What is Macular Degeneration and Are You at Risk?

Age-related macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss, affecting more than 2 million Americans age 50 and older. Due to the aging of the U.S. population, the number of people affected by AMD is expected to increase significantly in the years ahead.

Age-related macular degeneration usually produces a slow, painless loss of vision. In rare cases, however, vision loss can be sudden. Early signs of vision loss from AMD include shadowy areas in your central vision or unusually fuzzy or distorted vision.

Though macular degeneration is associated with aging, research suggests there also is a genetic component to the disease.

Besides affecting older populations, AMD occurs in whites and females in particular. The disease also can result as a side effect of some drugs, and it seems to run in families.

New evidence strongly suggests smoking is high on the list of risk factors for macular degeneration. Other risk factors for macular degeneration include having a family member with AMD, high blood pressure, lighter eye color and obesity.

Some researchers believe that over-exposure to sunlight also may be a contributing factor in development of macular degeneration, but this theory has not been proven conclusively. High levels of dietary fat also may be a risk factor for developing AMD.

  • Aging. The prevalence of AMD increases with age. In the United States, approximately one in 14 people over the age of 40 has some degree of macular degeneration. For those over 60, the rate is one in eight (12.5 percent); and for seniors over age 80, one in three (33 percent) has AMD.
  • Obesity and inactivity. Overweight patients with macular degeneration had more than double the risk of developing advanced forms of macular degeneration compared with people of normal body weight, according to one study reported in Archives of Ophthalmology (June 2003). In the same study, those who performed vigorous activity at least three times weekly reduced their risk of developing advanced AMD, compared with inactive patients.
  • Heredity. As stated above, recent studies have found that specific variants of different genes are present in most people who have macular degeneration. Studies of fraternal and identical twins may also demonstrate that heredity is a factor in who develops AMD and how severe it becomes.
  • High blood pressure (hypertension). Investigative Ophthalmology and Vision Science reported the results of a European study demonstrating that high blood pressure may be associated with development of macular degeneration (September 2003).
  • Smoking. Smoking is a major AMD risk factor and was found in one British study to be directly associated with about 25 percent of AMD cases causing severe vision loss. The British Journal of Ophthalmology in early 2006 also reported study findings showing that people living with a smoker double their risk of developing AMD.
  • Lighter eye color. Because macular degeneration long has been thought to occur more often among Caucasian populations, particularly in people with light skin color and eye color, some researchers theorized that the extra pigment found in darker eyes was a protective factor against development of the eye disease during sun exposure. But no conclusive evidence as yet has linked excessive sun exposure to development of AMD. A small study reported in the British Journal of Ophthalmology (January 2006) found no connection between the eye disease and sun exposure. In fact, the same study found no relation at all between lighter eye color, hair color and AMD. That finding is contradicted by several earlier studies indicating that lighter skin and eyes are associated with a greater prevalence of AMD.
  • Drug side effects. Some cases of macular degeneration can be induced from side effects of toxic drugs such as Aralen (chloroquine, an anti-malarial drug) or phenothiazine. Phenothiazine is a class of anti-psychotic drugs, including brand names of Thorazine (chlorpromazine, which also is used to treat nausea, vomiting and persistent hiccups), Mellaril (thioridazine), Prolixin (fluphenazine), Trilafon (perphenazine) and Stelazine (trifluoperazine).

Think you are at risk? Schedule an appointment with one of our doctors to catch it early!


Happy New Year! As you are getting your goals in order for 2020, don’t forget your eye health! Start the New Year right by taking care of your eyes. Dr. Mansfield, Dr. Meyer, Dr. Lewis and our staff are passionate about proper eye care. January starts off the year by recognizing the importance of eye care all month long. Schedule an examination with one of our doctors in Pelham today to help you see better tomorrow.

Annual Eye Exam

You should always schedule an eye exam for you and your loved ones at least once a year. Here are just a few reasons why taking the time to get your eyes checked annually is important;

Early detection

A lot can happen in one year. Still, by having an eye exam once a year, you will be giving yourself enough time for your optometrist to detect any deformities early on in their development. Addressing eye health issues before they progress and become more sever is always a good idea, as treating them early will minimize damage to your eyes and vision.

