With your complaints, I would definitely recommend getting checked out by an ophthalmologist.
Lee Katzman, MD
- Lee Katzman MD
If there is a progressive disease process identified, then by treating the disease, you can stop the progression of astigmatism. For example, when we remove large pterygia from the eye, a majority of the astigmatism is removed. LASIK or PRK can also be performed to correct large amounts of astigmatism, if you are a candidate. If you are seeing a difference in the appearance of your two eyes, then something else may be going on and you should seek an opinion by a board certified ophthalmologist or optometrist.
- Lee Katzman MD
The first consideration involves your contact lens hygiene. Are you wearing dailies, biweeklies, or monthly lenses? Are you replacing them as you were instructed? Despite what my patients tell me, I know the 2 weekers are staying on eyes for over a month at times. The monthlies tend to go 2 months, etc. And this has been substantiated by the medical literature, so it’s not just my intuition. Everyday, these lenses accumulate microscopic debris and cause microtrauma to your ocular surface.
If you are young and healthy, the eye can repair itself quickly. As you get older or as you stress your eyes with overwear (wearing more than 14 hours per day), sleeping in your lenses, etc., eventually you become less tolerant. When the immune system (ocular surface) breaks down, it then puts you at risk for corneal ulcers which can then result in severe loss of vision. Contact lens solutions are not created equal either. Sometimes, the solutions are the culprit and need to be changed. For all of these reasons, I recommend daily wear contact lenses for all of my patients. You don’t have to worry about cleaning them, you don’t need solutions to store them, and you can’t overwear them because they get less comfortable after 24 hours or so. It eliminates many of the day-to-day problems I see with longer-wear lenses. I also recommend contact lens holidays: take the weekend or even a 7 day period of time without any wearing of your contacts. This allows your eye to restore itself and tolerate contacts better when you restart use.
Getting examined by an optometrist of ophthalmologist is your best bet. Only with an eye exam can we determine whether or not your problem is being caused by an underlying disease (dry eye, allergies, giant papillary conjunctivitis, etc.) versus a poor lens fit.
-Lee Katzman MD
Understand that diabetes is a disease of small blood vessels. It affects these vessels in every part of your body from your toes to your kidneys and even brain. The reason the eye exam is so helpful to your primary doctor is that we can provide insight into the level of diabetes without taking a biopsy or doing a blood test. So it's a non-invasive way to grade the extent of diabetic damage throughout your body.
Hopefully this explains why your doctor is pushing you towards getting an eye exam!
Assuming you are in your 20s (you say you have been in glasses 10 years), the most common reasons for prescription changes year to year include the natural subtle changes that the cornea undergoes over time, accommodative-state changes as you age, and latent hyperopia. Most people hit a relatively stable prescription in their mid 20s until around the early 40s when they lose the ability to fully contract the ciliary muscle in their eyes that give them that ability to see both far distance and near targets. Latent hyperopes, or farsighted people, actually have a glasses prescription that is able to be corrected for by contracting the ciliary apparatus naturally. So they have perfect vision until they lose enough of that muscle that the distance vision starts to fade. The extent that the ciliary apparatus is contracted is called the "accommodative state". When you get checked for glasses, if your eye is contracting more than usual (you are nervous during your exam or you spent 10 hours studying for a test with your books 12 inches from your face) this will lead to the optometrist or ophthalmologist giving you a prescription slightly different than the prior year. We call this getting "overminused". We are trained to avoid this but it does happen and I can't speak to who checked your eyes this year! And let's not forget about contact lens overwear, contact lens related infections, and contact lens warpage that all can change your cornea year to year leading to changes in your prescription. I could talk about these topics all day long.
Very large shifts in prescription year to year at this age, in general, are not normal and should trigger an exam by a professional. Keratoconus, for example, is a cornea disease whereby the cornea thins and creates an out-pouching leading to high orders of astigmatism and eventually perforation. Premature cataract formation can alter your vision drastically as well, which could be due to excessive UV exposure from snow skiiing, water skiing, or tanning in a tanning bed without protection. Excessive use of systemic steroids like from a steroid inhaler for asthma or triamcinolone creams/ointments from your dermatologist can be other causes. Here in San Diego, "surfers eye" or "pterygia" cause tear film instability and prescription changes annually and eventually require surgical removal. The list goes on and on, so my best advice still remains that you should be seen by an eye doctor to be sure you have ruled the above out. Hopefully this was helpful!
Thank you for your question,
Lee Katzman MD
Cornea, Cataract & Refractive Surgeon
Any condition that affects the cornea (the clear, most anterior structure of the eye) leads to photosensitivity/photophobia (sensitivity to lights). This is because there are more nerve endings per square millimeter innervating the cornea than any other part of the human body (I believe the genitals are a close second place). If you've ever had a scratched cornea you would understand how sensitive the cornea can be! The common culprits for photophobia tend to be unmanaged dry eye disease, ocular allergies, contact lens overwear/keratitis, anterior uveitis, and cataracts.
Each of these conditions are managed differently, but the one that should be ruled out sooner better than later is uveitis. Uveitis is an inflammation of the uvea (particular structures of the eye) that can be associated with an underlying disease process (like lupus, syphilis, sarcoidosis, tuberculosis, Crohn's disease, etc.). When your doctor identifies uveitis they typically initiate a systemic workup with the assistance of your primary medical doctor. After treatment of the uveitis, the photophobia typically clears up quickly.
So there is obviously more historical information that will be needed by your ophthalmologist or optometrist, and there's no online source of information that replaces an examination by a medical professional. So my formal advice for you is to make an appointment with your doctor. But hopefully this has been somewhat helpful!