Diabetic Eye Disease 101

Did you know that November is Diabetes Awareness Month? Diabetes increases the risk of multiple eye diseases, many of which can lead to permanent vision loss. Oftentimes, there are no early symptoms for these conditions, making it essential for people with diabetes to receive regular comprehensive eye examinations.

What causes diabetic eye disease?

When a person’s blood glucose levels remain too high for too long, the tiny blood vessels in the back of the eye start to break down. These damaged blood vessels can result in swelling, scarring, and increased intraocular pressure, or high pressure within the eye. All of these factors can lead to diabetic eye disease.

What is diabetic eye disease?

Diabetic eye disease is not a single disease, but rather a group of eye problems caused by diabetes.

Common diabetic eye diseases include diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, glaucoma, and cataracts.

Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss in people with diabetes – in fact, a third of people with diabetes who are older than 40 already have signs of the condition.

In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, you might experience no symptoms. As the condition progresses, you may experience:

  • Blurred vision
  • Impaired color vision
  • Empty or dark spaces in your vision
  • Spots floating in your vision, or floaters
  • Vision loss

Thankfully, early detection and treatment can reduce the risk of permanent vision loss by 95 percent.

Diabetic macular edema

Diabetic macular edema is the accumulation of fluid in the macula, or the central part of the retina. Without treatment, this fluid can damage the macula, resulting in diminished vision.

Damage to this region can also result in:

  • Blurry or distorted vision
  • Seeing colors as faded or washed out
  • Double vision
  • Floaters
  • Permanent vision loss

Glaucoma

People with diabetes are twice as likely to develop glaucoma as the rest of the population. Since glaucoma often has no symptoms in its early stages, you may not notice any problems with your vision until it’s too late.

The most common types of glaucoma are open-angle glaucoma and acute-angle closure glaucoma.

Symptoms of open-angle glaucoma include:

  • Blind spots in your central and peripheral vision
  • Tunnel vision

Symptoms of acute angle-closure glaucoma include:

  • Severe headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Eye pain
  • Blurred vision

Cataracts

Like glaucoma, people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop cataracts as the general population.

Symptoms of cataracts include:

  • Blurred, cloudy, or dim vision
  • Difficulties seeing at night
  • Light sensitivity
  • Faded color vision
  • Frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions

How can you prevent diabetic eye disease?

Professionals recommend that people with diabetes have a comprehensive, dilated eye exam at least once a year. Since most of these conditions have no early symptoms, early detection is essential to preventing permanent vision loss.

Managing your diabetes ABCs (your A1c, blood pressure, and cholesterol) will also reduce the risk of developing diabetic eye disease.

Are you interested in setting up a comprehensive eye examination at Intermountain Eye Centers? Contact us today to learn more about our services or schedule an appointment.

September is Healthy Aging Month

It’s never too late to take care of your vision!

September is Healthy Aging Month, an annual health observance designed to encourage people to start healthy habits and increase their physical, social, financial, and mental wellbeing.

“We saw a need to draw attention to the myths of aging, to shout out ‘Hey, it’s not too late to take control of your health, it’s never too late to get started on something new,’” said Carolyn Worthington, the editor-in-chief of Healthy Aging Magazine and the creator of Healthy Aging Month.

This September, Intermountain Eye Centers encourages our patients to practice healthy vision habits.

Check them out below!

Schedule a comprehensive dilated eye exam

When was your last eye exam? If it’s been a couple of years, you should set one up! Adults between the ages of 18 to 60 should have a comprehensive eye exam at least every two years. Adults who are older than 61 should receive exams annually.

Even if you think your vision is fine, many eye diseases and disorders have no early symptoms, making it important to catch them early.

Maintain a healthy weight

Obesity can increase your risk of developing diabetes, a condition that can lead to diabetic eye disease and vision loss. Research has also found that obesity can be linked to increased intraocular pressure, one of the main predictors of glaucoma. 

If you’re having trouble maintaining a healthy weight, talk to your doctor about what you can do.

