Protect your eyes during allergy season

Allergy season can bring about some uncomfortable symptoms, especially for your eyes. As your vision benefits provider, we want to make sure you protect your eyes this season. Here are 6 tips to get you started:

  1. Avoid exposure
    Try to minimize your exposure to allergens by keeping windows closed and wearing sunglasses with as much coverage as possible. Whether at home or in your car, air conditioning and filtering the air can provide some relief.
  2. Use eye drops
    There are many brands, so consult your eye doctor for a recommendation. Allergy eye drops will reduce the histamine in your eye tissues, so this might be a good option to directly help your swollen, watery, red and itchy eyes. You can try over-the-counter for your mild symptoms, but if you don’t see improvement, see your eye doctor for prescription eye drops.
  3. Remove contact lenses
    During allergy season, wearing your eyeglasses instead of your contact lenses may help with eye allergies. The surface of your contact lenses can collect allergens.
  4. Treat with medications
    If over-the-counter eye drops aren’t enough, oral medications can relieve your eye allergy symptoms. Antihistamines, decongestants, and other options can be prescribed by your doctor or bought over the counter.
  5. Don’t itch!
    Although it might provide temporary relief, rubbing your eyes can lead to thinning of the cornea and a risk of eye infections. Also, when you rub your allergy eyes, the itching releases more histamines, worsening the symptoms. When the itching becomes unbearable, grab the eye drops instead.
  6. Try other remedies
    Immunotherapy, steroids and mast cell stabilizers are examples of other treatments you can discuss with your doctor. At home remedies, like a cold washcloth or compress, cucumber slices or tea bags placed on your eyelids can be soothing. Changing your clothes when you get home and showering before bedtime are some other strategies.
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What to expect during an eye exam

Even if you don’t detect any problems with your vision, eye exams can identify potential problems and serious threats, like glaucoma and cataracts. Maybe you’ve never been to the eye doctor, or maybe it’s been awhile since you last had a comprehensive eye exam, so here’s a rundown of what to expect.


Family History

If you’re a new patient, you will probably fill out a form that includes questions about your medical and family history. You’ll be able to discuss this with the doctor along with any vision problems you’ve noticed.

Sharpness and clarity

Visual acuity tests measure the sharpness and clarity of your vision. The doctor will test how well you can see objects, from a distance and up close, by having you identify the smallest line of letters you can read clearly on an eye chart.

Cover test

How well your eyes work together is measured using the cover test. The doctor will have you stare at a distant object in the room while having you cover each eye alternately. You’ll repeat the test focusing on an object close to you. The doctor uses these tests to assess whether the uncovered eye must move to focus on the target.

Follow the object

To evaluate how well your eyes can follow a moving object and move between two separate objects, your doctor will conduct two tests. The doctor will have you follow the movement of a small light or other target with just your eyes. You’ll then be asked to focus on one object and move your eyes to another to test how well your eyes move between the two objects.


Early on in your examination, the doctor measures the eyes’ refraction using a retinoscope. The doctor shines a beam of light in the eye, then places a series of lenses in front of the eye, and observes the reflection off the retina. The way the light reflects determines if you can see clearly or if you’re farsighted, nearsighted or have astigmatism. This test provides the doctor with an estimate of your glasses or contact lens prescription.


The doctor will use an instrument known as a phoropter to develop your final vision prescription. The phoropter is put in front of your eyes, and the doctor shows you a series of lenses. You can identify the ones that make your vision the sharpest.

Eye pressure

Two tests can be used to check the fluid pressure of the eyes to see if it’s in normal range: the “puff test,” or an applanation tonometer test. During the “puff test” the doctor uses a non-contact tonometer (NCT) to gently push a puff of air onto the eye. Or the doctor may put numbing drops in the eyes and touch the surface of each eye with an applanation tonometer.

These tests can help identify glaucoma, a pressure buildup in the eye, which can damage the optic nerve over time and cause vision loss.

