Sunglasses- not just a style choice, but a vision-saving device

Photo courtesy of Steven Depolo on Flickr

Photo courtesy of Steven Depolo on Flickr

Not just a style choice

What do you think of when you see someone in sunglasses? Among the most common responses I hear from my patients when I ask them about sunglasses is “fashion.” And while your Michael Kors sunglasses can be an excellent fashion accessory, they can also be a tool well suited to add to your arsenal of eye protection.

Sunglasses are protection

The next question I hear when discussing sunglasses with my patients is “protection from what?” Sunglasses can help provide protection from damaging UV rays of the sun, serve as a barrier for ocular allergens to help reduce allergic conjunctivitis in patients who have eye allergies, and protect the surface of your eyes if you are a patient with tear film insufficiency or dry eyes.

Watch out for UV rays

Damaging Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can cause indirect DNA damage and contribute to skin cancer. It can also cause changes to the health and structure of your eyes. UV ray exposure has unfortunately been linked with a higher incidence of macular degeneration, certain forms of cataracts, and pterygiums (those fleshy growths on the white of the eye that can grow to cover your pupil).

UV radiation from the sun comes in three forms- A, B and C. UV C is the most mutagenic, which means it is the most damaging of the three. Fortunately, our planet’s ozone layer absorbs most of this type of radiation so that it never makes it down to us. UV B is the form of radiation from the sun that causes sunburns, and sunscreens that are labelled with SPF numbers describe how well they block UV B. UV A unfortunately also damages the DNA in your skin and eyes. New full-spectrum sunscreens and sunblocks can help protect your skin from both UV A and UV B radiation. Similar to a full-spectrum sunblock, sunglasses with UV A and UV B protection can help prevent your eyes from exposure to 99.9% of UV A and UV B rays. 

Allergy protection

For patients who suffer from seasonal allergies, especially contact lens wearers, wearing a large pair of sunglasses can be an ideal barrier for potential ocular allergens. Whether they are sport sunglasses or the larger fashion sunglasses, having larger lenses and a bit of face wrap, or curves to fit the front of your face, allow sunglasses to block a lot of the pollens, dust and spores that can trigger eye allergies.

Similarly, for patients who suffer from tear film insufficiency or dry eye, having a large barrier in front of the eyes to protect from the elements encountered outdoors can make treatment and management of this eye disease much easier. 

Sunglasses are always going to be seen as a fashion accessory, but try not to forget how beneficial they can be for eye protection. And remember – there is nothing wrong with looking good while taking care of your eyes! 

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

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Driving at night – What should I know?

Courtesy of Johnathon, Flickr Creative Commons

Courtesy of Johnathon, Flickr Creative Commons

One of the most common questions patients ask is how to improve their night vision. In fact, many elderly patients have given up night driving all together.

So, what is it about night driving that makes it so hard? Well certainly, our visual abilities are dependent on light. With reduced lighting comes a variety of limiting factors like reduced visual acuity, poor color vision, decreased depth perception, and impaired peripheral vision. All of these factors combine to make accidents 3x more likely at night.

So, how do we reduce our chances of an accident?

1) It is imperative that your vision is corrected to its maximum potential. A complete eye examination will not only check the best prescription for you – it can also detect potential problems that affect night vision like dry eye, cataracts and macular degeneration, all of which occur with greater frequency with age. Additionally, if you are prescribed glasses at your visit, make sure to obtain lenses with an anti-reflective coating. This coating will reduce glare dramatically and has been shown to improve reaction time.

2) Make sure your windows and headlights are perfectly clean. Every time I clean my windows at a gas station I wonder why I didn’t do it earlier. This advice goes for your glasses too. Even a perfect prescription can be worthless if your glasses are dirty or scratched.

3) Finally, it is important to know your limits. If you have real concerns about night driving there is nothing wrong with asking for a ride, catching a cab or public transportation or just ordering in. Until next time, be safe on the road!

 ~Dr. David Ardaya, OD
California Optometric Association
http://eyehelp.org
http://www.coavision.org

Dry Eye Disease

If you ever have stinging, burning, gritty or sandy sensation, excessive tearing or itchy eyes, you may have symptoms of dry eye disease.

Dry eye disease is a condition where you don’t have enough tears or have poor quality tears to lubricate and nourish the eye. Tears maintain the health of the front surface of the eye and provide good vision. Dry eye disease is a common and often chronic problem, particularly in older adults. Advanced dry eyes may damage the front surface of the eye and impair vision.

The front surface of the eye is called the cornea. With each blink of the eyelids, tears are spread across the front surface of the eye. Tears are produced by several glands in and around the eyes. The tear film is composed of nutrients, electrolytes, proteins and lubricants. Tears provide lubrication, reduce the risk of eye infection, clear the eye of foreign matter, and keep the surface of the eyes intact and clear. Tears drain from the eyes into small drainage ducts called puncta in the corners of the eyelids, which drain in the back of the nose.

Courtesy of Clearly Ambiguous on Flickr

Courtesy of Clearly Ambiguous on Flickr

If there are any irregularities in the tear film, symptoms of dry eye may manifest. Dry eye disease may limit daily activities including reading, driving, working on the computer or wearing contact lenses.

Many different factors cause dry eye. These are some of the most common:

1) Hormones: Dry eye disease is more common in people 50 years old or older. Hormonal changes that are common in women experiencing menopause can cause dry eye.

2) Systemic diseases: Other systemic diseases including diabetes, glaucoma, Sjogren’s syndrome, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis can exacerbate the symptoms of dry eye.

3) Medications: Medications including antihistamines, hormonal replacement therapy and androgen therapy may contribute to dry eyes.

4) The environment: Environmental factors such as pollen or allergies, working on the computer or contact lens wear can make dry eyes worse.

Dry eye disease is diagnosed by patient history. In diagnosing dry eye disease, your doctor of optometry will evaluate the symptoms, general health problems, medications or environmental factors that contribute to dry eye disease. Your doctor will perform an external examination of the eyes including the eyelid structure and blink dynamics. Your doctor will evaluate the eyelids, cornea and conjunctiva is performed using bright light and magnification. Measurement of the quantity and quality of tears is assessed for any abnormalities. From this information, your doctor of optometry can determine if you have dry eyes and advise you on treatment options.

Treatments for dry eyes include:

  • over the counter artificial tears,
  • punctal plugs (small plastic pieces that close the ducts that drain tears out of the eyes),
  • eyelid hygiene,
  • dietary supplementation,
  • or a prescription eyedrop called Restasis (cyclosporine 0.05%).

If you experience any of theses symptoms, contact your doctor of optometry and ask for a dry eye evaluation.

~ Melissa Barnett, OD, FAAO