Thursday, August 22, 2013

SkyVision Blog Posts Now On New SkyVision Website

SkyVision now has a new website at the same address

SkyVision blog posts are now posted directly to the blog on our website!

Enjoy our new website and when you are there, Like our Facebook page too!

Friday, July 12, 2013

More Dry Eyes in the House/NY Times Article

Dry-eye syndrome is growing, and doctors blame smartphones, office buildings.

Click on the link below to the interesting article from the New York Times.

Why Are We Having So Many With Dry Eye?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Smart Glasses by OrCam Can Help Those Who Can Not See

The new Israeli start-up company, OrCam, has recently created a device that is getting a lot of buzz in the optical world as a unique and amazing way for visually impaired people to “read” the world around them.  The camera based system is designed to be of help for replacement or helper of eyesight and for the wearer to be able to read "easily" and move freely.  

While many other devices and apps have come out in the past which claim to help visually impaired people “see” better or translate any text that they encounter, most of them have had very limiting capabilities and didn’t quite work in the ways that they were promised. 

With the OrCam smart glasses, you go right to reading the different objects that are in front of you!  A small camera is attached to the arm of the glasses frames with a thin cable. This cable supports a portable computer than has been designed to be small enough to fit right into the wearer’s pocket. The camera system works by clipping it onto your glasses, then the wearer is able to point out different words or objects in their surroundings and the bone-conduction speaker on the device will read it aloud for them.  OrCam smart glasses are also designed to recognize and speak “text in the wild.” This means anything from a magazine or newspaper that a wearer picks up, to a diverse object in the area such as landmarks, traffic lights and the faces of your friends.

“What is remarkable is that the device learns from the user to recognize a new product,” said Tomaso Poggio, a computer scientist at M.I.T. who is a computer vision expert. “This is more complex than it appears, and, as an expert, I find it really impressive.”

The price range of about $2500 is quite attractive and makes owning the system reasonable for someone who wants the gift of sight.  The price is about the same as an average pair of hearing aids for an older adult.   

In the United States, 21.2 million people over the age of 18 have some kind of visual impairment, including age-related conditions, diseases and birth defects, according to the 2011 National Health Survey by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics. OrCam said that worldwide there were 342 million adults with significant visual impairment, and that 52 million of them had middle-class incomes.

Look for more exciting updates regarding this new technology.

excerpts taken from recent article by John Markoff/NYTimes and an EyeCare20/20 blog

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Dry Eye Disease Awareness Month

Learn more about Dry Eye

Skyvision Center is an accredited Tear Lab Dry Eye Center
In Partnership with the 

Sj√∂gren's Syndrome Foundation 
TearLab®  is proud

to bring awareness to this often

undiagnosed disease.

Please visit 


for more information.

For every LIKE in the month of July on allaboutdryeye's Facebook page, and Sjogren's Facebook Page, TearLab Corporation will donate $1 to the Sjogrens Syndrome Foundation.  Please participate and do your part to help raise awareness for this disease.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Restasis and Dry Eye

It's hard to believe, but if our math is correct the magnificent Dry Eye medicine Restasis is going to be 10 years old this year! It's hard to imagine any more how terribly difficult it was to treat severe forms of dry eye before the introduction of Restasis.

Dry Eye takes many forms, has multiple causes, and produces many different types of symptoms. Restasis has turned out to be a brilliant treatment for the inflammation that underlies a common cause of Dry Eye, not producing enough tears. Whether the inflammation comes first and causes the dryness or vice versa, a vicious cycle begins where one cause the other. Chronic Restasis use unwinds this vicious cycle and revs up a virtuous cycle.

Dr. White at the Dr. Whiteboard - Video

At Skyvision Centers we have taught our Cleveland patients for years that if Restasis is effective one must continue to take it in order to feel well. Thankfully, once it starts to work Restasis is a really easy eyedrop to use. Deciding what type of Dry Eye you might have and then determining what the best treatment will be is one of our strengths!

