Migraine and Vision

migrainsMigraines are horrible. For those of you who have never experienced a migraine, you’re one of the lucky few. There’s the pain, of course- throbbing, pounding pain. But then, you get the tag-along symptoms: nausea and sensitivity to light and noise. Migraine sufferers quickly learn on the second or third migraine that visual symptoms like wavy lines, flashing dots, and temporary blindness are usually the first sign of a migraine. Also, not all migraines are the same. Retinal or eye migraines, for instance, can occur with or without the accompanying headache, but they can still be just as painful.

Retinal migraines, or ocular migraines, are caused by the same inflammation as regular migraines.  Inflammatory substances release deep inside the brain and around the blood vessels of the head and brain. While ocular and regular migraines affect vision, ocular migraines only affect one eye. Ocular migraine sufferers typically have a family history of migraine headaches.

While genetics play a major part, other factors can trigger a migraine. Common triggers include:

  • Glaring or flickering lights
  • Certain foods, such as aged cheeses, caffeinated drinks, red wine, smoked meats, and chocolate
  • Food additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) and artificial sweeteners
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Perfumes and other strong odors
  • Lack of sleep
  • Emotional stress

While migraines are a common neurological condition that affects approximately 20 percent of the population, women are more likely to experience migraines. In fact, women in their twenties or thirties are three times more likely to be retinal migraine victims than men in the same age group.

Another common issue is headaches behind the eyes. While stress, eyestrain, and lack of sleep can lead to this type of headache, a frequent cause is actual eye problems such as astigmatism, presbyopia and far-sightedness. These problems left uncorrected, cause habitual squinting and put stress on the eyes, which puts tension on the eye muscles, resulting in a headache.

The visual symptoms of ocular migraines are usually harmless and resolve on their own within a half hour. The associated headache, unfortunately, could last for several hours or even days. Rest is your first course of action. Afterwards, it’s best to talk with your physician about migraine treatment and prevention.

If you experience unusual vision symptoms, you should schedule a comprehensive eye exam with an optometrist or ophthalmologist to rule out vision-threatening conditions such as a detached retina.

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Visual Fatigue

visual-fatigue-eyeglassesJust like the muscles in your body, your eyes can get tired. For the job they do, your eyes contain the strongest muscles in your body. But as strong as they are, they can become strained and fatigued by sitting in front of a computer, under fluorescent lights or in front of a TV for several hours. This is called visual fatigue, and an eye doctor can show you how to lessen it during an annual comprehensive eye exam.

Today, more and more people are suffering from visual fatigue without knowing the cause of their symptoms. Modern work and lifestyle changes have forced us to spend extended hours in close-range activities such as smart phones, computer work, e-books, and hand-held gaming. The increased demands of these activities on your eyes can leave you with uncomfortable and sometimes painful symptoms. For some people, visual fatigue can also lead to reduction in productivity and ability to concentrate—and may even negatively impact your vision health.

Common symptoms of digital fatigue are headaches, tired eyes, neck or back pain, burning/stinging eyes, and difficulty focusing after extended periods of time. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you eye doctor may be able to help. Visual fatigue can be diagnosed by an eye doctor through an annual eye exam and a discussion on your lifestyle and work habits. If you have visual fatigue, your eye doctor has new technology designed to help you combat it.

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Yoga for Your Eyes!

eye_yoga

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Contact Lenses and Glasses Prescriptions

03Like an eyeglass prescription, a contact lens prescription includes the lens power required to correct your refractive error — whether myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and/or astigmatism.

But, depending on the degree of your refractive error and the type of contacts prescribed, the powers specified on your contact lens prescription may be significantly different than those on your glasses prescription to give you the best vision possible.

Also, a contact lens prescription contains additional specifications that are not included on a glasses prescription, and these can be determined only after a comprehensive contact lens exam and fitting. They include:

Base curve. This measurement (abbreviated BC) is the curvature of the back surface of the contact lens. The proper base curve is determined by the shape of your cornea and produces a fitting that is not too loose or too tight.

