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How is Binocular Vision Dysfunction Diagnosed?

Binocular vision dysfunction (BVD) is a condition that involves a misalignment in the line of sight from one eye to the other. Most commonly, this misalignment is vertical. As a result, a tremendous strain is put on your eye muscles. That’s because they are constantly attempting to achieve clear single-focus vision by correcting the alignment.

The symptoms of binocular vision dysfunction usually include headaches, dizziness, trouble with reading, and disorientation. Diagnosis of this condition can be tricky, because the symptoms vary widely from person to person. At Lakeline NeuroVisual Medicine, our eye doctor is highly qualified and specializes in diagnosing BVD. For relief from the uncomfortable symptoms, schedule a consultation and eye exam with an eye doctor near you – in our advanced Austin, TX, eye care clinic.

Assessing Binocular Vision Dysfunction

The evaluation of BVD is not the same as a regular comprehensive eye exam. Standard eye exams are used to diagnose and design treatment for conditions such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, presbyopia, and ocular disease – but they cannot always detect binocular vision dysfunction. In fact, it is not uncommon for a person we diagnose with BVD to have been told repeatedly by other optometrists that their vision is entirely “normal.” In the case of children, this misdiagnosis has often led to struggles in school, which eventually cause behavioral problems too.

Diagnosing BVD

The diagnostic evaluation for binocular vision dysfunction inspects a range of visual skills that are not checked in a regular eye exam. For example, Dr. Jennifer Catalasan will assess:

  • Accommodation (focusing)
  • Depth perception
  • Convergence (eye teaming)
  • Fusion
  • Ocular motility
  • Presence of any conditions that may affect binocular vision functioning
  • Spatial awareness
  • Tracking
  • Stereopsis
  • Visual-motor integration
  • Visual processing
  • Visual perception

In comparison, a regular eye exam checks visual acuity for near and distance, as well as eye health.

Signs of Binocular Vision Dysfunction

By definition, BVD is the inability to stay focused on an object with both eyes so that one single image is seen. If you have binocular vision dysfunction, the two separate images conveyed from your eyes to your brain don’t merge successfully.

Certain signs can indicate that you need to visit an eye doctor near you for a BVD assessment, including:

  • Double vision
  • Blurry vision or shadowed vision
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Being uncoordinated, clumsy, or having problems with balance
  • Avoidance of doing tasks that rely on near vision
  • Closing one eye while viewing objects up-close, including a computer screen
  • Eye strain or fatigue
  • Images seem to move in your peripheral vision, even when they are still
  • Motion sickness; travel sickness
  • Nausea
  • Light sensitivity
  • Poor depth perception
  • Re-reading text over and over to understand it
  • Needing to read with a finger as a guide or you’ll lose your place

Do you find that you regularly suffer from any of these problems? If so, we recommend that you take our BVD Questionnaire immediately, and then reach out to our Austin, TX, eye doctor near you to schedule a comprehensive examination and assessment. Dr. Jennifer Catalasan is trained and experienced in diagnosing and treating binocular vision dysfunction.


At Lakeline NeuroVisual Medicine, we put your family’s needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 512-918-3937 or book an appointment online to see one of our Austin eye doctors.

Want to Learn More? Read on!

How is Binocular Vision Dysfunction Diagnosed?

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What is binocular vision dysfunction and how do I know if I have it?

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What is binocular vision dysfunction and how do I know if I have it?

Binocular vision dysfunction, or BVD for short, is a visual condition that occurs when both eyes cannot coordinate properly. As a result, the line of sight from one eye is slightly misaligned with the other eye. This misalignment heavily stresses your eye muscles as they try to correct the problem and achieve single focus vision.

Diagnosing binocular vision dysfunction can be complicated, and many people suffer from the disturbing symptoms for years before getting a proper diagnosis. Dr. Jennifer Catalasan, our neurovisual optometrist in Austin, TX, is knowledgeable and experienced in diagnosing BVD, and we can spot the signs immediately – so you won’t need to suffer any longer.

What are the signs of binocular vision dysfunction?

If you have BVD, you may experience some or even all of the following symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Double vision
  • Losing your place while reading
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Neck/shoulder strain (from twisting your head to focus)
  • Poor depth perception
  • Problems with balance and/or coordination
  • Motion sickness
  • Panic attacks when driving
  • Agoraphobia (uneasiness in large places)
  • Disorientation
  • Blurry vision

If you suffer from these symptoms and can’t find lasting relief, visit our Austin, TX, eye doctor for a specialized eye exam to diagnose and treat binocular vision dysfunction.

How does someone develop binocular vision dysfunction?