As an accredited Dry Eye center, SkyVision will help you to determine the best treatment for your Dry Eye symptoms.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Patagonia's Plant-Based Wetsuit

Interesting new technology to keep your "eye" on  . . .

The technology behind the eco-pioneering company's prolific green innovation

by Hans Aschim in Tech on 20 June 2013

With a committed mission to reducing their environmental impact, Patagonia has partnered with eco-friendly biomaterial firm Yulex to create the first plant-based wetsuit material. "Performance, natural rubber has not been used in wetsuits, ever," says Patagonia's director of surf projects Jason McCaffrey, adding, "the manufacturing process is almost entirely green." The natural rubber is made from organic matter derived from the little-known Guayule plant, which grows in dry, arid environments and produces terpene resins that act as a natural pesticide. Requiring few resources and rendered inedible, a rise in the plant's demand will not adversely impact food equity, as can be the case with some biofuels.
Once the Guayule plant has been harvested, it is mixed with water as a solvent for extracting rubber. "Traditional rubber plants and synthetic rubber production both use environmentally harmful solvents and create a vast amount of non-biodegradable byproducts," McCaffrey says. Yulex's Guayule-based rubber production creates only organic byproducts and uses only water solvents. As the plant pulp is mixed with water, the sap rises which becomes the rubber and, eventually, your new wetsuit. "The suits themselves are also biodegradable," McCaffrey says.
Patagonia has spent several years developing the technology, but they don't plan on keeping it to themselves for long. "There's no point—from an ecological perspective—to develop this technology and be the only ones in the industry using it," McCaffrey explains. Patagonia will share the Yulex wetsuit technology with all of the major wetsuit manufacturers in hopes of having the greatest environmental impact. "Eventually we want every suit from every company to be Yulex, but that's a ways off," says McCaffrey. Educating producers and customers about the traditional wetsuit production process is the first step in changing people's minds, McCaffrey says. For Yulex, their collaboration with Patagonia is just the beginning. "Yulex’s Guayule-based biomaterials can replace petroleum-based synthetic materials," says Yulex CEO Jeff Martin of his company's plan to expand into various consumer and industrial products—further illustrating the far-reaching possibilities for the new technology.
In addition to being far more sustainable than traditional wetsuits, the plant-based suits perform the same in terms of warmth, flexibility and durability as their petroleum and limestone-based counterparts. "We've given wetsuits to a few friends to test without telling them it's made from plants," McCaffrey says, "the only difference they notice is the smell." The Guayule-based suits naturally have a eucalyptus-like scent, a welcome change from traditional neoprene's peculiar chemical smell.
Keep an eye on Patagonia's wetsuit line as they integrate a Yulex blend into select suits this fall. Custom-made full-blend Yulex suits will be available from select flagship Patagonia surf stores in the coming months. In the meantime, enjoy today's holiday as International Surfing Day.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

How Do We Treat Astigmatism?

Astigmatism is an optical or focusing problem caused when one or more parts of the eye are shaped like a football instead of a basketball. This causes a situation where TWO points of focus are created inside the eye, and sometimes neither of those points is focused right on the retina (the part of the eye that "sees"). This makes your vision blurry.

We can correct astigmatism in several different ways. Let's introduce them today. Of course, the easiest way to correct astigmatism is to wear a pair of glasses. Your prescription will not only correct for SPHERE (nearsightedness or farsightedness), but also for CYLINDER (your astigmatism). For all but the most extreme cases of astigmatism a pair of glasses might be all you need.

There are two types on contact lenes that will correct your astigmatism, both soft (toric) and hard (gas permeable). Soft Toric contact lenses from companies like Bausch & Lomb and Acuvue are much better now than in years past, giving good vision and lots of comfort. Many people still see better with glasses but strongly prefer their contacts because of the freedom they have with the contacts.

We can also treat your astigmatism with Laser Vision Corrections like LASIK where we literally put the correction right on the surface of your eye. There are also new implants called Toric IOL's that can correct astigmatism if you have cataracts. We'll talk about these two things in detail another time.

