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A Vision of Back-To-School

The back to school season is in full swing, and parents and students have prepared themselves for all the new experiences that a brand new school year promises. Parents should know that good eyesight is one of the most important school supplies that every child should be equipped with as they enter the school year.

Dr. Ann Gallagher, of Eyes on 40 in Elicott City, Maryland explains, “Our sense of sight is the main way we interact and learn from the world. This is especially true of children, meaning that if your child does not have proper eyesight, he or she may find learning in school to be a chore beyond their abilities. This can cause your child to lose self esteem, and may result in your child growing increasingly frustrated about the process of learning.

Children are not likely to recognize vision problems or report them, and it is therefore the responsibility of parents and teachers to recognize signs of visual problems in their children.”

A few basic vision skills are needed for successful participation in school. Near vision is the first of these essential skills. This refers to the ability to see clearly at a distance of about 10-13 inches, which is important for reading, writing and other close work. Distance vision refers to the ability to see clearly and comfortably at distances beyond arm’s reach. This is important in order to see the board in the classroom, and for other activities at a further distance. Focusing skills, peripheral awareness and eye-hand coordination are also important.

A number of childhood conditions exist which can hinder your child’s learning, but which can be effectively detected and treated in the course of a comprehensive eye exam.

If your child complains of headaches while he or she is doing visual tasks such as reading, exhibits a short attention span during visual tasks, and/or has to use a finger to guide reading, your child may suffer from a condition known as convergence insufficiency. With convergence insufficiency, the eyes have a hard time looking at the same exact point close up, without a great deal of effort. Besides the symptoms listed above, your child may also see the words seem to “jump” or “blur” when he or she attempts to read.

Many children also suffer from a common eye condition known as strabismus, which is characterized by your child’s eyes not being properly coordinated, causing the eyes to face in different directions, and causing a number of serious visual issues. This condition results from muscles in one or both eyes being misaligned or underdeveloped. Dr. Gallagher adds, “Other symptoms may include difficulty remembering or identifying shapes, difficulty remembering what was read, excessive blinking or rubbing of his or her eyes, or placing his or her head very close to the book or desk when reading or writing.”

Your child’s success in school is a serious matter, worth the utmost attention. Contact Dr. Gallagher today for more information, and to schedule your child’s comprehensive eye exam.

Eye Allergies: What They Are and How To Treat Them

allergies dandelion interstitialHaving allergies can mean more than the sniffling and sneezing that most people associate with it. It’s Red, swollen, itchy eyes may also be a significant sign of allergies that can come whether you are sneezing uncontrollably or not.

Allergic conjunctivitis is the scientific name for this condition. It is caused, like any allergic reaction, by a mistaken triggering of your body’s immune system. Allergens cause your immune system “panic” causing it to react negatively to things which actually pose no harm to the body at all. Allergens such as pet dander, pollen and dust can trigger this reaction. This allergic reaction releases a chemical called histamine, which makes your eyes dry out and produce more tears. This reaction is meant to flush out foreign objects. The blood vessels in your eyes also become inflamed, which is what gives your eyes their bloodshot look.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction can be quite varied. You may find that your eyes are red and irritated or itchy, that your eyes are sensitive to light or that your eyelids are swollen. In more severe cases, you may even notice a painful, sore or burning feeling in your eyes or suffer from excessive tearing or a runny nose. You may also experience sneezing and stuffy nose.

Many things may cause an allergic reaction. Grass, weed and tree pollen, as well as dust and pet dander are among the best known allergens. Less well known is that it is also possible for a person to be allergic to everyday items such as makeup or perfume, and even contact lenses. Also not well know is that, while it is very common for allergic symptoms to come out immediately upon contact with the allergen, it is also possible for an allergic reaction to present itself as much as four days after original contact with an allergen.

Although allergies usually stop once the allergen is removed, and the eyes return to normal, this is not always possible with allergens such as dust and pollen, since they are just about everywhere. For these and other allergies, eye doctors recommend eye drops either over the counter or prescription. These eye drops should help to minimize the effects of the allergens in your environment. Many of these eye drops are formulated as anti-histamines, meaning that they block histamine from the body. There are also a number of other ways that these eye drops will work to relieve or prevent allergic symptoms.

Artificial tears are also an excellent option to relieve dry eye symptoms caused by allergens. These eye drops are specially formulated to imitate the tears that the allergic reaction has dried up. Artificial tears are mostly by prescription and have proven to perform better in some cases than over the counter eye drops.

