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10 Tips to Protect Your Vision

eyes female blue

Did you forget to put on your sunglasses today? Are you constantly sitting in front of a computer screen without taking breaks to look away? Maybe you also skipped your yearly eye exam, again. These are just some of the things we tend to overlook when it comes to our eye health. But these seemingly innocent oversights, along with small decisions that we make on a daily basis can eventually take a toll on our eyes and our vision.

Now is the time to make changes to safeguard your vision – it's never too late to change a routine or break a habit. Here are a few tips that will help you get your eye health and vision on track in the blink of an eye.

1.     Keep Screens at a Distance.
Screens and monitors are part of our everyday lives. We encounter them everywhere, from our personal smartphones, desktop computers, tablets and MP3's to movie theatres, sports games, airports, train stations and subways. Throughout the day, we tend to look at screens for long periods of time and we may work from handheld devices at much closer distances than we would read printed pages. Glare from screens can lead to eyestrain and computer vision syndrome. It’s recommended to position your computer screen at least an arm's length away and hold handheld devices 16 inches away from your eyes.

2.     Blink, Blink, Blink. Another result of extensive device use is that your blink rate tends to drop when you stare at text on a screen. Not blinking often enough can lead to dry, irritated eyes.  Apply the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds and don’t forget to blink!

3.     Always wear your sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays when you are outside or driving during daylight. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays during any time of year can lead to cataracts or age-related macular degeneration (AMD) as well as sunburns on your eyes in extreme cases. Make sure that your sunglasses block 99 percent of UVA and UVB rays.

4.     Eat seafood with Omega -3’s. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in cold-water fish such as tuna, salmon, mackerel and sardines, may help lower the risk of dry eyes and eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts. If you don’t like seafood, consider taking fish oil supplements or other supplements that contain omega 3’s such as black current seed or flaxseed oils.

5.     Go for Greens. Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli, zucchini, peas, avocado and Brussels sprouts contain lutein and zeaxanthin. The AREDS 2 – Age Related Eye Disease Study – research conducted by the National Eye Institute (NEI) demonstrated that certain dietary supplements including these important pigments help prevent the progression of some eye diseases.

6.     Drink green tea. Green tea is another great source of antioxidants which keep eyes healthy and defends them from cataracts and AMD development.

7.     Care for your contact lenses. Always wash your hands before inserting or removing contacts and store them properly in cleansing solution. Never use any substances other than proper contact lens solution and make sure you follow your eye doctor’s instructions for proper use, because some eye drops contain ingredients which can react badly with your contact lenses. Keep a backup pair of glasses for days when the contacts “don’t feel right” or if you develop an eye infection. Do not wear contacts for longer than they’re supposed to be worn. If you keep waiting until your eyes begin to feel irritated before you change to a new pair of lenses, the eyes can gradually get desensitized, and damage may occur before the lenses feel dry.

8.     Throw away old eye makeup such as mascara that is over four months old. Sharpen eyeliner pencils regularly and don’t put liner on the inside of your eye lid. If your eyes become irritated, stop using eye makeup until they heal.

9.      Protect your eyes from danger. Always wear protective eyewear or safety goggles if your work requires eye protection and when working in the garden, doing home repairs or when dealing with strong cleaning substances such as bleach or oven cleaners.

10.      Visit your eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam at least once a year. Yearly eye exams are not only helpful in detecting early signs of eye disease, they are also an important indicator of your overall health. An eye exam can detect signs of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, brain tumors, aneurysms, and multiple sclerosis. Proper attention to vision problems can also enhance your safety and quality of life.

Knowing what you have to do is the first step in keeping your eyes and vision safe. Thinking about your eyes and vision and forming the right habits will lead to a lifetime of good vision.

Pink, Stinging Eyes? It Could Be Pink Eye

Conjunctivitis, also called pink eye, is one of the most frequently seen eye diseases, especially in kids. It can be caused by viruses, bacteria or even allergies to pollen, chlorine in swimming pools, and ingredients in cosmetics, or other irritants, which touch the eyes. Some forms of conjunctivitis might be quite transmittable and quickly spread in school and at the office.

Conjunctivitis is seen when the conjunctiva, or thin transparent layer of tissue covering the white part of the eye, becomes inflamed. You can identify conjunctivitis if you notice eye redness, discharge, itching or swollen eyelids and a crusty discharge surrounding the eyes early in the day. Pink eye infections can be divided into three main types: viral, allergic and bacterial conjunctivitis.

