Caring For The Eyes
READ ON FOR TIPS ON COMMON ATX EYECARE PROBLEMS
AND SOLUTIONS, STRAIGHT FROM DR. ADAM DREES, OD
Practicing optometry in the West Lake Hills area of Austin, our office has noticed some common issues that are unique to our geography. If you live here or are visiting Central Texas, you may be able to relate to the ocular issues we go over here. Hopefully you’ve already discovered the solutions that we’ve found to be so effective—both as preventatives and as alleviations of Austin-specific eye care challenges. But if you’re still struggling with any of what we talk about here, give us a call and we’ll get you in to see Dr. Drees and get you squared away quickly, painlessly, and surprisingly affordably.
The first big thing with eye care here in Austin is that our city is such an outdoorsy-type of community. Because of the environment around us, dry eye and allergies are really remarkably prevalent. Allergies in general, if you’ve been here for a full year or have visited for any extended length of time, then you know: everybody in Austin tends to get hit by allergies. So when it comes to eye issues we encounter all the time, we’re talking about an itchy, red, watery eye. If you’re having a combination of any of those three, it’s almost always allergy. If you use the word “itch,” it’s almost always allergies.
A lot of people in Austin are pumping themselves full of antihistamines and other anti-allergy medicines and tinctures almost year-round—especially during cedar and oak seasons. Now, when the whole body’s affected, as it often is when you get sinus issues, you’re likely going to need to be on an oral allergy treatment or to see an allergist. If it’s just your eyes, though—itchy, red, watery eyes—we have drops that are specific for eyes, for allergies, which serve basically like a Zyrtec directly to the eyeball. These help in that the treatment is very local, so you’re not putting in a medication throughout the whole body. All antihistamines tend to dry you out, but with the eyedrops, you’re not putting a medication into the entire body; it’s just local to the eye. This way you can bypass some of the side effects of taking an oral allergy medicine. Dry eye goes along these same lines because so many people in the Hill Country are outside, active, running, biking, that sort of thing.
A lot of times, people who are outdoors, taking advantage of what our area has to offer, begin to have more frequent discomfort in their contact lenses. There are some over-the-counter lubricating drops you can do if you’re just trying to mask symptoms, but a solution our clients find much more satisfying and lasting are our Daily Contact Lenses. Daily Contact Lenses are huge here in Austin, because you wear it once, and you throw it away. You don’t have to worry about cleaning it, storing it, “How many times have I worn it?” and so people tend to strongly prefer using them when they’re out and being active. Who wants to have to lug around something they have to pull out of a case, treat with solutions, etc. when they’re on a 50-mile ride, or spending all day on the water, or something like that? The Daily Contact Lenses can be really helpful for people who are outside and active, because it’s a brand new contact lens every single day. What that means is that you don’t get the deposits on there, so it’s the healthiest for the eyes, it’s the most comfortable, it’s the most convenient. So those are kind of big for Austin, and our patients really appreciate having discovered this way of managing contacts, especially when they think back on what they had to juggle and deal with when they used to use their traditional contacts for outdoor activities.
Along the same lines, too, because so many people here are outside, is just to make sure you are using UV protection. Grab and wear the sunglasses when you’re outside. It’s Central Texas; the UV Index is way up there, and so we’ll get patients coming in—folks who haven’t been wearing their sunglasses for outdoor activity—with specific changes to the front of the eyes, and they’re appearing earlier in life than if they were living somewhere else. We see the red, irritated eyes, what we call the pinguecula, which is a little growth on the white of the eye, that can get caused from UV damage over time. So just protecting the eyes with proper sunglasses really helps out as prevention for this condition. Not something you want to have to deal with, even more so because it can develop into what’s called Surfer’s Eye, which doesn’t stay just on the whites of the eye and can affect the eyesight. For those Austin outdoors enthusiasts, apart from wearing the sunglasses, keeping good quality eye drops on hand when you’re out there enjoying our beautiful weather also is preventative for this condition, as it keeps the eyes from getting dry and therefore more susceptible to getting agitated by gusts of wind and particulates / allergens in the air.
