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8 Tips to Relieve Winter Dry Eyes

Whether you live in a climate with cold winter weather or you are planning a ski trip up north, winter can be a challenge if you suffer from dry eyes. Dry, cool air, cold winds and even drier indoor heating can cause eye irritation, burning, itchiness and redness, and sometimes even excessively watery eyes as more tears are produced to compensate for the dryness. Many people have a chronic feeling that they have something in their eye and some even experience blurred vision. These symptoms can be debilitating!

Dry eyes is one of the most common complaints eye doctors get from patients during the winter season, especially in the cooler climates. That’s why we’d like to share some tips on how to relieve dry eye discomfort, and how to know when your condition is serious enough to come in for an evaluation.

Tips to Relieve Winter Dry Eyes:

  1. Keep eyes moist using artificial tears or eye drops. You can apply these a few times each day when the eyes are feeling dry or irritated. If over-the-counter drops don’t help or if you have chronic dry eyes, speak to your eye doctor about finding the best drops for you. Since not all artificial tears are the same, knowing the cause of your dry eye will help your eye doctor determine which brand is best suited for your eyes.
  2. Use a humidifier to counteract the drying effects of indoor heaters or generally dry air.
  3. Point car vents or indoor heaters away from your face when the heat is on. Try to keep your distance from direct sources of heating, especially if they blow out the heat.
  4. Drink a lot! Hydrating your body will also hydrate your eyes.
  5. Protect your eyes outdoors with sunglasses or goggles – the bigger the better! Larger, even wrap-around glasses as well as a hat with a wide brim will keep the wind and other elements out of your eyes. If you wear goggles for winter sports, make sure they fit well and cover a large surface area.
  6. Soothe dry eyes using a warm compress and never rub them! Rubbing your eyes will increase irritation and may lead to infection if the hands are not clean.
  7. Give your eyes a digital break. People blink less during screen time which is why extensive computer use can lead to dry eyes. Follow the 20/20/20 rule by taking a break every 20 minutes to look 20 feet away for 20 seconds and make sure you blink!
  8. For contact lens wearers: If you wear contact lenses, dry eyes can be particularly debilitating as the contact lenses can cause even further dryness and irritation. Contact lens rewetting drops can help your eyes feel better and may also allow you to see more clearly. Not all eyedrops are appropriate for use with contact lenses, so ask your optometrist which eyedrop is compatible with your contacts and cleaning solution. If rewetting drops don’t help, consider opting for glasses when your dry eyes are bad, and speak to your optometrist about which brands of contact lenses are better for dry eyes. Many people find dry eye improvement when they switch to daily single use contact lenses.

Chronic Dry Eyes or Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome is a chronic condition in which the eyes do not produce enough tear film, or do not produce the quality of tear film needed to properly keep the eyes moist. While winter weather can make this condition worse, it is often present all year round. If you find that the tips above do not alleviate your discomfort or symptoms, it may be time to see a optometrist to see if your condition requires more effective medical treatment.

Diabetes and Your Eyes

Diabetes is becoming much more prevalent around the globe. According to the International Diabetes Federation, approximately 425 million adults were living with diabetes in the year 2017 and 352 million more people were at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. By 2045 the number of people diagnosed is expected to rise to 629 million.

Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness as well as heart attacks, stroke, kidney failure, neuropathy (nerve damage) and lower limb amputation. In fact, in 2017, diabetes was implicated in 4 million deaths worldwide. Nevertheless preventing these complications from diabetes is possible with proper treatment, medication and regular medical screenings as well as improving your diet, physical activity and adopting a healthy lifestyle.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the hormone insulin is either underproduced or ineffective in its ability to regulate blood sugar. Uncontrolled diabetes leads to hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, which damages many systems in the body such as the blood vessels and the nervous system.

How Does Diabetes Affect The Eyes?

Diabetic eye disease is a group of conditions which are caused, or worsened, by diabetes; including: diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, glaucoma and cataracts. Diabetes increases the risk of cataracts by four times, and can increase dryness and reduce cornea sensation.

In diabetic retinopathy, over time, the tiny blood vessels within the eyes become damaged, causing leakage, poor oxygen circulation, then scarring of the sensitive tissue within the retina, which can result in further cell damage and scarring.

The longer you have diabetes, and the longer your blood sugar levels remain uncontrolled, the higher the chances of developing diabetic eye disease. Unlike many other vision-threatening conditions which are more prevalent in older individuals, diabetic eye disease is one of the main causes of vision loss in the younger, working-age population. Unfortunately, these eye conditions can lead to blindness if not caught early and treated. In fact, 2.6% of blindness worldwide is due to diabetes.

Diabetic Retinopathy

As mentioned above, diabetes can result in cumulative damage to the blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue located at the back of the eye. This is called diabetic retinopathy.

