Winter Eye Conditions: Dry Eye

January 30, 2013

As we discussed last week, Pink Eye can be more frequent in the winter months. The same holds true for many cases of dry eye. One common misconception about ocular dryness involves the presence of tearing; often, patients will notice that their eyes tear very frequently and are surprised when told their eyes are actually dry. Their eyes are “wet,” so how can they be dry? It can be easier to understand with an example: your eye will tear reflexively if an eyelash or other foreign body falls into it. The same holds true for dryness; just like an eyelash in the eye, dryness makes the surface of the eye irritated, and it will tear in an attempt to flush out the irritant. While beneficial when there is an actual foreign material in the eye, these flushing tears are often of a low viscosity, meaning that they are thin and do little to provide adequate lubrication for the surface. If you are noticing frequent tearing and/or eyes that are sore, difficult to keep open, or have a feeling of a foreign body in the eye, an evaluation with any of our eye care professionals can help to reduce, or even eliminate, your ocular discomfort.

Dry Eye Symptoms Can Include:

IrritationA feeling of drynessTearingPainDiscomfortRednessDifficulty opening eyes and/or eyes “crusted” shut in the morningsBlurred, fluctuating vision


Why this can be more prevalent in the winter:Heaters and low humidity areas are prevalent in Buffalo’s cold winter months. Heaters can dry out our eyes, leading to ocular discomfort and irritation; when dry eye is severe enough, it can even increase the risk of ocular infection.

Colder months can also mean an increase in indoor activities; prolonged staring activities alone can increase dry eye; when coupled with exposure to low humidity and artificial heating systems, it is no wonder that many patients will notice an increase in dryness. It is suggested that, when performing staring activities (reading, television watching, or working on a computer) for a prolonged period of time, patients remember to take frequent breaks and attempt to be aware of their blinking habits. Computer use has been shown to decrease blink rate significantly; in our digital world, it is important to not only be aware of this, but to be proactive in your own ocular health. Lubricating drops, or, artificial tears, are an excellent over-the-counter method of decreasing dryness. One caveat, always buy “name brand” eye drops and avoid drops whose primary focus is decreasing redness (eg. Clear Eyes) as they can cause rebound inflammation with overuse. Quality brands suggested are: Systane, Optive, and Theratears. If you wear contact lenses, it is recommended that preservative-free lubricant drops are used.

 Other factors which can impact dryness:

thyroid disordersmedicationssleep apneasystemic dryness

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Winter Eye Conditions: Pink Eye

January 23, 2013

While pink eye can and does happen during any time of the year, it can be more frequent for some patients during the winter months. Pink eye (or, conjunctivitis) can occur in any patient, regardless of age or health. If there is any concern for this condition, an evaluation by a medical professional is encouraged. While this list of symptoms can be beneficial, it is no substitute for medical care, and should not be taken as diagnostic advice. 

Pink Eye Symptoms Can Include:

CrustinessDischarge; depending on type of conjunctivitis, this can range in color from pale to yellow to green.RednessPainIrritationSwellingDecreased visionPossibly lymph node swelling, especially if combined with systemic sickness.

Why this can often be more frequent in the winter months:

Cold and flu season can increase frequency of pink eye, either by contamination from an infected person, or the virus/bacteria itself including the ocular area. A good rule of thumb for winter months is to wash your hands and avoid touching or rubbing the eyes; in addition to reducing exposure to pink eye, this can decrease rate of contraction of other communicable diseases.

Though the term “pink eye” often carries the connotation of a bacterial or viral infection, there is always the possibility of different factors causing conjunctival irritation. Allergic conjunctivitis can affect the eye as well, even in seasons not typically associated with systemic allergies; chemical conjunctivitis can occur when the eye is exposed to chemical irritants.

 Treatment for pink eye can include:

Eye dropsMonitoringAllowing the virus to take its courseRemaining home from work/school until resolution of symptoms to avoid spread of virus/bacteria

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January 16, 2013

January is glaucoma awareness month. Raising awareness of what glaucoma is, what it does, and how it is treated is especially important this month. While there isn’t one single “type” of glaucoma, the disease, in its varied forms, often has the same symptoms and results on ocular health and vision. The most common form of glaucoma is open-angle glaucoma, which accounts for approximately 90% of all cases.

What is glaucoma and how is it treated?

Glaucoma is an eye disease in which eye pressure can rise, the optic disc can develop a “cupped” appearance, and the affected eye(s) may lose peripheral vision. Peripheral losses may vary from minimal, which may not impact daily life and may not even be noted from a subjective standpoint, to severe, which can limit visual capabilities and can decrease quality of life. Depending on the severity and type of glaucoma, your eye doctor may suggest a number of treatments ranging from close monitoring to eye drops to surgical intervention. For a more in-depth look at glaucoma, visit this link: 

Who is at risk?

Glaucoma can be a congenital disorder, meaning, patients can be born with glaucoma; glaucoma can also be developed later in life, even as a result of an injury to the eye. While anyone can have or develop glaucoma, patients with a family history of the disease are at a higher risk for developing glaucoma; patients with a first-generation relative (parent, sibling, child) with glaucoma should be aware of their increased risk and should follow accordingly with their eye care provider. In our office, patients over the age of 18, regardless of possible genetic disposition, are tested during their routine exams for visual field losses; it is important that testing is done as glaucoma treatment is best begun within the earliest stages of the disorder.

How is glaucoma monitored?