A lot of times, folks know something’s going on with their eyes, they think it’s allergy-related, they don’t know if they should come see us—the optometrist—or go ahead to the allergist. Every case is different, and it depends, but there are advantages to opting to see us before making the jump to a full-on MD allergist.
First off, it’s easier to get in to see us for an appointment! Allergists here in Austin are busy, there’s no doubt about it, due to how many people here do struggle with the Hill Country allergens. We’re also a heck of a lot cheaper than an allergist.
A good allergist, if dry eye is the only thing wrong with you, will start with the eye drop, too. We actually refer patients to allergists all the time because a lot of the time it’s the whole body that’s affected—the sinuses are affected, it’s chronic, a patient is on these drops year-round—then we need to get to the bottom of the issue and really fix it. That’s when it’s time to send them to an allergist. However, if it’s just ocular symptoms, it’s a quick and easy fix: the eye drops our patients tend to go with for allergies. There are several different pharmaceutical companies that make a drop, it’s local to the eye, and it works extremely well. One drop into each eye in the morning and it’ll last you all day long. Daily Contact Lenses help with allergies and dry eye / eye irritation, too, and for people who are vacationing in Austin, the Daily Contact Lens is probably the way to go to keep the eyes irritation-free.
Both of these are easy fixes for people, and often they can get in to see us the same day they call in to schedule, or at least the same week, and have it wrapped up and get on with their life. If you’re an active Austinite, another advantage to stopping in and seeing Dr. Drees before visiting the allergist is that he can let you take a look at sunglasses engineered for your specific sport—see the next section—making your visit into a plus for your performance, as well.
In the context of sports, there are a bunch of activities that are prominent and unique to Austin, which before you head out, definitely are worth thinking about your eyes. Here there’s protection to think about, of course, but also performance enhancement.
Cycling, watersports, hiking, boating, golfing, motorsports, all tend to be really big around ATX. When it comes to different sports and eyewear, Oakley is really, really good about this. Oakley has some really cool lenses depending on what you’re trying to do. If you’re going to be cycling, for instance, the tint and the mirror coating that we’re going be using on those lenses are going to be completely different than if you’ll be on a golf course, because you read the green completely different than the road. And so, there are some incredibly engineered sunglass lenses that, if you’re doing outdoor activity A, we’re going to put you in this particular tint, versus outdoor activity B, we’re going to put you in something totally different.
Cycling is a big area where this is overlooked and not known about, where athletes can improve performance just by using these lens tints that have been engineered specifically for the particular vision needs of the activity. Golf is the same way. There’s a baseball lens which is kind of similar to the golf one. For our local patients who take trips up to Utah and Colorado and Wyoming and BC, etc., we also have lenses that are specific for skiing. They just really help enhance your vision in that type of intense-whites, high-altitude / high-UV environment.
Most of these activity-specific lens offerings can come with prescription as well. A lot of our super-active patients are wearing contact lenses for their prescription needs, then putting sunglasses over the contacts while they’re out there doing their thing. Others, we’ll get them hooked up with LASIK, where then they’ll just have what’s called ‘Plano’ lenses, with no prescription in the sunglasses. But with most of these sport-specific engineered lenses, unless it’s a really far-out-there prescription, you can get your prescription in the sunglasses if you prefer to go that route and not deal with contacts. Our big frame lines that we use for our active, athlete patients are Maui Jim and Oakley. Oakley, however, is the brand that has really specialized their lenses depending on what you’re doing—very active and sports-oriented offerings.