The retina is responsible for converting the light it receives into visual signals to the optic nerve in the brain. High blood sugar levels can cause the blood vessels in the retina to leak or hemorrhage, causing bleeding and distorting vision. In advanced stages, new blood vessels may begin to grow on the retinal surface causing scarring and further damaging cells in the retina. Diabetic retinopathy can eventually lead to blindness.

Signs and Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

The early stages of diabetic retinopathy often have no symptoms, which is why it’s vitally important to have frequent diabetic eye exams. As it progresses you may start to notice the following symptoms:

  • Blurred or fluctuating vision or vision loss
  • Floaters (dark spots or strings that appear to float in your visual field)
  • Blind spots
  • Color vision loss

There is no pain associated with diabetic retinopathy to signal any issues. If not controlled, as retinopathy continues it can cause retinal detachment and macular edema, two other serious conditions that threaten vision. Again, there are often NO signs or symptoms until more advanced stages.

A person with diabetes can do their part to control their blood sugar level. Following the physician’s medication plan, as well as diet and exercise recommendations can help slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy.

Retinal Detachment

Scar tissues caused by the breaking and forming of blood vessels in advanced retinopathy can lead to a retinal detachment in which the retina pulls away from the underlying tissue. This condition is a medical emergency and must be treated immediately as it can lead to permanent vision loss. Signs of a retinal detachment include a sudden onset of floaters or flashes in the vision.

Diabetic Macular Edema (DME)

Diabetic macular edema occurs when the macula, a part of the retina responsible for clear central vision, becomes full of fluid (edema). It is a complication of diabetic retinopathy that occurs in about half of patients, and causes vision loss.

Treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy and Diabetic Macular Edema

While vision loss from diabetic retinopathy and DME often can’t be restored, with early detection there are some preventative treatments available. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (when the blood vessels begin to grow abnormally) can be treated by laser surgery, injections or a procedure called vitrectomy in which the vitreous gel in the center of the eye is removed and replaced. This will treat bleeding caused by ruptured blood vessels. DME can be treated with injection therapy, laser surgery or corticosteroids.

Prevent Vision Loss from Diabetes

The best way to prevent vision loss from diabetic eye disease is early detection and treatment. Since there may be no symptoms in the early stages, regular diabetic eye exams are critical for early diagnosis. In fact diabetics are now sometimes monitored by their health insurance to see if they are getting regular eye exams and premium rates can be affected by how regularly the patients get their eyes checked. Keeping diabetes under control through exercise, diet, medication and regular screenings will help to reduce the chances of vision loss and blindness from diabetes.


How Safe is your Eye Makeup Routine?

The health and well-being of your eyesight go deeper than consistent screenings and Optometrist visits. In fact, you should always be aware of what you use in and around your eyes daily. Do you know what is in the eye makeup products you use? A product may be highly advertised and extremely popular, yet unsafe for your eyes. Each individual’s eyes are unique and vary in sensitivity. It is important to understand what can irritate and bother your eyes, especially as they age. Are certain beauty trends putting your eyes at risk?

Product expiration dates

Like groceries, makeup products have a shelf life. Whether are using a product once a month or every day, the moment the packaging seal on the product is broken, the product is subject to contamination from air and bacteria. The bacteria accumulated in the eyeliners, eyeshadows, mascaras, and any other products you use around the eyes are then transferred to your eyes, which can put you at risk of infection. Microbiological and bacterial contaminations are most likely to be found in mascaras and eyeliners, and since these products often get the closest to our eyes, they are the largest threats to healthy eyesight.

In a study conducted on forty expired mascaras, “a high level of contamination with pathogenic microorganisms” were present. Pathogenic microorganisms are known to cause infectious diseases which have been found to result in more serious diagnoses. Depending on the brand, these products may last anywhere from three to six months. Be cautious of the expiration dates for the makeup brands you use and be sure to dispose of them when necessary!

Tight lining your eyes

Tight lining your eyes is an eyeliner application method where the user draws the product along their waterline. Applying the insight you have already gained, the potential bacteria in our eye makeup products should trigger this a red flag. This technique can be dangerously close to the tear film in our eyes. One wrong move and you could have a corneal abrasion, or a scratched eye, causing serious discomfort and irritation. A healthy cornea is essential for clear vision; let’s not compromise the gift of sight for the appearance of darker lashes. Placing the liner outside the inner lash line gets the job done with a lower risk of harming the tear films in our eyes.

Eyelash extensions

Eyelash extensions have become a very popular alternative to applying mascara on lashes every day. Although this technique may seem like a positive solution, considering the apparent use of expired eye makeup products, there are still numerous risks involved. The eyelash extension process is tedious; the stylist dips each individual false lash into glue, then attaches the false lash to a real lash, as close to the lash line as possible to ensure they blend with the natural lashes.

