Low Vision Awareness Month

Phoenix OptometristFebruary is the time to observe Low Vision Awareness Month. Here is some information to help you better understand this condition.

What Is Low Vision?

The term “low vision” refers to sight that cannot be corrected with glasses, surgery or medication. This condition makes even everyday activities such as cooking, shopping or watching TV a serious challenge.

What Causes Low Vision?

A major cause of low vision is age-related macular degeneration (AMD). As many as 15 million people over the age of 50 suffer from this condition which affects the macula, the part of your eye responsible for sharp detail. Other cases of low vision result from glaucoma, cataracts or diabetic retinopathy. Some individuals are born with low vision due to optic nerve damage.

It’s important to emphasize that low vision does not mean the normal changes in eyesight that come with aging. Low vision can affect people of any age. If you have a hard time seeing clearly even with glasses or contact lenses, you should be tested.

How Is Low Vision Detected?

Your Phoenix optometrist can conduct a low vision examination. This procedure takes into account your daily functions and whether or not your vision is at a level to comfortably accommodate those activities. A yearly exam increases the chances of early detection, which is key to successful treatment. Thanks to medical advances, people with low vision are able to lead full, productive lives. Schedule an appointment with your Phoenix optometrist to learn more about low vision and proper care of your eyes.

Is My Child Ready For Contacts?

Many children reach the point when they ask, “Can I get contacts?” As a parent, you may wonder whether to let your child try them. Here’s what you need to consider:

Contacts_PhoenixMotivation

Some children are happy to wear glasses, but others are dissatisfied. If your child complains about their glasses, you may want to talk to your eye-care professional about contact lenses.

Activities

If your child plays sports, contact lenses may offer an advantage. They won’t break like frames and lenses of glasses can. Your child will also be able to have clearer peripheral vision and won’t have to deal with frames that can get sweaty and uncomfortable.

Vision

In some cases, such as when a child is very nearsighted, he or she may be able to see better with contact lenses than with glasses.

Self-esteem

If your child has poor self-esteem, contacts may help give them a boost. A three-year study conducted by the Ohio State University College of Optometry concluded that a child’s self-perception improved when wearing contact lenses. This is especially true of girls.

Seasonal allergies

Contact lenses can cause increased itching and burning in the eyes of contact wearers who have seasonal allergies, so if you child suffers from these, he or she may want to stick with glasses.

Dexterity and comfort level

Is your child able to take his or her contact lenses out and put them back in? It may take some practice, but he or she should be able to handle the daily maintenance on their own after some initial help. Age isn’t the only determining factor, because some young children are more at ease putting in and removing their contacts than adults are.

Maturity

This is perhaps the most important factor. Will your child follow proper hygiene practices, or will he or she leave the contacts in for too long, possibly risking an infection? It’s important that he or she be able to follow the proper procedures, because contacts are a medical device that can cause serious damage if they’re misused.

Ultimately, letting your child wear contact lenses isn’t an all-or-nothing, lifelong decision. If you let them try it and it doesn’t work out for whatever reason, your child can always go back to wearing glasses and perhaps try again when circumstances change.

3 Things You Should Know About Children’s Eye Health

Childrens_Eye_HealthChildren’s eye health is a complicated topic as kids often cannot express when something is wrong with their vision. Childhood eye issues can have a permanent impact on a person’s life and should be handled with urgency and expert care. Here is what you should know about kids’ eye care.

Signs of a Vision Problem

When a child begins developing a vision problem, he or she may not be able to tell you what is happening. Parents and educators must be vigilant for signs of trouble. These red flags include more obvious signs like squinting and holding books very close to the face but also may present as learning delays or social issues. Kids may avoid participating in activities that require good close-up or distant vision. They may complain of headaches or rub their eyes a lot. Colorblind children may choose the wrong colors when drawing and coloring pictures of familiar objects.

Vision-Related Learning Problems

Children’s eye health issues could very quickly translate into learning difficulties. Challenges with long distance sight may mean that the child can’t see lessons written on the board at the front of the classroom. Trouble with close objects will result in reading challenges that may be misdiagnosed as learning delays.  Colorblind kids can have problems reading letters printed on certain colors. While schools often have vision screening sessions, they are not comprehensive tests and may miss an important diagnosis.

The Need for Eye Exams

The best way to prevent a children’s eye health issue from becoming a permanent problem is to see an eye doctor on the prescribed schedule based on the child’s age. These important exams help identify issues at their earliest stage and formulate the right plan for correction. Most vision problems can be aided with the right prescription eyewear or use of vision therapy. Your eye doctor can also recommend adapted teaching techniques to overcome issues such as colorblindness.

Children’s eye health is complex and requires attention from infancy onward. If your child shows any of the symptoms mentioned above, schedule an eye exam today to discuss these and their potential solutions.