Protect Your Future Vision

Even if you have perfect vision, having an eye exam once a year will help you save your vision for the future. Many people start losing their vision gradually, without noticing its effects. The longer you go without an eye exam, the harder it will be for your optometrist to correct the vision loss.

Help Promote Healthy Vision During January

After your eye exam, make sure you keep promoting National Eye Care Month by telling your friends and family. Additionally, you can donate your old eye glasses to local charities that help families who can’t afford their own pair of eye glasses.

Schedule your appointment with Dr. Kye Mansfield, Dr. Jill Meyer or Dr. Rena Lewis by calling (205) 663-3937. Your vision is one of your most important senses. Don’t let this month pass by without taking care of your eyes!

Use Your FSA on Eyewear by the End of the Year

Many employers offer access to Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), which let you put away pre-tax dollars for eligible healthcare products and services (think everything from surgery and medical bills to thermometers and first-aid kits). Storing money in an FSA account is a great deal, provided that you spend it; FSA operates on a use-it-or-lose-it provision.

In other words, FSA funds are use it or lose it, and any unused money left over at the end of the year is no longer yours. Unused funds go to your employer, who can split it among employees in the FSA plan or use it to offset the costs of administering benefits.

FSA Store estimates that more than $400 million is forfeited every year in FSA funds because employees either miss or forget their spending deadlines (based on estimates using data from the 2017 FSA and HSA Consumer Research conducted by VISA). It’s your money — and it’s pre-tax. It doesn’t make sense not to use it. 

Under no circumstances can your boss give the money back to you directly, according to IRS rules. Once the plan year is over, that money is gone. So if you have any left toward the end of the year, you’ll need to figure out when and how to spend it.

What Can Flexible Spending and Health Savings Accounts Be Used for?

Your flexible spending account or health savings account will typically cover expenses like prescription drugs, doctor visits, and prescription eyewear. Your FSA can help purchase prescription eyeglasses, prescription sunglasses, and contact lenses year-round. You can use these funds for prescription eyewear, whether or not you have vision insurance. See the list below to find out if your prescription eyewear is covered.

  • Eyeglasses (including reading glasses)
  • Prescription sunglasses
  • Sunglasses (only if medically necessary and prescribed by a physician)
  • Contact lenses and related cleaning/storage solutions

At Dr. Kye Mansfield, we offer a large selection of eyewear, sunglasses, and contact lenses. Use those FSA funds by the end of the year as a holiday gift to yourself!

Giving Thanks and Giving Back with BackPack Buddies

‘Tis the season of giving thanks…and thankful giving! For many of us, the meaning of Thanksgiving usually includes feasting, four-day weekends, football games, floats, family reunions, or a forerunner to Christmas festivities. This year, we are giving back to our local community as a part of our Thanksgiving celebrations in addition to all of our customary traditions.

We were recently introduced to the staff of Backpack Buddies, a not for profit organization located here in Pelham, AL. We are happy to announce that we have partnered with Backpack Buddies to help support the needs of students in our community. Soon you will see a donation area in our lobby that is being set up to collect a variety of foods, as well as grocery gift cards, that will be donated each month directly to the BackPack Buddies program. These donations will benefit the students of our local community that need supplemental food after school hours and over the weekends.

What is BackPack Buddies?

In Shelby County alone, there are over 10,000 public school children on the free meal program at their school but what happens over the weekends? During long holiday breaks and weekends, The BackPack Buddies Program helps meet the need by providing public school students with nutritious and easy-to-prepare food that they can take home when other resources aren’t always available. 

The organization also provides Family Emergency Food Boxes, Hygiene Bags, and many other important essentials. Backpack Buddies supports the needs of students in Alabaster City Schools, Pelham City Schools, and Shelby County Schools. The program feeds approximately 950+ students weekly from August through May of every school year. When school ends each year, the participants receive provision through the many summer feeding programs offered throughout Shelby County.

