If Your Halloween Costume Includes Scary Eyes, Consult an Eye Care Professional

Creepy costume lenses might add a spine-tingling thrill to your Halloween costume, but wearing costume contact lenses without a prescription can lead to serious eye infections or permanent vision loss. Decorative lenses are medical devices, not costume jewelry. They must be prescribed and fitted by an eye eye care professional, just like regular contact lenses. That’s why Chippewa Valley Eye Clinic and the American Academy of Ophthalmology are urging people to buy decorative contact lenses only from retailers who require a prescription and sell FDA-approved products.

A poorly fitted contact lens can easily scrape the cornea, the outer layer of the eye, making the eye more vulnerable to infection-causing bacteria and viruses. Sometimes scarring from an infection is so bad, a corneal transplant is required to restore vision. The most extreme cases can end in blindness.

Although it is illegal to sell non-prescription contact lenses, they are available at costume shops, gas stations, and online. Research shows that people who purchase contacts without a prescription face a 16-fold increased risk of developing an infection.

“Research shows that those who purchase contacts without a prescription face an increased risk of developing an infection.”

Mamie Gaye, 19 is one of those people. She wanted blue eyes, so she purchased a pair of colored contact lenses at her local beauty shop. There was no indication on the package that she needed a prescription. After wearing them for about a week, her eyes were red, burning and sensitive to light. She had to go to the emergency room just to get them removed.

She was terrified that she was going blind. Fortunately, the scratch on her eyes healed after a few days of treatment with antibiotic eye drops. “My advice to friends is to never buy contact lenses without a prescription, no matter how beautiful you think they will make you,” Gaye says. “It’s not worth it.”

Mamie Gaye purchased costume contact lenses similar to these, without a prescription, from her local beauty store.

Follow these tips to help ensure your Halloween costume won’t haunt you long after October 31st.

See an eye care professional to get a prescription for costume contact lenses.

Packaging that claims “one size fits all” or “no need to see an eye doctor” are false.

Properly care for contact lenses.

Even if you have a prescription for contact lenses, proper care remains essential.

Never share contacts

Pink eye isn’t a good look, even for a costume. Sharing contacts can spread germs, causing conditions such as pink eye, which is highly contagious.

Spread the word to others about the dangers of costume contacts.

Don’t let friends make the mistake of wearing costume contacts without a prescription.

The FDA oversees the safety and effectiveness of all contact lenses because they are a medical device. It’s important that you use only FDA-approved lenses prescribed for your eyes.

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Seeing. The future.

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What is a Refractive Laser Treatment?

by Lee Hofer, M.D.

The question as to whether a laser will be used in treatment of a patient’s medical conditions, has been asked for nearly thirty years of the health care professional. Many new forms of laser applications have evolved in that time and today laser devices are used in many areas of medicine, none perhaps more than in Ophthalmology.

What began years ago as laser light treatments for diabetic eye changes and glaucoma conditions, has today grown to include several additional glaucoma laser applications, skin treatments, and intraocular cataract laser usage both prior to and post cataract surgery to name a few. The highly publicized LASIK and its cohort procedure, PRK, have been used to reduce or eliminate a patient’s dependency on spectacles for 20+ years. This is the area of refractive laser surgery, where a laser application is made to the front surface of the eye, the cornea, to reshape it and compensate for the optics of the eye.

Laser treatments are done to eliminate the common forms of eye glass correction.

You either choose laser correction for distance and use reading spectacles or you wear glasses for distance and read without.

These laser treatments are done to eliminate the common forms of eye glass correction, myopia (nearsightedness), and astigmatism (shadowing of images), and in some cases hyperopia (farsightedness). While the typical need for reading glasses can be addressed, you can not have your cake and eat it too in refractive surgery. You either choose laser correction for distance and use reading spectacles or you wear glasses for distance and read without. There are some variations of this but in brief, that is the choice.

However, more and more advances are being made in the technology of intraocular lenses which are placed into an eye with each cataract surgery as a replacement lens. There exists today, types of lenses known as Premium Lenses, which can offer some patients greater independence visually from spectacles, but not necessarily complete independence. When cataract patients choose such a Premium Lens to be placed at their cataract surgery, they are hopeful of good distance vision and an additional range of intermediate and near vision, often allowing them to read much of the typical printed materials in their daily lives.

“Because these promising advances of intraocular lens technology are available, the patient that chooses such a lens is understandably hopeful for a greater range of useful vision with less spectacle need.”

