When Is a Retina Specialist Needed?

The eye is an incredibly sophisticated organ, which makes it simultaneously powerful and vulnerable. While it plays a vital role in how humans gather information about their environment, it is also one of the most fragile organs in the body. As such, it’s crucial that we are proactive about our vision health.

March is Save Your Vision Month, and it serves as a reminder to educate yourself about various eye conditions, including retinal problems. The retina is thin and light-sensitive and lines the back of the inner eye, and its function is to acquire light signals and send those signals to the brain to convert them into vision.

The retina is susceptible to numerous serious conditions some of which are serious and many require the assistance of a retina specialist. Below are some of the most common retina conditions.

Diabetic Retinopathy

This condition is a complication caused by diabetes mellitus and is characterized by abnormal blood vessels in the retina.  Early on in the disease one may not have any visual symptoms but it can lead to blindness if not monitored and treated as necessary.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

The macula is the central portion of the retina and it is responsible for central vision used to read, see color, and recognize fine details.  Macular degeneration causes deterioration of the macula and causing difficulty with fine central visual details.

Retinal Holes, Tears, and Detachments

Retinal detachment is a condition where the retina becomes separated from the underlying layers of the eye. Left untreated, it can cause permanent vision loss and total blindness.  Retinal tears and holes can lead to retinal detachment.  Flashes and floaters can be an indicator or predictor of retinal tears, holes or detachment.

Other Retinal Conditions

In addition to the conditions above, there are many other less serious conditions that need to be assessed and treated by a retina specialist, including:

  • Macular Hole: This is a hole in the macula, which can cause vision to look blurry centrally.
  • Choroidal Melanoma: This is a type of malignant tumor that develops inside the eye between the retina and the sclera.
  • Epiretinal Membrane: This is a thin membrane of tissue that forms on the macula’s surface. It can sometimes cause central vision problems.
  • Retinal Vein Occlusion: This is when the small veins that transport blood away from the retina become blocked. The visual symptoms can range from mild to severe.
  • Uveitis: This type of eye inflammation affects the uvea, which is the middle layer of the eye wall. If left untreated, it can cause permanent vision loss.

Celebrate Save Your Vision Month by addressing your eye health. If you think you may be at risk for a retinal condition or are in need of treatment, contact the expert retina specialists and eye surgeons at Austin Retina Associates at 800-252-8259 or complete an online form.

Macular Degeneration: What You Need to Know to Preserve Your Vision

Macular degeneration, also known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 50 in the United States. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), AMD affects up to 15 million people in North America.

AMD occurs when the central portion of the retina, known as the macula, deteriorates. The retina acts sort of like a video camera with email capabilities – it records the images we see and then sends them to the brain using the optic nerve.

The macula’s function is to focus the eye’s central vision, and it is the primary mechanism behind our ability to recognize faces, read, see color, and see objects in fine detail. When it deteriorates, the macula is unable to receive images correctly and thus cannot send the images to the brain.

Common Risk Factors

When it comes to the cause of AMD, there are a number of biological, medical, and lifestyle risk factors at play. You are more likely to be diagnosed with AMD if you:

  • Are over the age of 55
  • Have a family history of AMD
  • Are a smoker
  • Are obese
  • Have high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease
  • Frequently expose your eyes to UV rays without protection

Symptoms

In the early stages of AMD, you may not experience any noticeable symptoms. As the condition progresses, it can cause blurred vision and, eventually, the total loss of the eye’s central vision. However, people with AMD may still retain their peripheral vision. At its most extreme, vision with AMD is like looking at a photograph that has been eclipsed by a black hole in the center.

Because it can be easy to miss in the early stages, it’s important to make an appointment with a retina specialist if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Worsening vision, especially if a quick onset or one eye worse than the other
  • Distortion — straight lines starting to appear curved
  • Darkened areas in the center of your vision
  • Changing perceptions of color

Prevention

Because there is no known cure, your best defense against developing AMD is to focus on prevention. While certain risk factors, such as genetics and age, are out of your control, there are a number of lifestyle changes you can make that will help slow down the condition’s development. These lifestyle changes include:

  • Not smoking
  • Having regular eye exams
  • Always wearing sunglasses that block 100% of UVA and UVB light
  • Keeping blood pressure and cholesterol under control
  • Maintaining a healthy diet
  • Maintaining a moderately active lifestyle
  • Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight

Learn More

If you’re concerned about your risk of developing AMD or are in need of treatment in Austin, contact the expert ophthalmologists and eye surgeons at Austin Retina Associates at 800‑252‑8259 or complete an online form.

Fun in the Sun: 5 Summertime Eye Health Tips

Woman wearing sunglasses and a hat

Long days and plenty of outdoor activities equal more time spent in the sun—particularly in Texas. While the dog days of summer may mean fall is not far away, it’s important to be mindful of your eyes’ unique needs long after Labor Day. Here are five easy tips to keep your eyes safe all summer long—and all year round.

Don’t Forget the Shades

Just like your skin, your eyes require special care when it comes to UV exposure, so don’t forgo the sunglasses—even on a cloudy day. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), “studies show that exposure to bright sunlight may increase the risk of developing cataracts and growths on the eye, including cancer.” Long-term exposure to sunlight can also increase the risk for certain conditions within the eye, such as solar retinopathy or choroidal melanoma. In addition, eyes can become “sunburned” which causes a painful condition known as photokeratitis.

To protect your eyes from sun exposure, be sure to wear sunglasses that provide 100% protection against both UV-A and UV-B rays, even when you think you don’t need them. A broad-brimmed hat can also help keep harmful sunlight away from your face and eyes.

Take the Contacts Out

Planning to hit the pool? If you wear contacts, swimming can pose a serious threat to your eyes without proper protection.

