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7 Tips for Your Next Eye Exam
The eye holds a unique place in medicine. Your eye doctor can see almost every part of your eye from an exterior view. Other t...

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Will reading glasses make your eyes worse? The short answer is ‘No.’

Although we don’t know the exact mechanism by which humans have a decreased ability to focus up close as we age (a process called presbyopia), the fact remains that it will happen to all of us.

The leading theory of how this occurs is that the lenses in our eyes get stiffer and thicker as we age such that one of the muscles in the eye that contracts to change the shape of the lens does so less and less effectively because the lens itself gets less pliable.

The process of changing the focus of the lens from far away objects to up-close objects is called accommodation. If you have normal distance vision without glasses, then your eyes’ natural focus spot is far off in the distance. In order to focus on an object close to you, the lens in your eye has to alter its shape. The ability of your lens to do that is at its best when you are born and it slowly gets less and less pliable as the years go on. You have such a tremendous ability to accommodate when you are young that the slow loss of this ability is not perceptible, until you reach about the age of 45.

At around 45 the lens has lost so much accommodative ability that you start to have difficulty focusing on near objects. The impact usually starts when you notice that in order to look at anything small up close, you start holding it further away. Even though this decreasing ability to focus up close has been slowly getting worse since the day you were born many people feel like the problem has occurred very suddenly. We have many people who come into the office at age 45 telling us “all of a sudden” they can’t read. What has probably been happening is they have just very slowly been adapting by holding things further away until one day “their arms are too short” and then they can’t read easily.

That is where reading glasses come in. Some people just buy over-the-counter readers, which can work fine for them, but if you haven’t had an exam in some time it is much wiser to get your eyes checked first to make sure the normal aging process is the only problem. Once it is confirmed through a medical eye exam that there are no other issues, a reading glass is usually prescribed. Contact lenses are also an option at this point.

At the beginning, a low-powered reading glass is used. As time goes on, the lens in your eye continues to stiffen and your ability to focus up close continues to get worse. The result of that is that your reading glass prescription needs to get stronger, usually at a clip of about one step every 2 to 3 years.

IT IS NOT USING THE READING GLASSES THAT IS MAKING YOU WORSE. TIME IS THE CULPRIT.

The decrease in reading ability without using glasses is going to continue to get worse as you get older whether you wear the reading glasses or not. Trying not to wear the glasses and struggle along without them is not going to stop the march of time. You really can’t preserve your reading ability by not wearing them; you are just struggling needlessly.

Article contributed by Dr. Brian Wnorowski, M.D.

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Ask Dr. Stewart Your Eye Care Questions

What can be expected during a contact lens fitting?

A patient can expect to have a different experience when having a contact lens fitting. In addition to the eyeglass exam, questions will be asked to determine which contact lens will work best for them. Will they want to leave the lenses in their eyes overnight or will they remove them every day? Will they wear them only occasionally or will they be for everyday use? Do they want a contact lens that they throw away every day or do they want a contact lens that they have to clean and disinfect? If the patient is over age 40 and has a compromised ability to see up close, how will they see up close with their contact lenses? Will they wear readers over their distant contacts, or will they wear multifocal contacts, or will they wear monovision?

Are some people more prone to having Dry Eyes than others?

Experiencing dry eye symptoms is more common as we grow older, particularly in people 50 years of age and older. Hormonal changes in women who are experiencing menopause or who are post-menopausal. Inflammation in our body can affect the tear gland's ability to produce tears. Eye or health conditions such as glaucoma, diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren's Syndrome can be associated with Dry Eyes. Environmental conditions such as dry winter air, dry indoor heated air, working on the computer, and wearing contact lenses can cause Dry Eyes.

Are there advantages to single-use contact lenses? What are they?

Single-use daily wear contacts are convenient to the patient and a healthy recommendation from their eye doctor. At the end of the day, the patient only has to dispose of the contacts. There is no need to take the contacts out to clean and disinfect them. The patients time and money spent on solutions and caring for them are eliminated. Not to mention that the next time they wear a contact, they will be wearing a brand new contact! The single best recommendation your eye doctor can make is to recommend single-use daily wear contacts. They are the healthiest contact that can be worn. The contact lens pathology issues of wearing the same contact for two or four weeks such as neovascularization, microcystic edema, and bacterial infections are greatly reduced.

What is an eye infection?

Your eyes can get infections from bacteria, fungi, or viruses. Eye infections can occur in different parts of the eye and can affect just one eye or both. Two common eye infections are conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye) and lid styes which are swollen lid bumps that can also be painful. Common signs of an eye infection are pain, itching, or a sensation of a foreign body in the eye, photosensitivity, redness or small red lines in the white of the eye, discharge of yellow pus that may be crusty upon awaking, and tears.

What happens during a typical Diabetic Eye Exam?

Your Eye Doctor will evaluate the back of your eye called the Retina to check for leaking blood vessels. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when elevated blood sugars damage the walls of the blood vessels. The vessel walls may thicken, leak, develop clots, close off, or grow balloon-like defects called microaneurysms.

My eyes tear all the time. Why do you call it Dry Eyes?

Your eyes have extra tears because your eyes produce extra tears to combat irritation and dryness. A better way to describe Dry Eyes is tear film instability, which refers to the composition of your tears not being in the proper composition. Stopping eyes from producing extra tears is a goal in the treatment of Dry Eyes.

At what age should my child have his/her eyes examined?

If you ask 10 different Doctors you will get 10 different answers. Newborns have their eyes checked in the birthing ward for starters. From birth to age 5 their eyes are growing. At age 5 is a good time to schedule a regular eye examination, however, if any unusual eye behavior is observed under age 5 an eye exam should be scheduled at that time. Unusual eye behavior such as eye squinting, a head tilt, or having to get close to see.