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Fall Allergies: Cause, Effect, and Solution

Seasons changing are often something to look forward to. Especially when the chill of winter is conquered by the warmth of spring, and the swelter of summer is subdued by the cool crisp of autumn. One of the downsides of changing seasons, however, is the allergens that come along with them. So, let’s talk the causes, effects, and solutions of seasonal allergies and how they can upset your eyes. The focus of this talk? Fall.

Causes:

Let’s kick this conversation off with a quick background of your eyes and why they can get the brunt of allergy effects. An article from WebMD gives a good explanation, stating that the layer of skin covering the front of your eyes is “…the same type of skin that lines the inside of your nose. Because these two areas are so similar, the same things can trigger allergic reactions in both places.” Typical eye allergies that affect your eyelids, the layers of skin that cover the front and the inside of eyes, are referred to as allergic conjunctivitis by your Doctor of Optometry (OD).

One of the most common allergy triggers that can bother both your nose and your eyes is ragweed pollen. Ragweed grows across the US and its pollen releases during the fall months, with its highest pollen counts in mid-September. While ragweed does not grow in every single state, it can travel in the wind for hundreds of miles!

Two other common triggers in autumn are mold and dust mites. The leaves that pile up outside your home as they fall gracefully from the trees provide a nice, damp breeding environment for mold. Dust mites are invited to frolic around in homes, schools, and other commonplace indoor locations once heat gets turned on in the fall.

You’d probably never guess how much two things that are vastly loved can play a big hand in eye allergies – body fragrances and bonfires. Have you ever noticed that being around a friend or coworker in the spring and summer is perfectly fine but come fall, you’re constantly sneezing and rubbing your eyes around them? This could be because the perfume or cologne they brand themselves with during the cooler months contains an allergen that irritates your eyes. While bonfires are a fun way to gather under the stars around the warmth of an outdoor fire, wildfire smoke can irritate your sinuses and trigger your eye allergies as well.

Effects:

The American Optometric Association shares that, “ocular allergies are the abnormal response of sensitive eyes to contact with allergens and other irritating substances,” and notes that eye allergies are, “one of the most common ocular surface diseases in primary eye care.”

When allergens come into contact with eyes’ mast cells, an important part of all immune systems, release histamines and other chemicals that can cause your eyes to become inflamed, red, swollen, itchy and watery in an attempt to fight off the allergen. These responses can also cause your eyes to become sensitive to light.

While we should thank the attempt, the response can be extremely frustrating! So, let’s move on to solutions.

Solutions:

Some solutions are very simple but can still be quite hard to do: for example, taking a hands-off approach. It’s difficult not to touch your eyes throughout the day, especially when they’re itchy, but rubbing your eyes can only make things worse.

A few other short term simple solutions include avoiding eye makeup, applying a cold compress to your eyes, and wearing sunglasses while outdoors to act as a shield against allergens.

You might also want to consider purchasing a dehumidifier and an air filter, switching your bedding from cotton to naturally hypoallergenic silk which also serves as an inhospitable environment for dust mites, and swapping your contacts with glasses when your eyes are suffering.

While over the counter eyedrops can also be very helpful and soothing, consider scheduling an appointment with an optometrist at Advanced EyeCare for a comprehensive eye exam to confirm there are no other causes for the symptoms you are experiencing and to construct a customized plan for you during the allergy seasons!

A Close Up of Presbyopia

Through each stage of life, from infancy through adulthood, your eyes and visual needs will change. One of those changes, and arguably the largest and most frustrating, will come in your early 40’s. Yes, we are referring to the need for reading glasses which is technically referred to as presbyopia.

Presbyopia is the gradual loss of your eyes’ ability to focus on near objects or tasks. The lens inside the eye loses its ability to change shape over time, which is necessary to focus at near. This is, unfortunately, a natural part of the aging process. Symptoms will include blurred vision up close, a tendency to hold reading material further away, or eyestrain after reading or computer work.

There are several ways to combat presbyopia, and the good news is, your optometrist can help!

