As the days grow longer and warmer, it’s a great time to remind everyone that Sun Awareness Week takes place during the first week of May. We all love to bask in the glorious sunshine and soak up some much-needed vitamin D. But, it’s essential to remember that the sun’s rays also bring with them certain health risks.

We often hear about the dangers of skin cancer, but did you know that sun exposure can increase the risk of cataracts and other eye diseases as well? In today’s blog, we look at the connection between sun exposure and cataracts.

How does sun exposure increase the risk of cataracts?

Globally, cataracts stand as the primary reason for blindness. The condition occurs when proteins within the eye’s lens deteriorate and aggregate, leading to a clouded lens and eventual blindness in the impacted eye(s).

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays for extended periods can significantly heighten the risk of cataracts. As the sun’s UV rays penetrate the eye, they accelerate the degradation of proteins in the lens. This causes them to cluster together. This process obstructs light from passing through the lens, resulting in impaired vision.

Study reveals those most at risk of developing cataracts through sun exposure

A previous study examined the link between time spent outdoors and the likelihood of cataract surgery. The survey, part of the 45 and Up Study, involved 137,133 Australian participants, aged 45 to 65, with no prior cataract surgery. A questionnaire assessed their outdoor hours on weekdays and weekends, along with their tanning habits due to sun exposure. Cataract surgery cases were tracked through Medicare Benefits Schedule records from the study’s start until 2016.

Over an average of nine years, 14,338 participants underwent cataract surgery, resulting in a 10.5% incidence. The analysis revealed that more weekend outdoor time and increased tanning from sun exposure were significantly linked to a reduced cataract surgery risk. Weekday outdoor time had a nominal association.

Participants with more than 10 hours spent outdoors on weekends had a 9% lower risk compared to those with less than two hours. Additionally, those less prone to tanning had a 5% to 7% higher risk of cataract surgery compared to individuals who got very tanned.

How to keep your eyes protected this summer

To minimise the risk of cataracts due to UV exposure, it’s crucial to safeguard your eyes while in direct sunlight. Opt for hats and sunglasses that provide complete UVA and UVB protection. Wrap-around sunglasses are an excellent option, as they shield the periphery of your eyes from UV rays. Don’t forget to wear sunglasses in winter too. Even without the heat, UV rays persist and can reflect off surfaces like ice and snow.

If you do suspect you may have cataracts, or you have been diagnosed with the condition, early treatment can help reduce the risk of vision loss. When the impact of cataracts on your vision is affecting your quality of life, surgery is usually recommended. If you don’t have cataract surgery, then your vision loss can worsen.

Regular eye exams and following your optometrist’s recommendations are the best ways to ensure proper eye care. Book an appointment with Mr Zaid Shalchi, a specialist in the treatment of cataracts.

Uveitis is a condition of the eye that causes inflammation, or swelling, within the uvea. The effects of the condition can vary depending on which part of the uvea and eye is affected, whether it’s the front, middle or back.

Symptoms can include pain, sensitivity to bright light, and impaired vision. However, the signs aren’t always easy to recognise, making the condition more challenging to diagnose. Some patients may not experience any symptoms at all, resulting in it going undiagnosed for potentially months.

Most uveitis cases can be resolved with treatment. However, certain types can be more challenging to manage due to persistent and potentially sight-threatening inflammation, which may also affect nearby tissues and lead to permanent changes in vision.

Understanding the different types of uveitis

There are several types of uveitis that can affect different parts of the uvea. They include:

  • Anterior uveitis: Inflammation of the iris or ciliary body.
  • Intermediate uveitis: Inflammation of the ciliary body and front part of the choroid, often visible in the vitreous gel.
  • Posterior uveitis: Inflammation of the choroid and/or retina, including retinal blood vessels or the optic nerve head.
  • Panuveitis: Inflammation of all parts of the uvea.

Whichever type you experience, you can suffer acute, recurrent, or chronic uveitis.

How is uveitis treated?

