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Formerly The Stanwood Eye Clinic. Serving Stanwood and Camano Island for over 30 years

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“The Sneak Thief of Sight” Is On Our Minds This January

January is Glaucoma Awareness Month

Make your resolution for healthy vision this year by knowing the risks and signs of glaucoma.

As the leading cause of blindness worldwide, glaucoma has earned the nickname “The Sneak Thief of Sight”. This is because often there are either no symptoms or a sudden onset of serious symptoms that can quickly lead to vision loss if not treated.

Glaucoma-related vision loss is usually caused by optic nerve damage due to elevated pressure within the eye (intraocular pressure). The damage cannot be reversed however there is treatment for glaucoma, particularly when it is caught early before nerve damage has occurred.

While anyone can develop glaucoma (children are sometimes even born with it) there are risk factors that increase the chances of developing the disease. These include:

  • Age over 60 (over 40 for African Americans)
  • Family history of the disease
  • High eye or blood pressure
  • African American, Japanese, or Hispanic descent
  • Previous eye injury or surgery
  • Diabetes
  • History of corticosteroid treatment
  • Severe myopia (nearsightedness) or hyperopia (farsightedness)

Known measures to help prevent glaucoma or reduce the risks include maintaining a healthy diet and weight, regular exercise, refraining from smoking and protecting your eyes from UV exposure. Controlling blood pressure is also beneficial.

Types of Glaucoma

There are two main types of glaucoma, open-angle and angle-closure, with open-angle being the most common and accounting for approximately 70-90% of cases. Open-angle refers to chronic cases of the disease that progress slowly over time, and are usually caused by high intraocular pressure. Angle-closure glaucoma can be chronic or acute and is often caused by an inherited condition or the result of an injury to the eye.

While each of these types of glaucoma has subtypes the major differences between them have to do with the way the disease affects the eye and the symptoms. While open-angle often has no early symptoms yet may eventually cause loss of peripheral vision, angle-closure glaucoma is often characterized by more obvious signs such as blurred vision, pain, headaches, tunnel vision, halos that appear around lights and even nausea and dizziness. These symptoms can be a medical emergency and must be treated immediately.

Detecting Glaucoma

Since there are often no symptoms as glaucoma develops, regular glaucoma screenings are key to early diagnosis and treatment. Such screenings should include an exam of the optic nerve, measuring the inner eye pressure and visual field screenings. Some cases of glaucoma occur with normal or even low eye pressure (low tension glaucoma) and therefore people should not rely on any vision screenings where all they do is an “airpuff” test.

Newer technologies such as OCT, can painlessly scan the optic nerve and determine if there is glaucomatous damage even earlier than visual field tests or other exams might show.

Treatment for Glaucoma

While vision that is lost from glaucoma’s damage to the optic nerve can’t be restored, the eye can be repaired (and intraocular pressure returned to normal) to prevent further damage and loss. Treatments include eye drops and surgery, depending on the type of glaucoma, the cause and the severity of the disease.

If you have been diagnosed with glaucoma and prescribed eye drops, it is important to keep using the eye drops as directed even if the drops irritate your eyes or you do not notice improvement in vision. The eye drops prevent eye pressure spikes that can damage the optic nerve. Since the vision loss from glaucoma is not reversible, if you have concerns with the eye drops, ask your eye doctor to try out a different brand instead.

Childhood eye injuries, such as a ball hit or puncture, particularly one which altered the internal structures of the eye or allowed fluid to flow out of the eye can cause problems later in life. Glaucoma that results from such long-forgotten injuries may not be detected until years after the injury, so it is important to have routine eye checkups if you have ever sustained an eye injury.

The best way to protect your eyes and vision from this devastating disease, especially if you have heightened risk factors, is to ensure you have regular comprehensive eye exams to look for signs of glaucoma inside the eye. Since symptoms often don’t appear until damage is done, the best course of action is preventative.

If you have any of the risk factors listed above, when you come in for your yearly comprehensive eye exam, speak to your eye doctor about glaucoma and what you can do to prevent it.

