Common myths about eyeglasses debunked!

Photo courtesy of Ben Andreas Harding on Flickr.

Photo courtesy of Ben Andreas Harding on Flickr.

As an optometrist, I often hear a variety of misconceptions about eyeglasses from my patients. Most concerns fall into a few broad categories with a few bizarre ones sprinkled in. I would like to take a brief moment to address some of the most common ones I hear:

  1. “Wearing glasses will make your eyes weaker.” This is probably the one myth I hear the most often and it is absolutely false. The biggest thing people forget to account for when they notice they are more reliant on their prescription glasses is that they are a bit older. As a person gets older, their ability to continue to see clearly without prescription glasses deteriorates. While this applies to everyone, it is most pronounced in my far-sighted patients in particular.
  2. “Not wearing your prescription glasses will make your eyes get worse.” This also is not true. Not wearing your glasses will not damage your eyes, but it can cause a significant amount of eyestrain. Extended viewing of computer monitors, smart phones, tablets or televisions without a proper prescription can lead to significant eyestrain and may cause you to discontinue viewing sooner than you planned.

    Photo Courtesy of TempusVolat on Flickr

    Photo Courtesy of TempusVolat on Flickr

  3. You can’t play sports with glasses on.” Not true! Glasses for sports can be made to protect your eyes and clear your vision at the same time. Protective lenses such as polycarbonate plastic can be put into sports goggles to allow a person to wear glasses when participating in sporting activities. Many patients prefer to wear contacts when they play sports, but it is a personal preference. Be sure to talk to your optometrist if you need specialty lenses for any of the activities you participate in.
  4. “Over the counter readers are just as good as prescription glasses.” This myth is not necessarily untrue. For a small group of patients, over the counter readers do work just as well as prescription reading glasses. The bad news is it’s an extremely small group of patients and those glasses work only when they are reading. Proper prescription glasses can correct each eye individually for the distance so both eyes are in focus and balanced. Once the eyes are balanced and working together, your optometrist can determine the proper power you need for your computer monitor or for reading materials. For the overwhelming majority of patients, there is a difference between the prescriptions between their eyes or some astigmatism in their correction that you cannot find in over the counter glasses.

I hope these answers help open your eyes to how prescription glasses can help you see clearly.

~Ranjeet S. Bajwa, OD, FAAO
California Optometric Association
http://www.coavision.org

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The ABCs of cataracts

CataractCataracts are a fact of life. Anyone who lives long enough will get them and almost everyone knows someone who has had them.  The good news is, with the latest technology available, improving your vision is very safe and will often times leave you with better vision without glasses than you had before the cataract.

Let’s look at the ABCs of cataracts:

A – Age. Remember that cataracts are changes to the lens of our eye as we get older. Different factors can influence when the cataracts start to form. Cataracts tend to develop sooner in folks who spend a lot of time outdoors in the sun without sun protection or sunglasses. They also tend to form earlier if you have diabetes or if you are a smoker. So keeping your eyes out of the sun and staying healthy will help delay the onset.

B – Blurry Vision. The lens of the eye starts changing with cataract formation, making vision blurry. It is like looking out of a blurry window. Usually night driving will be much harder and cataracts can cause difficulty with headlights a night. Cataracts can also cause glasses prescriptions to change as well. It is common to need one or two changes in glasses prescription before the cataract is affecting vision enough to have it removed.

Courtesy of laulau555 on Flickr

Courtesy of laulau555 on Flickr

C – Cure! The good news about this eye disease is that there is a very good treatment option. Cataract surgery involves removing the blurry lens from the eye and inserting a prosthetic lens in its place. This is an outpatient procedure and can take as little as 20 minutes.  The new lens often has a prescription in it that will be very close to your current glasses or contact lens prescription and will allow you to see better without the use of glasses or contacts.  There are even lenses available that can help with near vision as well as far vision. Usually after cataract surgery, vision improvement can be noticed as early as the next day.

Remember, make sure to have routine eye health and vision exams to determine if cataracts are forming or changing.  Your eye care provider can assist you in determining the appropriate time to have them removed.  Until then, stay healthy and wear sunglasses!

