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9 Signs That You Need an Eye Exam

Posted in 'General' on May 13, 2013 by Stuart Macfarlane

When should you get an eye exam?  Everyone is not the same so it is important to follow the advice your eye care provider recommends.  If you are unsure because you have not been to the eye doctor in a long time, here are seven signs that should send you to the eye doctor for an eye exam.

Unlike going to the dentist, its generally not necessary to see the eye doctor every 6 months for an eye exam.

Typically, a comprehensive eye exam every 2 years will ensure that your eyes stay healthy and your vision remains sharp.  If you have a medical condition like diabetes or other ocular disorders, previous eye trauma or surgery, high prescriptions, a lazy eye, or a family history of glaucoma or macular degeneration, you will need to have more frequent eye exams.

However, there are some signs and symptoms that should send you to the eye doctor for an eye exam even if you arent due up for one.  If you experience any of the nine symptoms below, you should schedule an eye exam as soon as possible, and in some cases, immediate medical attention is required.

1. Sudden Blurry Vision or Problems Focusing

Sudden blurry vision or focus problems can be a sign of a larger health issue and should always be taken seriously. If the blurry vision comes and goes, or is limited to one eye, you should schedule an exam with an optometrist or ophthalmologist as soon as possible.

2.  Sudden appearance of visual disturbances such as floaters, flashes of light, or obstruction of vision

Sudden onset of any of these visual disturbances could be a sign of a serious, vision-threatening disorder such as a retinal detachment, retinal tear, or retinal hole.  Anyone who experiences these signs must seek immediate (within 24 hours, or sooner) medical attention by an optometrist, ophthalmologist or emergency room physician for proper diagnosis and treatment to minimize vision loss.

3. Gradual Blurring of Vision

This is the type of vision degradation that gradually happens over time. If you are noticing that youre moving a book or the computer screen further away from your eyes than you use to to improve clarity, its probably time to get an eye exam.  Same goes if you notice yourself  sitting closer to the television or bring objects closer to you to read them (like a cereal box, for instance.)

4. Headaches

Frequent headaches can be a sign of a vision problem. Changes in vision take place slowly and are often imperceptible to the patient at first. However, headaches can be one of the early warning signs of a change in vision. If you are experiencing re-occurring headaches, you may want to consider getting your eyes checked.

5. Eye Pain or Eye Fatigue/Strain

Having some infrequent eye pain or eye strain isnt usually a big problem. Everything from the amount of sleep your getting to seasonal allergies, or the cold or flu can cause temporary eye pain or fatigue. However, if you experience ongoing eye pain for more than a few days, or if you experience ongoing eye pain with eye movements, its a good idea to get it checked out. It can sometimes be a sign of an eye infection or more serious health condition, or even a warning sign that your vision has changed. Get it checked out.

6. Squinting

Frequent squinting is the quintessential sign that its probably time for an eye exam. We squint when were having difficulties seeing because the act of squinting reduces extraneous light entering the eye and reduces light scattering, improving vision.  This is often one of the first signs in children that they may need eyeglasses.  In addition, squinting coupled with an eye turn, more commonly called a "lazy eye, is a definite red flag that a comprehensive vision exam is in order.   This is especially true in children, and if not detected and treated early enough, permanent vision loss may result.  If you notice yourself squinting more than usual, schedule an eye exam.

7. Sensitivity to Light

A sudden onset of  sensitivity to light can be a sign that you should get an eye exam. Light sensitivity can be a symptom of a number of disorders or eye diseases (as well as an eye infection.)  So if you find yourself regularly experiencing light sensitivity, get an eye exam.

8. An Eye Infection

If you experience swelling of the eyelids, itchiness, redness, a pink discoloration of the whites of your eyes, and/or discharge, you may have an eye infection.  If you experience any of these symptoms, schedule an eye exam immediately to have it looked at.

9. One Bonus: If You Havent Had an Eye Exam in the Past Two Years

If you havent had a full eye exam in the past two years, you should schedule one especially if you are over the age of 40.  It is important to note that for some people, an exam sooner than every two years is critical to ensuring your eyes stay healthy.

Natural changes in the eyes associated with age makes more frequent eye exams necessary as you grow older, especially if you havent had one in a few years.

Even if you are between the ages of 20 and 40, an eye exam is an important part of maintaining your vision and overall health. Eye exams can often reveal developing health issues that arent easily found even with a physical by a family doctor. Children may require eye exams every year or sooner, as their vision changes rapidly with growth.  So get those peepers checked and please remember to follow your eye doctors recommendations for follow-up visits and annual exams!


