if you have any specific risk factors for glaucoma. It just might save your vision. 

Contact North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care today at 352-373-4300 to schedule your appointment.

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Who Performs Cataract Surgery?

by Damion Wasylow 28 December 2020 11:09 AM

cataract surgery specialist dr gregory snodgrass
Cataract surgery is performed by an eye surgeon, known as an ophthalmologist, who is a medical doctor (M.D.) or osteopathic doctor (D.O.) with years of specialized training in all aspects of eye care.

Ophthalmologists differ from optometrists in both their abilities and training. Optometrists generally earn a four-year college degree followed by four years of optometry school. Becoming an ophthalmologist generally requires at least four additional years of post-graduate medical training beyond optometry school. With this further training, ophthalmologists are qualified for advanced eye disease treatment and surgical procedures. 

Cataract surgery is a subspecialty within ophthalmology, requiring specific training and continuing education to refine the surgeon’s skills and stay apprised of the latest developments.

North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care has two ophthalmologists on staff who specialize in cataract surgery.

Practice leader, Dr. Gregory Snodgrass (pictured above), is known as one of the area's premier ophthalmologists, combining advanced skills, state-of-the-art technology and over twenty-five years of experience to provide his patients superior eye care.

Dr. Matthew Gray has extensive training and experience in managing routine and complex eye diseases, including cataracts. He was previously on faculty at University of Florida College of Medicine for several years, where he received multiple awards and honors.

Prior to surgery, Drs. Snodgrass and Gray consult with their patients to determine the best cataract surgery option for the patient’s individual needs.

With either traditional or laser-assisted cataract surgery, the basic structure of the procedure is similar. The surgeon creates a small incision in the eye surface. A probe is then inserted through the incision. Using ultrasonic energy (sound waves), the probe breaks the cataract-damaged eye lens into tiny pieces, which are then suctioned out. The surgeon then delicately inserts and positions a new intraocular lens implant. The entire procedure takes just a few minutes, and patients return home the same day. 

Laser-assisted surgery is often preferred due to its increased precision and faster recovery time. The procedure is also stitch-free and pain-free.

If you or someone you love is ready to explore surgery as a means to permanently correct cataracts, contact the ophthalmologists at North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care today. Drs. Snodgrass and Gray would be honored to assess your condition and discuss your treatment options. Call our office on NW 8th Avenue in Gainesville at 352-373-4300.

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Can Cataracts Be Treated Without Surgery?

by Damion Wasylow 18 November 2020 10:59 AM

retired woman wondering the answer to a question
You would be hard pressed to find anyone who looks forward to surgery, so people often search for alternatives. When it comes to cataracts, the need for surgery is based largely on your cataract’s stage of development and its impact on the quality of your daily life.

Early-Stage Cataracts May Not Require Surgery

In the early stages of development, cataracts produce symptoms that some people find livable, at least for a while. Cataract symptoms – including, cloudy or blurred vision, difficulty seeing in low light, glare, light sensitivity, faded colors and seeing halos around lights – can be minimal at first. Prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses may help to improve your vision at this stage. 

Cataract Symptoms Always Get Worse

Cataracts are progressive, meaning they get worse over time. Cataracts are caused by a breakdown of the proteins that make up the eye lens, most often related to aging, making the lens thicker and less transparent. This process cannot be reversed or paused. As the cataracts progress, patients experience more pronounced symptoms. Driving, reading, watching TV and more become difficult or impossible. Left untreated, cataracts can leave a person completely unable to see. 

Watch Out for False Cataract Remedies

In searching for alternatives to cataract surgery, some people fall victim to false claims of “cataract eye drops” that can dissolve away cataracts. Unfortunately, the science doesn’t support that. As explained above, cataracts are a breakdown of the proteins that make up the eye lens itself. The lens is irreparably damaged, not just coated with some substance that can be dissolved away.

Surgery is the Only Effective Cataract Treatment

The only effective way to treat cataracts is to surgically replace the damaged natural eye lens with an artificial lens implant. The surgery can be conducted using traditional surgical techniques or laser-assisted methods. Laser-assisted cataract surgery is pain-free, stitch-free and dramatically cuts down on recovery time. Best of all, after surgery, the cataract can never return. 

