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Why Do We Need Glasses?

clipart-010The 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.

Eye Safe Toys

‘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.christmas - brown paper package

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 theCanadian 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?

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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.

Know How and When to Treat an Eye Infection

It’s that time of year again…coughs, sneezing, running noses and itchy, red eyes.  How do you know when an eye irritation is something that needs medical attention?

First of all, any time an eye infection is accompanied by fever, excessive discharge or pain, you should see your eye doctor immediately.  

The eyes are sensitive and there could be a number of factors that contribute to discomfort and irritation, some of which require medication. There are also some types of eye infections that are very contagious, which you want to treat as soon as possible.

Pink Eye

Pinkeye, also known as conjunctivitis, occurs when the conjunctiva, the thin membrane lining the eyelids and the whites of the eyes, becomes inflamed or swollen. The white part of the eye often also becomes red, thus the name, “Pink Eye”. 

Pinkeye is common among school-aged children because infectious pink-eye can be very contagious and spread quickly in classrooms, but it can occur at any age. The most common cause of pinkeye is a virus, although it can also be due to a bacterial infection or a non-infectious source such as allergies. One or both eyes may be affected. 

The symptoms and treatment for pink eye depend upon the type of pink eye you have.

Typically, bacterial pink eye, which can be treated by an antibiotic eye drops or ointment, is associated with burning, itchy eyes accompanied by a thick, yellow pus-like discharge that makes the eyes difficult to open upon awakening.  This must be treated by antibiotic according to the eye doctor’s instructions for a minimum of 5 days, to prevent bacterial resistance.  On occasion if the infection is not responding to topical medications, oral antibiotics may be used. 

Viral pink eye, which can’t be treated by antibiotics, usually runs its course between 1 and 3 weeks. It typically causes teary eyes, swollen lymph nodes and a lighter more translucent mucus discharge. Sometimes the eye symptoms come in conjunction with an upper respiratory infection or a cold.  Viral pink eye is extremely contagious.

Allergic pink eye is often characterized by redness, intense itching, and tears in both eyes and will usually respond to antihistamines, topical vasoconstrictors, or steroid eye drops (which should only be used with a doctor’s prescription).  Eye rubbing can aggravate the itching and swelling, so try to use cool compresses and allergy medication as prescribed.

Preservative-free artificial tears may also provide some relief.  

Any time pink eye symptoms do not improve after a few days, particularly if there is significant discharge, see your eye doctor. Make sure to clean the hands thoroughly after every encounter with the infected eye. 

Styes

Styes are inflamed oil glands or hair follicles on the eyelid (usually along the lash line or under the lid). The inflammation is caused by bacteria and results in a swollen, red and painful bump. Often styes will eventually go away on their own, but if they occur often, a doctor might prescribe topical or oral antibiotics or sometimes even drain it though a minor surgical procedure.  

Warm compresses can be used not only to ease the pressure and discomfort but also to open up the stye to facilitate healing. Styes are typically not contagious. 

Most eye infections are not dangerous but they can be quite uncomfortable.  If you have an eye infection make sure you take the proper steps to stay comfortable and prevent the infection from spreading to your loved ones.  

What Women Need to Know About Eye Health

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According to Women’sEyeHealth.org, ⅔ of blindness and visual impairment occurs in women. Additionally, an estimated 75% of visual impairment is preventable or correctable with proper education and care. With the increased risks for women it’s critical for women to know about the risks and prevention to effectively protect their eyes and vision.

There are a number of specific eye diseases, many of which cause vision impairment, that are more prevalent in women. Part of the reason for this is that women tend to live longer than men. These risks are exacerbated by often avoidable behavioral and environmental conditions such as smoking, poor diet and nutrition, a sedentary lifestyle and sun exposure to name a few.

Research shows that some of the statistics showing that women are at a higher risk of certain vision-threatening conditions depend on the living conditions and access to health care of the population being studied. Nevertheless, other eye conditions such as dry eye syndrome, autoimmune diseases related to the eyes (such as rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren’s Syndrome, systemic lupus erythematosus, and multiple sclerosis) and cataracts are inherently more prevalent in women than men. Furthermore, women are more at risk for diseases associated with age, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), since they statistically live a few years longer than men.

