Protecting our eyes in the winter is essential for preventing short and long term problems.
Eye dryness is very common, especially on cold brisk days. Finding comfort near a warm toasty heater or fireplace can dry the eye surface too. Maintain good eyelid hygiene, stay hydrated and use artificial tears to control mild dry eye symptoms.
Sunglasses are important for preventing keratitis (a burn on the cornea surface) and aging effects such as cataracts, pinguecula and macular degeneration. Snow-blindness or keratitis is a painful corneal condition that can occur when the outermost layers of the cornea are damaged (like a sunburn). Damage can occur in as little as an hour of exposure to ultraviolet radiation, the risk is intensified at higher altitude.
Damage to the eye doesn’t stop on the surface. Cumulative ultraviolet exposure damages the lens of the eye causing cataract formation. Research has also found that UV radiation contributes to macular degeneration.
Wearing good UV blocking sunglasses protects all layers of the eye. The UV radiation reflected off of water and snow is dangerous too.
Don’t hang-up your sunglasses because it is winter, year-round UV protection is a proactive way to promote good eye health and clear vision for adults and children.
A google search looking for “what’s in a cigarette?” produced the list below. Most of the products containing these ingredients earn a special danger or poison label. The substances are not listed on a pack of cigarettes.
Here are a few of the chemicals in tobacco smoke and the other places you can find them (list from the American Lung Association):
Acetone – found in nail polish remover
Acetic Acid – an ingredient in hair dye
Ammonia – a common household cleaner
Arsenic – used in rat poison
Benzene – found in rubber cement
Butane – used in lighter fluid
Cadmium – active component in battery acid
Carbon Monoxide – released in car exhaust fumes
Formaldehyde – embalming fluid
Hexamine – found in barbecue lighter fluid
Lead – used in batteries
Naphthalene – an ingredient in mothballs
Methanol – a main component in rocket fuel
Nicotine – used as insecticide
Tar – material for paving roads
Toluene – used to manufacture paint
How naive am I? I thought all the danger in cigarettes came from the nicotine in the tobacco leaves. I couldn’t understand where all the poisons and toxins on the above list came from. Further googling introduced me to the “additives” in cigarettes. Chemicals are added to the tobacco to flavor and fragrance the cigarette “brand”. There are additives for improving texture and holding the leaves together. I can only assume that burning the tobacco and additives creates more toxins.
So what does this have to do with eyeballs? Unfortunately smoking contributes to many ocular conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration, dry eye disease, diabetic retinopathy and retinal vascular occlusions. Fortunately if you quit inhaling the toxic chemicals, the risk of related ocular diseases is nearly extinguished to the non-smoker level.
Most of us take precautions to protect our skin from the damaging sun radiation by putting on a hat and applying sunscreen.
A significantly smaller percentage of people put on sunglasses to protect the eyes from the same ultraviolet risks. Besides glare and discomfort from the brightness, the ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun cause premature aging to the skin around the eye and the structures of the eye. In fact, the sun is the greatest environmental factor contributing to cataract formation.
SUNGLASSES provide a barrier to other eye irritants as well. Wearing sunglasses protects the eyes from wind, dust, pollen and debris. This is particularly beneficial for sports like cycling and running.
COMFORT from good quality sunglasses is attributed to reducing glare and eliminating squinting. Glare can be direct from the light source or indirected (reflected). Reflected glare is eliminated best with polarized lenses. Polarized lenses are especially helpful for watersports, fishing and on the snow, skiing and snowboarding.
QUALITY SUNGLASSES will protect against all UV wavelengths (A,B and high energy wavelengths). The lenses will be centered and have clearer optics than the sunglasses you find at the grocery store and gas stations. A premium sunglass frame is comfortable, fits well and is durable. It is also resistant to corrosion, tarnish, peeling and chipping.
Long-Term UV damage cannot be repaired. It is cumulative. Protect your eyes today, wear quality sunglasses.
And don’t forget the kids, they are more susceptible to UV damage than adults.
November is Diabetes Awareness month. High amounts of blood sugar can harm the internal structures of the eye. Below are some of the things that diabetes can do to the eyes.
Actions to take right now include the following: Eating sensibly, the American Diabetes Association recommends filling half your plate with vegetables, a quarter of the plate should be lean protein and the rest a carbohydrate. Make time for 30 minutes of exercise everyday. Take your medicine as prescribed and know your blood sugar level.
