Protecting Your Vision
Protecting your vision and prioritizing healthy eyes has wide-reaching health benefits that can help you prevent disease and maintain quality eyesight throughout your life. Following these three tips will help you set yourself up for successful eye health in 2018 and beyond.
Schedule an appointment in 2018!
Schedule an appointment to see us for a comprehensive exam in 2018. Many common eye diseases like glaucoma and macular degeneration can only be revealed through regular exams from your eye doctor. Catching these diseases in their early stages is the best way to protect yourself from vision loss. Even if no disease is detected, an eye exam can reveal common vision problems that many people don’t realize can be improved upon or even prevent further loss with glasses or contact lenses.
Use protective eyewear and sunglasses
Protecting your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays or eye injuries is one of best ways to protect your vision. Fortunately, it has never looked so good on you! Come visit our optical gallery and invest in a pair of sunglasses that block out both UV radiation or quality protective eyewear for sports and other activities.
Manage your health
Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, maintain a healthy weight, and quit smoking as soon as possible. These three health tips will not only improve your overall health, but each of them can lower your risk of developing health conditions and diseases that lead to vision loss.
Sources: The National Eye Institute (NEI)
Myopia in the Modern Age
Myopia is the technical term for nearsightedness. It means that things at a distance are not clear and easy to see. Once myopia is discovered during a child’s eye exam, it typically increases in children until about the age of 21.
Between the 1970s and the early 2000s, the incidents of myopia in the US almost doubled to 42%. People are losing their distance vision at an alarming rate, and no one really knows why. The cause is debated amongst researchers who have studied everything from the effects of device use to bright sunlight and how eyes focus on far away objects. While the increase in children’s activities surrounding using devices and looking at books indoors might play a role, many studies have shown that spending time outdoors in early childhood reduces the onset of myopia. Some scientists believe it could be related to exposure to sunlight or the opportunity to allow eyes to focus on objects far away.
While the exact cause may not be clear, we can slow down myopia in children by using contact lenses that slow down the progression of nearsightedness so that the child does not develop as high of a degree of myopia. Not only does this mean that the child’s vision will clearer, but the health risks associated with myopia, such as retinal detachment, glaucoma, and cataracts, can also be slowed down to help the child live their life to the fullest.
For more information on correcting myopia, check out our video with Dr. Todd Pfeil.
Sources: National Eyes Institute, Wired Magazine
Winter and Your Eyes
Winter sports, cozy fires, and bright white landscapes can all take their toll on your eyes over the coldest season of the year. Don’t let good vision go bad! Take a few precautions to ensure safe and healthy eyes this season.
The sun is out
Winter can be even more damaging for your eyes than the summer since the brightness of the snow can actually double ultraviolet (UV) ray damage to your eyes when the sun’s rays reflect from the snow. These UV rays can put you at greater risk for cataracts and other eye conditions, and UV rays reflected from the snow can actually burn your eyes.
Don’t forget to use sunglasses that block UV light, and consider a visor for extended activities on particularly bright days.
The heat is up
It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but as temperatures drop the air holds less humidity. The hot air from a cozy fire can also both irritate and dry your eyes, especially if you suffer from Dry Eye Disease, a chronic condition that impacts the production of tears.
When enjoying a fire, or even a heater, take breaks from direct heat, sit further away, and use eye drops to keep our eyes moist.
Winter allergies and irritants
Unfortunately, irritants from pet dander to mold are amplified in the winter months when you’re shut indoors, especially in milder years before frosts and freezes kill off the pollen. Allergy sufferers can find themselves with dry, itchy eyes over the winter months.
Consider using dust free, artificial decorations or electric fires to avoid natural irritants. You may also use a humidifier/dehumidifier to keep the air inside your home between 30% – 50% humidity.
