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Are Prescription Sunglasses a Good Idea?

Young man (only hands) at optician with glasses is looking for sunglasses.

You may sometimes find yourself driving down the road, sun shining in your eyes, as you search in vain for those clip-on or magnetically attached sun lenses that came with your prescription eyeglasses.

At times like these, you might find that prescription sunglasses are much more convenient and more than worth the additional investment.

Contact lens wearers, too, may find that wearing prescription sunglasses is sometimes a far more practical alternative outdoors. For example, you may not want to wear your contact lenses on the beach where your eyes can become itchy and watery as you battle the effects of sand, sun, wind and water.

Even the non-prescription sunglasses you wear over your contact lenses may not provide enough protection. Also, wearing your contact lenses while swimming is a bad idea because of the possibility of potentially serious eye infections caused by microorganisms in the water. (Read more about swimming with contacts.)

But with prescription sunglasses, you have the option of wearing them anytime outdoors without the need to search for clip-on sunglasses or deal with contact lenses.

More Advantages of Prescription Sunglasses

If you have a vision problem that requires corrective prescription eyewear, you have several choices when it comes to sunglasses. Prescription sunglasses are available for virtually any lens prescription, including bifocal and progressive lens options if you are presbyopic and need lenses to help you read that magazine or book at the pool.

These types of sunglasses also can help you if you need reading glasses only or if you wear contact lenses to correct only your distance vision and still need that additional boost for reading.

You might also consider prescription swimming goggles when it comes time to take a dip.

Prescription Sunglasses Come in Many Frame Styles

The styling of prescription sunglass frames is nearly the same as with non-prescription sunglasses. Almost all of the same fashion, designer and celebrity eyewear options apply.

Availability is limited when it comes to certain wraparound sunglasses that curve around the head. Prescription sunglasses made with extreme curves typically distort vision.

However, several manufacturers offer wraparound prescription sunglasses with less extreme curves. Typically these are available in a limited prescription range, so you would need to discuss options with an optician.

Unlimited Lens Options

Prescription sunglasses are available in all lens materials, including high-index, polycarbonate, regular (CR-39) plastic, Trivex (a lightweight material similar to polycarbonate) and glass.

Though glass lenses arguably provide the best optical quality, they are no longer the most popular choice for sunglasses. This is because they are much heavier than lenses made of other materials, and they can shatter easily. However, they are still available if you request them.

Another sunwear option is to purchase prescription eyeglass lenses that have a photochromic tint. These lenses are often called “transition lenses” because the leading manufacturer of plastic photochromic lenses is a company called Transitions Optical. Photochromic lenses automatically darken in sunlight and then return to a relatively clear state indoors.

Photochromic lenses are very convenient, but they do have a drawback: UV rays are required to activate the tint. Because most car windshields block a significant amount of UV, photochromic lenses usually don’t darken very well inside a car.

For the ultimate prescription eyewear suitable for all lighting conditions, some opticians recommend eyeglasses with photochromic lenses and a frame with integrated magnetic clip-on sunglasses. The photochromic lenses provide automatic sun-sensitive light adjustments for greater comfort outdoors, and the clip-on sunglasses can be conveniently stored in your vehicle for those bright, sunny days when you need a darker driving lens. (For more information, read our article about photochromic lenses.)

UV and Glare Protection

As with non-prescription sunglasses, your primary concern when buying prescription sunglasses is that the lenses block 100 percent of the sun’s harmful UV rays.

UV protection is unrelated to the color and density of the tint in sunglass lenses, so you can choose any lens color and darkness you like, as long as your optician verifies that the lenses provide 100 percent UV protection.

For added glare protection from light bouncing back from reflective surfaces (like water, snow, sand and concrete pavement), prescription polarized sunglasses also are available.

Cost of Prescription Sunglasses: Maybe Cheaper Than You Think!

Many optical shops offer special discounts on prescription sunglasses if you purchase them at the same time you buy your regular eyeglasses. Ask your optician for details.

If you are budget-minded, try listing all the features you want in prescription sunglasses and then compare pricing of favorite brands that have just what you need. You could find a bargain.

For more information regarding prescription sunglasses, please visit or contact us today!

Summer Swimming: Is Chlorine Bad for Swimmers’ Eyes?

