Linda Chous, O.D.





Pregnancy and the Eyes

Itchy, dry eyes? Could be allergies

Heart Disease and the Eye

January Is Glaucoma Awareness Month

Pregnancy and the Eyes

Posted by Linda Chous, O.D. – May 15, 2012

It's May, and time to celebrate Mother's Day. What better time to honor our mothers-to-be, and talk about how changes during pregnancy can affect the eyes?

Many pregnant women experience dry eyes and changes in their glasses and contact lens prescriptions that can make things uncomfortable and blurry. Dryness can be alleviated by drinking lots of water and using artificial tear drops that your eye doctor can recommend.

If contact lenses are worn, rewetting drops or a different lens cleaner or wearing schedule may be suggested. Some women will just opt for wearing their glasses more often, so it's a good idea for them to include an eye exam in their pre-pregnancy planning so that they have an updated glasses prescription that they feel good about wearing. If changes in vision are experienced during pregnancy, a visit to the eye doctor is in order.

Blurred vision could be a sign of more serious problems, like increased blood pressure.

We've all heard that a woman's lifestyle while pregnant can affect an unborn baby, but did you know that it can affect the baby's vision development as well? The use of tobacco, alcohol, and recreational drugs not only increase the risk of prematurity, but also the chances of lazy eye, crossed eyes and high refractive errors (near- or far-sightedness) in these infants. Making the right choices during pregnancy can contribute to a future of healthy sight for both mom and baby!

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Itchy, dry eyes? Could be allergies

Posted by Linda Chous, O.D. – March 30, 2012

Ah, the signs of spring! Flowers blooming, grass is greening?and itchy, swollen, red eyes! It's the beginning of allergy season, and there are many things you can do to find relief for eye-related allergies.

The most obvious remedy is to limit your exposure to the things you are allergic to. Wrap-around sunglasses can help protect your eyes to allergens in the air, especially on windy days. Many will resort to over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops, but the preservatives in some drops can cause additional allergic reactions. Some OTC drops only relieve symptoms and can make red eyes worse with extended use. The best action you can take is to visit to your eye doctor. She can prescribe medications that specifically address redness, itching, or swelling. Some drops only need to be taken once a day!

You may be surprised to know that there is another contributor to the symptoms of ocular allergies: dry eyes. Eyes that are dry can create a feeling that something is in your eye; itchy, burning or scratchy eyes; and blurred vision-many of the same things that are experienced with allergies.

Tears are a combination of water, oils, and mucus secreted by glands around the eye and lids. These tear components form a film over the eye to lubricate, nourish, and protect it. An imbalance is created if one of the tear components is either over- or under-produced. Dry eyes can result when you don't make enough tears or when the there is an imbalance in the tear film. Your eye doctor, with the aid of a special microscope, can examine the front surface of your eyes, the tear film that covers them, and your eyelids to determine whether your symptoms are due to allergies, dry eyes, or both.

To make things even more complicated, many of the oral medications that are taken for allergies cause dry eyes, as do some cold medicines, heart and blood pressure medications, hormonal changes, contact lenses, and medical conditions such as diabetes and arthritis. When experiencing dry eyes it is important to drink plenty of water. Omega 3 nutritional supplements are often suggested to help combat some of the causes of dry eyes.

Overwhelmed yet? Don't be. Your eye doctor will prescribe the appropriate treatment for the cause of your symptoms so that you can enjoy the season!

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Heart Disease and the Eye

Posted by Linda Chous, O.D. – Feb. 22, 2012

February is American Heart Month. Heart disease, often called cardiovascular disease, is caused by narrowed and blocked blood vessels that keep your heart, brain and other parts of your body from receiving enough oxygen rich blood.

This can be seen in the blood vessels inside the eyes as well. Your eye doctor can look into your eyes and detect signs of heart disease and high blood pressure. In fact, many times these conditions are first detected during a yearly comprehensive eye exam.

The damage caused by high blood pressure to the arteries and veins inside the eye is called hypertensive retinopathy. Studies have shown that the presence of retinopathy can be a reason for starting blood pressure treatment. Early retinal blood vessel changes have been noted to predict the risk of hypertension even in those with normal blood pressure readings.