Several other ways to reduce or relieve symptoms exist as well. Wearing sunglasses when stepping outside helps block pollen, dust and other outdoor allergens from getting in your eyes. Contact lenses may also irritate your eyes, so try taking those out if nothing else works. Finally, never rub your eyes while experiencing an allergic reaction. No matter how much they itch, rubbing will irritating your eyes further and make things worse.

For more information, and for help clearing up your eye allergies, contact your eye doctor today.

MyEyeStore – Order Contact Lenses Online through Professional Vision

Our world today is all about convenience. We often recommend over the counter products as part of treatments prescribed during your examination. We are really happy to offer some of our most commonly recommended products in our online store. You can purchase these items at your convenience. You can even order your annual supply of contact lenses and the supplies you need for lens care there as well.

January is Glaucoma Awareness Month – Dr. Ann Gallagher

January is Glaucoma Awareness Month. This is just one of the conditions that can be diagnosed as part of a comprehensive eye examination. Glaucoma threatens sight as it damages the optic nerve. Treatments are available that may slow or prevent further damage. As glaucoma is a mostly “symptomless” disease, many people may go undiagnosed without proper eye care.

We are passionate about protecting the eye health of our patients and we have advanced testing available in our office if risk factors are detected in the exam. Consider making an appointment for yourself or a loved one if you haven’t been checked in a while. Spread the word about preventative eyecare.

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Flex Spending Accounts – FSA / HSA

Only one month left for 2015, so getting an early start on scheduling an eye exam or updating your current eyewear is key. If you have a flex spending account or health insurance benefits that are about to expire, you can make the most of your dollars at our office. Whether your office provides these benefits, or you want to use your specific health or vision plan, maximizing what you can get early on removes the last minute scramble.

We recommend you check with your provider on what’s covered and which date does your plan renew. For many of us, December is the last chance to get that perfect frame at a fraction of the cost. You can also call our office for assistance with your FSA or HSA account.

Schedule an appointment today or contact us to discuss your benefits & find a great pair of glasses.

It’s Time to Be Serious About Home Eye Safety

The home can be a dangerous place if you aren’t aware of the risks that surround you. This is specifically true for your eyes and vision. Nearly half of all serious eye injuries take place in or around the home and the majority of these can be prevented with proper awareness and precaution. Whether you are cooking, cleaning, tending to yard work or doing home repairs, it is important to be aware of the possible dangers to your eyes and to take preventative measures to protect them.

It is recommended that every household have at least one pair of protective eyewear on hand to use during activities, projects or tasks that could pose a danger to your eyes. While protective eyewear can reduce your risk of an eye injury by 90%, in fact, only 35% of North Americans wear protective eyewear during tasks that could be dangerous to their eyes. Such activities could include the following:

Use of dangerous or hazardous chemicals: Many substances, such as cleaning chemicals, are hazardous and can be the cause of serious eye injuries and burns upon contact. In fact, household cleaning products like bleach cause 125,000 eye injuries a year.

Proximity to flying debris: Particularly when working in the yard mowing, trimming, shoveling and clipping, debris and particles can be thrown into the air that can enter your eye. This goes for those actually doing the gardening as well as bystanders.

Using sharp tools: Whether you are dealing with shovels and clippers, or hammers, nails and screws, it is important to protect your eyes. Many eye injuries are caused by the actual tools which are mishandled, dropped or used carelessly.

Projectiles: Flying objects pose a serious danger to the eyes, particularly with power tools, nails and screws. Never use power tools without protective eyewear.

When it comes to selecting protective eyewear there are certain requirements that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established to ensure your safety. Our eyewear experts are happy to help you find the best eye protection for you and your family.

Bottom line: use common sense and be EyeSmart, especially if there are children around for whom you’re setting an example.

6 Common Eye Myths Debunked

Over the centuries there have been a lot of old-wives tales circulating about eyes and vision. You know, like the one that if someone hits you on the back while your eyes are crossed they will stay that way. Unlike this example, some of these myths do have roots in truth, yet filtering out those truths isn’t an easy task.

Here are a few of the most common myths and truths about the eyes and vision.

  1. Myth: Eating a lot of carrots will help you see in the dark.Truth: Carrots have a lot of Vitamin A, a vitamin that is essential for good eyesight, but eating a lot of carrots isn’t going to give you 20/20 vision or help you see in the dark. Likely, the basis of this over-exaggeration is that night-blindness and vision loss found in underdeveloped countries can be a sign of malnutrition due to Vitamin A deficiency. However, you only need a relatively small amount of Vitamin A for vision, and it is easily obtainable in a normal balanced diet from a lot of sources, not limited to carrots.

    Higher-than-normal doses of Vitamin A might be useful in treating certain eye conditions and as part of a combination of vitamins used to slow the progression of early-stage macular degeneration. However, in any of these cases, do not take Vitamin A supplements without instructions from your eye doctor.