BVD has a tendency to run in families, and you can be born with it. It can also result from a head injury, stroke, and other neurological disorders. Non-hereditary binocular vision dysfunction is commonly caused by car accidents.

How is binocular vision dysfunction diagnosed?

A comprehensive eye exam by a qualified eye doctor is the only reliable way to diagnose BVD. The first step of diagnosis involves filling out a questionnaire designed by professional eye care researchers. These questions offer an efficient way to evaluate if you might have any form of binocular vision dysfunction. At Lakeline NeuroVisual Medicine, we have two customized questionnaires for our patients to take, one for adults (age 14 and older) and one for children (age 13 and younger), respectively. Once we assess your answers, our Austin eye doctor will perform an eye exam and a neurovisual evaluation to determine if your eyes are in alignment or not.

What happens after binocular vision dysfunction is diagnosed?

Prismatic eyeglasses lenses can offer an effective way to relieve the stress and fatigue placed on your visual system. In general, our patients report a significant reduction in their BVD symptoms almost immediately after putting on prismatic lenses. Within a few weeks of visiting for follow-up appointments to fine-tune the customized prismatic prescription, the vast majority of our patients experience a 70-80% reduction of their symptoms!

Have you made multiple trips to other eye care specialists without any real improvement in your vision condition?

This is a typical sign of binocular vision dysfunction, which our Neurovisual Medicine specialist, Dr. Jennifer Catalasan, can diagnose reliably and treat to alleviate your symptoms once and for all. Contact us for an evaluation to diagnose or rule out binocular vision dysfunction – book an eye exam in our Austin, TX, office.

At Lakeline NeuroVisual Medicine, we put your family’s needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 512-918-3937 or book an appointment online to see one of our Austin eye doctors.

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Eye Floaters & Flashes: When Are They a Problem?

Guidelines from our center for eye care in Cedar Park

For many people, the sight of squiggly threads or cloudy specks floating across their vision is a normal occurrence. Flashes of light that appear like flickering or gliding sparks are also common. If you’ve had these floaters and flashes for a while, you probably got used to them and barely even notice their presence. But once in a while, when they travel across the white page you’re reading, you may wonder about them. What are eye floaters and flashes, and are they ever a sign that you need to find immediate eye care near you?

Introducing flashes and floaters

To understand what these visions are, you need a basic comprehension of what’s going on inside your eye. Our Cedar Park eye care specialist explains:

Your eyeball is filled with vitreous humor, a clear and stable gel (like an egg white). When light enters your eye, it through the lens to reach the retina. This journey passes through the vitreous gel. Once light gets to your retina, the light-sensitive cells capture the image and send it to your brain via your optic nerve.

As you age, the vitreous humor shrinks and the texture changes to become stringier. This transformation can cause clusters of cells or bits of protein to form in the vitreous humor – known as floaters. When you see a floater, you are actually seeing the shadow of these clusters on your retina. That’s why when you move your eye (and the vitreous gel within it), the floater also moves. If you ever try to zoom in on your floaters and look at them head-on, they will seem to glide away. But when you stop moving your eyeball, they’ll simply drift around slowly.

Flashes – which are harmless – occur when the vitreous gel tugs or bumps against your retina. They can also be accompanied by headaches, dizziness and nausea, which are also common signs of a binocular vision dysfunction. We specialize in precise diagnosis at our optometrist’s office for eye care in Cedar Park, and we’ll perform a comprehensive eye exam to identify your specific problem.

Does everyone see flashes and floaters?

Not quite everyone, but a lot of people do! Our eye doctor diagnoses these specks all the time, especially in patients above the age of 60. And about two-thirds of the elderly population above 80 years of age has them. Floaters tend to be more common in people with nearsightedness, diabetes, and those who had an eye injury or cataract surgery.

When are floaters and flashes a medical concern?

While the majority of flashes and floaters are harmless and do not need any treatment, sometimes they are a warning sign of a sight-threatening eye condition. In particular, it is important to seek emergency eye care near you when a bunch of new floaters comes on suddenly.

As the vitreous gel shrinks, it can tug against the retina and detach from it. This occurrence, called a posterior vitreous detachment, is relatively common and doesn’t damage vision. However, in about one in six people, it leads to a retinal tear. Once you have a retinal tear, the fluid from inside your eye may leak through the tear – causing the retina to separate from the supportive tissues around it. Retinal detachment is painless, yet it requires immediate medical attention.

If you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Seeing a bunch of new floaters appear suddenly, with or without flashes in the same eye
  • Peripheral vision loss
  • Gradual shading of your vision, similar to a curtain being pulled across your field of view
  • Quick blurring of your central vision

Don’t delay – visit Lakeline NeuroVisual Medicine for an urgent eye exam near you!

