Skip to main content

We are open for appointments! Please review our COVID-19 safety protocols here.

After Hours Emergencies: 256-506-1683 Schedule Appt. Call 256-279-8500

After Hours Emergencies: 256-506-1683 Schedule Appt. Call 256-279-8500

Home »

Uncategorized

6 Habits That Cause Dry Eyes

Banner for Dry Eye Specialists in Albertville, AL

Our Dry Eye Specialists Explain Causes of Dry Eyes

Are you always rubbing your eyes or blinking constantly to spread more moisture across the surface? Dry eyes can be extremely irritating, even painful for some people. Inadequate lubrication may cause sore eyes, redness, an inability to wear contact lenses and overall uncomfortable vision. At our eye care clinic, our experienced, expert eye doctors will perform a thorough eye exam to diagnose Dry Eye Syndrome.

As every patient is unique, our eye exam will include questions about your personal lifestyle in order to identify what’s causing your dry eyes. Finding the cause is the best way to find an effective solution!

Depending upon the results of your eye exam, we’ll recommend a number of lifestyle changes to help alleviate the annoying symptoms caused by your dry eyes. We asked our Albertville Dry Eye Specialists and they’ve offered 6 possible culprits for Dry Eye Syndrome:

1. Extreme Weather Conditions

Whether it’s summer or winter, extreme weather can stress your eyes so that they can’t produce enough tears to keep your eyes lubricated well. In the winter, it’s helpful to wear goggles or glasses to protect your eyes from frigid temperatures and wind. This is particularly beneficial when you hit the ski slopes or lace up your ice skates. In the summer, heat can lead to dehydration, which saps the moisture from your eyes too. The best way to avoid this problem and stay comfortable is simply to drink enough!

2. A/C or Indoor Heating

Air-conditioning, fans and indoor heating are directly linked with drying out your eyes. Blowing air evaporates moisture from your eyes more quickly, and it also dries out the atmosphere inside your home or office. A humidifier is a worthwhile investment to solve this problem. In the winter, a humidifier will give you an extra bonus of keeping your sinuses moist too, which helps to relieve the symptoms of your winter cold.

3. Seasonal Allergies

Recent studies have shown a strong link between spring allergens and dry eyes. When pollen counts are highest. an increased number of patients visit our eye doctors with complaints of dry eye symptoms. During allergy season, using an air filter indoors may be the most efficient way to avoid the effects of pollen on your eyes.

4. Skin Conditions

Specific skin conditions and disorders are associated with dry eyes. Blepharitis, which refers to an inflammation of the skin along the edge of your eyelids, often leads to Dry Eye Syndrome, because the oil-producing glands are often clogged. This ruins your eyes’ ability to produce tears with a healthy composition of oil. Rosacea, an inflammatory skin condition that generally appears on the face, may also block the oil-producing glands of your eyes.

5. Environmental Effects of the Great Outdoors

While fresh, outdoor air is generally healthy for your eyes, skin and lungs, too much exposure to smoke, wind, dust, and extreme temperatures can certainly lead to eye dehydration. Global climate change has been blamed for many of these ill effects, as your tear film depends upon natural humidity to stay moist. Yet as our environments have changed (and continue to change), the amount of hydration that your eyes can obtain from the outdoor environment has been reduced. Air pollution is also detrimental to healthy eyes, damaging and drying out your tear film.

6. Low-Tear Production

Our eye doctors diagnose many cases of dry eyes that are due to a reduced tear production. Officially termed keratoconjunctivitis sicca, a decreased manufacture of tears can result from a variety of causes. To stimulate tear production, it may be helpful to up your intake of omega-3 fish oil.

Aging is a common reason for inadequate tear production, as well as certain medical disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, diabetes, thyroid conditions, scleroderma, vitamin A deficiency and Sjorgen’s syndrome. If you’ve undergone radiation treatments, your tear glands may have suffered damage. Laser eye surgery is another potential culprit, however symptoms of dry eyes due to these procedures are generally short-lived.

