Older asian man holding his eyeglasses while wiping closed eyes.

How To Keep Your Eyes Healthy As You Age

As you grow older, you become more at risk for certain eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, dry eye, and low vision.

In most situations, there are no early signs. These conditions, however, can be detected through a dilated eye exam.

According to the National Eye Institute, more than 40 million Americans are currently age 65 or older, and this number is expected to grow to more than 88 million by 2050. By that same year, the number of Americans with age-related eye diseases is expected to double, and the number of people living with low vision is projected to triple.

Therefore, a dilated eye exam is so important for diagnosing and treating eye conditions.

During this exam, drops are placed in the eyes to dilate or widen them. The eye care professional uses a special magnifying lens to examine the retina which is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye and the optic nerve which is the bundle of fibers that send signals from the retina to the brain, for signs of damage and other eye problems.

In addition to an eye exam, there are things in your everyday life that you can do to protect your vision.

  • If you smoke, stop
  • Eat green leafy vegetables and fish
  • Exercise
  • Maintain normal blood pressure
  • Wear sunglasses and a brimmed hat anytime you are outside in bright sunshine
  • Wear safety eyewear when working around your house or playing sports

Contact us today at 770-532-4444 to schedule an exam or request an appointment online.

Female with red hat shielding eyes from sun

Keep Your Eyes Safe from Dangerous UV

Studies show that long-term exposure to bright sunlight may increase the risk of cataracts and growths on the eye, including cancer.

July is UV Safety Month and we like to remind the public of the importance of shielding eyes from the sun’s harmful rays with 100 percent UV-blocking sunglasses and broad-brimmed hats.

UV damage to the eyes be can short-term symptoms such as eye pain, blurred vision and tears. They can go away in a day or two.

Some UV damage may be cumulative, leading to cataract or macular degeneration later in life. People who work or play in the sun for long periods of time are at the greatest risk.

Always protect your eyes when you are out in the sun.

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Safety Tips for Handling Fireworks

We know some of you will be shooting fireworks during the summer and especially around the Fourth of July. Please be careful and don’t take chances when shooting fireworks.

One in six eye injuries from fireworks results in permanent vision loss.

Here are 10 safety tips.

• Fireworks packaged in brown paper are made for professional displays – avoid buying.
• Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities, especially with sparklers.
• Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
• Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
• Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire and to douse used fireworks before discarding in trash.
• Never allow young children to play or ignite fireworks.
• Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
• Never try to re-light or pickup fireworks that have not ignited fully.
• Never place a part of your body directly over a firework device when lighting.
• Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.

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Make Your Vision Health a Priority

May is Healthy Vision Month, a national eye health observance established by the National Eye Institute in May 2003. NEI is one of the National Institutes of Health, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Healthy Vision Month is designed to elevate vision as a health priority.

Did you know that most vision problems are preventable? Vision loss doesn’t have to be a natural part of getting older.

The National Institute for Health offers everyday tips to help set yourself up for a lifetime of seeing well.

Wear sunglasses (even on cloudy days)

When shopping for shades, look for a pair that blocks out at least 99% of both UVA and UVB radiation. Bonus: add a wide-brimmed hat when you’re out and about for extra protection.

Eat eye-healthy foods

It’s true: carrots are good for your eyes! In fact, a diet rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables — especially dark leafy greens, like spinach or kale — is important for keeping your eyes healthy.

Research also shows that fish high in omega-3 fatty acids — like salmon, tuna, and halibut — can help protect your vision.

Get plenty of physical activity

Regular physical activity comes with a lot of great benefits. It can boost your mood, reduce stress, help you stay at a healthy weight — and protect you from serious eye diseases.

Give your eyes a rest

Do your eyes ever feel achy at the end of the day? If you spend a lot of time at the computer or staring at your phone, you may forget to blink — and that can tire out your eyes.

Try using the 20–20–20 rule throughout the day: every 20 minutes, look away from the screens and focus about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds. This reduces eyestrain and helps your eyes (and you!) feel better at the end of the day.

Protect your eyes — at work and at play

About 2,000 people in the United States get a serious work-related eye injury every day. And get this: people with sports-related eye injuries end up in the ER every 13 minutes.

The good news is that you can help protect your eyes from injury by wearing protective eyewear — like safety glasses, goggles, and safety shields. To make sure you have the right kind of protective eyewear and you’re using it correctly, talk with your eye doctor.

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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.