A Clearer View

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

Cataract Types: Nuclear Sclerotic, Cortical and Posterior Subscapular

by Damion Wasylow 9 September 2020 07:08 AM

three senior women on vacation
While cataracts can be congenital (meaning they are present from birth), they are typically associated with aging. As we age, proteins can build up in the eye or fiber cells may be disrupted, leading to cataracts. Other environmental, health and diet issues can also contribute to cataract development.

There are three primary types of age-related cataracts, all of which require surgery to correct:

Nuclear Sclerotic Cataracts

Nuclear sclerotic cataracts are most common. This form of cataract begins in the middle of the eye and hardens the eye lens. As these cataracts progress, the lens becomes cloudy and may appear yellow or brown. Distance vision is the first thing to go. Some patients initially experience improvement in close-up vision, a condition commonly called “second sight,” but this is only temporary. If the lens is not replaced, over time, vision can be lost completely. 

Cortical Cataracts

Cortical cataracts start in the eye lens cortex (the outside edge of the lens). They form lines that then move towards the center of the lens, like the spokes of a wheel. Vision can be affected in various ways, depending on exact location and prominence of these spokes. Glare from intense light sources, such as car headlights, is common. Cortical cataracts may progress quickly or remain unchanged for extended periods.

Posterior Subscapular Cataracts

Posterior subscapular cataracts start as small cloudy or opaque areas on the back surface of the eye lens, beneath the lens capsule that encloses and holds the lens in place. Posterior subscapular cataracts often develop quickly, with symptoms increasingly noticeable within just a few months. Increased light sensitivity, halos, glare and reduced vision are all common.

Regardless of the type of cataract, surgery is the only effective treatment option. All forms of cataracts permanently damage the eye lens, making it necessary to replace the natural lens with an artificial lens implant in order to restore vision. Artificial lenses are not susceptible to cataracts, meaning that following surgery, cataracts cannot return 

Thankfully, cataract surgery is one of the most common surgical procedures in the world, and is recognized as being safe and effective. Today, many patients elect to have laser-assisted cataract surgery, making the procedure more precise and pain-free than ever.

If you or someone you love may be experiencing cataracts, contact North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care. Our experts can diagnose your specific type of cataracts and determine if now is the best time for you to consider your cataract surgical options. Call us today at 352-373-4300.

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Here’s What Happens to Your Eyes as You Get Older

by Damion Wasylow 4 September 2020 03:26 AM

three generations of men smiling
As with all parts of the human body, the structures that make up your eyes can degrade through the years. In cases of trauma or disease, this can result in rapid vision loss, whereas through natural aging, the impacts are generally experienced over time. Here’s an overview of how some of those structures are impacted.

Cornea

The clear, dome-shaped front surface of your eye, known as the cornea, accounts for 65-75% of the eye's ability to focus. When you’re young, the cornea is typically smooth, allowing light to travel unimpeded to the eye lens. Through the years, exposure to environmental factors like smoke, chemicals and allergens can result in tiny scratches and imperfections on the cornea, fragmenting and distorting the incoming light. Additionally, the thin layer of tears that coats and protects the cornea can begin to breakdown, resulting in dry eye syndrome

Eye Lens

After passing through the cornea, light reaches the eye lens, which accounts for the remaining 25-35% of your ability to focus. By flexing, the lens adjusts your vision to focus on objects either nearby or farther away. As we age, the lens becomes less pliable, limiting your focal ability, a condition called presbyopia. Presbyopia usually becomes noticeable in your 40’s and gets worse into your 60’s. For people without other vision challenges, reading glasses may be enough to overcome presbyopia limitations. Others may require bifocal or progressive lens eyeglasses. The eye lens can also become cloudy due to the breakdown in its protein structure. This is what we know as cataracts, for which an artificial lens implant is the only treatment option. 

Retina and Optic Nerve

Light from the eye lens is relayed to the retina, which translates it into neural signals, which are then transmitted to the brain via the optic nerve. In the absence of disease, the retina and optic nerve do not degrade much with age. Some age-related eye diseases, however, can damage these eye structures to the point of blindness. Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) and glaucoma are both serious conditions. Sadly, ARMD is not correctable, but studies show you can take steps to slow the progression of the disease. Some forms of glaucoma, on the other hand, can be treated, if diagnosed early enough.

As we age, it’s increasingly important to have regular comprehensive eye exams. The Mayo Clinic recommends eye exams every 2-4 years for people in their 40’s to mid-50’s, every 1-3 years for people in their mid-50’s to mid-60’s and every 1-2 years for people age 65 and older. These exams can help detect problems early, giving you the best chance of maintaining healthy vision.