8 Tips to Beat Winter Dry Eyes

One of the most common patient complaints during the winter months is dry eyes. In the cooler climates, cold winds and dry air, coupled with dry indoor heating can be a recipe for eye discomfort.  Dryness and irritation can be particularly debilitating for those who wear contact lenses or suffer from chronic dry eyes – a condition in which the eyes produce a low quality tear film.   
 
Harsh weather conditions can reduce the natural moisture in your eyes and the irritation usually results in a burning or itching sensation that often leads to rubbing or scratching your eyes which can worsen the symptoms. Sometimes it feels like there is a foreign object in your eye and for some, dry eyes can even cause excessive tearing, as your eyes try to overcompensate for their lack of protective tears. Prolonged, untreated dry eyes can lead to blurred vision as well.
 
Whatever the symptoms, dry eyes can cause significant discomfort during the long winters and relief can seriously improve your quality of life.
 
Here are eight tips to keep your eyes comfortable during the harsh winter months:
 
  1. To keep eyes moist, apply artificial tears/eye drops a few times a day. If you have chronic dry eyes, speak to your eye doctor about the best product for your condition. 
  2. Drink a lot of fluids – keeping your body hydrated will also help maintain the moisture in your eyes.
  3. If you spend a lot of time indoors in heated environments, use a humidifier to add some moisture back into the air.
  4. Try to situate yourself away from sources of heat, especially if they are blowing. While a nice cozy fire can add to the perfect winter evening, make sure to keep your distance so dry eyes don’t ruin it. 
  5. Staring at a computer or digital device for extended amounts of time can further dry out your eyes. If you spend a lot of time staring at the screen, make sure you blink often and practice the 20/20/20 rule – every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. 
  6. Don’t rub your eyes! This will only increase irritation and can also lead to infections if your hands are not clean.
  7. Give your eyes a break and break out your glasses. If your contact lenses are causing further irritation, take a break and wear your glasses for a few days. Also talk to your optometrist about switching to contacts that are better for dry eyes.
  8. Protect your eyes. If you know you are going to be venturing into harsh weather conditions, such as extreme cold or wind, make sure you wear protection. Try large, 100% UV protective eyeglasses and a hat with a visor to keep the wind and particles from getting near your eyes. If you are a winter sports enthusiast, make sure you wear well-fitted ski goggles.
 
If you find that after following these tips you continue to suffer, contact your eye doctor. It could be that your condition requires medical intervention.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month

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Diabetes is a growing health crisis in North America as an estimated 29 million Americans and 3.4 million Canadians are currently living with the disease. Chances are it affects you or someone you know. November has been dedicated as a time to spread awareness about the disease, its risk factors and the effects it has on your body, your daily life and the lives of your loved ones.

Diabetes and Your Eyes

Diabetes is a systemic disease that causes fluctuations in glucose (blood sugar) levels which can affect blood vessels throughout the body including those in your eyes and visual system. People with diabetes are at higher risk for blindness than the general population, however with regular eye exams and proper care, most of the complications are minor and treatable.

Minor changes in glucose levels could result in complications such as blurred or double vision, floaters or even visual field loss. These conditions are usually quite treatable. Diabetics are also at greater risk for developing eye diseases such as glaucoma (40% increase risk) and cataracts (60% increased risk). With early detection, both of these conditions can be treated and the majority of vision restored.

Diabetic eye disease often has NO noticeable symptoms or pain, so comprehensive eye exams that include dilating the pupils are essential to detect signs of diabetes. Online vision assessments will not detect diabetic eye disease.

The condition that is the most concerning risk of diabetes is called diabetic retinopathy which can lead to blindness if not diagnosed and treated.

What You Need to Know About Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the tiny blood vessels or capillaries in the back of the eye develop weakened vessel walls. If not treated, the vessels leak fluid and become blocked. This can progress to hemorrhages in the retina, and over time the eye does not receive enough oxygen and nutrients. As a result, new fine blood vessels start to grow. These proliferating vessels leak and can cause further bleeding, scarring and potentially lead to blindness. A special zone in the central retina called the macula is especially susceptible to diabetes. Diabetic macular edema (when fluid seeps into the macula) can cause permanent vision loss if not promptly detected.

