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Eye Allergies, Or…?

Hey, allergy season. Welcome back to the time of year when everyone blames almost every distress on allergies! Let us help set the record straight though, since certain symptoms are easily assumed as a seasonal allergic reaction when they can actually be a result of something worth looking into further.

Eye Allergies

But okay, we’ll give eye allergies a little bit of attention since they can be the reason for red, itchy, swollen, sensitive, burning, and overall irritated eyes. First and foremost, don’t forget, it’s not just the pollen. There are several things you can be allergic to from trees to animals to new perfumes, even new contact lenses, believe it or not.

The reason behind the reactions you experience is the release of histamines. Histamines are a chemical that causes all the swelling, tears, et cetera, in an attempt to release allergens and help defend your eyes.

While antihistamine pills and eye drops help calm allergic reactions, it’s suggested that over-the-counters aren’t used for more than a couple of days. Ask us about prescribed eye drops that can be used on a more fluid schedule and can healthily harmonize with any existing eye issues such as glaucoma.

Now that we’ve covered eye allergies, let’s talk about other possible culprits.

Eye Allergies or Eye Infections?

girl with irritated dry red eye or allergy female

The reactions might seem as similar as identical twins in the beginning. But the causes are completely unrelated. Eye allergies are caused by allergens and eye infections are caused by substances like bacteria, parasites, and viruses. If they are not appropriately addressed, symptoms can mutate from a mild itch to more intense pain, light sensitivity and thick, slimy discharge.

Another important thing to know about infections vs allergies: infections can spread to others and allergies cannot. Proper hygiene and following ODs guidance are crucial to healing your own eyes and protecting the eyes of others.

Eye Allergies or Dry Eye?

One oddity of dry eye syndrome is that it can lead to watery eyes. This reflex tearing helps to confuse dry eye syndrome and eye allergies. There are so many varied factors that can lead to dry eye. Factors that can develop at any time. One way to help differentiate the two is maintaining awareness of other symptoms that are more prone to dry eye, such as:

  • Heavy eyelids
  • Blurry vision
  • Eye pain that feels different from allergic irritation

Eye Allergies or Adverse Medicinal Reactions?

Some medications can cause severe eye problems, but the puzzling part is they often don’t kick in until after years of use. This is one of the several reasons why it is important to discuss all side effects with your doctors and to share your use of all medications with your trusted optometrist.

Medications that can lead to eye issues fall in every arena. The most common negative results are dry eye, light sensitivity, and in more serious cases, optic nerve damage and loss of visual acuity. If these reactions begin to take place during the months that are often considered “allergy season”, it may be easy to relate them with allergy responses.

Eye allergies usually don’t come on their own. They’re often accompanied by sneezing, a scratchy throat, and a stuffy nose. The best way to confirm the cause? A checkup! Request an appointment on our website with details of what eye irritations you’re looking to calm. Our team at Complete Eye Care is here to help!

When the Whites of Your Eyes Just… Aren’t Quite White

White eyes have just about the same cosmetic priority as white teeth or unblemished skin. In fact, several surveys reveal that about 30% of people initially notice eyes when they first meet someone. While you can be a generally healthy human with stained teeth and imperfect skin, your eyes can reveal a lot about you… including your health.

First, allow us to introduce you to the sclera. The sclera is simply the medical term for “the white of the eye”. And it comes with high importance.

The sclera is four coats of protection that wrap around most of the eyeball, from the front of the beautiful colored part of the eye- the iris, to the back with sensitive optic nerves. This eye armor is no more than one millimeter thick, which amounts to the thickness of about 10 sheets of paper, layered on top of one another!

The layers of protective armor that give your eye its white color and the sclera its overall strength include randomly patterned collagen fibers and tissues called the episclera, the stroma, the lamina fusca, and the endothelium.

Typically, the entire sclera, not just one layer, changes color or accumulates spots.

