Are Women More Likely To Have Eye Problems?

 

Eye_HealthDid you know that women are more likely to develop eye health issues than men?

In fact, according to the Women’s Eye Health Task Force, nearly two-thirds of people suffering from blindness or high levels of visual impairment are women.  Domestically, it’s much the same:  Prevent Blindness America reports the same figures here at home.

This is a medical statistic that’s only started to become widely-known, and doctors around the world are just beginning to look into the reasons why.

Links Between Women And Vision Trouble

Why do women have more vision problems around the world?  There are several proposed reasons for this, and it’s likely they’re all contributing to the issue:

1 – Women live longer than men, statistically.  In the US, for example, women live roughly five years longer.  Since vision problems accrue over time, and are worst in old age, this is going to naturally increase the number of blind women, relative to men.

2 – Hormonal changes.  Men don’t suffer menopause, or anything like it, which removes this as a risk factor.  The hormonal changes in a woman’s body later in life can cause changes in eye shape or composition, especially if “bloating” is involved.  This can lead to ocular hypertension and other eye disorders.

3 – Lower access to health care.  While not globally true, in many places in the world -and even in America- women generally have lower access to health care than men, especially among the low-income.  Many eye conditions are treatable if caught early on, but can lead to irreversible damage if left untreated.

Along with this, there are the environmental and behavioral issues that both men and women share.  However, due to women’s existing higher chances of vision problems, that means problems like smoking, or high blood pressure, carry a greater chance of vision damage.

Keep Watch On Your Eyes Past Forty

The best eye health measures are preventative.  Our eyes are fragile, and there are many things in this world which can damage them irreparably.  Optometrists recommend women over 40 to have an eye checkup at least once a year.  This is especially important in the first year or two past menopause, when many new problems may develop.

Women may have higher chances of eye disease, but it’s not inevitable.  Consult with your Phoenix Optometrist if you’d like more recommendations on how to reduce your own chances of vision loss.

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!

Blood Pressure And Eye Care

Eye_CareIt’s easy for people to think that eye care only relates to the eyes, but in fact, the eyes are closely linked to many bodily systems.  Diseases in the body can often have adverse effects in the eyes, and that’s certainly true of high blood pressure.

Someone with untreated blood pressure problems and/or hypertension is likely doing damage to their eyesight.  Worse, many of the vision problems associated with hypertension are irreversible, although many can be controlled with medication.

Common Eye Care Issues Stemming From High Blood Pressure

Hypertensive Retinopathy

Retinopathy is a condition where the blood vessels in the back of the eye burst from high pressure.  This damages vision in two different ways: lack of blood flow to the eye reduces its effectiveness and, left untreated, the interior of the eye can begin to fill with blood.

Damage done by retinopathy cannot be repaired, only mitigated with corrective lenses.  So far, rebuilding damaged eyes is beyond the ability of science.

High Intra-Ocular Pressure (IOP)

The increased blood pressure won’t only affect the backs of the eyes, but can eventually cause the eyes themselves to start (slowly) expanding, especially if excess fluid begins to leak into the eye.

This can damage virtually any part of the eye, and is a leading cause of glaucoma – the destruction of the most sensitive areas of the retina.   Glaucoma can be controlled with drugs but, as with retinopathy, any damage done is basically permanent.

Symptoms And Prevention

There’s also bad news here for those with undiagnosed or untreated hypertension:  By the time you’re experiencing vision problems, damage has already been done.  The only “early warning signs” would be headaches or ocular soreness that are indistinguishable from harmless common eye-strain.

Otherwise, the first major warning sign is usually blurriness around the edges of a person’s vision, or less-commonly, visible blood on/in the eye.

Hypertension Care IS Eye Care

It’s really this simple:  Male or female, you should be monitoring your blood pressure with regular checkups.  If you’re suffering from hypertension, it must be kept under control.  Otherwise, the longer a person has untreated hypertension, the more real and irreversible damage they’re doing to their eyesight.

Keep a close watch on your blood pressure, and make sure to tell your Phoenix Optometrist if you’re diagnosed with hypertension so they can update your care accordingly.

 

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!

Does Diabetes Affect Vision?

