Could you have a cone in your cornea?

Keratoconus bay eye care

Have you or someone you know had problems with blurry vision, even with the help of glasses? You may have undiagnosed keratoconus, a condition more common in New Zealand than anywhere else in the world. Keratoconus occurs most often in people of Maori or Pacific Island descent, those with a family history of the condition, and those who are prone to eye-rubbing, often due to allergies.

Using corneal topography to detect keratoconus.

Keratoconus means ‘cone-shaped cornea’ and occurs when the front layer of the eye becomes thin and bulges into an irregular shape. This may only be detectable with specialist optometry equipment that can map the shape of the eye. Even with glasses vision may appear blurred, ghosted or double, and is often worse in one eye that the other.

Generally the best vision for someone with keratoconus can be achieved with the use of specialty contact lenses. The newest type of contact lens for keratoconus, a scleral lens, offers more comfort, stability and quality of vision than traditional smaller rigid lenses or soft lenses.

Normally keratoconus starts in the teens, and tends to get worsen with age. Eventually this may lead to scarring and poor vision, meaning a corneal transplant may be required. These days a special strengthening procedure called corneal-crosslinking can be performed to prevent further keratoconus progression.

A scleral lens for providing clear vision for someone with keratoconus.

A scleral lens for providing clear vision for someone with keratoconus.

If think you or someone in your family may have keratoconus see Bay Eye Care as our optometrists specialise in managing the condition and have access to all the best tools and treatments for optimal results. Remember that early diagnosis is key to ensure the best quality vision is maintained into the future, so have any children and younger relatives screened for the condition if they are in the high-risk groups mentioned above.

Watery eyes? Ironically you may have dry eye disease!

As we head into winter it is not unusual to notice some extra ocular moisture when outside on a crisp morning. However if your peepers are welling up throughout the day, even when not watching ‘The Notebook’, then you may have an eye problem to blame.

The puncta: Our eye’s drainage channel. This can block up downstream and cause watery eyes.

Tears drain out of the eye through two holes, called puncta, at the inside corner of our eyes. These channels can block up due to a build-up of debris, infection, or age-related narrowing. Just like plugging a bath and filling it up, eventually your tears will spill out onto your cheeks. If the drainage holes flop away from the eye when your lids become loose with age this can also lead to bothersome watering. Our optometrist Mr Alex Petty can perform a treatment called lacrimal lavage to flush out any blockage, or recommend alternative treatments to help any faulty ocular plumbing.

Hayfever sufferers will be well aware how watery their eyes can become when their allergies flare up. Many people are not aware they have ocular allergies, and can help their symptoms with appropriate anti-histamine eye drops. These are best prescribed by your optometrist, as some allergy drops available in pharmacys do not reduce the action of the histamine molecule which cause the symptoms of allergy, or can lead to rebound redness of the eyes when the drops wear off.

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However the most common cause of a watery eye is in fact dry eye disease, which can affect ~20% of kiwis. When the corneal nerves get irritated from dryness, the lacrimal gland can overcompensate and flood the eyes with unstable tears, blurring vision. In some people this can occur without the classic dry eye symptoms of red, gritty and sore eyes. Dry eye disease has a range of causes and requires a thorough examination to determine the best management. At Bay Eye Care we offer a comprehensive dry eye work-up, using cutting edge diagnostic tools to evaluate your eye condition.

If symptoms are bothering you visit our therapeutic optometrist Mr Alex Petty, and take control of those troublesome tears in your eyes!

Have your child’s vision assessed to detect hidden eye problems

With Easter holiday’s coming up now is the perfect time to make sure your little one does not have an eye condition that may be affecting their learning, or possibly causing permanent vision loss. These conditions can be present without any symptoms or complaints from your child, so all too often will go undetected for years.

Correction of children’s focusing problems with glasses can improve concentration at school and prevent permanent vision loss caused by amblyopia.

Correction of children’s focusing problems with glasses can improve concentration at school and prevent permanent vision loss caused by amblyopia.

Common eye conditions that can affect children includes hyperopia and astigmatism, which are different errors of the eye’s focus. Hyperopia, also know as long or far-sightedness, means that excessive effort is needed to focus on reading and near-work, sometimes leading to fatigue, headaches, inattention at school and behavioural problems.