Here are 4 hues to keep a lookout for along with a few reasons why:

  1. Yellow: A yellow tone brings along with it a couple of main suspicions, jaundice and “surfer’s eye”.A buildup of red blood cells that are normally filtered out by the liver can have several different causes but can trigger jaundice which often includes a yellowing of the eyes and skin. Surfer’s eye should really be given the nickname of “Outdoor A Lot Eye” as it is a sign of untreated UV damage from the sun combined with high winds or areas filled with dust.
  2. Blue: A tint of blue/gray might not be easy to detect by looking in a mirror, and often these tints are unavoidable because of long-term use of important medications.Tints of blue are still important to observe with help from your OD to consider or dismiss certain health conditions like genetic bone disease or iron deficiency.
  3. Red: Chances are we’ve all experienced eyes with a shade of red, whether it was thanks to allergies or exhaustion or any other typical culprit.
    However, it is still important to schedule an appointment as soon as possible since a red eye can also signal an infection or a broken blood vessel, especially if accompanied by discharge, pain, or blurred vision.
  4. Closeup of an eye of a black manBrown: Brown spots are on both ends of the spectrum. They range from completely harmless to life-threatening. High levels of melanin, the natural skin pigment which makes skin, hair, and the iris of your eyes a darker color can curate spots outside of the iris and within the sclera which are nothing to worry about.
    However, if a dark spot that resembles a freckle that changes over time develops during or after your 30’s, we suggest you make an appointment. These more serious brown spots are not at all melanin-related and can become cancerous if left untreated.

So, when the whites of your eyes just… aren’t quite white, give us a call at 704-271-5544! Keep note of what is accompanying your sclera color change and alert us about anything such as…

    • Blurred vision
    • Discharge
    • Pain
    • Light sensitivity
    • Swelling or bulging

…and our team at Complete Eye Care will handle the process to lead your eyes—and your entire self—back to health.

How Amniotic Membrane Helped Peggy and Her Eye Discomfort

Dry Eye Syndrome (DES) is a chronic condition that can develop when your eyes do not produce and maintain enough tears to keep the eyes surface lubricated. This can lead to multiple symptoms that range from person to person. DES affects different parts of the eye, but mainly the cornea, which is the covering over the colored part of the eye. The cornea is a delicate tissue which must be kept moist by the tears at all times. Dry eyes have many causes with aging being the most common. Women tend to suffer from dry eyes more often than men due to hormonal differences.

Recently Dr. Laura Ashe at Complete Eye Care in Belmont, NC saw Peggy. Peggy suffers from dry eyes which caused her eyes to hurt, burn, and tear. Peggy was often bothered by this tearing and sometimes felt like there was something in her eyes, all which was due to her dry eyes. Dr. Ashe diagnosed Peggy with DES and prescribed special preservative free artificial tear drops. Peggy was also given punctal plugs, called Tear Savers, which are an easy, painless way to keep the natural tears in the eye instead of letting them drain out, keeping the cornea moist. If the cornea does not stay moist then the delicate corneal tissue dies off. Since the cornea has several nerve endings, when the delicate tissue is injured due to dryness, the eye hurts, burns, tears, and feels like something is in it.

Peggy was seen again at Complete Eye Care after treatment and there was a noted improvement in the appearance in the health of her cornea. There was still some dryness issues, so to ensure the best possible health and comfort for Peggy, Dr. Ashe recommended an amniotic membrane. An amniotic membrane is a small membrane the size of a contact lens made up of amniotic membrane tissue which can be placed on the eye just like a contact lens. This membrane then slowly dissolves into the cornea and heals any corneal damage that is present. Peggy was treated with an amniotic membrane and then seen a week later and found to have a completely healthy cornea with absolutely no corneal tissue damage.