If it’s time for you or someone you love to have an eye exam, contact North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care today at 352-373-4300.

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Protecting Your Children's Vision While They Attend School Remotely

by Damion Wasylow 27 July 2020 11:21 AM

child attending classes remotely
In many ways, this school year will be unlike any other, as families navigate the impacts of COVID-19. In a recent survey, nearly 60% of Alachua County parents indicated they do not plan to send their children back to a brick and mortar school this fall. That translates to a large number of students taking classes digitally instead. Among the many complexities this raises is a concern for children’s vision health. Below are some points parents should be aware of and how you can help protect your children’s vision in this new reality.

Prevent Digital Eye Strain

Digital eye strain can result from extensive or improper viewing of digital screens (phones, tablets, computer monitors, etc). Taking classes remotely will require children to spend hours each day in front of these screens, which can produce headaches, blurred vision, dry, burning and irritated eyes, watery eyes, light sensitivity, difficulty keeping their eyes open and more. These symptoms can extend beyond your children’s time in front of the computer. 

Taking a few simple steps can help prevent digital eye strain. Ensure your children sit at least 25-inches from the screen, encourage them to blink regularly and set 20-minute timers to prompt 20-second breaks from looking at the screen. Make sure the room has sufficient ambient lighting and try to limit screen glare. Most importantly, if your children wear eyeglasses or contacts, talk to your eye doctor. Your children may benefit from eyeglasses made specifically for viewing digital screens.

Watch for Vision Challenge Warning Signs

Many children’s vision problems are initially identified at school. Occasionally, this happens through a formal vision screening. More often, it’s through observation of their behavior in the classroom. Teachers may notice a child squinting to see the blackboard, frequently rubbing or blinking his or her eyes, or avoiding reading and other close activities. These are just a few of the potential signs of vision challenges.

Without in-person teachers to make these observations, parents must be more vigilant. In addition to the warning signs listed above, you should also watch for any complaints of discomfort and fatigue, frequent headaches, covering one eye, holding reading materials close to his or her face, tilting his or her head to one side, or shortened attention span. When these symptoms arise, a trip to your local eye doctor is in order. 

Get Your Child a Vision Exam

The American Optometric Association suggests all children should have a comprehensive eye exam prior to starting first grade, and every two years thereafter. Given the issues listed above, increased frequency may be appropriate for your child. A comprehensive exam can identify eye diseases and conditions easily overlooked by a standard vision screening.

While some parents are hesitant to take their children out of the house for anything that isn’t urgent right now, few things are more essential than protecting your children’s eyesight. Thankfully, reputable eyecare practices have preemptive steps and precautions in place to make your visit as safe as possible.

To ensure your child’s eyes are ready to take on the upcoming school year, contact North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care today at 352-373-4300 to schedule a comprehensive eye exam or learn more about eyeglasses optimized for digital screens.

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Can the Right Sunglasses Reduce Your Cataract Risk?

by Damion Wasylow 2 July 2020 13:15 PM

group of women wearing sunglasses
Sunglasses have the power to make the world a cooler place, and not just cool as in looking cool. In addition to shielding your eyes from bright Florida sunshine, and making you look like a million bucks, the right pair of sunglasses can actually protect your eyes from the ultraviolet rays that can contribute to a number of eye diseases, including cataracts.

Cataracts and Sunlight

Cataracts form when the proteins that make up the eye’s lens begin to break down and clump together. This occurs naturally over time, but can be made worse by a number of factors, including chronic exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. As this happens, the lens becomes thick and cloudy, preventing light from passing through. This is what’s known as a cataract. Once you develop a cataract, surgery is the only effective treatment. The damaged natural lens must be surgically replaced with an artificial lens implant. 

Protecting Your Eyes with Sunglasses

Much of the cataract-producing damage caused by the sun’s UV rays can be prevented by wearing proper sunglasses. Studies show that wearing UV-blocking sunglasses when you’re young helps reduce the risks of developing cataracts as you age. The key is selecting sunglasses that provide 100 percent UVA and UVB protection. UVA and UVB are the variations of ultraviolet rays that can be damaging to your eyes. Many people take UV protection for granted when buying sunglasses, but just because the lenses are tinted dark, doesn’t mean they’re equipped to protect your eyes from UV rays. 

A reliable pair of UV-blocking sunglasses will have UV protection embedded in the lenses rather than just a coating on the lenses. Many brands list the UV protection rating on the label, but your best bet is to confirm with your local optical shop or your optometrist.

