School is out! How to keep your child’s eyes healthy during summer

Photo courtesy of Andrew Eick on Flickr

Photo courtesy of Andrew Eick on Flickr

A few weeks ago we published a blog about how important it is for our children to spend time outdoors to prevent myopia. ‎

Being outdoors is great for helping to prevent nearsightedness and for exercising our eye focusing muscles, but you may wonder what else you need to do to make sure your child’s eyes stay healthy through the summer.

A few things come to mind.  It has become very common practice to never let our children leave the house with out sun protection: Sunblock, hats, UV blocking clothes and bathing suits. But, what is less common is remembering sunglasses for UV protection for the eyes.  Kids playing outdoors in the sun are exposing the lenses of their eyes and their retinas to harmful UV radiation.  Additionally, their lenses are so young that they do not block UV as well as adult lenses thus sending more UV to the retina.  UV damage to the lens and retina can by a cause of early cataracts and Macular Degeneration.  When buying sunglasses for kids, make sure that they are UV blocking and polarized if possible to reduce glare when around water. More information about children and sunglasses can also be found here.

Next, swim goggles are a good idea for the pool to help keep chlorine out of the eyes.  Chlorine can cause redness, burning, and blurry vision as well.  An added bonus would be swim goggles with a little tint or UV protection as well. If your child experiences these symptoms after playing in the pool, ask your eye doctor what eye drops are right to use to help.

Lastly, the use of sports goggles for eye protection during sports activities is also a must for eye injury prevention while playing soccer, baseball and any other outdoor sports.  For more information about preventing eye injury this summer, here is another great resource.

Enjoy your summer, enjoy the outdoors and the sunshine and stay eye healthy and safe!

~Lisa Weiss, OD, FAAO
California Optometric Association
http://eyehelp.org

http://www.coavision.org

 

 

 

 

Google Glass – friend or foe?

Publication1One of the newest trends in technology is wearables. Some of these devices like the Fitbit help you keep in shape by keeping track of how many steps the wearer takes and how well they sleep. Others like the Samsung Gear 2 allow you to check email, listen to music and do myriad tasks while looking like a normal watch. But, the most interesting wearable for optometrists is Google Glass.

As of a few weeks ago, Google Glass was only available for beta testing through its explorer program which allowed for only an elite group of tech-savvy individuals to purchase it ($1500). However, as of May 15th, anyone can purchase Glass and even obtain prescription eyewear that hosts the Glass computer. As such, some practices, including my own, have signed up to be Glass experts who can work with the approved frames.

So, what does Google Glass do and what makes it interesting to medicine? Well, for starters, Glass can take pictures and record video with voice commands. These applications can be extremely useful for hands free recording of surgical procedures. This can assist in educating health care providers, can serve as a permanent record in case complications arise, and allow for patients and doctors to communicate effectively even if they are not in the same city.

And what about day-to-day activities? Well, while using the recording device may unnerve people due to privacy concerns, I can certainly imagine recording video of my kids or maybe my favorite band at a concert. Glass can also translate words you see, help you with directions, and allow you to look up information. It can even help measure distances on a golf course and track the miles you run.  One detractor, some complain about eye pain after wearing the device for a number of hours.  Google has acknowledged this as a possible side effect of wearing Glass and can be due to unnatural eye movements like looking up for a long period of time.

As you can imagine, myriad applications are being developed to maximize this piece of technology. Also, other companies have developed similar devices. So, what do you think about Google Glass? Do you have privacy concerns? Do you think that this is a cool trend, or do you think Glass is lame and pretentious? Let’s discuss!

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

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

Eye Injury- It’s more common than you think

Courtesy of Geoffrey Fairchild on Flickr

Courtesy of Geoffrey Fairchild on Flickr

Injuries can happen to anyone at any time. You can scratch your cornea with your fingernail or have a fractured eye socket from being hit by a baseball. Some are more drastic, but they are all more common than you think.

The most common eye injuries include:

1.  Scratches to the cornea (Corneal Abrasion). This can result from something like a fingernail in the eye or even from a foreign object such as dirt or sand.  Abrasions can also happen if something falls into the eye during home improvement projects or working out in the garage. Symptoms of a corneal abrasion include tearing, pain, the sensation that something is in the eye and often extreme light sensitivity. If you suspect you have scratched your cornea, call your optometrist immediately.  Scratched corneas are more prone to infection and depending on where the scratch is located, can cause scarring and loss of vision if not treated urgently.

