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.
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.
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.
Halloween Safety: Costume Contacts
As Halloween approaches, a trend that has been really taking off over the past few years is the wearing of costume contact lenses. While the effect can be stunning, it is important to take safety into consideration when choosing contact lenses as part of your costume.
Contact lenses require a prescription, because they are classified as medical devices by the FDA. Since they come in direct contact with your body, it is important that the fit and quality of the lenses are correct for your unique eyes, or there can be extreme consequences.
There have been reports of eye scratches, eye fatigue and even blindness when costume contact lenses haven’t been prescribed or monitored by an eye care professional. Over-the-counter contacts can also be full of bacteria and can cause serious infections to your eyes as well. Your best bet is to purchase your contact lenses through your eye doctor.
Be safe this Halloween season and protect your eyes. We want to make sure you are able to enjoy many years of ghouls and goblins in the future.
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.
3 Things to do Today for Healthy Vision
2. Rock some shades.
Here’s the great thing about sunglasses. Okay three great things. 1. They come in every shape and color. 2. They make you look like a rock star. 3. They protect your eyes from the damaging UV rays of the sun, even in cloudy or overcast weather. UV damage to the eyes is cumulative. Which means if you start getting in the habit of wearing your sunglasses every day starting today, you will already begin to reduce the damage. If you have kids, it’s even more important to get them to start wearing their shades when they go outside as most of our lifetime sun exposure happens before the age of 18. Look for lenses that block 100% of UV rays and look into sunglasses with polarized lenses as they will help you see clearly and eliminate glare.
3. Put your phone down.
If you find yourself barely able to keep your eyes open and you notice your eyes feeling tired after staring at a screen all day, chances are you may be experiencing Computer Fatigue Syndrome. Add to that staring at a small screen and you can suffer headaches, eye strain, blurred vision and dry eye. Your eyes need a break.We recommend the 20/20/20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This will allow your eyes to switch focus and prevent strain.
Keep in mind that smart phones and computers also emit blue light which can cause additional strain as well as interrupt your natural sleep cycle. It’s a good idea to make sure to put digital devices away a few hours before bedtime and include a blue light filter in your eyewear.