Eat a healthy diet

Studies have found that there are eye health benefits associated with eating dark leafy greens (e.g., spinach, kale, and collard greens) and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids (e.g., salmon, tuna, and halibut). Nuts and legumes are also great sources for omega-3 fatty acids.

Quit smoking (or don’t start)

Smoking doesn’t just harm your lungs – it’s also linked to an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and optic nerve damage. All these conditions can result in vision loss. If you’ve been meaning to quit, now’s the time!

Wear sunglasses

Sunglasses don’t only keep you from squinting – they also protect your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Failing to protect your eyes from the sun can increase your risk of developing cataracts, macular degeneration, and pterygium.

Your vision is one of your most important senses. Start building healthy habits today so that you can keep enjoying your eyes in the future!

Are you interested in setting up a comprehensive eye examination? Contact Intermountain Eye Centers today to set up an appointment.

Cataracts: Myths and Facts

June is Cataract Awareness Month! Every year, the organization Prevent Blindness America along with the American Academy of Ophthalmology encourages Americans to be mindful of the signs and symptoms associated with cataracts.

This year, we’ve decided to outline several common myths about cataracts. 

Have you heard any of these before?

Myth: Cataracts only affect older adults

Cataracts are most common in older adults, but it’s still possible to develop a cataract when you’re young. Factors like long-term steroid use, UV exposure, eye injuries, smoking, and diabetes can increase your risk of developing cataracts at any age.

Myth: Cataracts are always visible

Sometimes cataracts are visible. During their early stages, however, your eyes may look completely normal. If you’ve been having problems with your vision lately, you will need a thorough examination to rule out cataracts.

Myth: The only symptom of a cataract is cloudy vision

Since a cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens, it makes sense that your vision might appear cloudier if you have a cataract. That being said, there are a number of other symptoms associated with cataracts including decreased night vision, light sensitivity, double vision in a single eye, seeing “halos” around lights, and experiencing faded colors.

Myth: Cataracts are equally likely in men and women

Cataracts are actually more common in women than men. According to the National Eye Institute, 61 percent of Americans with cataracts are women, whereas 39 percent are men. 

Myth: Cataracts can be treated with medication

Once a person has developed a cataract, the only way to remove it is through surgery. While having surgery on your eye may sound intimidating, cataract surgery is one of the oldest surgeries ever performed. It’s also one of the safest surgeries done today!

Your vision is important to us

Intermountain Eye Centers encourages all our patients to keep an eye on their vision, report on any changes, and receive regular comprehensive eye examinations. Most forms of vision loss are preventable and can be slowed – or even eliminated – with treatment. If you suspect you’re suffering from a cataract or another vision problem, we can help.

Contact us today to learn more about our services set up a comprehensive eye examination.

Five New Year’s Resolutions for Healthy Vision

It’s a new year! Have you figured out your resolutions yet?

Below, we’ve listed five resolutions you can follow for better eye health. Which of these can you see yourself accomplishing in 2019?

1. Wear sunglasses

Sunglasses aren’t just a fashion accessory – they’re also an important way to protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful radiation. While most people understand that excessive sun exposure can be dangerous for skin, fewer are aware that UV rays can damage your vision as well.

According to the National Eye Institute, an estimated 20% of cataracts are caused by extended UV exposure. UV exposure may also increase the risk of developing macular degeneration (a serious eye disease that can result in blindness) or pterygium (a non-cancerous growth within the eye).

When you purchase sunglasses, make sure they block 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation. Other sunglasses might look nice, but they won’t protect your eyes.

2. Wear protective eyewear

If you plan to participate in any home improvement activities this year, protective eyewear is a must. Woodworking, glass cutting, and many other projects can result in flying debris that can become lodged in the eye. Welding goggles are necessary during metal-working to avoid retinal burns.

When it comes to protective eyewear, accept no imitations. Most protective eyewear lenses are made from polycarbonate, a material that is 10 times stronger than other plastics. Regular glasses, swim goggles, and other makeshift solutions can shatter if they’re damaged, causing even more damage to your eyes.

