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.

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!

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.

 

Learn the Facts about Cataracts

Eye_HealthCataracts are among the most common eye health problems that can occur over the course of a person’s life, especially as they enter their retirement years. By age 80, the average risk of having cataracts is between 60-70%. This is an extremely common vision problem.

Cataracts are caused by a buildup of dead cells around the cornea, which slowly accumulate over the years. Smoking or over-exposure to sunlight can encourage cataracts, but nothing has been conclusively shown to prevent them.

Since it’s Cataract Awareness Month, lets take a moment to explore some myths about this threat to long-term eye health.

Four Myths About Cataracts

Myth One: Cataracts Can Be Reversed Without Surgery

While it would certainly be nice if someone found a way to do this, no one has yet. A cataract is something like a scar, but on your cornea. Once one has formed, nothing short of surgery will remove it.

Myth Two: Close-Up Viewing, Or Low-Light Viewing, Causes Cataracts

This is also false, but easily understandable: Cataracts are more obvious, and cause more vision problems, in circumstances like these. People notice cataracts more in low-light situations.

In fact, there’s no hard evidence that close-up or low-light viewing damages the eyes at all.

Myth Three: Cataract Surgery Also Fixes Focal Problems

This is not necessarily true. A basic cataract surgery simply removes the cataract while otherwise changing your eyesight very little. However, it is possible to have cataract surgery in conjunction with laser vision correction, or having a multi-focal lens implanted.

Not everyone is suited for this; talk to your optometrist if you’re interested in learning more.

Myth Four: It Takes Months To Recover From Surgery

Eye surgery is far more precise now than it was in the past. Occasionally, it may take a few months before your vision is fully restored. However, most patients are able to see and operate normally within a day or two of surgery.

If you have cataracts, we’re here to help! Please contact us with any questions you might have about this eye health threat.

New Prescription Eyewear: How to Adjust

One question Phoenix eyecare professionals hear very frequently is, “My new glasses/contacts are giving me headaches.  Is my prescription wrong?”

In most cases, the answer to this is no.  Usually, all it takes is a little time for your eyes to adjust.

Eyecare_PhoenixProtecting The Muscle That People Forget

It’s easy to forget, but your eyes are controlled by muscles, just like every other part of your body. And like all your other body’s muscles, too much overwork can cause them to hurt.

Eye strain is the straining of the muscles surrounding your eyes.  Since these muscles   surround your face and head, it can cause pain that turns into a headache.

Every time you change your prescription, it causes tiny changes to how your eyes react to everything.  Every attempt to refocus, at first, is “wrong” and requires correction, because your eyes are still trying to focus through your old lenses.  This causes your eyes to become strained.

To get through this critical period, most eyecare professionals suggest:

1 – Put them on first thing in the morning.  If your eyes wake up to the new lenses, they’ll be less likely to hold onto the old ways of focusing.

2 – Take short breaks.  If you get a headache, it’s fine to remove your glasses/contacts for an hour or so, but it’s better (as with athletic training) to “push through” the pain when possible, as it will shorten your transition period.

3 – Use standard painkillers.  The same over-the-counter NSAID medicines, like Advil or Aleve, that work on other muscle pains will work on your eyes.  In most cases, these eliminate the transition problems.

When should I contact a Phoenix optometrist?

If it’s been more than two weeks and you’re still getting headaches, it’s time to talk to your optometrist about the prescription.  Actual prescription problems are rare, but they do occasionally occur.  Sometimes they can point towards other, undiagnosed issues.

Otherwise, if the headaches are minor, there is probably no reason to contact your Phoenix eyecare provider.

Eye Diseases You Can Get From Poor Hygiene

Eye_CareMay 5th is Global Hand Hygiene Day, and that means you should be thinking about what hand sanitation has to do with eye care!

Our hands are wonderful tools, but they’re also one of the most common ways for diseases to be transmitted, including diseases of the eye.  Virtually any time you rub your eyes, you’re potentially introducing microbes into them which can damage your ocular health.

So, it’s important to always wash your sterilize your hands before touching your eyes, or you could accidentally catch some serious diseases.