So if you live in the Cleveland area and you have ASTIGMATISM, call Skyvision Centers in Westlake so that you can see how you can See What's Next(R)!!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

New Scientific Finding: Bright Light Causes Baldness!

At SkyVision Centers we are always looking for cutting edge medical advances. We are especially interested in new theories to explain the things that happen to us as we get older. One of our patients recently explained the cause of baldness to Dr. White.

"Don't shine that light inside my eyes too long Doc! Bright lights cause baldness. All that extra light has no place else to go so it just bangs around the inside of your head. Eventually it just fries your hair from the inside and your hair just falls out! Just look at me!"

Well, there you have it! And all these years we thought men inherited their baldness from their grandfathers. You just never know what you can learn when you go to the eye doctor's office!

Friday, June 7, 2013


It has become quite trendy to knock the pharmaceutical industry.  Everyone from the President of the United States to individual patients seem to have nothing but complaints about pharmaceutical companies and things like the cost of medicine, how much executives make, and how much profit there is in the pharmaceutical industry.  However, few people realize how often pharmaceutical companies give away their medicines, especially in the undeveloped world. 

Parasites are a scourge in the developing world.  Onchocerciasis was once responsible for blinding literally hundreds of thousands of people every year.  Elephantiasis caused gross thickening of the lower extremities, especially the legs, which resulted in chronic, unstoppable pain in the victims.  Both of these diseases are caused by a parasite called microfilaria.

The giant pharmaceutical company Merck makes a medicine called Ivermectin which was developed for other reasons, but works very well against microfilaria.  The people who are affected by onchocerciasis and elephantiasis were not able to afford this medicine, and their governments were either unable or unwilling to buy it for them.  So Roy Vagelos, at the time the CEO of Merck, decided that Merck would provide the drug free to the poor people who needed it.  Today, an incredible 200 million people on our planet, roughly 3% of the world’s population, take Ivermectin for free every year!

Did you know this wonderful story?  With all of the complaints about the makers of medicine it is highly likely that you didn’t. 

This is hardly the only example of drug companies giving away expensive medicine for free to the poor undeveloped countries.  For example, the manufacturer of azithromycin provides millions of doses of this antibiotic to poor Africans who are either afflicted with or at risk for trachoma, another potentially blinding medical problem. 

We at Skyvision would like to congratulate Dr. Vagelos and other executives like him who have done, and continue to do the right thing.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Unique Images to Remember

Every now and again we like to post some extraordinary images to remind all of us how wonderful it is to see! To have healthy eyes that allow us to enjoy our surroundings. At Skyvision we take pride in being Cleveland's first and foremost patient-centered eyecare center, working our hardest each and every day to bring you the very best vision you could possibly have!

Clark Little is a professional photographer who jumped into the ocean in Hawaii one day and came out with some of the most beautiful and unique ocean photos anyone has ever seen. Imagine seeing a wave from the viewpoint of Dorie from "Finding Nemo" (thanks to Barb for remembering the movie!).

Dr. White received these photos as remembrance of his 50th birthday trip to learn how to surf with his youngest son, Randy. We are here to help you see so that you, too, can enjoy beauty like this. Whether it's LASIK, or cataract surgery with a Lifestyle Lens Implant, or just the very best pair of glasses or contacts you could possible have, if you live in or around Cleveland we are ready to help you See What's Next (R)"!!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Vision Problems and Eye Health

How Do the Eyes Work?

To understand how the eyes work, it's helpful to compare the eyes to a camera. Cameras use a lens and film to produce an image, and in a way, so do the eyes.
Light comes in through the cornea, a clear tissue that covers the front of your eye. The pupil is the dark spot in the middle of your eye. It works like a camera shutter, controlling the amount of light that enters our eyes. When it's dark, the pupil dilates, or widens. When it's bright, the pupil gets smaller. Surrounding the pupil is the iris. This is the colored ring of muscle fibers that help the pupil change size.
When you look at an object, light rays enter your eyes. These light rays are bent and focused by the cornea, lens, and vitreous. The vitreous is a clear jelly-like fluid that fills the inside of your eye. The lens' job is to make sure the rays come to a sharp focus on the retina at the back of the eye. Think of the retina as the film in the camera. It's lined with light-sensitive cells, called photoreceptors, that capture, upside-down, the images in our visual field. The sensitive macula, critical for sharp focus, is the most active part of the retina. A healthy macula helps us read small print and see the images in our direct line of vision. When light rays reach the retina, they're converted into electrical pulses that travel through the optic nerve to your brain. It is there that the image gets flipped right-side up.