If just one eye has a focusing error this can affect how well that eye develops its connections with the brain. If undetected this can lead to permanent vision loss later as an adult, even with correction with glasses or contact lenses. This is known as amblyopia. Therapy to improve amblyopia is possible if it detected early enough, generally before the age of 7-8 years.

Even if our eyes are seeing well there can also be issues with co-ordination and accuracy of eye alignment and focus. This to can lead to discomfort and fatigue when using the eyes for reading or school work, double vision, and even amblyopia in some cases.

Early detection of these hidden eye conditions gives the best chance of improving sight. If your child has not seen an optometrist before they started school arrange a thorough vision assessment with our therapeutic optometrist Mr Alex Petty at Bay Eye Care this Autumn before it’s too late!

Be on the look out for buzzing insects, blobs of ink and shooting stars in your vision!

These symptoms, known as ‘flashes’ and ‘floaters’ can be a sign of an ocular emergency. ‘Floaters’ are drifting shapes in the vision, which people describe as buzzing insects, drifting spots, or blobs of ink or jelly. ‘Flashes’ are light effects that appear briefly, and can look like a shooting star or arcs of light, generally in the peripheral vision. For most people these symptoms come on quickly, generally just in one eye, and are more obvious when looking at a blank background like the sky or a wall, or when the light is dim.

A representation of the symptoms of floaters and floaters.

The cause of these symptoms is because the vitreous humour, the collagen gel that fills the eyeball, becomes more liquefied as we age, and eventually collapses. This process is called a posterior vitreous detachment. Clumps of vitreous debris can form that cast a shadow on the retina – creating ‘floaters’. When this gel gently tugs on the retina (the light sensitive nerves of the eye) a signal is created which the brain sees as ‘flashes’. These symptoms eventually decrease with time, generally because gravity drops the debris out of your line of sight, or more commonly the brain learns to ignore them! This can take many months, and sometimes they may never disappear completely.

Diagram of the eye showing the vitreous humour, the jelly that fills the eye. Sadly if the vitreous pulls on the retina causing a tear or detachment it can be anything but humorous.

Unfortunately approximately 1 in 10 people that experience these symptoms suddenly will have more serious issues in the eye including holes, tears or detachments of the retina. These conditions are more common in people with short-sightedness, or myopia (one of the reasons we try to limit the level of myopia in our kids as they grown older - more info here) and require urgent surgical repair to avoid the risk of permanent vision loss. Results following surgery are better with early detection.

Our optometrist Alex has been unfortunate enough to have three retinal detachments already in his life, but fortunately these were picked up very early and emergency surgery was able to save his sight. The only symptoms Alex noticed were subtle arcs of light in his peripheral vision the day before. The next day he started losing peripheral vision in one eye so rushed himself to the hospital knowing that due to his high myopia that it was highly likely he had a retinal detachment!

So if you notice new ‘floaters’ or ‘flashes’ see Alex at Bay Eye Care promptly for a thorough retinal examination. This will done with the help of eye-drops that dilate your pupil to allow Alex the best view of the peripheral retinal areas. If retinal damage is found then Alex can swiftly arrange a referral to his eye surgeon colleagues for treatment.

Could you have mites growing in your eyelashes?

The eyelid debris in someone with anterior blepharitis.

As we get older our immune system is less able to keep control of micro-organisms such as bacteria. A chronic overgrowth of these critters in the eyelid margin is called anterior blepharitis which be seen clinically as crusty debris that builds up at the base of your eyelashes. These microscopic creatures release toxins which triggers inflammation, and this gives rise to symptoms of irritated, red or itchy eyes and eyelids. The condition can also increase the risk of styes and corneal ulcers.

Historically diluted baby shampoo has been used to treat bacterial blepharitis, but recent studies have shown this is not as effective as modern blepharitis treatments. These include daily lid hygiene with eyelid scrubs such as Sterilid. Many people with advanced blepharitis can also benefit from an in-office treatment at Bay Eye Care that uses a BlephEx rotating micro-sponge to remove stubborn debris and organisms along the eyelid margin.


Numerous demodex mites infesting an eyelash of someone with anterior blepharitis

One organism that can also cause blepharitis are Demodex: small mites that live on our skin and hair follicles. Demodex mites are more common as we get older; you are almost guaranteed to have some on your body at age 70! Examination of the eyelashes under a special light microscope is often needed to visualise the mites. These little beasties can be resilient to conventional therapies: a more specific approach is required, often involving tea-tree oil treatments such as Oust Extra Strength or 20% Tea-Tree Oil, specially formulated to kill mites.