Eye Care During Safe Toys and Gifts Month

Eye CareWith the holidays upon us, it’s a great time to focus on eye care! As gift-giving opportunities abound, putting some thought into vision safety this season may help save a child’s sight for a lifetime. December is Safe Toys and Gifts Month, and a great time for some reminders.

Age-Appropriate Gifts

Purchasing toys should be done with the child’s age range in mind. Toys that shoot projectiles, for example, should never be given to young children. Check any gifts your child receives from other family members to be sure they are appropriate for their age group as well. If kids are playing in mixed age groups monitor play so it doesn’t become too rough for smaller tots, and ensure toys aren’t misused in dangerous ways.

Pre-Play Check

Before giving a child a new toy, be sure to inspect it thoroughly. Moving parts should be securely fastened, there should be no chipping paint or questionably loose surfaces. Eye care professionals warn that defective products pose great danger to children’s vision. Help your child understand how to play with the toy, and supervise for a period of time to ensure they are playing safely and appropriately.

Non-Toxic Chemicals

While it may seem fun to look for unique toys and gifts on the internet, be very aware of where toys are coming from. Products from overseas do not have the same stringent safety requirements as in the U.S. Internationally sold products have been known to use lead paint or other potentially dangerous chemicals that children should not be exposed to. Look for the label “non-toxic” anytime you purchase toys or art supplies for a child, especially for those of younger ages. In addition, be aware of the hazard that vintage toys may present because of poor design or unsafe and chipping paint.

Keep an eye on vision safety when giving to children this holiday season! For more advice on eye health this Safe Toys and Gifts Month, please consult your eye care professional.

 

Young People Can Get Glaucoma Too

Doctor Examining Child's Eyes In Doctor's OfficeGlaucoma is a common condition of the eye. It is caused by damage to the ocular nerve, which is located in the back of the eyeball. Although there can be several causes, increased fluid pressure within the eye is the most common.

It can strike people of any age, so it’s important to know about this critical vision problem.

Glaucoma: A Vision Threat To All Ages

Because it is associated with “old age” conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes, there’s a common misconception that glaucoma only affects the elderly. Unfortunately, this is not true.

While glaucoma is more likely to affect older people, it can happen at any age. In fact, roughly 1 in 10,000 babies are born with it congenitally.

Glaucoma is also one of the most common forms of blindness, and it’s largely treatable. The problem is that without regular eye checkups, it can go undetected for years. By the time a person’s glaucoma gets bad enough to begin causing noticeable vision problems, their vision is permanently damaged.

Caught early on, glaucoma can be treated with medication at a near-perfect success rate. However, according to research, half of people with glaucoma don’t know it.

This is just one of the reasons that getting a vision screening for your children is so important, even at a young age. Eye disorders can usually be detected at 12-18 months, and corrected before they cause permanent problems.

Additionally, there may be a higher risk of glaucoma in:

  • Those with a family history of the disease
  • Children with diabetes
  • Severely nearsighted children
  • African Americans (who are 8-10 times more likely to be affected)

Anyone in these groups will be at elevated risk of glaucoma throughout their lives.

Glaucoma Is Preventable With Regular Eye Checkups

It is truly important to remember that in many cases glaucoma shows no symptoms for years, or even decades. It is crucial to catch it before enough damage is done to the optic nerve that it harms vision. Only regular eye exams can ensure it’s caught early enough to treat.

Remember to have your child’s vision checked at least once a year. It’s quick, easy, painless and can help them avoid a lifetime of vision problems. Make your appointment with your Phoenix Optometrist today!

Back To School Eye Exams For Kids

Eye_ExamsIf you’ve got little ones going back to school this fall, it’s time for an eye exam!

In the back-to-school rush, this is easy to forget about, but it’s absolutely vital to ensure your child remains fully able to keep up in class. To a child, what they see is “normal.” A child’s vision could be wildly out-of-focus, and they’d never know because what they see is literally all they have ever seen.

So a child is unlikely to complain about eye problems in the same way they would about a toothache, or a flu.

That’s why it’s important to take children for a yearly eye exam, before the start of a new school year. It can prevent numerous problems that can arise over the course of a school year.

What You’re Preventing With Yearly Summertime Eye Exams

1 – Poorer Grades

Reading is, of course, one of the true cornerstones of our educational system. A student who is unable to focus their eyes on both a book at their desk and the whiteboard up front is going to be at significantly higher risk of falling behind during classroom work. If left unnoticed long enough, vision problems can even create serious deficiencies in a child’s reading ability.

2 – Behavioral Issues

Poor vision is also linked to behavioral problems. There are several causes for this, but they can all add up to a child “getting in trouble” when it’s really their eyes that are the problem.