Peggy is very pleased with how comfortable her eyes are now and all her dry eye symptoms have been resolved. Peggy had put up with dry eye symptoms for years before she went to Complete Eye Care and finally got relief from her dry eye symptoms after treatment. Peggy is so glad to know there are solutions to dry eyes and appreciates how comfortable her eyes feel now.

After Corneal Transplant, Scleral Lenses Help Pam Drive

Pam is from Gastonia, N.C and she was diagnosed with Keratoconus when she was a teenager. Keratoconus is a disease of the cornea which results in irregular astigmatism due to a steepening of the cornea. People with keratoconus have a slowly progressive decrease in their vision which cannot be corrected with glasses. The reason glasses do not correct the decreasing vision of keratoconus is because keratoconus causes irregular astigmatism. Irregular astigmatism is different from the normal astigmatism that people usually have which is easily corrected with glasses.

Since Pam was diagnosed with keratoconus in the 1970’s the only possible treatment at that time was a corneal transplant surgery. This involves removing the diseased cornea of the person with keratoconus and putting a donor graft cornea on the patient. Pam underwent the corneal transplant surgery as a teenager and received two corneal grafts. Today, there are currently other solutions to keratoconus such as scleral contact lenses, however since Pam was diagnosed in the 1970’s, these other solutions were not available to her.

Pam came to Complete Eye Care in Belmont, N.C for an eye exam with Dr. Barbara Marcussen, who found Pam to have 20/100 vision with glasses. Pam stated she had difficulty driving and could not see to drive at night even with her glasses. Dr. Marcussen told Pam about a great solution to her decreased vision, which had resulted from her corneal transplant surgery. People who have had corneal transplants often have irregular astigmatism because of how the donor cornea placed on the person receiving the transplant heals. Pam was thrilled to know there was a solution that would result in sharp, clear vision again after so many years of poor vision.

Dr. Marcussen fit Pam in scleral contact lens that she specially designed based on a topography reading, which individually maped 11,000 points on Pam’s cornea. The scleral lens is designed so that it fits and contours the cornea perfectly. Scleral contact lenses are an excellent solution for people who have undergone corneal transplants, as well as people who have keratoconus. After Pam was fit in scleral contact lenses by Dr. Marcussen, she went from seeing a blurry 20/100 distorted vision to clear crisp 20/25 vision.

Pam feels she has had a true miracle happen in her life. Prior to being fit in scleral contact lenses, Pam had a restrictive driver’s license which only allowed her to drive on small side streets, did not allow any interstate driving or any driving on roads over 45 mph. Because of the tremendous improvement in her vision from being fit in scleral contact lenses at Complete Eye Care, Pam was able to get a normal nonrestrictive driver license for the first time. She is now able to go out of town since she can now see clear enough to drive on the highway. She can see clear to drive after dark and does not feel like a prisoner in her home at night. She can even take her son to sports practice and pick him up after dark! Pam feels scleral contact lenses have opened up an entire new life for her. She has not had vision this clear and sharp in over 30 years. We are so excited for Pam and will always remember how much her face lit up when she first put on her scleral contact lenses!

Vision Therapy Helps Jacobs Double Vision and Reading

Jacob is a young man who loves playing basketball and watching the Cleveland Cavaliers. He came into Complete Eye care because he was having double vision, and was having a hard time reading and copying from the board. It seemed that Jacob’s depth perception was off because he was frequently clumsy. Jacob would also reverse letters likes b’s and d’s. He did not want to tell his mom his problems because he did not want anything to be wrong with his eyes.

Jacob came into Complete Eye Care in July of 2017 for an annual pediatric eye exam. Dr. Ashe recommended that Jacob have a vision therapy evaluation to see if vision therapy would benefit him. Jacob was recommended vision therapy to help with his visual problems, and he worked with Vision Therapist Liz, with much success.