Is there a treatment for benign flashes and floaters?

Usually, people tolerate these little visions without too much of a problem and get used to having them around. However, some people are extremely bothered by floaters and flashes and feel that they interfere with their ability to read. In that case, there is a type of laser treatment – but it has not yet been studied extensively, and the risks of the surgery may be greater than the disruptions caused by floaters.

When your floaters annoy you, our Cedar Park eye care specialist recommends moving your eyes up and down, right and left. This simple action can shift the floater out of sight temporarily, providing relief.

If you’re concerned about your flashes and floaters, our eye doctor will perform a thorough eye exam near you to inspect your vision and ocular health to verify that there’s no reason for urgent medical treatment. At Lakeline NeuroVisual Medicine, we offer treatment for many eye conditions, including for binocular vision dysfunction and vision misalignments. Call your leading provider of eye care in Cedar Park to book an appointment.

At Lakeline NeuroVisual Medicine, we put your family’s needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 512-918-3937 or book an appointment online to see one of our Austin eye doctors.

Want to Learn More? Read on!

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Sleep Apnea & Glaucoma: Is There a Connection?

Do you think there is a link between how you sleep and your eyesight?

Are you a snorer? If you wake others and yourself with your nightly noise, there’s a good chance you have obstructive sleep apnea. In addition to making you a terrible roommate, this sleep disorder also robs you of your zzz’s – leading to daytime grogginess and putting you at risk for a long list of health problems. While you may be familiar with many of these problems, (such as memory loss, hypertension, and weight gain), are you aware that it can also raise your risk of glaucoma?

A 2019 article published in The Journal of Glaucoma reported the results of a US-based study that involved more than 6,700 people over 40 years old, and a strong link was found between having glaucoma and sleep problems. Want to learn more? Our eye doctor at Lakeline NeuroVisual Medicine explains all about glaucoma and the connection to getting enough sleep.

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is an ocular disease that involves progressive damage to the optic nerve. When your optic nerve is damaged, you suffer vision loss (which can lead to blindness). Generally, glaucoma is accompanied by increased intraocular pressure. That’s why our Austin, TX, eye doctor measures the pressure in your eyeball as a part of your comprehensive eye exam; it is an essential part of glaucoma screening. ‘

What is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)?

If you have OSA, the muscles in your airway relax as you sleep, which prevents you from breathing normally. Some people with sleep apnea can stop breathing for as long as two minutes! The classic symptoms include snoring loudly, gasping for air as you sleep, dry mouth/sore throat, unexplained sleepiness during the day, and waking up with a headache.

What’s the connection between glaucoma and sleep?

Obstructive sleep apnea can lead to hypoxia, which is a reduction in the oxygen levels in your blood. Over time, these lower levels of oxygen may disrupt the normal blood flow to the optic nerve.

Also, as our Austin, TX, eye doctor explains, obstructive sleep apnea also causes blood pressure to fluctuate, which can change the balance between blood pressure and intraocular pressure.

There’s a lot of research going on to explore this topic, and our Austin, TX, stays current with the latest advances and news. At present, some studies are having patients wear specialized contact lenses while sleeping. These contacts have detected significant changes in intraocular pressure as the people dozed. As a result, an insufficient amount of oxygen reaches the eye, depriving it of the much-needed nourishment that healthy vision needs and leading to optic nerve damage.

How can you help reduce your risk of glaucoma if you have sleep apnea?

If you are diagnosed with OSA, your physician may recommend therapy with a CPAP machine (continuous positive airway pressure). This device is worn while you sleep, and once the OSA is treated properly – the risk for glaucoma and other serious eye diseases goes down.

Why are eye exams so important for people with sleep apnea?

Based on recent studies, our Austin, TX, eye doctor recommends that every patient with OSA visit for regular, comprehensive eye exams. These studies showed that glaucoma patients with obstructive sleep apnea were found to have higher eye pressure levels, more extensive damage to their field of vision, and more thinning of the nerve layer in the retina – when compared to people who do not suffer from OSA. And the earlier your eye doctor detects a change in your eye health and/or increase in your intraocular pressure, the earlier you can benefit from treatment to safeguard your vision.

Bottom line: if you have sleep apnea, be sure to tell your eye doctor and to visit Lakeline NeuroVisual Medicine regularly for eye exams!

Parkinson’s Awareness Month and Your Vision

April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month in the USA and Canada, a time when those living with the disorder, their family members, friends, and community come together to raise awareness and share helpful information. People with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and their loved ones are encouraged to share their stories, struggles, and successes in order to educate and support others.

