Avoiding Contact Lens Infections

An outbreak of a rare, potentially blinding eye infection has hit the UK.

This infection, Acanthamoeba keratitis, tends to be linked to poor contact lens hygiene. Although current cases are spiking in the southeast of England, it’s possible to contract this infection – and infections like this – just about anywhere.

What is keratitis?

Keratitis in an inflammation of the cornea. Although not all cases of keratitis happen because of improper contact lens care, many of them do. Keratitis is also known as a corneal ulcer.

The current outbreak is a relatively rare variation of the condition caused by Acanthamoeba, a genus of amoebae found in soil, fresh water, and other habitats. In Acanthamoeba keratitis, the amoeba becomes stuck in the cornea and eats away at the eye, potentially resulting in vision loss.

Less serious (and more common) types of keratitis include viral, bacterial, and fungal. All forms can result in vision loss if left untreated.

What are symptoms of keratitis?

Symptoms of keratitis include:

  • Red eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Eye pain
  • Tears or discharge
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Feeling like something is in your eye

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should contact your eye doctor immediately.

How do I avoid keratitis?

Keratitis can be caused by injuries, viruses, or contaminated water. It can also be caused by failing to follow proper contact lens hygiene. In fact, keratitis is the most common infection associated with wearing contact lenses.

To avoid contact lens infections:

  • Don’t sleep in your contact lenses
  • Clean your lens cases regularly
  • Rub your lenses with solution while cleaning them
  • Never reuse or top off contact lens solution
  • Don’t wear your contacts in the shower, bath, hot tub, pool, or ocean
  • Replace your contact lens case at least three times a year

How is keratitis treated?

If you suspect that you’re suffering from keratitis, your doctor will perform a detailed eye examination. Your doctor may also take a sample of your tears or corneal cells to determine the best course of treatment.

  • Noninfectious keratitismay not involve any treatment. However, severe cases may require prescription eye drops or an eye patch.
  • Bacterial keratitisis typically treated through antibacterial eyedrops. Severe cases may require oral antibiotics.
  • Fungal keratitisis treated through antifungal eyedrops and oral antifungal medication.
  • Viral keratitismay benefit from antiviral eyedrops and oral antiviral medications. Unfortunately, viral cases of keratitis may reoccur despite treatment.
  • Acanthamoeba keratitis should be treated with antibiotic eyedrops. This is the most serious form of keratitis, and it may be resistant to treatment.

If keratitis causes permanent damage to your cornea, you may need a cornea transplant.

Although most people think that contact lenses are a safe alternative to LASIK, it’s important to keep in mind that anything can harm your eye when you fail to take proper precautions. Intermountain Eye Centers encourages our patients to follow proper contact lens hygiene and receive regular comprehensive eye examinations. For more information about how to keep your eyes safe, contact us today.

Do Computer Glasses Really Work?

Over the last couple of years, you may have noticed an uptick in people talking about computer glasses, or eyeglasses that are designed to filter out blue light from computer screens, smartphones, and tablets. Some people believe that blue light can lead to dry eyes, digital eye strain, and even permanent eye diseases down the road.

But is blue light actually dangerous? And are computer glasses worth it?

As it turns out, there is no evidence that looking at a computer screen is unsafe. A study conducted in 2015 found no measurable UVA or UVB radiation from computer screens, two forms of radiation known to cause eye problems. Another, more recent study published in the journal Ophthalmology found that the worldwide increase in nearsightedness is notbecause of blue light as previously believed, but because of an increase in near work activities — including traditional books.

Because of this, the Academy of Ophthalmology does not recommend special eyewear for computer use.

How can I reduce eyestrain?

If computer glasses don’t relieve dry eyes or digital eyestrain, what does?

Symptoms of eyestrain include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Headache
  • Sore, itchy, or burning eyes
  • Sore muscles in the neck, shoulders, or back
  • Increased light sensitivity

To avoid digital eyestrain, we recommend practicing the 20-20-20 rule. If you’re performing near work (i.e., reading, using the computer), take breaks every 20 minutes to look at an object that’s 20 feet away. Focus on it for 20 seconds before returning to your task.

Computer glasses can help you sleep

Although computer glasses don’t help with eyestrain, they canmake it easier for you to fall asleep at night. In a 2009 study, participants who wore blue-light blocking lenses three hours before bedtime experienced better sleep quality than those who didn’t. A 2015 study found similar results.

