Genetics And Your Eye Health

Eye_HealthCan your family’s medical history have an influence over your own eye health, or that of your children? Unfortunately, it is so.

There are several known eye-related medical problems that have strong genetic factors. If these are in your family’s history, you and the rest of your family are going to have a higher chances of seeing those same problems. Knowing your own medical lineage is important, because you can tell an optometrist what to look for.

Common Eye Health Disorders With A Genetic Basis

1 – Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

AMD is one of the most common causes of blindness in people as they age. The macula is a circular region at the center-back of your eyeballs, which contains the most dense collection of light-sensing rods and cones in your eye. The macula is necessary for all types of vision, day and night.

AMD is the slow and steady breakdown of this region, leading to reduced vision and eventually blindness. It currently cannot be halted or reversed, but it can be slowed significantly if caught early. It’s also very strongly influenced by genetic factors.

2 – Glaucoma

Glaucoma is one of the other major forms of adult blindness, and it’s also been definitively linked to several genetic markets. Glaucoma is caused by damage to the ocular nerve itself, coming out the back of the eyeball, usually due to increased vascular (blood) pressure.

Unlike AMD, Glaucoma is 100% treatable with medication.

3 – Strabismus (Ocular Misalignment)

Strabismus covers nearly any situation where two eyes are misaligned, or cannot move together. Roughly 40% of children who are “cross-eyed” or “wall-eyed” or have other misalignments are carrying genetic traits for this.

Strabismus is usually obvious from birth, and can be corrected in a number of ways during childhood.

4 – Other Indicators

Eye issues can also indicate non-ocular genetic conditions. For example:

  • Yellow eyes indicate jaundice, or other serious liver disorders.
  • Dislocated lenses can confirm Marfan syndrome.
  • A bright red ‘blood’ spot in the eye is a telltale sign of Tay-Sachs.
  • Retinopathy, a symptom of diabetes, involves blood vessels hemorrhaging into the eye.

Know Your History!

If you have never inquired into your family’s eye health history, now may be a good time. Knowing your genetic background makes it easier for your Phoenix Optometrist to spot vision problems in time for treatment.

Eye Safety In The Summer!

Eye_SafetyIt probably comes as no surprise, but eye injuries are most common in the summer, especially among children. Eye safety is always an important concern, but special care should be taken during summer activities. It’s all too easy for a small accident to turn into an ocular emergency.

Whether it’s for you or your child, here are a few great tips for protecting your eyesight during summertime fun!

Eye Safety In The Summer: Four Hot Tips

1. Wear Goggles In Any Sports

A pair of sports goggles is a good investment for anyone who plays outdoor sports and needs corrective lenses. Glasses and contacts can both be shattered in the case of an impact, such as from a baseball or basketball. This makes an accidental head shot far more likely to cause eye damage.

Sports goggles, however, are reinforced to resist shattering, even in high-speed collisions. They’re the only safe option when flying objects are part of the game.

2. Immediately Flush Eyes Of Foreign Objects  

If someone ends up in the dirt and foreign materials get in their eye, the most important thing is to not rub them. We have an instinct to do so, but this can easily damage our corneas with scratching or tearing. Simply flush the eye with water (or saline eye-drops) while blinking rapidly until the particles are cleared.

3. Use Masks In The Water

One of the most common sources of eye infections is from swimming, especially with eyes open underwater. A properly Ph-balanced pool should be germ-free, but the chemicals in the water can still irritate the eye – remember, you’re pouring acid in that pool. And, of course, exposing your eyes directly to untreated water, like lakes or oceans, is an incredibly bad idea.

Swim masks or (non-corrective) goggles can prevent a lot of needless eye infections among swimmers.

4. Fireworks Are Always Dangerous

Please take caution when using any sort of fireworks. Even common sparklers can cause eye damage, if a spark makes a direct hit. Anyone working with any sort of fireworks should be wearing protective eyewear. Even wearing your glasses, rather than contacts, will help a lot here.

Stay Safe This Summer!

Your eye safety should be paramount in any summer activities.  In the case of any eye emergency that can’t be fixed with water, your next step should be to call your Phoenix Optometrist immediately for further advice.

