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Our eyes and vision change with age. Your eye doctor can monitor these changes — some of which are a natural part of the aging process — and identify any eye conditions or diseases early enough to treat them and prevent vision loss. Read on to learn more about the different types of eye changes one may encounter with age.
Age-Related Eye Conditions and Diseases
If your vision is starting to get blurry, you may be developing cataracts. There are a few types of cataracts, but the one usually caused by aging is known as a “nuclear cataract”. At first, it may lead to increased nearsightedness or even a temporary improvement in your reading vision. But with time, the lens gradually turns more densely yellow and clouds your vision. As the cataract slowly progresses, the lens may even turn brown. Advanced yellowing or browning of the lens can lead to difficulty distinguishing between shades of color, and left untreated, it can eventually lead to blindness. Luckily, cataract surgery, where the cloudy lens is replaced with a clear lens, is an extremely safe and effective treatment option.
Blepharoptosis or ptosis is a drooping of the upper eyelid that may affect one or both eyes. The eyelid may droop only slightly or may droop enough to cover the pupil and block vision. It occurs when there is a weakness of the eye’s levator muscle that lifts the eyelid. This condition is usually caused by aging, eye surgery, or disease affecting the muscle or its nerve. Fortunately, blepharoptosis can be corrected with surgery.
This occurs when the gel-like vitreous fluid inside the eye begins to liquefy and pull away from the retina, causing “spots and floaters” and, sometimes, flashes of light. This occurrence is usually harmless, but floaters and flashes of light can also signal the beginning of a detached retina — a serious problem that can cause blindness, and requires immediate treatment. If you experience sudden or worsening flashes and increased floaters, see Dr. Wendy A. Waguespack immediately to determine the cause.
Other Age-Related Changes
In addition to the above eye conditions and diseases, the structure of our eyes and vision change as we get older.
Why do people in their 40s and 50s have more difficulty focusing on near objects like books and phone screens? The lens inside the eye begins to lose its ability to change shape and bring near objects into focus, a process is called presbyopia. Over time, presbyopia, also known as age-related farsightedness, will become more pronounced and you will eventually need reading glasses to see clearly. You may need multiple prescriptions – one prescription to enable you to see up close, one for intermediate distance, and one for distance vision. In that case, people often get bifocals, multifocals or PALs, and they can be combined with contact lenses as well.
Reduced pupil size
As we age, our reaction to light and the muscles that control our pupil size lose some strength. This causes the pupil to become smaller and less responsive to changes in ambient lighting. The result? It becomes harder to clearly see objects, such as a menu, in a low-light setting like a restaurant.
Our tear glands produce fewer tears and the tears they produce have less moisturizing oils. Your eye doctor can determine whether your dry eye is age-related or due to another condition, and will recommend the right over-the-counter or prescription eye drops, or other effective and lasting treatments, to alleviate the dryness and restore comfort.
Loss of peripheral vision
Aging causes a 1-3 degree loss of peripheral vision per decade of life. In fact, one may reach a peripheral visual field loss of 20-30 degrees by the time they reach their 70s and 80s. While peripheral vision loss is a normal part of aging, it can also indicate the presence of a serious eye disease, like glaucoma. The best way to ascertain the cause is by getting an eye exam.
Decreased color vision
The cells in the retina responsible for normal color vision tend to decline as we age, causing colors to become less bright and the contrast between different colors to be less noticeable. Though a normal part of aging, faded colors can at times signal a more serious ocular problem.
Beyond the normal changes that come with age, the risk of developing a serious eye disease, such as age related macular degeneration and glaucoma, increases. Routine eye exams are essential to keeping your eyes healthy. Your eye doctor can determine whether your symptoms are caused by an eye problem or are a normal byproduct of aging.
If you or a loved one suffers from impaired vision, we can help. To find out more and to schedule your annual eye doctor’s appointment, contact Dr. Wendy Waguespack, O.D. in Baton Rouge today.
Did you know that sunglasses, or at least sunglass lenses, regularly need to be replaced?
According to a study conducted at the University of São Paulo, the UV protection that sunglasses provide deteriorates over time. You may adore your current ones, but if you’ve been rocking those shades for two or more years, it might be time to get a new pair.
