CONTACT LENS INFECTIONS?
Question: I recently read that keeping extended-wear contact lens-es in place overnight leads to increased risk of infection. I have been keeping my lenses in for a week at a time. Is that unsafe?
Answer: It may be. Extended-wear contact lens users are 10 to 15 times more likely than daily-wear users to develop corneal ulcers, which can become infected. In general, the risk increases with the length of time you wear your lenses, beginning with the first night’s use. It is much safer to remove contact lenses daily, then clean and sterilize them each night.
HOMEMADE SALINE: SAFE WHEN HOT
Question: Is there really any danger in mixing my own saline solution for contact-lens use? I make mine once a week.
Answer: Homemade saline is safe to use only for heat-disinfecting your lenses. The heat kills any microbes that may contaminate the solution, which has no preservatives. Using homemade saline for other purposes, such as rinsing lenses, has been linked to a rare but severe corneal infection caused by an amoeba. The infection is difficult to treat and can cause blindness in the affected eye. In one study, 21 of 27 infected lens wearers had made their own saline.
Question: When a physician has determined that a 65-year-old patient has macular degeneration, does that mean eventual blindness? How fast does the condition progress, and is any treatment effective in slowing it down? Are there any support groups?
Answer: Degeneration of the macula, a small, oval area near the center of the retina, impairs central visual acuity and color vision. The condition generally starts in a relatively benign “dry” form, but in more severe cases progresses to a sight-threatening “wet” form in which abnormal blood vessels under the retina leak, causing fluid to accumulate under the central retina. This process results in distorted images and blind spots accompanied by reduced visual acuity.
Progression of the disease is extremely variable, and the degree of visual loss depends on the location and extent of the damage. When deterioration is severe in both eyes, a person may become “legally blind”: Reading is difficult, and driving isn’t permitted. But peripheral vision is usually unaffected, and most daily activities can be maintained. In some cases, laser therapy can halt macular degeneration by sealing the leaking blood vessels. Some eye-care professionals recommend zinc supplements and antioxidant vitamins to stem the disease, but thus far, there is no hard evidence to support that approach.
The Association for Macular Diseases, which has a newsletter and a members’ hotline, can inform you about support groups in your area. The address is 210 East 64th Street, New York, N.Y. 10021; 212 605-3719. The Lighthouse National Center for Vision and Aging can also refer you to support groups. Call 800 334-5497.
Question: A few years ago my doctor prescribed twice-a-day. Betoptic eyedrops for incipient glaucoma. However, I’ve read 1 that some glaucoma medications can affect the heart or lungs. Is Betoptic one of them?
Answer: Betaxolol (Betoptic) is one of a group of medications ] called beta-blockers, which interfere with the action of adrenaline 1 (epinephrine). That hormone, produced by the adrenal glands, 1 helps control the heart rate and blood pressure. While beta-blockers ] taken orally can slow the heart and constrict bronchial tubes in the I lungs, Betoptic eye drops are much less likely to produce those side I effects. However if you have a history of asthma or any other lung 1 disease, or congestive heart failure, your physician should monitor I you carefully to ensure that the eyedrops do not make your disor-der worse.
Question: Now that I’m over 40, is there any reason why I shouldn’t use ready-to-wear reading glasses?
Answer: Go right ahead, if they’re comfortable. Store-bought reading glasses are perfectly safe—and they’re quite inexpensive. Such glasses work fine for most people with presbyopia (farsightedness due to aging eyes).
However, you may need to switch to customized prescription lenses if you notice signs of eyestrain, such as headaches or tired eyes. Be sure to have an eye examination every two years or so after age 45 to ensure that your eyes stay healthy.
SPOTS BEFORE YOUR EYES
Question: For several years, I’ve noticed small, gray spots in my vision. They don’t prevent me from reading or seeing clearly, but they’re annoying. My optometrist says there’s no cure and not to worry. Should I do anything more about the problem?
Answer: Your optometrist may be right, but you should still be evaluated by an ophthalmologist, a medical doctor who has more training in the diagnosis of eye diseases. The spots you describe are probably just harmless “floaters,” but they could also signal other problems.
MORE SPOTS BEFORE YOUR EYES
Question: My husband has a large gray floater in his left eye. Are there any medications or herbs that will dissolve the floater, or is there an operation that can remove it?
Answer: No. Floaters are tiny condensations in the vitreous, the jellylike substance inside the eye; they appear as tiny clumps or strands that float in the field of vision. While some j floaters last for years, many fade with time and become more tolerable. Your husband could try repeatedly moving his eyes j around, to shake up the vitreous and possibly push the floater \ out of his field of vision. Note that in rare cases the retina may tear as the vitreous pulls away. So anyone who experiences a sudden increase in the number of floaters, particularly if they’re accompanied by sudden flashes of light, should see an ophthalmologist.
Question: My eyelid flutters several times a day for 10 to 20 seconds. What causes this, and is there anything I can do to stop it?
Answer: No one knows for sure what causes twitching of the eyelid. Some doctors believe that rest and stress reduction may help. Sometimes pressing on the twitchy area for a few seconds provides temporary relief. If it hasn’t gone away after three or four weeks, though, consult an eye-care specialist.
Question: I’ve read that even clear plastic sunglass lenses block most ultraviolet light. Does that mean that my clear plastic prescription eyeglasses provide all the UV protection I need?
Answer: Probably. Only people who are at high risk of developing eye damage need to wear lenses with a special coating that blocks additional ultraviolet light. This includes people who spend large amounts of time in the sun; those who have had cataracts removed without the insertion of an artificial lens; and those who take certain medications, such as allo-purinol (Lopurin, Zyloprim), phenothiazine compounds (Compazine, Thorazine), psoralen drugs (Oxsoralen- Ultra, Trisoralen), tretinoin (Retin-A, Renova), or the antibiotics doxycycline or tetracycline.
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