Winter’s outdoor activities can expose you to slush, ice, and other debris. Sporting activities like skiing, snowboarding, and sledding expose your eyes to particles that can irritate and scratch your eyes, not to mention put you at risk for a crash with trees and branches that can damage your eyes. Use goggles with built in UV protection during winter sports for maximum protection.
If you are experiencing particularly uncomfortable, dry eyes this winter, contact your eye doctor about your symptoms. Seek treatment immediately if you feel as though your eyes have been damaged.
What are Cataracts? (And How to Avoid Them!)
A cataract is a clouding of your eye’s lens that can impair your vision. Most cataracts develop when age or injury changes the tissue in your eyes. The cloudiness may affect only a small portion of your eyesight and be undetectable at first, but over time, the cataract may grow. Larger cataracts will cloud a wider surface area of your eye’s lens, distorting more light as it passes through the lens and creating more dramatic vision loss and blurring.
Cataracts are the most common reason for vision loss in the US and the leading cause of blindness worldwide. They can occur at any age and even be present at birth. Eye conditions like past eye surgeries or medical diagnoses such as diabetes can also play a role in developing cataracts. Even some genetic disorders increase your risk of cataracts.
Treatment for the removal of many types of cataracts is widely available, but you can decrease your risk for developing cataracts in the first place by avoiding certain behaviors.
Manage your diabetes
Unfortunately, those with diabetes face a greater risk of developing cataracts. Closely monitoring your blood sugar can decrease your risk of suffering impaired vision and improve your overall health.
Protect your eyes
Avoid excessive exposure to sunlight and use sunglasses with UV protection. Ultraviolet radiation from sunlight and other sources may cause chemicals called free radicals to form in the eye’s lens, which can then damage tissues and cause cataracts to develop in the first place.
Quit smoking and excessive drinking
Both smoking cigarettes and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol are linked to increased development of cataracts. In fact, your risk of developing cataracts actually increases with the amount that you smoke, and smoking doubles your risk of developing cataracts generally. Excessive drinking increases your cataract risk, too. Quit smoking or never start to eliminate this highly preventable risk and moderate your drinking.
Eat a healthy diet and manage your weight
Obesity is linked to cataracts, but a healthy diet decreases your risk. Some studies have shown that a healthy diet can decrease the development of certain types of cataracts. For example, omega-3 fatty acids like those found in fish sources or flaxseed has been shown to reduce cataract development in women. Similar studies have shown foods high in antioxidants and vitamins C and E can also decrease cataract development.
Manage your high blood pressure
Untreated high blood pressure can lead to many health problems, including increasing your risk for cataracts and increase your risk of developing other eye disease that can then later increase your risk of cataracts. Hypertension can especially cause significant damage to the blood vessels in the retina.
Avoid prolonged use of corticosteroids
Prolonged use of corticosteroids such as hydrocortisone or prednisone has been linked to an increase risk of developing cataracts. Discuss with your doctor balancing the risks and benefits of these medications with your risk for developing cataracts.
As we head to the season of shorter days and longer nights, we have no option but to drive in dark conditions. Millions of Americans have problems driving at night. Although we may be able to see clearly at the doctor’s office or in our everyday lives, once the sun goes down and we hit the road, we can experience new problems. Glare, halos, and difficulty recognizing contrasts can make driving and traveling at an increased rate of speed difficult.
As we age, our pupils shrink and don’t maintain their elasticity as much as they used to. They have a tougher time opening and closing quickly to adapt to changes in light. Older people also have decreased rods in the retina which makes differentiating objects more difficult in low light conditions.
Cataracts can also be an issue as we age. They develop over time and cloud the lens of the eye making things glare at night. You can see halos around lights and can also experience blurred vision.
Retinal issues can also make driving at night more difficult. Diabetes and macular degeneration can create issues in the retina making vision blurry or creating blind spots. If you notice these at night, please let your doctor know.
Dry eye disease can cause difficulty driving at night. Having a poor quality tear film can make vision blurry and can cause problems with night vision. Dry eye disease tends to affect women over the age of 40 and create vision problems as well as issues with comfort.