Please consider dropping off a food or grocery gift card donation to our office at your next appointment with us, while in our optical shop trying on a variety of frames and shades, or simply stop in to drop off your donation while you are out running errands. We accept pop top meals/soups, low-sugar cereal cups, capri suns, nutri-grain bars, carnation breakfast drinks, pasta cups, applesauce cups, pudding cups, fruit gummy snacks & grocery gift cards. These items are easy for children to prepare on their own and have a lengthy shelf-life.

For more information on the BackPack Buddies program, visit their website.

Consult an Eye Doctor if Your Halloween Costume Includes Scary Eyes

Creepy costume lenses might add a spine-tingling thrill to your Halloween costume, but wearing costume contact lenses without a prescription can lead to serious eye infections or permanent vision loss. Decorative lenses are medical devices, not costume jewelry. They must be prescribed and fitted by an eye care professional, just like regular contact lenses. That’s why we are urging people to buy decorative contact lenses only from retailers who require a prescription and sell FDA-approved products.

A poorly fitted contact lens can easily scrape the cornea, the outer layer of the eye, making the eye more vulnerable to infection-causing bacteria and viruses. Sometimes scarring from an infection is so bad, a corneal transplant is required to restore vision. The most extreme cases can end in blindness. 

Although it is illegal to sell non-prescription contact lenses, they are available at costume shops, gas stations, corner shops, and online. Research shows that people who purchase contacts without a prescription face a 16-fold increased risk of developing an infection.

Mamie Gaye, 19, is one of those people. She wanted blue eyes, so she purchased a pair of colored contact lenses at her local beauty shop in Cleveland. There was no indication on the package that she needed a prescription. After wearing them for about a week, her eyes were red, burning, and sensitive to light. She had to go to the emergency room just to get them removed. She was terrified that she was going blind. Fortunately, the scratch on her eyes healed after a few days of treatment with antibiotic eye drops. 

“My advice to friends is to never buy contact lenses without a prescription, no matter how beautiful you think they will make you,” Gaye said. “It’s not worth it.”

Read the following tips to help ensure your Halloween costume won’t haunt you long after Oct. 31:

  • See an eye care professional to get a prescription for costume contact lenses. Packaging that claims “one size fits all” or “no need to see an eye doctor” is false. Get properly fitted by an eye doctor.
  • Properly care for contact lenses. Even if you have a prescription for contact lenses, proper care remains essential. Watch this video to learn the eight steps to protect your eyes from contact lens infections.
  • Never share contacts. Pink eye isn’t a good look, even for a costume. Sharing contacts can spread germs, causing conditions such as pink eye, which is highly contagious.
  • Spread the word to others about the dangers of costume contacts. Don’t let friends make the mistake of wearing costume contacts without a prescription

Are Your Student Athlete’s Eyes Ready for the Season?

Now that the school year is in session, for many students that also means “back-to-sports.” So we have to ask: Are your student athlete’s eyes ready for back-to-sports season? With 80% of learning tied to a child’s visual system, it’s important that all students are seeing their best to maximize their ability to learn.

Telltale Signs Your Student Athlete’s Vision is an Issue

Not all kids like sports, but for those who do, watch for signs that indicate a need for further vision testing. These include:

  • A typically athletic child seems less excited about playing a favorite sport enjoyed in previous years.
  • Your child has noticeable difficulty seeing the ball (or other players) clearly.
  • He or she shies away from ball sports that include hitting, catching or shooting.
  • Exhibits difficulty tracking where the ball or other players are on the field of play.
  • Over- or under-estimates the distance to the ball, boundaries or other players.
  • Has strong athletic ability but simply doesn’t do well playing ball sports.

If your child exhibits any of these behaviors, we recommend scheduling a comprehensive eye exam so one of our optometrists can check for vision skills that impact sports performance, including eye teaming, eye tracking, focusing and visualizing.