Author: Stuart Macfarlane



Finding Relief From Eye Allergies

Posted in 'General' on May 21, 2013 by Stuart Macfarlane

People who have allergies are often quick to seek help for symptoms like sneezing, sniffling, and nasal congestion. But allergies can affect the eyes, too, causing red, itchy, burning, and watery eyes and swollen eyelids. The good news is that the same treatments and self-help strategies that ease nasal allergy symptoms work for eye allergies, too.

Eye allergies, also called ocular allergies or allergic conjunctivitis, affect one in five Americans. Though the symptoms they cause can be annoying -- not to mention unbecoming -- they pose little threat to eyesight other than temporary blurriness. But red, itchy, burning, and puffy eyes can be caused also by infections and other conditions that do threaten eyesight. So, it's smart to see your doctor if eye symptoms don't get better with self-help strategies or over-the-counter allergy remedies.

Allergic Conjunctivitis

Like all allergies, eye allergies are caused by a glitch in the body's immune system. The trouble starts when the conjunctiva (the mucous membrane that lines the eyelids and covers the whites of the eyes) comes into contact with something that, while actually harmless, is seen as a threat. In a mistaken attempt to fight off the threat, the immune system makes antibodies that cause your eyes to release histamine and other substances. That, in turn, makes eyes red, itchy, and watery. Eye allergy symptoms can happen alone or along with nasal allergy symptoms.

Allergies: Seasonal and Perennial

There are two types of eye allergies: seasonal, which are more common, and perennial.

Seasonal allergies happen only at certain times of the year, usually early spring through summer and into autumn. They're caused by exposure to allergens in the air, commonly pollen from grasses, trees, and weeds, as well as spores from molds.

Perennial allergies occur throughout the year. They're caused mostly by exposure to dust mites, feathers (as in bedding) and animal (pet) dander. Other substances, including perfumes, smoke, chlorine, air pollution, cosmetics, and certain medicines, can also play a role.

Sometimes, its easy to tell what's causing an allergy -- for example, if symptoms strike when you go outside on a windy, high-pollen-count day, or when a furry friend climbs onto your lap. If its not clear just what you're allergic to, a doctor can give you a simple test to find out.


The first approach to controlling eye allergies should be to limit your exposure to allergy triggers:

  • Stay indoors when pollen counts are highest, usually in mid-morning and early evening. Close the windows and run the air conditioner (window fans can draw in pollen and mold spores). If you go out, wearing eyeglasses or big sunglasses can help block pollen from your eyes. Driving? Keep the windows closed and run the air conditioner.
  • Limit your exposure to dust mites by encasing your pillows in allergen-impermeable covers. Wash bedding frequently in water thats at least 130 F. If your mattress is more than a few years old, consider getting a new one. Old mattresses are often teeming with allergens.
  • Clean floors with a damp mop. Sweeping tends to stir up rather than get rid of allergens. Especially if a pet shares the house with you, consider replacing rugs and carpets, which trap and hold allergens, with hardwood, tile, or other flooring materials that are easier to clean. Go with blinds instead of curtains.
  • To stop mold from growing inside your home, keep the humidity under 50%.  That might mean using a dehumidifier, especially in a damp basement. If so, clean the dehumidifier regularly. Clean your kitchen and bathrooms with a bleach solution.
  • If your pet is causing your allergies, try to keep it outside as much as possible. At the very least, keep it out of your bedroom. Don't let it share your bed.
  • Dont rub your eyes. Thats likely to make symptoms worse. Try cool compresses instead.

Allergy Medications for Eyes

What if avoiding allergy triggers isn't enough to relieve eye allergy symptoms? Over-the-counter and prescription medications can provide short-term relief of some eye allergy symptoms, while prescription treatments can provide both short- and long-term help. Remedies include:

  • Sterile saline rinses and eye lubricants can soothe irritated eyes and help flush out allergens.
  • Decongestant eye drops can curb eye redness by constricting blood vessels in the eyes. But these drops tend to sting a bit, and they don't relieve all symptoms. What's more, their effect tends to be short-lived, and using them for more than a few days can cause ''rebound'' eye redness. 
  • Eye drops containing ketotifen can relieve allergy symptoms for up to 12 hours. They wont cause rebound redness even with long-term use.
  • Refrigerating eye drops may help them provide additional relief of allergy symptoms.
  • Oral antihistamines can also help. Loratadine (Claritin) and cetirizine (Zyrtec) tend to be less sedating than some older drugs, and they provide longer-lasting relief.

If these drugs aren't enough to do the trick, a doctor can prescribe other eye drops, including combination antihistamine-mast cell stabilizers and corticosteroids. If allergies are especially severe or persistent, allergy shots (immunotherapy) can also help.