Other Eye Health Factors

Cataracts aren’t the only potential eye risk associated of too much exposure to UV rays. Short-term effects can include photokeratitis and photoconjunctivitis, inflammations of certain eye structures, caused by direct acute expose to UV rays. These often feel like you’ve sunburned your eyes. Longer-lasting effects can include pterygium, a condition in which a layer of cells can grow across the cornea and must be surgically removed, and the development of squamous cell cancers of the eye, which can lead to blindness. Macular degeneration is also promoted by long-term UV exposure.

As summers heats up, it’s only natural to want to get outdoors and enjoy all our beautiful state has to offer. Just remember to care for your eyes by protecting them with a great pair of sunglasses. 

At North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care, our two convenient local optical shops offer an outstanding selection of UV-blocking sunglasses from stylish brands, including Kate Spade, Etnia Barcelona, Costa Del Mar and more. Contact us today at 352-373-4300 to make an appointment or just stop in and talk to our knowledgeable staff.

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Laser Cataract Surgery Procedure: What to Expect

by Damion Wasylow 9 June 2020 04:43 AM

ophthalmologist with eye anatomy model
Fear of the unknown can sometimes lead people to hesitate on choices that could make their lives so much better, like getting cataract surgery.

Cataract surgery is one of the most common surgical procedures in the world, and it’s recognized as being safe and effective. More than 3.8 million cataract procedures are performed in the U.S. each year. Here in Gainesville, Dr Gregory Snodgrass has personally performed more than 20,000 cataract surgeries throughout his career, and he was the first local eye surgeon to use the state-of-the-art LenSx Laser Cataract System.

Of course, the best way to overcome any fear is through education. So, let’s walk through what you can expect if your laser cataract surgery is performed by one of the eye surgeons at North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care.

Preparing for Surgery

Upon arrival at the eye surgery center, you will be asked to complete some basic paperwork and then be brought back to the surgical prep area. Once you’re in your surgical gown and lying comfortably in the hospital bed, the doctor will visit to answer any last-minute questions. Soon after, you’ll be rolled into the surgical suite in your hospital bed. You’ll receive a local anesthetic and remain awake during the 10-15-minute procedure.

The Surgical Procedure

Your surgeon will start by creating a detailed visual map your eye using LenSx’s cutting edge cameras. The doctor then uses the LenSx laser to make a tiny incision in the ideal location of the eye’s surface. A small probe inserted through the incision uses ultrasonic waves to break up the cataract-damaged lens. The tiny pieces are then suctioned out using a second instrument. Finally, the surgeon inserts and positions your new artificial lens through the same incision. The entire process is pain-free, and the incision is so small that it will heal itself without needing stitches.

Recovery

The surgical team will place a temporary protective shield over your eye to block out excess light. Then, in the recovery room, you’ll take some time for your eye to adjust to the new lens. Typically, within 30-60 minutes you will be ready to be driven home. Many patients report improved vision before they even leave the recovery room. Once home, it’s recommended to keep the eye shield on for several hours and wear it while you sleep for a few days. You’ll return to the practice the day after surgery for a follow-up examination with the surgeon.

Any short-term side effects such as cloudy or blurred vision or redness should clear up within a week or two. In fact, some patients see clearly almost immediately.

Cataract surgery truly is a life-changing procedure. Regaining your site means regaining the freedom to explore and experience your world the way you remember it. Now that you know what to expect, we hope you will take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to see clearly again. 

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

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5 Surprising Facts for Cataract Awareness Month

by Damion Wasylow 2 June 2020 10:13 AM

multigenerational women making eyeglasses with their hands
Prevent Blindness America designated June as Cataract Awareness Month to bring attention to this devastating, yet curable, disorder. While cataracts are one of the most common eye disorders in the United States and around the world, too few people understand the causes, symptoms and treatment options

Here are five cataract facts you may find surprising…

1. Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss in the U.S.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 30 million Americans have cataracts. That’s more than twice the total number of people with glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration – combined. 

2. Babies can be born with cataracts.

Although rare, some babies are born with cataracts, a condition known as congenital cataracts. Infections in the mother during pregnancy, such as rubella, syphilis, chicken pox and cytomegalovirus, can cause the condition, as can some other metabolic problems, diabetes, trauma, inflammation and drug reactions.

3. One out of every six Americans over age 40 has cataracts.

Most people think of cataracts as only affecting the elderly, but symptoms and vision loss from cataracts often start as early as age 40. The likelihood of developing cataracts doubles in your 50’s and doubles again in your 60’s. By the age of 80, more than 50% of Americans have cataracts. 