The Parkinson’s Foundation has announced this year’s theme: #KeyToPD and Parkinson Canada advocates the same involvement. What is the key to living a high quality of life while living with Parkinson’s? Patients, doctors, caregivers, and families are encouraged to use this hashtag on social media to give of their knowledge and experience.

In order to successfully manage the disorder, it’s essential to understand the disease, symptoms, and treatments. After all, knowledge is power.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s Disease is a neurological disorder that affects the brain’s ability to control physical movement. It typically affects middle aged people and the elderly. Parkinson’s causes a decrease in the brain’s natural levels of dopamine, which normally aids nerve cells in passing messages within the brain. According to The Parkinson’s Foundation and Statistics Canada, the disorder affects an estimated 1 million people in the United States, 55 000 Canadians, and 10 million globally.

What Causes Parkinson’s Disease?

Although much research has been done on the subject, the exact cause of the disease isn’t really known. What doctors and scientists do know is that certain nerve cells located in the brain somehow break down. This damage interferes with both motor and non-motor functions.

How Does Parkinson’s Affect Vision?

Parkinson’s can have a significant impact on vision and ocular health. Patients with PD often find themselves unable to control blinking. Blinking is good for the eyes as it moisturizes the surface and clears it from foreign substances. Less blinking can cause Dry Eye Syndrome, resulting in itchy, red, or gritty-feeling eyes. Other people blink too much or can’t keep their eyes open.

In more serious cases, Parkinson’s affects the nerves that help us see. Someone with PD may experience blurry vision, double vision, difficulty seeing color and contrast, problems with focus, and other visual symptoms.

In addition to the inherent impact of the disease, some of the medications used to treat Parkinson’s symptoms have known side effects including dry eyes, blurred eyesight and even hallucinations in advanced PD.

Common Visual Symptoms of Parkinson’s

Although the most recognized physical symptom is uncontrollable tremors, patients can experience other symptoms that affect their vision. These typically include:

  • Apraxia (inability to open the eyelids)
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Difficulty with balance
  • Dry eyes
  • Eye twitching
  • Focusing problems

Parkinson’s Patients and Eye Exams

Eye exams can be particularly challenging for a PD patient, so choosing the right doctor is essential. Make sure your eye doctor regularly treats patients with PD. They’ll understand your or your loved ones’ unique needs and will take the time needed.

Common Non-Visual Symptoms of Parkinson’s

PD affects other areas of the body that may or may not – depending on each patient – be related to their eye health and visual needs.

Some of the most common non-visual symptoms are:

  • Depression
  • Excessive saliva
  • Loss of smell
  • Moodiness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Slow movement (bradykinesia)
  • Stiff limbs
  • Tremors

Coping With Vision Problems From Parkinson’s

Despite the struggles caused by this degenerative disease, there is hope. Talk to your eye doctor. He or she may recommend medicated ointments or drops, injections, therapeutic lenses, visual aids, vision therapy, or a combination thereof. Additionally, a Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation doctor can provide comprehensive eye care specifically designed for neurological disorders like PD.

Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease

There is currently no cure for the disease itself, but there are options to treat the symptoms of PD. A combination of medications, physical and/or occupational therapy, support groups, and of course, top-quality vision care can give a PD patient relief for some of their symptoms and tools to help cope with the condition.

Research and clinical trials are continuing as doctors and others in the medical community work towards the goal of finding a cure for PD.

No two patients are alike, and each can experience PD differently from the other, so finding what works for you or your loved one is key. During this Parkinson’s Awareness Month, share your #KeyToPD and give your loved ones hope for a healthy and high quality of life.

Top 5 Tips for Managing Eye Allergies This Spring

Spring is a season of new beginnings, when the cold harsh winter months are behind us, flowers bloom, and people begin spending more time outdoors.

For people with allergies, spring means one more thing: suffering. Spring may be in the air, but for allergy sufferers, so is pollen, pet dander, mold, and dust. These airborne allergens can trigger uncomfortable reactions such as watery eyes, coughing, sneezing, congestion, and sinus pain.

There are some things you can do to minimize the discomfort throughout the spring season.

Check out Our Top 5 Tips for Getting Through Eye Allergy Season:

  1. Pollen tends to have a higher count in the mornings and early evenings. During these times, stay inside and keep windows closed. If you enjoy an early morning exercise run, consider an alternative indoor workout during peak allergy season.
  2. Take a shower before going to sleep. Doing this at night can rinse away any lingering allergens and leave you with a clearer eye and nasal area, as well as a more restful night’s sleep.
  3. Keep artificial tears close by. They can temporarily alleviate ocular allergy symptoms by lubricating your eyes when they feel dry and itchy, and they’re usually small enough to fit inside a purse or pocket. If you don’t have any good eye drops, use a cool compress as an alternative method of relief.
  4. If your allergies are caused by dust or pet dander, vacuum. A lot. Dust collects quickly and can be difficult to spot until there’s a high amount of it. Pets can shed fast and often, and just when you think you’ve removed all the fur from your sofa, carpet, or bed, you suddenly find more, so vacuum a few times each week.
  5. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water and change your linens more often during the spring season. Remnants of airborne allergens can stay on your hands, towels, and bed sheets. Washing them more frequently can minimize some of your allergic reactions.