Kid swims in pool underwater, girl swimming having fun

Earlier this month, Heidi Mitchell of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) interviewed Optometrist Glenda Secor, chairwoman of the American Optometric Association’s contact lens and cornea section. Based on that interview, Ms. Mitchell published an article entitled “Does Chlorine Affect Your Vision?” Great topic. But the article didn’t really discuss chlorine’s affect on vision. Below are some thoughts on how the swimming and ophthalmology communities could approach this topic from a chemical standpoint. In particular, one should expect that chlorine in pool water reacts with the proteins in the eye to chlorinate those proteins. For me, this raises two questions: Is that bad? Can we make it better?


In concluding that swimmers should wear goggles, the article focuses primarily on the “bugs,” i.e., bacteria that live in pool water despite chlorination. Dr. Secor, the WSJ’s eye expert, points out that eyes are “vulnerable to bacteria lingering in chlorine-treated water, since some contaminants aren’t killed by the trace levels of chlorine often used in pools.” The article doesn’t provide any information about whether chlorine affects swimmers’ eyes.

The eye doctor interviewed does not appear to understand the swimming community. According to the article, she “lives near a beach but doesn’t swim in the ocean” because “salt water also is ‘pretty full of contaminants.’” Thankfully, Dr. Secor points out that “there has never been documented evidence that continuous exposure to the diluted chemical can cause permanent harm to the eyes.” But she does not discuss any of the findings in this area or explore reasons support her conclusions. It might help for a swimmer-ophthalmologist to pick up this question. If you have any ideas, please add to the comments section below.


Although the article really doesn’t have anything to do with how chlorine effects a swimmer’s eyes, the topic is worth discussing. Here are a few points from the article that might serve as starting points for conversation:

“Chlorinated water typically causes swelling in the eye’s cornea.”
“The tear film “is our natural-defense mechanism….Tear proteins help reduce infection rates from bugs still floating in the water, and when that is gone, the cornea is vulnerable to anything.”
“…because when the cornea is submerged in water, its protective tear film is washed away.”


The “tear film” appears to include “tear proteins,” which serve as a barrier layer over the eye. According to wikipedia, “the tear film coating the eye, known as the precorneal film, has three distinct layers, from the most outer surface. These three layers are (1) the lipid layer, (2) the aqueous layer, and (3) the mucous layer.

The lipid layer is made of oils. The aqueous layer includes water and proteins. The mucous layer also consists of proteins. From a chemical perspective, the eye is coated in water, lipids, and proteins.


We know that protein molecules react with pool chlorine. Accordingly, we should expect pool chlorine to react with a swimmer’s “tear film” by chlorinating it. This effect is akin to chlorine reacting with the proteins making up a swimmer’s hair and skin. In my mind this leaves two outstanding questions: (1) Does chlorinating your eyeballs lead to any long-term damage? (2) Can we come up with a way to treat chlorine-irritated eyes.


I am not an eye doctor. But, I would suspect that pool chlorine’s effect on eyeballs is short lived. It would stand to reason that a swimmer’s chlorinated tear film gets replaced naturally (over time) with a new tear film. This would explain why a swimmer’s red eyes go away with time. It would be interesting to understand whether continuously chlorinating the tear film creates any long-term damage. As pointed out above, there is no evidence suggesting long-term harm. (At the same time the WSJ just ran and article about chlorine’s effects on vision without answering the questions about chlorine). It would also seem worthwhile to devise a simple solution to chlorine-red eyes. Currently, the most popular solution for “getting the red out” is a vasoconstrictor, like Visine. But, these drug products treat the symptoms rather than addressing the underlying cause (chlorine in the eyes). Potentially, there could be some value getting the chlorine out of swimmers’ eyes rather than just getting the red out.


Based on chemical reasoning, chlorinated eye proteins should behave similarly to chlorinated hair and skin. In this case, treating the chlorinated eyes with an antioxidant solution would neutralize the lingering chlorine, thereby reducing the irritation. Here, I would probably start with an antioxidant solution designed to be gentle on the eyes. Most saline rinses are 0.9% salt water solutions. Potentially, one could swap an antioxidant salt (e.g., sodium ascorbate) for the sodium chloride, buffering the solution to physiological pH.