1. Glasses

There are multiple glasses options available for our presbyopic patients. First, a simple pair of prescription reading glasses may help. With reading glasses in place, close objects will appear more in focus. However, since the distance prescription is now different than the near prescription, these glasses that were specifically designed to help with near, will unfortunately make vision in the distance significantly more blurry. This will result in a constant on and off with the glasses depending on the task at hand. Or, if there is also a need for distance correction, constant switching between distance and near glasses. For those who find this highly frustrating – enter multifocal glasses.

Multifocal glasses simply mean that both distance and near can be seen through the lenses; the top part is designated for distance, and the bottom for near. Even these come in two styles: blended or non-blended. The blended style is the most common and referred to as a progressive lens. The progressive lens gives clear vision at all ranges (far, intermediate, and close) and is more ideal for those who spend several hours on the computer throughout the day. The non-blended style is referred to as a bifocal. This style still gives distance in the top but has a small box in the bottom nasal corner of the lenses for reading. There is no intermediate/computer area in these lenses.

2. Contact Lenses

Several contact lens options exist for presbyopic patients as well! There are multifocal contact lens options which incorporate distance prescription as well as near prescription into the lenses. There is also an option referred to as monovision, where the dominant eye is set to see far and the nondominant eye is set to see close. Both multifocal and monovision contact lenses can take some getting used to, but after adapting, most patients do well with one of these options.

3. Surgery

Although traditional LASIK does not correct for presbyopia, LASIK can be performed in the monovision format – where one eye is corrected for far and the other eye is corrected for near. Since not all patients adapt well to monovision, it is wise to test this out for several months in contact lenses before opting for surgery. Furthermore, when it is time for cataract surgery, there are multifocal implant options now available.

4. Other Options

Hold tight for other presbyopic treatments in the pipeline! Vision focused pharmaceutical companies are working on clinical trials for the development of eyedrops to treat presbyopia. When this option is ready and available, we’ll make sure our patients are of the first to know!

Sunglasses: Protect Your Peepers

June brings with it, not only the first day of summer, but also National Sunglasses Day (6/27). In keeping with these two annual milestones, let’s chat about the importance of wearing sunglasses! Many people simply think of sunglasses as a summertime fashion accessory but don’t stop to consider the benefits of wearing the proper sunglasses or the dangers associated with leaving your eyes unprotected.

As you look for the perfect pair of shades, it’s important to remember that all sunglasses are not created with the same technology or ultraviolet protection. The sun’s rays, when unfiltered, can be quite harmful to the human eye. Thus, it is important to consider the percentage of damaging radiation that the sunglasses block. Ideally, you’re looking for a lens that will block 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation. This goes hand in hand with the next point to consider: coverage.

You want to be sure you are selecting sunglasses that offer plenty of eye and facial coverage, fitting your face shape or specific activity for which they will be used. This will ensure that minimal amounts of harmful radiation reach your eye, and that the tender skin around your eyes is protected. Proper coverage, along with a UV-filtering lens, can reduce the chances of skin cancer developing here. Those with light-colored eyes are even more susceptible. So, whether you’re planning on wearing the sunglasses every day or for a specific activity like running, hopping on the bike, or working in the garden, coverage is important!

We’ve all seen them: impulse-buy-sunglasses at the checkout counter, likely at your local convenience store or gas station. While these may seem like a quick solution to protect your eyes in a pinch, they could actually be doing you more harm than good. These sunglasses likely do not have proper UV-filtration technology, are often not polarized*, and are certainly not fitted to you by an optical professional to determine coverage. These sunglasses tend to simply shade the eye, still letting in that harmful radiation and glare.

*Polarization: the process by which a lens filters horizontal glare before it reaches the eye. This could come from the surface of water, a wet road, or a dew-covered golf course in the morning!

Summer is here, and we at Advanced EyeCare want to make sure you have the proper eyewear to keep your eyes safe while you have fun in the sun — and look great doing it! Schedule an appointment with us today at our Durango office, and we look forward to seeing you soon!

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Managing Your Child’s Distance Vision (Myopia): Click here to learn about new treatment technology from CooperVision® & MiSight®.

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