Here are some facts about a few of the common eye diseases that women in particular should be aware of.

  1. Cataracts.

Cataracts are when the lens of the eye becomes clouded causing vision loss and eventually blindness if not treated. Nevertheless, treatment for the condition, which is usually a minor surgery, is very common and highly successful. An age-related condition, more than half of North Americans age 65 and older have at least one cataract.  While longer life expectancy is a factor, women also have been found to be intrinsically more at risk for developing cataracts.

While it is likely that most people that live long enough will eventually develop a cataract, there are a few things that can increase your chances such as smoking, and possibly diet and sun exposure. If you have diabetes, maintaining proper blood sugar levels might play a role in prevention. Scheduling a yearly, comprehensive eye exam is the best way to catch and treat cataracts early to prevent vision loss.

  1. Dry Eye Disease

Dry eye disease is a condition in which the eye does not create enough lubricating tear film to keep the surface moist and comfortable. While it doesn’t lead to blindness, dry eye can cause severe suffering and affect quality of life. It can also increase the chances of infection and  impair visual acuity leading to decreased ability to read and drive, particularly at night.  The condition is most common in middle aged and older adults, particularly women and is one of the leading causes of visits to the eye doctor.

Severe dry eye is sometimes caused by Sjögren’s syndrome, which is a chronic, multi-organ autoimmune disorder that also results in dry mouth and often arthritis, which is much more common in women.  

Dry eye disease is intrinsically 2-3 times more common in women than in men, which may be may be because of hormonal differences, and the use of birth control can result in increased dry eye as well.

There are a number of treatments available for dry eyes, including artificial tear solutions, ointments, anti-inflammatories and sometimes inserting tear duct plugs.

  1. Age-related Macular Degeneration and Glaucoma

For both of these vision threatening diseases, age is the greatest risk factor, making the risk higher for women who statistically live longer. Women are twice as likely to develop AMD as men.  African Americans are at higher risk for glaucoma, making black women over the age of 60, one of the highest risk groups for the disease.  Family history is also a strong risk factor.

The best way for women to keep their eyes and vision intact is to have a comprehensive eye exam every year and to take care of themselves by not smoking, wearing UV protective eyewear, maintaining proper nutrition and exercise. Because many of these diseases don’t show symptoms until it is too late, early detection is essential to eye health.  

Bonus Info: Pregnancy and Eyesight

Pregnancy can affect a woman’s vision, though the changes are often temporary. Although it’s definitely recommended for women with gestational diabetes to have diabetic retinopathy screenings, and it is generally safe to have a routine eye exam while you’re expecting, you should know that your prescription may not be “guaranteed” as it is subject to change until about 6 weeks after the yet-to-be-born baby stops nursing.

Many women complain that their contact lenses feel uncomfortable during pregnancy. The eye contours can shift due to hormones and swelling, so the lens might not fit the same way. You may want to try a different type of contact, or switch to glasses for a few months.

What You Need to Know About Firework Eye Safety

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Independence Day may have passed but fireworks season is still in full swing and fireworks-related injury and death is a real and serious danger.  According to the 2014 Annual Fireworks Report, compiled by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission there were at least 11 deaths and 10,500 injuries due to fireworks last 

While the most common injuries occurred to the hands and fingers (approximately 36%), about 1 in every 5 of the injuries (19%) were to the eyes, where contusions, lacerations and foreign bodies in the eyes were the most common injuries. The danger to the eyes is serious and can result in permanent eye damage and loss of vision. Fireworks can rupture the globe of the eye or cause chemical and thermal burns, corneal abrasions and retinal detachment.

Sadly, children from 5-9 years of age had the highest estimated rate of emergency department-treated fireworks-related injuries (5.2 injuries per 100,000 people) and children under 15 years old accounted for 35% of the total injuries. Nearly half of those injured were bystanders and not actually handling the fireworks themselves. 