If the stylist uses too much glue or does not place the false lash correctly, glue can seep into clients’ eyes. As a result, clients have experienced “fuzzy” vision, redness, swelling, allergic reactions, abrasions, and infections. There have also been cases where the stylist accidentally pierces the eye with tweezers during the process. All of this could cause temporary or permanent vision issues, depending on the severity. Before diving into eyelash extensions, protect your eyes by researching a well-experienced technician who uses sterilized equipment. Trust me, your eyes will thank you for doing your homework!

Permanent makeup (micropigmentation) –

Permanent makeup is a surgical procedure that uses small needles to puncture the top layers of skin with pigmented granules, similar to tattoos, to achieve the desired makeup look. This technique is popular because users have the freedom to not worry about their makeup fading, running, or smudging as they go about their busy schedules.

Also, permanent makeup usually lasts between 3-5 years. Those seeking out this trend are generally willing to pay the higher costs because of its longevity. These long-lasting cosmetic tattoos save a significant amount of time during morning routines, which may be attractive to people who are not particularly fond of rising before the sun just to get ready.

A successful procedure is contingent on the training and experience of the practitioner. In recent years, the permanent makeup industry has grown faster than the need for practitioners can be met, resulting in inexperienced practitioners taking the risk to perform the procedure without full training. Since the most common permanent makeup enhancement is eyeliner, this procedure has the potential to seriously threaten the health and safety of our eyesight.

Clients may experience blurry vision as a result of the anesthesia, which is the first step in the process. The pigmented granules are considered foreign to the body, which means it is difficult to predict the outcome of the procedure. One of the largest risks is uncertainty; each body will react differently to foreign granules. The reaction could take place immediately following the procedure as a rash, or years later as an allergic reaction in the immune system.

It is important to take note of any changes in your eyesight or around your eyes and to consult a knowledgeable practitioner or doctor if you are unsure of a new symptom. Other reactions include painful keloids, granulomas, swelling, cracking, blistering, scarring, and peeling. In recent years, the number of reported reactions has reached more than 50, initiating investigations by the FDA.

If these brutal reactions and aren’t enough to worry you, there have been at least 10 cases of hepatitis transmission as a result of practitioners using unsterile equipment and needles. Although these are rare cases, it is just another reason to conduct extensive research before confirming the practitioner who will perform your procedure.

The key takeaway, knowledge is power! Always look into your products and procedures before using them. Practice safety when dealing with your vision; our eyes deserve the same amount of love and care as the rest of our body. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms from one of these potential risks, consult a doctor immediately.


Healthy Eye Tips

If you can think of one food that you were told helps with vision, what would that food item be? If we are guessing correctly, we would guess that you were told to eat carrots. You have most likely learned since then that there are other ways to keep those eyes happy and healthy, but do you know what they are? Because the eyes are important organs on your body, we want to give you some advice on maintaining healthy eyes to make sure you maintain healthy vision throughout your life.

Sure, carrots are healthy for you and your eyes, but carrots are not the stopping point for foods that benefit your sight. Generally, eating a balanced and well-rounded diet is enough to keep your eyes healthy. If you are looking for specific foods to benefit your sight, try to consume plenty of omega-3’s, leafy greens, and fruits and vegetables. Basically, if it’s a colorful yellow or orange veggie, go for it!

When you’re headed in to see an eye specialist of any kind, it is important to know your family’s eye health history. Do you know if your family carries a certain gene? Do you have a hereditary disease that occurs in your family? Knowing the answer to these questions is always a good idea when talking to your doctor or specialist. Knowing your risk of developing an eye disease will ensure you have the best chance of catching it early if the warning signs start showing.

EYE PROTECTION! We did not put this first, because this encompasses a lot of tips, but this is possibly one of the best ways to keep your eyes healthy for the long haul. Whether you work at a job that requires protective goggles, you are outside, or you play a sport that necessitates eye protection, it cannot be stressed enough that you should be focusing on protection from elements outside of your body.

Allergens, irritants, and foreign objects can make a home in your eyes and continue to irritate them if the precaution of eye protection is not used. We all know what it feels like to have something in your eye that does not belong there. Do yourself and your vision the favor of covering your eyes when you are outside, at a dangerous job, or playing certain sports.

Your eyes are extremely powerful organs in the body that can handle a lot, but they do get tired. Looking at screens, being in direct sunlight, and focusing on one thing for too long all have a play in tiring out your eyes. If you notice that your eyes feel a little more strained when doing certain tasks, take yourself away from that task and try something not as hard on the eyes for a while. Your eyes are telling you that they need a break, and this is not something you should ignore.