Following Jacob’s graduation from vision therapy, positive changes were noted. First of all, Jacob’s self-esteem improved tremendously. He no longer held his head down walking into therapy or talking with others. Jacob sat straight in his chair, while his head was no longer tilting. His reading became more fluent, and the double vision dissipated. He reported that his grades had improved and he could now see the board in class without any problems. Mom was excited to see Jacob’s handwriting become more legible and neat. Jacob is also doing better in basketball, which makes him happy. A job well done, Jacob!

Jennifer Gets comfortable Scleral Lenses for Keratoconus

Jennifer is from Gastonia, N.C and has keratoconus. Jennifer was not able to see clearly out of glasses or soft contact lenses because of her keratoconus which causes irregular astigmatism which can only be corrected by special contact lens. She had hard contact lenses in the past that always felt uncomfortable and were hard to keep in her eyes. Jennifer often had to remove the rigid contact lenses after a few hours since they became so uncomfortable. Jennifer was seen at Complete Eye Care in Gaston County by Dr. Barbara Marcussen who specializes in fitting people with keratoconus with specially designed scleral contact lenses. There is a big difference between scleral contact lenses and traditional hard or rigid contact lenses. Scleral contact lenses are fit to each individual eye shape based on a topography reading of 11,000 points. So these scleral contact lenses were custom made just for Jennifer and were large which allowed them to rest on the white part of the eye and not the central cornea part which is the most sensitive. This resulted in an extremely comfortable contact lens for Jennifer. Scleral contact lenses are also able to correct for the irregular astigmatism which is the result of keratoconus. So the result of being fit in scleral contact lenses was Jennifer had the clearest most comfortable vision she has ever experienced. She is so happy with her decision to be fit in scleral contacts and says she recommends these scleral contact lenses to anyone.


What You Need to Know to Help World Blindness

October is World Blindness Awareness Month, an initiative started to help the public to understand the realities of visual impairment and how it affects the world population.

Unfortunately, there are hundreds of millions of individuals around the world who are unnecessarily blind or visually impaired due to causes that are preventable and treatable. Much of this is due to lack of access to proper healthcare and education. Today’s research shows that the leading causes of blindness and moderate and severe vision impairment (MSVI) are uncorrected refractive error, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma and other retinal diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa.

While steps are being taken to increase education and access to eye care in populations that are known to be lacking, vision impairment is expected to increase threefold by 2050 due to aging and an increase in myopia and diabetic retinopathy.

Here are some facts about blindness and MSVI:

  • 36 million people worldwide are blind
  • 217 million are categorized as MSVI
  • 253 million are visually impaired
  • 1.1 million people have near vision impairment that could be fixed with eyeglasses
  • 55% of visually impaired people are women
  • 89% of visually impaired people live in low or middle-income countries
  • 75% of vision impairment is avoidable
  • 81% of people who are blind or have MSVI are aged 50 years or over
  • Almost half of all students in Africa’s schools for the blind would be able to see if they had a pair of glasses.

What can we do?

To help combat global blindness and vision impairment, we first have to be educated. Learn about proper eye health and eye care and educate your children, family and friends. Implement that knowledge into your life with preventative eye care and regular eye doctor visits. Fighting blindness starts at home.

Next, consider donating your old eyewear. Eyewear donations can be extremely valuable to underdeveloped countries. Most eye doctors accept donations of old eyewear and give them to organizations like the Lions Club or VOSH that do humanitarian missions to other countries and provide eyecare and eyewear. Old glasses that we take for granted here or that are gathering dust in a drawer somewhere can be life changing for someone in a poor or underdeveloped country.

In addition, there are a number of organizations that assist the world population in preventing blindness and providing education and eye care to underprivileged societies. You can help fight blindness and MSVI by supporting these causes and the many others out there doing humanitarian work in this field. Here are a few examples:

Through support, research, education and outreach, we hope to stop the rapid pace of increasing unnecessary blindness around the world. So spread the word. When we all come together, we can accomplish our goals!