Pupil dilation

The last step in a comprehensive eye exam is to dilate the pupil. In this test, known as the dilated fundus exam, eye drops are put into the eyes to increase the size of the pupil. The doctor uses a slit lamp and biomicroscope to examine the internal areas of the eye, including the optic nerve, blood vessels, retina, vitreous and macula. Pupils may remain dilated for three to four hours after this test.

It typically takes 30 minutes to an hour to complete a comprehensive eye exam.

After the exam, your doctor will discuss with you any corrective measures you may need and work with you to choose the method that best fits your lifestyle.

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3 Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Oral Cancer, Plus Early Detection

For Oral Cancer Awareness Month, consider these three lifestyle behaviors that can dramatically influence your risk of developing oral cancer. Widely reported on, HPV (human papilloma virus) is another cause of oral cancer and the HPV vaccine is now gaining awareness. Also, early detection, sometimes by your dentist, is another factor to consider when raising your awareness of oral cancer.

Tobacco and alcohol increase your risk

Tobacco, alcohol and your diet are three major risk factors for developing oral cancer, and all three can be controlled by you. Oral cancer is linked to tobacco in approximately 90% of cases. Alcohol, or heavy drinking, is present in 7 out of 10 people who develop oral cancer. Consider your use of alcohol and tobacco. For women, seven drinks per week, and, for men, 14 drinks per week, is considered heavy drinking. The body’s ability to absorb nutrients is decreased when your alcohol consumption is at these high levels. Those nutrients may help prevent cancer. Also, when combined with tobacco, your alcohol use increases your risk of developing cancer.

Choose fruits and vegetables

The foods you choose to eat also play a role in your risk of developing oral cancer. Your risk will increase if you don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. Choices like berries and broccoli added to your diet has been shown to reduce your risk of developing oral cancer.

Link between HPV and oral cancer

HPV is another cause of oral cancer. Cancers found in the back of the throat, called oropharyngeal cancers, are especially linked to HPV. There is an HPV vaccine and it is effective against the most common strains of HPV that cause oral cancer. The vaccine is most effective when given in the adolescent years of boys and girls.

When you visit the dentist

Some dentist and oral hygienists perform oral cancer screenings during a regular checkup. Talk with your dentist to learn more. Early detection of oral cancer can save your life. You can also do your own screenings at home. Mouth symptoms to look for include sores, red or white patches, persistent pain or numbness, lumps or rough spots, and problems chewing and swallowing.

Being aware of the risk factors and the steps you can take, and early detection, are good protections against oral cancer.

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Good dental health habits for all ages

From childhood to adulthood, your dental health habits are important. Starting good habits as a child will lead to healthy habits as an adult. At every stage, there are different dental issues to look for, so here’s a guide, from toddler to adult.


  • Even as babies, our teeth can get cavities, so daily cleaning is important from the beginning of our lives. Before babies have teeth, wiping their gums with a soft, clean cloth will help to get rid of unwanted bacteria. When teeth appear, use a toothbrush and toothpaste especially made for toddlers and children. Under the age of 3, use no more toothpaste than the size of a grain of rice, and for ages 3 to 6, use a pea-sized amount.
  • Your baby’s first dentist visit should be six months after a first tooth emerges or before their first birthday.
  • For toddlers, it’s helpful to make brushing fun and show them proper technique. Teaching and encouraging good habits early on can make a difference in the continuation of these habits in the future.


  • Supervision of brushing is important up until the age of 8, approximately, and for flossing age 10.
  • Sealants protect against cavities and are an option for children. Discuss with your dentist.
  • This age group can be very active in sports, so mouth guards are important to protect against mouth injuries.


  • The risk of cavities can be high for adolescents because of diet, lack of care and immature enamel. Dental health habits are important to keep steady in this stage – brush twice a day for two minutes, floss daily and schedule regular dental appointments.
  • Keep healthy snacks available so it’s easier to choose the good rather than the bad choices.
  • Gingivitis, or gum disease, can often begin during adolescence. Look for signs like gum redness, swelling, bleeding and tenderness. If you have any of these symptoms, talk with your dentist.


