Eye Care Tips from Our Doctors

Easy Treatments for Dry Eye

By Dr. Sheron Marshall

Dry eye can cause a lot of discomfort and irritation. Fortunately, there are treatments available! The range of treatments is determined by the severity of your dry eye.

Treatments include:
  • Blink more frequently. When focusing on a tasks like reading, working on the computer, or driving, we tend to blink less frequently.
  • Drink more water.
  • Place a humidifier in your home or bedroom.
  • Avoid fans that blow directly on your face, such as ceiling fans above the bed.
  • Sleep with TranquilEyes moisture goggles (buy on Amazon or drugstore.com).
  • Eyelid hygiene. Apply a hot compress on your eyes for 5 minutes followed by gentle eyelid massage twice a day. You may also use a warm, hardboiled egg or a potato that has been microwaved for one minute. Place the egg or the potato in a clean sock to protect your eyelids from high heat.
  • Consider using OCuSoft or SteriLid eye scrubs to remove matter and bacteria that collect on your lashes.
  • Artificial Tears: I prefer Optive, Blink, Systane, or Soothe because they improve tear film.
  • Preserved Tears (in a bottle) can be used up to 4 times a day. Do not use more than 4 times a day because the preservatives can be toxic and make your dry eye worse.
  • Preservative Free Tears (single-use vials) can be used as often as needed, up to every 15 minutes.

Smoke and Fire Damage to Your Eyes

By Dr. Sheron Marshall

If you are a resident in Colorado Springs, then you probably know how catastrophic wildfires can be and how they affect the lives of almost all residents located in and around the area. However, fire is not the only damaging element. While fire damages the area it touches, smoke can do damage hundreds of miles away from the actual fire.

The smoke from forest fires is made up of a mixture of gases and millions of tiny particles produced when wood, organic matter, and toxic materials are burned. These materials are released into the air and carried for hundreds of miles on even the slightest breezes.

The heavy materials in the smoke are the least damaging particles, because your body has a great defense mechanism to reduce the amount of toxins and pollution you breathe in. The tiny little hairs in your nose and your eye lashes and eye brows trap the larger particles and prevent them from entering your body.

However, these hairs can't catch the smaller particles. The microscopic particles are what get past your first line of defense and into your body. Again you still have a layer of protection, but internal layers are less effective and tend to result in harmful symptoms. When tiny particles get into your eyes and respiratory system, your body creates a layer of mucous and fluids to trap the particles and remove them. If the amount of particles is large enough, it can create a sort of traffic jam in the clearing out process which creates a build up leading to wheezing, runny nose, and dry, itchy eyes. Dry, itchy eyes can become dangerous if not treated.

The uncomfortable side effects of smoke exposure are comparable to those many experience during allergy season. Your body is trying to fight off all these foreign toxins, and meanwhile, your eyes may be swelling, secreting a mucous fluid, or suffering from foreign objects from the smoke. If this goes untreated, it could cause permanent vision damage. With allergies, your body can generally get most of the foreign particles out, but smoke particles are more toxic and cause more irritation. Some smoke particles may also be more adhesive allowing them to stick to your eyes and make normal flushing an inadequate solution to the problem.

Most who are suffering from dry, itchy eyes due to smoke exposure don’t realize how severe the damage actually is and go weeks thinking the redness will go away on its own. Some will use eye drops to try and clear their eyes, but they could be causing small corneal abrasions that can become infected and severely damage vision.

At Eye Associates of Colorado Springs, our doctors encourage you to be aware of your environment and schedule routine eye checks to avoid permanent damage from smoke exposure due to any type of fire, not just wildfires.

Wearing Prescription Safety Goggles is Important When Skiing

By Dr. Dean Carlson

Winter is the time for some skiing and snowboarding, and if you wear glasses, you probably know that how inconvenient it can be to have to wear your glasses under your safety goggles.

However, while goggles may seem inconvenient, our ophthalmologists and optometrist at Eye Associates of Colorado Springs want to assure you they are worth it. In fact, we would like to take a moment to explain why you might want to think twice before you decide not to protect your eyes when skiing or snowboarding. We’ll even offer an alternative to contacts and glasses to help you avoid those tough situations when you lose a contact during a fall, or, even worse, when you to take a spill and your glasses go flying, never be seen again.

Avoid Eye Injuries (40,000 usually don’t)    
When performing almost any outdoor activity that has you zipping down a hill out of control at a high rate of speed it is a good idea to wear protective eye wear.  An alarming 40,000 participants in outdoor sports receive eye injuries each year.  This can easily be prevented by wearing safety goggles.

Avoid UV Exposure
Not only do goggles protect you from blunt trauma eye injuries, but they also protect your eyes from harmful UV rays.  UV rays have been proven to cause cataracts, sunburn to the eyelids, pterygium, skin cancer around the eyes, and macular degeneration.  Snow also reflects UV rays 80% more than grass and dirt, increasing your eyes’ exposure to UV rays from 5% to 85%.  Protection from UV rays is just as important as the blunt trauma injuries because the UV ray damage is gradual and can happen slowly without detection without regular eye exams.

Look Into Prescription Goggles
If you need glasses or contacts to see and you don't like wearing them while skiing, Eye Associates of Colorado Springs offers prescription goggles so you don't have to go down the hill blind. If you are concerned about the cost of prescription goggles that you are only going to wear 10 or 15 times a year, think about the cost of reconstructive eye surgery.  The average pair of prescription goggles cost $150 to $250.  The average cost of reconstructive eye surgery can cost as much as $10,000.  Even worse, you could lose your eyesight altogether.

