Sunglasses in Winter - Why It's Essential

Created on: Wednesday, November 02, 2016


In the midst of the short, cold days of winter, many of us stash away our sunglasses until the spring and summer months. But winter can wreak havoc on unprotected eyes, sometimes even more so than in sunny summer months. So to keep your sight sharp and your eyes healthy, proper eyewear is essential—no matter what the season!

Discover the best ways to protect your eyes from the elements this winter—wind, glare, and ultraviolet radiation exposure—to ensure your comfort today and long-term eye health tomorrow.

Snow Reflects Almost 80% of UV Radiation

Although we can't see it, we are exposed to UV radiation daily, even in overcast weather—a fact many of us forget when the temperatures start to drop. And because snow reflects almost 80 percent of UV radiation, your overall exposure is nearly doubled when skiing, snowboarding, shoveling or playing in the snow.

"Our skin and our eyes are organs, and both are exposed to the elements," explains E. Michael Balok, MD, a VSP doctor at Riverside Eye Center in southeastern Michigan. "And just like our skin, our eyes can become sunburned from prolonged exposure." That damage can cause intense pain, discomfort and even temporary vision loss known as snow blindness.

Location, Location, Location

When it comes to those winter rays, snow isn't the only factor at play. At higher elevations, the air is much thinner, which allows for more ultraviolet radiation in the atmosphere. In fact, UV radiation goes up 3 percent for every 400 meters (or about 1,312 feet) of altitude. So, at an elevation of 8,000 feet, your risk of UV radiation increases by over 18 percent—all the more reason to protect your peepers when hitting the slopes!

Don't play in the snow or live in the mountains? Don't stow away those sunglasses just yet. Because UV levels are greater in areas near the earth's equator, the farther south you live, the greater your risk. If you're lucky enough to live in a sunshine state, keep your eyes safe by keeping your sunglasses on outdoors.

Cut Your Risk, Keep Your Vision

While time and minimal treatment will eventually alleviate the short-term pain and discomfort from UV exposure, it's still important to protect your eyes from long-term damage down the line.

"Too much exposure can actually change the cells," explains Dr. Balok, "causing lens and retina damage that tends to show up later in life."

Cataracts, macular degeneration, and potentially serious lesions known as pingueculae and pterygia are some of the long-term effects linked to UV exposure. "That's why goggles and protective sunwear are so important, no matter what your age."

Shield Yourself from Wind and Glare

Besides the risk of UV exposure, cold winds and bright glare are two more winter woes to be weary of. Dry, fatigued, or itchy eyes can be irritating and potentially dangerous. So what can we do to find relief?

It all comes down to wearing the right gear. "Wind and glare protection are both very important, especially for winter sports and recreation," explains Dr. Balok. "Our eyes have perfect equilibrium—it really helps to have some kind of shield protecting them."

To prevent turbulence and better block out drying wind, choose wraparound sunglasses or goggles with a foam liner. Look for special polarized lenses, which absorb glare and prevent fatigue by allowing your eyes to relax.

Choose the Right Pair

When shopping for sunglasses, be sure to check the label and choose a pair with 100% UVA/UVB protection. If you can't track down a label on your favorite pair of sunglasses, play it safe and keep looking for a pair with some literature. "Sunglasses must be properly labeled with SPF information," explains Dr. Balok. "It's an FDA requirement."

If you wear prescription glasses or contact lenses, the best place to start is with your eye doctor. "Because your doctor knows your prescription requirement, they'll be able to provide information you need to customize a pair of goggles or sunglasses," suggests Dr. Balok. Look for brown and amber tints, which enhance depth perception and contrast, making them perfect for mogul skiers and snowboarders. Yellow tints are also great for providing greater clarity in foggy or hazy conditions.

No matter the season, play it safe by keeping the proper eyewear like sunglasses and goggles on hand for all your outdoor activities.

What is Pink Eye?

Created on: Thursday, October 15, 2015


 What is “Pink Eye”?


When patients ask me if they have pink eye, I am usually left a little confused. If their eye is now pink, then yes, they have “pink eye”. And if your foot was sore, you would have “sore foot”. But just as a host of things could cause your foot to be sore (ever step on a sharp object?), so too causes of “pink eye” can vary.


Most of the time, pink eye refers to conjunctivitis, which is inflammation of the thin clear covering of the white of the eye. Conjunctivitis usually means the entire conjunctiva is red, not just a few sections of the eyeball. There are many causes of conjunctivitis. Let's review the main players:


Viral Conjunctivitis: This tends to be contagious and is usually caused by the same viruses that are responsible for the common cold. It can be spread by sneezing, coughing, and touch. You probably won't recall how you got it—touching a door knob, pushing a shopping cart, using a pen at the sign in desk—all of these could be responsible. Often, this will clear up on its own in a few days and does not require treatment. Use of an antibiotic does not hasten your recovery though many primary care providers prescribe them just to be safe. The white of your eye appears pink and you may experience eye watering, itching, and light sensitivity. Applying a cold wet washcloth to your eyes several times daily will help relieve symptoms. Relief should occur within several days.


Bacterial Conjunctivitis: Bacterial infections of the eye can be more severe than their viral counterparts. These infections usually occur through direct contact. Symptoms involve a yellow or greenish discharge that builds up in the corner of your eyes, sometimes causing the eyelids to stick together upon awakening. This is best treated with an antibiotic which will shorten the duration of symptoms.


Allergic Conjunctivitis: This one can be the easiest to diagnose. As a general rule, if your eyes are itching, you have allergies. Patients allergic to dust or pet dander may suffer year round. Pollen and plant matter (like mold) can be more seasonal. The white of your eye appears pink and can the eyes may water, burn and itch. This conjunctivitis is not contagious. Over the counter allergy drops can bring relief. We also have prescription drops that require dosing of only once per day and can be more effective.