Like sponges, contact lenses absorb water—as well as any chemicals or bacteria that may be present, introducing germs to the eyes that can lead to discomfort, irritation, and potentially vision-threatening infections. In fact, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA), “serious eye infections can lead to blindness and affect up to one out of every 500 contact lens users per year.”

To keep your eyes safe, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends keeping contacts away from all types of water, including swimming pools, lakes, and even your own shower. If you must wear contacts in the water, consider no-leak swimming goggles—or better yet, invest in a prescription pair instead.

Play It Safe

Of course, swimming isn’t the only summer activity that requires eye protection. Whether you are finally getting around to those home improvement projects, playing sports, or just mowing the lawn, keeping your eyes safe should always be top of mind.

ANSI-approved protective eyewear is appropriate for most household projects. To prevent eye injuries on the court or in the field, check out the AAO’s recommendations for your sport.

Keep Them Refreshed

If you suffer from chronic dry eye, you know how uncomfortable the summer months can be. In addition to the heat outside and air conditioning inside, sweating, squinting, and even wearing sunscreen can irritate your eyes and make dry eye worse.

Keep your eyes comfortable by using artificial tears, wearing wraparound sunglasses outside that can block wind and dry air, and avoiding direct contact with fans or air conditioners.

Get a Checkup

Lastly, summer is the perfect time to get your kids’ eyes checked (and yours, too) before they return to school. Myopia (also known as nearsightedness) as a result of digital eye strain is on the rise, especially in children. According to the AOA, one in four parents have a child with myopia, making it one of the most increasingly prevalent vision issues in the U.S. Fortunately, these issues can be caught and managed with early intervention, like an annual eye exam.

Have questions about your eye health or need to schedule an appointment? We’re here to help! Contact us anytime at 800-252-8259 or [email protected]

Keep Your Eyes Safe This Fourth of July

Fireworks are a summertime staple, especially during the weeks before and after the Fourth of July, but the results of a homemade display can be harmful – and even potentially blinding. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s most recent fireworks injury report found that 14% of all fireworks injuries resulted in eye trauma. In addition, fireworks were responsible for eight deaths and nearly 13,000 total injuries in 2017. 

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), “fireworks can rupture the globe of the eye, cause chemical and thermal burns, corneal abrasions, and retinal detachment—all of which can cause permanent eye damage and vision loss.”

Don’t let your holiday celebration turn into a trip to the emergency room. Here is a short firework safety video you can watch with the kids, and five tips to keep everyone’s eyes safe this Independence Day:

  • Stand back: Be sure to light all fireworks in a clear, open area and watch from a safe distance—about 500 feet away for professional displays and 35–50 feet away when using fireworks at home. Protective eyewear is a must for both the person igniting the fireworks and the audience.
  • Keep clear: Avoid leaning over the top of or looking into any fireworks and never light a firework while holding it. Keep your body as far from the product as possible and once lit, move to a safe distance as quickly as possible.
  • Beware of duds: If a firework fails to explode, don’t assume it’s safe to handle. Never inspect or attempt to relight any firework that fails to ignite. Have water ready to soak duds and used fireworks before discarding.
  • Watch your kids: Even seemingly kid-friendly fireworks like sparklers can result in significant eye trauma as they burn at more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (hot enough to melt some metals!). It is best to discourage children from playing with fireworks of any kind and supervise them at all times.
  • Leave it to the pros: Of course, the best tip of all is to refrain from using fireworks altogether and take in a professional display instead. 

Fireworks-related eye injuries are medical emergencies that require immediate attention. If you need emergency eye care, do not do any of the following before seeking treatment as they may make the injury worse:

  •  Rub or rinse your eyes
  • Apply pressure to the injury
  • Remove any objects that are stuck in the eye
  • Apply any ointments or take any pain medications

 If you need urgent care for an eye injury, head to the nearest emergency room or call 911. 

August is Children’s Eye Health Month

It’s August, which means you’re likely to find many parents scouring online ads and store shelves for the best back to school deals on backpacks and lunch boxes. But it’s important to schedule a comprehensive eye exam for your kids, too. August is Children’s Eye Health Month, so start the year off right with healthy eyes and clear vision so they can whiz through their school day with ease.

Things to look for if you suspect vision troubles

Most pediatricians will begin routine eye exams during their annual well-child visits beginning at age three. If you or your doctor suspect vision problems or have other eye health concerns, they will recommend you visit an ophthalmologist for further testing. Amblyopia (lazy eye), Strabismus (crossed eyes), color blindness and refractive errors (nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism) are the most common conditions that can affect a child’s eyesight.

“It’s important that all children are screened by an eyecare professional by the age of 5,” explains Dr. Armitage Haprer. “In addition, if there’s a family history of any retinal disease, like retinoblastoma, Stickler’s disease, or Marfan’s Disease, then each child should be screened at birth.”

Here are some common things to watch for, so you’ll know if your child is struggling with their vision:

  • Frequent eye rubbing or squeezing
  • Squinting
  • Tilting or turning head to look at objects
  • Wandering eyes
  • Recurring headaches
  • Watery eyes or redness

Eye safety is just as important for protecting your child’s vision

Did you know that nearly 90 percent of eye injuries affecting children are avoidable? Here are some easy ways you can help protect their vision:

  • Children who play sports should wear eye protection with polycarbonate lenses, which are shatter-resistant.
  • Look for toys that are approved by The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), which means they have met or exceeded national safety standards.
  • Avoid projectile toys like darts, bow and arrow or missile-firing toys.

If your child should experience an eye injury, do not allow them to touch or rub the affected eye and seek medical attention immediately. If your child is in need of specialist care or retinal surgery in Austin, call the experienced eye care specialists at Austin Retina Associates at 800-252-8259 to schedule an appointment.