  • Boredom. If they can’t see/follow what’s happening at the front of the class, they’re more likely to create disruptions to keep themselves occupied.
  • Avoidance. Kids often don’t understand the difference between “can’t read” as in illiterate and “can’t read” because of physical vision problems. So a student with vision trouble may create distractions specifically to “change the subject” away from reading to avoid admitting a seemingly-shameful deficiency.
  • Pain. It’s surprising, but a lot of kids with vision problems experience frequent headaches and still accept them as normal without comment… but it still puts them under stress, and makes them more likely to act out.

Children’s Eye Exams Are Easy!

Vision checkups today are quick, simple, cheap, and totally painless. Some computerized systems can do them in just a few moments. Eye exams are an easy addition to your back-to-school schedule, and can pay off across an entire school year. Schedule your eye check up with your Phoenix Optometrist today!

Children’s Eye Health And Safety Month

Childrens_Eye_HealthAre you staying on top of your children’s eye health?

August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month, just in time for back-to-school activities.  If your child is more than a year old, this is an excellent time to take them in for an eye exam!  After all, vision trouble is one of the leading causes of unnecessary behavioral problems in school, and can even contribute to poor grades.

Besides that, what other activities can a parent engage in to help protect their child’s eyesight?  We’ve got some suggestions!

Four Ways To Protect Your Children’s Eye Health

1 – Talk to your child about eye safety.

This is one of the basic things, but commonly overlooked.  You can’t protect your child’s eyes 24/7.  It’s vital to teach them how precious their vision is, especially in terms of using protective eyewear whenever their eyes might be at risk

2 – Model good behavior.

Those talks go down better if the child’s parents are showing how things should be done.  Make sure you and your spouse are always using protective goggles, such as when working with fireworks or around machinery.

3 – Require sports goggles for physical outdoor play.

Broadly speaking, we wish every child playing baseball or hockey -or any other sport with small flying objects- were using goggles.  A single accidental impact can ruin an eye, or an eye socket.

And no one has the reflexes to reliably duck a 100mph flying object.  That’s why goalies and catchers wear full facemasks.

However, this is especially relevant if your child already wears corrective lenses.  Damage from flying objects can be made worse by traditional glasses or contacts.  Prescription sports goggles truly are the only safe option here.

4 – Watch for the following warning signs.

Generally speaking, a child’s eyes should develop “by themselves” without the need for parental intervention.  After all, we’ve been doing it for a very long time.   However, if you see any of the following in your child, you should contact an eye doctor:

  • Pink or bloodshot eyes
  • Yellow-tinted “whites” of their eyes
  • Mismatched coloration
  • Miscolored or mirror-like pupils
  • Visible cysts or lesions around the eyelid
  • Consistently mis-aimed or uncoordinated eyes
  • Excessive tearing, especially when not truly crying
  • Moving nearer/further from objects to read them

Remember, children’s eye health is crucial because they only get one set of eyes.  Don’t hesitate to contact your Phoenix Optometrist if you have any concerns!

Eye Care Concerns In Babies

Eye_CareProper children’s eye care is a common concern among parents.  However, the good news is that in most cases, there’s not that much a parent has to do in terms of their child’s vision in the first year.  While there are a few issues to watch for, generally speaking, a child’s eyes take care of themselves for the first year.

In fact, many of the eye care concerns new parents have aren’t really issues at all.

Problems And Non-Problems During Early Vision Development

It’s important to think of a child’s vision in terms of milestones.  Like every other part of their body, their eyes are still developing and their brains are still figuring out how to use their eyes.

The First Few Months

For the first three months of a baby’s life, their eyes will have very limited ability to focus.  Babies can only focus about 8-10 inches from their face.  Likewise, they’ll have trouble getting their eyes to coordinate.  It’s not at all uncommon for a baby to go cross-eyed or wall-eyed every now and then.

By about 4-5 months, a baby should be able to focus on objects a few feet away, as well as following moving objects with their eyes.  Parents who want to encourage good vision development should focus on moving objects around for babies to look at.

Five To Eight Months

This is when a child should develop 3-dimensional vision and begin being able to accurately reach out and grab for things.  Grabbing will start around 3-4 months, but will be initially unfocused and uncontrolled.  Again, this is totally normal:  Their brains still have to sort out the 3D world around them.

Then, by 8-12 months, they should be displaying decent hand-eye coordination and -in particular- will start becoming skilled at throwing objects.  This is the big clue that their 3D sight is working properly.

Warning Signs

There are a few symptoms a parent should beware of, which aren’t part of normal eye development:

  • Consistently red/splotchy eyes can indicate infection.
  • Excess tears, especially when not truly crying.
  • Frequent or constantly misaimed eyes past 3-4 months.
  • High sensitivity to light past 6 months.
  • Cysts or styes on eyelids.
  • White pupils, or yellow “whites.”

Whether you find these symptoms or not, your child’s first eye care appointment should happen around 10-12 months.  Once their eyes have had time to develop, it’s time to contact your Phoenix Optometrist for their first checkup!

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.