Vision Screening Guidelines

Guidelines for Adults

  • At least one test between ages 20 and 29 and at least two between ages 30 and 39
  • Vision tests every two to four years between ages 40 and 65 and every one to two years after age 65.

Guidelines for Children

  • Children five years and younger should have their eyes checked each time they see their pediatrician. Teens should be examined once a year.
If you are experiencing any vision problems, it's a good idea to get checked more often.

Protecting the Eyes & Vision

While we can't control the risk factors that make us more vulnerable to vision problems, it's important to exercise caution:
  • Know your family's medical history;
  • Protect your eyes with sunglasses that absorb 100 percent of damaging ultra violet rays;
  • Stay away from cigarettes which contain chemicals that can damage the eyes; and
  • Eat a healthful diet.

Types of Vision Problems

It's normal for our vision to deteriorate as we age. Here are some very common vision problems that can usually be corrected with glasses or contacts:
  • Farsightedness. This occurs when you can see well at a distance, but not close up.
  • Nearsightedness. This is also called myopia. It occurs when you can see well close up, but not at a distance.
There are some vision problems that are much more serious and can even lead to blindness.
If you have a family history of eye disease, you'll have a higher risk of developing vision problems. You may also have other risk factors like previous eye injury, premature birth, diseases that affect the whole body, like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or AIDS. The only way for you to know for sure if you have serious eye problem is by having an eye exam given by an Optometrist (O.D.) or an Ophthalmologist (M.D.).
  • Glaucoma. This occurs when the pressure of the fluid inside your eyes damages the fibers in your optic nerve, and causes vision loss. If left untreated, you can lose your eyesight altogether.
  • Cataracts. A cataract means a 'clouding' of all or part of the normally clear lens within your eye, which results in blurred or distorted vision.
  • Conjunctivis. This is commonly known as Pink Eye. It is caused by an inflammation of the conjunctiva. This is the thin, transparent layer that lines the inner eyelid and covers the white part of the eye. The inflammation is usually caused by a virus, and will resolve without any treatment. But, sometimes pink eye is caused by a bacterial infection and will require antibiotics.
  • Eye Floaters. These may look like small dots or lines moving through your field of vision. They're actually tiny clumps of gel or cells inside the vitreous fluid in the eye. They may be a sign of retinal detachment and you should call your doctor right away.
  • Macular Degeneration. This results from changes to the macula portion of the retina. The macula is responsible for clear, sharp vision. This condition can cause a blind spot in the middle of your sight line.
  • Retinal Tears and Detachment. These affect the thin layer of blood vessels that supplies oxygen and nutrients to your retina. Initial symptoms are eye floaters. This condition must be treated immediately. If it isn't, it can lead to permanent vision loss.
Early detection is key to fixing problems with your sight. Don't take your eyes for granted. Get them checked regularly, and tell your doctor if you notice anything unusual.

Age Related Macular Degeneration. Bethesda, MD.: National Institute of Health, 2009. (Accessed October 18, 2009 at
Vision Not Improved By Surgery for Complications of Age Related Macular Degeneration. Bethesda, MD.: National Institute of Health, 2008. (Accessed October 18, 2009 at
Vision Problems. Atlanta, GA.: A.D.A.M., 2008. (Accessed October 18, 2009 at
HealthiNation offers health information for educational purposes only; this information is not meant as medical advice. Always consult your doctor about your specific health condition.
Reviewed by: Dr. Supriya Jain, Dr. Preeti Parikh and Dr. Holly Atkinson
Last Review Date: 08/29/2012
Host Reviewer: Dr. Roshini Raj
Author: Ms. Audra Epstein
Copyright © 2013-2014 HealthiNation, Inc. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

What Are Those Spots In Front Of My Eyes?!

