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10 Ways to Give Your Eyes Some Love This Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is the time to express your love and appreciation to those you care about most. But it’s also a great opportunity to take the time to pamper yourself — so why not start with your eyes?

Practice these 10 healthy lifestyle habits to help protect your eye health and vision.

1. Be Mindful of the Food You Eat

Fill your plate with fresh fruits and veggies, lean proteins and whole grains. A well-balanced diet is good for your body and can lower your risk of eye disease.

Studies show that foods high in vitamins A, C, E, Omega-3, lutein and zeaxanthin are especially beneficial for promoting eye health.

2. Drink Plenty of Water

Drinking at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day will keep your body hydrated and your eyes moist — which is essential for preventing dry eye syndrome. To add some flavor to your water, try adding a splash of lemon juice or swap some of those glasses of water for an herbal tea or other non-caffeinated beverage. Caffeinated drinks have a dehydrating effect, so try to limit your coffee consumption as much as possible.

3. Exercise Regularly

Exercise is widely known for its physical and mental health benefits, but studies show that it can also lower your risk of serious eye conditions and diseases. Cardio exercise in particular has been shown to lower eye pressure and improve blood flow to the retina and optic nerve at the back of the eye. So grab your gym bag and get moving!

4. Don’t Smoke

If you’ve been thinking about quitting, there’s no better time than now. Smoking tobacco significantly raises your risk of developing sight-threatening eye diseases like diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and can also lead to their early development.

Smoking also robs the body of the essential vitamins and minerals it needs to maintain eye health, and contains around 7,000 chemicals that can lead to eye irritation and dry eye.

5. Practice Good Makeup Hygiene

While wearing makeup can accentuate your eyes and make you feel more beautiful, it’s important to note that if not used properly, certain makeup products can adversely affect eye health.

To keep your eyes and vision healthy, make sure to:

  • Clean your brushes and applicators regularly
  • Toss any expired products, or eye makeup you’ve used during an eye infection
  • Only apply makeup to the outer margin of your eyelids
  • Remove your makeup before going to bed
  • Never share makeup or use in-store testers

Following these safety tips will help to lower your risk of eye infections and other serious complications.

6. Wear Sunglasses

Studies show that prolonged UV exposure can damage the eyes and lead to the development of sight-threatening eye conditions, like cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma, in the future.

Purchase a pair of stylish sunglasses with 100% UV protection and wear them any time you venture outdoors — the sun’s UV rays can penetrate the clouds and reflect off of snow, sand, water and pavement. So keep a pair of sunglasses next to your front door and a spare pair in your bag or car to ensure you have UV protection wherever you go.

7. Prevent Eye Injuries

About 90% of vision loss from eye injuries can be prevented by wearing the right eye protection.

Protective eyewear like sports goggles or glasses with polycarbonate lenses are designed with sturdy materials that are less likely to break or shatter while you play sports, and can protect your eyes from small particles that fly in the air when you mow the lawn or engage in DIY projects.

8. Learn First Aid for Eye Injuries

Let’s be real, accidents can happen even if we take all the right measures to protect ourselves. But knowing what to do in case of an unexpected eye injury can potentially save you or someone you love from permanent eye damage or vision loss.

Note: Any type of eye injury should be taken seriously, and promptly examined by an eye doctor.

9. Avoid Digital Eye Strain

Prolonged screen time can cause eye strain, dry eyes, blurry vision and headaches — and lead to a condition called digital eye strain, also known as computer vision syndrome.

Avoid symptoms of digital eye strain by limiting screen time as much as possible. If prolonged screen time is unavoidable, practice the 20-20-20 rule: set an alarm on your phone as a reminder to take breaks every 20 minutes to focus on an image at least 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds.

10. Visit Your Eye Doctor

Regular eye exams are crucial when it comes to maintaining your eye health. With an eye exam, your eye doctor can identify early signs of sight-threatening eye diseases and conditions — enabling earlier treatment and increasing your chances for optimal results.

From all of us at Dr. Michael J. Morris, OD in Louisville, we wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Q&A With Our Eye Doctor in Louisville, Kentucky

What’s the difference between an eye exam and vision screening?