Proper Eye Care:  Touch-Based Diseases You Can Avoid

1 – Conjunctivitis:  Better known as “pinkeye,” conjunctivitis is generally caused by viruses that move freely between eyes and fingers.  While it does no lasting harm, a pink eye infection causes 1-2 weeks of considerable discomfort with no remedy other than time.

2 – Staphylococcus aureus:   This is the “staph” in “staph infection.”  Staphylococcus aureus is at the root of numerous diseases of the body, including the eyes.  It can cause inflamed and itchy eyelids if left untreated.

3 – Ocular Toxoplasmosis:  This common eye infection is caused by microbes that live in the bodies of cats, and transmit easily to humans.  It attacks the back of the eye, and reduces vision – potentially permanently, if left untreated.

4 – Ocular herpes:  The herpes simplex virus can attack the eye and eyelid in the same way it attacks other areas of the body, including painful sores on the eyeball itself.  Someone who has cold sores (oral herpes) needs to be especially careful and sanitize their hands often, to prevent it from jumping from the mouth to the eye.

5 – Acanthamoeba Keratitis:  This amoeba can infect the eyes of contact lens wearers, causing painful swelling or even permanent damage to the cornea.  Since it lives in common tap water, this demonstrates why antiseptic hand sanitation is so important.

Good Eye Care Begins With Hand Hygiene

Your eyes are one of your most valuable parts of your body.  Don’t risk introducing painful – or blinding – diseases by rubbing your eyes with dirty fingers.  Keeping your hands sanitized will make your ongoing eye care much easier!

Eye Health Misconceptions

Eye_HealthIn terms of ensuring a successful future for yourself and your family, few things are more important than eye health. The eyes we each receive at birth are the only ones we’re going to get, and it’s vital that we take the best possible care of them throughout our lives.

Valley Eyecare Center offers a few common misconceptions about eye health, and what does -or doesn’t- damage your eyesight.

1 – Sitting Close To The TV/Computer Damages Your Eyes

Let’s start some good news. Contrary to what you might have heard (or might have told your kids), sitting too close to the TV can’t do anything worse than give you a headache. There’s no evidence that extended close-up viewing, even in low light, actually damages your eyes.

2 – Carrots are the best eye food.

While it’s true that carrots are a great source of beta-keratin, which is necessary for night vision, dark leafy vegetables are actually best. Kale, spinach, and other dark greens don’t just maintain your vision; they help prevent sun-related damage to your eyes over time.

3 – Corrective lenses weaken your vision.

This is another myth: vision aids cannot harm or degrade your eyes. In fact, sometimes hard contact lenses can actually reduce sight loss by forcing your eyes to maintain their proper shape.

4 – Only boys can be colorblind. 

Here’s one a lot of people don’t know: While it’s true that men are more likely to be somewhat colorblind (approximately 8% of them), girls aren’t entirely immune. Around 1% of women have some form of colorblindness.

 

Common Problems Seen in the Retina

Phoenix_OptometryAsk any Phoenix optometrist, and he or she will tell you that the eye is an amazingly complex organ, with multiple parts that all have to work together to ensure you have proper vision.

However, the retina may be the most important element of all. Lying behind your iris and lens, your retina is the layer of light-sensitive tissue that sends visual information to your brain. If your eye is a camera, your retina is the film.  It’s how your brain sees.

So, your eyesight is only as good as the information your brain receives.

What Are The Most Common Retinal Problems?

1 - Diabetic Retinopathy

The leading cause of blindness among those under the age of 65 is Diabetic Retinopathy. It causes blood circulation to the eyes to fail, starving them of oxygen, eventually causing the blood vessels to burst.

90% of D.R. cases can be treated if caught early. Anyone with diabetes is at risk.  In fact, diabetics are twenty-five times more likely to go blind needlessly.  If you or anyone in your family is a diabetic, we urge yearly eye exams with a qualified optometrist.

2 – Retinal Detachment

Retinal detachment can be caused by several different conditions, and is exactly what it sounds like:  The retina detaches from the back of the eye, severing the connection to the brain.