If you frequently spend too much time in the sun during the day, it can take your eyes a while to adjust to the light at night. A big help will be to wear sunglasses when you are out during daylight so that the contrast is not as severe.
One way to combat the glare and excess distracting light is to wear eyewear with glare reducing coatings. There are many amber/yellow colored glasses out there marketed as night driving glasses, but there is no evidence that these work and they can actually make the glare problem worse.
Another important safety tip for driving at night is to make sure your headlights are not cloudy and functioning properly. A clean windshield and mirror, free of imperfections, are also important.
And of course, it’s a good idea to maintain regular, safe speeds. (That tip is for everyone.)
If it’s been longer than two years since your last comprehensive exam, we recommend having a dilated exam so that your eye doctor can examine your retina for issues that could affect your driving as well as your overall health. At the same time, your doctor can check for cataracts and any other issues that may make driving unsafe.
How Often Do You Really Need an Eye Exam?
We get this question quite often. The thing to remember is that an eye exam is more than just to check how well you can see clearly. Vision is important, but it’s only a part of your comprehensive eye exam at EyeCare Specialties.
During a comprehensive exam, we look at the entire structure of your eyes. There are many health issues such as diabetes that can actually be observed in structures of the eye sometimes before they can even be detected in the body. Other issues like glaucoma or macular degeneration might not be noticed in your vision right away but can be detected in a thorough exam so that your doctor can help monitor or even slow the condition before vision is impaired.
The American Optometric Association suggests that children get their first eye exam at 6 months (yes, we can check your baby’s eyes that early). They recommend another exam at three and then just before your children start kindergarten. After that, if your child doesn’t have any other vision concerns, they should have their eyes examined every two years. If they do have vision issues and have been prescribed glasses or contacts, they should have their eyes examined every year to make sure their prescription is working as best as possible. If your child complains about headaches or tends to rub their eyes or squint, it may be a good idea to make an appointment and have things adjusted.
For adults, the American Optometric Association recommends an exam every two years unless you wear glasses or contact lenses. In that case, they recommend coming in for a yearly exam to make sure that your prescription is best serving your needs as your vision can change. If you have a family history of eye disease such as glaucoma or macular degeneration, you should make a yearly appointment. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, you should also be seen annually to check for a change in your condition.
These are simply guidelines for how often you should make your regular eye exams. Talk to your optometrist about how often you should come in based on your current eye health and your family health history.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month: A Follow Up with Mindy
Mindy McCormick’s last treatment was just a few weeks ago. Mindy’s battle with breast cancer started in July of 2016. Over the past year and three months, she has undergone six aggressive chemo treatments, surgery, radiation, and has been on a chemo “maintenance” plan for the past few months. The end of every phase has been anxiously anticipated.
We shared Mindy’s story last October as part of Breast Cancer Awareness month. Mindy wanted to be able to tell her story and encourage women to be their own best health advocates. At that point she was almost through with the aggressive chemotherapy treatments. Exhausted and worn, she was grateful for the support she had from family and co-workers.
She was surprised at how difficult the side effects of chemotherapy would be. At the clinic, they had mentioned that everyone experiences it differently. She would undergo treatment and then feel a crash three or four days later with extreme body aches, weakness, and fatigue. She didn’t expect how quickly she would lose the strength in her legs. She found it difficult to even walk up a flight of stairs. With the effects of each treatment getting worse after each one, Mindy couldn’t wait to be done.
She had surgery in December and began radiation in January. This time, she was surprised at how well she was able to handle radiation and again was aware of how breast cancer affects each patient differently.
Through her journey, Mindy has been able to meet other women who have been or are going through the battle. In the waiting room on her first day of treatment, she met a woman who was their for her last day of treatment. On Mindy’s last day of treatment, she met another woman who was there for her first.