 

Occular Emergency Do’s And Don’t’s

Are you ready for an ocular emergency? Your eye health -or that of your children- may depend on it!

An ocular emergency can come in many forms, but it’s important to know the major warning signs:

  • Eye_HealthSudden loss of vision.
  • Sustained blurred or double vision.
  • “Seeing stars” for more than a few minutes.
  • Loss of control over eye movement.
  • Color changes in the “whites” of the eyes to pink, red, or yellow.
  • Direct physical damage – tearing, puncture, etc.
  • Cysts or lesions around (or under) the eyelid.
  • Foreign objects or chemicals in the eye.

What should you do when any of these occur? Here are some important eye health tips!

Protecting Your Sight During An Ocular Emergency

DO: Contact your optometrist.

If there is any question whatsoever in how to proceed, your first call should be to your Phoenix Optometrist for advice. They’ll be able to quickly tell you the right course of action, especially if that action is hospitalization.

DO NOT: Drive yourself.

If you are experiencing any direct loss of vision, even if it’s only intermittent, do not ever drive yourself to a care facility.  Use 911 if you have to.  It doesn’t take much imagination to see how a loss of vision on the road could turn a minor problem into a major accident.

DO: Read the package.

If the emergency involves chemicals in the eye, the first thing to do is have someone read the package. Virtually any dust or liquid will have instructions on what happens if it comes into contact with the eye. This will tell you, quickly, whether you need a rinse or a ride to the ER.

DO NOT: Use anything besides water or saline.

If something has happened which you believe can be cleared without a doctor’s intervention, like dirt in the eye, never use anything but (preferably distilled) water or saline solutions specifically intended for the eyes. Introducing any other foreign substance will only make things worse.

DO: Keep your head.

Losing vision, even for a short term, is one of the scariest things that can happen to a person. But, above all else, stay calm and don’t panic. When it comes to your eyes, often doing nothing and waiting for expert help is the only course of action that won’t exacerbate the problem.

We’re here to help!  If you ever have any eye health questions, please contact the Valley Eyecare Center  immediately.

 

Pregnancy And Eye Health

Should an eye exam be part of your prenatal care schedule?

Eye_ExamsA lot of people don’t realize this, but along with all the other changes it brings, pregnancy can also affect your eyesight. The tendency of a pregnant woman’s body to retain water and increase blood circulation can cause small – but noticeable – changes in the shape of her eye.

Since the eyes are so delicate, even tiny physical changes can end up causing new vision problems or eye health issues.

Common Eye Health Issues During Pregnancy

1. Myopia

Many women who are pregnant tend to become a bit more myopic (nearsighted) during their term, due to swelling of the eyeball.

Usually the changes don’t require new prescriptions, but occasionally significant vision issues come up. If this happens, just remember that it’s normal, and at worst you have to wear slightly stronger glasses during your pregnancy.

2. Contact Lenses

Another side-effect of pregnancy on vision is it can make contact lenses hard to use. That same swelling of the eyeballs can either

A – Reduce the effectiveness of your lenses, or

B – Make the lenses painful to wear.

In most cases, the answer here is simply to go back to wearing glasses during your pregnancy. You’ll have fewer issues. However, going to the doctor for an eye exam and a new lens prescription isn’t entirely out of the question, if you have a need for them.

3. Discuss Your Glaucoma Medications

An important warning here: Most glaucoma medications may have adverse effects during pregnancy and lactation. If you are treating glaucoma while pregnant, it’s vital to discuss this with your OB or optometrist to ensure no harm is done to your child.

On the positive side, glaucoma tends to lessen during pregnancy, so you may not need the medications anyway.

Serious Vision Issues Need Immediate Attention

Finally, you should see an expert immediately if you experience any of the following during pregnancy:

  • Double or blurry vision
  • Bright spots or lights
  • High sensitivity to light (photophobia)
  • Vision loss

These are all early-warning symptoms of preeclampsia, a dangerous -but treatable- condition that develops in about 5% of pregnant women. If you experience any of these for more than a few minutes during pregnancy, please contact your OB immediately.

Need a prenatal or postnatal eye exam? Contact your Phoenix Optometrist today for an appointment!

