May is Healthy Vision Month. With spring being in full swing and summer just around the corner I thought I would discuss two very common concerns that my patients have this time of year. Many people who live in this region of North Carolina experience allergies with all the beautiful blooms this time of year. The other major concern is the increasing UV rays from the sun during the spring and summer.
The first common misconception about eye allergies is that oral allergy medicine takes care of the eye symptoms. Eye allergies often make the eyes red, itchy, and watery. Many people even experience a stringing white discharge in the morning upon awakening. This is often mistaken as “pink eye” because it can make the eye lashes sticky. Some people experience one or two symptoms or all of them. Regardless of how many symptoms a person has, eye allergies can be very irritating to the eye and sometimes it can affect vision or the ability to wear contact lenses.
Eye drops sometimes are necessary to eliminate the symptoms of itching, redness, and discharge. There are many prescription and nonprescription eye drop options. I recommend seeing your eye doctor to find out if allergies are the reason your eyes are red and have them direct you to the best type of eye drop for your condition. Simple things, like not touching or rubbing your eyes, washing your hands often, washing bed linens and pillow cases more often can all help reduce allergens around the eyes. For ladies, avoid sharing make up or sometimes avoiding make up all together this time of year can also help with severe eye allergies. If your eyes are really itchy and you want to rub them, but you know you shouldn’t, sometimes a cold compress or cold wash cloth can help to reduce the itchy sensation and will be much better then rubbing your eyes.
For contact lens wearers, limiting contact lens wear during this season may be necessary. Other times, making sure you are using a good contact lens cleaner and cleaning the lenses properly. Many allergens can stick to the contact during the day and aggravate eye allergy symptoms. For some of my patients, I switch them to a daily disposable contact lens during this time of year. This is a type of lens that is worn only one day and then thrown away. Each day the person uses a new contact lens and they do not have to worry about properly cleaning the lenses. Sometimes this modality is the only way to be able to wear contacts during this time of year.
UV protection is important all year round, but it is necessary during the spring and summer when the sun is more intense and most people spend more time outdoors during these months. Overexposure to UV rays has been linked to the cause of many eye diseases including cataracts, macular degeneration, and some skin cancers around the eye lids. According to the American Optometric Association a good pair of sunglasses should block out 99-100 percent of UV-A and UV-B radiation and 75 to 90 percent of visible light. Sunglasses lenses should be perfectly matched in color and free of distortions and imperfections. Many people report headaches or blurry vision while wearing some sunglasses, and it is often from low quality lenses that have distortions that make the eyes strain while looking through them.
When selecting the color of tint, keep in mind that gray tint is considered a color neutral lens and that means that it reduces light intensity without altering the color of objects. Gray provides the most natural color vision. Brown or amber colored lenses decrease light intensity while increasing contrast and are often better for people who have visual impairment. Polarization is another feature that can reduce glare and enhance color making sunglasses even more comfortable to drive in and are great for people who like spend time to near water.
It is important to remember that sunglasses are important in children and teenagers as well because they typically spend more time in the sun than adults. Sun radiation damage is cumulative, so wearing sun protection early helps to develop good habits for good eye health in adulthood. One of the best ways to make sure your eye stay healthy is to have a comprehensive eye examination every year.
Dr. Laura Young is the optometrist at Premier Family Eye Care in Indian Trail. For more information visit www.premierfamilyeye.com or call 704-821-EYES (3937) for your appointment today.