The treatment you receive will depend upon the type that you have. Here’s a brief rundown of the main types of treatments used…

Eyedrops

Eyedrops are often prescribed to reduce inflammation in anterior uveitis. Corticosteroid eye drops help to treat inflammation at the front of the eye and may need to be used hourly or once each day depending upon the severity of the condition.

Cycloplegic or mydriatic eye drops may be prescribed in addition to steroid medication, although this is not always necessary. Cycloplegic drops can alleviate eye pain by temporarily paralysing the muscles of the iris and ciliary body. By reducing the movement of these inflamed muscles, the pain associated with this condition can be mitigated.

Medications

A variety of medications can be used to treat uveitis, including steroid or oral medications, alongside immunosuppressants.

Immunosuppressant medication may be prescribed as an alternative treatment if other methods prove to be ineffective. It could also be prescribed if the dose of steroid medication needs to be decreased due to significant side effects.

Implants/Injections

Injections are a common treatment option for intermediate or posterior uveitis. The injections can deliver steroid medication directly to the affected parts of the eye.

Steroid medication can be injected into the eye in liquid form, or via a small implant to treat non-infectious uveitis. Injections and implants are often recommended in cases where only one eye requires treatment, but they can be given to both eyes as needed.

Surgery

Surgical intervention may be required to manage the condition. However, this option is typically reserved for individuals with recurrent or severe uveitis that impacts the back of the eye.

In some cases, a procedure called a vitrectomy, which involves the removal of the vitreous, the gel-like substance that fills the eye, may be recommended as a means of treatment.

If you suspect you have uveitis or you want to seek the best possible treatment, book an appointment with Mr Zaid Shalchi today.

Glaucoma is thought to be the third leading cause of blindness worldwide, with an estimated 4.5 million people affected globally. One of the challenges of this common eye condition is that its symptoms do not manifest immediately, but rather develop gradually over the course of several years. As a result, many patients only seek medical attention when they realise their vision is deteriorating, by which time significant damage may have already occurred.

As World Glaucoma Week begins 12 March, here we look at the different types of glaucoma, what causes glaucoma, and the treatment options available.

What are the different types of glaucoma?

Glaucoma can manifest in different forms, and treatment will depend on the specific type a patient has. The most common form of the condition is primary open-angle glaucoma. This type of the condition is caused by a blockage in the channels that drain fluid from the eyes, leading to an increase in pressure.

Acute angle-closure glaucoma is a less common type. It typically occurs in individuals with smaller eyes, where blockages are more likely to occur. It is characterised by sudden, intense symptoms that require urgent treatment. Medication to lower the pressure is typically required before surgery can be performed to correct the issue.

Secondary glaucoma is an indirect form of the condition. It can be caused by an eye injury, illness, or the use of certain medications such as steroids.

What causes glaucoma?

Glaucoma refers to a collection of conditions that occur when the fluid within the eye fails to drain properly. The build-up of fluid leads to an increase in pressure within the eye, which can ultimately result in damage to the optic nerve, leading to vision loss.

While the precise causes of glaucoma are not yet fully understood, certain risk factors have been identified. These can include age, family history, race, and other medical conditions such as diabetes and near-sightedness. Although glaucoma can affect individuals of any age, it is most commonly observed in adults over the age of 60.

How is glaucoma treated?

It is important to understand that treatment cannot reverse any damage already caused by glaucoma. However, treatment can help prevent it from worsening and, importantly, can save you from losing your sight altogether.

Treatment for glaucoma is aimed at reducing the intraocular pressure (IOP). This is the pressure within the eye and reducing it can prevent or slow down further damage to the optic nerve. The main treatments used include eye drops and surgery.

Eye drops are often the first line of treatment for glaucoma. They work by reducing the amount of fluid that the eye produces, or by increasing the drainage of fluid from the eye. There are different types of eye drops available, and the ones used will depend on the specific type of glaucoma and the individual’s response to the medication.

Surgery may be recommended in cases where other treatments have not been effective in controlling the pressure. The most common surgical procedure for glaucoma is trabeculectomy, which involves creating a small drainage channel to help reduce IOP.