While our cataract removal procedures today are more precise than ever, as are the methods of calculating the lens power to be implanted, some occasions arise where the post cataract surgery result is short of the goal. This is the situation where the Refractive Laser comes into consideration. Usually, in these situations, some basic form of common refractive error, myopia or astigmatism remain.

If, after an adequate healing period of 4-6 months, this persists, a type of laser known as an Excimer laser can be used to treat this residual refractive amount by reshaping the cornea in the same fashion that has been done for 20+ years for patients seeking independence from glasses. It is a quick procedure, taking less than ten minutes in most cases and after healing, usually within 2 weeks, noticeable visual improvement is achieved with complete recovery at 2-3 months.

The addition of this procedure to compliment or complete the cataract visual recovery process has been of great benefit to many people. When discussing cataract surgery with your eye care professional, ask them if you would be a Premium Lens candidate and after any cataract surgery, if you feel your visual outcome is short of your expectation, engage your surgeon in the discussion of whether Laser Refractive Surgery would be advisable.

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Dr. Harvey Hosts Vietnamese Doctors for Several Weeks

Dr. Harvey Hosts Two Vietnamese Doctors for Five Weeks

Two doctors from Vietnam were hosted by the Harvey family in August and September. Dr. Harvey met Dr. Vu Thi Diem (pronounced JIM) and Dr. Van Thi Hoang Anh (pronounced HAN-ANN) through his many Vietnam mission trips over the past several years.

Both earned their degrees as general practitioners from medical school in Vietnam. Dr. Diem is specializing in ophthalmology, and Dr. Hoang Anh in radiology. They have enjoyed their time shadowing Dr. Harvey and other physicians in the Eau Claire area.

Dr. Diem is the chairman of the Ophthalmic Club in Vietnam. When she returns, she will apply for residency. Although the need for ophthalmologists in Vietnam is great, there is only availability for a few students a year to do residency. The other students will have to work in the hospital in the ophthalmology department. Dr. Diem is hopeful that after all the valuable information she has learned from Dr. Harvey, she will earn a residency spot.

UNITED STATES VS. VIETNAM MEDICAL CARE

According to Dr. Diem, ophthalmology is not very good in Vietnam, especially in the small town where she is from. There are so many patients and the need for care is so vast, they cannot take the time they would like with every patient. Because of this problem, “there is not much connection between the doctor and the patient like there is here,” she says.

Dr. Diem explains that there is more technology readily available in the U.S. “Patients can choose if they want near or far vision after cataract surgery, or they can choose glasses or no glasses. Many patients in Vietnam are poor. If they have blurry vision or pain, they don’t go to the doctor right away.”

This is why they appreciate Dr. Harvey when he visits and offers his care to so many. Dr. Harvey says that another future trip is in the works (this will be his seventh). Unfortunately, there are huge amounts of paperwork and hoops to jump through that cause delays, but they are making progress.

Dr. Harvey says that another future trip is in the works (this will be his seventh). Unfortunately, there are huge amounts of paperwork and hoops to jump through that cause delays, but they are making progress.

FIRST TIME IN THE U.S.

Dr. Diem and Dr. Hoang Anh have thoroughly enjoyed their first visit to the United States. “It’s so beautiful here, and the people are so friendly,” says Dr. Diem. Some of their favorite highlights were playing tennis for the first time, picking blueberries on a farm, and attending a local outdoor concert in Phoenix Park.

Dr. Diem (left) and Dr. Hoang Anh (right) enjoying a local outdoor concert in Phoenix Park.

One thing they don’t enjoy here is the coffee, however. Vietnam is the world’s second largest coffee producer, and their home town in the Central Highlands is considered a coffee capital. “Coffee in Vietnam is way better, ” says Dr. Diem. “But I like the hot chocolate and root beer here.”

Dr.Diem shadowed Dr. Harvey for several weeks in clinic and in surgery.

She thinks he listens to too much country music.

It has been our pleasure getting to know these sweet ladies and we wish them the best of luck as they head back to their country to serve in the healthcare industry.

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Is Too Much Screen Time Harming Children’s Vision?

Is Too Much Screen Time Harming Children’s Vision?

As children spend more time tethered to screens, there is increasing concern about potential harm to their visual development. Ophthalmologists are seeing a marked increase in children with dry eye and eye strain from too much screen time. But does digital eye strain cause lasting damage? Should your child use reading glasses or computer glasses?

As you send your kids back to school this month for more time with screens and books, Chippewa Valley Eye Clinic along with the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) are arming parents with the facts, so they can make informed choices about their children’s eye health.