If you or someone you love is experiencing cataract symptoms, contact North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care to schedule an examination. Our ophthalmologists and eyecare team are leaders in the diagnosis and treatment of cataracts, leveraging decades of experience and the best technology to deliver reliable patient outcomes. Call us today at 352-373-4300.

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Can Cataracts Come Back After Surgery?

by Damion Wasylow 27 October 2020 00:48 AM

attractive retired couple smiling in the country
To effectively answer whether a patient can develop cataracts again after a successful cataract removal surgery, we must first understand what cataracts are, how they develop and how cataract surgery works.

A cataract is the clouding of the eye due to the breakdown and subsequent clumping together of naturally occurring proteins within the eye lens. The lens becomes hazy, preventing light from being properly focused onto the retina, resulting in cloudy or blurred vision. A patient may also experience double vision, light sensitivity, glare, halos and/or color distortion.

Cataracts most often occur as a natural result of aging. By age 80, 50% of people have some level of cataract development. Injuries, genetics, sunlight, alcohol, smoking and certain medications can also be contributing factors.

During cataract removal surgery, the cataract-damaged lens is completely removed from the eye and replaced with an artificial lens, called an intraocular lens implant. This new artificial lens cannot develop a cataract. That means the patient will never have a cataract in that eye again. If surgery is successfully performed on both eyes, the patient is guaranteed to remain cataract free for life.

Some people confuse “secondary cataracts” for the return of cataracts, but they are not the same. Secondary cataracts, also known as posterior capsule opacification, sometimes develop months or years after cataract surgery, as a side effect of the procedure.

With secondary cataracts, it’s not the eye lens that becomes clouded, rather it’s the thin membrane called the eye capsule that holds the lens in place. Clumping proteins on the back side of the capsule create a thin layer of scar-like tissue, producing symptoms very similar to cataracts. This occurs in up to 20% of patients who undergo cataract removal surgery.

Thankfully, treating secondary cataracts is relatively simple and completely painless, requiring just one in-office appointment. During the appointment, the ophthalmologist uses a specialized laser to make a small opening in the back side of the lens capsule. This allows lights to once again pass uninhibited to the retina, restoring normal vision function. After this correction, secondary cataracts are highly unlikely to ever require additional treatment.

If you’re considering cataract surgery, or believe you may be experiencing secondary cataracts, contact North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care today at 352-373-4300. Our experts can answer any questions you may have and will gladly schedule a consultation to discuss your specific vision needs.

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What Happens When You Have Diabetic Retinopathy?

by Damion Wasylow 26 October 2020 05:00 AM

ophthalmologist with eye anatomy model
Diabetic retinopathy is one of many health complications associated with diabetes. Over time, glucose buildup damages the small blood vessels in the retina, the light sensitive tissue that lines the inside of the eye. Those blood vessels then leak blood and fluid, leading to swelling of the retinal tissue. 

Symptoms

In early stages, diabetic retinopathy may produce no symptoms at all. As it progresses, patients experience floaters, blurred vision, blank or dark areas in their vision fields, poor night vision and diminished colors. Without effective treatment, diabetic retinopathy can lead to total blindness.

Stages

Diabetic retinopathy generally progresses through four stages. During the first two stages, known as mild and moderate nonproliferative retinopathy, increasing numbers of blood vessels in the eye swell and start to leak.

As swelling continues, the patient enters severe nonproliferative retinopathy, during which numerous blood vessels are blocked, preventing sufficient blood flow to the retina. In an attempt to counter this, the eye starts growing new blood vessels.

In the final stage, known as proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR), the fragile new blood vessels leak as well, and in higher concentrations. This resulting scar tissue causes the retina to separate from the tissue around it. This is known as retinal detachment, and it can lead to blindness.

