I often see floating spots and flashes of light. Should I be concerned?
Spots, often called “floaters,” are particles within the vitreous humor, which is the clear, jelly-like fluid within the eye. They can take on many forms and consistencies and will shift position as you move your eyes. Floaters can be the result of trapped protein matter during eye development before birth, certain eye diseases or injuries, or a normal degradation of the vitreous humor with age. In most cases, floaters are not harmful and do not limit vision. However, sometimes they can be an indication of a more serious problem, especially if you are also seeing flashes of light. Retinal pathology, such as retinal tear or a retinal detachment, needs to be ruled out in this case. If you are experiencing new floaters, flashes of light, or loss of peripheral vision, it is important to seek eye care immediately. By examining your eyes with special instruments, your eye care professional can determine if your condition is harmless or one that may require prompt medical treatment.
How safe and effective are LASIK and other types of refractive surgery?
During refractive surgery, a laser is used to reshape the cornea to eliminate or reduce a patient’s prescription. The FDA has approved LASIK and PRK, the two most common types of refractive surgery, as safe and effective procedures. FDA clinical data have shown that these procedures are very accurate and that in most cases, the results are permanent. Less than one out of every 10 patients requires a re-treatment. Not everyone, however, is a good candidate for these procedures, so individuals should undergo a thorough screening process if they are considering refractive surgery. Basic requirements include having a stable prescription for two years, healthy corneas, no active eye disease, and being at least 18 years of age.
Is it safe to purchase contact lenses online without a prescription?
Contact lenses are FDA-regulated medical devices, and it is illegal to sell contact lenses to individuals without a valid prescription. Lenses should be prescribed by a qualified, professional eye-care provider, even if the contacts have zero power and will be used for cosmetic purposes only. Contacts come in different diameters and curvatures, which need to be matched to a patient’s corneal curvature. Ill-fitting contacts can cause serious eye damage and infections that can lead to blindness. It is also important to make sure that you order your contacts from a reputable source to avoid problems with contact lenses that have not been sterilized or stored properly and to ensure that you are actually receiving the exact type of contacts that were prescribed for you.
What is macular degeneration and is it hereditary?
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) results from the physical breakdown of the portion of the retina known as the macula, which is responsible for our central vision. AMD symptoms include blurred or distorted central vision and a gradual loss of color vision, or both. The more common dry form has no known treatment. The wet form may respond to laser procedures or injections of certain medications, if diagnosed and treated early. AMD can be hereditary in some cases. Recent studies of twins show that both genetic and nongenetic factors may play a role. Dietary and lifestyle changes – such as cessation of smoking, wearing sunglasses with UV protection, and good management of hypertension and heart disease – may overcome heredity. Certain vitamins and minerals may also help. Ask your eye care professional about what vitamin regimen is best for you.
(Originally printed in New Jersey Life Health & Beauty magazine)