Mindy has been amazed by the positivity surrounding her experience. Her doctor never talked about negative outcomes. He only explained each step and how they were going to fight. The staff at Nebraska Hematology Oncology were welcoming and courteous; they remember every patient and keep the focus on the positive.
That positive attitude is what Mindy recommends to other women who have experienced a breast cancer diagnosis. Surrounding yourself with people who can help and support you is important. Mindy is grateful for her co-workers at EyeCare Specialties for their encouragement. They organized a meal train and brought hot meals for Mindy’s family every other day for a month so that her family could concentrate on helping her get better. The ECS staff turnout at the Making Strides Walk last year was inspiring to Mindy. Seeing the entire team break out the pink and support her during last year’s Pink Out fundraiser was also incredibly heartening.
Named after one of Mindy’s favorite bands, Mindy’s Crüe is planning on walking again this year at the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk. Seeing so many people come out to support those who are currently facing breast cancer, those who have fought and won, and those who unfortunately lost their struggle is inspirational. Knowing that so many people are behind the cause and want to find a cure is emotional and remarkable.
Mindy now looks in the mirror and sees how different she looks with her hair grown back and has started to feel a sense of normalcy. She hopes that by sharing her experience she can motivate other women to get a regular mammogram (especially the 3D mammogram) and to insist on the best options for themselves for their health care.
Death, taxes, presbyopia. It happens to everyone eventually. Cheery, really. While typically it begins around age 40, presbyopia can occur at any time. You may find yourself holding your smartphone farther away. You may hold the menu at the restaurant at arms length in order to see it clearly. Or you may be experiencing headaches more after reading.
Presbyopia is farsightedness caused by the loss of elasticity of the lens of the eye. As we age, it becomes harder for the lens to focus on things close up. It’s a completely normal process, and one that cannot be prevented. Many people struggle with the fact that presbyopia is so closely tied with aging; but it is an inevitable condition, and it can be treated.
Bifocals, progressive lenses and special reading glasses are often the choice for people who are looking for a solution to do up close work. Being able to choose stylish frames with no-line, progressive lenses is a popular way to correct presbyopia without the stigma of aging. There are also multifocal contact lenses and surgical options for people looking for a no-eyewear solution.
Presbyopia can worsen over time though, so once you begin to notice the symptoms, it is a good idea to continue to get regular check ups with your eye doctor to stay on top of your prescription.
Virtual Reality and Vision
If it’s not on every kid’s Christmas list this year, it will be soon enough. Virtual Reality (VR) is the next big thing in gaming and, with Google having released the Daydream View phone recently, VR will really start to change how people get their entertainment.
While Virtual Reality headsets have seen some slow and expensive development over the years (Oculus Rift), Google is really changing the landscape by offering Virtual Reality viewers made out of cardboard for mobile phones that when paired with a VR app can offer the viewer a 360-degree, 3D interactive experience.
How it Works
VR works by presenting a slightly different image to each eye, so that when the brain puts both images together, it creates a 3D effect. The apps in the phone then additionally track your head movements to put you in a simulated environment.
The most common side effects so far with VR are nausea and disorientation which can be even worse if the experience is poorly rendered. Looking at any object for too long of a time can create eye strain. Doctors also worry about the development of myopia in youth which many of these games are targeting. As a matter of fact, some people feel that children shouldn’t use the VR technology at all, since we aren’t sure of what the negative effects might be.
Something else that can be a concern with VR technology is the exposure to too much blue light. Too much blue light exposure can interfere with circadian rhythms making restful sleep difficult, and there are concerns that it could be responsible for retinal damage.
Some of the negative effects depend upon the brightness of the VR screen, the contrast of light vs. dark, and both the frequency and duration of play. As with any digital viewing, we recommend the 20/20/20 rule. After 20 minutes of any activity, look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds just to break things up and give your eyes a break.