When your eyes are unable to keep up with healthy tear production, it’s a good idea to take a look at any medications you’re taking. Common household drugs, such as decongestants and antihistamines are known to affect the moisture level of your eyes. Other medications that could cause dry eyes include: antidepressants, hormone replacement therapy, acne drugs, medication for Parkinson’s disease, hypertension treatment and birth control.

How Do I Treat My Dry Eyes?

 

Dry Eyes and Air Travel

Jet AirplaneIt is not uncommon to experience exceedingly dry eyes after long periods of travel in the air. The temperature- and pressure-controlled cabin of an airplane creates a very dry environment that can easily take its toll on your eyes.

Fortunately, eye doctors have outlined a number of steps that a person can take to reduce the chances of experiencing these uncomfortable symptoms that present themselves as part of what is often called “travelers’ dry eye.” Below are some tips to help you avoid dry eyes when traveling:

  • Dehydration has the potential to make dry eye symptoms much worse. Be sure to have a drink on hand at all times, making sure to drink before, during and after your flight. Alcoholic beverages and caffeinated drinks such as tea or coffee may increase the chances of dehydration and those who enjoy these types of beverages in-flight should be sure to drink extra fluids to compensate.
  • Artificial tears are another important item of defense against dry eyes. Having a bottle of artificial tears with you at all times during your trip will allow you to apply them as needed. This can help out a great deal. Those with chronic dry eyes should speak to their doctor before their flight to discuss the possibility that they may need a more effective lubricant for the flight.
  • Sleeping in-flight can also dry out your eyes. If you take a nap while in the air, be sure to wear an eye mask. This will help minimize the dry air that reaches your eyes while you sleep, reducing the chances of dry eyes.
  • Contact lenses also tend to increase the chances of dry eyes, even under normal conditions. This is even more true in especially dry air of the airplane cabin. Those who wear contact lenses should consider switching to a pair of glasses during the flight to cut out this increased risk.
  • The air conditioning vent above your seat is also a source of dry air that is blown directly onto your eyes. Turning off this vent can do a great deal to prevent dry eyes.

For more information about how to save yourself the discomfort of dry eyes on your next plane trip, consult your eye doctor today.

Dry Eyes vs. Red Eyes: How To Know and What To Do About It

Dry EyeRed eye and dry eye syndrome are quite easily confused. Both conditions include itchy, red and dry-feeling eyes. A person who has dry eye syndrome will often think that their red, dry, itchy eyes are nothing more than something minor, like allergies, and live a long time with the severe comfort that comes with dry eye syndrome. He/she will find that, regardless of what measures are taken, the condition does not change significantly and an eye doctor must be consulted to bring relief. Fortunately, Dr. Timothy C. Nichols is very familiar with the the symptoms of dry eye syndrome and how to treat it. Dr. Nichols has compiled some points of essential knowledge below, to help his patients recognize the indications of this uncomfortable and painful eye condition in a more timely fashion, so that they can prevent prolonging the pain and discomfort of this extremely uncomfortable.

Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome is characterized by itchy, red, dry feeling eyes that do not get better unless professional medical help is obtained. Doctors generally discuss two broad causes for dry eye syndrome. Either:

  • The eyes don’t make enough tears, and the eye cannot be comfortably hydrated

OR

  • The eye produces tears which are flawed. They often lack one or more essential parts normally included in tears to allow them to properly coat and hydrate the eye.

The leading defense against either of these forms of dry eye syndrome is a type of specialty eye drops called “artificial tears.” These special eye drops combat the uncomfortable symptoms of dry eye syndrome by imitating real tears as closely as possible. In order to do this in the best way possible, there are many different formulations of artificial tears. Each formulation addresses a different underlying cause of your dry eye. Some help to to address the issues of dry eye syndrome in which tears are lacking in quantity, and others will add one or more building blocks to your tears to help them better perform their intended function.

Red Eyes

Red eyes are generally not as worrisome as dry eye syndrome and you shouldn’t worry too much about them. In most cases, red eyes are caused by allergens or foreign substances, which can cause your eyes to become irritated. Small blood vessels throughout your eyes then become inflamed and enlarged, becoming much more visible and turning your eyes a reddish hue. This is where the term “red eyes” comes from.