Diameter. The lens diameter (DIA) specifies the overall size of the lens and, along with the base curve, determines how the lens fits. In most cases, the diameter of soft contact lenses ranges from 13.5 to 14.5 mm, and the diameter of rigid gas permeable (GP) contacts ranges from 8.5 to 9.5 mm.

Lens brand or material. The lens brand and material also must be specified on a contact lens prescription, because each lens material has a specific degree of oxygen permeability (“breathability”). This is especially important if you want extended wear contact lenses or you occasionally fall asleep while wearing your contacts.

Expiration date. Generally, a contact lens Rx is valid for one year. You will need to revisit your eye doctor when your prescription expires, for a checkup of the health of your eyes before you can purchase additional lenses. Eyeglass prescriptions are regulated under state law, and most expire after two years.

You are entitled to a copy of both your glasses and contact lens prescriptions. It is illegal for your doctor to withhold your prescription from you.

You can request a copy of your glasses prescription at the conclusion of your comprehensive eye exam. But a contact lens prescription cannot be written by your eye doctor and given to you until he or she performs a contact lens fitting or has access to your previous prescription and has evaluated the fit of your current lenses.

Not everyone who needs eyeglasses can wear contact lenses successfully. Conditions such as dry eyes or blepharitis can make contact lens wear uncomfortable or unsafe. Even with no pre-existing eye conditions, some people have sensitive corneas and simply cannot adapt to contact lenses.

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Tips for Contact Lens Wearers at Every Age

tips_for_lenses_01How Long Can I Wear my Lenses
Replace your lenses as often as the doctor suggests, even if you don’t wear them every day. For instance, if you have the disposable kind that are good for one wearing, throw them out after you’ve worn them once, even if they still feel fresh. When you wear lenses for more days than you should, or when you sleep in lenses that aren’t made for overnight wear, you raise your risk of eye infections.

Before You Touch Your Lensestips_for_lenses_02
Always wash your hands before you put your lenses in or take them out. Don’t lather up with oily or heavily scented soaps. Lenses can cling to wet hands, so dry your hands well with a lint-free towel. If you want to use a moisturizer, wait until after you’ve put in your lenses. The residue from lotions can stick to them.

tips_for_lenses_03Putting in Your Lenses
Start with the same eye each time so you don’t mix up the right and left lenses. Use your index finger to slide the lens out of the package or case and into the palm of your hand. Rinse it with the solution recommended by your eye doctor. Place the lens on the tip of your index finger.  Pull your lower lid down with the middle finger of the same hand and hold your upper lid with your other hand. Place the lens directly on the iris of your eye. Gently release your lids, and blink.

Removing Your Lensestips_for_lenses_04
First, wash your hands before removing any lenses. To take out soft lenses, pull down your lower lid. Look up or to the side, and gently move your lens to the white of your eye. Using your thumb and index finger, gently pinch the lens and lift it off your eye. For gas-permeable lenses, open your eyes wide and pull the skin near the corner of your eye toward your ear. Bend over your open palm and blink. The lens should pop out into your palm.

tips_for_lenses_05Cleaning and Storage
There are many ways to clean lenses. A multipurpose solution lets you clean, rinse, disinfect, and store your lenses. Some systems have separate products for cleaning and rinsing. “No-rub” solutions say that rinsing alone will clean the lenses, but research suggests that rubbing cleans better. With hydrogen peroxide solution you put your lenses in a basket that goes in a cup of solution. Never use this solution to rinse your lenses.

Water and Lenses Don’t Mixtips_for_lenses_06
If you’re out of contact lens solution, you might be tempted to rinse your lenses with tap water. Don’t do it! Water sometimes has microbes that can cause serious eye infections. Don’t even wear contacts in the shower. And never put your lenses into your mouth or use saliva to wet them.

tips_for_lenses_07

The Case Matters, Too
Clean your lens case as carefully as you clean your lenses. You should rinse it at least every night with disinfecting solution. Wipe the case with a tissue and let it air dry to help get rid of lingering bacteria. Replace your case every 3 months or more often.

