High Blood Pressure and Vision

May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month. High blood pressure (HBP) can cause damage to the heart, but it can also affect many other parts of the body, including the eyes.

The retina is tissue located in the back of your eye that transmits signals along the optic nerve to the brain, which interprets those signals as sight. When blood pressure is too high, the blood vessels in the retina may become narrow, which then restricts blood flow from the retina. This can put pressure on the optic nerve, causing vision problems and may lead to hypertensive retinopathy.

HBP can also lead to optic neuropathy – a condition where blocked blood flow damages the optic nerve. It can kill nerve cells in your eyes, which may cause vision loss or bleeding within your eye.

Another way high blood pressure can affect your eyes is a condition called choroidopathy – a buildup of fluid under the retina. This can result in distorted vision or in some cases scarring that impairs vision.

For your overall health, and to protect your vision, it is best to have your blood pressure checked periodically. If you have HBP, eat a nutritious diet, exercise and follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations.


More than Looking Cool

Summer is right around the corner and that means fun in the sun!  You know you need to wear sunscreen to protect your skin, but do you know that you also need to protect your eyes from the harmful rays of the sun?

Just as your skin can get sunburn so can your eyes.  If your eyes seem bloodshot, swollen, and light-sensitive after being outdoors you may have photokeratitis, which is sunburn of the eye.  However, this isn’t the only condition that can result from long-term or excessive UV exposure:

  • Surfers, skiers, fishermen, farmers, or anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors can experience growths on the eye known as pingueculas. These yellowish growths on the white part of the eye are usually benign but can be itchy and irritating.
  • Unprotected sun exposer can also speed up or worsen eye diseases such as cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and cancer.
  • Look younger by wearing sunglasses. UV light and squinting in the sun can lead to the dreaded wrinkles known as crow’s feet!
  • Don’t forget about the kids. Much of our damage from sun exposure to the eye occurs before the age of 18.

The best way to protect your eyes is to wear UV-blocking sunglasses not only in the summertime, but year-round. UV light can penetrate clouds so wear sunglasses even on overcast days.  Make sure your lenses have “Backside UV Protection” also.  Much of the damage from UV rays that enter the eye does not come from straight ahead, but reflections from the side and back of the lenses.  Ask our expert opticians about our lenses that are the equivalent of SPF 25 for the eyes.

Giving the Gift of Sight

“For 563 million people, the world is a blur.”

The first successful corneal transplant, also known as keratoplasty, was performed in 1905 by Eduard Konrad Zirm, MD. This surgical procedure replaces part of the patient’s cornea with corneal tissue from a donor.

Over the next few decades surgical techniques continued to improve and in 1944, R. Townley Paton, a renowned American ophthalmologist established the world’s first eye bank, the Eye-Bank for Sight Restoration, Inc., in New York, designing a plan for the attainment, preservation and distribution of eyes to corneal surgeons for transplantation.  In 1977, the Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA) began to set standards for handling eye tissue and established a training program for technicians. The EBAA Medical Standards were officially adopted in 1980.

Since that time EBAA records show that “over 95 percent of all corneal transplant operations successfully restore the corneal recipient’s vision.” In addition, by enabling people to resume employment and lead healthy lives, corneal transplants in the U.S. offer a total lifetime net benefit of nearly $6 billion.

In March, EBAA will commemorate National Eye Donor Month to promote awareness of the need to donate eyes, to recognize donors and their families and to celebrate corneal recipients. To learn more about corneal transplants or to register to become a donor, please visit www.restoresight.org.

What You Should Know about AMD

Imagine being able to make eye contact with a loved one only because you can discern the outline of their face and know where their eyes should be, but not being able to clearly view their face. Sadly, this is reality for people who have age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Macular degeneration is an incurable eye disease. In the United States, it is the leading cause of vision loss for people aged 55 and older, affecting more than 10 million Americans.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina.  This portion of the eye is known as the macula. This thin layer of light-sensitive tissue lines the back of the eye and – when healthy – transmits clear, detailed images from the eye to the brain via the optic nerve. In people who have AMD, these images may be distorted. The first symptom is often that straight lines appear wavy, but other symptoms may appear as a blurred area or blank spot in the central vision, and objects seeming smaller or further away than they are.

The exact cause of AMD is not known, but risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and smoking. In fact, research shows that smoking doubles the risk of AMD. If you notice changes in your vision or have these risk factors, it is a wise idea to schedule an eye exam with your trusted optometrist. Only a comprehensive dilated eye exam can detect AMD.

