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Spring Means Eye Allergies Season

Eye allergies, especially in the Spring, are very common. When an irritant like pollen and dust gets in the eye, your eye produces histamine as a defense to the irritant.

When this happens the eyelid becomes swollen, itchy and red, and your eyes will tear up. Most eye allergies are temporary with the season.

There are several treatments you can try to get relief from allergies. Artificial tears can offer temporary relief by washing out the irritant. Over-the-counter decongestants can reduce the symptoms. Oral antihistamines can help but a side effect can make your eyes dry.

If the allergies are severe, you can check with your doctor about prescribing steroid eye drops.

Limit your time outside and do your best to avoid irritants.

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Women More Susceptible to Dry Eye

Research shows that millions of adults are affected by dry eye each year. It’s more prevalent in women and the chance of developing dry eye increases with age.

The simplest explanation for dry eye is the lack of tears does not keep the surface of the eye lubricated.

If you have dry eye, you will feel a scratchy sensation or feel like there is something in your eye. You also may feel a burning sensation, pain, discharge and redness. Some people may have blurred vision.

Dry eye can occur when basal (lubricating) tear production decreases, tear evaporation increases or tear composition is imbalanced. Medication, age, skin conditions, allergies, wind, smoke are among the causes.

People experiencing dry eye symptoms should consult an eye care professional to determine the cause, which guides treatment strategy.

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February is Age-Related Macular Degeneration Awareness Month

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness among older Americans.

However new treatments have dramatically changed the course of this disease over the last 10 years, making AMD more manageable than ever before.

During AMD Awareness Month in February, the American Academy of Ophthalmology is reminding people with AMD that they can save their vision thanks to recent treatment advances, but early detection is a critical first step.

According to the National Eye Institute, AMD is a common eye condition and a leading cause of vision loss among people age 50 and older. It causes damage to the macula, a small spot near the center of the retina and the part of the eye needed for sharp, central vision, which lets us see objects that are straight ahead.

In some people, AMD advances so slowly that vision loss does not occur for a long time. In others, the disease progresses faster and may lead to a loss of vision in one or both eyes. As AMD progresses, a blurred area near the center of vision is a common symptom. Over time, the blurred area may grow larger or you may develop blank spots in your central vision. Objects also may not appear to be as bright as they used to be.

AMD by itself does not lead to complete blindness, with no ability to see. However, the loss of central vision in AMD can interfere with simple everyday activities, such as the ability to see faces, drive, read, write, or do close work, such as cooking or fixing things around the house.

Schedule an appointment with your Gainesville Eye Associates Ophthalmologist.

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Premium Cataract Surgery Now Offered in Franklin and Highlands region

Franklin and Highlands residents will no longer need to travel far from home to receive advanced laser cataract surgery thanks to the affiliation of ophthalmologist Dr. Clayton Blehm with the Family Eyecare Team of Franklin.

Dr. Blehm, who focuses his practice on laser cataract surgery and premium intraocular lenses, has performed thousands of cataract surgeries in the past 10 years. He specializes in the use of the leading laser cataract removal device with all standard and premium implant lens options.

“I look forward to offering cataract removal for patients in the area,” Blehm said. “They will be able to take advantage of new technology that provides less invasive and much more precise removal of cataracts.”

He will be providing care with Dr. Catherine Ward and Dr. Daryl Gossett at the Family Eyecare Team.

Dr. Blehm earned his medical degree from the University of Texas-Houston Medical School and served his ophthalmology residency there. He has assisted in numerous research projects and clinical trials, presented findings at national ophthalmology conferences and is published in several national medical journals.

The Family Eyecare Team is located at 498 West Main St., Franklin, N.C. Make an appointment by calling 828.524.5004.

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When It Comes to Your Children’s Eyes, Be Diligent with Regular Exams

Eye exams are as important for children as they are for adults. An exam can catch early vision issues before they begin to hinder the child’s ability to learn. In fact, studies reveal that 80% of what we learn is visual.

School-age children’s eyes are constantly changing. So, when their vision is not functioning properly, learning and participation in recreational activities will suffer. Vision problems can especially deter a child’s reading ability. They also may lead to self-esteem problems that slow their learning development by not participating fully in class.

Nearly 25 percent of students have issues with their vision, and teachers usually are good at spotting problems in the classroom. For example, one leading indicator of eye strain is a child constantly rubbing his or her eyes. Squinting is also an indicator when looking at objects in a distance like a white board in the classroom.

Keep in mind that symptoms of eye strain are less likely for children under 12 years old.

At home, be diligent. Look for potential eye issues and listen to your children. Are they complaining of headaches after reading, eye fatigue, dry eye, blurring of vision, or double vision? If so, then a visit to an eye doctor, optometrist or ophthalmologist is warranted to rule out any underlying eye conditions.

Corrective contact lenses or glasses may be all that is needed to correct early eye issues. But the parents’ job doesn’t end there. You must continue to pay close attention to your children’s eyesight, including teaching them how to take care of their corrective eyewear.

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Eye Exams Detect Diabetes & Blindness

November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month — a good reminder that diabetic patients should have dilated eye exams every year.

Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness among working-age Americans. It also is a risk factor for developing glaucoma and cataracts. However, the most common and debilitating vision problem for diabetics is diabetic retinopathy. It is caused by damage to the blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissue of the retina. At first, diabetic retinopathy may cause no symptoms or only mild vision problems. Eventually, it can cause blindness. The condition can develop in anyone who has type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The longer you have diabetes and the less controlled your blood sugar is, the more likely you are to develop this eye complication.

