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.


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!

What is Retinoblastoma?

Eye_ExamWe tend to think of cancer as a disease that strikes older people, but even children can be susceptible.

Retinoblastoma is a rare form of eye cancer that is most commonly found in children, but it can be detected easily with an eye exam. In many cases, the child is born with the condition, due to problems with the eye’s development while in the womb.

The good news is, retinoblastoma is one of the most commonly-treated and survivable of childhood cancers. While it can present a serious threat to the child, the survival rates are upwards of 95% with treatment.

When caught early, it doesn’t have to threaten a child’s life.

Symptoms Of Retinoblastoma

The most common symptom of retinoblastoma is unusual reflections in a child’s pupils. When photographed, an infected eye will often seem to have the same “eyeshine” you sometimes see in cats, owls, or other night-sighted creatures. Or, one eye may show “red eye” in flash photographs when the other does not.

Runny or bloodshot eyes, squints, or even crossed eyes can also indicate retinoblastoma. However, these symptoms are common to many eye disorders – only a proper eye exam will be able to tell for sure.

Treatment Of Retinoblastoma

Today, there are a wide variety of techniques for treating tumors in the eyes. In cases of smaller tumors, there are options for using either lasers or cryotherapy (freezing) to remove the tumor without disturbing the eye. Chemotherapy is another option, although preferably avoided due to its side effects.

In advanced cases, where the blastoma was not caught early on, removal of the eye may be required. While eye doctors certainly want to preserve the child’s eyes, when possible, advanced tumors may not allow for it.

Early Childhood Screenings Are Vital

In most areas, retinoblastoma screenings are part of a child’s first-year health care schedule. However, if you have a young child who has not had a professional eye evaluation yet, we strongly recommend a screening with your Phoenix optometrist.

Retinoblastoma is only one of many childhood eye diseases that can be caught in time for treatment, with an early eye exam.

What Are Visual Acuity Tests?

Phoenix_OptometristVisual acuity tests are one of the most basic and universal tools an optometrist has at their disposal. Out of all the tests, Phoenix eye doctors can run on your eyes, this is the most fundamental in determining how well you can see.

Visual Acuity Tests: How They Work

Most of the time, the test is based on common eye charts you see everywhere: The ones with the big “E” at the top followed by rows of smaller letters. By carefully stepping down the font size for every line, it’s calibrated so that an optometrist can quickly tell how well a person’s eyes can focus.

The results they get are expressed in the form of a fraction, based on how far from the chart a person is standing, which is usually 20 feet. Someone with 20/20 vision can accurately see something 20 feet away.

This can go both ways. If someone is myopic (short-sighted), his or her vision might be 20/60. That is, without corrective lenses, they see an object 20 feet away as though it were 60 feet.

Or, some lucky people are born with superior eyesight. The famous pilot Chuck Yeager, for example, reportedly tested at 20/10 during his military days, meaning his eyesight was far more clear and detailed than the average eyes.

Another thing people often wonder about is whether they have to perfectly read every letter for it to “count,” especially on the smaller lines. The answer is “no.” While it’s up to the optometrist’s judgment, as long as you can read most letters on a line, you have that level of vision.

That said, these visual acuity tests can also check for astigmatism – your eyes’ ability to distinguish parallel lines. Certain mix-ups between similarly shaped letters, like A and H can give a trained Phoenix eye doctor more insight into your eyesight.

When Was Your Last Checkup?

Because your eyesight will change over time, it’s recommended you have an eye exam annually. If it’s been more than a year, contact your Valley EyeCare Optometrist for an appointment!

Spotting Early Signs Of Vision Problems

Children's Eye Care Children’s eye care is, of course, a large concern for many parents, especially because there are many vision problems that can manifest early in a child’s life. If your child does have vision problems at an early age, it’s vital to discover this as quickly as possible.

Uncorrected childhood vision problems can quickly lead to problems in school, social issues, and numerous other problems in day-to-day life.

Here are some of the top symptoms to watch for.