Halloween Eye Safety

October has arrived and that means many people are already starting to plan for upcoming costume parties and trick-or-treating for the Halloween season. This is why now is the time to remind the public about some very important precautions about eye safety since there are some common costume props and accessories out there can be very dangerous to your eyes.

Cosmetic Contact Lenses

One of the biggest costume-related dangers to your eyes and vision is cosmetic or decorative contact lenses. Decorative lenses can be a great addition to your costume, but they must be obtained safely and legally with a prescription, through a professional, authorized vendor.

The bottom line is that contact lenses are a medical device that are manufactured and distributed under very strict regulations. Even non-corrective contact lenses require an eye exam to measure your eye and fit lenses according to a prescription. Costume stores, beauty supply stores and similar websites are not authorized dealers of contact lenses, and over-the-counter contact lenses are not legal under any circumstances.

Beware of anyone advertising “one-size-fits all” lenses or promoting that you do not need a prescription to purchase. Never buy contact lenses that don’t require a prescription. You could be risking serious damage to the eye and even blindness.

When contact lenses are not fitted to your unique eye measurements by an eye doctor, they can cause dryness and discomfort as well as a corneal abrasion or a scratch on the front surface of the eye. Serious corneal abrasions can leave scars and create permanent vision damage. Further, unregulated contact lenses may not be manufactured with optimal materials that are flexible and breathable and can be applied and removed properly. There are stories of lenses being stuck to people’s eyes and causing serious damage. Even if you aren’t feeling pain, it is best to check with a qualified licensed contact lens fitter to confirm if the contact lens is causing any harm to the eyes.

Non-prescription contacts have also been shown to present a higher risk of eye infection. Serious infections can lead to vision loss, sometimes on a permanent basis. There are far too many stories these days of people that have used off-the-counter contact lenses that are now blind or suffering serious vision loss and chronic discomfort.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to forgo your red, devil eyes this year! Just be safe and plan ahead. There are many manufacturers of cosmetic lenses, and these can be obtained safely through an authorized contact lens dealer. Contact your eye doctor or local optician to find out more.

False Lashes

False eyelashes have become quite the rage in recent years but they carry a number of risks with them as well. First of all, they can damage the natural eyelash hair follicles, causing them to fall out, sometimes permanently. The chances of this increase when people sleep in their lashes or leave them on for extended periods of time. In addition to the aesthetic damage, this can be dangerous to your eyes because eyelashes are essential for protecting your eyes from sweat, debris, and dust. Without your eyelashes your eyes are at greater risk for infection and irritation.

False eyelashes can also be a trap for dirt, debris and bacteria which can enter your eye causing irritation and infections, along the lids or inside the eye itself. As we said above, severe infections can sometimes lead to vision loss.

Additionally, the glue that adheres the lashes to your eyelid can sometimes cause an allergic reaction in the skin around the eye or to the eye itself. The eye is one of the most sensitive areas of the body, so you want to keep any potential allergens or irritants far, far away.

Masks and Props

If your (or your child’s) costume includes a mask, fake face, hood or anything else that goes on your head, make sure that visibility isn’t impaired. Unfortunately, it’s common for children especially to trip and fall because they cannot see well. Also, use caution when using props such as plastic swords, pitchforks, guns, sports equipment which can easily cause a corneal abrasion or contusion to the eye if hit in the face.


Lastly be careful about the makeup you apply around your eyes. Wash your hands before you apply eye makeup and don’t share makeup and brushes with others, as this can lead to the spread of infections such as conjunctivitis (pink eye). Make sure your makeup isn’t expired (mascara for example is recommended to throw away 2-4 months after opening) and try not to apply anything like eyeliner too close to the underside of the eyelid. Lastly, only use makeup intended for eyes in the area around the eyes.

When you are planning for this Halloween season, just remember that your vision is too high a price to pay for any great costume. Dress up safely and Happy Halloween!