The viral type is usually a result of a similar virus to that which produces the recognizable red, watery eyes, sore throat and runny nose of the common cold. The red, itchy, watery eyes caused by viral pink eye are likely to last from a week to two and then will clear up on their own. You may however, be able to reduce some of the discomfort by using soothing drops or compresses. Viral pink eye is transmittable until it is completely cleared up, so in the meantime maintain excellent hygiene, remove eye discharge and try to avoid using communal pillowcases or towels. If your son or daughter has viral conjunctivitis, he or she will have to be kept home from school for three days to a week until symptoms disappear.

A bacterial infection such as Staphylococcus or Streptococcus is usually treated with antibiotic eye drops or cream. One should notice an improvement within just a few days of antibiotic drops, but be sure to adhere to the full prescription dosage to prevent pink eye from recurring.

Allergic pink eye is not contagious. It is usually a result of a known allergy such as hay fever or pet allergies that sets off an allergic reaction in their eyes. First of all, to treat allergic pink eye, you should eliminate the irritant. Use cool compresses and artificial tears to relieve discomfort in mild cases. When the infection is more severe, your eye doctor might prescribe a medication such as an anti-inflammatory or antihistamine. In cases of chronic allergic pink eye, topical steroid eye drops could be used.

Pink eye should always be diagnosed by a qualified eye doctor in order to identify the type and best course of treatment. Never treat yourself! Keep in mind the sooner you begin treatment, the lower chance you have of giving pink eye to loved ones or prolonging your discomfort.

Does Chlorine Hurt your Eyes?

little girls swimming

Just because the summer is coming to an end, doesn’t mean that we have to say goodbye to the swimming pool. Whether it means a nice refreshing dip on a warm fall afternoon or a winter swim in an indoor pool, swimming is a great activity for both fun and exercise. Nevertheless, have you ever wondered if all of this splashing around in chlorine-filled water can affect your eyes and vision?

Swimming pool water is chlorinated to keep it sanitized. The chlorine helps reduce water-borne bacteria and viruses to prevent pathogens and disease from spreading. While chlorine is a successful water sanitizer, its efficacy depends on a number of factors including how recently it was added to the water, the concentration of the chemical and how much the pool is used.

When your eyes are submerged in chlorinated pool water, the tear film that usually acts as a defensive shield for your cornea is washed away. This means that your eyes are no longer protected from dirt or bacteria that are not entirely eliminated by the treated pool water. So, swimmers can be prone to eye infections. One of the most common eye infections from swimming is conjunctivitis or pink eye, which can either be viral or bacterial.

Another eye issue that often develops from contact with chlorinated water is red, irritated eyes. When your cornea dehydrates as a result of exposure to chlorine, the irritation is often accompanied by blurriness, which can result in distorted vision temporarily. Although these symptoms usually disappear within a few minutes, the recovery time tends to increase with age. Using lubricating eye drops can help alleviate symptoms by restoring the hydrating, protective tear shield in your eye.

If you wear contact lenses, be sure to remove them before jumping in the pool. Contact lens patients are prone to an eye infection called acanthamoebic keratitis, which develops when a type of amoeba gets trapped in the space between the cornea and the contact lens and begins to live there. This infection can result in permanent visual impairment or lead to ulcers on the cornea. If you have taken a dip with contacts on, be sure to remove your lenses, rinse them with lens solution and refrain from sleeping in them after you've had a swim.            

There is no way to be one hundred percent sure of what is floating around in a swimming pool, so the best way to protect your eyes is to use water-tight goggles that fit you well. This way you can enjoy your swim without risking your eyes or your vision.

Age Related Macular Degeneration and Your Central Vision

Did you know that age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the leading causes of vision loss and blindness among adults aged 50 and above?

AMD occurs when the part of the retina responsible for your sharp central vision, the macula, begins to deteriorate. Central vision is the visual field that you rely on to focus on objects clearly, to read or to drive. As AMD affects your macula, the condition often results in gradual central vision loss. AMD does not cause complete blindness, as those affected by the condition are able to see by relying on their peripheral or side vision.

AMD is usually diagnosed as either dry or wet. The dry form is more common than wet macular degeneration. In dry AMD, light-sensitive cells in the macula gradually break down and slowly begin to blur central vision in the affected eye. Over time, central vision in the affected eye can be slowly lost as the macula begins to further deteriorate.

In its wet form, macular degeneration can lead to more severe vision loss, as the more advanced stage of the disease causes new blood vessels to grow beneath the retina. These new blood vessels are delicate and can leak blood and fluid, causing damage and scarring of the retina, leading to further vision loss.

