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Essential vs. Non-Essential Eye Care

As we navigate new processes and protocols as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, you may be wondering, what’s the difference between Essential and Non-Essential Eye Care.

Essential Eye Care services include treatment for medical conditions, including urgent care needs that keep patients from carrying out their regular daily routines. These include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Broken or lost eyewear
  • Eye trauma
  • Vision loss
  • Contact lens-related pain
  • Flashes or floating objects in the eye
  • Light sensitivity
  • Double vision
  • Drooping eyelid
  • Severe or recurring headaches

We are equipped to handle your Essential Eye Care needs so you do not have visit the ER – which may put you at risk of exposure to infection while also potentially taking from patients with critical conditions having no other alternatives.

Non-Essential Eye Care services might also be called “routine,” and not impeding a patient from his/her day-to-day activities, such as:

  • Routine eye exam with no problems
  • First time routine contact lens fittings

As always, our top priority is always your well-being. If you have questions or concerns about any eye health or eye care services – reach out! We are here to help you in any way we can!

Wearing Colored Contact Lenses This Halloween? Beware and Take Care!

Countless adults, teens and even children will be wearing colored contact lenses this Halloween, but few are aware of the risks involved. Ever wondered what those cat-eye contacts are doing to your eyes? If you got them without a prescription, beware of health complications.

Enjoy a safe and happy Halloween by educating yourself and others about the dangers of wearing colored contact lenses without a prescription.

Why Can Over-The-Counter Colored Contact Lenses Cause Eye Damage?

Contact lenses made to change one’s appearance go by many names: cosmetic, theatrical, Halloween, circle, decorative, colored, or costume contact lenses. While it’s illegal to sell colored contact lenses without a prescription, authorities rarely enforce the law — which means they’re still accessible in many places.

Many people believe that wearing non-prescription color contact lenses can cause no harm. This unfortunate myth has led to many contact lens complications. For instance, when a person feels that a contact lens is “dry”, it could be because the lens is not a good fit. Ideally, the lens should follow the contour of the eye, and stay centered, with enough lens movement to allow tear exchange beneath the lens.

Bethesda Vision Care Eye Clinic and Colored Contact Lenses, Halloween in Bethesda, Maryland

Many eye diseases can be quickly and easily diagnosed during a comprehensive eye exam. If you were diagnosed with an eye disease, such as Cataracts, Glaucoma, Macular degeneration, Diabetic retinopathy, or Dry eye, you may be overwhelmed by the diagnosis and confused about what happens next. Will you need medications or surgery – now or in the future? Our Bethesda eye doctor has prepared the following answers to your questions about eye disease.

Furthermore, non-medical colored contact lenses are often produced by unlicensed manufacturers that tend to use inferior plastic and toxic materials, such as lead (often used in lens coloring), which can get absorbed through the eyes into the bloodstream. These illegal lenses may also contain high levels of bacteria from unsanitary packaging, shipping, and storage conditions.

Therefore, purchasing any kind of contact lenses without a prescription or medical oversight can result in a variety of eye complications, such as corneal abrasions, eye sores, conjunctivitis, other eye infections, vision impairment and, in rare cases, even permanent vision loss.

Even if you have perfect vision, all contact lenses, including colored contacts, require a prescription and proper fitting by an optometrist.

Contact us at Bethesda Vision Care and make an appointment with us to get properly examined for a contact lens prescription.

Local Colored Contact Lenses, Halloween in Bethesda, Maryland

Read what our patients have to say on Google Reviews

The Dos and Don’ts of Colored Contact Lenses

DO make sure you undergo a comprehensive eye exam by an optometrist who will measure your eyes and properly fit you for contact lenses.

DO get a valid prescription that includes the measurements, expiration date and the contact lens brand name.

DO purchase the decorative contact lenses from a reliable retailer (hint: they should demand a prescription.)

DO follow the contact lens hygiene directives (cleaning, inserting and removing lenses) provided by your eye doctor.

DO make sure to undergo follow-up eye exams as directed by your eye care professional.

DON’T ever share contact lenses with anyone else.

So don’t let an eye infection get in the way of your fun this Halloween. Wearing decorative lenses without a valid prescription can result in serious harm to your eyes, which can haunt you long after October 31st.

Get your comprehensive eye exam and contact lens fitting by an eye doctor in Bethesda at Bethesda Vision Care.