Here are Five Fireworks Safety Tips to enjoy fireworks safely:

  • The safest way to view fireworks is at a professional public display rather than at home use.
  • When viewing fireworks, carefully adhere to the safety barriers and view them from at least 500 feet away.
  • Never touch unexploded fireworks. Contact local fire or police departments immediately to deal with them.
  • Never let young children play with any type of fireworks even sparklers. 
  • In cases where consumer fireworks are legal, use them safely. Anyone that handles fireworks or is a bystander should wear proper protective gear and eyewear that meet national safety standards. 
  • Professional grade fireworks should only be handled by trained pyrotechnicians.

If a firework-related eye injury does occur, seek medical attention immediately. Try to leave the eye alone as much as possible; do not rub or rinse the eyes, apply pressure or try to remove an object that has entered the eye. 

In addition to knowing the dangers and safety precautions yourself, it’s important to teach your children about firework safety. Always remember that while they are fun to enjoy in the right setting, fireworks are explosive devices and should be treated as such. 

Pink, Stinging Eyes?

Conjunctivitis, also called pink eye, is one of the most frequently seen eye diseases, especially in kids. It can be caused by viruses, bacteria or even allergies to pollen, chlorine in swimming pools, and ingredients in cosmetics, or other irritants, which touch the eyes. Some forms of conjunctivitis might be quite transmittable and quickly spread in school and at the office.

Conjunctivitis is seen when the conjunctiva, or thin transparent layer of tissue covering the white part of the eye, becomes inflamed. You can identify conjunctivitis if you notice eye redness, discharge, itching or swollen eyelids and a crusty discharge surrounding the eyes early in the day. Pink eye infections can be divided into three main types: viral, allergic and bacterial conjunctivitis.

The viral type is usually a result of a similar virus to that which produces the recognizable red, watery eyes, sore throat and runny nose of the common cold. The red, itchy, watery eyes caused by viral pink eye are likely to last from a week to two and then will clear up on their own. You may however, be able to reduce some of the discomfort by using soothing drops or compresses. Viral pink eye is transmittable until it is completely cleared up, so in the meantime maintain excellent hygiene, remove eye discharge and try to avoid using communal pillowcases or towels. If your son or daughter has viral conjunctivitis, he or she will have to be kept home from school for three days to a week until symptoms disappear.

A bacterial infection such as Staphylococcus or Streptococcus is usually treated with antibiotic eye drops or cream. One should notice an improvement within just a few days of antibiotic drops, but be sure to adhere to the full prescription dosage to prevent pink eye from recurring.

Allergic pink eye is not contagious. It is usually a result of a known allergy such as hay fever or pet allergies that sets off an allergic reaction in their eyes. First of all, to treat allergic pink eye, you should eliminate the irritant. Use cool compresses and artificial tears to relieve discomfort in mild cases. When the infection is more severe, your eye doctor might prescribe a medication such as an anti-inflammatory or antihistamine. In cases of chronic allergic pink eye, topical steroid eye drops could be used.

Pink eye should always be diagnosed by a qualified eye doctor in order to identify the type and best course of treatment. Never treat yourself! Keep in mind the sooner you begin treatment, the lower chance you have of giving pink eye to loved ones or prolonging your discomfort.

 

Welcome to our New Website

We invite you to take a look around our new site to get to know our practice and learn about eye and vision health. You will find a wealth of information about our optometrists, our staff and our services, as well as facts and advice about how to take care of your eyes and protect your vision.

Learn about our Practice specialties including comprehensive eye exams, contact lens fittings and the treatment of eye diseases. Our website also offers you a convenient way to find our hours, address and map, schedule an appointment online, order contact lenses or contact us to ask us any questions you have about eye care and our Practice.

Have a look around our online office and schedule a visit to meet us in person. We are here to partner with you and your family for a lifetime of healthy eyes and vision. We look forward to seeing you!

7 Things You Should Know About Eyelid Twitches

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You may have experienced this before. Out of nowhere, your eyelid starts twitching uncontrollably. While this can be a cause of aggravation, eyelid twitches, spasms or tics are actually quite common.