Children’s Eye Care Tips: Spotting Early Signs Of Vision Problems

1 – Crossed, wandering or otherwise “lazy” eyes.

Around 5% of children have a hard time properly moving their eyes together and focusing on the same thing. If your child has a wandering eye, it’s vital to get them to an eye doctor for treatment. If left untreated, a lazy eye will become weaker over time, making correction continually harder to achieve.

2 – Reading or identifying things below their grade level.

There are many problems, visual and neurological, that may contribute to delayed reading ability. However, undiagnosed vision problems are actually one of the TOP causes for this! Simply getting your child a pair of glasses may radically improve their school performance.

3 – Squinting in one or both eyes.

Squinting has always been one of the main symptoms of myopia (short-sightedness), and that’s also true for children. Be especially aware if they’re developing a squint in one eye. This could indicate their eyes’ focal abilities are significantly different, such as one eye being 20/20 and the other 20/80.

4 – Constant headaches or eye pain.

If your child often complains of headaches or eye pain when reading, doing homework, playing portable video games, or other close-up activities, that’s a big red flag for vision problems. If their eyes can’t focus correctly, their brain will be doing “double duty” trying to make sense of unfocused images.

Remember: Children have no way of knowing they have vision problems, because they only know what they see. Keeping an eye out for these symptoms will help ensure good children’s eye care for years to come!

Men’s Health Month and Eye Care

Phoenix OptometryGood eye care leads to good body care, and that’s important to remember during Men’s Health Month!

When you’re thinking about protecting your body, don’t forget about your eyes.  They’re critical for your overall health.  You only get one pair, so ocular health should be a top priority.

Eye Care Tips For Men’s Health Month

1 – Update your prescription.

If it’s been more than a year since your last eye exam, it’s time to make an appointment.  Here are two major reasons to do so:

A – Most people’s eyesight, unfortunately, gets worse over time.  While new glasses may not be needed every year, it’s important to periodically re-check your eyes to ensure you remain 20/20.

B – There are a range of diseases, including diabetes and even some brain disorders, which leave telltale early-warning signs in the eye that a trained optometrist can detect.

2 – Invest in better sunglasses.

If you’re still using cheap drugstore sunglasses, you leave your eyes open to damage from the sun’s UV rays.  Proper sunglasses are UV-treated, polarized, or tint-correcting to ensure optimal visibility while protecting your eyes from damage.

If you’re into outdoor sports, we highly recommend sports goggles as a preventative measure to protect your eyes from unexpected impact and debris.

3 – Always follow the instructions on your contacts.

If you wear contacts, it’s critical to follow the instructions:

  • Don’t leave lenses in overnight, unless designed for 24-hour wear.
  • Don’t use disposable lenses for longer than recommended, as their edges can quickly wear down and become sharp.
  • Always follow proper cleaning procedures, with fresh cleaner every time, to prevent the buildup of infectious microbes.
  • If your eyes burn or feel sharp stabs, immediately remove your lenses, clean both the lens and your eye, and leave them out until the pain goes away.

Need more eye care tips?  Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions you might have!


Most Common Eye Conditions in Children

Phoenix_OptometryIf you’re a parent, your children’s eye care should be one of your top concerns throughout their developing years. It’s easy to forget the importance of our eyes, but we only get one pair. Being mindful of your children’s eyesight can literally help them for the rest of their lives.

There are a number of ocular diseases that are common among children in Phoenix. Most cause no lasting damage, especially if treated promptly.

The Most Common Children’s Eye Care Problems And Diseases

1 – Crossed or “Lazy” Eyes

Around 3-5% of children have eyes which are “lazy” in some way. Either they’re slow to focus, or tend to point the wrong direction. Left untreated, the lazy eye will come to be ignored by the child’s brain, leading to vastly reduced vision even if the eye is physically fine.

2 – Conjunctivitis (AKA ‘Pink Eye’)

The bane of elementary schools everywhere, pink eye covers a range of highly contageous viral and bacterial infections that all cause red, watery, itchy eyes. The chances of permanent damage from conjunctivitis is extremely low, and most infections run their course within 1-2 weeks.