How do computer glasses help you sleep? Blue light can alter your circadian rhythms, making it difficult to get a good night’s rest. Doctors recommend avoiding electronics in the hours preceding bedtime. Because this isn’t always feasible, computer glasses may serve as an alternative.

Should I buy computer glasses?

If you’re hoping to avoid eyestrain, there are better ways than purchasing a pair of computer glasses. If you’re trying to avoid insomnia, however, they might be a worthwhile investment.

Intermountain Eye Centers is happy to answer any questions you might have about your vision and eye health. Contact us today at 208-489-6525 to set up a comprehensive eye examination.

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.

National Picnic Month

July is National Picnic month! This July, why not try out some picnic foods that are good for your eyesight?

Below, we recommend some creative recipes that’ll feed both your stomach andyour eyes.

Pan Bagnat

A pan bagnat is a sandwich that originates from the Provence region in France. Typical ingredients include tuna, green peppers, hard-boiled eggs, olives, tomato, and vinaigrette.

Cold water fish like tuna are particularly rich in omega-3 fatty acids, an essential fatty acid that may protect eyes against conditions including macular degeneration and cataracts. Eggs, meanwhile, contain lutein and vitamin A. Lutein is an antioxidant that may prevent macular degeneration, whereas vitamin A may decrease the risk of vision loss associated with the disorder. If you want a healthy dose of omega-3, lutein, and vitamin A, this sandwich is an excellent choice for a picnic.

Click for recipe.

Kale and Quinoa Salad

On a hot summer day, few things are more refreshing than a cool salad. Dark leafy greens like spinach, collard greens, and kale are full of lutein and zeaxanthin. As mentioned previously, lutein may decrease your risk of developing macular degeneration. A diet rich in zeaxanthin is alsoassociated with a lower incidence of macular degeneration.

This particular recipe features pecans. If you’d like an extra boost of omega-3 fatty acids, try using walnuts instead!

Click for recipe.

Mixed Berry Salad with Mint

Speaking of cool, refreshing salads, a berry salad can make an excellent side dish – or even a dessert. Berries are rich in vitamin C, which can be particularly important for reducing the risk of developing cataracts. Vitamin C is also linked to blood vessel health throughout the body, including blood vessels in the eye.

If berries aren’t your jam (pun intended), you can also get vitamin C by eating oranges or grapefruits. A fresh glass of lemonade can also give you a much-needed boost.

Click for recipe.

Sunflower-Seed Brittle

Sometimes, you just need a good crunchto keep you going. Sunflower seeds are a great source of both vitamin E and zinc. Vitamin E may reduce the risk of developing cataracts, and zinc may protect against macular degeneration and night blindness. Zinc also helps your body absorb vitamin A, another vitamin that is excellent for eye health.

If you don’t feel like cooking, there’s no harm in eating sunflower seeds straight from the bag!

Click for recipe.

Are you interested in learning how to keep your eyes healthy year-round? Contact Intermountain Eye Centers today to set up a comprehensive eye examination. Our staff will share insights about how to keep your eyes healthy longer.

How to keep your eyes safe from UV rays

What’s the worst thing that could happen if you forget to wear your sunglasses?

During the summer months, people tend to spend more time outdoors. If you leave your sunglasses at home, it might be tempting to shrug it off. You might need to squint a little, you figure. What’s the worst that could happen?

As it turns out, exposure to UV rays significantly increases the risk of cataracts and other eye conditions.

This cataract awareness month, Intermountain Eye Centers encourages you to take special care of your eyes and keep them safe from the sun.

What is a cataract?

A cataract is a common eye condition in which the natural lens of the eye becomes cloudy, leading to blurry vision, light sensitivity, and difficulty seeing at night.

Risk factors for developing a cataract include:

  • Older age
  • Family history of cataracts
  • Previous eye injury, surgery, or radiation treatments on the upper body
  • Using certain medications, e.g., corticosteroids
  • Other health issues, e.g., diabetes
  • Exposure to UV rays, particularly without sunglasses

Although many of us think of cataracts as having obvious symptoms, sometimes they can develop slowly. For this reason, it’s important to have regular comprehensive eye examinations, particularly as you get older. Cataracts can only be treated through surgery.