2. Chemical Burns from household items. Many household cleaners can burn the eyes if the product splashes in the eye. These burns can range from mild to severe depending on the product used. Alkali burns from cleaners can be less painful but more damaging than acid burns. Symptoms  of both burns include redness, pain and swelling. If something splashes in your eye, rinse it under copious amounts of water for 15 minutes and call your eye doctor or visit urgent care. You will want to let the doctor know what the substance was that got in the eye. This will help your eye doctor with the appropriate treatment.

3.  Penetrating eye injury. Metallic objects and things such as fishhooks can certainly cause severe damage to the eye structures.  This is a potentially very dangerous situation. A metallic object can lodge itself in the cornea and cause a great amount of scarring if not removed.  Do not attempt to remove the item yourself. Call your eye doctor and go to urgent care.

4.  Orbital Fractures. This can happen if a moving object hits the eye at a high speed. For example, a baseball, a bat, a fist, or similar trauma.  This type of injury can be very serious and involve the eye as well as the surrounding bones and tissues.  This is an emergency and should be treated urgently.

Eye injuries can happen anytime and anywhere.  We can use some common sense precautions to help limit damage to the eye and surrounding structures.  As much as possible, use safety glasses or goggles when working with chemicals or any items that may cause a scratch or penetration to the eye. Sports safety goggles are a good choice for both children and adults to help prevent injuries while participating in sports.

A little protection will go along way in preventing eye injuries.

Stay safe!

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

Can eye color affect your vision?

 

Courtesy of Felix Leupold on Flickr

Courtesy of Felix Leupold on Flickr

During my 20+ years of providing clinical care, my patients have asked me a variety of questions regarding their eyes. One of the inquiries that has come up recently is, “I heard that having different eye colors can affect your vision…is that true?”

Well, there certainly has been much written about, debated over, and researched on this very topic. We know that the iris is what gives a person their eye color. There are numerous eye colors and variations thereof. They span from the lightest of blue, to green, to a mixture of hazel, to the darkest of brown, and even violet like that of the late Elizabeth Taylor. Most of us would agree that some of us are more attracted to one eye color over another, so maybe having a particular eye color confers some advantages.

From a vision clarity standpoint, people with varying shades of blue eyes to brown eyes can see equally well. With that said, there are some plusses and minuses in possessing a particular eye color. What is known from an “evidence based” perspective is that individuals with light eyes (blue) tend to be more light sensitive. I often impart this analogy to my patients. If we think of the colored iris as a window covering, more light will be allowed to come through a window to light up a room with a light blue curtain as compared to an opaque brown one. So much the same occurs with a light colored iris. They just have less pigment to block out or reflect back the light. In fact, this may be one of the reasons why an individual with light eyes may be more at risk for developing macular degeneration. Recommendation have been made for patients with light eyes to wear UV protective eyewear, UV coated contact lenses, or even opaque colored contact lenses.

It is also a little known fact that dark eye colors (brown) can withstand high glare situations better than light eyes. Dark eyes have the ability to absorb more light and allow less light to get reflect. My patients with dark eyes are not as bothered by driving at night in the midst of annoying glare from headlights of other cars.

So to circle back to the question, “I heard that having different eye colors can affect your vision…is that true?”

It can be answered with a “YES,” but honestly, the difference is so ever subtle.

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

Can you diagnose eye diseases by looking at a photograph?

Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 9.13.27 AMFox News recently covered a story about how a rare and serious eye condition was discovered on Facebook because friends noticed something strange when a mom posted a picture of her child. One of the child’s pupils was white.

A white pupil, otherwise known as leukocoria, may indicate a serious eye condition.

How is leukocoria observed?

Leukocoria occurs when the pupil is white instead of black. Leukocoria may be detected in a photograph when one pupil has an abnormal reflex or “white reflex” compared to the other eye having a normal “red reflex.” The red reflex is either absent or white with leukocoria due to an abnormal light reflection from the eye. If leukocoria is pronounced, the pupil may appear white while observing the other person. This is easier to inspect in a darkened room.

What is a red reflex?

A red reflex is the normal reaction when light enters the eye through the pupil. The retina absorbs most, but not all, of the light and what is reflected back is reddish-orange in color – the “red eye” you see in pictures.

How is leukocoria diagnosed?