As this condition is chronic, blepharitis symptoms will return if treatments are stopped, so ongoing routine management at home is advised. Make sure to visit Bay Eye Care to make sure your eyelids are not harbouring unwanted squatters!

Are you at risk of macular degeneration?

Signs of a retina of an eye with macular degeneration.

Signs of a retina of an eye with macular degeneration.

As we get older the part of the eye that is responsible for our sharp central vision, the macula, can start to become sick. This condition is called age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is the leading cause of blindness in New Zealand. 1 in 7 of all people over the age of 50 will get AMD. If you have a family history of macular degeneration or if have been a smoker in the past then you have a significantly higher chance of getting AMD.

How your vision can look with AMD. (From Macular Degeneration NZ,

How your vision can look with AMD. (From Macular Degeneration NZ,

Key symptoms of AMD include problems with reading or fine vision work, distortion, trouble recognising faces or empty spaces in the vision. It is recommended that everyone over the age of 50 be regularly checked for macular degeneration. These days most optometrists have access to advanced OCT retinal scanning equipment that can detect the earliest signs of AMD, and also spot blood or fluid within the retina that requires prompt surgical treatment to restore your sight.

It is recommended that everyone over the age of 50 be regularly checked for macular degeneration. Bay Eye Care has invested in advanced OCT retinal scanning equipment that can detect the earliest signs of AMD, and also spot blood or fluid within the retina that our therapeutic optometrist Mr Alex Petty can promptly refer for surgical treatment to restore your sight.

Follow this macular degeneration eye health checklist to reduce the risk of blindness from AMD:

  • Have your eyes tested by Alex at Bay Eye Care, with a macula OCT scan, every 2 years.
  • Keep a healthy lifestyle, control your weight, exercise regularly on the golf course, and stop smoking.
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Limit your intake of fats, eat fish two or three times a week, eat dark green leafy vegetables and fresh fruit daily and a handful of nuts a week.
  • In consultation with your optometrist and/or doctor, consider taking a zinc and antioxidant supplement, as this can slow the progression of the condition.
  • Provide adequate protection for your eyes from sunlight exposure, with sunglasses and a hat, especially when young.

Have you considered contact lenses to see clearly?

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Although spectacles provide an easy and cost effective way to correct your vision problem they can be a real inconvenience. Glasses are not great in the rain, they make going to the gym a hassle, and they are pain to find when you need them to read the paper. These days there are a wide range of modern contact lens options to provide a convenient vision alternative to suit your lifestyle.

Many of my patients have been told that ‘their eyes are not suitable for contact lenses’. The reality is that almost everyone can be fitted successfully with contact lenses. The safest and most convenient contact lens modality is the daily soft contact lens, which are replaced each day. A fresh lens each morning improves comfort and decreases the risk of infection. These daily lenses can now correct a range of vision problems like astigmatism and presbyopia (the need to using reading glasses when we hit our 40s). Multifocal contact lenses work a little like bifocal or progressive glasses – providing vision for distance and near tasks, meaning you are never to old to benefit from contact lenses.

Modern contact lens materials are also more comfortable than ever – perfect for people that get dry eye or have challenging work environments. This is due to advanced technologies keeping the lens surface wet all day long and allowing high oxygen flow to the eye. Most people don’t even feel them when worn. Our experienced optometrist Mr Alex Petty will be able to teach you how to effortlessly insert and remove your lenses with the minimum of hassle.

Another great option is Ortho-K overnight vision correction. These special contact lenses are only worn when you sleep, and provide clear unaided vision throughout the day.

If you are sick of your glasses arrange an assessment with Alex to discuss which modern contact lens option can give you your visual freedom back!

Bay Eye Care Contact Lenses

Slow your child’s short-sightedness early to prevent blindness

Around the world more of our children are becoming short-sighted (myopia). This means they have difficulties seeing clearly in the distance and require glasses or contact lenses to see. It is thought that a combination of genetics (if a child’s parents are also myopic) and environmental factors (including lack of outdoor light exposure and increased device usage) are leading to this rising tsunami of myopia.