Call Bethesda Vision Care on 301-328-1300 to schedule an eye exam with our Bethesda optometrist. Alternatively book an appointment online here CLICK FOR AN APPOINTMENT

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Just in case you missed them, here are some of our previous blog posts :

Sjogren’s Awareness Month – Understanding The Invisible Disease 

Does Smoking Affect Vision?

Are You Ignoring Your Dry Eyes?

How To Prevent “Mask Fog” on Your Glasses

Summer Heat Wave and Your Eyes

This summer, heat waves with scorching temperatures have hit communities nationwide, making an already hot summer even hotter. With high temps and heat waves in certain areas, it’s now more important than ever to protect yourself.

For best practices and tips for maintaining healthy vision in the summer heat, talk to us at Bethesda Vision Care.”

How Can Heat Affect Vision?

Staying out in the sun too long can give you a sunburn and make you feel exhausted. Did you know that it can affect your vision, too?

If you get dehydrated, lack of moisture can make it hard for your eyes to naturally produce enough tears, which can contribute to seasonal dry eye. If you already have dry eye, extremely dry heat can exacerbate your symptoms of itchy, red, sore, and irritated eyes.

Do you sit in front of a fan or air conditioning system? That may feel great, but it can also contribute to dryer and less comfortable eyes.

To give your eyes some temporary relief, keep artificial tears on hand. If your eyes still feel dry or uncomfortable, contact Bethesda Vision Care.

Bethesda Vision Care Eye Clinic and Dry Eyes, Sunglasses in Bethesda, Maryland

Many eye diseases can be quickly and easily diagnosed during a comprehensive eye exam. If you were diagnosed with an eye disease, such as Cataracts, Glaucoma, Macular degeneration, Diabetic retinopathy, or Dry eye, you may be overwhelmed by the diagnosis and confused about what happens next. Will you need medications or surgery – now or in the future? Our Bethesda eye doctor has prepared the following answers to your questions about eye disease.

If You Love the Sun, Read This

Golden sunshine may sound dreamy, but too much isn’t a good thing.

The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can be very harmful, and your eyes are no exception. UV radiation, which can gradually contribute to eye conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration. Dr. Berenhaus recommends that you always wear sunglasses with 100% of UVA and UVB light blocking protection. There’s no shortage of trendy and sunglasses, designed with a flair for fashion, so you won’t have to compromise on style while protecting your eyes from dangerous UV rays.

Excessive sun exposure can cause headaches, blurry vision, eye pain, and eyestrain. So while you’re out at the pool, hanging out at the beach, sunbathing, or at a backyard barbeque, pay close attention to how much time you’re outside.

If you love the sunshine, you just need to protect yourself. Wear hats, sunscreen, and, of course, 100% UV protective polarized sunglasses. But if you experience discomfort or symptoms that don’t go away on their own, then it’s time to visit your eye doctor.

Local Dry Eyes, Sunglasses in Bethesda, Maryland

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Computer Vision Syndrome in the Summer

There’s nothing quite like a family road trip or flying to a vacation getaway over the summer. Yet something about being stuck in the backseat of a car or inside of an airplane makes kids feel closed in and restless. It’s then that many kids will play on a smartphone, iPad, or gaming device over many hours to help pass the time.

When it comes to kids and computer use, they’re just as susceptible to the effects of digital eye strain, also called Computer Vision Syndrome, as adults are. In fact, studies show that 25% of children spend more than 3 hours each day on digital devices.

In the summer, when the heat is sizzling, it’s tempting for kids to spend more time than usual watching TV, using a computer, or playing games on their smartphones. To help ease the effects of digital eyestrain, Dr. Berenhaus suggests following the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds to look at something at least 20 feet away. It’s a great way to counteract the effects of Computer Vision Syndrome and let the eyes rest.

This summer, however you choose to beat the heat, don’t forget to protect your vision and keep your eyes strong and healthy. Bethesda Vision Care is always here to help if you have any questions.

Have a great summer!

Call Bethesda Vision Care on 301-328-1300 to schedule an eye exam with our Bethesda optometrist.

Alternatively book an appointment online here CLICK FOR AN APPOINTMENT

FOLLOW US


Just in case you missed them, here are some of our previous blog posts :

Preventing Age-related Macular Degeneration

Are Your Eyes Sensitive to Light?

Published in The Washington Post

Understanding Eye Color

Eye Allergies

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You are not alone. Millions of North Americans are affected by allergies, particularly with seasonal allergic conjunctivitis (SAC) which is common during the spring, summer and fall. You might think that you are safe from allergies during the winter as well, but you can’t escape pet dander and food all-year-round.