The simplest of the simple in eye care is, it’s important for everybody—whether you have a correction and you need glasses or contact lenses or not—to be checked every other year. Because most all of the eye diseases that are common, and that we see and treat in our office, by the time you notice something, it’s been going on for a long time and it’s way too late. People are almost always reluctant to go in and see a doctor. It’s like going for that morning jog. You don’t want to get out of bed, but once you’re out there and the endorphins are flowing, you’re so glad you did. It’s like that with your optometry check-ups. We get people commenting on how pleasant and comfortable their visit with us, compared to where they’ve been in the past, and they’re thankful to themselves for doing the right thing for their vision and to Dr. Drees for his early diagnoses when they’re there. Our equipment picks up on things other offices won’t be able to see, so often, even when we do discover something developing, it’s a relief rather than an ‘oh no.’
The other thing that’s big, because there are so many families in the Austin area, too—young families—is that it’s extremely important for kids to get annual eye exams. The reason is because as they grow, that’s when prescriptions really start to develop, as they grow in age. But kids, too—like adults—just presume that the way they’re seeing is the way they’re supposed to be seeing, because they don’t know the difference. School screeners are really good about catching those kids that are myopic and near-sighted, because they can’t see the “E” at the end of the wall, but those kids that have astigmatism or are farsighted or have accommodative insufficiency, those are the ones that could pass the school screener, yet they still have difficulties with, let’s say, reading up close. These are the cases where, what’s actually a simple and easily-correctible vision correction, starts to appear to be ‘learning issues,’ when all we have to do is throw a pair of glasses on this kid and he no longer has ADHD. The eye care basics really just come down to the importance of routine, comprehensive exams at least every other year. Just get back in, make sure everything’s where it’s supposed to be. You never know what you might find, and there are so many adults and children out there that are having all sorts of difficulties that can be corrected in a quick visit or two. Night-and-day improvements in how you or your kid is in the world are often just a visit away. You never know until you look into it.
So, again, children’s eye health and exams is an area where we’re able to pick up on things that their normal eye tests at school don’t pick up on. And these are things that can have a big impact helping a kid in sports, let’s say, or in the classroom.
Here’s an example: We recently had a child in the office. Well, you bring him into the examination room, and here we had a kid who had no prescription in one eye, and a lot of prescription in the other eye, but he’s walking around the world with both eyes open—it’s not like he’s closing one eye, looking exclusively through the other eye when he’s doing different activities. He always knew that one eye saw better than the other, but to him, a young kid, ‘It’s not that big of a deal,’ ‘That’s just the way I am.’ And this is a young man who’s super athletic, and he’s a baseball player. He was right-handed, so he bats right, but his left eye was the one that had the large prescription, so when you think about it, when you’re batting right-handed, you’re standing basically at a right angle from the pitcher and turning your head left to watch him and follow the ball, and that means that each time he was batting, the left eye—his eye with major prescription needs—is the most dominant eye. But what you need is your most dominant eye to be seeing very well when you’re at the plate, because that’s the one that can see the ball coming first.
Cases like this are common, and all it takes to get these kids to their full potential is to get them a full, proper, comprehensive eye exam, like the ones we do here with our unique equipment, to discover these vision conditions that kids have had for years. It can take a few months for the child to readjust to their new accurate vision, since they’ve been compensating for it and their brain needs to acclimate to the new experience of visual perception, but what happens is that their binocularity is vastly improved, their depth perception gets to its full function, and sports performance, let’s say, can get a big jump once they’ve adjusted to seeing properly.
We say “Better Vision. For Life.” And we mean it! Getting a handle on eye care that really works for your lifestyle, finding out about ocular conditions that you didn’t even know you had, can really change how people are with themselves and with the world. It really does impact the whole life, so we hold that motto with a lot of honor about it. We truly hope this article has opened your eyes to things you didn’t know about before. Feel free to call in to the office if any of this brought questions to mind. We’re open 8 AM to 6 PM on Mondays through Thursdays if you’d like to come by and look into any of the above more deeply with Dr. Drees, Mando, and Rachel.
All the best,
The Westlake Hills Vision Center Team