January is Glaucoma Awareness Month

Imagine a disease that can permanently decrease your vision by 40 percent without you noticing. Sadly, this is a reality for more than 2.7 million Americans. The disease is glaucoma and since there are virtually no symptoms, nearly half of the people who have it, don’t know that they do … until it’s too late.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness. While there is no cure for glaucoma, medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss. Early detection is vital to stopping the progress of the disease and the best way to protect your vision and eye health is through an annual comprehensive dilated eye examination.

If glaucoma is suspected, your optometrist may recommend the following tests:

  • Visual acuity test. This eye chart test measures how well you see at various distances.
  • Visual field test. This test measures your peripheral (side vision). It helps your eye care professional tell if you have lost peripheral vision, a sign of glaucoma.
  • Dilated eye exam. In this exam, drops are placed in your eyes to widen, or dilate, the pupils. Your eye care professional uses a special magnifying lens to examine your retina and optic nerve for signs of damage and other eye problems. After the exam, your close-up vision may remain blurred for several hours.
  • Tonometryis the measurement of pressure inside the eye by using an instrument called a tonometer. Numbing drops may be applied to your eye for this test. A tonometer measures pressure inside the eye to detect glaucoma.
  • Pachymetryis the measurement of the thickness of your cornea. Your eye care professional applies a numbing drop to your eye and uses an ultrasonic wave instrument to measure the thickness of your cornea.
  • Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) is a laser scan of the optic nerve and can detect the earliest signs of Glaucomatous damage.
  • Visually Evoked Potential (VEP) is a test that uses sensors to detect how long it takes for the eyes to send a signal to the brain. The VEP is very new technology and has been shown to help diagnose Glaucoma earlier than ever before.

Glaucoma that is detected early enough can be managed and controlled to dramatically slow down the disease to prevent further damage.  Since there are no symptoms until the later stages of disease progression annual checkups and early detection are the key.

If it has been more than a year since your last eye exam, give us a call and we’ll be happy to schedule an appointment for you.

Tips for Choosing Safe Toys

“You’ll shoot your eye out!” Anyone who has seen the movie, A Christmas Story, has heard this bit of holiday advice, but BB guns aren’t the only toys that can harm your child’s eyes. In fact, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), roughly a quarter of a million children are seen in the nation’s hospital emergency departments each year due to toy-related injuries. That’s why it is important to keep the following tips in mind when choosing gifts for your children this holiday season:

  • Consider your child’s age and maturity level when choosing toys. Brightly-colored balls, blocks and stacking toys are ideal for children of all ages. Stuffed animals, puzzles, musical toys and artistic playthings, like chalk, crayons, finger paints and modeling clay are also safe for most ages. These toys help children develop their creativity as well as their visual acuity.
  • Avoid toys that shoot projectiles or have sharp edges or small components. These include fishing poles, batons, swords, laser pointers and bright flashlights. Aerosol string can lead to chemical conjunctivitis (pink eye) and should also be avoided.
  • Provide supervision to children while playing. Inspect toys before giving to children, and periodically, go through your children’s toys to make sure they are in good condition and don’t have broken pieces that can harm them.
  • Unsafe toys may be recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. To see if a particular product has been recalled, go to cpsc.gov.

These precautions should help prevent injury to your child’s eyes, however, if you child does sustain an eye injury, do not allow your child to touch or rub the eye. Do not apply medication to the eye and do not attempt to remove any debris from the eye. If injury is caused by a chemical, flush the eye with water. For any eye injury, seek medical treatment immediately.

November is American Diabetes Month

dr k

November is American Diabetes Month

by Dr. Kyle Kelly


According to the American Diabetes Association®, nearly 30 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes. Another 86 million Americans have pre-diabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes increases the risk for many serious health problems, some of which affect the eyes. For example, people with diabetes are 40 percent more likely to suffer from glaucoma and 60 percent more likely to develop cataracts earlier than people without diabetes. A third concern for people with diabetes is retinopathy, which is damage to the blood vessels in the retina. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease and a leading cause of blindness in American adults.

Routine exams are important to everyone’s eye health, but diabetics should have a dilated eye exam every year. Smoking cessation, high blood pressure control, cholesterol management, and blood sugar control are also strongly advised to prevent eye problems.

Don’t wait for symptoms of eye disease to occur to make an appointment with an optometrist. Schedule exams annually, or sooner if you notice any changes in vision.