Allergies will cause you to experience a stuffy, runny nose, headaches, sneezing, and even difficulty breathing. But that’s not all! Allergies will also affect your eyes. You could get red, watery, itchy and sometimes swollen eyes. If its really bad, you can also get allergic conjunctivitis (pink eye).

The same way irritants cause an allergic response in your nasal and respiratory system, your eyes also react with an oversensitive immune response. These irritants are not harmful to most people. In fact, the allergic reactions differ from person to person and can even be hereditary. Dr. Berenhaus and the rest of the doctors at Bethesda Vision Care have years of experience diagnosing and treating ocular allergies. They can prescribe a number of strategies and therapies to help alleviate your painful vision.

What Causes An Eye Allergy

Eye allergies, or any allergies for that matter, occur when the immune system is hypersensitized to a stimulus in the environment that comes into contact with the eye. The allergen stimulates the antibodies in the cells of your eyes to respond by releasing histamine and other chemicals that cause the eyes and surrounding tissue to become inflamed, red, watery, burning and itchy.

Eye allergens commonly include:

 

  • Airborne substances found in nature such as pollen from flowers, grass or trees.
  • Indoor allergens such as pet dander, dust or mold.
  • Irritants such as cosmetics, chemicals, cigarette smoke, or perfume.

 

Tips for Coping With Eye Allergies

To reduce exposure to allergens:

  1. Stay indoors and keep windows closed when pollen counts are high, especially in the mid-morning and early evening.
  2. Wear sunglasses outside to protect your eyes, not only from UV rays, but also from airborne allergens. Wraparound styles may offer more protection than others.
  3. Avoid rubbing your eyes, as this can intensify symptoms and increase irritation. When the eyes get itchy, it is difficult not to rub and scratch them. However, rubbing the eyes can aggravate the allergic cascade response, making them more swollen, red, and uncomfortable.
  4. Check and regularly clean your air conditioning filters.
  5. Wash your hands after petting an animal that you may be allergic to.
  6. Use dust-mite-proof covers on bedding and pillows and wash linens frequently.
  7. Clean surfaces with a damp cloth rather than dusting or dry sweeping.
  8. Remove any mold in your home.
  9. Reducing contact lens wear during allergy season, and make sure to clean them thoroughly at the end of the day, or switch to daily disposable contact lenses.

Treatment for the uncomfortable symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis includes over-the-counter and prescription drops and medications. It is best to know the source of the allergy reaction to avoid symptoms. Often people wait until the allergy response is more severe to take allergy medication, but most allergy medications work best when taken just prior to being exposed to the allergen and it builds up in your system, so it’s best to take allergy medication consistently according to your doctor’s advice, rather than “as needed”. Consult your eye doctor to find out the right treatment for you.

 

Non-prescription medications include: Prescription medications include:
  • Artificial tears (to reduce dryness)
  • Decongestant eyedrops
  • Oral antihistamines
  • Eyedrops such as antihistamines
  • Mast-cell stabilizers or stronger decongestants
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroids.

 

Immunotherapy which are allergy injections given by an allergist are sometimes also helpful to assist your body in building up immunity to the allergens that elicit the allergic response.

If no allergy medicine is on hand, even cool compresses and artificial tears can help alleviate symptoms.

Allergies can go from mildly uncomfortable to debilitating. Knowing how to alleviate symptoms and reduce exposure can greatly improve your comfort and quality of life, particularly during allergy season which can last from April until October. Finding the right treatment for your allergies can make all the difference in your quality of life, particularly during the time of year when most of us like to enjoy the outdoors.

Have you ever thought about how vision works? Seeing is an incredible eyeball drawinggift made possible by a system in which the eye and the brain process visual information from the outside world. If any step of that process does not function properly, vision will be impaired.

Similar to a camera, the eye transmits light from the world around us into an image that we can perceive. Certain parts of the eye even function like the different parts of a camera such as the shutter, the lens and film (if we can hearken back to the days when we used film in cameras). Here is a quick breakdown of the fascinating way our eyes and brain enable us to see and experience the world around us:

The Vision Process

Light reflected from an object in our field of view is gathered by the cornea which is essentially the clear “window” to our eye. The cornea then refracts the light rays through the pupil (the center of the iris where light enters the eye). The iris, which like the shutter of a camera will enlarge and shrink based on how much light is coming in, then passes the image onto the crystalline lens. Just like a camera lens, the lens in the eye focuses the light rays, projecting them to a point at the back of the eye called the retina, where the image will appear upside down. The retina contains a thin layer of color-sensitive cells called rods and cones that perceive color.

