Eye Conditions

The doctors at Charlotte Ophthalmology Center for Sight have helped thousands of people enjoy better vision. When you have a problem with your eyes, you know you can turn to us for help. Leading the way with new medications and surgical procedures, Charlotte Ophthalmology Center for Sight can diagnose and treat a wide range of diseases and conditions. Advances in technology have impacted all aspects of vision care. Surgical procedures that once required a hospital stay and lengthy recovery are now performed by our doctors on an outpatient basis, with most patients returning to their normal activities within hours.

We continually invest in the most state-of-the-art diagnostic and surgical equipment. And our doctors go through rigorous, ongoing training to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to improve our patients’ vision and quality of life. We’re committed to providing the most advanced care available.

For your convenience, we’ve developed an overview of common eye conditions. Click on any of the conditions on this page to learn more about symptoms, causes and treatments.

You know your eyes better than anyone. If they don’t see, feel or look as well as you’d like them to, schedule an appointment with one of our doctors by using our online scheduling or by calling  704-895-8200 (Huntersville).

PREVENTION OF EYE DISEASE
CATARACTS
CORNEAL ABRASIONS
CORNEAL DISEASE
CORNEAL ULCERS
DIABETIC RETINOPATHY
DRY EYES
FLASHES & FLOATERS
GLAUCOMA: The ``SNEAK THIEF`` of Vision
MACULAR DEGENERATION
PREVENTION OF EYE DISEASE

We welcome patients for routine eye exams. For over forty years, people in the Charlotte community have been trusting our physicians to evaluate the health of their eyes. Many of our patients return to our office each year for their annual eye examination. At this visit, our experienced ophthalmic assistants and physicians will work together to check your vision, determine whether your vision could be improved with glasses or contact lenses, and examine your eyes carefully with specialized technology for the presence of any eye conditions or diseases that might threaten your eyesight.

We are strong advocates of the helpful role good nutrition can play in preventing disease. According to FDA studies, you should consume 9 to 13 one half cup servings of fruits and vegetables each day to reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke and many other conditions. Fruits and vegetables are excellent natural sources of antioxidants and these phytochemicals have been shown to play an important role in disease prevention. In fact, we routinely recommend that our patients who have cataracts, macular degeneration or glaucoma increase in their diet the amount of fruits and vegetables they eat each day to reduce the risk that their condition will worsen. And, we have them consider taking a natural supplement that helps them avoid the risk of toxicity from synthetic vitamins which was demonstrated in a large scientific study published in the February, 2007 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Many people do not realize that some conditions like glaucoma and retinal disease may create few or no symptoms, especially in the early stages of the disease. Early detection of conditions like this allow for more effective treatment and a better prognosis. Every day our physicians protect and improve our patients’ eyesight by treating conditions they have detected on an annual eye exam.

Remember, a comprehensive eye exam takes time. Waiting to complete paperwork, obtain pre-authorizations for insurance coverage, then be screened by our certified ophthalmic technician for a refraction, and then waiting for your pupils to be medically dilated can be frustrating. During the visit, our ophthalmologists, Drs Whiteside, will take the steps necessary to use their technology and expertise to examine your eyes as well as discuss any findings or recommendations. This can take considerable time. Many patients will be at our office for an hour or so to complete the entire process. But it is worth it.

You should call us to arrange for an annual eye exam if:

  • you require glasses or contact lenses to see better
  • you have medical conditions like diabetes, hypertension or collagen vascular diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus
  • you are 50 years old or older
  • you have not had an eye exam by an ophthalmologist in over two years
  • you have had previous eye surgery
  • you have a family history of eye diseases like glaucoma or macular degeneration

You will find our friendly staff and physicians will do a thorough exam, explain all findings, discuss ways to protect your eyesight and prevent disease, and recommend any necessary follow-up care.

Thank you for allowing us to help you protect your eyesight with an annual eye exam at Charlotte Ophthalmology Clinic Center for Sight.

