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Combating Dry Eye Syndrome

Do you experience itchy, burning, or dry eyes? You may be suffering from dry eye syndrome. Tears are necessary for overall eye health and clear vision, when there is insufficient moisture on the surface of the eye it can cause discomfort. Let’s looks at some common causes of dry eye syndrome, symptoms, and risk factors.

What are the causes of dry eye syndrome?

Tears keep the eyes surfaces moist and wash away dust, debris, and other microorganisms. Without constant, adequate moisture, dry eye will occur. Not enough oil in the tears causes them to evaporate too quickly, and without sufficient water production, eyes cannot maintain proper moisture.

Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome:

  • Scratchy or gritty feeling
  • Red eyes
  • Blurriness
  • Irritation from windy conditions
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Fatigued eyes
  • Problems with contacts
  • Excessive tearing
  • Heavy eyes
  • Sore eyes

Contact lenses and dry eyes

One of the most common complaints from contact lens wearers is their contacts make their eyes feel dry. If you experience dry eye symptoms while wearing your contacts or immediately after removing your contacts, talk with your eye doctor, as it is irregular to feel discomfort.

If discomfort occurs, it is possible you are using the incorrect solution with your contact lenses; not all solutions are made equally. Your eye doctor may also recommend you use eye drops to help temporarily relieve dry eye symptoms.

Another means to relieve symptoms is to change your contact lens type to a more breathable or moisture-focused lens, which is specially made to help retain moisture. You may also want to discuss with your eye doctor the option to switch from reusable contact lenses to single-use lenses. Single-use lenses will help prevent your lens from drying out and work to maintain moisture in your eyes.

Factors that Increase Risk of Dry Eyes

Dry eye symptoms stem from multiple risk factors, including health conditions, environments, and eyewear choice. If you are suffering from dry eye try some of the tips below to help reduce your symptoms.  

  • Computer use. Humans blink less frequently when working at computers, allowing for more evaporated tears. When working on a computer for an extended period of time, follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds to give your eyes a rest.
  • Contact lens. Dry eye discomfort is a primary reason for wearers to stop using contacts. Use rewetting drops daily or talk with your eye doctor about contact lens types that work best for your eyes.
  • Indoor environment. Air conditioning, fans, and air heating systems can decrease the humidity indoors and cause symptoms of dry eye. Try using a humidifier in your house if you notice the air getting dryer.
  • Outdoor environment. If you are outdoors in dry or windy conditions, wear a pair of sunglasses or hat to reduce your exposure to the elements which can cause dry eyes.
  • Smoking. Can cause eyes to dry over time and is the root of various other eye problems.
  • Aging. Dry eye syndrome is more common after the age of 50.
  • Menopause. Women who have completed menopause are at a greater risk for dry eye than men the same age.
  • Health conditions. Certain diseases have a higher risk of contributing to dry eye- such as diabetes or thyroid diseases.
  • Medications. Prescription and nonprescription medications can have dry eye as a side effect.

Glaucoma: The Silent Thief of Sight

Did you know, nearly 2.2 million people in the United States are affected by glaucoma?* Due to the lack of symptoms in the early stages of glaucoma, almost half of Americans with glaucoma do not know they have it; causing glaucoma to be the second leading cause of blindness in the United States and worldwide.

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is an eye condition that damages the optic nerve in the eye and, if left untreated, can result in blindness. High pressure within the eye causes damage to the optic nerve and prevents the nerve from sending messages from the eye to the brain.

Typically, there are no symptoms or pain associated with glaucoma until severe vision loss has occurred; at which point vision loss is permanent and cannot be reversed. The degree of vision loss differs from each individual.

Symptoms

  • Most often has no symptoms
  • Damage starts in peripheral vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Distorted vision
  • Vision loss

Who is at risk?

According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, African Americans are three times more likely to be affected by glaucoma, and six times more likely to suffer from blindness as a result of glaucoma. Hispanics and Latinos have the second highest risk for glaucoma. Those with a family history of glaucoma and diabetes are also at a higher risk. In order to help with early detection and to prevent irreversible vision loss, be sure to notify your eye doctor if glaucoma runs in your family or if you have diabetes.