Despite failing to discuss chlorine’s reaction with eyes, the article concludes that swimmers should wear googles to protect their eyes from pool water. This seems like great advice because goggles would prevent exposing the eyes to the pool water. By preventing exposure to chlorine, that chlorine cannot react with the eyes. This is similar to wearing a swim cap to protect hair—by preventing chlorine exposure, a swimmer can prevent chlorinating the proteins making up biological fibers.

For more information on Chlorine, please visit

Contact Lenses: Poor Care Leads To A Whole Lot Of Eye Infections

A woman putting on contact lenses

If you’ve worn contact lenses, you know how easy it can be to let things slip a little. Maybe you don’t wash and dry the case every day. Or you wear lenses in the shower. Or you try to eke a bit more wear out of a pair.

Well, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is on to us, and it has a message: Stop it.

Improper contact lens use is the major risk factor for infections of the cornea, the clear covering of the eye, and those send people to the doctor or emergency room almost 1 million times a year, according to a CDC study published Thursday in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. It’s the first national look at the issue.

“I think we have badly underestimated the frequency of this problem,” says Dr. Thomas Steinemann, a professor of ophthalmology at Case Western Reserve University and a spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

He’s surprised by both the number of people who end up with keratitis and the cost of treating it: $175 million a year. Most infections can be treated with antibiotics, but in some cases they can cause permanent eye damage or blindness.

The data sets used couldn’t identify which of those 1 million people were wearing contact lenses. But about 38 million people do wear lenses, which is known to greatly increase the risk of cornea infections. So the CDC focused its message on getting lens wearers to shape up.

“Wearers need to understand that this is a medical device,” Steinemann, a cornea expert, told Shots. “It needs to be treated with respect.”

But he knows we’re fallible. “People cut corners. We’re all busy.” Steinemann estimates that people do the right thing less than 20 percent of the time; other studies have been even more pessimistic.

Good care includes cleaning and disinfecting lenses every day, cleaning the case and changing the solution every day, and washing hands before touching lenses. Also not showering, swimming or otherwise getting lenses near water, which harbors amoebas and fungus and other nasty stuff.

Sleeping in lenses is particularly bad for the cornea, because lenses reduce oxygen flow to the eye. And even well-cared-for lenses need to be thrown out after a few weeks. “They do wear out,” Steinemann says.

Oh, and while you’re at it? “Amazingly, people with contacts don’t even have a backup pair of glasses,” Steinemann says. “If your lens falls on the floor what are you going to do? You’ve got to have a backup plan.”

There you go. Can’t say you weren’t told.

10 Tips to Protect Your Vision and Prevent Blindness

sharp and unsharp snellen chart with shadow on white background

Preventive care can help you keep your eyes healthy and avoid common causes of blindness.

If you’ve never had a vision problem, you probably don’t give much thought to your eyes. And you may not be aware of the changes that occur as you age, some of which can dramatically affect the way you see — or even lead to blindness.

The good news is that even small preventive measures, like wearing sunglasses and eating greens, can help protect your eyesight and stave off vision problems later in life.

Here is a list of 10 eye facts that will help you protect your eyes and your vision for years to come.

1. What you eat matters for your eye health. Eating well is the No. 1 way to take care of your eyes, says Rebecca Taylor, M.D., an ophthalmologist at Nashville Vision Associates in Tennessee, and spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. She also recommends that you aim to get your nutrients from food: “Eat vitamins instead of taking them.”

What should your eye-healthy plate look like? Pretty much like any good, healthy meal. Dr. Taylor starts with a big spinach or kale salad topped with brightly-colored vegetables. Green leafy vegetables provide the nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin, shown to help reduce risk for eye diseases, notes the AAO. And vitamin A found in bright yellow and orange vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes boosts eye health, according to the National Institutes of Health. Adding fruits like strawberries, oranges, and mangoes provides vitamin C and other antioxidants, which Taylor says also help fight eye disease. She also includes salmon or other cold-water fish in her ideal meal, since omega 3s are good for tear production, which relieves dry eyes.

2. Comprehensive eye exams pick up vision problems early. Getting a regular eye exam is the only way to catch a variety of problems, such as glaucoma or diabetic eye disease, ensuring you’ll get timely treatment. Most people with vision problems should see their eye doctor once a year to make sure their sight hasn’t changed.