CATARACTS

Cataracts are very common as we age, and may prevent us from seeing clearly. Cataracts are a clouding of the natural lens of our eyes that causes declining visual clarity. Fortunately, the physicians and surgeons at Charlotte Ophthalmology can effectively cure the condition with cataract surgery. In cataract surgery, the cloudy natural lens is removed from the eye. A permanent intraocular lens implant replaces the natural lens to restore focusing power. Our surgeons will assess how the cataract is affecting your lifestyle in combination with the clinical examination to determine if cataract surgery is right for you.

We perform a stitch-free, pain-free surgery by using numbing eye drops for anesthesia. The procedure is performed using an ultrasound-driven instrument that “sonically” breaks up the cataract (phacoemulsification) as it is suctioned (aspirated) out of the eye. Our surgeons utilize a microscopic incision that allows for a quicker recovery and eliminates the need for stitches, as the very small incision seals on its own. After your surgery, you will use eye drops a few times a day as prescribed by your surgeon.

Advanced Cataract Surgery

Cataracts are very common as we age, and may prevent us from seeing clearly. Cataracts are a clouding of the natural lens of our eyes that causes declining visual clarity. Fortunately, the physicians and surgeons at Charlotte Ophthalmology can effectively cure the condition with cataract surgery. In cataract surgery, the cloudy natural lens is removed from the eye. A permanent intraocular lens implant replaces the natural lens to restore focusing power. Our surgeons will assess how the cataract is affecting your lifestyle in combination with the clinical examination to determine if cataract surgery is right for you.

We perform a stitch-free, pain-free surgery by using numbing eye drops for anesthesia. The procedure is performed using an ultrasound-driven instrument that “sonically” breaks up the cataract (phacoemulsification) as it is suctioned (aspirated) out of the eye. Our surgeons utilize a microscopic incision that allows for a quicker recovery and eliminates the need for stitches, as the very small incision seals on its own. After your surgery, you will use eye drops a few times a day as prescribed by your surgeon.

Advanced Cataract Surgery

Following cataract surgery, our patients typically report crisper, more vivid vision almost immediately. They are satisfied not only with their newfound visual clarity, but with the ease of the procedure and the manner in which our surgeons have personally cared for them. If you think you may have a cataract, please visit with Dr. Brandon Whiteside for a comprehensive and informative consultation about your eyes.

Advanced Lens Implant Technology

Dr. Brandon Whiteside utilizes the Tecnis and AcrySof® IQ family of lenses, which are designed to reduce spherical aberrations, increase contrast sensitivity, and improve functional vision. These lenses offer advantages over traditional spherical cataract lenses:

  • Enhanced clarity
  • Improved image quality

The Tecnis and AcrySof® IQ family of lenses offer statistically and clinically significant improvements in night driving test conditions that simulated city and rural settings under normal, glare and fog conditions. In these tests, the Tecnis and IQ lenses performed functionally better than traditional lens implants in 34 of 36 conditions tested. The performance in 12 of these conditions was statistically significant, with the greatest advantage observed in detection and identification of city pedestrians and rural warning signs under glare and fog conditions.

CORNEAL ABRASIONS

The cornea is the part of the eye you can touch with your finger. Even minor trauma can scratch the surface of the cornea, removing the skin-like epithelial layer and exposing the sensitive nerve endings below. Patients describe intense pain, tearing, light sensitivity and blurred vision, which does not resolve after a few minutes.

Fortunately, several treatments offered at Charlotte Ophthalmology Clinic can quickly reduce the pain, restore the vision and heal the cornea. Topical antibiotic drops are prescribed to reduce the risk of infection, and dilating drops are used to reduce spasm from light sensitivity.  A bandage contact lens or patch can be placed to further reduce the pain if needed. Usually is takes 24 hours for the cornea to heal small abrasions so patients are asked to take it easy, wear sunglasses and use oral analgesics – and give it time.