Though it may be tempting, don’t rub your eyes. This can actually aggravate the allergy response. If you find yourself using artificial tears more than 4 times a day, or other short-term solutions aren’t enough, speak with your eye doctor. You may be able to receive antihistamine eye drops or other prescription medications to ease your discomfort.

When It’s More Than Allergies

Certain eye allergy symptoms can also be signs of eye conditions or diseases, so pay close attention to any reactions that don’t dissipate after allergy season ends.

These Eye Symptoms can include:

  • Dryness
  • Excessive tearing
  • Itchiness
  • Persistent eye pain
  • Redness
  • Swelling

These Symptoms Can Indicate Eye conditions, Such As:

  • Blepharitis (inflamed eyelids)
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • Corneal Abrasions
  • Dry Eye Disease
  • Styes (an oil gland infection that causes a bump or pimple-like shape in the eyelid)

Eye Allergies and Contact Lenses

If you wear contact lenses, speak to your doctor about daily disposable contacts. These can be a great option for allergy sufferers. Since dailies are thrown away at the end of the day, there’s no heavy allergen buildup on the lenses to worry about.

Consider switching to eyeglasses for a while. Even the most comfortable soft lenses can feel irritable during allergy season. Use the springtime to get yourself a new look. With a wide range of incredible styles to choose from, including exclusive eyewear collections from today’s hottest designers, there’s something for everyone. Not sure what the choose? Talk to your optician to help you find a style that’s right for you.

An Ocular Allergy Optometrist Near You

We’re here for you, and we want to help. Contact your eye doctor for any specific questions or concerns about your eye allergies.

Women’s Health and Your Vision

March 8th is International Women’s Day, a day when women are honored and their accomplishments celebrated worldwide. From medicine to law, entrepreneurship to corporate leadership, education to the military, women are achieving great strides in areas of business like never before.

In addition to professional achievements, International Women’s Day is a time for women to focus inwards on their personal goals, relationships, and health. From the adolescent years to pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause, women’s bodies go through some major changes that can affect many areas of their health, especially their vision.

Age Is Just a Number, But Not For Your Vision

They say that ‘age is just a number’, but when it comes to women’s health, it’s essential to pay close attention to any signs of changing vision as we get older.

Women over 40 have a higher risk of developing eye disease, impaired vision, and blindness than men. They are more likely to develop eye conditions such as Cataracts, Diabetic Retinopathy, and Dry Eye Syndrome. In fact, 61% of Glaucoma patients and 65% of Age-Related Macular Degeneration patients are female, so it’s crucial that women know the risk factors and signs of developing these conditions.

Put Your Needs First

Women are typically the family caretakers, running a spouse, children, or elderly parents to the doctor, putting their own healthcare needs last. It’s time to put your eye care needs first. Don’t ignore symptoms or push them off for another day. Take care of yourself, and you’ll be able to continue being there for others.

Signs and Risk Factors of Vision Problems

Knowing what to look out for is a crucial step in keeping your eyes healthy and enjoying great vision.

Genetics often play a key role in many health issues. Just like people inherit eye color and shape, hair color and texture, and facial features from parents, vision difficulties or diseases can also be hereditary. If something runs in the family, you may be more susceptible to developing it and passing it on to your children, as well.

Pregnancy can temporarily affect a woman’s vision. This is due to the hormonal changes in the body, which typically stabilize after breastfeeding has stopped. A pregnant woman with diabetes must be closely monitored, since diabetic retinopathy (swelling or leaking of blood vessels in the retina) can progress more quickly during the pregnancy.

Climate and environment are also important factors when it comes to eye health. Extremely cold or hot climates can cause dry eye symptoms. A healthy amount of sun exposure is good for the skin, but an excessive amount can harm your eyes and even lead to vision loss. Smoking dehydrates the skin and can lead to eye bags and dark circles, not to mention a whole slew of serious eye diseases like cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic eye disease.