The early and intermediate stages of AMD usually occur without symptoms. Only a comprehensive dilated eye exam can detect AMD. The eye exam includes a visual acuity test that measures how well you see, a dilated eye exam and the use of an Amsler grid. An Amsler grid consists of a grid of straight lines with a central focus point in the center. Someone with AMD may see the central area darkened or will report that the lines are wavy. This is a very effective and easy way for you and your eye practitioner to monitor changes in your central vision.

Aside from age, other risk factors that can increase your chances of developing AMD include smoking, high blood pressure, UV exposure and family history of the disease. It is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, which includes quitting smoking, exercising regularly and maintaining normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Eating a diet rich in colorful vegetables and fish can boost the vitamins that naturally protect the eyes from AMD. We may recommend vitamin and mineral supplements based on your risk factors and level of developing macular degeneration.

Early detection of AMD is the best way to control the condition and reduce damage to your eyesight. That's just one of the reasons why it's so important to get a comprehensive eye exam from an eye care professional at least once a year.

June is Cataract Awareness Month

cataracts diagram

Cataracts, one of the most common causes of blindness, develop when the lens of the eye, located behind the iris and pupil, becomes opaque or cloudy. A cataract can result in loss of vision as it prevents light from passing into your eye and focusing on the retina.

While cataracts most frequently result from the natural aging process, other risk factors include exposure to UV radiation, medical disease or a family history of the condition, trauma to the eye and smoking.

Cataracts occur when over time, pigment or protein is deposited in the lens and this, together with disruption of the normal structure of the lens fibers, can lead to reduced transmission of light, which causes visual problems. The condition can affect one's ability to see colors, drive, read, and recognize faces. Although cataracts aren't painful, the following signs could indicate cataract development:

  • Blurry vision or distorted vision, or the sensation that there is a film over your eye. You may also notice that colors appear to be dull.
  • Sensitivity to light. Sunlight or light from a lamp seems to be too strong and glare while driving may be worsened, especially at night.
  • Worsened vision that does not improve with a new glasses prescription or a new pair of glasses.

Cataract surgery can be avoided in the early stages as you may be able to improve your vision on a short term basis by using new glasses, strong magnification, appropriate lighting or other visual aids. Once the cataract progresses to a stage where it interferes with your vision and daily functioning, the best option is to have it treated surgically. Cataract surgery is a simple, relatively painless procedure that is usually very successful in restoring vision. The surgery, which is actually one of the most common surgeries in America, involves removing the clouded lens and in most cases replacing it with a plastic lens called an intraocular lens (IOL). Nine out of 10 patients recover near perfect vision after cataract surgery.

While there is nothing proven to prevent cataracts, there are number of steps you can take to reduce your risk.

  • Ensure you use adequate UV protection from the sun such as sunglasses and a hat.
  • Studies show that eating a diet rich in antioxidant foods, may prevent the formation of cataracts. Vitamin E, vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids are known to have significant benefits to your eye health.
  • Have a comprehensive eye exam including a dilated eye exam every year.

Pay attention to your eyes and your vision and make your eyesight a priority. If you notice any changes in your vision, make an appointment with your eye doctor immediately.

Understanding the Eye Chart

eyechart

Eye charts of different variations have become a standard in vision screenings and eye exams. One of the most familiar charts associated with vision is the Snellen eye chart, designed by Dutch ophthalmologist Hermann Snellen in 1862 to measure visual acuity- how well you can see at various distances.

Although there are variations of the Snellen chart used today, a traditional Snellen chart has eleven lines of block letters. The first line has one very large letter, which is one of several letters, for example E, H, or N. The following rows have increasing numbers of letters that become smaller in size as you read from the top to the bottom of the chart. The letters used on the chart are C, D, E, F, L, N, O, P, T, and Z.

When taking a vision exam, one eye is covered and you are asked to read the letters of each row aloud beginning at the top of the chart. The smallest row that you can read correctly indicates the visual acuity in the eye being tested.

The chart is positioned at a distance of 20 feet in the United States or 6 meters in the rest of the world. The term 20/20 vision is used to indicate the clarity and sharpness of your vision measured at a distance of 20 feet. If you have 20/20 vision, you can see clearly at 20 feet objects that can normally be seen at that distance. If you have 20/40 vision, it means that you need to be as close as 20 feet to see what a person with normal vision can see at 40 feet. The largest letter on an eye chart often represents an acuity of 20/200 which is associated with the term "legally blind."