Are Colored Contacts Becoming A Trend?

ContactsIt’s no secret that glasses and contacts can make for great fashion statements, but with the recent rise in colored contact lenses, you’ve got an entirely new way of showing off your eyes.

“Colored” contact lenses come in a variety of styles, from simply changing your eye color, to adding distinctive visual elements such as patterns or slitted cats-eye pupils. For obvious reasons, these contacts are most popular around Halloween, but plenty of people wear them all the time. You might not even know the “real” eye color of the people around you!

Colored lenses also open up interesting possibilities, such as giving yourself two different eye colors. This isn’t unheard-of in real life, but usually results from some sort of eye damage, genetics, or disease.

If you’re interested in colored contacts, we’ve got a few tips for you:

Important Tips When Wearing Fashionable Colored Contacts

1 – No, your eyesight won’t change.

This is the most common question we get. In nearly all cases, even “extreme” colored or patterned lenses will not affect your vision adversely. Red vampire-style contacts won’t make you “see red,” since they leave a clear section for your pupil to see through.

There are specialty contacts which can help correct for some color-blindness, but that’s another issue.

2 – You don’t need a prescription.

What if you don’t need corrective lenses, but still want to enjoy the fashion potential? No problem! So-called “zero-power” lenses are just clear plastic, so you can change your eyes’ appearance without altering your vision.

3 – Never buy “over the counter.”

It is, in fact, illegal for non-licensed shops to sell contact lenses. Only official ophthalmologists and other eye-care specialists can sell them. However, this doesn’t stop plenty of businesses from selling off-brand contacts anyway – and you’re taking a huge risk if you buy them.

Improperly-made contacts can scratch your eye, or even cause permanent damage. Don’t take the risk on cheap contacts. Buy from a real eye doctor.

Is It Time For A Change?

If you need corrective lenses, look at it as an opportunity! There’s huge fashion potential in colored contact lenses to make a subtle statement every time you wear them.

To learn more, or to schedule an exam to be fitted for new contacts, contact your Phoenix Optometrist today!

Vision And Nighttime Driving

Driving at night is one of the most dangerous things you can do with your eyes.

Eye_DoctorsIn fact, according to government statistics, you are three times as likely to be involved in a fatal accident when driving at night. While there are multiple reasons for this, including a higher instance of drunk-driving, nighttime vision problems are one of the major contributing factors!

Common Vision Problems Affecting Nighttime Driving

1 – Blurred or Double Vision

As a person ages, their eyes’ ability to adjust to low-light conditions will slowly degrade. This often results in two eyes that react differently to the same light levels, or whose pupils don’t dilate to the same size. This will cause one eye to see better than the other, creating blurred vision.

Astigmatism is another contribution, as the ability to distinguish parallel lines is necessary for low-light vision. Either way, corrective lenses from certified eye doctors can fix these issues.

2 – Glare or Halos  

At the other end of the spectrum, damage to the iris or cornea can result in eyes that overreact to light at night, creating distracting halos or even painful glare. This also can sometimes happen after LASIK corrective procedures. Worse, sufficient damage to one eye can create glare that affects vision in both eyes.

Treatment is complicated, depending on the nature of the damage. In some cases, corrective lenses can help. In others, surgery may be required to reshape the eye.

3 – Poor Low-Light Reception

In extreme forms, this can be called “night blindness,” and it means what it says. It could even render someone unable to safely drive at night, at all.

In the best-case scenario, it’s caused by vitamin deficiencies. This can be corrected with eating more carrots or spinach. The other most common cause is glaucoma, which is 100% treatable with medication.

Unfortunately, this may also be caused by retinitis pigmentosa, or other degenerative diseases which cannot be entirely halted. Only a consultation with a trained optometrist will tell you for certain.

Don’t Risk Nighttime Vision Problems 

Driving at night is dangerous even under the best conditions, and it can easily become deadly when your vision is impaired. If you experience any visual problems while driving in low-light, we strongly recommend you contact your Phoenix Optometrist for an appointment immediately.

New Research Suggests Grapes Are Great For Eye Health!

 

An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but what might grapes do for your eye health? As it turns out, quite a lot!

A New Fruit For Eye Health?