Many times, red eyes will heal up and return to normal without any medical attention at all. A not of caution, however: The great number of conditions that can cause dry eyes makes it very hard to know exactly what the cause may be sometimes. If your red eyes are accompanied by a high fever, headache and/or a great deal of eye pain, go to the doctor immediately. This note aside, red eyes are almost always minor and should not cause anxiety unless accompanied by these additional symptoms.

Even with a brief but comprehensive explanation such as this, it can sometimes be hard to tell the difference between these two similar looking conditions. If you feel your red eyes may be something more, come see Dr. Timothy C. Nichols at the Clinic for Vision today.

Macular Degeneration and The Advantages of Genetic Testing

Macular degeneration is a potentially sight threatening eye condition affecting the small area of the retina, that is involved with both central and detail vision. This area is known as the macula. As this critical area of the retina begins to deteriorate, the associated loss of central and detail vision can make close-up work such as reading small print or street signs, very difficult or even impossible. Macular degeneration can be a heartbreaking experience, as it can sometimes make even recognizing the faces of your most beloved family members difficult, as a result of exceedingly blurry or blank spots in the center of your vision, which are characteristic of this conditions. Unfortunately, macular degeneration usually comes on slowly. This can often lead to it being completely overlooked until significant sight has already been lost. Routine eye exams, especially after the age of 40, are essential for early detection and treatment.

optometrist caucasian od bigAfter detection, your eye doctor will work hard to understand the specifics of your case and how to best treat your individual case of macular degeneration to prevent your eye sight from deteriorating drastically. Fortunately, optometrists have recently developed specialty genetic tests that can provide information about specific genetic markers that are known to contribute to sudden, rapid vision loss and deterioration of cases of mild, or dry, macular degeneration into the more severe, or wet, macular degeneration. “Dr. Timothy Nichols adds, “Our goal is not just the diagnosis of a condition such as Macular Degeneration, but more important is the rehabilitation of the eye through treatment. We work closely with local retinologists to manage and rehabilitate vision loss experienced from this condition.”

The test is designed with maximum patient comfort and convenience in mind. To this end, it is made to be as non-invasive as possible. Your eye doctor simply collects a swab sample from the inside of your cheek. The swab is then air dried and sent off to a lab for testing.

While there are no known cures for macular degeneration, an indication of high risk in your genetic testing will inform both you and your doctor of the need to create a special program to reduce risk factors that are under your control that may otherwise lead to a faster progression of vision loss. If you smoke, your doctor will recommend you stop. Your doctor may also be able to put you on specialty vision-friendly supplements and advise you on what foods you may be able to eat to reduce your risk through diet. You may also ask your eye doctor about the possibility of starting special treatments such as microcurrent stimulation and oxygen inhalation.

For more information about macular degeneration, genetic testing and treatment options, contact your eye doctor today.

Why Do We Need Glasses?

clipart 010

 

The most well-known part of a comprehensive eye exam is the basic vision test. When you have a general vision test, one of the main conditions the eye care practitioner is checking for is a refractive error. A refractive error means there is an abnormality in the shape of the eye, changing the eye’s ability to focus light directly onto the retina.This causes blurred vision and can usually be corrected by wearing prescription eyeglasses, contact lenses and possibly, alternate treatments such as vision therapy, ortho-k, LASIK or refractive surgery such as LASIK.

 

The term, “refractive error” refers to a problem with the process of refraction that is responsible for sight. Normally, light rays that enter your eye are refracted or bent through the cornea and the lens, and ultimately converge or are focused onto a single point on the retina. From the retina, messages are sent through the optic nerve to the brain which then interprets these signals into the image that we are seeing.   

 

In order for this process to work effectively, the anatomy of the eye including the length of the eye and the curvature of the cornea and the lens must be just right to be able to focus the light onto the retina. When this is not the case, a refractive error will occur.

 

There are several different types of refractive errors, depending on which part of the eye is affected, and it is possible to have multiple refractive errors at the same time:  

 

Myopia or nearsightedness:

In myopia the length of the eyeball is too long which results in light coming to a focus in front of the retina, rather than on the retina. This allows the individual to see well when objects are close but not clearly when looking at objects at a distance.

 

Hyperopia or farsightedness:

Hyperopia is when the eyeball is shorter than normal and can result in near objects being blurry. However, people experience hyperopia differently. Sometimes distant objects are clear while other times people may experience overall blurred vision near and far or no problems at all. In children particularly, the lens may accommodate for the error allowing for clear vision but may cause fatigue and sometimes crossed eyes or strabismus. Hyperopia causes eyestrain or fatigue especially when looking at near objects for a period of time. Often people with 20/20 vision may still need glasses at their desk to relax their eyes and improve concentration.

 

Astigmatism:

Astigmatism is usually the result of an irregularly shaped cornea (although it can sometimes also be due to a misshapen lens). The cornea, which is normally round, is more football-shaped in an eye with astigmatism, resulting in multiple focus points either in front of the retina or behind it (or both). People with astigmatism usually have blurred or distorted vision to some degree at all distances, near and far.

 

Presbyopia:

Presbyopia is an age-related condition which usually begins to appear sometime after 40.  As the eye begins to age, the lens stiffens and can no longer focus clearly on objects that are close.  

 

It’s important to note that presbyopia is often confused with hyperopia, as both cause problems focusing at near distances.  However, high hyperopia can also cause blur at far distances as well, especially in dim lighting, and depth perception problems can result in motor vehicle accidents.  In these instances people with hyperopia could use glasses at any distance.

If you are having trouble seeing, it is important to have an eye exam to determine the cause of the problem and to effectively correct your vision. Even if your vision is fine, you should schedule a routine eye exam on a regular basis to ensure that your eyes are healthy and that any potential problems are caught early.

 

Upcoming Seminars at Clinic for Vision

Clinic for Vision will present two seminars of interest in early 2016. Both will be at Clinic for Vision PC, 418 Martling Road, Albertville AL 35951. Seating is limited, reservations are encouraged. Refreshments will be served. The seminars are free of charge.

Please register by phone or by email at appointments@clinicforvision.com.

macular degeneration diagram
January 26 at 6:00pm
"Macular Degeneration; Why it is Important to You" – presented by Dr. Tim Nichols.
 
Dr Nichols has 34 years of experience in practice and the diagnosis and management of macular degeneration. The seminar will discuss symptoms, signs and treatment of this disease that is newly diagnosed in over 1 million Americans ever year. Prevention, rehabilitation, and future research will also be discussed. Refreshments will be served.
 
February 2 at 6:00pm
"Low Vision Rehabilitation" – presented by Dr. Rich McCurdy and Stacy Fortney.
Low Vision is a specialty in vision care that helps people who cannot see well with conventional glasses be able to read, watch television, and do other essential day to day tasks.
 
Dr. McCurdy graduated from UAB School of Optometry in 2004 and completed a residency in Low Vision Rehabilitation at the Birmingham Veteran's Administration Hospital in 2005. Stacy Fortney is a vision rehabilitation specialist with Eschenbach Optik of America, a premier manufacturer of low vision aids. The seminar will describe the different types of low vision devices and how they are used. Hands on demonstration of devices will be available.
Refreshments will be served.
 

Eye Safe Toys and Gifts for This Holiday Season

christmas 20 20brown 20paper 20package

‘Tis the season for giving, and parents, grandparents, family and friends need to know which toys and games to leave off the list because they can pose a risk to children’s health and eyesight. Last year nearly 252,000 emergency visits were due to toy-related injuries, almost half of which were to the head or face. Further, about 1 in 10 children’s eye injuries treated in the emergency room can be traced back to toys, most of which occur in children under 15 years of age.

The most common types of eye injuries that occur from toys can be anything from a scratch on the cornea (the front surface of the eye) to very serious injuries that can threaten vision such as traumatic cataracts, corneal ulcers, bleeding inside the eye and retinal detachment.

Most of these injuries can be prevented by taking the proper measures to evaluate the safety of gifts before they are purchased and to supervise children during any play with toys that could have the potential to cause damage or harm.