They're kinda like little bugs flying around, except there are no bugs there! Lots and lots of little spots in front of your eyes all of a sudden, and it seems like they are always RIGHT in front of your vision when you are trying to read. Or it feels like there's a spot just outside your field of view--is that the bug? You just can't shoo it away.

They're floaters!

Wait...what the heck's a floater, anyway? Well, a floater is a little speck of protein debris in the vitreous jelly, the jell that fills up the middle of the eye. The vitreous jelly (you may have heard it called vitreous humor in school) is very important for the development of the eye until we're about 2 years old. After that point it's really just there to cause mischief. One of the mischievious things it does is shrink.

The thing that make the vitreous a gel is the same thing that makes Jello a gel. There's a microscopic protein skeleton and as we get older that skeleton collapses upon itself. Little areas that used to be just barely microscopic are now just dense enough to be macroscopic. They form a little clump and VOILA...a floater.

So you've got floaters, what do you do about them? In time your brain will learn to ignore them. They become like background visual noise and your brain just ignores them, just like the old fashion elevator operator who didn't hear the elevator music any more because it was always there!

For some more information check out this Eyemaginations video here. If you DO have floaters make sure to get them evaluated at Skyvsion Centers.

Who Made That Eye Chart?

Buying eyeglasses in the 1700s was tricky: 

you had to diagnose the problem yourself and then pick the correct lenses. Some vendors  helped customers along by scratching ages onto their spectacles, so that a 40-year-old would be steered to “40” lenses­ — the assumption being that everyone’s vision deteriorated at a similar rate as they grew older

But these shortcuts no longer sufficed in the mid-19th century, as doctors began to understand that patients needed bespoke lenses.
At a hospital in the Netherlands, Dr. Franciscus Donders devised a method for diagnosing vision problems: he would ask people to gaze at a chart on a distant wall and report what they could see. Apparently too busy to make the chart 
himself, he enlisted the help of a colleague, Herman Snellen.

Snellen first printed up a chart with dingbats — squares, circles,
 plus signs — of various sizes, but that proved to be a bad idea. 
“When you look at a symbol, how do you describe it?” says 
August Colenbrander, a scientist at the Smith-Kettlewell Eye
 Research Institute who has researched the history of the eye
 chart. (It was probably easy to cheat, too.) In the end, Snellen 
realized that letters would work best.

The chart spread all across Europe, an instant hit. “The first big 
order was from the British Army, in 1863 or so,” Colenbrander
 says. “Obviously the soldiers who fired their muskets had to be 
able to see.” Soon after that, printers everywhere copied it. A
 low-tech solution to a complex problem, the chart has remained
 popular because it was cheap and easy to use. But widespread 
reproduction and success are two different things. The EFPTOZ 
chart (pictured here) has practically become iconic, undermining
 its medical value, Colenbrander says. A recognizable eye chart is
 not a very useful one.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Meibomian Gland Dysfunction Epidemic

Our Meibomian glands are just inside our eyelashes. They produce the oil or lipid part of our tears. The oil in our tears stabilizes the surface or the tears and prevents rapid evaporation. An abnormality in this layer cause a type of Dry Eye.

A video about your meibomian glands Video Link Click Here

Most of the eye doctors, and especially our own Cleveland Dry Eye experts here at Skyvision Centers, believe that we are now having an epidemic of Dry Eye and especially Meibomian gland disease. This is due at least in part to major changes in the U.S. populations intake of Omega-3 fatty acids over the last 50 years. These changes came about from government subsidies of corn, which is now the feed of choice for everything from cows to fish! This change in the diet of livestock and fish from grass and algae to corn is contributing to the frequency and severity of Dry Eye.

What can we do to reverse this? Well, we probably can't change U.S. farm policy overnight, but the doctors at Skyvision are convinced that everyone, especially anyone with Dry Eye, should be taking a high quality Omega-3 fatty acid nutritional supplement. For example, Doctors Advantage brand names "Eye Relief" or "Omega Shield" have the right combination of ingredients to help. Our doctors can advise you of what may be best for you.