Phoenix_Optometry At a recent conference of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, a group from the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami presented compelling new research into the possible ocular benefits of eating grapes!

Grapes have been long known for their anti-oxidant properties, as well as being an anti-inflammatory, which has given people a lot of good reason to believe that grapes may be good for the eyes. However, this study is one of the first to set out to prove that connection.

Using mice, they tested the effects of grapes on the rodents’ eye health over time. One group was fed three servings of grapes a day, along with their regular food, while two other groups were given grape-less control meals. Over time, their vision was tested.

The results were impressive: The grape-fed mice suffered far less retinal degeneration over time, averaging three times the photoreception as the control groups. They also had thicker retinas – showing them to be more resistant to damage – and a healthier protein makeup within the eyes themselves.

It’s important to remember that while these results are quite positive, they do not necessarily mean that grapes will have the same effect on humans. Because our bodies and those of rodents tend to respond in similar ways, it’s very likely that similar effects will be found in people. However, until that research actually happens, the link between grapes and human eye health cannot be stated conclusively.

So, while we can’t tell you officially that you can protect your eyes with grapes, it looks pretty likely. Moreover, since grapes are provably delicious, this is just one more reason to add them to your diet!

Want more eye health tips? Contact your Phoenix optometrist for more information.

Evolution Of Eye Frames

Phoenix_OptometryThe art and science of optometry are actually among the oldest in history! Humans have long struggled to correct eye defects, and we’ve been looking for ways to do it for as long as anyone has been studying optics.

Today, let’s take a look back in time, at how these everyday staples came about!

A Quick History Of Eyeglasses And Optometry

I.  The Early Days

While proper eye glasses were not around until the 1200s, we have records going as far back as Imperial Rome showing people using gemstones, or flasks of water, as corrective lenses. Emperor Nero was even said to have used an emerald for viewing the gladiatorial games!

The first recorded mention of eyeglasses comes from 1306. Glasses at this time used simple leather frames, holding thick pieces of hand-ground glass. Using the ears to hold them in place didn’t come for another couple hundred years.

One interesting aspect here is that the early optometrists were doing their work blindly. There was little understanding of optics, and it wasn’t until 1604 that the basic principles of convex lenses were calculated by western science. It was the famous astronomer Johannes Kepler who calculated the basic principles, thanks to his work on telescope optics.

II.  Later Developments

While there are many myths surrounding Benjamin Franklin, one thing that’s factual about him is that he did, as near as anyone can tell, invent the bifocal lens. It’s not impossible that someone created bifocals before him, but Franklin’s version is the first recorded.

Thomas Jefferson also contributed to the process. After having Franklin design a pair of bifocals for him, he complained that the (round) lenses tended to move within the frame. His suggestion was to use oval lenses instead, which are still the most commonplace style today.

From there, ribbons were briefly used to hold them on, but when folding-arm earpieces were developed in the late 1700s, it became the standard way to hold glasses in place.

Since then, we’ve developed new and interesting materials for building lightweight and damage-resistant frames, but without deviating much from the 18th Century design.  Contact lenses would be the next major development in eyewear, and those would not come until the mid-1900s.

The ABCs Of Vision Conditions

Phoenix_OptometristHow well do you know your eyes and vision conditions?

There’s a lot of eye terminology out there and while this is only a fraction of the list, we’ve got a quick A-to-Z guide.

An A-to-Z Guide Of The Eye

Astigmatism:  Caused by irregularities in the eye’s shape or the cornea, this makes it difficult to perceive parallel lines, especially at night.

Blind Spot:  An area of the eye without photoreceptors.  Everyone has blind spots, and most of the time our brains “fill in” the blanks without us knowing!

Choroid:   The layer of blood vessels just beneath the retina, which supply all the blood to your eyes.

Dilation:  The opening of your eyes to allow more light in.  If the eyes remain permanently dilated, it’s a sign of brain trauma.

Esotropia:  A misalignment of the eyes where one eye tends to drift inwards.  That is, “cross-eyed.”

Floaters:  If you see transparent spots or spiderweb-like structures in front of your vision, those are harmless.  They’re leftover bits of eye-stuff that didn’t bind to the eyes during your embryonic development.