Primary Types of Glaucoma

  • Primary open-angle glaucoma: Primary open-angle glaucoma causes peripheral vision to gradually reduce without any other symptoms. If not controlled or discovered, it can progress to tunnel vision and ultimately lead to blindness.
  • Acute angle-closure glaucoma: Acute angle-closure glaucoma, also called narrow-angle glaucoma, produces a variety of sudden symptoms such as eye pain, headache, halos, dilated pupils, vision loss, nausea, and vomiting. Each onset of new symptoms causes additional vision loss.
  • Normal tension glaucoma: Normal tension glaucoma occurs in patients with a normal pressure within their eye and typically has no symptoms associated until tunnel vision occurs.

 

*Glaucoma Research Foundation

How to Choose Your Eyeglass Lenses

Eyeglass lens options have grown incredibly in the last several decades. Whereas early eyeglass lenses were made from glass, advancements in lens materials have made them safer, thinner, lighter, and featuring benefits that early inventors never could have imagined!

Glass lenses revolutionized so many aspects of life for people of that time. Glass can provide crisp, clear views, but it is heavy and breakable. It was not uncommon for lenses to break on impact, which could cause someone to lose sight or lose the eye entirely. For that reason, glass is rarely used for eyeglasses today.

In the 1940s, plastic lenses were introduced. Armorlite Lens Company created a lightweight plastic lens made of plastic polymer. It was light, weighing about half as much as a glass lens, and was inexpensive. These plastic lenses were a hit, and are still a common option for eyeglasses today.

Polycarbonate lenses were introduced in the 1970s. Polycarbonate is a highly durable polymer that is impact-resistant, but can scratch. For this reason, the lenses are recommended for children and used in most eyeglasses, but have the addition of a hard coating to deliver greater scratch resistance.

High-index lenses are another lens option that many people aren’t aware of when they begin shopping for eyeglasses. High-index plastic materials make lenses thinner and lighter for people who have a strong prescription. Instead of thick lenses that used to give people fewer options for lenses and make their eyes look distorted from the front, high-index lenses can pack a stronger prescription into a thinner space. This opens more frame options and takes the weight off of your glasses if you have a high prescription!

In addition to lens materials, there are a number of other features that you can add to your lenses for various functionality. For instance, anti-reflective or non-glare treatments are one of the most common upgrades. Often they give added scratch-resistance as well as cutting glares and giving a clearer view of your eyes from the front. Tints are another option you can add to your lenses. For sunglasses, wearers might choose around an 85% tint, but lighter options exist, too. Many lenses can be tinted gray, brown, or yellow. Fashion tints come in rose, blue, green, or even more possibilities. Polarization is a great addition for sunglass lenses, too, because it filters the bright glares that can be uncomfortable, even with sunglass tints.

If you have any questions about the best lenses for your eyes, speak with an optician. They are trained in eyecare products and can assist you with these choices, as well as helping you pick frames that look great on you!

Reduce Exposure to Blue Light, Inside and Out

Risks of blue light exposure have become a topic of discussion in recent years. More eyecare professionals and scientists are studying the effects of blue light to assess the effects of relying on blue light for so much of our lighting.

It’s hard to say for sure how much added blue light exposure may lead to additional cases of degenerative eye health problems like macular degeneration. Plus, there is some evidence that overexposure to high-energy blue light can cause side effects such as sleep disturbances, eye strain, and headaches. With this in mind, how can you reduce your exposure, inside and out?

Inside
• Lower the brightness of your electronic screens, especially at night, but make sure you are not straining to see the words if you’re reading.
• Take frequent breaks while working at a computer. Regardless of blue light exposure, Computer Vision Syndrome is another problem you may face, and taking breaks to relax your eyes will help.
• Stop using your devices at least a couple hours before bed. Unplug and read a book instead, which will give your eyes something easy to focus on and help you wind down for good sleep.
• Adjust your distance. Viewing a bright screen up close is fatiguing. Make sure to set your computer monitor and television at a comfortable distance, and don’t hold handheld devices too close to your eyes. You can adjust text size if reading a device at arm’s length is difficult.
• Opt for non-glare lenses. Non-glare or anti-reflective treatments on your lenses will help reduce bright lights affecting your eyes.

Outside
• Wear sunglasses. Sunglasses that are an appropriate darkness and block 99-100% of UVA-UVB rays are the best protection for your eyes.
• Consider polarized lenses, too. Polarization cuts harsh glares that bounce off of water and other surfaces.
• Don’t forget a hat! In especially bright outdoor settings a hat will help block bright light from above, even if your eyes are protected from the front.

Ask us about what blue light-blocking options are available for your eyewear. We can help with your everyday lenses, reading glasses, and especially with sunglasses!

What is Colorblindness?