Eye_DoctorsIt’s unfortunate, but if you have diabetes, it means you’re at a significantly elevated risk of some forms of vision problems.  It’s important for diabetics to maintain regular visits to their eye doctors, because their vision is more likely than most to degrade as the years go by.

In fact, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in people between ages 20 and 74.  Largely speaking, however, true blindness only threatens those who aren’t properly managing their disease.  Like other elements of diabetes, proper care minimizes risks to your vision.

Diabetic Vision Problems Your Eye Doctors Can Diagnose

The largest vision problem stemming from diabetes is swelling in the eyeball, due to increased amounts of glucose.  Patients with unbalanced blood sugar may experience temporary vision blurring, which goes away when their levels balance.

Cataracts are one of the biggest concerns.  Patients with diabetes get them earlier, and they’re often thicker.  They’re caused by damage to the eyeball as it swells and contracts with blood sugar levels.

That said, corrective surgery is pretty much the same in all cases, although there is also greater chance of future cataracts.

Glaucoma is the other vision problem most commonly associated with diabetes.  It develops due to fluid buildup within the eye, behind the iris, which throws off a person’s ability to focus.

Glaucoma is 100% treatable, and usually just with medication.  Although, in severe cases, draining the fluid may also be needed.

Finally, retinoplasty is the third major form of eye disease that commonly comes from diabetes.  It is also in many ways the most serious, because if it’s not caught early, it absolutely can lead to blindness.

The swelling that diabetes causes extends to blood vessels as well, and sufficient pressure can cause blood vessels at the back of the eye to burst, hemorrhaging blood into the eyeball.  Usually it starts small, with microscopic blood vessels and tiny amounts of blood.  Left untreated, larger vessels burst, and  it can ruin an eye.  Or both.

Proper management of blood sugar reduces the risk significantly.  Those with daily insulin shots, or insulin pumps, are 50%-75% less likely to develop retinoplasty.  Their chances of other diabetes-related vision problems decrease as well.

Do Your Eye Doctors Know About Your Diabetes?

If not, this is the time to tell them.  Diabetics are at higher risk of a range of vision problems, making this crucial information to your Phoenix Optometrist.

Which Contact Lenses Are Right For Me?

Contact_lensesSo, you’re interested in contact lenses for yourself or your children?  They can be an excellent investment for people who want discrete vision correction.  Most people never know when you’re wearing contacts, and there are even options that change the appearance of your eyes as well.

Today, there are several different types of contact lenses on the market.  But how do you know which is right for you?

Choosing The Right Contact Lens For You

1 – Rigid Gas Permeable 

RGP, or “hard” contact lenses, are the oldest style of contact lens still in use.  These carry with them many of the drawbacks associated with contact lenses:  They’re a bit less comfortable to wear, they have to be taken out at night, and they have to be cleaned daily.

There are two main benefits to RGPs:  First, they work with any sort of eye or vision problem.  Second, because of their rigidity, they can in some cases prevent progressive vision problems by encouraging the eyeball to hold its shape.

2 – Soft Contacts 

Soft lenses conform to the shape of your eye, making them more comfortable and easier to wear for extended periods.  Some soft lenses can be worn for up to a week straight, even while asleep, without being removed.  Their shape-changing comfort, however, means they cannot slow vision loss like RGPs can.

These are a good “all around” option, especially for children who may have trouble dealing with RGPs.

3 – Disposable Contacts 

Disposable lenses are almost always “soft” lenses.  These are the most expensive option on the market for eye wear – costing about $1-$2 per day – but also offer the most convenience.

These are excellent for people who only occasionally wear contacts, such as for formal appearances.  However, be careful.  Because disposables are meant to be thrown out, their edges wear down quickly and can become dangerously sharp.

4 – Bi- or Tri-Focals

If you need multiple lenses, you can still get contacts!  Depending on your needs, optometrists have several options.  You could get contacts with the traditional “over / under” style of lens.  Or, in special cases, a patient might get two different lenses, creating a “far-sighted eye” and a “near-sighted eye” that, together, combine into a single clear image in their brain.  (With a little adjustment.)

There are plenty of options! Talk to your Phoenix Optometrist for more information on what contacts might be right for you.

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.