In addition to the UV-blocking properties, anti-reflective and anti-scratch coatings wear down, and the frame material may become brittle over the years, too. Even if you have the most durable sunglasses available, regular lens-replacement is the best way to ensure that your vision is maximally protected from the harmful effects of ultraviolet light.
UV Light and Sunglasses
The protective efficacy of your sunglasses comes in large part from the lens coating of dyes and pigments that reflect and absorb ultraviolet radiation. They create a barrier that prevents UV radiation from penetrating your eyes.
However, this protective coating can, and often does, break down over time. Wear and tear can cause an invisible web of tiny abrasions, compromising its UV-blocking power. Furthermore, the protective dyes and pigments aren’t able to absorb UV rays indefinitely; the more sunlight they’re exposed to, the more rapidly they’ll become ineffective.
A pair of shades worn on occasion and in mild conditions is likely to remain effective longer than a pair that is heavily used in a more intensely sunny environment. For example, if you spend long days on the water paddling, kayaking, or canoeing, the protective coating on your lenses will deteriorate more quickly than it would if you only wear your shades to go grocery shopping or sit in a cafe.
Why It’s Important to Protect Your Eyes From UV
Protecting your eyes from the sun is critical no matter where in the world you are, as UV exposure places you at risk for developing eye diseases like eye cancer, pterygium, and pinguecula — which can result in disfigurement and discomfort — as well as cataracts and macular degeneration — which cause vision loss and, in severe cases, blindness.
Even short-term overexposure can result in photokeratitis, a corneal sunburn. Symptoms include eye pain, swelling, light sensitivity, and temporary vision loss. Some people experience it when spending too much time boating or skiing without wearing eye protection. Snow and water can increase solar exposure because they reflect sunlight toward your face.
What to Look for When Getting New Sunglasses
When choosing new sunglasses, make sure they’re labeled 100% UV protection or UV400. Although most pairs sold in the United States and Canada offer this degree of protection, it’s still worth confirming before making the purchase. Keep in mind that factors like cost, polarization, lens color, or darkness don’t have much to do with the level of UV protection. Even clear prescription lenses can be UV protective.
It’s important to note that there is a lot of counterfeit sunwear in the marketplace. This is dangerous since counterfeit eyewear may not provide much-needed ultraviolet protection. So if the price of a renowned brand is too good to be true, it’s probably a fake.
The size and fit of the sunglasses is important. Bigger is definitely better if you spend a lot of time outdoors. Larger wrap-around eyewear is best if you regularly ski or spend many hours in the water, as this style blocks light from all directions.
To find out whether it’s still safe to wear your favorite shades, visit a Baton Rouge eye doctor to determine whether your lenses still offer the right level of UV protection. It’s also a good opportunity to discuss prescription sunwear.
For more information about UV safety, or to get the perfect sunglasses tailored to your vision needs and lifestyle, contact Dr. Wendy Waguespack, O.D. in Baton Rouge today!
Nation-wide awareness about the vast dangers of obesity is at an all-time high, with TV shows like “The Biggest Loser” and health initiatives such as Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign shining a spotlight on the importance of fitness and good nutrition. However, despite the public’s knowledge of obesity’s effects on hypertension, stroke, and diabetes, many are not aware of how it damages eye health and vision.
Increasing evidence shows that people who are clinically obese have an elevated risk of developing serious eye diseases. It is widely known that expanding waistlines place people at a higher risk of getting diabetes, heart disease, and cancer — but researchers say the link between obesity and deteriorating vision is the “risk factor that no one talks about”. Professor Michael Belkin and Dr. Zohar Habot-Wilner, from the Goldschleger Eye Institute at the Sheba Medical Center, found a consistently strong correlation between obesity and the development of four major eye diseases that may cause blindness:
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
- Diabetic retinopathy
The researchers said that although the evidence was out there suggesting a link between obesity and these conditions, their study emphasizes the optometric risks of obesity which can help motivate people to shed those extra pounds.
How Obesity Contributes to Eye Disease
A Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 is considered overweight and above 30 is regarded as obese. A high BMI is tied to several chronic systemic health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke, among others. Recent research indicates that a handful of ocular diseases can now be added to that list.
Serious eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration are more common in individuals with obesity, as well as floppy eyelid syndrome, retinal vein occlusions, thyroid-related eye diseases, and stroke-related vision loss.