Symptoms of Declining Vision and Eye Conditions

Some of the most common signs of declining vision or eye disease include:

  • Blind spots
  • Blurry or distorted vision
  • Burning sensation
  • Gritty feeling
  • Itchy eyes
  • Redness
  • Shadows or dark spots on an image
  • Stinging
  • Swelling or soreness in the eye
  • Watery eyes

If you or a loved one experiences any of these symptoms, or if you feel like something just isn’t right with your eyes, speak with your eye doctor right away. Mention any other conditions or medications you may be taking, including birth control pills (a known contributor to Dry Eye Syndrome), and even natural supplements or vitamins. Other factors such as an irregular menstrual cycle, fertility treatments, or cosmetic procedures may impact your vision in ways you may be unaware of, so disclosing this to your doctor is important.

What Can You Do to Improve Your Eye Health?

There are some preventative measures that women can take to ensure their eye health and overall vision are at their best.

  1. Keep that body hydrated! Mothers always say it, doctors remind us too, and they’re right. Drinking 8 glasses of water daily is great for your skin and can prevent dry eye symptoms from forming.
  2. Quit smoking. Not only is it bad for your lungs, but it can cause eye problems, like dryness, itchiness, and swelling, as well as more serious eye diseases associated with vision loss.
  3. Love the outdoors? Wear UV-blocking sunglasses when you’re at the beach or even hanging out in your backyard, to protect against harmful sun rays. Polarized lenses are a great way to shield your eyes from strong glare.
  4. Eat healthy. A balanced diet including a variety of vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables may help protect you from several eye conditions including dry eyes, macular degeneration, and even diabetic retinopathy.
  5. Try to get more shut-eye. A healthy amount of sleep ensures your eyes are rested and clear the next day.

On this International Women’s Day, let’s work together to keep the women in our lives healthy for many years to come.

What’s in Your Household Cleaning Supplies?

Most of us have the basics: bleach, oven cleaner, air freshener, furniture polish, and window spray. Did you know that chemicals found in these kinds of cleaning products can be toxic and harmful to your health? In small amounts, they generally don’t cause much damage. But when used on a regular basis or in a poorly ventilated area, the level of toxicity rises.

If you’ve ever gotten a headache or developed watery eyes after scrubbing down your kitchen counters, you may have a sensitivity to the chemicals in your household products.

That Burns

Volatile Organic Compounds

Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, are gases that are released into the atmosphere, usually from burning fuel sources like wood or gasoline. They can also be found in many household products such as degreasers, aerosol sprays, and disinfectants. These gases are released not only during use, but also when kept in storage or transported between locations.

VOCs are generally less harmful when released outdoors, as the gases are absorbed into the atmosphere. However, in an indoor environment, the gases have 10 times the concentration!

People may come into contact with these compounds by breathing them in or through direct contact with their skin, which can lead to any of the following symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Respiratory problems
  • Nausea
  • Impaired coordination (ie. difficulty walking straight, buttoning a shirt, or holding a pen)
  • Eye problems (ie. itching, burning, redness, or soreness in the eyes)

Other Chemical Irritants

Chemicals like sodium hydroxide can be found in oven and drain cleaners. Air fresheners and leather cleaners may contain formaldehyde, which in high amounts, has been linked to certain types of cancer. Even laundry detergents and stain removers can contain irritants.

If you’ve been exposed to these types of chemicals, you may experience trouble breathing, irritation in the eyes, nose or throat, or develop a skin rash. So, use extra caution when handling these kinds of cleaning supplies.

If your job exposes you to higher levels of chemicals from cleaning products, such as janitorial staff or sanitation workers, artificial tears and protective eyewear can help. Use them daily to give you relief from chemical agents that irritate the eyes. Ask your optometrist about which types are best for you.

Immediate Eye Care

Should your eyes come into contact with chemical substances or VOCs, immediately irrigate your eyes with plenty of cold water. Tilt your head so that the exposed eye is down, to avoid flushing the chemical into the good eye, and avoid rubbing your eyes. Rinse your eyes for 15 minutes – this will flush acidic or alkaline chemicals out of the affected areas. This should be your first line of defense, even before calling a doctor.

If you have saline solution or contact lens solution readily on hand (non-peroxide only), administer several drops of solution to the affected eyes. Contact your eye doctor or, if need be, visit an emergency room. Chemical burns can cause serious damage to the cornea, so schedule a checkup with your eye doctor as soon as possible.

5 Ways to Lower Your Risk of Chemical Exposure

Despite the potential harm to your health, there are some things you can do to minimize over exposure to these dangerous chemicals.

1. Wash Your Hands

Our mothers always said it, and with good reason. The #1 way to lower your risk of health issues from chemicals is to wash your hands after handling cleaning products. Use warm water and soap and be sure to wash the hands thoroughly, even if you used gloves. Consider washing to your upper arms in case of a splash or splatter, such as from paint or aerosol sprays.