Rarely does this injury permanently affect one’s vision but scarring or recurring erosions can be a problem, so follow-up with us is sometimes necessary to treat these problems.

We are available on an emergency basis to see you in our office if needed.

CORNEAL DISEASE

The cornea is the clear part of the front of the eye. It is the part of the eye on which people put contact lenses.  It is similar to a watch crystal in that it is normally clear and allows light to pass through it without any problems.  However, in the presence of corneal disease the cornea can become cloudy and tend to scatter the light resulting in less than normal vision.  There are many forms of corneal disease but the ones that are most common are keratoconus, Fuchs’ dystrophy, bullous keratopathy.

Keratoconus is a condition in which the fibers that make up the bulk of the cornea are inherently weak.  These fibers are responsible for keeping the cornea well-organized and transparent. When the fibers are weak, as in keratoconus, the cornea begins to thin and deviate from its normal curvature assuming an irregular cone-like shape.  This condition is usually present in both eyes though one eye may be more advanced than the other. Vision is usually corrected with glasses or contacts in the early stages of keratoconus. If the keratoconus is worsening, corneal crosslinking can strengthen the corneal tissue and stop it from progressing. In advanced cases, a hard contact lens (RGP) or surgery (corneal transplant) may be necessary to restore vision.

Fuchs’ dystrophy is an inherited condition that can eventually lead to corneal swelling (edema).  In Fuchs’, the inner layer of the cornea, called the endothelium, begins to get small bumps called guttae and loses its ability to pump fluid out of the cornea. As a result of the dysfunctional endothelium, the cornea begins to accumulate fluid and swell.  When the cornea accumulates enough fluid it starts to interfere with vision, it can seem like you are looking through a steamy bathroom window. This cloudy vision usually appears upon awakening and will become clearer as the day progresses. When the quality of vision is poor enough surgical intervention is recommended.  Historically, a full thickness corneal transplant has been performed to replace the diseased endothelial layer. However, recent advances in surgical techniques have allowed ophthalmologists to remove only the endothelial layer and replace it with a donor layer. This new technique is called DSEK which stands for Descemets Stripping, Endothelial Keratoplasty.  DSEK has multiple advantages over a traditional corneal transplant including quicker visual recovery and better stability of the wound. Dr. Brandon Whiteside, our corneal specialist, has been performing DSEK for many years and would welcome the opportunity to discuss surgery with you.

Bullous keratopathy is another condition that results in corneal edema. Bullous keratopathy results when the inner layer of the cornea, the endothelium has been damaged and there are not enough cells remaining to pump the fluid out of the cornea. These cells are usually lost or damaged as a consequence of trauma or surgery.  The result is corneal edema. This usually begins with fluid filled microcysts in the superficial layer of the cornea called epithelium. Eventually, these microcysts unite or coalesce to form a larger cyst called bulla. Vision will be poor due to the corneal swelling and bullae.   These large cysts can rupture causing intense pain much like a corneal abrasion. Surgical intervention is generally recommended when vision is blurry or when it becomes painful, depending on the potential for useful vision of the eye. If no other eye disease is present the patient may do well with DSEK (see above).  If the retina or optic nerve have sustained significant trauma other procedures may more beneficial. Dr. Whiteside will discuss with you which surgery would be most useful for your situation.

CORNEAL ULCERS

A corneal ulcer is an inflammatory or infectious condition of the cornea involving disruption of the epithelial layer (surface cells) with involvement of the underlying corneal stroma.  Most corneal ulcers are infectious and are caused by microorganisms such as bacteria than gain access to the cornea usually from an opening in the superficial layer or epithelium. Corneal ulcers are a serious sight-threatening condition and require urgent attention by an ophthalmologist. The eye doctor can diagnose a corneal ulcer by examining the eye with a microscope.  Symptoms of a corneal ulcer include pain, redness, tearing, blurred vision, light sensitivity, and foreign body sensation. Common risk factors for developing corneal ulcers include trauma and wearing contact lenses (especially sleeping in them). If neglected or not treated, ulcers may result in perforation or hole in the eye resulting in loss of vision and potentially loss of the eye.  Infectious corneal ulcers are usually treated with antibiotic drops that may have to be specially made by a compounding pharmacy. Treatment with antibiotic drops may take 1-2 weeks or longer depending on the type of microorganism. It is not uncommon after having a corneal ulcer to have a scar at the site of the infection. Your vision will be affected if the scar is significant or in the middle of the cornea.  A corneal transplant may be need if the loss of vision is severe.