Vision screenings are basic tests of visual acuity, generally conducted by a school nurse or pediatrician. These screenings can’t identify many vision conditions that impact learning or work performance, and are unable to detect ocular health problems.

A comprehensive eye exam, which is performed by an eye doctor, includes tests for visual acuity and functional vision, as well as close examination of the inner and outer structures of the eye.

How often do I need to have an eye exam?

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), it is important to have your eyes examined every one to two years, depending on your age, whether or not you wear glasses or contacts, your family history of eye disease, and your ocular health to date. Annual eye exams help your eye doctor monitor your eye health and easily identify any changes in your vision.

3 Ways Diabetes Can Affect Your Vision and Eyes

Did you know that people with diabetes are 20 times more likely to get eye diseases than those without it? There are three major eye conditions that diabetics are at risk for developing: cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. To prevent these sight-threatening diseases, it’s important to control your blood sugar level and have your eyes checked at least once a year by an eye doctor. 

But First, What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that is associated with high blood glucose levels. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, helps our cells get energy from the sugars we eat. Diabetes develops when the body doesn’t produce or respond to insulin effectively, leaving too much sugar in the blood stream instead. Over time, diabetes can lead to potentially irreversible ocular damage and poor eyesight. However, by taking care of your blood sugar levels and your eyes, you can prevent vision loss.

Annual eye exams are recommended for everyone, but routine screenings are even more important for diabetics. Eye doctors may send diabetic eye health reports to a patient’s primary care physician or internist to adjust medication as needed to prevent complications.

What’s the Link Between Vision and Diabetes? 

Blurred vision or fluctuating eyesight clarity is often one of the first noticeable signs that diabetes has begun to affect your eyes. Sometimes, fluid leaking into the eye causes the lens to swell and change shape. This, in turn, makes it difficult for the eyes to focus, resulting in fuzzy vision. Such symptoms can indicate that an eye disease is developing, or may simply be due to imbalanced blood sugar levels which can be rectified by getting your blood sugar back to healthy levels. 

If you start to notice blurry vision, make an appointment with Dr. Morris as soon as possible.

The 3 Ways Diabetes Impacts Vision 

Cataracts

While cataracts are extremely common and a part of the natural aging process, those with diabetes tend to develop cataracts earlier in life. Characterized by a clouding or fogging of the lens within the eye, cataracts impede light from entering the eye, causing blurred vision and glares. The best treatment is cataract surgery, which is very safe and effective. 

Glaucoma

Glaucoma refers to a group of eye diseases characterized by optic nerve damage. Since it tends to impact peripheral vision first, glaucoma often goes unnoticed until significant damage has occurred. However, routine glaucoma screenings can detect warning signs; early treatment can prevent disease progression and vision loss. 

Although there is no true cure for glaucoma, most glaucoma patients successfully manage it with special eye drops, medication, and on occasion, laser treatment or other surgery. The earlier glaucoma is diagnosed and managed, the better the outcome.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the small blood vessels on your retina (capillaries) become weakened and then balloon (microaneurysm) due to poorly controlled blood sugar levels. The resulting poor blood circulation in the back of the eye causes more abnormal blood vessels to grow, which also bleed or leak fluid, and can lead to scar tissue, retinal detachment and even blindness, over time.

Often there are no symptoms until the advanced stages of diabetic retinopathy, where patients may begin to see spots and missing patches in their vision. Retinopathy can be treated through surgery and eye injections, but the best way to prevent this disease from progressing is to regularly have your eyes screened.

The good news is that diabetic eye disease can often be prevented with early detection, proper management of your diabetes and regular diabetic eye exams. Contact Dr. Michael J. Morris, OD in Louisville to set up your eye doctor’s appointment today. 

Your Eyes Are the Windows to Your Health

Your eyes aren’t just the windows to your soul — they can also reveal valuable information about your general health beyond whether you need glasses, including: diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. It is not unusual for people to come in for an eye exam just to check their eyesight and then have certain health issues or predispositions picked up by the optometrist. 