3 – Myopia or Hyperopia

Which is to say, near-sighted or far-sighted. Focusing problems in children can begin before they’re out of their first year, so early childhood vision screening is important. Left untreated, focusing problems can negatively affect a child with their schooling.

4 – Eyelid Lumps

Depending on the cause, these might be called “styes” or “chalazions,” but the basic idea is the same: A blockage in an eyelash follicle causes a painful raised bump. These present no immediate danger, but optomological attention can quickly take the discomfort away.

Don’t neglect your children’s eye care. Their developing years are the most important for ensuring good vision throughout their lives.

Vitamins For Your Kids’ Eye Health

Kids_Eye_CareFor decades, Phoenix parents have known that vitamins help children thrive with fewer health problems, but can vitamins also protect your kids’ eye health?

Very possibly!

Currently, the scientific research that’s been conducted has shown good reason to believe that a regimen of vitamins early in childhood may prolong eyesight into adulthood. They appear to slow down the development of progressive problems like myopia or macular degeneration.

While the evidence is not yet entirely conclusive, there’s a lot of reason to think that vitamins can help your kids’ eye health!

The Benefits Of Vitamins And Minerals To The Eyes

Vitamin C: Typically found in citrus fruits, Vitamin C is vital for our immune systems. Vitamin C appears to slow the development of cataracts, as a lack of Vitamin C directly harms the eye.

Vitamin A: Vitamin A is well-known as an antioxidant, preventing breakdown of the body’s cells as we age. The beta-keratin in carrots, which is necessary for our night vision, is actually a form of Vitamin A.

Vitamin E: Vitamin E is another anti-oxidant, like Vitamin A. While necessary for ocular health and immune system strength, supplements are rarely required.

Zinc: We require the metal zinc in small quantities, and it helps create the melanin pigment which protects our eyes. (Warning: A few people have zinc allergies and can become dangerously ill from zinc supplements.)

Copper: In some rare cases, copper deficiency can degrade the eyesight. However, supplements are usually not needed.

Vitamins Do The Body Good

Of course, keep in mind that there’s really no reason not to protect your child’s health with multivitamins. There are already plenty of arguments to be made for children’s vitamin regimens.

There is strong evidence that vitamins probably protect your kids’ eye health – just one more reason to use them!

What Phoenix Parents should know about Contact lenses

Phoenix_Contact_LensesIf your child needs corrective lenses, there are a lot of reasons they might want contacts rather than glasses. Even today, glasses can still cause self-esteem issues. Or, if your child is in sports, they may worry about accidentally breaking their glasses.

In fact, one of the most common questions we hear at Valley Eyecare Center, “When will my child be ready for contacts?” The basic answer is “any time,” but of course, it’s a little more complex than that.

Frequent Questions About Childhood Contact Lenses

1.  What ages can use contact lenses?

There’s actually no minimum age, because our eyes don’t grow over time. In rare cases, infants have even been fitted with contact lenses.

Usually, the “right age” for contacts is simply whenever the child is capable and responsible enough to use them properly, including cleaning and storage.

2. Hard or soft lenses?

There are two types of contact lenses: soft, and “Rigid Gas Permeable” hard lenses. Each has its advantages. The short version is that soft lenses are generally more comfortable, but RGPs can sometimes slow down the progress of myopic vision loss by maintaining the eye’s proper shape.

3. Are childhood contact lenses more expensive than glasses?

Given the variability of lens and frame pricing, it’s hard to say. Much of the cost depends on the level of vision correction needed. Or, if you’re interested in disposable lenses -which are great for teenagers- the costs usually only come to about $1 a day.

4. Are contact lenses safe for sports?

Yes! Even hard-frame sports lenses are vulnerable to breaking on impact, causing cuts or worse. While the chances of serious injury are quite low in either case, the odds are even further reduced if your child is wearing contacts while they play.