  2. Myth: Wearing glasses makes your vision worse.

    Truth
    : People think this is true because often once we start wearing glasses our vision continues to deteriorate and we have to keep going back for a higher prescription. The notion that wearing glassescauses your vision to get worse is simply not true. Distance vision or myopia typically gets worse over time, especially during childhood and adolescence, and does depend on whether the child wears glasses. Additionally, most people begin to experience vision deterioration as they enter their 40’s and 50’s with or without the use of vision correction devices.
  3. Myth: Sitting too close to the TV is bad for your eyes.

    Truth
    : While it may cause your eyes to feel tired, there is no evidence that sitting too close to the TV will harm your eyes or vision. Children in fact have a heightened ability to focus on close objects so often it is natural and relatively comfortable for them to sit close to a screen.
  4. Myth: Reading in dim light can damage your eyes.

    Truth
    : This one also has no good evidence. While yes, your eyes are working harder and may feel tired when reading in dim light, there is no evidence of permanent or long-term damage to your eyes.
  5. Myth: As you get older there is nothing you can do to prevent vision loss.

    Truth
    : While most older adults will eventually develop some degree of presbyopia which is near-vision loss, and eventually cataracts, no sign of vision loss should be ignored. Vision problems like these can be treated, allowing you to see clearly again. Moreover, there are many serious eye diseases such as glaucoma and macular degeneration that can threaten your vision and eyes with permanent and severe vision loss if not diagnosed and treated early. If you are 40 or older, you should have your eyes checked with a comprehensive eye exam on a yearly basis. In many cases, early treatment can save your eyesight.
  6. Myth: Squinting causes vision loss.

    Truth
    : Squinting is a natural reaction of your eyes to let less light into the pupil in order to sharpen your focus. Rather than impairing your vision, squinting is usually a sign that someone can’t see clearly which often suggests that their vision is impaired and that they need glasses to see better in the first place.

Got any other eye myths that you are curious about? Just ask at your next visit to our office. We are happy to help weed out the fact from the fiction.

 

How Pregnancy Affects Vision

The hormonal fluctuations experienced during pregnancy can cause many unexpected changes in your body, including your eyes and vision. Most of these changes are temporary and will return to normal once you give birth. It’s important to know which vision changes are normal for an expecting mother and which could indicate a problem that requires medical attention.

Normal Vision Changes

Visual Acuity/Blurred vision

During pregnancy, you may notice a change in your vision due to hormone levels. If you find that your vision has gotten blurry or that your current prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses are not helping as much as they usually do, speak to your eye doctor. Often the change in your vision is due to fluid retention which can temporarily change the shape of your cornea. Since your hormones will continue to fluctuate and will return to normal shortly after you give birth or after you finish nursing, your doctor may advise waiting until after you deliver to assess whether you need to change your prescription. However, you may need a temporary pair of glasses with your current prescription if you need lenses for driving or other tasks that are dangerous or difficult without perfect eyesight.

Dry Eyes

Dry eyes is a common and usually temporary condition that is experienced during pregnancy. Dry eyes can lead to irritation and discomfort in general and especially when wearing contact lenses. To relieve dry eyes, over-the-counter lubricating or rewetting eye drops are completely safe to use during pregnancy and nursing. It’s a good idea to consult with your optometrist to make sure you’re using a good dry eye solution, and definitely see the eye doctor if symptoms persist or if you wear contact lenses.

Puffy Eyelids

Along with many other areas in the body, eyelids may swell during pregnancy. To reduce water retention, make sure you drink a lot of water and limit your intake of sodium and caffeine.

Vision Changes that Require Medical Attention

Preeclampsia

Some serious vision changes could be signs of preeclampsia, a potentially serious issue that occurs in 5-8% of pregnancies. Vision symptoms associated with the condition include temporary vision loss, light sensitivity, blurry vision, auras and the appearance of flashing lights, along with high blood pressure. If you experience these symptoms seek medical attention immediately.

Diabetes

Both women that are regularly diabetic and those that have gestational (pregnancy) diabetes need to keep an eye on their vision as blurred vision can indicate elevated blood sugar levels. The risks of vision loss associated with diabetes is heightened during pregnancy so it is critical to monitor blood sugar levels at all times. Women with gestational diabetes should get a diabetic eye exam, which includes dilating the eye and examining the retina for signs of retinopathy.

While minor changes in your eyes and vision are a normal part of pregnancy, if at any time you notice persistent eye pain, vision loss or discomfort, visit your doctor. It is always better to be safe than sorry.