While there are many methods for monitoring glaucoma, recurrent testing for progression can reduce significance of losses, if treatment suggested is followed. In our office, testing for a patient with glaucoma can consist of mappings of the optic disc, photographic tracking, and field of vision testing.

Glaucoma is considered a “silent” disorder; although it can affect comfort, clarity, and quality of vision, it is most often associated with loss of peripheral, or side, vision. Because losses can go unnoticed from a subjective standpoint, close monitoring from a qualified eye care professional is warranted, especially if there is a concern for development or progression of the disorder. Unfortunately, at this time, there is no cure for glaucoma and fields of vision lost to the disease’s effects are permanently lost. Patients who have glauoma or are suspected to have it are urge to take this concern seriously and follow closely with their eye doctor.

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New Year, New You!

January 9, 2013

We’re into the swing of 2013 now; when keeping your New Year’s Resolution of healthy life approaches, don’t forget to care for your vision!

Health ExamsAnnual eye exams are always a good idea, even in an otherwise healthy patient. Certain eye disorders are best treated when caught in early stages. Patients with certain already diagnosed conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, may be better suited to more frequent eye exams. Adults should follow with a medical eye professional for many reasons, including: diabetes, hypertension, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and cataracts. Children, too, may need the benefits which eye care professionals can offer; children’s eye disorders may go untreated if a professional is not involved in their healthcare, as children often do not complain of their symptoms or know how to best describe them. Symptoms which would indicate a need for more immediate care for children include, but are not limited to: complaining about poor vision, squinting, sitting closer to the television, sudden or progressive drop in scholastic achievements, poor hand-eye coordination, and an eye (one or both) which is misaligned (“turns” in, out, up, or down) either constantly or in a fluctuating, sometimes erratic manner.

Our optical departments in each of our three offices have a wide array of options for every budget, style, and need, from safety glasses to high end sunglasses.

New Look: Contact LensesContact lenses are a great addition to your ocular wear, provided they can medically be approved and the wearer is able to understand and comply with the proper care of their contacts. Contacts need to be cleaned, stored properly, and instilled with clean hands. Good hygiene and hand washing prior to handling contact lenses, whether inserting or removing lenses, are integral steps to successful contact use. There are steps one must take prior to being able to procure contact lenses, this entails an initial exam, fitting, trial lenses, and ordering lenses. If contacts are purchased from a reputable site, these steps (or ensuring these steps were followed by validating prior professionals) should be followed. It is important to obtain your contacts from a reputable source; contacts can be purchased from non-ophthalmic sources; these lenses can carry higher risks and can compound ocular problems, even leading to infection and blindness. While there are risks to contact wear, proper use can provide aesthetic improvements and more freedom from glasses.

New Look: GlassesThere are numerous options for glasses, many of which may be covered by your insurance.

A simple update to your glasses frames, even if your prescription hasn’t changed, can make a vast difference in your appearance and your confidence; a fresh look can give you a fresh appearance with which to meet the world.Transition lenses provide more freedom and can increase clarity of vision in situations where your vision is impacted by bright light. Transition lenses change from plain lenses to tinted lenses when exposed to higher lighting conditions; this allows a reduction of discomfort and can provide better vision.Bifocals and progressive lenses can reduce the need for multiple pairs of glasses once presbyopia (reduced near vision clarity, usually after age 40). Our optical professionals can suggest the best fit for your lifestyle and vision.Sunglasses, both prescription and nonprescription, provide both style and UV protection.Optional glare coating can aide in the reduction of halos and nighttime and/or daytime glare.Safety glasses, often covered by your employer, are vital to ocular health if you work in situations where foreign bodies, dust, particles, or other materials may enter into the eyes. It is important to protect your eyes, especially when there is a possibility of injury.

For more information on our selection of optical wear, visit our optical departments at any of our three offices, and visit our optical website at:

“For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.” (Vincent Van Gogh)

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FSA Investment Planning

January 2, 2013

What is an FSA?

Depending on your employer, you may be offered the option to contribute to a FSA, or, Flexible Spending Account. Money is taken out of your paycheck, pretaxed. This money can be used for qualified medical purchases, even some over-the-counter products, provided certain guidelines are adhered to.

How to contribute to your FSA:

This is done via your employer, in most cases, money will come out of your paycheck in small increments, based on how much money you elected to contribute.Example: Rachel elected to contribute $1000 for the 2013 FSA her employer offered; she is paid bimonthly and approximately $39 will come out every pay period.

Budgeting and Planning For Medical Expenses:

Healthcare costs continue to rise and many people find their expenses are difficult to afford. With your FSA, the money you would already pay out for many products and services is available in pretaxed dollars. FSA money can also reduce your income taxes! One caveat with FSA contributions: any money put aside must be used in the calendar year in which it was deposited. If the money contributed isn’t used by the end of the contributing year, it is lost.

How to Use Your FSA at Our Office

Your FSA can be used for our products and service in office including, but not limited to:

Prescription glasses and prescription sunglassesContact lensesCopaymentsExam feesPrescription medicationsCertain over-the-counter medications (artificial tears, contact solution, eye patches, lid scrubs, vitamins), provided a prescription from a doctor can be given for them

What your FSA CAN’T be used for:

Nonprescription sunglassesCosmetic treatments and medicationsMultiple vitaminsLotions and skin moisturizers

Depending on your employer, you still may be able to participate in this program!

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” (Marcel Proust)

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