Sometimes a corneal ulcer will be noninfectious or sterile – meaning it is not caused by a microorganism.  These ulcers are often due to diminished corneal sensitivity and are called neurotrophic. Sterile ulcers may also result when the eyelid can not be fully closed as a result of paralysis such as Bell’s palsy.  Sterile ulcers can be slow to heal and are often treated with lubrication and patching the eye. Treatment should not be delayed as these too can potentially progress to perforation.

DIABETIC RETINOPATHY

Diabetes is a major cause of loss of vision. Some studies report that 20% of diabetic patients have changes in their retina, called diabetic retinopathy, that could lead to a permanent and untreatable loss of vision if not detected early.

At Charlotte Ophthalmology Clinic, our ophthalmologists are trained to help you detect and treat diseases of the eye associated with diabetes. Cataracts, glaucoma, dry eye, and eye infections, in addition to diabetic retinopathy, are all more common in diabetic patients, especially those with poor blood sugar control or who also have high blood pressure, anemia, high cholesterol, or who smoke.

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the breakdown products from high blood sugar levels cause damage to the tiny blood vessels in your eyes. These blood vessels begin to leak fluids into the retina and the retina becomes starved for oxygen and nutrients. Damaged retinal cells try to recover by stimulating the growth of new blood vessels, but these are fragile and can break and bleed into the retina, causing more damage. In the early stages, there are no symptoms, but we can see the evidence of this occurring on a thorough exam of your retina.

Controlling your blood sugar to achieve a Hemoglobin A1C level of less than 6.9 definitely reduces your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. This can be done with weight loss, exercise, and improved nutrition. Blood sugar reducing medication is necessary for many diabetic patients. Also, avoiding smoking, controlling other medical conditions, and improving your nutrition with foods high in antioxidants, like fruits and vegetables, will help reduce your risk. It is important to work closely with your primary physician and/or endocrinologist to be certain all of these are being addressed and your treatment is working.

Frequent and regular eye exams can help us detect eye changes in the early stages so that treatment can begin before these changes damage your eyesight. Even if you have no symptoms, diabetic patients should get their eyes examined once a year. Treatment may involve injection of medicine into the eye or the use of office laser procedures, which can be done to repair the damaged blood vessels, and microsurgical procedures, like a vitrectomy, for more extensive disease.

If you have diabetic retinopathy and/or diabetic macular edema schedule your appointment with Dr. Daniela Whiteside for a consultation. She will determine if you need treatment with laser or intravitreal injections with Avastin, Lucentis, or Eylea.

DRY EYES

A sandy, burning sensation in your eyes, vision which blurs intermittently especially with reading or watching TV, light sensitivity and redness are common symptoms of Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca, or dry eyes.

With dry eyes, you may have excessive tearing, where tears actually well up and run down your face. How can my eyes be dry when I have tears running down my face? Reflex tearing, which occurs when your tear glands are not producing sufficient quality and quantity of tears, is because your eyes have become chronically sensitive. Wind, changes in temperature, humidity or light will cause the tear gland to suddenly produce a lot of tears. Your lids and tear ducts, which act like gutters on a house, cannot drain these adequately. The tears overflow and run down your cheeks.