These visual skills are all necessary to tell how distant an object (the ball) is at any given moment in time–a skill called depth perception. Without depth perception, you’ll have difficulty “keeping your eye on the ball” and difficulty with athletic performance in general.

Going Deep Into Depth Perception

Because we have two eyes, humans have the capability of perceiving depth perception, meaning that we can discern how close or far away an object is using visual cues to judge the distance of an object and how fast it’s moving toward or away from us. This is critical in many sports and in many life skills, especially for your young athlete’s eyes.

However, some eye conditions cause depth perception to be diminished and athletic performance to suffer. In the long run, poor depth perception could impact career choices and job performance.

Good Depth Perception is Key for Athletes

Most ball sports require athletes to track the moving ball through space and then either catch or hit it, so depth perception is absolutely crucial for excelling in these sports. And when you consider the speed at which balls are thrown, it’s critical to be sure your child is seeing their best and has good depth perception and peripheral vision. This enables visual awareness of the playing field, which helps to avoid injuries. And of course, eye protection―in the form of sports goggles―is a must for kids who play sports.

Causes of Poor Depth Perception

For good depth perception, the eyes must each be able to accurately focus and clearly perceive objects in space. The eyes must also work together as a team to give the brain information about the distance and rate at which the object is moving. The brain receives input from each eye―each of which offers a slightly different image of the field of vision―and puts them together in a single, three-dimensional image, which is what we “see” in our field of vision.

However, if one eye is not performing as well as the other, the brain won’t receive enough information to provide an accurate “picture,” and the result may be poor athletic performance.

If one eye has excellent visual acuity while the other doesn’t, it can negatively affect depth perception. However, correcting the vision in the poorly performing eye can improve depth perception significantly.

The two most treatable causes of poor depth perception are:

  1. Strabismus—a misalignment of the eyes where one eye “points” in a different direction from the other, whether it’s left, right, down, up or diagonally.
  2. Amblyopia—often called “lazy eye,” this is a condition where one eye isn’t capable of producing a clear image for the brain, so the brain starts ignoring input from that eye.

Finally, the good news is that we can diagnose and treat both of these conditions—in addition to other eye-teaming issues that impact sports performance.

To ensure that your student athlete’s eyes are in good shape, schedule a comprehensive eye exam with us. One of our doctors will test to make sure the eyes are working well together and that vision is functioning optimally for excellent performance both on the playing field and in the classroom.

Tips for Seeing Clearly this School Year

Has your child had an eye exam?

We all have our back-to-school shopping lists:

  • Get school supplies
  • Buy new shoes
  • Schedule sports physical
  • Pay classroom fees
  • Attend Meet the Teacher

Something very important is missing from the list: making an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam for your children! Even if there are no complaints over the summer about blurry vision or headaches, children still need to have frequent eye exams. Just like their bodies are rapidly growing, children’s eyes are changing as well.

Myopia, or nearsightedness, is a common condition in children which often develops around the age of 6 or 7. This condition results when the cornea is curved too much or when the eye is longer than normal. When light comes into the eye, it is focused in front of the retina instead of directly on the retina and the child’s vision is blurred. Nearsightedness can worsen rapidly, especially between the ages of 11 and 13, which means that an eye prescription can change dramatically over a short period of time.

Comprehensive eye exams can also detect other eye conditions besides nearsightedness. Some children may have good distance vision but may struggle when reading up close. This is known as hyperopia or farsightedness. Other eye issues such as strabismus (misaligned eyes), astigmatism or amblyopia (lazy eye) are also detectable through an eye exam. For some eye conditions, vision can be permanently affected if the problem is not corrected. Regular exams mean earlier diagnosis and earlier treatment.

Even a small change in vision can cause eye strain, headaches or blurred vision which can be very distracting while in school. Staying consistent with eye exams will help your children to have clear vision and be able to concentrate and perform to the best of their ability. With clearer vision, this school year will be the best ever! Schedule an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam

Tips for Seeing Clearly this School Year

1. Get your child an eye exam before school starts.

The American Optometric Association recommends that children have their first comprehensive eye exam at age one, and again at age three. In addition, children of parents who wear glasses should have an eye exam every year after the age of five. Vision screenings are useful but often miss binocular vision disorders and hidden vision problems.