There are treatments for stopping the progression of the disease such as laser therapy or intraocular injections, although once damage to vision has occurred, it is often permanent. This is why the condition must be diagnosed and treated early on.

All diabetics should have a regular comprehensive eye exam to catch any early signs of diabetic retinopathy or other vision threatening conditions. Because risk factors vary, speak to your eye doctor about how often you should have an exam. Risk factors for diabetic retinopathy include:

  • Length of time living with diabetes
  • Uncontrolled blood sugar levels
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Pregnancy
  • Genetics

Although blindness from diabetes is preventable it is still a leading cause of blindness among working-age adults. If you or someone you know has the disease, make sure that proper eye care is a priority.

This Halloween Be Wary of Costume Contact Lenses

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As Halloween approaches and costume planning gets more serious, many consider the use of novelty or costume contact lenses as a way to add that extra flair. Whether you are dressing up as a cat, a vampire, or looking for something fun that glows in the dark, dressing up your eyes can certainly add the finishing touch to your outfit. However, most people are unaware that costume contact lenses can pose a serious danger to your sight. If used improperly and bought without a medical prescription from an eye care professional, costume contact lenses can cause serious infection, corneal abrasions and in some cases lead to permanent vision loss. 

As contact lenses are considered a medical device they need to be prescribed and fitted by a licensed eye care professional, according to the FDA and Health Canada. Most of the lenses sold in novelty and retail stores are not approved by the FDA or Health Canada. This is because the material they are made from can scratch your cornea, distort your vision or cause an infection. In fact it is illegal for retailers to sell any kind of contact lenses without a prescription. That’s why contact lenses for costumes are often purchased at discounted rates online, where regulations are negligible.

Here are a few tips to take into consideration if you decide to use costume contact lenses on Halloween or at any other time during the year.

1.     Visit your eye doctor for a thorough eye exam. Your doctor will also measure your eyes for the correct contact lens fit and explain the correct way to use and care for your lenses. This rule applies even if you have perfect vision.

2.     Purchase costume contacts only from a retailer that requests a prescription and sells FDA approved colored lenses.

3.     Be sure to follow the instructions for contact lens usage, care and cleaning.

4.     If you experience redness, swelling or discharge, remove your lenses and seek medical attention from your eye doctor.

5.     Do not share your contact lenses with anyone else.

6.     Schedule a follow up eye exam with your eye care professional.

Don't let an impulsive buy from a costume store ruin your vision.

For more information, watch the FDA's video on improper use of decorative lenses below:

Halloween Eye Safety

October has arrived and that means many people are already starting to plan for upcoming costume parties and trick-or-treating for the Halloween season. This is why now is the time to remind the public about some very important precautions about eye safety since there are some common costume props and accessories out there can be very dangerous to your eyes.

Cosmetic Contact Lenses

One of the biggest costume-related dangers to your eyes and vision is cosmetic or decorative contact lenses. Decorative lenses can be a great addition to your costume, but they must be obtained safely and legally with a prescription, through a professional, authorized vendor.

The bottom line is that contact lenses are a medical device that are manufactured and distributed under very strict regulations. Even non-corrective contact lenses require an eye exam to measure your eye and fit lenses according to a prescription. Costume stores, beauty supply stores and similar websites are not authorized dealers of contact lenses, and over-the-counter contact lenses are not legal under any circumstances. 

Beware of anyone advertising “one-size-fits all” lenses or promoting that you do not need a prescription to purchase. Never buy contact lenses that don’t require a prescription. You could be risking serious damage to the eye and even blindness.

When contact lenses are not fitted to your unique eye measurements by an eye doctor, they can cause dryness and discomfort as well as a corneal abrasion or a scratch on the front surface of the eye. Serious corneal abrasions can leave scars and create permanent vision damage. Further, unregulated contact lenses may not be manufactured with optimal materials that are flexible and breathable and can be applied and removed properly. There are stories of lenses being stuck to people’s eyes and causing serious damage. Even if you aren’t feeling pain, it is best to check with a qualified licensed contact lens fitter to confirm if the contact lens is causing any harm to the eyes.