Colorblindness is an interesting thing to most people because we wonder what it must be like to not distinguish some colors—a function of vision that we take for granted. Most people can live with colorblindness because it is present as soon as they are born and many go years without realizing that they do not see a full array of colors.

Certain tasks may be difficult or impossible, but even without seeing as many distinct colors as possible, these people function fine in everyday life. Colorblind tests exist to diagnose people who have color vision deficiency, and new advancements have even created eyewear to help people see more of the colors they are missing depending on their deficiency.

The cause of color blindness usually involves faulty cones. Cones are cells in your eyes that distinguish the three wavelengths of light that we see. Light can be split into red, green, and blue for the spectrum visible to humans. Color blindness can happen because the cone cells are faulty in some way and do not show distinct colors. A person may see shades of yellow and blue, for example, but have problems distinguishing red and green. Many people believe that color blindness means seeing only in black and white, but that is far more rare than typical color blindness.

Also, color deficiency is much more common in men than women. Only up to 1% of the female population has trouble seeing various colors, where somewhere between 8-12% of the male population is color blind.

Color blindness is usually an inherited genetic deficiency with the cones, but symptoms of color blindness may also occur due to stroke, old age, or a problem with pathways from the cones to the brain where the brain can determine colors.

More and more people are able to afford relatively new technology that helps us see more distinct colors. People who are not color blind can use special glasses to see a more saturated and distinct view of colors, but those with color deficiencies are seeing some colors that they have never seen before. These special color vision glasses are a favorite subject of YouTube videos where people give their friends the gift of color and film the shocking experience.

Curious about your own color perception? Learn more about it here, and test your color vision!

Your Infant’s Eye Development

Parents are always curious about their developing children, and what they can expect for various stages of infancy. We’re happy to explain infant eye development, and to let parents know not only what to expect, but when they should bring their child in for an exam, and why this is important.

Birth to 4 Months
After being born, babies are suddenly able to see all kinds of new things! We know that babies don’t see very clearly for some time, so high-contrast books, toys, and images may get their attention better than others. After the first few months, eyes get better working together to focus on objects and aid hand-eye coordination. At about two months, most babies can focus on a parent’s face or nearby object. It’s common for children to appear to have wandering or crossing eyes. It doesn’t become a concern unless this happens frequently, or seems to get worse. By three months, your child can probably watch an object move through a room and keep their focus on it.

5–8 Months
As babies this age move more, interact with the world, and start to judge distance, their eyesight improves. It’s not until about five months that children are able to see and comprehend three dimensions, so they won’t begin to see depth until around now. Most babies crawl around eight months or so, but don’t worry if your baby isn’t crawling well right away. Children should be encouraged to take their time developing skills. Babies who crawl a lot usually learn to use their eyes together better than babies who were early walkers.

9–12 Months
Around this time, most babies are experimenting with pulling themselves up on furniture, or using someone’s fingers to keep themselves steady and talk a few aided steps. Don’t rush crawling, however. Babies who master crawling before learning to walk tend to have been hand-eye coordination. Additionally, babies at this stage are better able to judge distance and begin to throw and place items.

1–2 Years
Children between one and two years of age are usually highly interested in exploring their surroundings, interacting with objects, and occasionally making some pretty impressive messes! Motor skills will excel along with depth perception and their improving eyesight.

How Do I Help My Child’s Vision Development?
First, be sure to get your child an eye exam at about six months of age. Qualified pediatric optometrists are trained in using lights and lenses to understand what is going on inside your child’s eyes. Even without having the ability to relay information about how well they’re seeing, your baby’s eyes give clues about their development. If they show signs of an eye turn, focusing problem, or other issue that could impede development, it’s very important to seek treatment as soon as possible. An optometrist can diagnose these conditions and make sure your child is aided in visual development so that they can keep moving and learning freely!

Beyond getting an infant eye exam, children need another exam before starting school. In the meantime, look for any signs of vision trouble like bumping into things, not recognizing you from a distance, or eyes that seem not to focus in unison. If you have any questions, speak to an eye care professional. Otherwise, play with your baby and enjoy this time as they learn and grow.

How to Pick Eyewear for Your Child

Picking eyewear for your child can be stressful. There are many options for lenses and additional features to make lenses better suited for the wearer’s needs. Children often want to be involved in the decision, but it’s ultimately up to the parent to be sure that their child has the eyewear they need. Well, we’re here to help make the process simpler, and to give information for every step of the way.

There are a few main things that you need to think about. After all, your child’s eyewear needs to be safe, durable, effective, and your child needs to actually wear them! Here are the main things you need to consider in making this decision.