You will be asked to read the letters one eye at a time. Some people can see well at a distance, but are unable to bring nearer objects into focus, while others can see items that are close, but cannot see them far away. By having you read the chart, your eye doctor is able to ascertain whether you have difficulty with distance vision and can determine which corrective lenses can be used to improve it. Near vision problems or other vision and eye health issues may not be detected with the Snellen eye chart alone, so a comprehensive eye exam is always recommended.

The next time you hop into the chair at your optometrists' office, you'll be able to understand why you have to read the letters on the chart in front of you and what the results mean for your vision.

First Aid for Eye Injuries

To ensure that your eyes remain healthy, it is essential to protect them from injury and to take proper care measures if an injury has occurred. As July is Eye Injury Prevention Month, here are a number of practical first aid tips to remember if you or anyone you know suffers an eye injury.

The very first step with any eye injury is of course to consult with your eye doctor or get a medical doctor to examine your eye as soon as possible. This is true even if the injury does not seem to be extensive, as often signs of a serious eye injury are not apparent immediately. When it comes to eye injury it is important not to rub, touch, or apply pressure, ointment or medication to the eye. Try to leave the eye alone as much as possible until you are in proper care of a doctor.

Common eye injuries include foreign particles that scratch the eye, foreign bodies that penetrate the eye, a blow to the eye and chemical burns. Here are some tips for each of these common injuries:

Foreign Particles

  • If you have a foreign particle in your eye, refrain from rubbing it.
  • Blink and apply artificial tears to attempt to loosen and flush out the particle. If blinking this way is unsuccessful in providing relief, keep your eye closed and see your eye doctor right away.

Chemical Burns

  • Flush your eye for 20-30 minutes, preferably with sterile saline, but tap water is acceptable. Copious but gentle irrigation is needed right away to avoid acid or alkali burn penetrating into the deeper tissues of the eye.
  • Contact your eye doctor or the emergency room to find out the next step to take.
  • Be sure to identify the substance that entered your eye and tell your doctor.
  • If your vision is extremely blurry or your eye very red, place a cool compress or icepack on it until you receive medical attention.

Blow to the eye

  • A minor blow can cause significant damage to the eye. Apply a small cold compress to reduce swelling and pain but be sure not to apply any pressure.
  • If you develop blur, floaters or flashes of light, pain or a black eye seek immediate assessment from your eye doctor or the emergency room.

Cuts, Penetrating or Foreign Objects

  • If possible, protect your eye with an eye shield such as a paper cup taped around the area.
  • Seek medical help immediately.
  • Do not rub, attempt to remove the object or apply pressure to the eye.
  • Even small cuts can pose a risk for infection so it is important to consult with a doctor for any penetration injury.

Most eye injures occur at work, at home, in the garage or the garden. The best way to prevent one is to ensure that your eyes are protected during any potentially dangerous activity. Wear protective eyewear if your job requires it and when you play sports that involve flying objects of any kind. Preventing damage to your eyes can be as simple as wearing a pair of ANSI (American National Standards Institute) approved protective eyewear. Don't take any risk with your eyesight. Treat all eye injuries as emergencies and seek medical care as soon as possible.

The Great Glasses Play Day 2013

The first weekend of August (August 3rd and 4th) has been marked as the 2nd annual Great Glasses Play Day. The event, which first launched in 2012 was created for parents, eye care professionals, educators and children who wear glasses or have other vision challenges to celebrate and create awareness about the positive aspects of children wearing glasses. The event also aims to bring to light the importance of early vision health. The day will include parent organized meet ups that will take place online, as well as at parks and other locations around the United States and internationally.

The Great Glasses Play Day is a day to let children who have glasses enjoy all the amazing things their glasses allow them to do. It was initially conceived when Peeps Eyewear founder, Kristin Ellsworth, teamed up with Great Glasses Play Day co-sponsor Ann Zawistoski, the creator of Little Four Eyes, an online support community for parents of young children who wear glasses. Both women were inspired to create an event to show how proud they were of their children who adjusted to life with glasses.

The day also serves to celebrate the unique style of children with glasses and how advances in eyewear allow them to see more clearly. Additionally, it is an opportunity to raise awareness of children's vision challenges and highlight how vital it is to give your child an eye exam at an early age, as well as follow up treatment of any issue identified.