 

When Your Lenses Hurttips_for_lenses_08
A lens might feel uncomfortable if there’s something on or under it or if it’s inside out. Take the lens out and rinse it with rewetting drops or a non-peroxide solution to remove the dirt or dust. Don’t keep wearing your contact lenses if they stay uncomfortable.  And don’t wear them when your eyes are already red and irritated.  If you’re not better after you stop wearing them, see an eye doctor.

tips_for_lenses_09Teens and Contact Lenses
Mature teenagers can wear lenses as long as they learn to take care of them and can be trusted to follow all care instructions exactly. Disposable lenses that are worn just 1 day are a good option. There’s no cleaning or care involved. Work with your eye doctor to find the best contacts for you. Never try on a friend’s lenses. An eye doctor has to fit contact lenses perfectly to your eyes. The doctor can give you samples to make sure the chosen lenses fit well.

Contact Lenses and Sportstips_for_lenses_10
You can wear your lenses for most sports and activities. They rarely move or fall out. Plus, they don’t fog up like glasses, and they give you better peripheral vision. If you swim, though, especially in lakes, avoid wearing your contacts in the water. Even with watertight goggles, you can get an eye infection from water, and your lenses can be hard to take out if they get wet. If you do accidentally wear them in the water, use saline or rewetting drops to loosen them and clean and disinfect them afterward.

tips_for_lenses_11Keep Your Glasses
Even after you get contact lenses, you’ll probably still wear glasses sometimes. You should keep a pair of up-to-date prescription glasses for when your eyes need a break or if you can’t wear your contacts for some reason. You should also have sunglasses to protect your eyes from damaging UV light. Choose sunglasses that block 99% of UV light and wear them — especially in the sun, when you’re driving, and around snow, water, or sand.

  • Makeup Tips for Lens Wearerstips_for_lenses_10
    Put on soft contact lenses before you apply makeup. Put on gas-permeable lenses after you’ve put on your makeup. Always take lenses out before you take off your makeup.
  • Use non-allergenic makeup. Avoid metallic or glittery eye shadows and liners, and lash-lengthening or waterproof mascara. These can irritate or stain your lenses.
  • Don’t apply eyeliner to your inner rims, between your lashes and your eye.
  • Replace your eye makeup at least every 3 months

tips_for_lenses_12Decorative and Cosmetic Lenses
It might look cool to have cat’s eyes for Halloween or change your eye color just for fun. Decorative and cosmetic lenses can be safe, but make sure you get them from an eye doctor. It’s actually illegal to sell decorative lenses without a prescription in the U.S. Ill-fitting contact lenses can scratch your eye or cause an eye infection.

Your Eyes and Your Screenstips_for_lenses_13
Teens and young adults spend hours in front of computers, televisions, and cell phones. All that screen time can cause computer vision and eye strain problems. We blink less when we’re focusing up close like that, so eyes can get dry and tired. To help, try the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break from the screen to look at something 20 feet away.

03Visit an Eye Doctor
If you’re thinking about contact lenses, see an eye doctor first. Contacts come in different materials, shapes, and strengths that don’t match the prescription for your glasses. An optometrist or an ophthalmologist can find the right prescription and fit lenses exactly to your eyes. Even if you want to buy contact lenses online, you’ll still need to see an eye doctor first.

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Eye Strain Health: How to Give your Eyes a Break

screenIf you’re looking for the cause of irritated eyes, the obvious suspect may not always be the culprit. Some experts agree that the actual screen may not be what’s causing the damage. While computers have no known harmful effects on eyesight, computer users do often complain of eye-related symptoms like eye strain, headaches, fatigue and difficulty focusing. These symptoms, however, are caused not by the computer screen itself, but rather by the conditions surrounding the computer screen.