2. Don’t Rub Your Eyes

Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes until your hands have been completely washed and are clear of any lingering chemical substances. Even a little foreign substance in the eye can be incredibly painful. If you’ve ever had an eyelash stuck in your eye, you know what we mean. So just imagine how severe the pain could be if you accidentally touched your eye after contact with bleach or glass cleaner.

3. Go Outside

Get some fresh air. If you feel dizzy or nauseous, if your eyes burn or you have trouble breathing after using cleaning supplies, go outside. A short walk in the fresh air can quickly open the nasal passages and clear your eyes from strong chemical vapors.

4. Open Some Windows

Make sure there is plenty of ventilation when cleaning or using any chemicals like paint. Open windows or turn some fans on to circulate the air more effectively.

5. Read Labels

Read labels and warnings so you know what’s in the cleaners you’re buying and how to use them safely. Consider trying out some natural cleaning supplies that don’t contain VOCs.

About “Green” Cleaning Products

In recent years, so-called “green” products have made their way onto store shelves, but just how green are they, and are they safer than standard ones?

While baking soda and vinegar have long been touted and praised for their cleaning abilities, there is a seeming plethora of new natural disinfectants and general cleaners on the market.

Buzzwords to Look out For

There are some buzzwords you can look out for, which are clues that certain products may not be as natural or as safe as you think. Consumer product manufacturers aren’t required by law to disclose the ingredients in artificial fragrances, so labels may simply list “fragrance” on their ingredient list. Items labeled “natural” are also vague; they don’t have to be specified, and not all natural items are necessarily safe. However, if something is listed as “flammable”, that’s a pretty sure sign of a chemical ingredient.

Chemicals & You

Simply being aware of your body’s reaction to the everyday cleaning supplies in your home is the first step. Use these items safely and with caution. For any severe eye pain – especially if you notice any vision changes – talk to your eye doctor right away.

School and Vision: 2 Important Partners

It’s February and that means we’re smack in the middle of winter, which is also the middle of the school year. It’s the season when kids fervently hope for snow days and parents hope they don’t happen. As we head towards the second half of the school year, you’ve probably attended a few parent-teacher conferences and discussed your child’s education.

Like peanut butter and jelly, school and vision go hand-in-hand. Both are important partners in ensuring that children excel in their learning, extracurricular activities, and relationships with their peers.

ADD/ADHD and Vision Problems

Did you know that certain vision problems can mask themselves as behavioral or learning difficulties? In fact, education experts often say that 80% of learning is visual.

A 3rd grader may be misdiagnosed with ADD or ADHD if they display behaviors like being fidgety, having difficulty focusing or concentrating, or having a short attention span. These symptoms may not always be purely behavioral; they could be vision-related. A child who experiences blurry vision, suffers from headaches or eyestrain, or itches their eyes excessively may, in fact, have a refractive error such as myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) or astigmatism, or another condition such as convergence insufficiency.

Undiagnosed myopia, for example can cause these same types of behaviors that are commonly attributed to attention disorders. That’s because if your child has to squint his eyes to see the board clearly, eyestrain and headaches are bound to follow. Struggling with reading or writing is common too. Other vision disorders can cause similar behavior patterns. An additional challenge is that kids don’t always express their symptoms verbally, and often they don’t even realize that other people see differently than do.

This can also impact kids emotionally. When they feel like they’re not keeping up with their peers or their learning is inferior in some way, this may lead the child to act out verbally or even physically.

Distinguishing between colors is an important skill for early childhood development. While color vision deficiency affects both children and adults, kids, in particular, can experience difficulty in school with this condition. Simply reading a chalkboard can be an intense struggle when white or yellow chalk is used. When a teacher uses colored markers on a whiteboard to draw a pie chart, graph, or play a game, this can be a difficult experience for a young student with color blindness. A child, his or her parents, and teachers may even be unaware that the child is color blind.

What School Vision Screenings Miss

Many parents believe that an in-school vision screening is good enough. However, an eye chart test only checks for basic visual acuity, so kids with blurry or double vision, for example, may be able to pass a vision screening while still struggling to read, write, or focus on the board. Children who have problems with their binocular vision, which means using both eyes together to focus on something, can pass the screening when they use just one eye to read the chart.

Studies show that a whopping 43% of children who have vision problems can successfully pass a school vision screening. This means that the vision test may fail to detect the more subtle but significant and treatable vision problems. Early detection and diagnosis is critical to maintaining healthy eyes. That’s why it’s so important to make eye care a part of your child’s healthcare routine.