From the retina, the visual signals travel to the brain via the optic nerve. The brain receives information from both eyes and must then converge the images (and flip them right side up) to get a complete picture.

Vision Problems

A breakdown in vision can happen at any point in this process. From the muscles that control the eyes, to the parts within the eye, to the pathway to the brain. Sometimes vision impairment is due to technical problems with the eye receiving the information and passing the signal on, such as convergence insufficiency (inability to coordinate the eyes to converge on one point), myopia (nearsightedness) or cataracts (clouding of the lens).

Other times, the eyes might work perfectly, but there is a problem with the brain interpreting the signals it receives. In these cases we can’t “see” in the traditional sense, because our brains aren’t able to properly “read’ the signals or we don’t know what we are looking at. This is the case for some learning disorders that are caused by the visual processes in the brain such as dyslexia.

As you can see, vision is quite a complicated process. A simple vision exam isn’t always able to determine vision problems, especially in children which is why it is so important to have regular comprehensive eye exams, to measure the health of the eye and all of its parts.

Eye Complications of Diabetessenior couple in orange and white

It’s true. Diabetics have a higher risk of blindness than those without the disease. That fact coupled with the superior prognosis of early intervention, makes it easy to understand why optometrists and doctors say routine eye care is absolutely essential. Below, we’ll discuss what your eye doctor is looking for during a diabetic eye exam.

As the incidence of diabetes increases, it is important to spread awareness about the risks and proper preventative care for diabetes patients.

Diabetics are at greater risk of for a number of eye problems.

Diabetic Retinopathy:

Diabetic retinopathy is the term used for the disorders associated with diabetes that cause progressive damage to the retina. The longer a patient has had diabetes, the more likely it is that he will develop these conditions which can be very serious, vision-threatening complications.

There are two types of retinopathy: nonproliferative and proliferative.

Nonproliferative retinopathy, which is the most common form, is when capillaries at the back of the eye become weakened and may start to leak blood and fluids. Nonproliferative retinopathy, which often has no symptoms, can be characterized as mild, moderate or severe, depending on how many blood vessels are affected and becoming blocked. This type of retinopathy usually doesn’t require treatment and doesn’t cause vision loss, unless the leaking fluid ends up in the macula where the eye focuses – a condition called macular edema. If this happens, vision can be blurred and even lost so preventative treatment is essential.

Proliferative retinopathy is much more severe. This is when so much damage is done to the blood vessels that they begin to close off. New blood vessels begin to grow in the retina as a response to this deterioration. The new and weak vessels can leak blood, impairing vision, or can form scar tissue which can distort the retina or cause a retinal detachment.

Proliferative retinopathy requires urgent referral to an ophthalmologist for treatment. While it usually takes years to develop, some instances of proliferative retinopathy can occur within weeks or months if blood sugars are not well-controlled. Pregnancy can also accelerate proliferative retinopathy in known diabetics. Yet if detected early, treatment can be done successfully.

Like high blood pressure, there are often no warning symptoms until advanced stages of diabetes. It is best to get checked each year by an optometrist. If you experience any changes in your vision such as spots in vision, flashes of light, blurred or double vision (rarely pain), make an appointment with your eye doctor immediately. Treatments do exists for retinopathy and many of them are successful in repairing damage and sometimes even restoring vision.

Cataracts:

Cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye which blocks light from entering and impairs vision. While cataracts are a fairly common and treatable condition, people with diabetes are 60% more likely to develop the condition and often get them at a younger age. Those with the condition also may experience vision fluctuation which occurs from sugar levels affecting the lens of the eye. Cataracts often progress faster in diabetics as well. In serious cases of cataracts, a surgical procedure is done to remove the natural lens of the eye which can sometimes cause complications in diabetic patients that may already have symptoms of other conditions such as diabetic retinopathy.

Glaucoma:

Glaucoma is a serious condition where pressure builds up in the eye causing damage to the retina and optic nerve and eventually if left untreated, blindness. Diabetics are 40% more likely to develop glaucoma and the risk increases with age and the amount of time the individual has had diabetes. There are treatments for glaucoma including medications and surgery but early detection and treatment are essential to prevent permanent vision loss. Glaucoma is often called the “silent thief of sight” because vision loss often doesn’t occur until significant damage is done. Therefore, yearly eye exams are essential.