3. Quit smoking

If you smoke, 2019 is the perfect year to quit. Not only does smoking harm your lungs, but it also significantly increases your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, or AMD. Compared to non-smokers, smokers are up to four times more likely to develop this condition – and smokers who have a genetic predisposition to AMD are up to 20 times more likely!

People who smoke alsodouble their risk for developing cataracts, uveitis, and dry eye syndrome. Smoking while pregnant can result in numerous fetal and infant eye disorders including strabismus (crossed eyes) and underdevelopment of the optic nerve, a condition that can result in blindness.

4. Practice good contact lens hygiene

This year, take some time to make sure that you’re practicing proper contact lens hygiene. The American Optometric Association (AOA) published several recommendations for good lens hygiene including:

  • Wash and dry your hands before handling contact lenses
  • Replace your lens case at least every three months
  • Always follow the recommended contact lens replacement schedule
  • Remove contact lenses before swimming or using a hot tub

People who fail to follow these recommendations are at risk for developing a contact lens-related eye infection like keratitis. Some infections can be so severe that they require surgery to correct.

5. Get a comprehensive dilated eye exam.

Many common eye diseases – for instance, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic eye disease – have no early symptoms. By the time symptoms emerge, your vision may be damaged permanently. The only way to guarantee that your eyes are healthy is by receiving yearly comprehensive eye examinations.

If you’d like to schedule your yearly comprehensive eye examination, contact us at Intermountain Eye Centers today.

Our staff at Intermountain Eye Centers is always willing to discuss ways to keep your eyes healthy. Contact us today to learn more or set up an appointment!

Are Laser Pointers Dangerous?

August marks Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month, an awareness month that encourages people to pay special attention to childhood eye illness and injury.

This year, Intermountain Eye Centers will discuss the dangers associated using a laser pointer as a toy. While laser pointers may seem harmless enough, you should think twice before letting your child use one as a makeshift lightsaber.

Can laser pointers blind you?

They sure can. This past June, doctors reported that a 9-year-old boy in Greece permanently injured his left eye after repeatedly gazing into a green laser pointer. Upon examination, doctors found that the laser burned a hole in his macula, part of the retina responsible for central, high-resolution color vision. He is unlikely to recover his full vision.

How to tell if a laser pointer is dangerous

Fortunately, not all laser pointers are dangerous. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to tell which ones are safe. Although regulations set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration require most laser products to be labeled with an appropriate warning, sometimes this information is missing or insufficient.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, lasers with an output greater than five milliwatts can result in severe retinal or skin damage within moments.

To determine if your laser pointer is safe, the FDA suggests the following guidelines:

  • Check the batteries. Button batteries mean that the laser pointer’s output is probably less than five milliwatts. AA, AAA, and lithium batteries mean that the laser pointer’s output is probably five milliwatts or greater.
  • Laser pointers sold with battery chargers often have an output that is greater than five milliwatts.
  • If your laser has a removable cap that spreads the beam into a pattern, the laser’s output may exceed five milliwatts if that cap is removed.
  • Watch out for the following keywords when viewing marketing materials: powerful, bright, ultra, super, military grade, strong, balloon pop, burn, burning, adjustable focus, lithium battery, and lithium powered.

Eye injuries associated with lasers don’t usually hurt. Because of this, it’s better to be safe than sorry and keep all laser pointers away from your eyes.

How do you safely use a laser pointer?

The FDA has the following recommendations:

  • Do not aim or shine a laser directly at a human or animal.
  • Never aim a laser at a vehicle or aircraft. People can be killed or seriously injured because of this.
  • Do not let children play with laser pointers.
  • Only purchase a toy laser if it’s labeled as a “Class 1 Laser Product.” This means that the laser is low risk and safe for children.
  • Do not purchase a laser with an output that exceeds five milliwatts.
  • Immediately contact a doctor if you suspect an eye injury has occurred.

Do you have any other questions about how to keep your children’s eyes safe? Contact Intermountain Eye Centers today and we’ll be happy to help.