Dry eyes may occur with aging as the tear glands do not produce as many tears as you get older. Or, dryness may be a side effect of medications, like antihistamines or blood pressure medications like diuretics. Hormonal changes that occur as we get older can affect the moisture levels in the entire body, including your eyes. Inflammation of the oil glands, or meibomitis, occurs when the oil glands, called meibomian glands, become inflamed and can no longer produce oils to stabilize the tear film. This can occur in association with a common skin condition called Acne Rosacea. Eyelid anatomy changes from injury, tumors or age can expose the eyes and cause the moisture to evaporate too quickly. Finally, autoimmune conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis can alter your tear glands’ ability to produce tears adequately. Frequently, it is a combination of these causes that work together to create enough symptoms for you to call for an appointment.

Dry eye is very treatable and rarely sight threatening. Depending on the cause, our doctors at Charlotte Ophthalmology Clinic, may recommend anything from over-the-counter eye drops, to prescription medications like Xiidra® or Restasis® or ocular steroids, to minor procedures performed in our office on your tear ducts or eyelids. A thorough eye exam which may involve some special testing will reveal the causes and a follow-up visit or two will be helpful to see if you are responding to treatment. Please call our office for an appointment if your symptoms are bothersome.

FLASHES & FLOATERS

Patients frequently call our office and describe seeing spots in their vision. These spots, or “floaters”, may be new to you, or ones you have may have become more numerous or noticeable, and they may be accompanied by “flashes” of light. If this happens to you, your vision may be unaffected, but you may see a fogginess to your vision or a shadow in your peripheral vision. This can be a warning sign of a retinal detachment, so we will recommend a visit to our office to see one of our doctors for a dilated retinal exam to check for any signs of a tear or retinal detachment.

Fortunately, most patients who present to our office with these symptoms have no signs of a retina problem. In those cases, the floaters are usually due to a vitreous detachment. The vitreous is the fluid-like gel that fills up the large back chamber of the eyeball. As we all get older, the vitreous becomes more fluid-like and begins to shift around in the eye. This normally causes no pain or changes in the vision, but in some unlucky patients a sudden shift of the vitreous can tear the retina or retinal blood vessels. This will cause flashes of light and more floaters as the blood cells move around in the eye. There is nothing you can do to prevent this from occurring. But it is important to have your eye examined if these symptoms occur. If a tear is found, a laser can be used to seal around the tear and keep it from becoming a retinal detachment. If a retinal detachment has already occurred, prompt surgical correction of the detachment can prevent permanent damage to your eyesight.

Floaters and flashes can also rarely be due to other conditions – poorly controlled high blood pressure, diabetic retinopathy, blood clots in the retinal blood vessels, normal post-operative changes after eye surgery, viral infections in the eye, autoimmune diseases like lupus, and ocular tumors. The ophthalmologists at Charlotte Ophthalmology Clinic are trained to perform a thorough eye exam to detect these problems, determine what is the cause of your symptoms, and begin appropriate therapy.

Please contact our office if you have these symptoms so arrangements can be made to see you.

GLAUCOMA: The ``SNEAK THIEF`` of Vision

Glaucoma is a complex disease of the optic nerve which causes irreversible vision loss. In its early stages in causes no symptoms, so you may have the condition and not know it. The only way to determine whether you have it is to have your eye pressure measured and to have your optic nerve examined. This can be done as part of a complete annual eye exam.

Glaucoma can occur in many forms but it is primarily due an increase in the intraocular pressure above the normal range of 10 to 21 mmHg. It can usually be treated by lowering your eye pressure with regular use of special prescription eye drops. Treatment will keep your vision from deteriorating but it will not restore vision already lost; therefore, it needs to be detected at an early stage before it damages the eyesight.

Our ophthalmologists diagnose and treat glaucoma patients on a daily basis and will use their experience to evaluate whether you have this condition.

Risk Factors

Glaucoma is more common if you are older than 50, have diabetes or high blood pressure, are African-American, or have had previous eye surgery or eye injuries. Risk increases with age so you should have your eyes examined each year and you should control conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure.