Lens Material
Eyeglass lenses used to be made from glass, but modern lenses come in various materials that are safer and last longer. Children’s eyewear needs polycarbonate or Trivex lenses because these are more impact-resistant. These options also make the lenses thinner and lighter, even for strong prescriptions. They have built-in UV protection, too!

Coatings or Treatments
Anti-reflective treatments or non-glare coatings provide many additional benefits that you can consider when getting eyewear for your child. Non-glare materials on the front and back of lenses may help resist scratches, dirt, debris, water, and fingerprints. These coatings also usually protect against UV rays. Most notably, AR treatments guard against glare. Glares are distracting when looking at someone’s eyes, but the brightness on your lens can also wash out what you’re seeing and cause eyestrain. We suggest anti-reflective options for all glasses wearers.

Size and Fit
Of course, a child’s head is smaller than an adult’s so they need a different sized frame. You don’t want frames that are too big and will look over-sized on their face, but you also don’t want wants that are too big because they’ll be too heavy and slide down the nose. Children’s frames come in many shapes and sizes to be sure you get a personalized fit for your child. Additional sizing can be done with certain adjustments. Many plastic frames don’t allow for a custom bridge fit, but metal frames have nose pads and a bridge that may be adjustable to be sure they won’t slide off your child’s face.

Style
Picking the frames is the funnest part! There isn’t a stigma with glasses now like there used to be. Celebrities and eyewear brands have made glasses cool. Even kids who don’t need glasses often want a pair as an accessory. This means that parents have an easier time helping their child settle on a nice pair of frames. Think about things like the color—do you want them to stick to a certain color that will look good with their eyes, hair, or wardrobe? Does a certain shape fit their face better than others? Do they like metal frame styles or trendy plastic ones? Set aside enough time to look at several options, then give them the decision between the final two. Kids can have a hard time choosing if you don’t narrow down the best options with them.

Backup Pair
We strongly suggest getting a backup pair for all children’s glasses. It is so common that children get caught up in activities, visit somewhere engaging, or simply forget and end up losing, leaving, or breaking their eyewear. Accidents happen, but it doesn’t have to be an emergency if you have a backup pair. Often we can do special pricing to make the second pair a great deal, too. You don’t want your child to go without glasses until you get a new pair (or find the ones that went missing).

If you need any help from an optician, don’t be afraid to ask questions. The optician can help inform you on features, prices, maintenance, and more.

How to Clean Your Eyeglasses

If eye care professionals cringe when they see you clean your glasses, and your lenses don’t last long before they are scratched, then it’s probably time to update your eyeglass cleaning habits!

To make sure your lenses stay clear and crisp as long as possible, follow these lens cleaning instructions.

1. First, wash your hands and dry them thoroughly. Don’t use a soap that contains lotion. Regular hand soap or dish soap are preferred. Dry your hands with a lint-free towel.
2. Rinse your glasses under the water. Use lukewarm tap water with a gentle stream. Avoid using water that is too hot.
3. Put one drop of dish soap on each lens, or drop some on your fingers and apply it to the lens this way. It doesn’t take much, but remember not to use a soap with lotion.
4. Gently rub the front and back of the lens, as well as rubbing lightly along the frame. Be sure to wash along the frame components like nosepads and hinges. Dust and oil can accumulate around the lens, so clean these areas thoroughly.
5. Rinse the glasses with lukewarm water inside and out.
6. Carefully shake or tap the glasses to remove excess water.
7. Use a clean, lint-free towel to dry your lenses and frames. A cotton towel is preferred, but most dish towels are fine as long as they have been washed without substances that can smear your lenses, like fabric softener or dryer sheets. Make sure it is a fresh, clean towel!
8. Check to see that your eyewear is free from smears and smudges. Keep a microfiber cloth on hand to clean any minor residue you may encounter.

Even when using eyeglass cleaning products, it’s important to inspect your lenses and follow instructions. If you like to clean your glasses without a faucet, there are several cleaning sprays available in drugstores or at our practice. Before using a cleaning wipe, make sure to blow any debris off of your lenses to prevent scratching.

The best way to avoid not only scratching your glasses, but also having to clean them frequently is by getting an anti-reflective (AR) treatment done on your lenses. The best AR treatments prevent scratching, reduce glares, and even resist dust, dirt, and oil.

Talk to us if you have any questions about proper care for your glasses!