How can I keep my eyes safe this summer?

This summer, take special care to avoid harming your eyes by wearing wrap-around sunglasses that block 100 percent of UV rays. You may also want to wear a wide-brimmed hat.

There are three different types of UV rays:

  • UVA rays can pass through the cornea, damaging the eye’s lens and retina. Overexposure to UVA radiation has been linked to the development of cataracts as well as macular degeneration.
  • UVB rays are mostly filtered by the ozone layer, but can still travel down to reach your eyes. UVB rays have been linked to snow blindness and surfer’s eye.
  • UVC rays are the most dangerous type of UV radiation, but they’re almost exclusively blocked by the ozone layer.

The strength of these UV rays varies depending on time of day, geographic location, and altitude. Be sure to check your local weather report before going outside; most reports will offer insights into current UV levels.

Worried about keeping your eyes safe this summer? Contact Intermountain Eye Centers for more information about how to protect your vision from common eye diseases.

Healthy and Safe Swimming Week

The week before Memorial Day marks Healthy and Safe Swimming Week, an annual awareness week that aims to prevent drowning, pool chemical injuries, and illness outbreaks.

This year, Intermountain Eye Centers encourages our patients to pay special attention to their contact lens habits, particularly while they’re swimming.

Is it safe to wear contact lenses in water?

No! If you’re thinking about dipping into a pool, lake, or ocean this summer, you should remove your contact lenses first.

Water – even seemingly clean water – can contain countless microbes and viruses. Most of the time, your eyes naturally fight these invaders by blinking them away. When you’re wearing contact lenses, these foreign organisms can get stuck between your eye and the lens, leading to irritation, infections, or even conditions that can permanently harm your vision.

  • Acanthamoeba keratitis: Acanthamoeba keratitis is a rare, but serious condition in which an organism known as Acanthamoeba infects the cornea, leading to inflammation and potential corneal scarring. If not caught early, people with this condition may need a corneal transplant to recover their lost vision.
  • Corneal ulcer: A corneal ulcer is an open sore on the cornea, typically caused by an infection. Symptoms of corneal ulcers include pus or discharge, blurred vision, redness, severe pain, and a persistent sensation of having something in your eye. Some people may also notice a white spot on their cornea.

In addition, water can dislodge rigid gas permeable contact lenses or cause soft contact lenses to tighten around the eye. Both instances can lead to significant discomfort or worse – scratches on the surface of your eye.

What should I do if I swim in my contacts?

If water gets in your eye while swimming with contact lenses, you should immediately remove, clean, and disinfect the lenses. You should also rinse your eyes with rewetting drops or artificial tears.

Some doctors recommend throwing them away entirely. If you frequently swim while wearing contact lenses, daily disposable lenses may be the safest – and the most economical – option.

The best way to swim while still wearing your contacts is to invest in waterproof swim goggles. A good pair of goggles can protect your eyes from waterborne contaminants, as well as reduce the risk of your contacts dislodging or scratching your eyes. It’s also possible to purchase prescription swimming goggles that are custom-designed to correct your vision.

When should I see my doctor?

If you go swimming without removing your contact lenses, you might experience some unpleasant symptoms:

  • Redness
  • Irritation
  • Unusual discharge
  • Light sensitivity
  • Blurred vision

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should immediately remove and disinfect your contact lenses. If these symptoms last for more than a few hours, it’s time to contact your eye doctor.

Do you have any other questions about swimming with your contact lenses? Contact Intermountain Eye Centers today, and we’d be happy to discuss any questions you might have.

National Nutrition Month

March is National Nutrition Month, an awareness month created by the National Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This March, Intermountain Eye Centers is celebrating National Nutrition Month by highlighting some food – and recipes – that can keep your eyes healthy. 

Low Vision Awareness Month

If you or a loved one has lost enough eyesight that it makes it difficult to do daily tasks, it may be considered low vision. Low vision is vision loss so severe that it cannot be corrected with contact lenses, glasses or even surgery. It can make it hard to read, drive, shop, watch TV or even recognize faces of those you know!

National Glaucoma Awareness Month

Glaucoma, also known as the “silent thief of sight,” is one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide. Every January, eyecare professionals like Intermountain Eye Centers promote awareness of this disorder by sharing common symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options.