Glaucoma:   A common and treatable condition where inflammation in the eye causes nerve damage and vision loss.

Hyperopia:  A focusing problem where the eye is underpowered, reducing near vision.  It’s more commonly called “farsightedness.”  Nearsightedness is called “myopia.”

IOL:  An InterOcular Lens is an artificial lens implanted within the eye to replace the original one.  This is common for cataract surgery.

Jaundice:  Jaundice is a disease preventing the liver from processing toxins, and one of the most common symptoms are yellowed eyes.

Keratometry:  Taking measurements of the size and shape of the cornea.  Unsurprisingly, this is done with a keratometer.

Lacrimal Gland:  The gland that produces tears.  It’s almond-shaped, and located just above your eye, before leading to the tear ducts below.

Macula:  This yellow spot, near the center of the rear of your retina, is where your most accurate central vision processing happens.

Nyctalopia:  Also called “night blindness,” this is usually caused by a deficiency of Vitamin-A, reducing the eye’s ability to perceive lights at night.

Ophthalmoscope:   Ever wonder what they call that little handheld instrument eye doctors use to look inside your eye?  Now you do!

Photophobia:  Pain or other unpleasant side effects (like excess tears) during exposure to bright light, especially sunlight.  It’s usually caused by eye inflammation.

Rods:  There are over 150 million of these small photoreceptor cells in your eye, and they’re largely for gathering ambient light. You rely on them for night vision.

Sclera:  The outer coating of your eyes.  We think of it as “the whites of your eyes,” but the layer also protects the back of your eyes as well.

Trachoma:  An unfortunately-common eye disease in developing countries, which causes the eyelid to scar and turn inwards, damaging the eye.  It’s treatable with simple surgery.

Uvea:   This is the middle layer of the eye, where your iris and chorea are located.

Vitreous body:  This is the formal name for the interior of the eyeball, containing the jelly-like “vitreous humor” between your iris and the retina in back.

Wear schedule:  The schedule for wearing or taking out contact lens, which must be followed to prevent lens -or eye- damage.

Xanthelasma:  Fatty yellow bumps that form on the interior of eyelids; often a sign of high cholesterol.

Y?  Because we care.

Zeaxanthin:  The yellow-orange substance in carrots and similar vegetables that likely has substantial eye health benefits.

Questions about other eyecare terminology?  Contact your Phoenix optometrist for more information.

 

Students With Visual Impairments

Eye_ExamDid you know that taking your child to an eye exam at Valley Eyecare Center may help with behavioral problems in school?

A lot of parents don’t realize it, but some behavioral issues may be caused by vision problems! There are several early warning signs that can indicate a child is having trouble seeing correctly.

Only around 30% of students have an eye exam before entering school, making it very easy for vision problems to go undetected in the classroom.

Childhood Behaviors That Suggest Vision Problems

1 – Reluctance Reading Out Loud

There are many factors that can contribute to delayed reading development, but vision problems are among the most common.

A student who’s near-sighted will often desperately avoid being called on to read from the front whiteboard. Similarly, far-sighted students will avoid reading from the book, or -more obviously- start holding it at arm’s length when they read.

2 – Headaches Leading To Disruption

When a student is doing close-up work, like homework or arts, see if they show signs of a headache, such as rubbing their eyes or temples. Students with vision problems often have chronic headaches. They may not think to mention it because, to them, close-up work simply brings pain and “always” has.

However, they’re then more likely to misbehave from the pain, rather than doing the assigned work. If you see behavior like this, ask them if their eyes or head hurts rather than immediately reprimanding. If there’s pain, vision problems are likely.

3 – A Strong Preference For Auditory Learning

Most learning in school is either sight- or sound-based. If a student shows a wide variation in their ability to learn from visuals versus audio, that’s another strong suggestion that they are having vision problems.

For example: A student who cannot understand a math “word problem” from looking at the book, but immediately comprehends it when the paragraph is read aloud.

Have Your Child’s Eyes Been Checked?

In many cases, an examination and a pair of glasses can make a big difference to a student’s behavior. If they haven’t had an eye exam, contact your Phoenix optometrist for an appointment!