Wearing glasses to see clearly is an inconvenience. However many people do not realise that there is an increased risk of blinding eye disease associated with short-sightedness. Scarily conditions such as retinal detachment, glaucoma, cataract and macular degeneration are more common the more short-sighted we become. This is because in myopia the eye grows longer and become structurally weaker. Due to his own myopia our optometrist Mr Alex Petty has already had three retinal detachments requiring emergency surgery to save his sight!

Normal glasses or contact lenses do nothing to slow the progression of myopia in children and teenagers. Fortunately these days optometrists have access to specialty myopia control treatments (including specialty contact lens options and therapeutic eye drops) which are proven to slow eye growth by at least 50%. This will decrease the risk of blinding eye disease later in life.

If your child is not yet short-sighted it is recommended they spend at least an hour of outdoor time a day, and have regular breaks from digital devices, to prevent the onset of myopia.

Book a myopia control assessment at Bay Eye Care sooner rather than later to limit your child's risk of ocular disease later in life.

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Stay safe with your contact lenses over summer

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With summer here more people are using their contact lenses to enjoy outdoor activities without their glasses. However contact lenses are a medical device and without proper care and hygiene the risk of potentially blinding eye infections is increased.

Follow these important guidelines to ensure your contact lens wear is hassle-free over the holiday period:

  • Never use tap water to clean or store your lenses. Water contains micro-organisms that can adhere to your lenses and infect your eye.
  • Always wash and dry your hands thoroughly before touching your eye or lenses. Use an alcohol-based sanitizer as an alternative if you are going bush!
  • If you must use your contact lenses when swimming make sure you remove and clean or discard them afterwards. Hot water sources including hot tubs, spas or thermal springs are high risk areas for infection – avoid contact lens wear in these environments. 
  • If you plan on spending a lot of time in the water then consider visiting Bay Eye Care to be fitted for overnight Orthokeratology vision correction: these contacts change the shape of the eye during sleep to give clear vision during the day without any lenses!
  • Avoid re-using solutions or wearing your lenses beyond their recommended replacement schedule. Shortcuts may save you money now but could be catastrophic to your eye health in the long-term.
  • If your eye is red, sore or light-sensitive then stop wearing your contact lenses and visit our therapeutic optometrist Alex urgently. Your GP or the local A+E service is the next best alternative if your optometrist is away on a well-deserved break!
Alex Petty Contact Lenses Bay Eye Care

At Bay Eye Care our contact lens specialists are perfectly placed to offer the best care and advice about your contact lens use. Feel free to contact us today to arrange a contact lens consultation!

Eyes getting itchy? Ocular allergies are likely to blame.

The days are becoming longer and temperatures are on the rise: Spring is here! However the change of season brings with it a bothersome common eye condition: allergic eye disease.

Allergies affect about 30% of New Zealanders at some point in our lives. Seasonal allergies occurs when our body’s immune system over-reacts to certain things (allergens) in the environment such as dust mites, pets, pollen and mould spores. These allergens cause skin rashes, hay-fever, asthma and eye irritation.

allergies eyes bay eye care.jpg

Allergens cause a chemical called histamine to be released into the eye tissues that causes swelling, redness, wateriness and itching. The insatiable need to itch the eyes is very typical for allergy sufferers. Unfortunately itching will make symptoms worse as this releases more histamine. Itching and rubbing the eyes can also lead to permanent eye damage, especially in children, so this should be actively discouraged.

If you have symptoms of eye itching, redness, swelling or wateriness you should visit our therapeutic optometrist Mr Alex Petty to ensure this is not caused by other conditions like dry eye syndrome, infectious conjunctivitis or anterior blepharitis.

Management options for allergic eye disease include avoiding the offending allergen with wrap-around sunglasses, bathing the eye tissues with cool compresses, using non-preserved lubricant eye drops to wash out the eye, and using prescription anti-histamine/mast-cell stabiliser eye drops. You should only use eye drops that are recommended by your optometrist because over-the-counter allergy drops may not be as effective and some can lead to rebound redness when they are ceased.

If you think you are suffering from eye allergies contact the team at Bay Eye Care to ensure you manage this condition properly.

When did you last have your eyes checked for glaucoma?

The eye condition glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness in New Zealand, with the prevalence increasing to 10% for those of us over the age of 70. Glaucoma can occur in people of all ages however and is more common if someone in our family also has the condition.