In some cases, a combination of treatments may be used to achieve the best results. Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon, Mr Shalchi will be able to advise on a surgical approach for the best results. Once your treatment plan has been organised, he will regularly monitor your eyes to ensure that the treatment is effective, and to adjust the plan if needed.

The best way to catch glaucoma early is by keeping on top of your eye health with regular check-ups. Book an eye test with Mr Zaid Shalchi today.

A recent study has revealed a worrying trend in the number of people with vision difficulties who continue to drive. Over the Christmas period, it was estimated 17 million motorists would be hitting the roads as they travelled to visit loved ones. Around 1 in 10 of those drivers could have been driving with vision below the legal standard.

Every year, it is estimated that 2900 people are killed or injured by a driver with poor eyesight. Here, we look at why motorists are continuing to drive with poor vision, and why the Association of Optometrists (AOP) is calling for tougher regulations.

What does the latest research say?

Several studies have recently been conducted to determine how many motorists are driving around with poor eyesight. The most recent was a survey conducted by AOP, taken by 1033 UK optometrists. Almost half of those surveyed claimed to have seen a patient with vision below the legal standard within the last month, but that continued to drive.

The association also carried out a public poll that revealed 62% were currently putting off an eye test. Almost a fifth of drivers also claimed they hadn’t self-checked their vision as recommended by the DVLA. Additionally, 36% of those who took the survey admitted they were using an out-of-date prescription.

Why more motorists are driving with poor eyesight

So why are so many motorists continuing to drive when they suffer poor eyesight? The ongoing cost of living crisis is said to be a large contributing factor.

Recent research from Specsavers revealed that 62% of patients who wore contact lenses or glasses were putting off visiting the opticians because of the cost-of-living crisis. Worryingly, 31% stated they currently wear eyewear prescribed to family and friends to save money.

These findings show an immediate need to help patients with the cost of their treatment. The AOP is calling for an increase in the value of NHS optical vouchers to help those struggling to afford the cost.

Calls for compulsory eyesight testing

The AOP is also campaigning for compulsory eyesight testing to be introduced in the UK. Currently, you can pass your driving test at age 17, and never have an eyesight test again. This needs to change, and members of the public agree. In 2001, 47% of 2000 people polled said they agreed that the laws on vision should be more rigorous.

Driving with poor vision isn’t just a risk to yourself, it’s also a danger to other drivers and pedestrians. If your vision is impacting your driving ability, you should book an eye health check immediately.

Call us on 020 3953 4999 or email us on secretary@zaidshalchi.co.uk to arrange a consultation with London Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon Mr Zaid Shalchi today.

 

Schools are being urged to allow pupils more time outdoors in a bid to combat the rising cases of myopia. Also known as near-sightedness, myopia is thought to be affecting more children than ever before due to spending more time in dimly lit classrooms.

Over the course of the pandemic, most children switched to remote home learning, while simultaneously spending less time outdoors. The lack of sunlight compared to previous generations, has seen a rise in all kinds of health issues, including myopia.

Here, we look at how sunshine could help to protect against myopia and other risk factors you should be aware of.

What is myopia?

Myopia is a common eye condition that affects your ability to see faraway objects clearly. The condition typically starts in children aged 6 to 13, though it can also develop in adults too. The main symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Difficulty reading from a distance
  • Sitting close to the television, or having your phone close to your face
  • Frequent headaches
  • Frequent eye rubbing

The condition typically runs in families, and it can worsen until the eyes stop growing. If it is not caught early and treated, there is a risk of it leading to vision-threatening complications including blindness. However, this is rare and only normally occurs in cases where high myopia has progressed to an advanced stage. It is usually treated with contact lenses or glasses and is diagnosed with an eye test.

How can sunlight help to fight myopia?

Sunlight helps to regulate eye growth in children. As myopia is typically caused by over-elongated development along the front-to-back axis, exposure to sunlight can help to prevent the problem. Interestingly, it can also neutralise the genetic risk associated with the condition.

It is estimated that children with a family history have a 60% chance of developing the condition themselves. However, spending just two hours a day in the sunshine can help to neutralise the risk. This is because sunlight stimulates the release of dopamine from specialised cells in the retina that aren’t associated with vision. They then trigger chemical signals that help to delay the elongation of the eyeball.

