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
Why have Eye Dilation or Optomap® Exams?
A standard eye exam allows your optometrist only a limited view of the retina inside of your eye. To adequately examine your eyes for conditions that could potentially lead to vision loss, your doctor needs a full view of your retina at the back of each eye. For this reason, your doctor may recommend a dilated eye exam or Optomap® retinal image.
During an examination that includes dilation, eye drops are used to widen your pupils. This allows your doctor to see a larger area of the retina. The procedure can lead to earlier detection of eye diseases such as macular degeneration, retinal detachment, and glaucoma. It may also reveal other health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.
The National Institutes of Health recommend a dilated eye exam yearly for those 60 or older due to the risk of eye disease increasing with age. Your risk also increases if you have a medical history that includes conditions such as retinal detachment or diabetes.
Unfortunately, the drops used in eye dilation can blur your vision and make your eyes more sensitive to light for hours after the exam. The dilation process can take about 15-30 minutes more than a standard exam with the negative side effects lasting around 4-6 hours in adults. While these effects vary by patient, distance and near vision may be more difficult during this time.
Better detection leads to better outcomes, and at EyeCare Specialties, we provide the highest level of care by using the most advanced diagnostic tools for a comfortable and efficient exam. Our Optomap® retinal image allows our eye doctors to view up to 80% of the retina at one time. The image detail can then be magnified and used to view up to 200° of the retina. Best of all, for a majority of patients, it eliminates the need for dilation in order to examine the retina. This will allow a much faster screening for retinal eye disease.
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.
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.
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.
Aging and Your Eyes
It’s inevitable, as we age, so do our eyes. There are several age-related conditions that can happen no matter how healthy of lives we live or whether or not we’ve got a fantastic set of DNA handed down to us by our relatives.
Presbyopia. Presbyopia occurs typically after the age of 40. This can be noticed as blurred vision when doing up-close work. People start to notice it when they need to hold books, menus, etc. farther and farther away in order to see clearly. Presbyopia occurs because of a hardening of the natural lens inside your eye, and it is very common. Almost everyone will experience it in various forms. Optical treatment is usually the best remedy via reading glasses, progressive lenses or bifocals. There are also options for contact lens wearers as well.
Reduced pupil size. As we age, our pupil size starts to gradually become smaller and makes us less responsive to changes in lighting. Older individuals might find themselves needing more light to read and have difficulty moving in between light and dark environments quickly (from a dark theater to sunlight). This is also one of the causes for difficulty driving at night. Adjusting from darkness to bright oncoming traffic can make driving at night difficult. There are many optical products that can help this situation. A photochromic lens (like Transitions™) or anti-glare coatings on lenses can help older drivers adjust to differing light conditions more easily.
Dry Eyes. As we age, we may experience itchy, dry eyes. The condition affects many people, especially women after menopause. They may experience scratchy burning sensations in various conditions and may find that traditional over-the-counter eye drops don’t seem to remedy the problem. There are actually several different types of Dry Eye Disease, and your optometrist could help you determine which one you suffer from by examining the quality of your tears. Treatment for Dry Eye Disease can include prescription eye drops or in-office procedures like LipiFlow that can provide relief.
Loss of peripheral vision. On average, as you age your field of vision decreases by one to three percent every decade. Peripheral vision loss can also be a sign of glaucoma and serious ocular disease, so it important to have it checked out. This type of loss can make driving dangerous as it can be difficult to see objects not in your direct vision. Whether your peripheral vision loss is gradual or sudden, it is important to bring up your concerns with your eye doctor to see if there is a serious underlying medical issue.
Cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye due to protein build up. There are several different types of cataracts, but the most common are age-related cataracts. The development of these begins around the age of 40. Treatment for cataracts can include surgery. Your eye surgeon will remove the cataract and then replace it with a clear artificial lens.
You may notice a cataract if you are noticing blurry vision, faded colors or halos at night. Particularly if you are over the age of 40 or if you are diabetic, it is important to have your eyes checked by your eye doctor.
Cataracts are very prevalent. There are more than 24 million Americans over the age of 40 with cataracts, and more than half of people over the age of 65 experience the condition.
While cataracts cannot be prevented completely, there are a few things you can do to slow their progression. Avoid tobacco use and exposure to UV rays. Incorporate a healthy diet and exercise into your daily activities. Good foods to include in your diet are antioxidants like vitamins E and C, beta carotene and selenium. Find ways to incorporate dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, butternut squash or even sunflower seeds and almonds into your diet.
Make sure to visit your eye doctor regularly to be checked for cataracts as you age, especially if you are diabetic or have other health issues. While cataracts are one of the leading causes of blindness, they are treatable and your optometrist can advise a course of treatment to restore your sight.
Nutrition and Eye Health
It goes beyond carrots.
Proper nutrition is as much a part of eye health as receiving regular eye exams. Even if you aren’t experiencing a problem with your vision right now, healthy nutrition will help your eyes stay healthy for as long as possible. There are many different nutrients that are essential for maintaining healthy eyes.
Lutien and Zeaxanthin are found in a wide variety of leafy greens and in eggs. Recent studies have shown that both nutrients can help reduce the risk of age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts.
Vitamin C can help reduce the risk of developing cataracts and has been reported to help slow visual acuity loss. Vitamin C can be found in bell peppers, dark leafy greens, kiwifruit, broccoli, berries and of course, citrus fruit.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that help protect the eyes from pollutants and free radicals. Some studies show that Vitamin E can help prevent the development of cataracts and can help slow the progression of retinal damage. Vitamin E can be found in nuts, fortified cereals and sweet potatoes.
Essential Fatty Acids found in fish and flaxseed, olive, canola and sunflower oils help with the metabolic processes in the body. They are shown to improve brain function and can help with heart function as well. In the eyes, essential fatty acids are important for proper visual development and help the retinas to function as they should.
Zinc is a mineral that helps boost the immune system and helps the brain to function properly. The macula in the back of the eye contains high levels of zinc so maintaining proper levels will help with vision. Also Zinc helps create melanin which can protect the eye from UV damage.
Make sure to talk to your eye doctor about your diet to see if you are getting adequate levels of these nutrients. If you aren’t getting enough from your regular diet, your optometrist may suggest supplements or have other suggestions for you so that your eyes are receiving the benefits of proper nutrition.
LipiFlow®: Relief from Dry Eyes
If you find yourself suffering from eye dryness, sensitivity to light, or discomfort in windy or dry conditions, you may be suffering from a condition called Evaporative Dry Eye Disease. It can cause discomfort and really make it difficult to enjoy everyday tasks.
There are several different types of Dry Eye Disease. With Evaporative Dry Eye Disease, the eyes do not produce the right kind of tears. In healthy eyes, tears are made up of three layers: an aqueous (water) layer, a mucin (mucus) layer and a lipid (oil) layer. With Evaporative Dry Eye Disease, the mixture of tears is deficient in the lipid layer.
LipiFlow is a thermal pulsation system that helps treat the Meibomian glands, the part of the eye that makes the lipid layer of your tears. LipiFlow massages the Meibomian glands and encourages them to produce the right amount of oil. The treatment only takes about 12 minutes and can be done in our office. Many people compare LipiFlow to going to the spa.
If you are suffering from dry, red, irritated eyes, talk to your optometrist about what treatment options would work best for you.