The Importance of Yearly Eye Exams

The #1 way to do this is to schedule annual eye exams. Your eye doctor can perform a comprehensive pediatric eye exam to check visual acuity, visual clarity, binocular vision, and screen for any eye diseases or vision problems.

Because children develop so rapidly at different ages, it’s essential that eye exams are done at specific stages of their young lives. In fact, The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends regular eye exams at age 6 months, 3 years, before school starts, and every 2 years thereafter.

Simply being aware of the tendency to associate a child’s learning issues with a learning disability or attention disorder instead of an underlying vision problem is critical for parents and educators. Both are partners in a child’s education and they must work together to ensure that each child gets the health care and attention he or she needs.

If you notice changes in your child’s schoolwork, behavior with friends or in sports or other after-school activities, it may be time to schedule an eye exam. You’ll want to be sure that your kids have all the tools they need to succeed in school and beyond.

What You Need to Know About Glaucoma – The Sneak Thief of Sight

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma, a silent eye disease, is the most common form of irreversible blindness in the world. It is actually a group of diseases that causes progressive damage to the optic nerve.

  • Glaucoma is a progressive eye disease that can lead to permanent vision loss if not controlled.
  • There is currently no cure for glaucoma, but there are many treatments available for stopping and slowing the progressive damage to the eye. Treatment, however, can’t reverse damage that is already done.
  • Glaucoma affects the optic nerve which sends visual information from your eye to your brain.
  • Glaucoma is called the “Thief Sneak of Sight” because there are often no symptoms in the early stages such as pain or “pressure sensation” as one may expect, and by the time it is diagnosed there may already be permanent vision loss.
  • When vision loss occurs, peripheral vision is typically affected before central vision. As a result, glaucoma is a major public health issue because individuals usually do not notice any problem with vision until end stages of the disease when there is severe and irreversible vision loss.
  • Awareness and regular eye exams are key to early detection and preventing vision loss.

What Causes Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is caused by a buildup of natural fluid that doesn’t drain properly from the eye. The buildup of fluid can result in high pressure in the eye which is the most common cause of the condition. There are many types of glaucoma, which include:

Chronic (open angle) glaucoma occurs when pressure builds up over time, usually as a result of aging. This is the most common type of glaucoma.

Acute (angle closure) glaucoma is an acute condition where pressure builds up suddenly and demands immediate medical attention. Symptoms include blurred vision, eye pain, headaches, seeing halos around lights, nausea and vomiting.

Secondary glaucoma results from another eye disease, condition or a trauma to the eye.

Normal tension glaucoma is when there is no build up of pressure but the optic nerve is still damaged. We are still not yet sure what causes this type of glaucoma.

Who is at Risk for Glaucoma?

Everyone is at risk of glaucoma however there are certain factors which increase the likelihood of developing the condition. Vision loss from glaucoma can be greatly reduced when detected and treated early which is why knowing your risk factors can play a tremendous role in prevention.

Age

Age is one of the biggest risk factors, as your chances of developing glaucoma increase significantly after the age of 40. In fact people over 60 years old are six times more likely to get the condition.

Ancestry and Family History

Individuals from African American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American or Aboriginal Canadian descent are at increased risk. Family history is a very strong factor as the condition occurs twice as much in people with close relatives who have had glaucoma.

Previous Eye Injury, Traumas or Surgery

Eye injuries, traumas or surgeries have been known to sometimes cause secondary glaucoma which can happen immediately after the injury or procedure, or even years later. Even childhood injuries can result in secondary glaucoma later in life.

Use of Steroids

Studies show that prolonged steroid use is linked to increased elevated intraocular pressure which increases the risk of open-angle glaucoma.

Certain medical and eye conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and high myopia (nearsightedness) also increase a person’s risk of developing glaucoma.

Glaucoma Treatment

While there is no cure for glaucoma, there are treatments to slow down the progression of the disease including eye drop medications, iridotomies, iridectomies, laser procedures and surgeries.

Glaucoma Prevention

Other than taking care of any underlying conditions that may increase the risk of developing glaucoma, there is little one can do in the way of prevention. You can however reduce your chances of suffering vision loss. The first step is knowing the risk factors and signs of the condition (even though as mentioned most cases have no symptoms in the early stages, until vision is already lost).

The best possible way to prevent vision loss is to have regular comprehensive eye exams to check the health of your eyes and if your eye doctors prescribes medication for glaucoma, make sure to diligently take them as directed. Your eye doctor will be able to conduct certain tests to detect eye diseases such as glaucoma before you even begin to notice symptoms. If you have any of the risk factors above, mention it to your eye doctor, and always be sure to schedule a yearly eye exam, or as often as your eye doctor recommends, to check the health of your eyes and rule out any underlying or developing eye conditions like glaucoma.