Non-prescription contacts have also been shown to present a higher risk of eye infection.  Serious infections can lead to vision loss, sometimes on a permanent basis. There are far too many stories these days of people that have used off-the-counter contact lenses that are now blind or suffering serious vision loss and chronic discomfort. 

Don’t worry, you don’t have to forgo your red, devil eyes this year! Just be safe and plan ahead. There are many manufacturers of cosmetic lenses, and these can be obtained safely through an authorized contact lens dealer. Contact your eye doctor or local optician to find out more. 

False Lashes

False eyelashes have become quite the rage in recent years but they carry a number of risks with them as well. First of all, they can damage the natural eyelash hair follicles, causing them to fall out, sometimes permanently. The chances of this increase when people sleep in their lashes or leave them on for extended periods of time. In addition to the aesthetic damage, this can be dangerous to your eyes because eyelashes are essential for protecting your eyes from sweat, debris, and dust. Without your eyelashes your eyes are at greater risk for infection and irritation.  

False eyelashes can also be a trap for dirt, debris and bacteria which can enter your eye causing irritation and infections, along the lids or inside the eye itself. As we said above, severe infections can sometimes lead to vision loss. 

Additionally, the glue that adheres the lashes to your eyelid can sometimes cause an allergic reaction in the skin around the eye or to the eye itself. The eye is one of the most sensitive areas of the body, so you want to keep any potential allergens or irritants far, far away. 

Masks and Props

If your (or your child’s) costume includes a mask, fake face, hood or anything else that goes on your head, make sure that visibility isn’t impaired. Unfortunately, it’s common for children especially to trip and fall because they cannot see well. Also, use caution when using props such as plastic swords, pitchforks, guns, sports equipment which can easily cause a corneal abrasion or contusion to the eye if hit in the face. 

Makeup

Lastly be careful about the makeup you apply around your eyes. Wash your hands before you apply eye makeup and don’t share makeup and brushes with others, as this can lead to the spread of infections such as conjunctivitis (pink eye). Make sure your makeup isn’t expired (mascara for example is recommended to throw away 2-4 months after opening) and try not to apply anything like eyeliner too close to the underside of the eyelid. Lastly, only  use makeup intended for eyes in the area around the eyes.  

When you are planning for this Halloween season, just remember that your vision is too high a price to pay for any great costume. Dress up safely and Happy Halloween!

 

COVID-19 Office Updates

At Vision Plus Stanwood, the health of our patients is paramount. We are taking all necessary precautions to keep everyone safe during this pandemic. 

All patients are screened prior to entering our office for any signs/symptoms of COVID-19. Please be prepared to answer the following questions:

  • Have you experienced a cough, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath or at least two of these symptoms: fever, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache, repeated shaking with chills or a loss of taste or smell within the last 2 to 14 days?
  • Have you been diagnosed with COVID-19 within the last 14 days? 

  • Have you been in contact with anybody (within six feet) who has these symptoms or anybody who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 within the last 48 hours? 

  • Have you or anyone in your household traveled from somewhere outside of the United States or on a cruise ship in the last 14 days? 

  • All patients, staff, and guests have a temperature check done prior to entering the office. Masks are required to be worn at all times. 

We request patients come to their appointments alone and no earlier than fifteen minutes prior to their scheduled appointment. Drivers, family members or friends accompanying the patient are asked to wait in their vehicles. 

Parents/guardians accompanying minors are welcome to enter the office with the patient for their appointment.

Curbside pickup is available for eyeglasses and contact lenses. We are also offering free shipping to your home for contact lenses. 

The office furniture has been rearranged to maximize social distancing. All equipment and examination rooms are cleaned with EPA approved disinfectant between each office visit. 

We are doing our best to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19. We hope everyone stays safe and well.

 

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