  • As you keep up the habits you formed as a kid to brush and floss daily and visit the dentist regularly, avoid excessive amounts of alcohol and tobacco products to keep your teeth strong.
  • As we age, the nerves in our teeth shrink, so you might not notice a cavity developing. Keep up your regular visits to the dentist so any issues can be detected before they become more serious.
  • Oral cancer is most likely to occur after the age of 60. Symptoms include sores, red or white patches, lumps or rough spots, pain or numbness, and problems chewing or swallowing. Consult your dentist if you notice any signs.
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At Work? Think About Your Eyes

Eye injuries at work are very common, according to the American Optometric Association. But most of these injuries can be prevented with the proper eye protection and with raised awareness.

Depending on your occupation, there are workplace eye safety precautions to take. Eye injuries at the workplace happen for two main reasons – you were not wearing any eye protection or you were wearing the wrong type of eye protection for the job at hand. Consider these potential hazards at your workplace:

  • Projectiles or particles like bits of wood and metal that could fall or fly into your eye
  • Chemicals that could splash into your eyes or create fumes
  • Radiation exposure like UV, infrared and lasers
  • Oil or grease that could splash into your eyes
  • Bloodborne pathogens

Then take these steps to prevent an eye injury:

  1. Assess your workplace and look for possible eye safety hazards
  2. If possible, remove or reduce the eye hazard
  3. Wear appropriate eye safety gear like safety glasses, goggles and face shields
  4. Regularly inspect your eye safety gear to be sure it’s still effective and not damaged

Blue light at work

Another eye hazard at work is blue light from your computer screen. If you have prolonged exposure to digital devices, you could be susceptible to Digital Eye Strain or Computer Vision Syndrome. If you spend more than two hours a day in front of the computer, you have a 90% chance of developing this vision problem.

To prevent digital eye strain at work, use the 20-20-20 rule; every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and focus on something at least 20 feet away.

For Workplace Eye Wellness Month, Prevent Blindness America reminds all employees to have regular comprehensive eye exams to be sure they have sufficient vision in order to do their jobs safely.

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The Difference Between Copay and Coinsurance

Copayment and coinsurance are two terms you may come across when reviewing your dental insurance. Both can be described as ways you help share the costs of your dental care. Usually there is a copay or coinsurance, but not both. Here’s an explanation of the two terms with some additional information:

Copayment, also referred to as a copay, is a fixed dollar amount you’re required to pay for a service or treatment.

When there is a copay, there may not be a deductible or an annual maximum. A deductible is the dollar amount you have to pay before your dental plan begins to pay the cost of covered dental services. This amount will vary by plan. Your annual maximum is the most money a plan will pay toward your dental care within a benefit period, usually a calendar year.

Coinsurance is the amount, represented as a fixed percentage, you will have to pay toward a dental treatment. Your insurance plan pays the other percent. For example, you may be responsible for 20 percent of a service you received at the dentist, and then Advantica covers the other 80 percent of the cost. In terms of dollars, for example, if your total bill is $100 for a certain service, you’ll pay $20 and Advantica will pay $80. Keep in mind, you will first need to meet your plan’s deductible and you may have an annual maximum.

Have questions? To learn more about your dental plan’s copay or coinsurance, login at or contact customer service.

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Follow the Rainbow to Healthy Eyes and a Healthy Smile







Colorful fruits and vegetables can lead you to good dental and vision health. This St. Patrick’s Day, follow the rainbow to these healthy choices.




  • Yellow peppers, like red, have anti-inflammatory benefits along with vitamin C.
  • Cheese gives you calcium, famous for building strong bones and teeth.


  • Leafy greens contain vitamin K – good for your dental and vision health. This vitamin can help block substances that break down your bones, promoting good bone density. Leafy greens also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which can reduce the risk of some eye diseases like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
  • Broccoli contains folic acid that is good for the health of your gums. It also contains vitamin A.



  • Eggplant has a handful of nutrients for your mouth and eyes – vitamin C, vitamin K and potassium. Folic acid in eggplant builds strong bones and helps prevent osteoporosis.
  • Acai berries, a newly popular choice, have antioxidants to strengthen your immune system.
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