2020 – The Year of the Eye

Clear Vision + Healthy Eyes = New Years Resolution

As eye practitioners we see a variety of patients that visit our exam rooms and practices each year:

  • The glaucoma patient that comes every 3 months for her pressure check, visual field or OCT
  • The contact lens patient that hasn’t been seen in 5 years because she ordered a half a lifetime supply of lenses online after her last exam
  • The diabetic patient who comes yearly because his primary care doctor reminds them to at each 6 month A1C visit
  • The spunky 6 year old who fidgets in the exam chair as his parents try not to answer the visual acuity letter for him during his first ”real” eye exam

ALL of these patients have 20/20 vision yet NONE of them have normally healthy eyes. Seeing clearly doesn’t mean that other underlying problems aren’t happening “behind the scenes” like:

  • A 45% decrease in field of vision because her glaucoma wasn’t evaluated and diagnosed until she had to have an eye exam after getting in a car accident – she didn’t see the car coming from the left hand side of her but still managed to pass her drivers eye screening last year
  • Recurrent keratitis resulting in corneal scarring in both eyes because she wears her lenses 18+ hours a day and constantly sleeps in her lenses but hasn’t been in for a contact lens check because “they feel fine”
  • Diabetic retinopathy from hemorrhages due to fluctuation in blood sugar levels that went undiagnosed and untreated because he can “see around the floaters” that started 6 months ago, so he “didn’t think it was a big deal”
  • Accommodative esotropia which is making it difficult for him to focus on reading, and spelling tests, which would explain the headaches he has been having and why he can’t seem to focus or want to pay attention when working on near vision tasks

Many eye diseases and conditions are preventable, treatable and even sometimes curable with regular, routine eye care and examinations. Yearly eye exams are recommended for most patients including diabetics, contact lens wearers, patients taking medications that can have ocular side effects, and should start during adolescence. Patients with ocular diseases such as macular degeneration, glaucoma and cataracts may need to be seen sooner for follow up care depending on the severity and complexity of their condition.

Most health insurance plans allow yearly routine eye examinations and some even cover contact lens examinations and evaluations. Those with a medical diagnosis should have medically necessary visits and follow ups covered by their plan, however some plans will require a referral first. Always contact your insurance company directly to verify that your visit will be covered, but don’t skip your visit if you are unsure! Call your medical provider and speak with their insurance verification or billing departments for assistance or insight on visits being covered or not. These medical professionals work with patients and insurances day in and day out and can be a great resource if you are unsure if your plan will cover your visit or not.

Don’t delay, don’t put it off, don’t reschedule…dedicate to clearer, HEALTHIER vision. Resolve to see 20/20 in 2020 with the healthiest eyes you can have.

“I opened two gifts this morning. They were my eyes” ~ Unknown

Resources:
AAO – https://www.aao.org/
AAPOS – https://aapos.org/
Mayo Clinic – https://www.mayoclinic.org/


Giving The Gift of Sight for 2020

 

Giving the Gift of Sight

December is the month of giving, and receiving. Traditionally gifts are given and exchanged as part of most culture’s way of showing love, appreciation and even respect. But have you ever considered giving the gift of sight?

There are so many ways to help others see clearly again or even for the first time in their lives. The doctors at Eye Physicians of Northampton are no strangers to volunteering their time and resources in the US and abroad, helping to restore vision to thousands of people in need, but did you know that there are ways you can help too?

 

Donate Old Glasses

Partnering with The Lions Club – All of our Eye Physicians of Northampton locations are equipped with donation boxes for old glasses. These glasses must be in full working order (no broken frames, or lenses without a frame) per the Lions Club. Donated glasses are collected, “tuned-up” (cleaned, screws tightened, nose pads replaced), neutralized to determine the prescription, categorized by power and then distributed to people in need of that prescription (or one very close to it). Our patients who have had LASIK and laser vision correction, or cataract surgery to correct their vision are particularly excited to make their donations after their procedures!

Become an Organ Donor

Healthy, donated corneas for vision saving transplants are in short supply. Many patients require corneal transplants due to corneal disease and conditions such as keratoconus, Fuch’s Dystrophy, dry eye, corneal injuries or infections. Together with Keralink, our corneal specialists are able to access screened and donated corneas, restoring vision, reducing pain & discomfort and improving quality of life to our patients. Registering for organ donation is easy. You can update your organ donation preferences when registering to vote, renewing your licence or state ID. For more information about organ donation please visit: https://www.organdonor.gov/about/donors.html

Charities We Support

Direct donation to a reputable organization is always another good option! Not sure where to start? Want to make sure that your money goes to the cause and not to the corporate structure to run it? Here are some of our recommendations. Why these groups particularly? Because our providers and staff have worked with these organizations closely, donating our time and resources. We get to see the good these non-profits create first hand and are proud to be a part of it:

SEESEE International

NECPNevis Eyecare Program

RAM – Remote Area Medical

Make it Personal

Know a friend or family member who is long overdue for a pair of new glasses? Think your active teen is ready to wear contact lenses and want to give them the gift of vision and independence from their current eye glasses? Tired of wearing glasses and wonder if laser vision correction like LASIK is right for you? Gift certificates to Eye Physicians of Northampton are a great way to share the love (and the gift of sight) this holiday season. Available in various increments – you can give as little or as much as you want. From simply paying a copay for someone who can’t afford it, to having the family chip in and surprise Grandma with Multifocal Cataract Surgery (because let’s face it…she deserves not having to wear glasses anymore!), Gift certificates from EPN are a great way to give the gift of sight right here in your own back yard.

So whatever the way, whatever the reason,

consider giving the gift of sight this holiday season!


Diabetic Eye Disease and You

Normal Vision

November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month.  Although it seems a bit counter-productive to talk about blood sugar levels around Thanksgiving, perhaps that is why the AAO decides to choose this month to bring diabetic complications to the forefront of conversation in and out of the doctors office.

Over 425 million people are currently living with diabetes, with almost 1 in 2 still undiagnosed, and as the 7th leading cause of death in the United States, diabetic eye disease is becoming one of the top diagnoses for optometrist and ophthalmologists throughout the world.  Although there are fewer than 200,000 new cases of Diabetic Eye Disease diagnosed each year, these chronic secondary complications due to diabetes can only be treated , not cured.

Diabetic retinopathy and Diabetic macular edema is caused by damage to the blood vessels in the retinal and macular tissue at the back of the eye, including formation of new or abnormal blood vessels. Poorly controlled blood sugar levels are the primary contributor to the retinal changes that can be seen with a dilated eye examination.

Vision with Diabetic Retinopathy

Early symptoms of macular and retinal changes include floaters, intermittent blurred or distorted vision, dark areas of vision, and difficulty perceiving colors. If left undiagnosed and untreated blindness can occur. Most mild cases can be treated with careful diabetes management including diet modification, medications and insulin with overseeing by an endocrinologist and/or primary care physician, but advanced cases may require  treatment with a retinal specialist including:

  • Surgery
  • Victrectomy
  • Laser Coagulation and Laser Surgery
  • Blood Vessel Growth Inhibitors
  • Steroid Injections

Diabetes can also double the chances of developing glaucoma. People with diabetes can also develop cataracts at an earlier age than people without diabetes. Researchers think that high glucose levels cause deposits to build up in the lenses of the eyes at a more rapid rate.  Diabetic patients can reduce their risks of developing diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and early onset cataracts with self-care regimes including:

  • Blood Glucose Management
  • Diabetic Dietary Changes
  • Refrain from Smoking
  • Regular Exercise
  • Yearly Diabetic Eye Examinations

It is recommended that pre-diabetic, type 1 and type 2 diabetic patients are seen for a dilated retinal examination on a yearly basis with an optometrist or ophthalmologist.  Early detection is paramount in diagnosis, and treatment of diabetic eye disease and in preserving the vision long term in diabetic patients.

To schedule your yearly diabetic eye examination today, please contact our office at (413)584-6422.  Yearly diabetic examinations are covered by most major health insurances.  If you are unsure if your visit will be covered, please call and speak with our staff, they can confirm coverage for your dilated diabetic examination with your insurance and schedule your next visit with one of our providers at your convenience.

Sources: Mayo Clinic, American Diabetes Association, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases


Halloween Eye Safety

When planning your Halloween costumes, did you consider your vision and how it will affect your eyes? Remember these tips when planning your outfits and reduce your risk of eye related injuries and infections:

  • Wear makeup and hats rather than masks that can obscure your vision. Never drive with a mask on as it can impair your field of vision and prohibit you from seeing objects and people around you. Be sure to keep makeup away from eyes, lids and lashes unless it is FDA approved for application near eyes.
  • Test the makeup you plan to use in advance. Put a small amount on the arm of the person who will be wearing it. If a rash, redness, swelling, or other signs of irritation develop where the makeup was applied, that’s a sign of a possible allergy. Check the package and make sure that you are wearing a hypo-allergenic certified makeup product.
  • Vibrantly colored makeup is popular at Halloween. Check FDA’s list of color additives to see if the colors are FDA approved. If they aren’t approved for their intended use, don’t use them. This is especially important for colored makeup around the eyes. Follow product guidelines properly, especially regarding instructions about application around the eyes.
  • Don’t wear decorative (colored) contact lenses unless you have seen an eye care professional for a proper fitting and been given instructions for how to use the lenses. Never buy contact lenses without a valid fitting and prescription from an eye care provider.
  • Don’t wear fake eyelashes or extensions unless they are applied by a professional asthetician.  Be sure to test eyelash glue for allergies before applying to your own lashes/lids.
  • Avoid pointed props such as swords, spears, wands and stick, brooms, canes.  They can endanger your eyes and others if not being used safely and properly.

Take good care of your eyes this holiday season and reduce your risk for scarring, infection, and permanent vision reduction or loss by following these healthy Halloween eye safety tips! Have a happy and safe Halloween!

Source: FDA.gov, CDC.gov


How to Maintain Your Eye Health as You Get Older

September is Healthy Aging Month and Eye Physicians of Northampton located in Amherst and Florence wants to provide patients helpful tips to encourage healthy eyes and vision as we get older.  The process of aging is an inevitable part of life but growing older doesn’t mean that you have to give up on your vision health. There are several easy and natural ways to improve the health of your eyes in your everyday life!

Diet

Diet and nutrition play an essential role in your overall health and vision. Consuming nutrient-rich colored vegetables, and dark leafy greens and berries which contain vitamins, beta-carotene, and other antioxidants really benefits the eyes.

Exercise

Physical fitness and aerobic exercise can reduce the symptoms of glaucoma, retinal degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy. Exercises for your eyes include blinking, rolling the eyes, focusing on objects up close and at a distance, and moving your eyes in a figure-eight motion.

Daily Habits

There are several healthy habits you can adopt in your everyday life. One of these habits is to take breaks from working long hours on the computer by looking away from the screen every 20 minutes, or even getting up and away from the desk every so often. When reading, always make sure that the room is properly lit to prevent any unnecessary eye strain. If you wear glasses, make sure that your prescription is up to date so that they are not causing your eyes more harm.

Rest

One of the most important things is to make sure you get plenty of sleep! Just like our bodies, our eyes require rest and they have to work much harder when they have inadequate sleep.

Eye Exams

Finally, it is crucial to have routine, comprehensive eye exams performed by your eye doctor. During an exam, your doctor does much more than determining your glasses or contacts lens prescription. Eye exams are critical in the prevention and early diagnosis of various eye conditions and diseases! It is recommended to get a comprehensive eye exam once every one to two years, and more frequently for patients that are at risk for eye disease.

To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call Eye Physicians of Northampton at (413) 584-6422 or click here.


The Importance of Back-to-School Eye Exams

 

With all of the preparation for the first day back to school after summer vacation, children’s eye health is often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of physicals, dental exams, and other services. A majority of the time, parents will rely on the vision screenings that take place in the children’s schools, but unfortunately, they are not as comprehensive as believed to be. Eyesight is an essential factor to a child’s success in school because nearly 80% of what we learn is through our vision. Poor eyesight in children can lead to eye strain, blurred vision, or headaches; not to mention frustration and not being able to enjoy learning.

It is important to understand that your child’s school vision screening and eye exams performed by an ophthalmologist are not one and the same. The screenings conducted at schools in America are very limited and several eye problems could potentially be overlooked. At school, children are usually only tested for distance visual sharpness. Near vision, however, is generally not tested. Certain problems that could go unnoticed are farsightedness, amblyopia (lazy eye), and “binocular vision dysfunction”- where they eyes are unable to align properly. A vision ‘screening’ is simply that: a general overview of your child’s eyesight.

While school’s vision tests are important, a screening is not meant to a substitute for a comprehensive eye exam. Children are constantly growing and changing, and so do their eyes. Make back-to-school eye exams a tradition and a part of your checklist each year. Call Eye Physicians of Northampton, with locations in Florence and Amherst, to schedule your child’s exam! (413) 584-6422 or click here to request an appointment.


How Smoking Affects Your Eyes

We all know that smoking has a multitude of adverse effects on our bodies and overall health.  But did you know smoking also has several negative effects on our eyes specifically?

May 31st is World No-Tobacco Day! The purpose of this day is to encourage people to reduce or stop tobacco use and to highlight all of the preventable health risks. Smoking tobacco in particular harms your eyes, increases your risk for eye disease, and can even lead to vision loss.

Among the eye conditions that are worsened by smoking are:

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
AMD is a condition in which the macula becomes damaged and central vision is lost, while peripheral vision stays the same. Studies show that smoking greatly increases your risk for AMD and unfortunately there is no cure for the disease.

Diabetic Retinopathy
This condition is caused by high blood sugar levels which causes the blood vessels behind the retina to leak or become blocked, which results in blurred vision or vision loss. Smoking is also said to increase the risk of diabetic retinopathy.

Cataracts
A cataract is the clouding of the eye’s lens, which inhibits the light from passing through to the retina clearly and causes blurred vision. Smoking can speed up the progress of cataracts, making colors look dull or yellowish.

These are just a few eye conditions that are worsened by smoking. Other conditions include glaucoma, dry eye, optic nerve issues, and uveitis. If you are a tobacco user, there is no better time than right now to quit! Invest in your long-term eye health. If you are experiencing any symptoms of these conditions, call Eye Physicians of Northampton at (413) 584-6422 or click here.


Cataract Removal & Lens Options

When we get older, the tissues in our eyes begin to break down and it causes the lens to become clouded. This clouding of the eye’s lens is known as cataracts and it scatters the light that passes through, causing blurred vision. If cataracts are significantly affecting your daily life, it may be time to have cataract removal surgery.

At Eye Physicians of Northampton, we offer a variety of cataract removal and lens implant options to choose from. Even standard cataract surgery is a fairly quick outpatient procedure performed at both our Amherst and Florence locations.

Basic Cataract Removal
Involves removing the clouded lens and replacing it with a new, clear
lens, resulting in good vision with the use of glasses

Eye Physicians of Northampton offers multiple lens implant options or IOLs for those that are wanting to be less dependent on glasses and are willing to pay for optimal vision correction.

Single Focus Lens Implants
Provides excellent vision at one distance, still requiring glasses to
achieve full range of vision

Lens Implants for Astigmatism
Uses a Toric IOL to correct both astigmatism and the cataract,
providing good distance vision and the use of reading glasses.

Multifocal Lens Implants
Provides clear vision at near, intermediate, and far distances,
reducing or eliminating the use of glasses

These advanced implants may significantly decrease your dependency on glasses! Call Eye Physicians of Northampton at 413-584-6422 today to schedule a cataract consultation to find out which lens implant is right for you.


Continuing Education, Co-Management, and Patient Care

Local Ophthalmology Group Hosts Continuing Education Classes for Optometrists in the Pioneer Valley

In a room filled with some of the best optometrists that Western Massachusetts has to offer, Doctors Shield, Shatz and Magauran of Eye Physicians of Northampton, settle in for an evening of informative lectures about their respective ophthalmology specialties. As attendees arrived, registered and began to mingle there was an air of excitement as they reconnected with colleagues and met new faces in the field. With 40 local eye doctors in attendance it was quite a sight to see…

Thank you for organizing last night’s optometry event. The speakers gave very relevant information and it was nice to chat with the five eye physicians and three optometrists in your group. It was also nice to connect with many of my optometry colleagues, and of course the food and wine were great! Thank you again for a delightful evening.”

Once everyone was situated with refreshments in hand, OD’s and MD’s alike found their seats and readied themselves for the presentations, providing 3 hours of free COPE credits to attending OD’s. As a part of continuing education requirements for optometrists in the state of Massachusetts, they must to complete 18 hours of Council on Optometric Practitioner Education (COPE) continuing education credits to keep current on yearly licensure. Most continuing education offerings are held in the central or eastern part of the state, so having complementary courses right here in Western Massachusetts was a convenient change to the typical “drive to educate”.

” Thanks for offering a great COPE program! It’s nice to have such quality lectures in our backyard!”

The lectures began with Dr. David Shield discussing Glaucoma and the role of Minimally Invasive Glaucoma Sugery (MIGS). His hour long presentation provided information about new and existing glaucoma treatment options and the variations of MIGS available in conjunction with cataract surgery. These treatments and procedures are medically necessary for patients with glaucoma who may be uncontrolled with topical treatment alone or have had unsuccessful prior surgical intervention. Left under-treated or untreated completely, glaucoma patients can become legally blind with no possibility of restoring visual loss. The local optometrists asked several engaging questions after the lecture regarding post-operative care, co-management of glaucoma patients, and long term results which Dr. Shield happily answered.

Dr. Lauren Shatz took the podium next with a 60 minute lecture and Q&A on The roles of Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery and Phacoemulsification in the eradication of global cataract blindness. Discussing surgical outcomes, ease, and necessity of both surgical cataract treatments, Dr. Shatz explained how he performs both variations of cataract surgery on his patients whether it be abroad on mission trips or stateside. Volunteering to provide eye examinations and surgeries throughout the world is one of his passions, and his experiences home and abroad led to sincere discussions about how local OD’s can volunteer their time as well.

The last speaker of the evening, Dr. Raymond Magauran gave a 1 hour talk on Ptosis and Dermatochalasis Management. The newest addition to the Eye Physicians family, Dr. Magauran is an oculoplastics specialist with a background in neurophthalmology. His lecture discussed evaluation, cause and treatment of several brow and lid conditions that often require surgical intervention. The attending optometrists had several questions after his presentation which also sparked discussion about insurance prior authorizations, documentation and approval procedures which proved to be useful to many in attendance.

At the end of the evening, OD attendees received their COPE CE certifications and eagerly asked “When’s the next event?”. Feedback since has been overwhelming and Eye Physicians looks forward to hosting more continuing education events for local optometrists in the future. Partnering with local offices, co-managing patients, and sharing information that helps the providers to better understand the ophthalmic process provides for better patient care. Eye Physicians of Northampton strives to not only provide quality care and education for their patients, but for optometric providers in the community as well.

“The program last night was fun and informing.  It was quite generous for the Docs at Eye Physicians to prepare and present this to the ODs in the Valley. Please do send our thanks along to the Eye Physicians Docs!”

“Thank you for the well organized program you put on for us optometrists! I can not imagine all the work, time and effort you put in to make this such a success! Looking forward to working with your office with my patients.!”

Education is not just about going to school and getting a degree. It’s about widening your knowledge and absorbing the truth about life.

Shakuntala Devi

 


Glaucoma Awareness and Treatment

What is Glaucoma and How is it Treated?

Glaucoma is a chronic disease defined by characteristic optic nerve damage. It is a complex and common disease, affecting over 40 million people worldwide. Glaucoma is a slowly progressive and irreversible disease and in most cases, causes a painless loss of eyesight.

The damage to the optic nerve is commonly caused by pressure in the eye, as well as possible decreased blood flow to the optic nerve. Lowering the pressure inside the eye can slow the process of optic nerve damage. The amount of pressure lowering that is necessary to prevent glaucoma from worsening is different for each person and each optic nerve. The more advanced the optic nerve damage, the lower the pressure needs to be to prevent further optic nerve damage and vision loss.

If your doctor has diagnosed you with glaucoma they have informed you that if it not treated, you may experience vision loss and eventual blindness. Commonly, eyedrops are used as a first line of treatment. In many situations, multiple medications are tried to achieve the desired pressure level. However, there can be difficulties with using eyedrops and laser therapy is commonly substituted as a first line of therapy. There are other alternative treatments available, but they generally have higher potential risk.

Recently there have been significant advances to better control the pressure inside the eye. Micro-invasive glaucoma surgeries (MIGS) involve bypassing the normal pathway for fluid to leave the eye. MIGS, including the iStent, CyPass, Kahook Dual Blade (KDB), and the OMNI are surgical therapies for patients who have mild to moderate open angle glaucoma. These surgeries are designed to improve the outflow of fluid from the eye, lowering the pressure inside the eye and reducing the need for glaucoma eyedrops. This helps reduce the risk of future vision loss from glaucoma.

Istent® and CyPass are implants that are placed in the drainage area of your eye at the time of cataract surgery. The implants stay in the eye to allow for lower pressure.
KDB and the OMNI are not implants, but are used to open up the drainage system in the eye to allow for lower pressure. These may be performed on its own or at the time of other eye surgeries.
Your surgeon will determine which one of these devices is best for you and your eyes.

All of these options are elective procedures. As your surgeon has discussed, these procedures are potentially beneficial in helping to lower the eye pressure and reduce the number of glaucoma medications that you take. If you decide not to have this procedure, other treatment options may be recommended and should be discussed with your physician to better control your glaucoma.

Contraindications

These procedures should not be performed in eyes with angle closure glaucoma, including uveitic (inflammatory) glaucoma. They should not be performed in patients with neovascular glaucoma or in patients with thyroid eye disease, Sturge-Webber syndrome or any other type of condition that may cause elevated episcleral venous pressure.

Am I a candidate for MIGS?

Only a thorough and comprehensive consultation and evaluation of your open angle glaucoma with an experienced ophthalmologist will determine MIGS candidacy. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Shatz or Dr. Shield, please contact our office through our website, or call 413-584-6422.