One Thing You Can’t Do When Your Vision Changes

Don't Put Off Eye Care

Many of us put off what we know we need to do.  But I met a man this week who wished he didn’t procrastinate.

If you notice blurry vision, don’t put off your next eye exam

A Ten Year Decline

I met a patient who told me the vision in his right eye has been failing – for ten years.

It had been decades since his last eye exam.  Worse, at his last exam he was told he had macular degeneration.  Add to that diabetes, high blood pressure, and a blood clotting disorder.  All of these can affect the eyes.

Once the exam was finished, I told him the bad news.  The eye disease had destroyed the vision in his right eye.  There was nothing I could do to bring it back.  His left eye had macular degeneration too, and his vision was already affected.

When I asked him why he waited, he said “Well, I knew the right eye was getting worse.  I could tell it for the past ten years.  Five years ago, I got really concerned.  When it finally went blind, I figured it was time to do something about it.”

What Now?

I encouraged good blood pressure and blood sugar control.  I urged him to see his other doctors as scheduled.  I explained the benefits of a healthy diet, vitamin supplements, protection from UV light, and regular testing at LaFollette Eye Clinic.  And of course, I told him to stop smoking!

This poor man was living the visual lifestyle with a disadvantage.  There wasn’t much I could do for his right eye.  Our diagnostic and treatment plan would focus on preventing further vision loss in the right eye, and trying to preserve his vision in the left eye.

Make no mistake.  Some vision changes are permanent, especially if they are caused by eye diseases such as glaucoma or macular degeneration.

If you see vision changes, don’t wait.  Schedule a complete eye exam with dilation.  See your trusted eye doctor as soon as possible.  Here’s why:

  • Better safe than sorry: What if your exam just shows a little change in your prescription?  In my book, that’s great news.  At the very least you can update your glasses or contact lenses and enjoy clear vision.  When this happens, I always tell patients they did the right thing by calling me.
  • Catch problems early: Most eye diseases are easier to treat and have better visual outcomes when they are discovered early.  It was too late to do anything about my patient’s right eye.  If he had gotten eye care years ago, it’s possible he might see better today.
  • Peace of mind: The man and his wife were pretty upset.  They had worried about his right eye for the past ten years.  And now, they’re worried about his left eye too.  If your vision changes, get care as soon as you can.  Even if it’s a false alarm, the peace of mind could be priceless.
  • A lifetime of clear vision and comfortable eyes: The eyes are incredible wonders, and so much can go wrong.  Vision changes may be harmless, or they may mean serious problems.  Either way get them checked and do the best you can to enjoy a good visual lifestyle for years to come.

Here’s one more tip: you don’t need to wait until your vision changes to get an eye exam.  In fact, it’s best to have one yearly.  That’s because many eye problems start without warning – you can’t feel them or see them coming.

If it’s been over a year since your last eye exam or your vision has changed, schedule a complete eye exam with an eye doctor you trust.  Do it as soon as possible!

Question: Have you ever put something off and then realized it was a bad idea?  Please tell me about it in the comments below.


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5 Misleading Reasons Your Eyes Are Irritated

Don't Let These Conditions Fool You

My last few posts have been about dry eyes.  But what if your “dry eyes” aren’t dry at all?  Many other eye conditions can irritate your eyes.

Seasonal allergies can cause your eyes to feel dry

When Self-Medicating Is a Bad Idea

Last week I saw a patient who has glaucoma.  He hasn’t had an eye exam in several years.  He stopped using his glaucoma drops when his prescription ran out, and began using over-the-counter dry eye drops instead.

Of course, they weren’t helping.  His glaucoma was uncontrolled, and had caused nerve damage in both eyes.

Dry Eye Drops Aren’t Always the Best Choice

This is an extreme example, but it shows just how confusing the world of eye drops can be.  Often, when people choose the wrong drops it’s more of an inconvenience than a threat to their vision.

Still, if you’re going to buy and use eye drops, don’t you want to use the right drops for the right eye condition?

