The famous glasses of Christmas movies, past and present….

Holiday GlassesAll of us have our favorite holiday movies- mine happens to be Elf with Will Ferrell.  And the elves in Santa’s workshop just so happen to wear small triangular reading glasses down on their noses.  Surprising, I did not even notice their glasses until I started to think about it! Glasses on characters in our favorite movies are often the defining characteristic of the character.  If you think about “Ralphie” in A Christmas Story you probably can picture him with brown thick glasses and at the same time recall his mom cautioning him: “You’ll shoot your eye out!.” Or how about Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” with small reading glasses down on his nose, holding a candle in the dark?

Some other famous Christmas movie characters that wear glasses are Clark Griswold in “Christmas Vacation”, Marcie in “Charlie Brown Christmas”, Arthur in “Arthur’s Christmas” The Conductor in “Polar Express” and of course Santa/Kris Kringle in “A Miracle on 34th Street- just to name a few.

So while you sit back and enjoy your favorite holiday movies this year, notice that sometimes, what adds to our favorite movie character’s charm and distinguishing personality, actually just happens to be their glasses!

~ Lisa M. Weiss, O.D.
California Optometric Association

Top five vision myths

Courtesy of riekhavoc (caughtup?) on Flickr

Courtesy of riekhavoc (caughtup?) on Flickr

As a doctor of optometry, I hear it all. And with Dr. Google serving as an impromptu family physician these days, myths regarding eye health are bound to circulate. Here are the top vision myths debunked:

  1. Wearing eyeglasses that are too strong or have the wrong prescription will damage the eyes.
    Prescription lenses in eyeglasses alter light rays into the eye. The prescription lenses do not change any part of the eye. In an adult, wearing glasses that are too strong or an incorrect prescription cannot harm the eye, although it may result in eyestrain or a temporary headache. With an incorrect prescription, vision will be blurry, but not harmful to the eye.
  2. Wearing eyeglasses will cause you to become dependent on them.
    Eyeglasses are used to correct blurry vision. Since clear vision with eyeglasses is preferable to blurry vision, one may want to wear eyeglasses more often. With glasses, it may feel that you are becoming dependent on them. However, you are actually just getting used to seeing clearly.
  3. Wearing eyeglasses will weaken the eyes
    Eyeglasses worn to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, or presbyopia will not weaken the eyes. In addition, glasses will not permanently “cure” these types of vision problems. Wearing glasses will enable clear vision caused by these refractive errors. (There are exceptions – glasses for children with crossed eyes (strabismus) or lazy eye (amblyopia). These glasses are used to help straighten the eyes or improve vision. Not wearing glasses may permanently impair vision).
  4. Using the eyes too much will “wear them out.”
    Eyes are made for seeing and cannot be used too much. We would not lose our sense of hearing by using our ears excessively.
  5. Holding a book too close or sitting too close is harmful to the eyes.
    Many children like to hold books very close to their eyes. Children have excellent focusing ability, so sitting close is normal and safe. Also, both children and adults who are nearsighted may get close to a book to see it clearly. This does not cause or worsen any type of eye problem.

~ Melissa Barnett, OD, FAAO
California Optometric Association

The facts on buying glasses online

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

By now, many of you have heard that glasses can be purchased online, and at a significant discount compared to your local eye care provider. As a consumer, I would probably jump at the opportunity to save some money and try them out. However, as an optometrist who has had to “redo” glasses for these patients, I’m going to tell you to save your time and money and get them at your eye care provider.

What a shocker – of course an optometrist would urge you to purchase from the local eye care practice. But not for the obvious reason you might think. It’s for you, the patient’s own benefit. You visit your optometrist expecting an updated prescription to see your best. Your optometrist places you behind the phoropter (think Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 album cover), adjusts the instrument for measurements specific to your eyes such as vertex distance, pantoscopic tilt and pupillary distance. Then, you painstakingly choose between lens ‘1’ and ‘2’, sweating for fear of choosing incorrectly. And after many tests for binocularity, focusing skills and eye alignment, you are given a prescription that is highly specific and customized.

Once the rest of the eye health exam is completed, I will then instruct my optician to help choose the correct style of frame. A patient needing a progressive lens may need a larger frame, extending about an inch below his eyelid, for enough reading power. The patient with high amounts of astigmatism cannot be placed into a frame that wraps the face too much. A patient who is highly farsighted may not do well in a half-rim frame. A child needs an impact-resistant lens material. The specific requirements go on and on.

Many online retailers simply ask for your prescription and a measurement called pupillary distance. That is simply the distance between your pupils. But that is not the only measurement required in making a good pair of glasses. Tilt of the frame, how close the glasses sit to the eyes and optical center are equally important and contribute to clarity and comfort of vision.

After multiple visits and purchasing new glasses (in addition to the online pair that doesn’t work), many of my patients have learned to not skimp on eye wear. I do not fault those for purchasing less expensive glasses. I understand that some just can’t afford a good quality pair. Speak to your optometrist about that. We may have more affordable frames to choose from or can discuss specific items needed in your glasses.