Eye Exams and Your Health

Eye examinations can help doctors detect general health conditions early enough to intervene. Advanced screenings enable eye doctors to better predict cardiovascular incidents like stroke, and possibly detect signs of mental changes such as Alzheimer’s. Read below to learn how eye exams can unveil a whole lot more than just eye health.

Brain Cancer & Stroke

Because of the similarities between the blood vessels in the eye and brain, an eye doctor can occasionally detect an issue taking place in the brain by examining the blood vessels in the eyes. If swelling or shadows in the eye is observed, it may indicate a serious condition in the brain, like a tumor, or clots that might result in a stroke.

Diabetes

Diabetes can cause damage to the blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye, resulting in Diabetic Retinopathy (DR) and Diabetic Macular Edema (DME). If an optometrist detects leaky blood vessels in the eye, the patient would be advised to see a doctor to help control their blood sugar. Changes are gradual, and they start before visual symptoms are noticed. The earlier diabetic eye disease is managed, the better the chances are of preserving eyesight. 

Hypertension

High blood pressure, characterized by having too much pressure in the blood vessels, can be detected during an eye exam, sometimes even before it’s diagnosed by your regular doctor. The damaged blood vessels lead to swelling, hemorrhages, and leaking — all of which can be observed in the eyes. According to the CDC, hypertension “the silent killer” affects nearly 1 in 3 adults, and up to a whopping 20% of those don’t even know they have it. So early detection at an eye doctor’s evaluation can be truly life-saving.

High Cholesterol 

Eye exams can also detect a buildup of cholesterol. High cholesterol is among the easiest conditions to spot during a complete eye exam, as the cholesterol deposits manifest on the front of the eye, appearing as a thin, gray rim around the cornea. It can also be detected in the retina by assessing artery and vein patterns.

These deposits may indicate the current or future development of Retinal Blood Vessel Occlusion, a condition where blockages restrict blood flow to the back of the eye, causing temporary or permanent vision loss. 

Heart Conditions

In some cases, heart conditions associated with a buildup of plaque in the carotid artery in the heart can also lead to deposits that clog the ocular arteries in the eye. If an optometrist detects such changes to the vascular structure at the back of the eye, he or she will typically recommend going to a specialist.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Sudden vision loss may be attributed to Multiple Sclerosis (MS). While the optometrist can recognize signs indicating the presence of MS, such as the color and appearance of the optic nerve, such cases will be referred for further testing to confirm the diagnosis.

Thyroid

Thyroid disease can make itself apparent through the eyes in several ways. The thyroid gland controls the hormones that regulate tear production so some thyroid disorders can cause dry eye disease. Additionally, overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can make the extraocular muscles enlarge and stiffen, causing bulging eyes — an indicator of Graves’ disease. 

Inflammation

Systemic conditions that are associated with inflammation in the body can have an inflammatory effect on the eyes. Uveitis, for example, causes eye inflammation, redness, and blurred vision, and tends to occur in people with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune diseases. 

Cancer

Breast cancer, leukemia, and other metastatic cancers are occasionally discovered during an eye evaluation. In addition to brain cancer mentioned above, melanoma and basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer) can be detected, and eye doctors can also diagnose lymphoma and other eye tumors. Eye exams save lives.

What the Future Holds 

Alzheimer’s 

Recent studies show that a non-invasive and precise imaging device called Octa (optical coherence tomography angiography) can signal the presence of eye changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Because the retina is in many ways an extension of the brain, the altered blood vessels at the back of the eye offer a glimpse into the changes taking place within the brain.

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease can often be misdiagnosed as its early symptoms are characteristic of other conditions. Research has shown that subtle eye tremors, an early Parkinson’s marker, could be detectable using advanced eye exam technology. One day soon, practitioners may send patients to an eye doctor to test for this and other diseases.

Your Eye Doctor’s Appointment Could Change Your Life

So the next time you visit Dr. Morris at Dr. Michael J. Morris, OD in Louisville, remember that a comprehensive eye exam can do more than determine your eyeglasses or contacts prescription. Dr. Morris can evaluate your eyes for existing or potential health issues, and communicate them to your primary care physician for the best possible care. By knowing that you’re at risk for a certain disease, you can take precautions early on and manage the condition as needed. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.