Diagnosis

A standard comprehensive eye exam can identify diabetic retinopathy. Any known patient history of diabetes will make the eye doctor particularly attuned to watch for signs of retinopathy. The doctor looks for changes in the blood vessels, including any evidence of new blood vessel growth, as well as any sign of the retina being swollen or detached.

Additional testing may include fluorescein angiography, a dye test to highlight damaged blood vessels, and/or optical coherence tomography, an imaging exam that reveals the thickness of the retina. 

Treatment

While there is no cure for diabetic retinopathy, treatment can slow the disease’s impact on vision. That makes early diagnosis and treatment critical. Treatment often includes proper nutrition to control blood sugar and blood pressure, and medications to slow swelling. For more advanced cases, laser surgery may be applied to seal or shrink blood vessels. Retina surgery may also be necessary for advanced PDR.

If you have diabetes, contact North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care today at 352-373-4300 to schedule a comprehensive eye exam or to learn more about diabetic retinopathy treatment options.

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5 Common Household Items that Can Lead to Blindness

by Damion Wasylow 15 October 2020 11:32 AM

assorted household cleaners
While home is where we should feel safest of all, surprising dangers can potentially lead to serious injuries, including blindness. The typical household is host to numerous hazards that could negatively affect your vision. Awareness of these potential threats coupled with simple precautions can help reduce your family’s risks.

Here are five common household items that can lead to blindness…

Chemicals

If you were to count up all the cleaning solutions, detergents, polishes, stain removers, pest products, lawn treatments and automotive fluids in your home, you would find dozens of chemicals with hazardous implications. When improperly used or contacted, many of these chemicals can damage your eyes, and in some cases, cause blindness. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) says household products cause 125,000 eye injuries each year. Read labels carefully and follow instructions when using any household chemical.

Lawn Equipment

Lawn equipment is unforgiving when it comes to eye trauma. With sharp blades spinning at thousands of RPMs, lawn mowers can do direct harm and launch dangerous debris. One study estimated there are 3,300 lawn mower related eye injuries each year. The most common forms of resulting eye injury are hyphema – pooling of blood between the cornea and iris, angle recession – elevated eye pressure due to impaired drainage, and traumatic retinopathy – a form of retina damage. Untreated, all three can result in blindness. Ensure all lawn equipment is functioning properly before use and wear eye protection at all times.

Power Tools

Using power tools is another activity that puts your eyes at risk of flying debris. Sawing, drilling, sanding and grinding send wood and metal shavings speeding through the air. Depending on the size, shape and material of these particles, they can cause irritation at least, and at worst, serious eye trauma. The AAO’s Eye Injury Snapshot reported that 25% of eye injuries are due to home repair or power tools. Always wear proper eye protection to help keep your eyes safe.

Sports Equipment

Like the examples above, when it comes to sports equipment, the risk comes less from the equipment itself, and more from lack of precautions while using it. U.S. emergency rooms treat nearly 30,000 sports-related eye injuries each year. Baseball, hockey, lacrosse and racquet sports have relatively high rates of blunt trauma eye injuries, which among other impacts, can damage or detach the optic nerve, leading to permanent blindness. In basketball football and soccer, eye injuries often result from an inadvertent finger poke. This can cause blood to pool over the pupil or iris, again presenting a risk for blindness. Protective eyewear can prevent an estimated 90% of serious eye injuries.

Sparklers and Fireworks

While sparklers and fireworks may not be common items in the home year-round, they are a huge risk. Sparklers burn at roughly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, firing dangerous sparks in all directions. Fireworks send hot shrapnel hurling through the air. A study by the U.S. Consumer Protection Safety Commission found an estimated 15% of all sparkler and fireworks related injuries were to the eyes. 5% of these victims lose all functional vision. Children are particularly at risk, with children under 15-years-old accounting for 36% of all firework injuries. Sparklers and fireworks are always dangerous, but wearing eye protection can limit some of the risks.

The common thread among all these household dangers is that taking proper precautions can help to limit your risk. At North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care, we want the very best for you and your eyes, so you can enjoy quality vision for a lifetime. So, please be sure to use proper eyewear for the task at hand, and if you need prescription eye protection, we can certainly help. 

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

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