Poor lighting, improper placement of computer equipment and even computer furniture may all cause our eyes to be irritated after staring at a screen too long. Our eye muscles function like any other muscle in our body. When muscles become fatigued, the eyes may feel uncomfortable or ache and vision may start to blur.

But if your profession requires you to stare at a screen all day, there are techniques to overcome eye irritation — it’s the rule of 20. Look away from your computer at least every 20 minutes and gaze at a distant object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

And size also matters. LCD screens can cause less eye strain than older screens and adjusting your text size for comfort can also help. Last year, scientists found that our inability to focus on smartphone screens and determine how far away the content should actually be from our eyes, is the reason why they may feel sore after texting.

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Macular Degeneration

macular-degenerationMacular Degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss, affecting more than 10 million Americans – more than cataracts and glaucoma combined. At present, Macular Degeneration is considered an incurable eye disease.

Macular Degeneration is caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina, the inside back layer of the eye that records the images we see and sends them via the optic nerve from the eye to the brain. The retina’s central portion, known as the macula, is responsible for focusing central vision in the eye, and it controls our ability to read, drive a car, recognize faces or colors, and see objects in fine detail.

Try and compare the human eye to a camera. The macula is the central and most sensitive area of the so-called film. When it is working properly, the macula collects highly detailed images at the center of the field of vision and sends them up the optic nerve to the brain, which interprets them as sight.  When the cells of the macula deteriorate, images are not received correctly. In early stages, macular degeneration does not affect vision. Later, if the disease progresses, people experience wavy or blurred vision, and, if the condition continues to worsen, central vision may be completely lost. People with very advanced macular degeneration are considered legally blind. Even so, because the rest of the retina is still working, they retain their peripheral vision, which is not as clear as central vision.

Types of Macular Degeneration
There are two basic types of Macular Degeneration: DRY and WET. Approximately 85% to 90% of the cases of Macular Degeneration are the Dry, atrophic type, while 10-15% are the Wet, exudative type.

Stargardt disease is a form of macular degeneration found in young people, caused by a recessive gene.

Stages of Macular Degeneration
There are three stages of Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD).

Early AMD – Most people do not experience vision loss in the early stage of AMD, which is why regular eye exams are important, particularly if you have more than one risk factor (see below). Early AMD is diagnosed by the presence of medium-sized drusen (yellow deposits beneath the retina).

Intermediate AMD – At this stage, there may be some vision loss, but there still may not be noticeable symptoms. A comprehensive eye exam with specific tests will look for larger drusen and/or pigment changes in the retina.

Late AMD – At this stage, vision loss has become noticeable.

Causes of AMD
The specific factors that cause macular degeneration are not conclusively known, and research into this little understood disease is limited by insufficient funding. At this point, what is known about age-related Macular Degeneration is that the causes are complex, but include both heredity and environment. Scientists are working to understand what causes the cells of the macula to deteriorate, seeking a macular degeneration treatment breakthrough. They know the causes are not the same for Age-related Macular Degeneration as they are for Stargardt disease. Stargardt disease has a specific genetic cause in most cases, whereas AMD involves both genetic and environmental factors.

Risk Factors
The biggest risk factor for Macular Degeneration is age. Your risk increases as you age, and the disease is most likely to occur in those 55 and older. Other risk factors include:

Genetics – People with a family history of AMD are at a higher risk.

Race – Caucasians are more likely to develop the disease than African-Americans or Hispanics/Latinos.

Smoking – Smoking doubles the risk of AMD.

Treatment
There is currently no known cure for Macular Degeneration, but there are things you can do to reduce your risk and possibly slow the progression once you’ve been diagnosed. For example, one can pursue lifestyle changes like dieting, exercise, avoiding smoking, and protecting your eyes from ultraviolet light.

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