It’s a fact that there is a world-wide epidemic of myopia, also known as nearsightedness. Since 1971, the incidence of nearsightedness in the US nearly doubled, to 42 percent. In Asia, up to 90 percent of teenagers and adults are nearsighted. Clearly, something is going on. But scientists can’t agree on exactly what.

“Since 1971, nearsightedness in the US nearly doubled to 42 percent.”

A new study appearing in the journal of the AAO, offers further evidence that at least part of the worldwide increase in nearsightedness has to do with near-work activities; not just screens but also traditional books. And, that spending time outdoors — especially in early childhood — can slow the progression of nearsightedness. It remains unclear whether the rise in nearsightedness is due to focusing on phones all the time, or to light interacting with our circadian rhythms to influence eye growth, or none of the above.

While scientists look for a definitive answer, there is no doubt that most computer users experience digital eye strain. Kids are no different from adults when it comes to digital eye strain. In fact, they can experience dry eye, headaches and blurry vision too. While symptoms are typically temporary, they may be frequent and persistent.

But this does not mean they need a prescription for computer glasses or that they have developed an eye condition of middle-age that requires reading glasses, as some suggest. It also doesn’t mean blue light coming from computer screens is damaging their eyes. It means they need to take more frequent breaks. This is because we don’t blink as often while using computers and other digital devices. Extended reading, writing or other intensive near-work can also cause eye strain. Ophthalmologists recommend taking a 20 second break from near-work every 20 minutes.

“Children need to take more frequent breaks. This is because we don’t blink as often while using computers and other digital devices.”

 

Here are ten tips to help protect your child’s eyes from computer eye strain:

 

  • Set a kitchen timer or smart device timer to remind them.

  • Alternate reading an e-book with a real book and encourage kids to look up and out the window every two chapters.

  • After completing a level in a video game, look out the window for 20 seconds.

  • Pre-mark books with a paperclip every few chapters to remind your child to look up. On an e-book, use the “bookmark” function for the same effect.

  • Avoid using a computer outside or in brightly lit areas, as the glare on the screen can create strain.

  • Adjust the brightness and contrast of your computer screen so that it feels comfortable to you.

  • Use good posture when using a computer and when reading.

  • Encourage your child to hold digital media farther away, 18 to 24 inches is ideal.

  • Create a distraction that causes your child to look up every now and then.

  • Remind them to blink when watching a screen.

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Sunglasses: Your Prescription for Eye Health

Sunglasses: Your Prescription for Eye Health

Next time you step outside to enjoy the summer sun, don’t forget to bring a pair of sunglasses.

Most people know that the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays are bad for the skin. But did you know that too much sun
on unprotected eyes increases the risk of eye diseases? This summer, Chippewa Valley Eye Clinic and the American Academy
of Ophthalmology remind you that sunglasses are more than a fashion statement; they are a healthy choice.

Long-term exposure to the sun without proper protection can increase the risk of eye disease, including cataract, macular degeneration, growths on the eye, and a rare form of eye cancer. Even short-term exposure can damage the eyes. Sun reflecting off water can cause a painful sunburn on the front part of the eye, called photokeratitis. It causes redness, blurry vision, sensitivity to bright light, and in rare cases, even temporary vision loss. 

The good news is that prevention is simple: wear sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB radiation. When purchasing sunglasses, ophthalmologists urge the public to choose substance over style, and consider these six shopping tips: 

SHOP LABELS:

The single most important thing to look for when buying sunglasses is a sticker or tag indicating that they block 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB radiation. 

BUY OVERSIZED:

The more coverage from sunglasses, the less sun damage inflicted on the eyes. Consider buying oversized glasses or wraparound-style glasses, which help cut down on UV entering the eye from the side. 

DON’T BE FOOLED BY COLOR:

While very dark lenses may look cool, they do not necessarily block more UV rays. 

CONSIDER YOUR SPORT:

Some sunglasses come with amber, green or gray lenses. They do not block more sun but can increase contrast, which may be useful  for athletes who play sports such as baseball or golf. 

CONSIDER POLARIZED LENSES:

Polarization reduces glare coming off reflective surfaces like water or pavement. This does not offer more protection from the sun, but can make activities like driving or being on the water safer or more enjoyable. 

DON’T BREAK THE BANK:

Sunglasses don’t have to cost a lot of money to provide adequate eye protection. Less expensive pairs marked as 100-percent UV-blocking can be just as effective as pricier options. 

It’s important to protect your eyes year-round, not just during the summer. Harmful UV rays are present even on cloudy days. Keep your eyes healthy; wear sunglasses. 