2. Kids should wash their hands regularly.

The tears and front surface of the eye form a mucous membrane that transmits germs easily. Some eye infections (particularly viral infections similar to the common cold) are extremely contagious. Kids tend to rub their eyes quite a bit, so clean hands will cut-down on eye infections.

3. Ensure children wear protective eyewear when playing sports.

Sporting follies are among the top cause of eye injuries. Even if a child does not need glasses to see, protective eyewear (sports goggles) is a must to guard against dust and dirt in the eyes, eyelid and corneal lacerations, and fractures of the bones that make up the eye socket or orbit.

4. Encourage kids to give their eyes a rest.

Excessive screen time can lead to eye-strain, blurred vision and even nearsightedness. Hand-held electronic (phones, tablets) and computer-use should be limited to 20 minutes at a time and no more than two hours a day – especially if someone in the family already wears glasses.

UV Rays Can Cause Harm to Eyes

You probably know that too much exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause sunburn and skin cancer. But did you know UV rays can also harm your eyes? Extended exposure to the sun’s UV rays has been linked to significant eye problems, including cataracts, macular degeneration, pterygia and photokeratitis. As you rub sunscreen on to protect your skin this summer, don’t forget to protect your eyes as well. 

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The Blinding Truth About Fireworks

The numbers are clear: fireworks are dangerous, and the month surrounding July 4th is the most dangerous time. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s most recent annual fireworks injury report  fireworks caused eight deaths and nearly 13,000 injuries in 2017. Two-thirds of the fireworks injuries treated in emergency rooms happened between mid-June and mid-July. The report also found that 14% of fireworks injuries were eye injuries. In the most severe cases, fireworks can rupture the globe of the eye, cause chemical and thermal burns, corneal abrasions and retinal detachment — all of which can cause permanent eye damage and vision loss.

Here are four fireworks facts you should know:

1. Sparklers are NOT safe for young children. Sparklers burn at 1,800 degrees! Sparklers, which many consider harmless, are responsible for most of the injuries to children age 5 and younger.

2. Bystanders are injured by fireworks as often as fireworks operators. An international study of fireworks-related eye injuries showed that nearly half of the people injured by fireworks are bystanders. Two of the most common culprits of firework related injuries are mortar-type fireworks and bottle rockets, which are thrown before they explode and can strike an innocent bystander.

3. It is not safe to pick up a firework after it has been lit. Even though it looks like a dud, it may not act like one. Injury and serious eye trauma can occur when people mistakenly think that a firework is no longer active or hot. Never touch unexploded fireworks and contact the local fire or police department to properly handle it.

4. The Fourth of July can still be a “blast” without using consumer fireworks. The safest way to view fireworks is to watch a professional show. Here is an article by Bham Now on The Alabama Bicentennial Fireworks Show

If you experience a fireworks injury, we urge you to minimize the damage to the eye by doing the following:

• Seek medical attention immediately.
• Do not rub the eye. Rubbing may make the injury worse.
• Do not attempt to rinse the eye.
• Do not apply pressure to the eye.
• Do not remove objects from the eye,
• Do not apply ointments or take pain medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen before seeking medical help.

As always, Dr. Kye Mansfield, Dr. Jill Meyer and Dr. Rena Lewis are here to help. If you have questions about potential eye injuries or safety precautions, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

Make Eye Health a Priority in your 20’s

Yearly physical? Check. Dentist appointments? Double Check. But what about your eye health?

It’s important to take care of your eyes — just like you take care of the rest of your body! Whether you’re looking forward to soaking in the window view from your corner office or setting your sights on the beach this summer — you can take simple steps now to make sure you’re seeing your best when that day comes.

Healthy Vision Month is the perfect time to learn how to protect your eyes — and help prevent vision loss in the future. This year, we’re encouraging young adults ages 25 to 35 to make eye health a priority now and for years to come.

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