Life with Keratoconus is better with Scleral Contact Lenses: Pam’s Story

Pam is from Gastonia, NC and had been diagnosed with keratoconus when she was a child. Pam’s vision slowly decreased as she grew into a teenager and she had to undergo a corneal transplant in each eye in her early teens. Pam was then fit for glasses but was not able to see well out of her glasses because corneal surgery results in irregular astigmatism which is not able to be corrected with eyeglasses.

Pam had tried hard contact lenses but found them to be very uncomfortable. She was not able to tolerate the feel of the hard lens and therefore had to wear glasses and live with poor vision. Pam lived with decreased vision for about 30 years before she came to see Dr. Barbara Marcussen at Complete Eye Care in Belmont, NC. Pam had an eye exam and she was found to have 20/100 and 20/200 vision with her glasses. Pam was not able to see clearly with glasses because of her irregular astigmatism as a result of her corneal transplant. She had a very limited driver’s license which did not allow her to drive on certain roads, at night, and had several other restrictions. Pam took care of her mother and had children so her limited driver’s license severely restricted her quality of life.

Dr. Barbara Marcussen evaluated Pam and decided to fit her in a scleral contact lens. These scleral contact lenses are designed for each individual cornea so Dr. Marcussen was able to design a scleral lens that would correct for all of Pam’s irregular astigmatism. Scleral contact lenses also vault over the entire cornea so they are extremely comfortable since nothing touches the cornea. Scleral contact lenses are extremely safe for anyone who has had any type of corneal surgery since they do not touch the cornea. Dr. Barbara Marcussen took a topography reading of Pam’s cornea and based the scleral contact lens on the 11,000 points she obtained from the topography measurements.

Pam put the scleral lenses on and was able to read 20/25+ vision for the first time in over 30 years!

Pam now has clear and comfortable vision and is able to get a normal non-restrictive driver’s license like everyone else. She is so happy to finally see clearly and we are all so happy for her too!

Scleral Lenses are a Great Alternative to Uncomfortable RGP Contact Lenses: Robert’s Story

Robert is a 46-year-old who lives in Gastonia, North Carolina. He has keratoconus and had undergone a corneal transplant in his left eye many years ago. He also had a scar on his right cornea from keratoconus. Robert had 20/70 vision best corrected with his glasses. He needed to see clearer to work so he was fit into a small, hard, gas permeable contact lens prior to being seen at our office.

Robert researched solutions to Keratoconus and what options he had after corneal transplant surgery. He came to Complete Eye Care in Belmont, North Carolina to see if he could improve his vision greater than the 20/70 he came in seeing with his glasses.

Dr. Barbara Marcussen fit Robert in a scleral contact lens in his right eye due to his keratoconus. Robert was thrilled with how much more comfortable the scleral lens was to wear instead of the small hard gas permeable lens he was wearing prior to being fit with the scleral lens. One of the reasons scleral lenses are so comfortable is because they vault over the cornea and land on the sclera, which is the non-sensitive part of the eye. The result is super comfortable contact lenses. Dr. Barbara Marcussen is a certified WAVE designer so she designed Robert’s lens to the exact measurements of his eye. She took a corneal topography map of 11,000 points on Robert’s cornea and she individually designed the scleral lens to fit perfectly for his exact eye shape. Dr. Barbara Marcussen was also able to fit his left eye with a scleral lens even after his corneal transplant. Since Robert had undergone a corneal transplant, it was imperative that the lens fit perfectly and did not touch down on the cornea. The precise measurements were taken and an individually designed lens was designed to match the contour of his eye even though he had a transplanted cornea.

The result is that Robert now sees clearly all day and has very comfortable vison. He reports he cannot even feel the lenses on his eyes even though he works very long hours and has to leave the lenses in for many hours at a time. He also said the scleral lenses are so much more comfortable and do not dry out like his old gas permeable lenses did. Robert is very happy with his excellent vison and comfort and is now seeing better than he has ever seen before!

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