Cornea Alterations:

Diabetics may experience reduced sensitivity in their cornea. This means that contact lens wearers that are diabetics should be more cautious, as they develop higher tolerance if the lens irritates the eyes and may be at greater risk of infection.

Eye Muscle Disturbance:

More advanced diabetes cases can show restriction of eye muscle movement due to nerve palsy.

 

For diabetics, the key to early detection and treatment – and therefore preserving your vision – is to have your eye health monitored on a regular basis. Get your eyes examined every year by an optometrist and if you experience any changes in your vision such as spots, floaters, blurred vision or pain, make an appointment with your eye doctor immediately.

Blog_photo_10_26_15Beware this Halloween and think before you blink (in decorative contact lenses that is)! Sure, decorative contact lenses can enhance any Halloween costume, but if not taken seriously, they can also cost you your vision. Whether they are sold as cosmetic lenses, colored lenses or fashion lenses, they are anything but cosmetics – they are medical devices that must be approved by the FDA and properly fit and handled. Stores selling decorative lenses without requiring a prescription are breaking the law.

All contact lenses must be properly fitted by an eye doctor that has measured your eye and given you proper handling and care instructions. A poor fit can result in serious eye damage, corneal scratches, infections, vision loss and even blindness.

When purchased and handled properly, decorative lenses can be a fun (or spooky) addition to your costume, so go ahead and purchase them, but do it safely.

Here is the right way to buy decorative lenses:

  • Get a contact lens eye exam and fitting from a licensed eye doctor and a valid prescription for contact lenses that includes the lens measurements, brand, base curve, diameter, power and color as well as an examination date and an expiration date. When the lens is coming from a legitimate source, the lens supplier ensures it has not expired and that manufacturer takes care of the material and tracking bar codes.
  • Optimally, have your optometrist order the lenses or if that is not possible, purchase lenses from a registered store or online shop that requires you to provide this prescription to ensure that it is properly fit.
  • Follow the directions for cleaning, storing and wearing lenses.
  • See your eye doctor immediately if you experience persistent redness, pain or vision disturbances.
  • Important note: Many patients believe that a routine eye exam and eye glasses prescription is the same as a contact lens prescription but this is not the case! Many online companies do not advise people of the difference or do not adhere to the one year prescription expiry. This is a big concern for eye doctors because eye health changes can detrimentally affect contact lens wear. All contact lenses should be checked yearly by an eye doctor or registered contact lens fitter.

Contact us today to book a contact lens exam.

It’s Time to Be Serious About Home Eye Safety

The home can be a dangerous place if you aren’t aware of the risks thathouse_image surround you. This is specifically true for your eyes and vision. Nearly half of all serious eye injuries take place in or around the home and the majority of these can be prevented with proper awareness and precaution. Whether you are cooking, cleaning, tending to yard work or doing home repairs, it is important to be aware of the possible dangers to your eyes and to take preventative measures to protect them.

It is recommended that every household have at least one pair of protective eyewear on hand to use during activities, projects or tasks that could pose a danger to your eyes. While protective eyewear can reduce your risk of an eye injury by 90%, in fact, only 35% of North Americans wear protective eyewear during tasks that could be dangerous to their eyes. Such activities could include the following:

Use of dangerous or hazardous chemicals: Many substances, such as cleaning chemicals, are hazardous and can be the cause of serious eye injuries and burns upon contact. In fact, household cleaning products like bleach cause 125,000 eye injuries a year.

Proximity to flying debris: Particularly when working in the yard mowing, trimming, shoveling and clipping, debris and particles can be thrown into the air that can enter your eye. This goes for those actually doing the gardening as well as bystanders.

Using sharp tools: Whether you are dealing with shovels and clippers, or hammers, nails and screws, it is important to protect your eyes. Many eye injuries are caused by the actual tools which are mishandled, dropped or used carelessly.

Projectiles: Flying objects pose a serious danger to the eyes, particularly with power tools, nails and screws. Never use power tools without protective eyewear.

When it comes to selecting protective eyewear there are certain requirements that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established to ensure your safety. Our eyewear experts are happy to help you find the best eye protection for you and your family.

Bottom line: use common sense and be EyeSmart, especially if there are children around for whom you’re setting an example.

New Optometrist

Dr. Marc Levy, long time Silver Spring Optometrist, joins Bethesda Vision Care

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