For the rest of us, the AAO recomends the following eye exam schedule:

  • At 40: a baseline eye exam
  • From 40 to 55: an eye exam every 2 to 4 years
  • Ages 55 to 64: an eye exam every 1 to 3 years
  • At 65 and up: an eye exam every year

During the exam, your doctor will take your family history and check your pupils, central vision, color vision, and eye pressure. He or she will also dilate, or widen, your pupil using special eye drops to see the back of your eye and check for any damage.

3. Smoking now can cause eye problems later. “Get off tobacco in any form,” Taylor says. When you smoke, cyanide from the smoke gets into your bloodstream and can destroy the eye’s cells. Smoking puts you at higher risk of developing cataracts and increases problems with dry eyes. It also raises your risk of macular degeneration, an incurable condition that destroys vision in the center of the eye, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

4. You can help preserve your eyesight by protecting your eyes from the sun. Taylor recommends two safeguards for your eyes: sunscreen and sunglasses. The skin around your eyes is some of the thinnest on the body and is susceptible to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Various kinds of skin cancer, like carcinoma and melanoma, can form in the eyelids and around the eyes, causing major damage to the eye structure.

Sunglasses are also a must, according to Taylor. But don’t be fooled into thinking the darker, the better. “It’s the sticker you peel off of the glasses when you buy them” that matters, she says. Sunglasses should have complete, 100 percent protection from UVA and UVB (long and short wave) rays. Ultraviolet radiation stimulates the issues that cause both cataracts and macular degeneration — common causes of blindness.

5. Working on a computer all day can give you dry eyes. This is in part because when we do things up close, we don’t blink as much, Taylor says. Paradoxically, one of the most common symptoms of dry eyes is an eye that waters, says Steven Loomis, OD, of Roxborough Park, Colorado, president of the American Optometric Association. The breakdown of the oily and mucous layers of the eyes keeps tears from evaporating, and the eye compensates by producing more water, he says. Having “tired eyes” at the end of the day is another symptom.

Dry eyes can also be caused by:

  • Inflammation
  • Certain medications, including antidepressants
  • Hormonal changes due to aging

For treatment, try the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look away for 20 seconds at something that is at least 20 feet away, recommends the Mayo Clinic. A warm compress is another simple treatment, Dr. Loomis says, as are artificial tears — but not the ones that “get the red out,” since they can restrict blood to the tear glands. If these treatments aren’t effective, your doctor may prescribe a product like Restasis (cyclosporine) to cut down on inflammation.

6. Diabetes is the top cause of blindness in America. The best way to avoid diabetic retinopathy — the most common cause of blindness in the United States — is to prevent diabetes, if possible. Nearly all patients with type 1 diabetes develop this eye condition, as do about 60 percent of those with type 2 diabetes.

In diabetic retinopathy, the tiny blood vessels of the retina are damaged. While no symptoms appear during the early stages of the condition, it is critically important to catch retinopathy as soon as possible via regular eye exams. Over time, your vision can blur and lead to blindness. Controlling blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol can prevent the disease from getting worse, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Diabetic retinopathy may be treated by laser surgery, which can reduce the risk of further blindness. However, treatment cannot repair vision that is already lost.

7. After age 60, macular degeneration is a leading cause of blindness. Macular degeneration occurs when eye tissue degenerates, causing blurriness or loss of vision in the central part of the eye. There are two forms of macular degeneration: wet and dry. If vision loss is caused by fluid in the retina, the condition can be treated by injections in the eye. But most forms are dry, for which there is no treatment.

Risk factors for macular degeneration include a family history of the condition, smoking (which damages the eye’s blood vessels), a lack of lutein and zeaxanthin in the diet, and not protecting your eyes with sunglasses.

8. Cataracts are common, but treatment is very effective. Cataracts are a relatively normal part of the aging process and usually begin to appear around the age of 60. Symptoms can include blurred vision, faded colors, glare, reduced night vision, and double vision. Cataracts are associated with exposure to UV rays or radiation therapy, such as cancer treatment. Taking certain medications like prednisone can also increase the risk of cataracts, Loomis says. But cataract treatment, which includes replacing the damaged eye lenses with good ones, is typically very effective, he adds.

9. Damage to the eye’s optic nerve causes glaucoma. This common eye condition, Loomis says, is known for being silent and insidious. He often tells patients that the first sign of glaucoma is when a person can no longer see. Glaucoma is not something a patient can prevent or treat on his own, and the only way to detect it is through an eye exam, according to the NIH.