Here are 7 things you should know about this eye condition:

  1. Eye twitches are generally caused by a repetitive, involuntary spasm in your eyelid muscles and are known in medical terms as a blepharospasm.
  2. Almost all sudden-onset eye twitching is not considered to be a serious medical condition, though it can be hard to treat without knowing the underlying cause.
  3. Eyelid twitches can occur sporadically, though some people have been known to feel them for a few consecutive days or weeks
  4. Stress, tiredness, eyestrain, caffeine alcohol or tobacco usage, dry eyes, allergies or nutritional imbalances are factors that can trigger or exacerbate eye twitches. The body produces endogenous cortisol (a steroid) when stressed, which may cause biological warning signs to the body to de-stress.
  5. If reducing stress does not alleviate the twitches, your eye doctor can perform a refraction (vision test) and comprehensive eye health exam to see if eye treatment can resolve the problem. Sometimes the solution is relieving eyestrain by updating your glasses.
  6. Rarely, a twitch will continue despite these efforts to alleviate triggers. In that case, they can be treated with Botox injections to help stop the muscles in your eyelid from contracting.
  7. Eyelid spasms are only considered a medical emergency when the twitch is accompanied by red or swollen eyes, unusual discharge, a drooping eyelid or twitching in other parts of the face. These may be symptoms of a more serious neurological disorder

If the twitching persists, talk to your eye doctor to help you treat it.

“Eye” Am Home for the Holidays – 7 Eye Tips for College Students

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Winter break is in a few weeks and, with college students finding their way home for the holidays, it is a good time for parents to check in and make sure their independent kids are taking care of themselves properly.Vision plays a key role in learning as well as extra-curricular activities and college students in particular are susceptible to a host of eye and vision problems including injuries, infections and increased nearsightedness. Here are 7 tips for college students to keep their eyes and vision safe and healthy during the semester.

1) Wash your hands frequently.

College dorms and crowded classrooms can be a breeding ground for germs and bacteria, one of the most common of which is conjunctivitis or pink eye. To keep the germs away and stay healthy, wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water and try as much as possible not to touch your eyes

2) Take care of your contact lenses.

With the late nights and busy college life, it can be easy to get lax with contact lens care, but don't! Always adhere to your eye doctor's instructions for proper contact lens hygiene. Don't sleep in your contacts if they’re not approved for extended wear, disinfect and store properly, only use contact lens solution and don't swim or shower with your lenses in.  In addition to causing dry eyes and irritation, improper care of lenses can result in serious infections and in the worst cases permanent scarring and vision loss.   

3) Take a break.

Many hours of studying can take its toll on your and in today's digital age, the results could be even more dramatic.  Blue light from computers, tablets and mobile phones has been linked to vision complications and computer vision syndrome which can cause blurred vision, headaches and neck and shoulder pain.  If you are working at a computer or in front of a screen for hours at a time, follow the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes take a break and look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.  If you spend most of your day on the computer consider purchasing a pair of computer glasses to lessen the effects of the screen on your eyes.

4) Get out.

Do yourself a favor and get outside regularly. Studies show that more than 50 percent of college graduates are nearsighted, with eyesight worsening with each school year.  Further research has shown that spending more time outdoors can protect vision from getting worse.

5)  Handle Makeup with Care.

Makeup, particularly liquid or creamy eye makeup, can be a breeding ground for infectious bacteria. Never share makeup with friends and if you get an eye infection throw away your makeup asap.  A good rule of thumb is to replace all eye makeup every three months.

6) Use Eye Protection.

If sports are part of your college experience, make sure you are keeping your eyes safe with proper eye and vision gear. Protective, polycarbonate or trivex sports glasses, skiing and swim goggles can protect your eyes from scratches, bumps, bruises or worse.

7) Get a Yearly Eye Exam.

As mentioned above, it is common for college students to experience a decline in vision which could have an impact in and out of class. Get a yearly exam to make sure you can see your best and that your eyes in general are healthy. If you enjoy sitting at the back of the lecture hall, your eye checkup can ensure you have updated glasses or contact lenses at your optimal vision.

With all of the excitement of winter break, many college students find that their vacation flies by. Before the fun comes to an end, consider that winter vacation is the perfect time to schedule your yearly eye exam. You may even get a brand new pair of eyeglasses to spruce up your post vacation wardrobe.

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