Although reattachment can be successful in most cases, it usually requires surgery.  The earlier it’s caught, the more likely the surgery is to be successful.

3 – Macular Degeneration

The macular is the very center of your vision, vital for reading, facial recognition, and even color perception. As a person ages, buildup in front or behind the macular blocks its reception, causing a slowly-growing grayish blank spot.

As the process is painless, it can often go unnoticed for some time. Worse, there is no reliable cure. Most M.D. patients can only slow the degeneration with medication.  A vitamin regimen, along with some newer prescription medications, sometimes shows positive results.

Any problems with your retinas are serious, and can lead to permanent blindness.  Please remember to visit your optometrist regularly for vision checkups.

Can Stress Affect Eyesight?

Eye_CareIn today’s society where we’ve all become accustomed to doing more for our organizations, stress seems to come with the territory. You might be aware of how stress affects your body, but did you know that it may also have a negative effect on your vision? Doctors of Optometry want you to know about those impacts so you can avoid trouble.

High Blood Pressure

Stress makes us anxious, agitated, restless, and sleepless. High blood pressure is a common medical result of being overly stressed, and one that makes the eyes suffer as well. When blood pressure goes up, your internal eye pressure may do the same. Glaucoma is a condition that results from high eye pressure damaging the optic nerve, and has the potential to cause permanent vision loss and blindness.

Eye Strain

As deadlines loom and your stress level increases, endless days of staring at a screen and not getting enough sleep will combine to cause eye strain. Optometry patients experience red, irritated, or watery eyes, an uncomfortable gritty feeling, and blurry vision. Headaches often accompany a bad case of eye strain and it becomes more difficult to focus and be productive.

Eye Twitch

Stress is a known trigger of the mysterious eye twitch, when the tissues and small muscles around the eye experience involuntary movement. The twitch may occur for minutes, hours, or even days. Though typically not dangerous, this condition is certainly annoying and can interrupt your concentration and focus. The best solution is to make sure you are rested and use stress-reduction methods so the twitch will cease.

Talk to your doctor of Optometry for more advice on how to manage your stress effectively and keep your eyes healthy and clear. Anxious and intense periods of your life don’t have to harm your vision.

Three Ways Cosmetics can be affecting your Eye Health

The majority of adult women wear some type of makeup, and many wear eye makeup. While cosmetics can boost self esteem and look attractive, they are not without a set of hazards. Here’s what eye doctors want you to know about the dangers of cosmetics to your vision.

Eye_CareAllergies

Cosmetics have many types of ingredients such as oil, minerals, pigments, and traces of metals. It’s not uncommon for a person to suffer allergic reactions to any of these elements, which can leave your eyes red, itchy, swollen, watery, and burning. Your vision may become blurry or you may have difficulty seeing due to the swelling. If you notice any of these symptoms after applying a cosmetic, remove it promptly, discontinue use, and consult eye doctors right away.

Introducing Germs

Your eye has a delicate system of moisture, drainage, and mucus membrane. A brief touch of your eye area with dirty hands could wreak havoc very quickly, and this is common with cosmetic use. Old cosmetics should be discarded and you should never use saliva to moisten products like mascara or eyeliner. NEVER share cosmetics, especially eye makeup. Doing so can introduce foreign bacteria or fungus to your eyes and facial skin. Wash your hands well before applying makeup to avoid inadvertently contaminating your eyes.

Harmful Ingredients

In the United States, the ingredients of cosmetics are regulated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) so harmful elements are banned for a consumer’s protection. This is not the case with cosmetics from other countries, which may contain heavy metals and dangerous ingredients. Kohl is one such product, which is especially dangerous to children due to its lead content. The FDA has gone so far as to publish a list of ingredients that are safe for cosmetic use. If ever in question about a new cosmetic, consult this list before using.

Cosmetics can be a fun way to express yourself, but caution should be taken to ensure their use is not harmful to your vision. Consult with  your Phoenix eye doctors with any cosmetic questions involving eye safety prior to wearing questionable products.