Not all prescriptions work for goggles. If your prescription is extremely strong, the curve in the goggles may cause distortion in your vision.  If this is the case, there are alternatives to prescription goggles.  You can have highly durable prescription glasses made that fit behind the goggles.

Have Fun & Be Safe
We want you to be safe on the slopes.  Come in to Eye Associates and get a routine eye exam and pick up a pair of prescription safety goggles.  We have the brands that you like.

Do you already have a pair of safety goggles?  Bring them in; we may be able to fit them with a prescription lens.

What to Know before You Purchase Decorative Contact Lenses

By Dr. Sheron Marshall

Decorative contact lenses change the look of your eyes and generally have no prescription to correct your vision.  Even though they have no prescription they are a contact lens and you should have an eye exam to obtain them.  Decorative contacts can permanently damage your eyes if you are not careful.

Decorative lenses go by many different names.
  • Fashion contact lenses
  • Halloween contact lenses
  • Cosmetic contact lenses
  • Theater contact lenses
These lenses can be a really nice addition to your costume.  They have lenses that make your eyes look scary, glow in the dark, and even make your pupils look like a cat's eyes.

However, there are some risks to wearing decorative lenses:
  • Cuts or scratches to the cornea (the top part of the eye)
  • Allergic reactions (itchy, scratchy, and watering eyes)
  • Decrease vision
  • Infection
  • Blindness

So if you want to wear them be safe and follow a few simple rules:

  • Get a comprehensive eye exam from a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist.  These eye doctors will properly fit your eye with contact lenses that are made for you.
  • Only purchase your contacts from a company that is licensed to sell contacts or purchase them from your eye doctor directly.  They order all their lenses from licensed FDA-approved companies.  If you purchase them from somewhere other than your eye care professional, be sure they request your prescription from your eye doctor that specifies your eye measurements.
  • Never buy contact lenses from street vendors, beauty supply stores, flea markets, novelty or Halloween stores.
  • If you haven't had a contact lens fitting be sure to schedule one with your eye doctor.  It is important you know how to properly insert and remove your contacts.
    Be sure to follow all contact lens cleaning and wearing instructions and NEVER SHARE YOUR CONTACTS WITH ANYONE.  If you put contacts in your eye that someone else was wearing you could spread infections or eye diseases.
  • If you notice any redness or swelling remove the contacts immediately and consult your eye doctor before attempting to wear them again.
  • Always verify that your lenses are FDA approved. Contact lenses are a medical device and are regulated by the FDA.

Buying contact lenses that are not FDA-approved can be dangerous.  The FDA has a stringent approval process with medical tests and trials to verify they are safe for your eyes.  Without FDA approval the contacts could release dangerous chemicals into your eyes.  This can cause ulcers, can scratch your cornea, or even cause blindness.  Here is a list of FDA approved contact lenses.

Whether you want decorative contacts to spice up your Halloween costume or to mix up your everyday look, we can help you. Contact us to schedule an eye exam and feel free to show up in your best costume; we will get the spookiest lenses for you!

How Valid Are Online Doctor Review Sites?

By Dr. Andrea Pikkula

As many of you know, it can be difficult to find a great eye care specialist when you move to a new area. The first step you probably took when you searched for an ophthalmologist in Colorado Springs was to ask your friends or neighbors.  This is definitely a great way to narrow your search, but it isn't the only way you should search for someone that is going to be caring for something so important—your vision.

 Once you have a few names of doctors referred to you by people you know, it is a good idea to go online and check out a couple review sites to see what other people are saying about these doctors.  Most medical review sites don’t allow anonymous reviews.  This means disgruntled patients or competition can’t write a defamatory review to destroy a doctor’s good name.  If you do find reviews on a site that allows anonymity, it is a good idea to read through all the reviews so you can weed out any that might be extremely positive or extremely negative. If you are reading along and spot a negative review for a doctor that also has a substantial amount of positive reviews, consider taking the single bad review with a grain of salt.

Many of the online review sites allow doctors to respond to reviews.  Some doctors take their time to read these reviews and either thank the patient for their kind words or ask the patient if there was anything they could have done to improve their visit. This is another way to tell if the doctor is responsive to their patient’s needs.  

 One last simple task is to check the optometry or ophthalmology practice's website.  Generally a website will have a great deal of information on the doctors.  It will give you their location, a little information about the practice, testimonials of patients, and often a biography of the eye doctor, including where they went to school, how long they have been practicing, and even their specialty.
With as many review sites as there are on the Internet, we have listed a few with a reputation for honesty and accuracy. You want to make sure your eye doctor in Colorado Springs is one you can stay with for life, so do a little research before you decide.

List of review websites:

  • HealthGrades.com
  • RateMDs.com
  • AngiesList.com
  • GooglePlaces
  • MDnationwide.org
  • Vitals.com
  • Drscore.com
  • YourCity.MD
  • Lifescript.com

Summary of how to find a good optometrist or ophthalmologist:

  1. Ask friends, family, & neighbors for an optometrist or ophthalmologist they recommend.
  2. Take the names & look for reviews of these doctors online.
  3. Read & compare the reviews you find for the doctors online.
  4. Check out the website of the optometry or eye surgeon practice before visiting them.

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