Inadequate exposure to sunlight during childhood is known to greatly increase the risk of developing myopia.

Other risk factors

It isn’t just a lack of sunlight that can cause myopia. Here are some other risk factors you should be aware of:

  • Genetics
  • Lifestyle habits
  • Demographics
  • Health factors

If your child spends a lot of time in front of a screen, or in poorly lit conditions, it can increase their risk of developing the condition. Studies have also shown that demographics such as where you live can also play a role. Those who live in rural areas are less likely to develop the condition than those in urban areas. In adults, health conditions such as Diabetes can lead to mild or moderate myopia.

Once you have myopia, it cannot be eradicated. However, it can be managed with glasses, contact lenses, or laser eye surgery.

If you are worried your child may have myopia, book a consultation with Mr Zaid Shalchi today.

Did you know that the colder winter months can play havoc on your eye health? Changes in both the environment and the weather can contribute towards a variety of eye problems that you need to be aware of.

Here, we look at some of the most common winter eye problems, alongside how to treat them.

Red eyes

You can develop red eyes at any time of year due to tiredness, infection, blurry vision, or dryness. However, in the colder weather, they can become a more prevalent problem. This is often down to the reflection of the winter sun. It can cause inflammation within the cornea, leading to red eyes.

To prevent the problem, you can wear sunglasses in cold sunny weather.

Dry eyes

The colder, windier weather in winter can cause the eyes to dry out. Using heat to stay warm can also contribute to the problem, leaving the eyes feeling dry and irritated.

There are various ways to treat dry eyes in winter, including eye drops that are available over the counter. One simple change is by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. On windy days, use glasses to keep it out of your eyes, and avoid having your face in direct heat, such as a car heater.

However, it is important to book an appointment with your ophthalmologist, to understand the root cause of your dry eyes. After this, you can discuss the best treatment options to help you manage the condition.

Tearing eyes

The colder weather in winter can also have the opposite effect on your eyes. Instead of drying up, you may find your eyes are more watery than usual. Not only is this annoying, but it can also cause issues with your vision.

Wearing glasses or sunglasses can help to prevent tearing eyes. Try and avoid wiping tears away with your hands or sleeve. Ideally you should wipe them away with a clean tissue to prevent the chance of an infection.

If you have excessive tearing eyes, it could be down to a blocked tear duct, dry eyes, or an infection. For this reason, it is worth seeking help from an ophthalmologist.

Light sensitivity

During winter, the sun sits lower in the sky. This can cause issues with your vision, including light sensitivity. If you drive, be sure to keep sunglasses in your car during winter to put on whenever you need them.

Wearing sunglasses in winter doesn’t just prevent most of the issues above, it also helps to prevent damage caused by the sun’s UV rays. Exposure to harmful UV rays has been linked to an increased risk of developing cataracts.

If you are experiencing winter eye problems that you are struggling to manage, book a consultation with Mr Zaid Shalchi. It could be an indicator of a deeper issue that needs to be addressed.

Patients with AMD could achieve better outcomes with early digital home monitoring, according to a new study. While the condition doesn’t necessarily lead to full vision loss, it can have a significant negative impact on a person’s daily life.

Here, we look at the findings of the latest study and how early digital home monitoring could help patients achieve better outcomes.

Digital home monitoring provides superior outcomes

The Analysis of Long-Term Visual Outcomes of ForeseeHome Remote Telemonitoring (ALOFT) study revealed digital home monitoring results in superior outcomes. Reporting on the results, Notal Vision Inc notes the importance of at home monitoring for the prevention of progression from dry to wet AMD.

The 10-year study revealed patients who progressed from dry to wet AMD saw superior outcomes in their long-term vision when detected early. Data from over 2000 patients, across five different clinical sites over a 10-year period was analysed. They used a home monitoring device supplied by the Notal Vision Monitoring Centre.

When the monitoring device detects structural changes, it alerts the physician. A follow-up exam is then carried out to determine if the changes are linked to a switch from dry to wet AMD.