There are several other conditions and eye diseases that can cause your eyes to feel dry.  Don’t let them fool you.  Here are some major ones:

  • Allergy eyes.  This is commonly confused with dry eyes.  Worse, many people have both conditions.  Artificial tears might actually help, since they wash allergens from the eyes.  But a medicated eye drop may work better.  Some people find success with traditional allergy medications, prescription medications, and even allergy shots.
  • Medications.  Medicines that dry out the eyes include antidepressants, antihistamines, and decongestants.  Some blood pressure medicines and hormone replacement therapies do too.  There are many others, which is why it’s important to make sure you bring a list of all your medicines every time you see your eye doctor.
  • Body conditions.  Medical conditions that can cause dry eyes include thyroid diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjögren’s syndrome, and diabetes.  Your eye doctor can manage the eye problems as your family doctor or specialist manages the disease.
  • Eye diseases.  Many eye conditions can fool you into thinking you have dry eyes.  Scratches and scrapes, foreign material in the eyes, chemical reactions, infections, and even genetic conditions can all feel like dry eyes.  Some patients try to treat themselves for dry eyes, not knowing they have a serious eye condition.  This only delays proper medical treatment, and in some cases threatens vision.
  • Eyelid diseases.  Sometimes the problem isn’t the eyes at all.  There are a lot of eyelid conditions that cause discomfort:
    • Blepharitis – various forms of mattering or clogging of the tear glands
    • Meibomianitis – inflammation of the eyelid tear glands
    • Rosacea – a skin disorder that affects the eyelids

There are so many causes for uncomfortable eyes.  You can get relief for dry eyes (see this post and this post for more information).  And, the list above is just a start to help you understand other reasons your eyes may be irritated.

Just remember you need a complete eye exam with an eye doctor you trust.  He or she will explain your eye conditions and the best ways to treat them.  And while there are some effective home remedies for your eyes, don’t jeopardize your vision for the sake of convenience.

If you’re living the visual lifestyle and hope for a lifetime of clear, comfortable vision, you’ll schedule that eye exam today.

Question: Have you ever self-diagnosed but made a mistake?  What happened?  Please tell me about it in the comments below.


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What to Do When Tear Drops Just Aren't Working

There are hundreds of over-the-counter eye drops.  Most people choose the wrong ones, and even the right drops don’t work forever.  So what’s next?

It’s Raining Eye Drops

I often ask patients how often they use eye drops.  Their answers range from “once or twice a month” to “a few times a day.”

last week I asked a patient and her answer shocked me: “Every two hours.”

We talked about how frustrating and inconvenient this must be, and discussed advanced treatments that might help her.

By the time she left we had a good plan to treat her dry eyes without so many eye drops.

Advanced Help Is On the Way

Treating dry dyes can be a challenge.  Some over-the-counter products work well, but many don’t.  To add to the confusion, many patients try several drops before seeing their eye doctor, but aren’t always willing to talk about it.

If you’ve tried treating your own eyes without success, you need a complete eye exam with an eye doctor you trust.  Here are some treatments and techniques he or she may prescribe:

  • Steroid eye drops.  These anti-inflammatory eye drops can be used to heal eyes that are dry and inflamed.  Extreme dryness, swelling, redness, pain, and discomfort can all be resolved with proper use of steroid drops.  There are several types, and all require a prescription.
  • Tear replacement drops.  Medications that help the eyes produce more tears include Restasis and the newer Xiidra.  They work well for some patients, but others have trouble using them.  They take longer to work, so several months of treatment are needed for the best effect.
  • Tear drain plugs.  Also known as punctal plugs, these small devices work just like plugging the drain in a sink.  We have two tear drain pores for each eye, and plugging one of them keeps more tears on the eye.  This can be helpful for people who can’t use eye drops or don’t like them.  The can make eye drops more effective, keeping the medication on the eye instead of allowing it to drain into the sinuses.
  • Tear drain cautery.  This is a permanent surgical closure of the tear drain.  This procedure is reserved for severe cases, although it works well.
  • Lacrisert.  This eye lubricant comes in the form of a tiny pellet.  Place it inside the lower eyelid, and it slowly dissolves throughout the day.  While the concept is a good one, I found my patients with severe dry eyes disliked the feeling of a foreign object in their eyes each morning.
  • Gland expression.  Dry eyes can be a result of poor oil gland secretions.  Your eye doctor might manually apply pressure to the oil glands in your eyelids, or use a system called LipiFlow by TearScience.  This is a device that attaches to the eye for several minutes, massaging and stimulating the tear glands.  Either way, significant pressure is needed to express eyelid oil glands, and some patients find the procedure uncomfortable.  Fortunately, results can last for months.

If you suffer from dry eyes, remember there are many more options than the eye drops you can buy at your grocery store.  Schedule a complete eye exam with an eye doctor you trust to find out more.

You might even discover your dry eyes aren’t dry at all.  There are many other reasons our eyes get uncomfortable, and I’ll review those in my next post.

Question: How many times have you tried over-the-counter artificial tears or other eye drops?  Did any of them work?  Please let me know in the comments below.


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