Our vision, comfort, and even quality of life starts on the surface of the eye with our tear film and we would like to help you enjoy and feel your very best!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Glucosamine Supplements Tied to Risk of Eye Condition

HEALTHDAY Web XSmall Glucosamine Supplements Tied to Risk of Eye Condition
By Denise Mann
HealthDay Reporter
THURSDAY, May 23 (HealthDay News) — Glucosamine supplements 
that millions of Americans take to help treat hip and knee osteoarthritis 
may have an unexpected side effect: They may increase risk for
 developing glaucoma, a small new study of older adults suggests.
Glaucoma occurs when there is an increase of intraocular pressure 
(IOP) or pressure inside the eye. Left untreated, glaucoma is one 
of the leading causes of blindness.
In the new study of 17 people, whose average age was 76 years, 
11 participants had their eye pressure measured before, during and 
after taking glucosamine supplements. The other six had their eye 
pressure measured while and after they took the supplements.
Overall, pressure inside the eye was higher when participants were 
taking glucosamine, but did return to normal after they stopped taking 
these supplements, the study showed.
“This study shows a reversible effect of these changes, which is 
reassuring,” wrote researchers led by Dr. Ryan Murphy at the 
University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine in 
Biddeford, Maine. “However, the possibility that permanent damage 
can result from prolonged use of glucosamine supplementation 
is not eliminated. Monitoring IOP in patients choosing to supplement 
with glucosamine may be indicated.”
Exactly how glucosamine supplements could affect pressure inside the
 eye is not fully understood, but several theories exist. For example, 
glucosamine is a precursor for molecules called glycosaminoglycans,
 which may elevate eye pressure.
The findings are published online May 23 as a research letter in 
JAMA Ophthalmology.
The study had some shortcomings. Researchers did not have 
information on the dose or brand of glucosamine used, and they did 
not know how long some participants were taking the supplements.
Duffy MacKay, vice president for scientific and regulatory affairs at
 the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a Washington, D.C.-based
 trade group representing supplement manufacturers, said the findings 
don’t mean that people should stop taking the supplements.
“This research letter raises questions and introduces a hypothesis 
that should be explored further, but the small number of cases
 investigated and the [fact that] researchers did not count capsules or control 
for dose or intake or duration of use of glucosamine provide extremely limited 
evidence of harm,” MacKay said.
“This study should not change consumer habits; however, individuals
 with glaucoma or ocular hypertension who are taking glucosamine 
should let their doctor know so that the appropriate monitoring of 
intraocular pressure measurements can be done to identify any 
changes,” he said.
MacKay concluded: “The good news is that increased IOP was 
reversible. So if you take the product, and your IOP goes up, then you 
can stop taking the product to see if it returns to normal.”
However, previous studies have raised questions about whether 
glucosamine supplements provide any health benefit to consumers. 
A large recent study concluded it had no healing effect on arthritic pain.
The potential relationship between glucosamine and glaucoma is new
to Dr. Scott Fudemberg, a glaucoma surgeon at Wills Eye Institute, 
in Philadelphia. “The mechanism about how people can develop 
glaucoma isn’t completely understood, so how the supplements 
may play a role isn’t completely understood either,” he said.
While the study found an association between taking glucosamine 
and increased eye pressure, it didn’t establish a cause-and-effect 
The best thing that anyone can do to preserve their vision is to get
regular eye exams, Fudemberg advised. “Glaucoma can be treated 
with medications, lasers and/or surgery,” he said. “These findings 
pose a question about whether oral glucosamine can raise intraocular 
eye pressure, but it doesn’t provide an answer. More research is 
now needed before any conclusions can be drawn.”

Thursday, May 23, 2013

FYI: Can A Bionic Eye See As Well As A Human Eye?

It's the difference between a grainy black-and-white film and HD.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Do Women Have a Better Sense of Color?