In some cases, these follow up tests didn’t reveal an immediate change from dry to wet AMD. However, data analysis did show that these patients were twice as likely to develop wet AMD in the future.

Understanding the different types of AMD

There are two types of AMD, including dry and wet variations. Dry AMD is the most common type, developed gradually over a period of years. You will notice slight changes develop in your eyesight, eventually resulting in blank patches of vision.

Wet AMD is less common, but more serious. It can cause significant vision problems that develop rapidly. Approximately 10% to 15% of patients convert from dry to wet AMD. It occurs when new blood vessels grow due to an issue with the macula. The blood vessels typically grow in the wrong place, causing swelling and bleeding below the macula.

When left untreated, dry AMD can convert into wet AMD, which requires immediate treatment.

How is AMD treated?

Dry and wet AMD can be successfully treated. In some cases, AMD goes hand in hand with cataracts that can mask the condition. Therefore, you may need to undergo cataract surgery before the condition can be revealed and addressed.

Dry AMD doesn’t necessarily need to be treated, though it should be monitored. If you suspect you may have wet AMD, you may require regular eye injections, or very occasionally, light therapy.

To receive a diagnosis, book a consultation with Mr Zaid Shalchi today. If you are diagnosed with wet AMD, treatment can begin immediately.

Between 2020 and 2035, Glaucoma UK estimates that cases of glaucoma will rise by almost a third. Often symptomless, there are currently around 80 million people around the world suffering with the condition.

The rise in cases has been put down to an ageing population. Certainly, it has never been more important to stay on top of your eye health. Here, we look at what glaucoma is, and the common treatments available if you do develop the condition.

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is the most common cause of blindness in those over the age of 60. It is a disease of the eye that damages the optic nerve. Over time, fluid builds up in the eye putting it under a lot of pressure. The added pressure damages the optic nerve, which can lead to blindness if left untreated.

Common symptoms of glaucoma to watch out for include:

  • A red eye
  • Intense pain in the eye
  • Tenderness around the eye area
  • Blurred vision
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting

Some patients don’t experience any symptoms at all until the disease has progressed. In addition, it can occur alongside other conditions such as cataracts.

What causes glaucoma?

Your eyes have a natural drainage system that helps to keep the pressure of the eye balanced. If it stops working correctly, fluid will build up, and eventually damage the optic nerve.

There are over a million nerve fibres included in the optic nerve. As the disease progresses, the nerve fibres begin to die causing blind spots. Importantly, if it isn’t treated early enough, eventually all the nerve fibres will die, causing blindness.

Common glaucoma treatments

It is important to note that any damage to the eye caused by glaucoma is usually permanent. Therefore, patients are advised to seek treatment as soon as they discover any of the symptoms of the disease.

Although treatments cannot repair any existing damage, they can stop it from worsening, helping to save your sight.

In early and mild cases, medicated eye drops may be used to help fluid flow easier, reducing the pressure in the eye.

In moderate to severe cases, surgery may be recommended. There are several procedures that can help to treat glaucoma, including laser treatment and surgery. In some cases, cataract surgery is the best way to treat both conditions. Certainly, Mr Shalchi will be able to advise on the best surgical approach for the best results as it will depend on your individual circumstances.

Routine check-ups are the best way to catch glaucoma early and save sight. Keep on top of your eye health by booking an eye test with Mr Zaid Shalchi today.

New research has revealed that older people suffered avoidable falls and injuries due to delays in cataract surgery. The pandemic caused a significant backlog in elective surgeries, including cataract procedures.

The Australian study highlights the link between cataracts and the risk of falls, and the benefits of having the surgery. In light of Falls Prevention Week this month, we shine a light on the importance of treating cataracts early.

Cataract surgery can reduce the risk of falls by up to 50%

The latest study, published within The Medical Journal of Australia, revealed that cataract surgery greatly reduces the risk of falls. When carried out on one eye, the risk of falls in the over 65’s decreased by 31%. After having surgery on both eyes, this further drops to 50%. Data was taken from eight different Australian public hospitals, between the years 2013 and 2016.