To shop UV-blocking and polarized sunglasses, visit our optical

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Three Things You Should Know About Cataracts

Three Things You Should Know About Cataracts

Approximately 25 million Americans have cataracts, which causes cloudy, blurry or dim vision and often develops with advancing age. As a result, Chippewa Valley Eye Clinic joins the American Academy of Ophthalmology in observing Cataract Awareness Month by sharing three things everyone should know about the condition and its treatment.

As everyone grows older, the lenses of their eyes thicken and become cloudier. Eventually, they may find it more difficult to read street signs, and colors may seem dull. These symptoms may signal cataracts, which affect about 70 percent of people by age 75. Fortunately, cataracts can be corrected with surgery. Ophthalmologists, physicians who specialize in medical and surgical eye care, perform around three million cataract surgeries each year to restore vision to those patients. The following are facts people should know about the condition:

1. Age isn’t the only risk factor for cataracts.

Though most everyone will develop cataracts with age, recent studies show that lifestyle and behavior can influence when and how severely you develop cataracts. Diabetes, extensive exposure to sunlight, smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and certain ethnicities have all been linked to increased risk of cataracts. Eye injuries, prior eye surgery and long-term use of steroid medication can also result in cataracts.

2. Cataracts cannot be prevented, but you can lower your risk.

Wearing UV-blocking sunglasses and brimmed hats when outside can help. Several studies suggest eating more vitamin C-rich foods may delay how fast cataracts form. Also, avoid smoking cigarettes, which have been shown to increase the risk of cataract development.

3. Surgery may help improve more than just your vision.

During the procedure, the natural clouded lens is replaced  with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens, which should improve your vision significantly. Patients have a variety of lenses to choose from, each with different benefits. Studies have shown that cataract surgery can improve quality of life and reduce the risk of falling.

If cataracts are interfering with your ability to see well, consider asking your eye doctor about cataract surgery.

Get an idea of what someone with cataracts might experience with this cataract vision simulator.

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Ten Thousand Reasons to Leave Fireworks to the Professionals

10,000 Reasons to Leave Fireworks to the Professionals

Every year about 10,000 people are rushed to the emergency room for fireworks injuries. Many people believe that consumer fireworks are safe. But here’s the explosive truth: Most injuries are caused by legal fireworks that parents buy for their children, such as sparklers, firecrackers, bottle rockets and Roman candles. Ophthalmologists – physicians who specialize in medical and surgical eye care – treat thousands of patients who suffer a range of fireworks-related injuries, from cuts and bruises to damaged corneas, retinas and ruptured eyeballs. To help reduce the number of potentially blinding fireworks accidents this holiday, Chippewa Valley Eye Clinic is sharing these tips:

  • Wear protective eyewear when igniting fireworks. Ophthalmologists recommend that every household have at least one pair of ANSI-approved protective eyewear. Stop by any hardware store and pick up some safety glasses for the entire family.
  • Don’t pick up duds and misfires. Dr. Heidi Jarecki, ophthalmologist at Chippewa Valley Eye Clinic, once treated a young man who went to see if a firework was a dud because it hadn’t gone off after being lit. It went off at that moment and struck him in the eye, rupturing the vascular layer of the back of his eye (choroidal rupture), causing immediate and permanent vision loss. Keep a hose a buckets of water on hand for duds and misfires. Soak up the dud from a distance with a hose or bucket of water. Pick it up with a shovel and fully submerge it in water to ensure it’s safe for disposal.
  • Keep a safe distance. Fireworks injure bystanders as often as the operator. Injuries can occur to bystanders who are even a hundred yards away.
  • Supervise children closely. Sparklers seem harmless fun for kids, but they are responsible for about 1,400 eye injuries each year. Even those tiny poppers or snappers can pose dangers. “Kids and young people are the most at risk in my experience,” says Dr. Jarecki. She recalls treating a child with a corneal burn from a sparkler that the child walked into. The child had permanent vision loss as a result.
  • Celebrate with the pros. The Fourth can be celebrated without using consumer fireworks. Chippewa Valley Eye Clinic advises that the safest way to view fireworks is to watch a professional show.

If an eye injury from fireworks does occur:

  • Seek medical attention immediately
  • Do not rub the eye. Rubbing may make the injury worse
  • Do not attempt to rinse the eye
  • Do not apply pressure to the eye
  • Do not remove objects from the eye
  • Do not apply ointments or take pain medications before seeking medical help

Consumer fireworks are a treasured part of Fourth of July celebrations, so it’s easy to forget the dangers they can pose, particularly to the eyes. Chippewa Valley Eye Clinic encourages everyone to make safety a priority this Fourth of July.

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