Another negative effect with VR is called past-pointing which happens after use. Your brain becomes used to viewing objects in the virtual world which can be slightly off from reality. After taking the headset off, the gamer can have a difficult time adequately estimating distance (for example try to grab something when it appears closer or further away.) This can really impede hand eye coordination and make moving around a bit dangerous.
Believe it or not, there are some great benefits to this technology. Because each eye needs to work with the other eye, and the brain has to interpret what is being seen, the visual system has a self-correcting property. The eyes and brain learn to work together. This self-correcting property is what is currently being used in some Vision Therapy clinics through Vivid Vision. Vivid Vision has developed some programming specifically designed to help people overcome such visual processing issues such as amblyopia and strabismus.
As VR tech continues to take off and find its way into homes, it will be more and more important to study its effects. Hopefully as it becomes more sophisticated, the negative effects will become less significant and the positive ones will create a viewing experience that can be beneficial for the eyes as well as entertaining.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Mindy’s Story
Mindy McCormick is not the kind of person that relishes attention. She’s kind, intuitive and hardworking. She’s a great leader because she knows that the strength of any organization is in the team and encourages all of her team members to do their best for the entire unit. One person is not above the group.
If it weren’t for the cancer, she wouldn’t want an article written about her.
Mindy McCormick is the Retail Coordinator and Frame Buyer for EyeCare Specialties. She has been helping patients find the perfect eyewear solution for 13 years. Mindy also trains and educates opticians to do the same.
It was a summer day at the beginning of June. Mindy had gone in for a routine mammogram. Because she had an aunt who had been recently diagnosed with advanced breast cancer, she knew the importance of having a thorough exam. She insisted on the 3D mammogram to make sure her doctor had the complete picture. The technicians requested more tests. They did an ultrasound and then brought Mindy back in for an ultrasound biopsy.
A few weeks later while she was at work, her doctors left a message, but Mindy was so busy taking care of her own patients that she didn’t get a chance to call them back until after hours. They returned her phone call right away. Mindy had tested positive for stage 1 breast cancer.
The next few days were a whirlwind. They were immediately scheduled to visit with a surgeon who specializes in breast cancer and an oncologist. In a two-week span, Mindy had her appointments scheduled and started right away on chemotherapy.
According to Mindy, chemotherapy is a roller coaster. She is currently 2/3 of the way done with her six treatments. Her last session is scheduled for the end of October after which she will undergo surgery. She typically feels not too bad for the day or two after treatment, but then hits a wall. Because the type of chemo her doctor has prescribed is such an aggressive one, the treatment leaves Mindy feeling very weak, tired and achy.
Mindy’s family has been incredibly supportive throughout her entire experience. Her husband and children pitch in and do the cleaning and housework. Friends and neighbors have been offering meals and gift cards to area restaurants. Mindy says the outpouring of support has been overwhelming and gratefully appreciated.
At her first visit with her oncologist, Mindy found out that her particular type of breast cancer is the most common and can be easily treated when detected early. That was when the lightbulb went off over Mindy’s head. She knew it was her mission to promote early detection and spread the word to women how important it is to have regular screenings.
Even though she tends to shy from the spotlight, Mindy wants to become an advocate for women to stand up for their health and insist on proper screenings. She encourages everyone she knows that even if they have a hint of family history of breast cancer to get regular mammograms. Because her own cancer was only discovered through the 3D mammogram, she advocates for the most comprehensive technology for anyone who feels that they may be at risk.
Optimism can be hard to come by when fighting breast cancer. But Mindy sees hope every day. She finds hope in coming to work and being able to help EyeCare’s patients. She finds hope in interacting and proving to herself what she’s capable of. And she finds hope in being able to help other women and advocate for early detection.
This October, we are so proud of Mindy and the other women who fight for their health and for that optimism. EyeCare Specialties will once again be participating in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk on October 23 and will be raising money in various forms to help the cause. If you’d like to support our team and raise money for the American Cancer Society, please click here.