Here are some tips on how to select safe toys for children this holiday season:

  1. Check age recommendations on all toys to make sure they are age appropriate and suitable for the child’s maturity level. If younger siblings are present, ensure that any toys made for older children are kept out of reach.
  2. When possible, check toys for a seal of approval that the product meets national safety standards from a toy safety testing organization such as the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) or the Canadian Toy Testing Council.
  3. Do not purchase toys that have a projectile or sharp, protruding parts. Toys such as darts, guns, arrows or sharp propelling toys can cause serious eye injuries that can lead to permanent eye damage and even vision loss. Even high-powered water guns such as super soakers or soft foam dart guns can cause significant damage when shot at close range.
  4. Purchase safety eyewear with polycarbonate lenses to accompany sports equipment, chemistry sets or woodworking tools. Speak to your optometrist to learn more about the best option for your child’s hobby of choice.
  5. Check that toys with sticks or handles such as swords, fishing rods, pogo sticks, brooms or pony sticks have rounded edges or handles and avoid or supervise use with little children.
  6. Any toys or devices that have a laser or bright light (such as laser pointers or flashlights which are sometimes used by kids to play laser tag) can be dangerous. Bright lights such as those produced by high-powered flashlights can cause temporary vision loss that can lead to a risk of a fall or accident. Further, laser pointers are not safe for use by children as the light intensity can cause permanent vision loss if shined in someone’s eyes.

When purchasing a toy for a child that is important to you, make sure you are considering what is most important – their safety. Ask us if you have any questions about the eye safety of a toy or gift you are considering.

How Do We See?

eyeball drawing

Have you ever thought about how vision works? Seeing is an incredible gift made possible by a system in which the eye and the brain process visual information from the outside world. If any step of that process does not function properly, vision will be impaired.

Similar to a camera, the eye transmits light from the world around us into an image that we can perceive. Certain parts of the eye even function like the different parts of a camera such as the shutter, the lens and film (if we can hearken back to the days when we used film in cameras). Here is a quick breakdown of the fascinating way our eyes and brain enable us to see and experience the world around us:

The Vision Process

Light reflected from an object in our field of view is gathered by the cornea which is essentially the clear “window” to our eye. The cornea then refracts the light rays through the pupil (the center of the iris where light enters the eye). The iris, which like the shutter of a camera will enlarge and shrink based on how much light is coming in, then passes the image onto the crystalline lens. Just like a camera lens, the lens in the eye focuses the light rays, projecting them to a point at the back of the eye called the retina, where the image will appear upside down. The retina contains a thin layer of color-sensitive cells called rods and cones that perceive color.

From the retina, the visual signals travel to the brain via the optic nerve. The brain receives information from both eyes and must then converge the images (and flip them right side up) to get a complete picture.

Vision Problems

A breakdown in vision can happen at any point in this process. From the muscles that control the eyes, to the parts within the eye, to the pathway to the brain. Sometimes vision impairment is due to technical problems with the eye receiving the information and passing the signal on, such as convergence insufficiency (inability to coordinate the eyes to converge on one point), myopia (nearsightedness) or cataracts (clouding of the lens).

Other times, the eyes might work perfectly, but there is a problem with the brain interpreting the signals it receives. In these cases we can’t “see” in the traditional sense, because our brains aren’t able to properly “read’ the signals or we don’t know what we are looking at. This is the case for some learning disorders that are caused by the visual processes in the brain such as dyslexia.

As you can see, vision is quite a complicated process. A simple vision exam isn’t always able to determine vision problems, especially in children which is why it is so important to have regular comprehensive eye exams, to measure the health of the eye and all of its parts.

The Holidays are Coming – Gift Certificates Availabe & Our Holiday Hours

christmas 20 20pinecones

Please note our holiday hours in November and December:

Holiday closings:
  • Christmas – December 24 and 25
  • New Years – Dec 31 and January 1

Have a family member or friend who is hard to buy for? How about a gift certificate from Clinic for Vision! Our gift certificates can be for any amount and can be applied to an exam, new glasses, contacts or sunglasses.  A practical gift that will be truly appreciated. Call or stop by to purchase one.

We wish you all a happy and safe holiday season!