Glaucoma occurs when pressure builds up in the eye and begins to damage the optic nerve. The condition progresses very slowly, Loomis says, and it can take years for the nerve damage to become severe enough to cause vision problems.

The risk of getting glaucoma is higher for people who have a family history or are diabetic, Loomis says. For the majority of patients, treatment includes a once-daily eye drop that reduces pressure in the eye. If drops fail, surgery may be an option.

10. Your eyes reveal a lot about your health. The old saying goes that the eyes are the windows to the soul, but Taylor says they can also act as an indicator of a person’s overall health. If a patient comes into her office with dry eyes, she asks other health questions, since having dry eyes can be a marker of rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or thyroid disease. Patients who have blurry vision could have diabetes or a tumor, or may have had a stroke. People with itchy red eyes may have a contact lens allergy that they’re unaware of. Taylor also recently diagnosed multiple sclerosis in a patient who had unusual eye movements.

For more ways to Protect Your Vision and Prevent Blindness, please visit

First Aid Tips for Common Eye Injuries

Medicine plaster patch on children injury wound eye

Have you ever gotten something stuck in your eye and didn’t know what to do about it? This must-read list of first aid tips will prepare you to handle any eye injuries you may face in the future.

A lot goes into keeping your eyes healthy and safe. But here’s one important habit many people tend to overlook: Protecting your eyes from injury is extremely important. And wearing eye protection can go a long way toward preventing eye cuts, objects in the eye, blows to the eye, and other dangerous mishaps.

But you may not always be able to protect yourself from eye injuries. In that case, it’s important to know what to do when eye trauma does occur.

What To Do About Eye Cuts and Puncture Wounds

These types of eye injury require the immediate attention of an eye doctor. If your eye or eyelid has been cut or punctured in any way, don’t attempt to wash the eye or remove anything stuck in the eye. Here are some more first aid tips for cuts and punctures in and around the eye:

  • Avoid rubbing the eye or surrounding skin.
  • Protect the eye from inadvertent rubbing by covering the eye with a rigid, circular object — cutting out the bottom of a paper cup will work.
  • Don’t put pressure on the eye while holding up the protective covering, in case there is a foreign body inside the cut.
  • Affix the protective covering over the eye using a piece of tape.
  • Go to an eye doctor or emergency room right away.

How to Remove Objects From the Eye

Whether it’s a grain of sand or some other particle, here are suggestions on what to do — and what not to do — when an object gets in your eye:

  • Don’t rub your eye to get the object out or make it feel better — you may end up scratching your cornia by moving around the foreign body.
  • Don’t try to remove an object that is penetrating or embedded in the eye.
  • Use a dampened cotton swab to try to gently remove an object that is not embedded.
  • Allow your tears to flow; it may help get the object out.
  • Try using eye wash or rinsing your eyes with water to flush out the particle.
  • If you are not certain that you got the particle out, see an eye doctor.

The Safest Approach to Cleaning Out Chemicals in the Eye

Household cleaners or any other chemicals that splash into the eye can cause serious damage, and require immediate eye first aid to prevent eye injury. Follow these eye first aid steps if you get chemicals in the eye:

  • Use water to flush or rinse out the eye right away. Don’t waste time; do this immediately.
  • Don’t cover or put anything over the eye.
  • Stand underneath a showerhead or place your head beneath a running faucet. You may need to use both hands to keep the injured eye open while flushing it.
  • Flush the eye for at least 15 minutes, keeping the eye wide open and allowing the water to run over and cleanse it.
  • After following these steps, go to an emergency room immediately.

How to Handle a Blow to the Eye

If you get hit in or near the eye with a ball or some other object with force, here are some first aid tips to treat it:

  • Gently hold a cold compress or ice pack against the eye — don’t put pressure against it.
  • Keep your head elevated to minimize swelling.
  • Go to a doctor’s office or the emergency room if you experience pain or if your vision is affected.

It’s always a good idea to see an eye doctor to get your eye checked out if you’ve sustained any eye injury. Remember to safeguard your eyes as much as possible with protective eyewear so that you don’t need to use eye first aid — but if you do have an eye emergency, now you know just what to do.

For more information on first aid tips for common eye injuries, please visit


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