The SCARY… and fun truth about colored contact lenses

Colored contact lenses are a popular topic this time of year as many people prepare their Halloween costumes. How fun is it to have a cool accessory like tiger eyes, cat eyes or red or white eyes to complement the most creative of costume? Colored contacts are a great fun option.  There are also many people who like to wear colored contact lenses daily to make their eyes more blue, more green, more brown or a different color all together!

Courtesy of therefromhere on Flickr

Courtesy of therefromhere on Flickr

However, most people do not realize that even contacts worn for cosmetic purposes still pose a potential health risk for the eye if not properly fitted. This is true even if there is no prescription on the lens.  Contact lenses are classified as “medical devices” with the FDA.  Regardless of a corrective prescription, contacts are plastic on the surface of the eye and need to be fit properly and be taken care of properly to lessen the chance of vision threatening infections such as corneal ulcers.

Doctors of optometry perform additional tests above and beyond the glasses and eye health examinations when fitting contacts. We evaluate the size and shape of the cornea, the health of the tear layer and the fitting relationship between the cornea (the outer surface of the eye where the lens sits) and the contacts lens to insure the safest most appropriate lens for each individual patient.  We also educate patients on the best cleaning and wearing regimen for the them.  This greatly reduces any complications associated with contact lens use.

Buying contact lenses without a doctor’s prescription is something that happens with colored contacts often.  This practice leads to rise in vision threatening conditions that could be prevented with a proper contact lens examination. So, buy a different kind Halloween contact lens for each Halloween party this season, but get a prescription first!

~Lisa Weiss, OD, MEd, FCOVDCalifornia Optometric Association
http://www.coavision.org

Summer is coming – protect your eyes while having fun in the sun!

Summer is coming

Most of us understand that we need to protect our skin from UV rays to avoid sunburn and potential sun damage and skin cancer.  But, we often overlook the need to protect our eyes from these harmful UV rays as well.  UV damage can increase your risk of cataract, macular degeneration, pterygium (benign growths on the white part of the eye) and also damage the sensitive skin around the eyes.  The following four tips from the American Optometric Association will help you keep you and your family’s eyes healthy all summer and all year long in the sun.

Here’s what you need to know to protect your eyes:

  1. Wear protective eyewear any time your eyes are exposed to UV light, even on cloudy days and during winter months. Glare from snow on the ground can reflect UV into your eyes.
  2. Sunglasses should block out 99-100% of UVA and UVB radiation and screen out 75-90% of visible light.  Polarized lenses is a good way to do this because they can specifically block out the most prominent light rays while maintaining clear vision.
  3. Grey colored lenses are best. They reduce light sensitivity without altering the color of object and provide the most natural color vision without distortion
  4. Don’t forget your kids! They need sunglasses too as they tend to spend more time outdoors than adults do.

One last tip: Don’t forget about a good quality sunglasses  frame. It should be big enough to protect your eyes and the skin around your eyes from the sun.

Use these tips to keep your eyes safe and healthy through all your outdoor activities.  As always, continue to get routine eye health and vision examinations yearly.

Enjoy the summer!

~Lisa M. Weiss, OD, MEd, FAAO

You’ve been diagnosed with diabetes – what does that mean for your eyes?

You’ve just been diagnosed with diabetes.  Your head is still spinning with the news.  Sensory information overload.  Somewhere in between hearing those 3 words “you have diabetes,” you also heard that you should get your eyes checked.  No problem.  There are many optometrists out there in your community just like me.  The first thing I usually do is to take a very detailed history of your overall health including various aspects of your diabetes management.  Be prepared to answer questions regarding when you were first diagnosed with diabetes about what oral or injectable medications you are currently taking and what your blood sugar readings are.  The history portion of the exam will also give me a chance to get to know you better and allow us to work together to set some important health care goals.

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Photo courtesy of Community Eye Health on Flickr

I tailor my diabetic eye work-ups for each patient that comes under my care, depending on if he/she is a newly diagnosed diabetic or have had some issues with diabetes in his/her eyes.

A complete diabetic examination may include but not limited to checking for prescription changes, lens clouding, and swelling or bleeding in the back of the eye.

With vigilant and periodic evaluations, you should reduce the chance of ever developing any of the following diabetic changes.  Diabetes may cause your vision to “fluctuate” making your vision clear during parts of your day and blurry at other times.  So, I will definitely check to see how different your prescription has changed from your previous exam.  Diabetes may also cause you to prematurely develop cataracts or clouding of your lens.  Most importantly, I will dilate your eyes to carefully inspect the retina for any bleeding, swelling, or new blood vessel growth.  Again, I assure you that no one should lose their vision to diabetes these days with close monitoring.  And if need be, I will refer you to a retinal specialist that I work in close partnership with for further evaluation.

Further testing or treatment by a retinal specialist may include:

  • A dye test to evaluate the back of the eye (fluorescein angiography)
  • Laser treatment (focal, grid, or pan retinal photocoagulation)
  • Injection with steroid to reduce swelling (triamcinolone acetonide)
  • Injection with anti-vegf medication that reduce swelling, stop the bleed, and stunt the growth of unwanted blood vessels (Avastin® or Lucentis®)

Now it’s your turn to do your part to prevent diabetes from developing in your eyes.

I always recommend four things to all my patients: 

1) Eat sensibly – according to the American Diabetes Association, fresh veggies should fill half of your plate, a lean protein for a quarter, and a carb of your choice for the last quarter
2) Exercise for 30 minutes daily
3) Take your medication(s) as recommended by your primary care physician or endocrinologist
4) Know your level of blood sugar control.  Ask your physician about your glycosylated hemoglobin or Hemoglobin A1C.

I look forward to seeing my patients back every year.  Until then, stay happy and healthy.

~Judy Tong, OD, FAAO

Get your fix of eye healthy foods

Get your fix of eye healthy foods and protect yourself from eye disease at the same time with this easy guide to the best eye healthy foods.

We all are aware that eating a variety of healthy foods including tons of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and nuts can help control weight and stave off many diseases, including heart disease and diabetes. The good news is those same healthy eating habits will also help reduce the risk of certain eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration.

Key nutrients for the eye include Lutein and Zeazanthin, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, Beta Carotene, Essential Fatty Acids and Zinc. These antioxidants and fatty acids can be easily added to your diet if you know where to find them:

Eyepic5_Jaime h

Photo courtesy of Jaime h on Flickr

  • Lutein & Zeazanthin are found in your green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale.
  • Vitamin C is found in citrus fruit, including oranges and strawberries.
  • Vitamin E is found in a variety of nuts as well as broccoli, mango, and kiwi.
  • Selenium is found in eggs, mushrooms, and grains such as brown rice.
  • Beta Carotene is found in sweet potatoes, kale, carrots and spinach. That ingredient is why we’ve always known that carrots are good for the eyes.
  • Essential Fatty Acids include the Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids found in fatty fish as well as walnuts, soybeans, flax seeds and tofu.
  • Zinc can be found in peanuts and cashews as well as dried beans and dairy foods.

Now that you know where to find these eye healthy foods, incorporate 8 servings in your diet per day and you will be on the way to a more healthier you, and at the same time helping to ensure that your vision will last a lifetime.

For more information, visit www.aoa.org and search for “Caring for your Vision” through “Diet and Nutrition.”

~Dr. Lisa Weiss, OD, MEd, FCOVD