The connection between obesity and these eye diseases is likely due to the increased risk of peripheral artery disease. This occurs when the tiny blood vessels bringing oxygen to parts of your body like the feet, kidneys, and eyes become compromised.
Your eyes are particularly prone to damage from obesity because the blood vessels in the eyes (called arterioles) are easily blocked, since they’re extremely thin and small — as thin as ½ the width of a human hair!
Most people are not aware that obesity may increase the rate of developing cataracts, too. Cataracts result when the focusing lens in the eye becomes cloudy and requires surgery to be replaced. In addition to age, cataract development is associated with obesity, poor nutrition, gout, diabetes and high blood sugar levels, though the exact cause isn’t clear.
A Healthy Lifestyle Can Reduce Your Risk of Ocular Disease
Knowing about the risk of vision loss may give those with a high BMI the extra motivational boost they need to lose weight. The good news is that a few lifestyle changes can reduce the associated risks.
An active lifestyle and a balanced, nutritious diet lower obesity and improve overall physical and eye health. Give your body a boost by incorporating important nutrients, such as vitamins C and E, zeaxanthin, omega 3, zinc, and lutein, many of which are found in green leafy and dark orange vegetables, as they have been shown to reduce the onset, progression, and severity of certain eye diseases.
We Can Help Keep Your Eyes Healthy in Baton Rouge
While a healthy diet and regular exercise greatly increase your chances of living a disease-free long life, they alone are not enough to ensure long term healthy eyesight. Regular eye exams with Dr. Wendy A. Waguespack can help prevent or detect the onset of ocular disease, and maintain vision that is clear and comfortable.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding your vision or eye health, don’t hesitate to call Dr. Wendy Waguespack, O.D. — we’re here for you.
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. Wendy A. Waguespack as soon as possible.
The 3 Ways Diabetes Impacts Vision
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 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 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. Wendy Waguespack, O.D. in Baton Rouge to set up your eye doctor’s appointment today.
Smoking harms nearly every system in your body — including your eyes.
Though we are all aware of the health effects associated with smoking, such as lung cancer, heart disease, and bad teeth, few know about the negative impact it can have on our vision.
Smoking and Eye Disease
Smoking, especially 20 cigarettes or more daily over a long period of time, can adversely impact your vision. Cigarette smoke is made up of compounds that can damage health and have been shown to cause cerebral lesions which affect the area of the brain that processes vision.
More specifically, tobacco addiction increases the risk of developing vision-robbing diseases such as macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy. Moreover, smoke is an irritant that can cause or exacerbate dry eye syndrome. Below we’ll delve a little further into each of these conditions.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Smokers run a high risk of developing AMD, a condition that severely impairs central vision, making it difficult or impossible to read, drive, recognize faces and colors, and leads to permanent vision loss in those aged 65 or older. Fortunately, the risk can be dramatically diminished by putting an end to tobacco smoking — even if later in life.
Heavy smokers double their risk of developing cataracts, the leading cause of blindness. Cataracts are characterized by clouded, blurred or double vision, photophobia, and reduced night vision. However, cataract surgery is common and replaces the clouded lens with an artificial intraocular lens.
Uveitis, the inflammation of the eye’s central layer, is an ocular disease that can lead to blindness. This condition damages important structures of the eye, notably the iris and retina, and can lead to cataracts, glaucoma and retinal detachment. Smokers have a 2.2 times higher risk of developing uveitis than non-smokers.
Smoking raises one’s risk of developing diabetes by up to 40 percent thereby increasing the risk of retinopathy as well. Diabetes damages the blood vessels in the retina, causing them to leak blood into the eye, which — in severe cases — can deprive the retina of oxygen and result in blindness.
Dry eye syndrome is a common eye condition characterized by insufficient tears to keep your eye lubricated, or the tears are not composed of the correct balance of water, lipids, and mucous to maintain proper lubrication. Common symptoms include red, itchy, and gritty eyes.
Heavy smokers, and those exposed to secondhand smoke, not only double their risk of developing dry eye but also exacerbate an existing condition, especially among the contact lens wearers.