4. Smoking and excessive sunlight add to the risk of developing cataracts.

Smoking doubles the risk of developing nuclear sclerotic cataracts and triples the risk for subscapular cataracts. Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can also promote cataract development, reinforcing the importance of wearing UV-blocking sunglasses outdoors.

5. Surgery is the only effective treatment for cataracts.

Cataracts permanently damage the natural eye lens. The only way to restore a patient’s vision therefor is by surgically replacing the natural lens with an artificial lens. Cataract surgery is one of the most common surgical procedures in the world and is recognized as safe and effective. Traditional and laser-assisted surgical options are available.

If you believe you or someone you love may have cataracts, or if you are dealing with any form of vision loss, contact North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care for an evaluation, diagnosis and treatment plan. Call us today at 352-373-4300 to schedule an appointment.

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Contact Lens Wearers: Consider Daily Disposables to Reduce COVID-19 Risks

by Damion Wasylow 8 May 2020 06:15 AM

closeup of woman inserting contact lens into her eye
As health experts around the world continually research coronavirus (COVID-19), we’re learning more about basic precautions that can limit possible exposure and infection. Among these is a recommendation to temporarily replace use of extended wear contact lenses with daily disposable contact lenses.

Studies show coronavirus (COVID-19) can live on some surfaces for days. And, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it may be possible to contract coronavirus (COVID-19) through touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your eyes.

The repeated process of taking out and putting in extended wear contact lenses, placing those same lenses down on surfaces, cleaning them to varying levels of thoroughness and then placing them back into your eyes with your fingers introduces unnecessary risk of virus transmission. That risk is reduced with daily disposable contact lenses, as they are introduced to the eye directly after being removed from sterile packaging. Then, at the end of each day, following thorough hand washing, those contacts can be removed and disposed of.

Contact Lens & Anterior Eye: The Journal of the British Contact Lens Association recently published an article recommending eye doctors should, “consider the option of moving patients to daily disposable lenses.”

Daily disposable contact lenses have been a preferred choice among some contact lens wearers and eye care professionals for years. Many appreciate the convenience of not needing to deal with cleanings, while others point to the reduced health risks associated with day-to-day accumulation of lens deposits and overnight wear. In fact, in their coronavirus (COVID-19) article, Contact Lens & Anterior Eye went on to add, “the use of daily disposable contact lenses substantially reduces the risks of many inflammatory complications.” 

If you or someone you love wears extended wear contacts, now might be a good time to switch over to daily disposables…at least for the short-term.

North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care can help you quickly get the best disposable contact lenses for your vision needs. To assist patients during this time, we currently have a variety of disposable lenses in stock and ready to pick up. To get yours, contact us today at 352-373-4300.

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Reopening to Patients while Emphasizing COVID Safety

by Damion Wasylow 4 May 2020 02:23 AM

north florida cataract specialists and vision care office on nw 8th avenue in gainesville
All services of North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care re-opened to patients on May 4th, 2020. This decision is in keeping with guidelines of our state and local governments and within the standards provided by health officials.

To ensure the safest environment for patients and staff alike, we are strictly following recommended practices to limit the likelihood of COVID-19 (coronavirus) transmission. To that end, we are implementing the following precautions at all of our locations, including the surgery center:

  • Spacing out and staggering appointments to limit waiting room occupancy
  • Checking patients’ temperatures before they enter the building
  • Providing each patient a mask to wear throughout his or her appointment
  • Asking that accompanying drivers remain in their cars during appointments, or we will help patients call their drivers to return following their appointments

We are excited to once again provide the area’s highest level of eyecare, including comprehensive eye exams, optometry services, optical services, treatment of eye diseases and eye surgery, including cataract surgery.

We recognize that some patients may be hesitant to leave their homes or seek services at this time, and that is understandable. We’ll be here when you’re ready. Please just be sure not to overlook a serious condition that could worsen over time. Call 352-373-4300 and talk to one of our friendly associates to determine whether your symptoms and history suggest coming in sooner rather than later.

While these past few weeks have been difficult for so many, we hope this is a turning point. We are excited to get back to work, and excited to help you see clearly again. Contact North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care today.

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Accessing Critical Eyecare Services in this Time of Coronavirus

by Damion Wasylow 20 April 2020 00:14 AM

covid-19 graphic
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has substantially impacted availability and access to a variety of goods and services around the globe, including eyecare. As ophthalmology and optometry practices in the U.S. limit delivery of non-emergency procedures, how can you still get access to eyecare you truly need?