Glaucoma causes progressive and irreversible vision loss due to damage to the optic nerve in the back of the eye. Glaucoma is a painless condition and only affects your ability to see details like words and faces after significant nerve damage has occurred. For this reason it is known as the ‘silent thief of sight’ as many people with the condition are unaware of any symptoms.

The vision of someone with glaucoma.

The vision of someone with glaucoma.

Early diagnosis is important to limit the damage glaucoma will cause to your vision. A thorough eye check for glaucoma should involve checking a number of factors, including the pressure of the fluid in the eye (the main risk for glaucoma is a higher than normal eye pressure), a 3D inspection of the optic nerve, assessment of the fluid drainage angle in the eye, measurement of corneal thickness, testing of peripheral vision, and a retinal and optic nerve OCT scan to look for early damage to the nerve fibres.

With proper care only 2% of people with glaucoma will go blind in their lifetime. Your optometrist is the best person to visit for a glaucoma check. Some therapeutic optometrists, including our very own Mr Alex Petty, are also accredited to manage and treat glaucoma. If you or someone you know has not had their eyes checked for glaucoma in the last two years arrange a consultation before any potential damage is done.

Do your eyes get sore, burn or become red or watery? You may have dry eye syndrome.

It is estimated that up to 20% of kiwis suffer from some form of dry eye, a condition that can have a profound effect on quality of life. The drying effects of air-conditioning and decreased blink-rate associated with computer screen use can exacerbate this syndrome making simply keeping the eyes open intolerable for many.

The green speckled area shows a patch of dryness on the surface of an eye with MGD

The green speckled area shows a patch of dryness on the surface of an eye with MGD

The term ‘dry eye’ is used when someone's tears do not keep their eyeball wet enough throughout the day. Rather than not producing enough tears, the majority of dry eye sufferers have dry eye due to excessive evaporation of their tears. The most common cause of this evaporation is Meibomian Gland Dysfunction, or MGD. This condition occurs when the oil producing glands in the eyelids stop functioning correctly. The oils that these glands normally produce prevent the watery component of our tears from evaporating.

Unfortunately simply using lubricant eye drops does not change the underlying gland dysfunction and is only a short-term fix. There are a range of treatments that can decrease meibomian gland inflammation and improve function, including anti-inflammatory ointments, oral omega 3 supplements and anti-inflammatory medications and digital gland expression. The most exciting treatment to be recently available in Tauranga for MGD is intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy which offers lasting improvement of meibomian gland function and a reduction on dry eye symptoms. It is best to have the cause and severity of your dry eye syndrome professionally evaluated by a dry eye specialist so that they can determine the optimal treatment plan for your condition.

NZ Herald Video: Bay Eye Care optometrist Alex Petty discusses myopia control treatments for kiwi kids!

In May Alex was approached by NZ Herald to discuss how we can slow myopia in young New Zealanders. Alex specialises in myopia control treatments, including Ortho-K contact lenses, which slow myopia and improve vision during the day. The full video at can be found here.

Watch to learn more! Thanks to Maia and Vicki for offering their time to share their experiences with these treatments.

World Glaucoma Week - Could you have this 'silent thief of sight'?

This week is World Glaucoma Week. Glaucoma is an insidious condition that affects the optic nerve of the eye - the wiring that carries information from the eye to the brain. ~10% of people over the age of 70 will have glaucoma and up to half do not even know they have it, as sight-loss is only noticeable in the later stages of the condition.

Fortunately early diagnosis and treatment can avoid blindess in 98% of people with glaucoma. Bay Eye Care uses cutting edge equipment such as OCT optic nerve scans that can detect damage from glaucoma earlier than a normal eye test. Our optometrist Mr Alex Petty is also the first optometrist in the Bay Of Plenty to be accredited to manage and treat glaucoma independently.

If you, or someone you know, have not been for a glaucoma review lately, especially if there is a family history of glaucoma, book in to see us for a comprehensive assessment to rule out this 'silent thief of sight'.

Short-sightedness is a problem for children in Australia too.

A recent news article on Australian TV highlights some of the risks of short-sightedness (myopia) in children and discusses the treatments to slow this condition. At Bay Eye Care we employ all the treatments mentioned to help control myopia in NZ kids.

View the short segment here: