Many people participate in Vision plans, Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) or Health Savings Accounts (HSA) through their employers. Many vision benefits and flexible spending accounts (FSA) offer benefits that expire at the end of every year. This means that if you do not USE the money by the end of your benefits year (usually December 31st) you will LOSE it. In most cases, unused benefits cannot be transferred over to the New Year (usually beginning January 1st). Most vision insurance plans entitle you to annual comprehensive eye examination and either an allowance or discounts toward eyewear or contact lenses each year. Have you taken advantage of these benefits this year? If you are not sure of the date of your last comprehensive eye examination, please call us and we can look it up for you.
What is Solar Retinopathy?
The name given to eye damage which has been caused by looking directly at the sun is solar retinopathy. The recent eclipse has brought attention the harmful effects of viewing the sun without proper viewing devices.
Your eye has an opening at the front (pupil) and a lens which adjusts to focus images you are looking at onto the retina at the back of the eye. The retina is made up of delicate tissue that is sensitive to light. Solar retinopathy occurs when the harmful radiation from the sun reaches the eye and is concentrated by the lens onto the retina. This burns the retina and destroys the cells that enable you to see.
How do I know if I have solar retinopathy?
As there are no pain-sensing nerves in the retina you will not feel any pain while the damage is being caused. Some hours after the event you may experience the following symptoms:
- eyes may become watery and sore
- difficulty in seeing shape and detail of objects
- discomfort with bright light
- a blind spot in your central vision
- things may appear to be unusually coloured
- objects may be distorted in shape
What do I do now?
In the first instance, go to your local optometrist, the eye specialist found in the high street optician’s shop. Unfortunately, there are no treatments currently available, however the optometrist will be able to advise you on the extent of your particular eye damage and assess and monitor your condition. The optometrist can also refer you on to other specialists if necessary. Alternatively, visit your physicians office to get proper referral of care.
Is the damage permanent?
If the damage is mild, your eyesight may return to normal after a time when the swelling at the back of the eye is reduced. The length of time varies with each individual and the extent of the damage. The eye specialist will advise you on how to reduce the discomfort while the swelling goes down.
Unfortunately, if the damage is more severe, your eyesight may be permanently affected. It is only through monitoring of your sight over a period of weeks that the eye specialist will be able to assess the extent of the long-term damage.
What if my sight cannot be fully restored?
If your sight has been permanently affected, much can be done to help you adjust and use your remaining vision as fully as possible. Services on offer vary in different areas and you should ask your eye specialist to discuss the available options with you.
We hope that you enjoyed viewing the recent solar eclipse. If you, or anyone you know has any symptoms of solar retinopathy from improper viewing, please encourage them to see an eye doctor as soon as possible.
Are you protecting your eyes from harmful UV exposure?
The sun’s ultraviolet rays pose a significant risk not just to your skin but also to your vision. That’s right. No matter the season, solar radiation can harm your eyes, and other components of those UV rays can lead to serious eye health and vision problems. Despite these health risks and warnings, only 40 percent of Americans cite protection from sun damage as their main reason for wearing sunglasses.
Extended exposure to the sun’s UV rays has been linked to eye damage, including cataracts, macular degeneration, pingueculae, pterygia and photokeratitis.
We recommend that you schedule a comprehensive eye exam at least every two years. Such visits are a good investment to monitor your eye health, maintain good vision, track UV protection needs and learn the latest advances in eye protection.
You can enjoy the great outdoors no matter the season or location. Just remember that sunglasses offer a simple solution to protect your vision from the harmful rays of the sun. Let us help you find your next pair of eyeglasses that provide the protection you need and the style you want!