Eating Well for Eye Health

Everyone wants to know how eating can affect the ways our bodies function. Maybe it’s because we want even more reasons to eat healthy, or because more of us want natural ways to lower our risk for diseases and deficiencies, but the good news is that you can easily eat right for your vision!

Antioxidants
Many foods contain antioxidants. Antioxidants literally remove oxidizing agents in living organisms. These oxidizing agents may be potentially damaging to our various systems, so many people believe that foods rich in antioxidants could help lower our risk for certain illnesses.

There are many delicious foods that can help promote overall health and may be part of a plan to lower your risk for eye disease.

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) helps with building and maintaining connective tissues in the human body. It also helps maintain collagen found in the cornea. By promoting healthy skin, bones, and circulation, you retina may be aided by vitamin C. People who have healthy levels of vitamin C in their diet are also at a lower risk of forming a cataract and vision loss from macular degeneration.

Red peppers are especially high in vitamin C, as are green peppers, strawberries, broccoli, and some citrus fruits.

Flavonoids
Many of the foods that contain vitamin C also contain flavonoids. Unlike vitamins, these substances are not necessarily required for life and crucial functions of the body, but they are generally linked with health benefits as part of an overall healthy diet.

Anthocyanins are a type of pigment and antioxidant that are considered good for your eyes because they may reduce risk of cataracts or macular degeneration. These substances are found in many berries like blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, and blackberries. You can also get anthocyanins from grapes, red cabbage, and red apples.

Fatty Acids
Many people falsely believe all fat is bad, but there are lots of healthy fats that we need in our diets. Our brains demand various kinds of fats to function properly, and healthy fats help our circulation, digestion, and even things like our outward appearance. Diets with proper omega-3 fatty acids are also very good for your eyes, and are especially important for eye development in children.

You can get these essential nutrients from foods like flaxseed, walnuts, fish, soy, and veggies like brussel sprouts and cauliflower.

Though we can’t be totally sure how much these foods help lower our risk for illnesses, there’s no doubt that a balanced diet and healthful lifestyle are important for a strong body and healthy eyes!

Using Oils to Relieve Dry Eye

Many medical professionals are aware of the benefits of adding healthy oils to our diets. Most of the fats that are essential for a healthy heart, skin, brain, and other systems come from things like fish, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. Doctors will sometimes prescribe fish oil or flaxseed oil to help improve someone’s health, but we are learning more and more about how these beneficial oils can help more than previously thought. In the case of your eyes, certain oils may aid in treatment of dry eyes.

Vision Benefits of Flaxseed and Fish Oil
Fish oil and flaxseed oil are beneficial because of the omega-3 fatty acids they include. These materials are needed to support optimal health. Flaxseed oil contains high levels of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid. ALA is converted into two different omega-3 fatty acids during digestion. These acids are called EPA and DHA and they protect cell membranes all over the body.

By adding flaxseed oil or fish oil to your diet, you may be protecting against dry eyes. These items appear to reduce dry eye symptoms, and can be used with or without eye drops to alleviate some aspects of dry eyes. Many eye doctors are recommending fish oil or flaxseed oil as part of an overall plan to treat dry eyes, or to prevent the onset or progression of symptoms.

Symptoms of dry eyes include:

• Chronic dryness
• Burning
• Stinging
• Redness
• Eye fatigue
• Sore eyes
• Light sensitivity
• Blurred vision

How to Start Taking Flaxseed and Fish Oil
If you’re looking for how to get these substances into your diet, keep in mind that many kinds of fish are high in these oils. Look for things like salmon, sardines, tilapia, and shrimp. For people who don’t like fish, or want other options, fish oil supplements are usually pretty inexpensive and easy to come by. You may ask a pharmacist for suggestions on which over the counter versions are best.

The downside of fish oil is that sometimes people will get a fishy aftertaste from the supplements. A great alternative is flaxseed oil. These supplements are readily available as well, and will provide similar benefits. Just be sure to find a brand that is cold pressed and remember to keep it refrigerated for freshness and optimal nutrient content (benefits of flaxseed oil are reduced by exposure to oxygen, light, and higher temperatures).

Flaxseed oil can get a little pricy, but you can buy flaxseeds and grind them in a coffee grinder before adding them to your diet. Use them immediately to get the full benefits!

Other Benefits
These fatty acids may help reduce your risk for several other health problems. The benefits include:
• Reduced risk of macular degeneration
• Reduced risk of cataracts
• Increased cardiovascular function
• Lower risk of heart disease
• Help maintain healthy weight