Doctors of optometry use an instrument called a retinoscope to examine the eye to determine if that normal red reflex is present. An ophthalmoscope is used to view the inside of the eye. The doctor also dilates the eyes a in order to evaluate them more thoroughly.

What causes leukocoria?

Many conditions cause leukocoria including cataracts, retinal detachment, retinopathy of prematurity, retinal malformation, an infection such as endophthalmitis, retinal vascular abnormalities, and intraocular tumors such as retinoblastoma.

These are all serious eye conditions which may be a vision and/or life threatening emergency.

If a white reflex or leukocoria is detected, schedule an eye examination immediately.

What is the treatment for leukocoria?

The treatment is to manage the underlying condition.  Early treatment is crucial. Treating the underlying condition promptly can save both vision and a person’s life.

~Melissa Barnett, OD, FAAO
California Optometric Association
http://eyehelp.org
http://www.coavision.org

You may have cataracts?

Courtesy of entirelysubjective on Flickr

Courtesy of entirelysubjective on Flickr

Cataracts are common

Not a day goes by in the office when I don’t tell a patient that he or she has a cataract, which is any kind of clouding in the crystalline lens of our eye. Some patients have heard of the term and understand that it’s a common occurrence as one ages. Other patients are terrified of the term and think it’s a disease that will make them blind. But the patients I relate to are the ones who hear the word cataract, and think “I’m old.”

Cataracts can affect your vision

If it helps, most cataracts develop over decades, from young adulthood onward. As early as 40 years old, we can start to notice the effects of this change over time. The crystalline lens in our eye, which is responsible for focusing light onto our retinas, begins to change shape and chemical structure over time. These changes result in more light scatter and dimming of vision. Usually, a patient will begin noticing glare from car headlights, double or ghost images around letters and lights or that night vision is not as clear or bright.

These are often initial symptoms and do not require treatment. As the cataracts continue to develop, patients’ eyeglass prescriptions may begin to change and they will also experience blurry or cloudy vision with worsening of the above symptoms. When they reach this point, which is about half of patients over the age of 65, cataract surgery may be indicated.

Cataract surgery – not as bad as you’d think

Cataract surgery is the most common surgery performed in the world. Nowadays, it can be a 15 minute out-patient procedure. The cataract is removed from the eye and replaced with an artificial lens implant, called an intraocular lens. With many advancements in this field, the lens implant can also have specialty optics which can correct for astigmatism or for both distance and reading.

What many don’t know is that cataract surgery is an optional procedure. A cataract is not malignant and does not always have to be removed. However, a patient’s vision will improve significantly with a successful cataract surgery. They will notice a much brighter and clearer environment. Some patients who have glaucoma or have a crowding of the internal structures of the eye would benefit from having cataract surgery.

Image

Photo courtesy of Community Eye Health on Flickr

Types of cataracts

There are many different forms of cataracts. In fact, I found a cataract in a 9-month old baby when his mom brought him in for a well-visit eye examination. In such a case where the eye is still developing, clouding of the lens can interfere with visual development and needs to be removed. Other congenital form of cataracts may simply be a cloudy spot on the lens which doesn’t interfere with vision. In this case, there is no need for cataract surgery.

Cataracts can also develop from trauma, use of certain medications and diabetes. Depending on the type, a cataract can slowly worsen over years, or change rapidly requiring surgical intervention within months. For patients whose vision is changing rapidly, I often like to follow them every few months to monitor for vision and cataract changes.

People often ask what can be done to prevent cataracts. Unfortunately, genetics plays a factor so if your parents required cataract surgery, you will most likely need one also. If you’re outdoors, wear a good quality pair of sunglasses that block UVA/UVB rays. This goes for kids as well since exposure to ultraviolet radiation is cumulative. If you’re outdoors for long periods of time, throw on a hat for added protection. Smoking has been shown to cause cataracts also, so limit your exposure to cigarette smoke. If you are currently being treated for diabetes or using steroid medications, be sure to see your internist regularly.

Why wait for your vision to blur? See your optometrist every year!

Most importantly, see your optometrist annually for an eye examination. They can check for cataracts but also determine if there are other factors that may be contributing to a reduction in your vision. It’s not just the lens that helps you to see but a whole network of related structures that work as a team to provide you with optimal vision.  If you require a new pair of glasses, always opt for an anti-glare coat on the lenses, which would further reduce disabling glare symptoms.

~Cindy P. Wang, OD, FAAO
http://eyehelp.org
http://www.coavision.org