Just as many things cause “sore foot”, not all “pink eye” is conjunctivitis. Contact lens wearers can have corneal ulcers that require emergent care. If you are in doubt about what's causing your red eye or if your symptoms are worsening, do not hesitate to see your eye M.D. I tell my office staff that when the phone rings, be sure to answer it—Job Security is on the other end of the line. We would rather be safe with routine problems than sorry with permanent damage.

Dry Eyes and Cold Weather

Dry Eyes and Cold Weather

Created on: Friday, February 06, 2015
Author: Riverside Eye Center

 Dry Eyes and Cold Weather

Do your eyes ache or hurt during the winter months?  Are they tearing a lot or red?  Does it feel like something is in your eye and it won’t stop?  Do you sometimes blink a lot to clear the blurriness?  These are common complaints and symptoms of someone suffering from dry eye.

Living in the Midwest, we get to experience some ridiculously cold temperatures and because of that, the humidity level in the air is way down.  Bone dry air blowing in your face causes marginally dry eyes to become much more dry and symptoms develop.  What can you do to protect your eyes?

·         Wear glasses or goggles, especially if wind is an issue or if you’ll be outside awhile.

·         Blink more often.  This will help coat your eyes with new tears.

·         Use artificial tears (lubricating drops) regularly.  Bottled tears such as Systane, Optive, and Blink are available everywhere.  If using them more than four times per day, get the preservative free version.  It costs more but will be easier on your cornea.

·         Warm compresses help the oil secreting glands in your eyelids to work better.  Oily tears coat better and do not evaporate.  Heating the lids will allow better flow onto the cornea and improve your “tear quality”.

If symptoms of redness, irritation, and dryness persist and are not relieved by artificial tears, you may have a more serious condition that requires an exam and treatment by your eye doctor.  We will often “ramp up” treatment to obtain relief.  Call us if you would like an appointment.

Dry eyes can be very annoying but solutions are available.  Don’t miss out on winter activities due to this annoying but treatable problem!

Proper nutrition promotes good eye health

Proper nutrition promotes good eye health

Created on: Monday, January 26, 2015
Author: Riverside Eye Center

We all know that proper nutrition is crucial in maintaining long-term wellness, and as more and more Americans tackle issue associated with obesity, such as heart disease, diabetes, and even premature death, it is becoming more evident that poor nutrition has a negative effect on health. Proper nutrition isn't just essential for your overall health, it's also important for the health of your eyes.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in fish such as salmon as well as sardines, are key to preventing eye problems such as macular degeneration and cataracts. They're also known to boost the health of your brain and heart.

Vegetables also play a vital role in protecting your eyes and contributing to good nutrition. The nutrients zeaxanthin and lutein can be found in spinach, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. Just like omega-3 rich foods, these veggies don't just safeguard against eye problems, but they help protect your body from cancer. They're loaded with nutritional value that can also serve to boost your immune system. 
When you eat unhealthy foods, the implications of such decisions become obvious. The fact is that when the body doesn't get proper nutrition, maintaining both proper eye health and good overall health becomes much more difficult. There are other steps that should be taken in order to protect your eyes, for example, if you smoke you are at a far greater risk of developing eye problems than people who do not. The eye can actually absorb toxic substances directly from cigarette smoke. Most alarmingly, studies have shown that people who are four times more likely to go blind as they reach old age than those who do not smoke. In addition, if you're looking to get the most nutritional value from your food, smoking actually works against you. Studies have shown that a smoker's body cannot absorb the same level of nutrients, such as vitamin C, vitamin D and calcium, as a non-smoker. One of the fasted ways to improve your overall eye health is to stop smoking.
Eye Conditions Caused By Stress

Eye Conditions Caused By Stress

Created on: Monday, January 26, 2015
Author: Riverside Eye Center

Have you ever experienced an irritating eye twitch that just won't seem to end? How about dry eyes or blurred vision? Have you ever thought that these issues could be caused by stress? It's true, our eyes are an extension of our brain so whatever affects the various parts of our brain can actually interfere with our vision. 

Eye Twitching
Possibly the only thing more irritating than an itch you can't scratch is involuntary eye twitching, or myokymia, which is a feeling that many of us are familiar with. Stress is actually one of the leading factors of involuntary eye twitches. Some other causes of myokymia include spending too much time on a computer and insufficient amounts of sleep. The condition itself is usually temporary, but persistent eye twitching may be a sign of a serious genetic disorder, which should be addressed by your eye doctor.
Dry Eyes
When our body experiences heightened levels of stress, it naturally increased and thickens blood flow to protect us from injury. In turn, the heart has to work even harder than usual and blood circulation to the extremities in our bodies, such as our skin, brain, and eyes, is decreased. This causes eyes to become dry and irritated.
Blurred Vision
Stress can also cause blurred vision and, ironically, experiencing a vision problem can create more stress. Stress affects your body in many ways, so blurry vision may be a secondary symptom. Sometimes stress causes your body to react as though its facing something dangerous and, as a result, your pupils dilate. This allows more light to enter the eye to help you better assess the situation, but too much light can actually cause poor vision - hence the blurriness. 
Even though these eye conditions caused by stress can prove to be disruptive and irritating, they can be controlled with exercise, a healthy diet, and stress reduction techniques such as meditating and deep breathing. If your symptoms persist, be sure to visit your eye doctor to determine whether there may be an underlying cause for their occurrence. 

East China Office:
First building north of St. John River District Hospital
4050 River Road
East China, MI 48054
(810)329-5953 Optical

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Located 1/4 mile north of Birchwood Mall
4656 24th Avenue
Fort Gratiot, MI 48059
(810)385-7200 Optical