An eye exam can even detect early signs of diabetes. One indicator is the small blood vessels in your retina.

Our ophthalmologists are able to view these blood vessel issues when they dilate your eyes. Over time, too much sugar in your blood can lead to the blockage of the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina, cutting off its blood supply. As a result, the eye attempts to grow new blood vessels. But these new blood vessels don’t develop properly and can leak easily. This shows up in the eye exam.

Call 770.532.4444 to schedule an exam or schedule an appointment online.

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Protect Your Eyes When Playing Sports

Nearly 40,000 sports-related eye injuries — mostly from contact sports and blunt trauma — occur each year in the United States, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. And children account for one-third of those injuries.

Wearing protective eyewear is the easiest way to prevent 90% of sports-related eye injuries. If you or a family member are an athlete, keep a pair of goggles in your home or car so you’re always prepared.

Protective eye gear is particularly important for sports that involve a fast-moving ball such as tennis, racquetball, soccer, softball or baseball (particularly infielders).

The most common eye injuries in sports are abrasions and contusions, detached retinas, corneal lacerations, cataracts, hemorrhages and loss of an eye.

So don’t take chances — wear protective gear to maintain your eye health and precious sight.

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New Year, New Eyes: Make a Resolution to Keep Eyes Healthy in the New Year

It has been two full weeks since the start of the year, and many people have already given up on their resolutions — in fact, this past Saturday was “National Ditch Your New Year’s Resolution Day.” Many people center their New Year’s resolutions around eating healthier and losing weight, giving up easily when they don’t see immediate results.

This year, we suggest making a simple resolution to keep your eyes healthy. Here are a few steps you can take to help get you there, which may also help with your other resolutions:

  • Eat more eye-healthy foods. We all know by now how great carrots are for your eyesight, but do you know why? Carrots and other orange fruits and vegetables contain Beta-carotene, a form of vitamin A that helps your eyes function smoothly. Another suggestion — add leafy greens like kale and spinach to your diet. These are rich in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which have been shown to lower the risk of developing cataracts and other eye problems.
  • Schedule routine eye exams. You should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam on a regular basis to check for common eye issues, such as myopia, hyperopia, glaucoma, cataracts and astigmatism. Several factors determine how frequently you need an exam, so check with your eye doctor to see what’s right for you.
  • Protect your eyes.Whether you’re playing sports, doing yard work, or lounging at the beach, it is very important to protect your eyes. If you’re outside, wear sunglasses that block UVA and UVB radiation. When doing home repairs, use protective lenses to prevent serious accidents.

Taking care of your eyes can be an integral part of your overall health plan — people who report having vision problems are more likely to have hearing and heart issues, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other serious health issues.

This is one New Year’s resolution that’s easy to keep! Set up an appointment with an eye doctor or Cataract Surgeon at Gainesville Eye Associates.

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Protect Your Eyes While Participating in Water Sports

It’s that time of year when we’re all spending a lot of time in the pool, lake or ocean. It’s important to protect your eyes when participating in water sports and other activities because an eye infection can ruin your summer fun.

Pool water can have a harsh effect on your eyes, so the best precaution you can take is to wear goggles. Swim goggles are not just for competitive swimmers. It’s good practice to wear them anytime you are in the pool, lake or ocean.

The chlorine in pool water can tear the film from your eyeball that protects your eyes from germs and that can lead to infections. Contrary to what many believe, chemically treated pools don’t kill all the germs.

In addition, chlorine interacts with organic compounds that come off your body and forms chloramines, which act as irritants. You know that pool smell? Those are chloramines! And they can cause stinging, red eyes, dry eye, and blurry vision.

In lakes and oceans, your eyes are also exposed to microbes. Most often, they cause conjunctivitis in the eyes, but they can also lead to more serious issues.

If you’re a contact lens wearer, take them out before participating in water activities. Microbes will attach to your contact lenses more easily than your eye, and then become trapped under the lenses.  You also run the risk of getting sand under contact lenses if you are playing on beach or surfing some big waves.

Of course, there are also prescription watersport sunglasses that you can wear on the water while you are fishing, surfing or boating to give some protection. But be sure these meet the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) UV requirements.

Keep your eyes safe and enjoy your summer!

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People with Light-Colored Eyes More Susceptible to UV Rays

People with light-colored eyes have much less melanin, which is a pigment that helps protect your eyes from ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. That makes it extremely important for them to protect their eyes with sunglasses.

 Extra protection can come from wraparound sunglasses or sunglasses with side pieces big enough to block the sun from most angles. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat also can help, because it will shield your face from the sun.

 Wear sunglasses even on cloudy days. Water, sand, and pavement reflect UV rays, increasing the amount reaching your eyes.

 Exposure to ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays can cause both temporary and permanent problems, such as cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, skin cancer near your eyes and Photokeratitis, which is sunburn of the cornea. Exposure UV rays overtime leads to substantial risk of eye damage.

 The No. 1 safeguard for people with light-colored eyes is sunglasses that absorb UVA and UVB rays. We recommend that all individuals — especially those with light-colored eyes – wear 100 percent UV-safe sunglasses.

 You need sunglasses that have UV absorption up to 400 nanometers and meet American National Standards Institute (ANSI) UV requirements. That means the lenses have been treated with the protective coating and block at least 99 percent of UV rays from reaching your eyes. It should say one or the other on the sunglasses. Dark lenses do not mean more protection. You have to look for the rating.