The most important thing to know is that if you DO have an eyecare emergency, eye doctors are still available to diagnose and treat you. In an effort to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), however, the US. Surgeon General and the American Academy of Ophthalmology encourage eye doctors to, “postpone those outpatient visits and procedures that can be safely delayed.” 

That means many familiar eyecare services – like standard eye exams and eyeglass prescriptions – are unavailable to patients at this time. Likewise, elective eye surgery procedures are also being delayed until further notice. What eye doctors can still do is diagnose and treat ocular emergencies.

Ocular emergencies may include corneal ulcers, uveitis, acute angle closure glaucoma, orbital cellulitis, endophthalmitis, retinal detachment, corneal abrasion, corneal and conjunctival foreign bodies, hyphema, ruptured globe, orbital wall fracture, lid laceration, chemical injury, flashes and floaters, visual loss in one or both eyes, and eye pain. 

As a patient, of course, those terms are probably unfamiliar. That’s why diagnosing any eye discomfort should be left to your local eye doctor and his or her staff. An initial phone screen with these medical professionals can help determine whether your current eye health challenge likely fits into an emergency category and should therefore be further diagnosed and treated immediately. 

At North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care, we advise patients to call us at 352-373-4300 with any and all vision concerns. Our practice continues actively diagnosing and treating patients with a variety of emergency eyecare needs. When symptoms justify, we schedule an in-office evaluation. This is in keeping with Alachua County Emergency Order 2020-09, which deems eye care centers, “Essential Businesses and Operations,” recognizing the critical need for eye doctors to continue serving our community.

Within our practice locations, we have instituted a series of preemptive steps to minimize patient and staff exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19). Among these are:

  • Requiring patients to fill out a screening form prior to coming to the office
  • Asking patients not to come in if they have a cough, fever or any other flu-like symptoms
  • Monitoring staff closely to ensure they are not carrying or transmitting the virus
  • Requesting staff members who do not feel well to remain at home and seek immediate medical care
  • Using all recognized and recommended universal precautions (sterilizing rooms, washing hands with soap and hot water, using sanitizer, and gloves and masks when appropriate)

At North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care, your health – including your eye health – is our top priority. We are here to answer your eyecare questions and to provide any critical services you need. Call us today at 352-373-4300.

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What You Should Know About Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Your Eyes

by Damion Wasylow 1 April 2020 05:28 AM

rendering of microscopic covid-19 virus
The current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is impacting lives around the globe. While most people understand that it can be spread by coming into contact with infected respiratory droplets through the mouth or nose, few realize their eyes may also be susceptible.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it may be possible to contract coronavirus (COVID-19) through the eyes, as mucous membranes (membranes that line various body orifices) are most susceptible to transmission of the virus. While the CDC suggests transmission via the eyes, “is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads,”, health officials, including those at the Cleveland Clinic, recommend people should avoid touching their eyes with unwashed hands.

Even though the incidence rate is low, the World Health Organization recommends protective eyewear for anyone with the potential of being exposed to a person with coronavirus.

Additionally, there is evidence to suggest that conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye, may be a symptom in some people infected with coronavirus (COV-19). A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found “conjunctival congestion” in approximately 1% patients with a confirmed diagnosis of coronavirus.

Supporting that finding, a paper published in the Journal Ocular Immunology and Inflammation cited anecdotal reports of ocular infection, saying “the ocular implications of human CoV (coronavirus) infections have not been widely studied. However, CoVs have been known to cause various ocular infections in animals.”

While the correlation between conjunctivitis and coronavirus (COVID-19) is not yet fully known, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends, “Patients who present to ophthalmologists for conjunctivitis who also have fever and respiratory symptoms including cough and shortness of breath, and who have recently traveled internationally, particularly to areas with known outbreaks (China, Iran, Italy and South Korea, or to hotspots within the United States), or with family members recently back from one of these areas, could represent cases of COVID-19.”

With all this in mind, we encourage you to make smart judgments. If you’re going to be in close contact with someone who likely has coronavirus (COVID-19), wear appropriate eye protection to reduce the risk of transmission. And if you or someone you love experiences conjunctivitis along with the other symptoms cited by the American Academy of Ophthalmologists, look into being tested for coronavirus (COVID-19). 

At North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care, we wish all of you the best as we navigate this pandemic together. If you have a vision emergency during this time, we are here to help. Check out our coronavirus (COVID-19) information page to learn more about our current diagnosis and treatment services or call 352-373-4300 today.

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