Preventing diabetes is the best way to avoid diabetic damage to the eyes, but if you already have diabetes, regular eye examinations can prevent permanent damage to the eye due to elevated blood sugar.
If the eyes are exposed to excessive amount of Ultraviolet (UV) radiation over a short period of time, “sunburn” called photokeratitis can occur on the surface of the eye (the cornea). This condition may be painful and includes symptoms such as red eyes, a foreign-body sensation or gritty feeling in the eyes, blurry vision, excessive tearing and extreme sensitivity to light. Photokeratitis is also called snowblindness because it occurs often when enjoying winter sports where the light is reflected from the snow. It is usually temporary and rarely causes permanent damage, but can take days to heal.
Ongoing exposure to UV radiation, however, can cause serious harm to the eyes and age them prematurely. Research has shown that exposure to small amounts of UV radiation over time increases the chance of developing cataracts, macular degeneration and eye cancer.
Whether it’s cloudy or sunny, summer or winter protect your eyes from the sun’s rays in order to decrease the risk of eye diseases and disorders.
A good rule of thumb to follow is to wear sunglasses, glasses or contact lenses with UV protection, apply sunscreen and wear a hat to protect the eyes and tissues around them.
And don’t forget your children, their eyes are more susceptible to damage from UV.
A good way to monitor eye health, maintain good vision and keep up-to-date on the latest UV protection is by scheduling yearly comprehensive eye exams.
June is cataract awareness month.
Here are some of the clues that you might have cataracts?
A cataract is the clouding of the lens of the eye. The proteins in the lens discolor and clump causing blurry and obscured vision. Age is the leading cause, but certain medications can speed up the process also. Two contributing factors that you can control are protecting your eyes from UV damage by wearing sunglasses, and to stop smoking.
For more details about cataracts click here.
To read more about cataract, click here.
How does UV affect the eyes?
One of the most common conditions I see due to UV radiation is pinguecula. This is a raised nodule that appears on the white of the eye. It can become inflamed, discolored, and dry with chronic sun exposure.
Pterygium is a similar condition to pinguecula, but is grows onto the cornea (the clear part of the eye). Pterygia can grow and affect the vision. Removal is possible, but there is a high recurrence rate.
Photokeratitis is like a sunburn on the cornea, also known as “snow blindness.” Photokeratitis is directly attributed to environmental UV radiation exposure and generally occurs 8 to 24 hours after being in the sun. It is more typical in individuals who have not used sunglasses or hats. The primary symptoms include photophobia (extreme sensitivity to light) and pain.
Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) is another eye condition associated with UV exposure. The worldwide prevalence rate of ARMD resulting in impairment and blindness is 8.7%, making it one of the most common causes of blindness in patients over age 60. Studies have shown that many individuals with macular degeneration have had greater UV exposure over their lifetime.
Skin Cancers can present on and around the eyelids. Removal and excision is complicated by the importance of proper blinking and eyelid closure. Malignant melanoma can appear in the choroid (under the retina), the iris (colored part) and the conjunctiva (white of the eye). These tumors can be very aggressive. In fact, malignant melanomas of the choroid are the most common intraocular malignancy.
To read more about how the eyes are effected by UV Radiation click here.
I occasionally have patients ask if their cataract is “ripe.” There is some misunderstanding, cataracts don’t ripen. The crystalline lens does change and causes vision problems. To read more about what a cataract is click here.
Cataracts can be removed whenever the patient and surgeon agree that they should be removed. Generally, the best time to remove the cloudy crystalline lens (AKA cataract) is when the vision is compromising your quality of life. This includes the inability to drive at night due to excessive glare. Other causes of blurry vision must be explored before cataract surgery. Macular degeneration can reduce the quality of vision, especially for reading. Removing cataracts will not improve the clarity in this case.
Age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts commonly cause impaired vision and blindness in older adults. But lifestyle changes, including good nutrition, could help delay or prevent certain eye problems.
Besides adopting a healthy diet, you also can protect your eyes by avoiding intense ultraviolet (UV) light, quitting smoking and getting regular checkups that may help detect chronic diseases contributing to eye problems. Diabetes, for example, increases your risk for age-related eye diseases and may cause diabetic retinopathy.
Regular eye exams, too, are essential for maintaining eye health as you grow older. If eye problems and chronic diseases are detected early enough, appropriate treatment may prevent permanent vision loss.