People with signs of hypertensive retinopathy are at two to four times greater risk of having a stroke. They are also at higher risk of developing strokes within the eye that lead to blindness. A comprehensive eye examination can lead to earlier identification and control of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and their many complications. If your eye doctor sees changes in retinal blood vessels, he or she can let your primary care provider know that further testing is necessary.

How can retinopathy be avoided? By avoiding the risk factors associated with heart disease and hypertension. Smoking is one of the greatest causes of cardiovascular disease. Not only does it increase your chance of retinopathy, but also cataracts and age related macular degeneration. The sooner smoking is stopped, the better the odds of avoiding the consequences of loss of sight.

So when you gaze into your Valentine's eyes, remember that your eye doctor can look into your eyes and identify signs of heart disease and high blood pressure.

Wong T.Y. and Mitchell P. Hypertensive Retinopathy, N Engl J Med 2004; 351:2310 - 2317, ACK Cheng, et al. Smoking and ocular diseases HKMJ 2000;6:195-202

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January Is Glaucoma Awareness Month

Posted by Linda Chous, O.D. – Jan. 24, 2012

Welcome to my first monthly blog about vision and eye care topics. I want to first thank the Source4Women online community for giving me the opportunity to write about eye health, which is an important part of your overall health. And, in case you didn't know it, January is National Glaucoma Awareness month, so this is an excellent time to think about scheduling an eye exam. I'm going to fill you in on this vision-threatening disease.

With virtually no warning signs or symptoms, the most common form of glaucoma is the nation's leading cause of preventable blindness. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, primary open angle glaucoma (also known as POAG) affects about 2.2 million people in the United States. It is expected that the number will increase to 3.3 million by 2020. Studies have reported that more than half of those with glaucoma are have yet to be diagnosed.

So what is glaucoma? There is a fluid that is constantly being produced inside the eye. The fluid is meant to drain into a tiny canal. In some cases either too much fluid is formed or the canal doesn't drain properly. This creates an increase in pressure within the eye. Glaucoma occurs when the increase in pressure, over time, damages the nerves within the eye that enable us to see. In POAG, this pressure causes no sensation or pain. Since the early stages of the disease affects only side vision, the damage may go unnoticed.

The only way glaucoma can be diagnosed is through a comprehensive eye exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. During a regularly scheduled eye exam, the eye doctor will not only routinely check the pressure of the eyes, but also examine the optic nerve which can show damage due to glaucoma even if eye pressure appears normal. The doctor will look at other structures within the eye that can indicate the possibility of glaucoma in the future. Other measurements and pictures may be taken of the eye to record glaucomatous damage.

The exact cause is still unknown, but some people have a higher risk for developing glaucoma, including:

  • People older than age 60
  • African-Americans older than age 40
  • Those with a family history
  • People who have suffered an eye injury
  • People with diabetes
  • Those who take certain medications, such as corticosteroids

In addition to POAG, there are several other types of glaucoma. Acute Angle Closure Glaucoma has a sudden onset, accompanied by severe pain and more immediate loss of vision. Congenital Glaucoma develops in infants and children, often inherited. Secondary Glaucoma can be caused by an eye injury, medical condition or medications. In Normal-tension Glaucoma, the eye pressure is considered to be the "normal" range, but there is optic nerve damage that suggests the presence of the disease.

Once the damage to the nerves within the eye occurs, it cannot be reversed. If the condition is caught early and treated, the damage can be stopped and vision can be saved. Treatment usually begins with eye drops that lower the pressure inside the eye. Depending on the type and severity of the disease, treatment may also include surgery or laser therapy.

Early detection and treatment of glaucoma can protect your vision. Persons who have risk factors for glaucoma should see an eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam. Adults with no symptoms or risk factors for eye disease should have a comprehensive eye exam before age 40, which is when the early signs of disease may start to occur. People aged 65 years or older should have an eye exam every one to two years, as recommended by their eye doctor.

Thanks for reading! Please feel free to comment. I look forward to more conversations about eye health in the future!

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