The bottom line is that we want you to see and look your best. Understandably, that may come at a higher price, but why hold back on something that sits in the middle of your face?

~ Cindy P. Wang, OD, FAAO
California Optometric Association

Back to school: my child needs glasses, but won’t wear them

A child needs many abilities to succeed in school and good vision is essential. It has been estimated that as much as 80 percent of the learning a child does occurs through his or her eyes. Children use their vision to read, write and use technology each day. When vision is not functioning properly, education and participation in sports can suffer.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Eye examinations are important for all children and adults, starting at six months of age. If your child has been prescribed glasses, it may be difficult to enforce your child to wear glasses. One fun saying referring to glasses is, “When they are not on your face, they’re in your case.” A few tips to help get your child to wear glasses

  1. Have your child wear glasses during enjoyable activities. They will be having so much fun that she will forget she is wearing them.
  2. Put the glasses on your child in the morning when your child is well rested and in a good mood.
  3. Be positive. The attitude of parents, grandparents and friends can influence a child more than you think. Make glasses “cool” for your child: point out pictures of sports stars or entertainers who wear glasses.
  4. Compliment your child for remembering to wear his glasses.
  5. Let your child select the frame. Select three or four different frames that are acceptable to you and then let the child pick the favorite.
  6. Make the glasses a part of the child’s daily routine.
  7. Advise your child’s teacher of when your child should wear glasses.
  8. Even better, keep a second pair of glasses at school.
  9. For sports, let your child select the frame and put the sports goggles in a bag with other sports equipment.
  10. If glasses are tight or uncomfortable, check the fit of the glasses. Stop by the optical shop if the frame loosens or becomes crooked (this may occur often in children).

Some good books about children wearing glasses Ages 3-5

  • Baby Duck and the Bad Eyeglasses, by Amy Hest (Candlewick Press)

Ages 5-8

  • Dogs Don’t Wear Glasses by Adrienne Geoghegan (Crocodile Books)
  • Libby’s New Glasses, by Tricia Tusa (Holiday House)
  • All the Better to See You With, by Margaret Wild (Whitman and Co)
  • X-Ray Mable and Her Magic Specs, by Claire Fletcher (Bodley Head)
  • The Arthur Books, by Marc Brown (Red Fox)
  • Glasses. Who needs ‘Em?, by Lane Smith (Viking)
  • Luna and the Big Blurr, by Shirley Day
  • Chuckie Visits the Eye Doctor by Luke David

Ages 8+

  • The Harry Potter Books, by JK Rowling (Bloomsbury)
  • Mom, I Need Glasses, by Angrliks Wolff (Lion Press)
  • The Eyes of Kid Midas, by Neal Shusterman (Little Brown and Company)

~ Melissa Barnett, OD, FAAO
California Optometric Association

Tint my world – what different sunglass tints do for my vision

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Bollwitt on Flickr

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Bollwitt on Flickr

Have you ever been shopping for new sunglasses and been asked, “what color lenses would you like?” If you look back over the past century, there have been many different colors of sunglass lenses that were popular. Back in the 1930’s, Ray-ban developed their B-15 brown lens to be used by US Airforce pilots. Followed up by the G-15 with grey-green sunglass lens, standard in the iconic Wayfarer in the 1950’s. In the 80’s, Vuarnet came out with the popular Px 2000 amber lens to increase contrast and the Px 5000 brown lens for extreme conditions of high mountains, glaciers and desert.

Revo – blue, Suncloud – red, what is the best color for your sunglass lenses?

The following is a guide to the benefits of different lens colors:

  • Grey – most common lens color; this tint is considered neutral because it maintains true colors while decreasing light levels. Good for general outdoor activities.
  • Green –works the same in any light condition; they can be used for just about any outdoor activity.
  • Brown and Amber –causes some color distortion, but also increases contrast. These lenses filter out distortion caused by scattered blue light thus are great for activities like tennis, skiing, boating, high-altitude sports, or other sports where distance vision is important. This tint is also great for golf, as it highlights varying contrasts of green on the golf course.
  • Yellow – like amber lenses, some color distortion, but increased contrast. Great for activities in lower light levels especially with changes from light to shadows. These are the lenses to choose when mountain biking, target shooting, skiing, playing tennis, or piloting an aircraft.
  • Pink, Rose and Red –block blue light, thereby improving contrast. Very soothing to the eyes, they provide good visibility on the road. Great for sports like cycling and racing.
  • Blue and Purple – a high contrast lens that reduces glare from visible white light. These lenses are endorsed by the USPTA for tennis professionals and linepersons in the sport because they block the glare from visible white light.
  • Polarization – though not a tint, polarized lenses offer significant glare reduction. Glare caused by light reflected off flat surfaces including roadways, water and snow is blocked by polarized filters, whereas tints can only decrease light intensity. A polarized lens can be combined with nearly any lens color.