We at SkyVision Centers, the premier ophthalmology practice in Westlake, Ohio would like you to weigh in on this!

Take the quiz and then post your color number and gender on the SkyVision Facebook Page!

What is your color sense- Your Color IQ

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Itchy Eyes . . . . Spring Allergies?

Spring is the time of year that we normally think of when it comes to seasonal allergies. As the trees start to bloom and the pollen gets airborne, allergy sufferers begin their annual ritual of sniffling and sneezing. Each year, 35 million Americans fall prey to seasonal allergic rhinitis, more commonly known as hay fever.
Although there is no magical cure for spring allergies, there are a number of ways to combat them, from medication to household habits.
What Causes Spring Allergies?

The biggest spring allergy trigger is pollen -- tiny grains released into the air by trees, grasses, and weeds for the purpose of fertilizing other plants. When pollen grains get into the nose of someone who’s allergic, they send the immune system into overdrive.
The immune system, mistakenly seeing the pollen as foreign invaders, releases antibodies -- substances that normally identify and attack bacteria, viruses, and other illness-causing organisms. The antibodies attack the allergens, which leads to the release of chemicals called histamines into the blood. Histamines trigger the runny nose, itchy eyes, and other symptoms of allergies.
Pollen can travel for miles, spreading a path of misery for allergy sufferers along the way. The higher the pollen count, the greater the misery. The pollen count measures the amount of allergens in the air in grains per cubic meter. You can find out the daily pollen count in your area by watching your local weather forecast or by visiting the NAB: Pollen & Mold Counts page on the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s web site.
Here are some of the biggest spring allergy offenders:
Box elder
Grasses and weeds
Perennial rye
Sweet vernal
Allergy symptoms tend to be particularly high on breezy days when the wind picks up pollen and carries it through the air. Rainy days, on the other hand, cause a drop in the pollen counts because the rain washes away the allergens.

What are the symptoms of spring allergies?

The symptoms of spring allergies include:
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Itchy eyes and nose
  • Dark circles under the eyes
Airborne allergens also can trigger asthma, a condition in which the airways narrow, making breathing difficult and leading to coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

How are spring allergies diagnosed?

If you’ve never been formally diagnosed with spring allergies but you notice that your eyes and nose are itchy and runny during the spring months, see your doctor. Your doctor may refer you to an allergist for tests.
The allergy specialist may do a skin test, which involves injecting a tiny sample of a diluted allergen just under the skin of your arm or back. If you’re allergic to the substance, a small red bump (called a wheal or hive) will form. Another diagnostic option is the radioallergosorbent test or RAST. RAST is a blood test that detects antibody levels to a particular allergen. Just because you are sensitive to a particular allergen on a test, though, doesn’t mean that you’ll necessarily start sneezing and coughing when you come into contact with it.

What's the treatment for spring allergies?