Here are a few ways you can celebrate Great Glasses Play Day:

  • Spread the word about the event, particularly to anyone you know who has children with glasses
  • Wear your own glasses or pick up a fun non-prescription frame to show your support and encourage your child as to how fun wearing glasses can be.
  • Read your child a positive book about children who wear glasses or make glasses for their toys and dolls.
  • Discuss or participate in an activity that was difficult for the child before she began wearing glasses and how that is now improved due to enhanced, clear and comfortable vision and the ability to concentrate, such as puzzles, word games and baseball.
  • Throw a glasses party on the day or make a glasses party when your child starts wearing glasses.
  • If you have a child with a vision problem, this is your chance to reach out to other parents and tell your story. Explain how you had your child's eyes examined and how correcting your child's vision made a significant, positive change in his life. This is the best way to help other parents understand how vital it is to take visual health seriously and to follow up on any referrals or instincts that something isn't right.

The Great Glasses Play day is supported by the American Optometric Association, the Children's Eye Foundation and Prevent Blindness Wisconsin. Take part and help spread the word about children's eye health.

Learn more about how you can participate by checking out the Great Glasses Playday website.

Treating Vision Problems Lowers Risk of Falling in Seniors

senior man in thought2

For adults over the age of 65, the right pair of vision correcting glasses can literally be a life saver. Seniors aged 65 and up are at increased risk of falling, which is the leading cause of injury, injury-related death, and hospitalization for this age group. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year, one in three adults over 65 falls but less than half talk to their healthcare providers about it.

According to a recent study, 65% of those who wear glasses and break a hip as a result of a fall were not wearing their glasses at the time of the fall. Whether it is a pair of corrective glasses or surgery to remove a cataract, treating vision problems promptly can have a huge impact on preventing injury related to falling in seniors.

It is important to raise awareness with your loved ones about the need to have a comprehensive eye exam at least once a year. This is vital as there are often no noticeable warning signs that vision problems such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and macular degeneration are developing. Additionally, a simple reminder to loved ones to wear their glasses as prescribed by an eye doctor will go a long way to help to maximize vision.

Poor vision doesn’t only increase the risk of falling; it also has an impact on the quality of daily life. If left untreated, a visual disorder can affect both social and physical activities. A person who is unable to see clearly will have difficulty participating in stimulating activities such as reading, playing cards and board games as well as day-to-day physical exercise such as walking.

Vision difficulties for seniors can often be treated once detected, but a thorough eye exam is necessary to determine the cause. With most vision diseases, earlier detection leads to increased chances of vision improvement. Raise your awareness about the relationship between vision difficulties and health problems for seniors to increase quality of life and help lower the risk of serious injury associated with avoidable falls. 

Technology in the Classroom and the Eyes

boy 20in 20front 20of 20eye 20chart

The use of technology has become commonplace in the classroom. So much so that today’s generation of students, from kindergarten to university, navigates computers, smartphones and tablets all the time.  Many schools have even implemented the use of smart boards and bring your own device (BOYD) programs.

However, as amazing as this educational technology can be, it is important to be aware of the potential visual challenges that can arise from prolonged use of digital technology.

According to a recent study by the American Optometric Association's (AOA), 85 percent of parents surveyed said their children use an electronic device for up to four hours every day. The survey also found that 41 percent of children have their own smartphone or tablet while 32 percent use both e-books and textbooks at school. Additionally, 66 percent of children use a computer or tablet to do homework or study.

Staring at a screen for a few hours a day can cause visual discomfort and interfere with your child's ability to focus. Although regular use of digital devices won't damage vision, extended use of technology at school or for homework can lead to a temporary vision condition called computer vision syndrome (CVS). Symptoms of CVS include eye strain, fatigue, burning or tired eyes, the inability to focus, headaches, blurred vision, double vision or head and neck pain. To alleviate and prevent CVS, teach your child the 20-20-20 rule when using technology or doing near work: take a 20-second break, every 20 minutes to look at an object 20 feet away.

There are also a number of physical indicators that parents should be aware of that point to vision problems. These include squinting or covering an eye to see a screen, repeated eye rubbing and excessive blinking. If your child complains of headaches or swimming words on a screen, consistently performs below his or her potential and has challenges completing homework, it is important to schedule a comprehensive eye exam to assess whether there may be any vision problems.

In addition, your child should hold any digital device a half to a full arm's length away from the eyes and slightly below eye level. Parents should encourage children to take breaks regularly while at the computer. Kids should also use ergonomic desk areas or gaming chairs to ensure comfort and proper posture. You can prevent glare on screens by using low-wattage light bulbs, dimmers, or curtains in the room. Avoid staring at screens in a completely dark room, and adjust the brightness and background color settings on the device.

Usage of digital devices will likely increase as technology advances. Teach your children good habits to keep their eyes comfortable and to protect their vision.