Top 10 Tips for Reducing the Costs of your Glaucoma Medications
MACULAR DEGENERATION

Macular degeneration (Age-related Macular Degeneration, or AMD) is a serious degenerative problem of the portion of the retina responsible for central vision. It can affect your vision at any age but it is primarily age-related, reducing vision permanently in patients age 50 and older. It is the most common cause of irreversible and untreatable blindness in Caucasians over the age of 55. There are 2 types of macular degeneration: dry and wet. Macular degeneration starts off in everyone as the dry type. Over time, as the dry macular degeneration worsens, about 15% of these patients will develop into the wet form of macular degeneration. The wet form of macular degeneration can damage vision quickly if not treated in a timely manner.

Risk Factors

It is more likely to affect you if you have a family history of the condition as well as if you are older, smoke, have high blood pressure, or have exposure to lots of ultraviolet light and sunlight. Poor nutrition plays a significant role as well.

Prevention

Increased intake of antioxidants, which are found in fruits and vegetables or special extracts like Juice Plus, have been shown to reduce the risk of AMD. Increasing omega-three fatty acids (fish, nuts) in your diet, taking fish oil capsules, avoiding smoking, controlling your blood pressure, wearing sunglasses and frequent, regular eye exams will also reduce your risk and help you maintain good vision throughout your life.

Treatment

Unfortunately there is not a treatment for the dry type of AMD.  There are treatments for the wet form of AMD, which typically involve injecting medicine into the eye (see below). Dr. Daniela Whiteside at Charlotte Ophthalmology Clinic is trained to detect AMD at its earliest stages.  If signs of AMD are discovered, treatment recommendations might include increased nutrition from whole food sources like fruits and green leafy vegetables, special testing and monitoring the macula for evidence of fluid accumulation (called wet AMD), and high dose vitamin supplements. Our Optical Department can help as well. Special sunglasses, magnifiers and low vision aids can be fitted by our Opticians to help improve your eyesight for daily activities.

Wet AMD

Sudden and persistent distortion of your vision can be a warning sign of wet AMD, which occurs when fluid from a leaky blood vessel accumulates in the macula. Newspaper print may seem wrinkled or distorted or your vision may become suddenly cloudy in one eye. We provide our patients with an early detection self-test for this, called an Amsler Grid. With daily use, it can help you detect this at an early stage. If wet AMD is discovered, Dr. Daniela Whiteside will initiate intravitreal injections with Avastin, Lucentis, or Eylea.

•Click Here for the Amsler Grid

Insurance

Treatment of many eye conditions is covered by insurance, including Medicare. If you have questions about what is covered by your private healthcare insurance, contact your plan provider, or provide us with a copy of your insurance card and we’ll check for you. We accept most major insurances. You can e-mail our customer service department at info@eyesoncharlotte.com or call us at 704-895-8200 (Huntersville) with questions.

If you have questions about your Medicare coverage, call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) to speak to a Medicare Customer Representative. You can also go to www.medicare.gov to find out more about Medicare coverage. Our staff is also available to help you determine whether the eye care you need is covered by Medicare. You can e-mail info@eyesoncharlotte.com who will reply within 48 hours, or call us at 704-895-8200(Huntersville).

Your out-of-pocket expenses for Medicare or private insurance will depend of the type of insurance you have, whether you have supplemental insurance and whether you have a deductible on your policy. We’ll be glad to process all insurance claims for you. We also accept cash, personal checks, Visa and Mastercard.

Pricing

The best way to find out exactly what your price will be is to schedule an exam. After a comprehensive evaluation to determine what procedures you’re a candidate for and what degree of correction you need, you may meet with Sandy Crowley, our Refractive Coordinator, who will be able to give you a specific price.

A few insurance companies do pay for all or part of vision correction procedures. You can check with your plan administrator, or we will be happy to make a copy of your insurance card and check coverage for you. Many people have medical flex plans they use to save up to 50 percent on their procedure by using pre-tax dollars.

See our payment options and learn more about our financing options

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