This research highlights the importance of providing older patients with the cataracts surgery they need.

Delays in surgery having a real impact on patients

It isn’t just the added risk of falls and injury that patients are having to deal with due to backlogs in surgery. Delays to cataract procedures can also lead to vision loss. According to a report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Eye Health and Visual Impairment (APPG) published by the RNIB, 22 patients each month are experiencing permanent and severe vision loss due to a delay in the surgery they need.

The delay is also affecting the mental health of patients, with many frustrated and worried about the risks. Cataracts worsen over time without treatment, which can lead to mobility issues and trouble carrying out daily activities. This in turn can lead to social isolation, as elderly patients don’t feel confident enough to leave their homes without assistance.

The impact these delays in surgery are having on patients is severe. Cataract surgery takes just 30 minutes in most cases, yet millions of patients are struggling to receive it in time.

What to expect from cataract surgery

Cataract surgery is a straightforward procedure, and it can greatly help to reduce the risk of falls and injury. The lens of the eye is removed and replaced with an intraocular lens.

The eye is numbed with either an injection around the eye, or with eye drops. Some patients may also choose to take a mild sedative to help them fully relax. You will be awake for the surgery, but you won’t be able to see what is happening to the eye.

Tiny incisions are made towards the edge of the cornea, before microscopic tools are used to break down and remove the affected lens. Finally, a news lens will be inserted, and the incision site will automatically seal back up.

While there are still long backlogs for many NHS cataracts patients, choosing to go private is one way to speed up the treatment you need. Book a consultation with Mr Zaid Shalchi today to learn more about cataract surgery and what to expect.

If you suffer with dry eyes, the summer months can either help or hinder the condition. The humidity we experience in our British summers can help to relieve dry eyes, making it more bearable. However, in some situations the summer months can actually cause dry eyes to worsen.

If the summer months have caused your dry eyes to become even more uncomfortable, read on for the best ways to manage the condition.

What are dry eyes?

Our eyes provide lubrication and moisture to help keep them comfortable and functioning correctly. They do this through our tear system, produced by tear glands in the corner of each eye. When something isn’t right with this system, it can lead to a condition known as dry eyes.

When you have dry eyes, you may notice the following symptoms:

  • A gritty feeling in the eye
  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Blurry vision
  • A feeling that something is in the eye

Occasionally, dry eyes may produce an abnormal number of tears, known as reflex tearing. As a lack of moisture irritates the eyes, the body overcompensates by producing too many tears. Unlike normal tears, they don’t coat the surface of the eye. So, they won’t relieve the condition.

What causes dry eyes?

There are a few potential causes of dry eyes such as imbalance within the tear flow system, air conditioning, the ageing process, and side effects of medication.

Cataract surgery can also cause dry eyes, or can make the symptoms of dry eyes worsen due to the disruption of tear film. However, this is usually only temporary, and it is important to speak to your eye doctor about any changes or symptoms. Importantly, getting to the root cause of your dry eyes will be key to treating them.

Managing dry eyes over the summer

During the summer months, there are a few things that can exacerbate dry eyes. If the humidity is low, the dry climate can cause the body to produce fewer tears. Excessive use of air conditioning can also make the condition worse, as can chlorine in the pool.

If you want to prevent your dry eyes from irritating you this summer, you should…

Wear sunglasses – Sunglasses can help to protect your eyes against the sun’s rays, dry air, and wind.

Invest in eye drops – Eye drops that you can purchase over the counter can help to treat dry eye during the summer. However, you may need stronger drops on prescription.

Wear specialised contact lenses – If you wear contact lenses, they can dry out the eyes further, proving uncomfortable to wear during summer. Ask your eye doctor for specialist contact lenses that are made from different materials.

Try out an approved nasal spray – Some approved nasal sprays can help to increase tear production and they can be used twice a day.

Having your eyes regularly checked

If you are worried about the impact the weather is having on your dry eyes this summer, having regular eye check-ups is essential. This will help to detect any problems early, as well as enable you to take precautionary measures to protect your eyes.

Get help managing your dry eyes this summer by booking a consultation with Mr Zaid Shalchi today.