Doctors treat spring allergies with a number of over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Over-the-counter allergy drugs are effective for many people and include the following:
  • Antihistamines reduce sneezing, sniffling, and itching by lowering the amount of histamine (the substance produced during an allergic reaction) in the body.
  • Decongestants clear mucus out of the nasal passageways to relieve congestion and swelling.
  • Antihistamine/decongestants combine the effects of both drugs.
  • Nasal spray decongestants relieve congestion and may clear clogged nasal passages faster than oral decongestants.
  • Cromolyn sodium nasal spray can help prevent hay fever by stopping the release of histamine before it can trigger allergy symptoms.
  • Eye drops relieve itchy, watery eyes.
Even though you can buy these allergy drugs without a prescription, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor first to make sure you choose the right medication. Some antihistamines can make you feel sleepy, so you need to be careful when taking them during the day (although non-drowsy formulations are also available). Don’t use over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants for more than a few days without talking to your doctor.
If over-the-counter remedies don’t help allergies, your doctor may recommend a prescription medication, allergy shots, or even oral/sublingual immunotherapy. Prescription nasal sprays with corticosteroids reduce inflammation in the nose. Allergy shots expose your body to gradually increasing doses of the allergen until you become tolerant of it. They can relieve your symptoms for a longer period of time than oral and nasal allergy medications. Although they don’t work for everyone, in people who do see a response, allergy shots can stave off symptoms for a few years.
Some allergy sufferers turn to natural therapies for relief, although the research is mixed on their effectiveness:
  • Butterbur. The herb butterbur (Petasites hybridus), which comes from a European shrub, shows potential for relieving seasonal allergy symptoms. In one Swiss study, butterbur was just as effective as the antihistamine Allegra for reducing allergy symptoms.
  • Quercetin. This flavonoid, which is found naturally in onions, apples, and black tea, has anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown in research to block histamines.
  • Stinging nettle. The roots and leaves of the stinging nettle plant (Urtica dioica) have been used to treat everything from joint pain to prostate problems. Although some people use freeze-dried stinging nettle leaves to treat allergy symptoms, there isn’t much research to show that it works.
  • Nasal irrigation. Nasal irrigation with a combination of warm water, about a quarter-teaspoon of salt, and a quarter-teaspoon of baking soda may help clear out mucus and open sinus passages. You can administer the solution through a squeeze bottle or a neti pot -- a device that looks like a small teapot. Use distilled, sterile, or previously boiled water to make up the irrigation solution. It’s also important to rinse the irrigation device after each use and leave open to air dry.
Just because a spring allergy treatment says “natural” doesn’t mean that it is safe. Some herbal remedies can cause side effects or can react with medications you’re taking. Talk to your doctor before you start taking any herb or supplement.

How to manage spring allergies

It’s nearly impossible to completely avoid spring allergies if you live in an area where plants grow. However, you can ease sniffling, sneezing, and watery eyes by avoiding your main allergy triggers. Here are a few tips.
  • Try to stay indoors whenever the pollen count is very high (pollen counts usually peak in the mornings). 
  • Keep your doors and windows closed whenever possible during the spring months to keep allergens out. An air purifier may also help. 
  • Clean the air filters in your home often. Also, clean bookshelves, vents, and other places where pollen can collect. 
  • Wash your hair after going outside, because pollen can collect there.
  • Vacuum twice a week. Wear a mask because vacuuming can kick up pollen, mold, and dust that were trapped in your carpet
Reviewed by Kimball Johnson, MD on June 16, 2012

Monday, May 20, 2013

What Are Bifocals and How Do They Work?'r over 40 years old and you can't read things up close. Maybe you have to take your glasses off and you can read. Maybe you need those $3.00 cheapo glasses from the pharmacy, even putting them on over your contact lenses. But you're starting to get cranky because of all the on-and-off with the glasses stuff. What to do? It's time to talk about bifocals.

Bifocals are glasses that have both a correction for your distance vision on the top of the lens, and a correction to help you read on the bottom. The first bifocal was actually invented by Benjamin Franklin. Yup...the same guy who did the whole kite and key thing to discover electricity! Ol' Ben just glued the top half of one lens to the bottom half of another and created what we now call an "Executive" bifocal.

This very simple type of lens has evolved into into more modern bifocal lenses. The most direct descendant of the Franklin lens is the Flat-top bifocal. These lenses have a very large area devoted to your distance vision, with a smallish insert or segment that allows you to focus on objects up close. The working distance, how far away you can hold something and still be in focus, is fixed with this type of bifocal.

What about seeing things a little further away, say a computer screen? And by the way, I think those bifocals where I can see the lines make me look older. Isn't there some kind of newer lens?

Absolutely! The most modern bifocal lenses are called "No-line" or "Progressive" lenses. These lenses have a smooth change in focus from the topo of the lens (distance), through the middle (arm's length), to the bottom of the lens (reading distance). We say that there's a "column of clarity", a sweet spot for each working distance for our vision. This column is usually shaped somewhat like an hourglass.

Our favorite Progressive lenses at Skyvision are Varilux products like the Varilux Comfort or the Varilux Physio. We always try to match the strengths of a particular lens to your special visual needs. Our doctors and opticians are experts on making this match. If you are having trouble with reading come on in and learn all about bifocals!