~Lisa M. Weiss, OD, FCOVD
California Optometric Association
http://www.coavision.org

Hitting the slopes? Be prepared for snow blindness.

Courtesy of kasiat on Flickr.

Courtesy of kasiat on Flickr.

Tis’ the season to go skiing and snowboarding.  Ski resorts all over the state are opening this month.  It is a well-known fact that spending time outdoors is healthy for not only your body, but your eyes too.  So get ready, get set, and go!  But before you swish down the mountain, ask yourself if you have taken the necessary steps in protecting your eyes from developing snow blindness – a specific form of something called Photokeratitis or Ultraviolet Keratitis.

Snow blindness can be thought of as a really bad sunburn of your eyes (cornea and conjunctiva).  It is caused by exposure of your unprotected eyes to natural sunlight that is reflected off of the snow or ice.  With just the right mix of high altitude and freshly packed snow, your eyes may be subjected to as much as 80% of UV radiation damage in a very short period of time.

After exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, the white part of your eyes (conjunctiva) may look extremely red and the clear covering of your eyes (cornea) may take on a glassy appearance.

Overall, your eyes will not be feeling too great.  With every blink, you may experience unrelenting pain, intense tearing, sandy and gritty feeling, eyelid twitching, discomfort with bright lights and a natural tendency to want to blink more rapidly or shut your eyes tight.  Your vision may be reduced to varying degrees.

The best way to prevent snow blindness is to wear UV-blocking sunglasses or goggles that only allow a certain amount of visible light through. Also, remember to don that protective eyewear whether it is a sunny or a gloomy, overcast day – UV rays can reach your eyes under any condition.

Courtesy of tk-link on Flickr

Courtesy of tk-link on Flickr.

In the event that you forget to bring your sunglasses or you lose them on the way down the slopes and sustain subsequent sun damage to your eyes, your friendly optometrist can promptly treat your symptoms and provide comfort and relief.

While snow blindness is a one form of Photokeratitis,  there are also other forms of which you should be aware, including artificial lights from suntanning beds, electric sparks, halogen desk lamps, flood lights, and arc welding (welder’s flash, arc eye, flash burn) just to name a few.  The prevention is the same.  Wear your UV-blocking sunglasses or goggles to not only look stylin’, but to preserve the health of your eyes and sight.

See you on the slopes!

~Judy Tong, OD, FAAO, FAAO
California Optometric Association
http://www.coavision.org

I have an astigmatism. What is that?

Courtesy of Greece Trip Admin on Flickr

Courtesy of Greece Trip Admin on Flickr

Astigmatism is a term used by optometrists to describe a prescription for one eye that needs two powers to bring it into focus. It is not a disease or something that will make you go blind, but it can make things blurry at distance and at near.
Most people are familiar with the terms “near-sighted” and “far-sighted.” In the eye care world we use the term “myopia” for near-sightedness and “hyperopia” or “hypermetropia” for far-sightedness. These terms are used to describe the power (+ or -) of the lens needed to make you see clearly.
If your prescription needs only one power to bring your eye into focus then you can think of it as being simple. So if your prescription has a number like -4.00, then you have simple myopia. Similarly, if you have a prescription of +2.25, then you have simple hyperopia.
If you have an astigmatism in your eye, then you have two powers that need to be corrected for you to see clearly. Having an astigmatism in your eye is our way of describing a compound prescription. Instead of just one simple power like we described earlier, there are two powers together. Depending on your prescription, you can have myopia with astigmatism or hyperopia with astigmatism.

Courtesy of Ciro Boro - photo on Flickr

Courtesy of Ciro Boro – photo on Flickr

A common example optometrists use to describe astigmatism to patients is the difference between a basketball and a football. A basketball is nice and round, and has only one curve for the entire ball. You can think of that curve as a lens power. A basketball is a good example of a simple prescription. A football, on the other hand, has two curves. This is like an eye that has two powers or an astigmatism.
Astigmatism is not an eye disease, but rather a term we optometrists use to describe a compound prescription in one eye. So don’t be alarmed if your optometrist tells you that you have some astigmatism in your eyes. You are not alone – I have an astigmatism in both of my eyes and I see extremely well!

~Ranjeet S. Bajwa, OD, FAAO
California Optometric Association
http://www.coavision.org