Secondhand Smoke and Eye Disease
Secondhand smoke— which includes the smoke that emanates from the end of a cigarette as well as the smoke exhaled— is nearly as harmful to health and vision. Second-hand smoke places others’ eyesight in danger, particularly in young children and infants. Furthermore, studies indicate that women who smoke during pregnancy put the newborn baby at risk of being born with eye disease or visual impairment that could affect his or her ability to learn.
Stop Smoking to Save Your Vision
The good news is that giving up smoking can have an immediate effect on your health — and it’s never too late to quit! Once the habit is broken, your body will begin to repair itself to prevent vision loss. It can be challenging to quit, as it requires dedication, support, and advanced planning. Dr. Wendy A. Waguespack and the rest of the staff at Dr. Wendy Waguespack, O.D. in Baton Rouge care about your health and will be happy to provide any assistance or resources to help you quit smoking and improve your eye health. Keep in mind that if you smoke, quitting smoking is the most important step you can take to protect your health and vision.
June is Cataract Awareness Month. During this important time, people living with cataracts (and their loved ones) are encouraged to talk about their personal experiences by giving each other helpful information and sharing their knowledge and advice. Use the hashtag #CataractAwarenessMonth on your social media channels to encourage and support others.
Did you know that over 24 million Americans have cataracts? More than 3.5 million Canadians are blind from cataracts, making it one of the most common – and serious – eye conditions today. Dr. Wendy A. Waguespack treats cataract patients from all over Baton Rouge, Louisiana with the newest and most effective methods of eye care.
With millions of people living with the condition, it’s now more important than ever to bring awareness to this serious condition.
What Are Cataracts?
So what exactly are cataracts?
The lens of the eye is normally clear, which allows you to see things clearly and in sharp detail. Over time, the lens can become cloudy, causing blurry vision. It’s as if you’re looking through a dirty window and can’t really see what’s outside. This clouding of the lens is called a cataract, and it can affect one or both of your eyes.
What Causes Cataracts?
Aging is the most common cause of cataracts. The lens of your eye contains water and proteins. As you age, these proteins can clump together, and when that happens, the normally clear lens becomes cloudy.
Did you know that certain types of major eye surgeries and infections can trigger cataracts? Other issues that can lead to cataracts include congenital birth defects, eye injury, diseases, and even various kinds of medications. If you’re already developing cataracts, be careful when going outside. UV rays from the sun can make cataracts develop faster.
How Can I Lower My Risk of Cataracts?
Certain risk factors increase your chance of developing cataracts. These typically include:
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Family and medical history
- UV ray exposure
To lower your risk, consider reducing your alcohol intake, quit smoking, start an exercise program, eat foods rich in vitamin A and C, and wear 100% UV blocking sunglasses.
Common Symptoms of Cataracts
If you have cataracts, you may experience some common symptoms like:
- Blurry vision
- Colors that used to be bright now appear dim
- Double vision
- Glare from natural sunlight or from artificial light, like light bulbs and lamps
- Halos around lights
- Night vision problems
- Sensitivity to light
If you or a family member notice any of these signs, talk to Dr. Wendy A. Waguespack right away. The sooner you seek treatment, the faster we can help you get back to clear vision.
Coping With Cataracts
If you’re experiencing vision problems from cataracts, there is hope. If you have a mild case, a combination of a different eyeglass prescription and better lighting in your home, office, or other environment can improve your vision. In more advanced cases, your optometrist will likely recommend cataract surgery to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with a clear one.
Do I Need Cataract Surgery?
Cataract surgery is one of the most common procedures today. In fact, the American Academy of Ophthalmology estimates that 2 million people undergo the procedure each year.
During the procedure, the doctor will gently remove the cataract from the eye and replace it with an artificial intraocular lens (known as an IOL). Because it’s a common procedure, cataract surgery is usually performed in an outpatient clinic or in your eye doctor’s office. There is no need to stay in a hospital and you can usually resume your normal activities in just a few days.
If you’ve exhausted every other solution and still suffer from blurry vision from cataracts, surgery may be an option. Schedule a consultation online or call 225-767-8495 to book an eye doctor’s appointment at Dr. Wendy Waguespack, O.D. and together, we’ll determine if cataract surgery is right for you.
During this Cataract Awareness Month, share your stories and successes, and give your loved ones hope for a healthy and high quality of life.