No matter what color lenses you choose, the most important feature of your sunglasses is UV protection. Be sure to ask for 100% UV 400 eye protection to decrease the risk of certain eye diseases including macular degeneration, cataracts, and pterygium. According to the American Optometric Association, to provide adequate protection for your eyes, sunglasses should:

  • block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation;
  • screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light;
  • be perfectly matched in color and free of distortion and imperfection

~ Steven Sage Hider, OD
California Optometric Association

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





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

April Fools’ Day – 6 silly eye care myths you should know about

Photo Courtesy of jenschapter3 on Flickr

Photo Courtesy of jenschapter3 on Flickr

It is April Fools’ Day and to help ensure you don’t look foolish, I wanted to share a little eye information with you. There are a number of myths out there about your eyes and I wanted to quickly clear up some of the confusion. I hear a few of these myths every week with my patients, so here are a few of the most common:

  1. “Eye exercises can strengthen your eyes so you won’t need glasses.” While it is true you can make your eyes function better by doing eye exercises, for the majority of patients, glasses or contacts are needed to keep their vision consistently clear. The exception to this rule is that some children can benefit from eye exercises under the direction of an optometrist trained in vision therapy, which can help reduce a child’s need for glasses.
  2. “High pressure in your eyes means you have glaucoma.” Glaucoma is a very serious eye disease that can result in permanent vision loss. We know that having pressure beyond  a certain range significantly increases your risk of developing glaucoma, it does not mean you actually have glaucoma.
  3. “Contacts can slip behind the back of your eye and get struck in your brain.” Our body’s natural defense system ensures that this cannot happen. The conjunctiva is a tissue that covers the inner portions of your eyelids and the white of your eye. It is a continuous tissue that prevents anything from getting behind your eye, that includes contacts, eyelashes, or any other things that may get into your eye.
  4. “Wearing glasses makes your eyes weaker.” This common myth does not take into account that as your eyes age, your ability to see clearly without correction is reduced. Small prescriptions that did not require correction as child or young adult can present later in life as blur or visual discomfort requiring glasses.
  5. “If you can see clearly, you have healthy eyes.” Sadly, this is a common myth that keeps many people from getting their eyes checked on a regular basis. Comprehensive annual eye examinations with your doctor of optometry can help ensure that you have healthy eyes and detect serious vision-threatening or even life-threatening diseases well before they become a problem. Tumors, uncontrolled diabetes, strokes and other serious health problems can be caught during an eye exam with your optometrist. Regular exams with a doctor of optometry can help ensure clear vision and healthy eyes.
  6. “Eyes can actually pop out of your head.” This myth gets perpetuated by the many horror movies that show eyes being knocked out of a person’s head and rolling along the ground. Fortunately for us all, this does not happen. Your eyes are held in place by muscles that move your eye up, down, left and right. Additionally, you have a nerve that plugs into the back of your eye that can also hold it in place. Systemic health disease, such as thyroid eye disease, or compressive trauma can cause your eyes to protrude beyond your eyelids but they will never fall out of head like they do in the movies.

I hope shedding some light on the eye myths helped increase your knowledge and keep you from looking foolish.

 ~Ranjeet S. Bajwa, OD, FAAO
California Optometric Association

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.


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


Why 20/20 isn’t perfect-What is visual acuity?

Courtesy of riekhavoc (caughtup?) on Flickr

Courtesy of riekhavoc (caughtup?) on Flickr

Measuring normal vision

When patients come to see me, I need to have a way to compare how they see in relation to someone with normal vision.  So, like most eye doctors, I use a number system called Snellen visual acuity.  This measure of the clarity of vision uses black letters on a white background.  If you have ever had an eye examination, it is when the doctor asks you to read the letters on the chart that starts with a big “E”.  The letters are called optotypes and they have a very specific design that takes into account the size of the lines and the space between them.  While there are other types of visual acuity measurements, this is the most common.

20/20 isn’t perfect

The measure most people want to achieve with Snellen visual acuity is 20/20 vision.  While 20/20 is pretty darn good vision, in reality, 20/20 is not exceptional vision so much as it is more like the lowest possible visual acuity a person can have and be considered normal.  In fact, many people have the potential to see somewhere between 20/16 and 20/12 which means that they see even better than 20/20!

Paul B. (Halifax)

Paul B. (Halifax)

What do the numbers mean?

People also ask me to explain what the numbers mean.  As an example, take a person with 20/40 vision.  A person with 20/40 is at a disadvantage compared to a person with normal, 20/20 vision.  In fact, a person with 20/40 vision would have to stand 20 feet away from something that a person with normal vision can stand 40 feet away from and still see.

A number of factors like eye disease, the eye’s length and curvature, and the quality of connection between the eye and the processing centers in the brain come together to determine visual acuity.  Some factors, like nearsightedness, come with easy solutions like glasses.  Others, like macular degeneration, are much more complex and simple solutions like glasses only offer minimal improvement.  If a patient has very poor visual acuity, they may need magnifiers and telescopic lenses to help.

So,  the next time you go to the optometrist, give the 20/15 line a shot.  Good luck!

~David Ardaya, OD
California Optometric Association