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.

4 Facts about being Color Blind

Eye ExamBill Clinton and Matt Lauer are both color blind! And let’s not forget about Paul Newman and Mark Twain. It’s the reason why Mark Zuckerberg used blue as the predominant color of Facebook. What’s the common denominator? All five of these individuals have suffered from color blindness.

People sometimes joke about being color blind, but for those who have the actual condition it’s no laughing matter. Here are some surprising facts about color blindness or color vision problem, as it’s sometimes called.

Color Blindness Does Not Mean Absence of Color

Some people assume that individuals who are color blind literally see everything as black or white. While that is one form of color blindness known as monochromacy, this variety is extremely rare. Most forms involve difficulty distinguishing between particular colors, such as red and green. An eye exam can determine which form a person has.

Color Blindness Can Affect Women

It’s a common misconception that color blindness affects only men. This is most likely due to the fact that less than one percent of women are color blind compared to approximately eight percent of men.

Color Blindness is Not Always Hereditary

Most cases of color blindness begin at birth due to genetics. However, it is possible to develop a color vision problem later in life. Causes include aging and injury along with diseases such as glaucoma and macular degeneration.

Color Blindness Cannot Be Cured

At present there is no cure for hereditary color blindness. Special lenses are available that can help with color perception, but most individuals are able to develop coping mechanisms allowing them to perform everyday functions with little difficulty.

Early detection is important for successful treatment of color blindness. A relatively simple eye exam is used to screen for the condition. Talk to your optometrist regarding any questions you may have regarding you or your children.

How Does Diabetes Affect Glaucoma?

Optometrist_PhoenixAs January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, it’s a great time to educate yourself on this serious eye health risk. If you or a loved one have Diabetes, chances are good that you’ve heard eye problems like this one are an associated hazard. What you may not understand is why the two are connected and how they may be managed together.

The Connection

Your eye’s structure includes many tiny blood vessels and drainage canals. For a diabetic patient with difficulty controlling their blood sugar, eye problems often result due to swelling of these vulnerable tissues. Glaucoma occurs as fluid fails to drain through the swollen canals and internal eye pressure sharply increases. The nerves of the eye are damaged as a result and the patient may lose partial or total sight.

Symptoms

One of the greatest problems with Glaucoma is that a victim may have little or no symptoms until it’s too late and permanent vision loss has occurred. Others may be fortunate to have signs before this happens and could experience headaches, unusual changes in vision, watery eyes or halos that appear around light sources. It’s important to act quickly and get to your ophthalmologist right away should you notice symptoms like these.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Be sure that your eye doctor knows about your diabetic condition as this will help him or her perform the right tests and be alert for eye conditions related to diabetes. To diagnose Glaucoma, the doctor may perform tests like eye pressure measurement or checking for optic nerve problems in addition to monitoring vision changes.

If your eye doctor confirms that you are developing the condition, you may be given prescription eye drops or oral medication to reduce your eye pressure. You may be referred to a specialist for laser eye surgery to correct drainage or eye circulation issues. For diabetics, the annual eye exam can mean the difference between blindness and sight. Follow your exam schedule and do your best to keep your blood sugar controlled.

Glaucoma can be a silent thief of sight for a diabetic patient. If you are diabetic, discuss your risks of this disease and other related eye health issues so that you can prevent vision loss and ensure that your eyes are healthy for years to come.

Digital Fatigue And Your Vision

In past decades, eye strain was a far less common condition than in current society. The problem was generally only found in people with occupational hazards of close-up work. Thanks to the trend of 24/7 technology, today’s story is significantly different. Here’s what you should know about preventing and treating this troublesome eye health hazard.

Eye_CareCauses

The increasing use of all things technology is a major contributor to the occurrence of eye strain, found across multiple generations. Smartphones, tablets, Google Glass, e-readers and portable video games force you to hone in on a very close screen. To amplify the problem, people are so zoned in on this close-range object that they fail to look away and let their eyes’ lenses flex and relax.

Symptoms

If you’ve ever backed away from your computer and felt the need to rub your eyes, chances are that you’ve suffered from eye strain. Burning eyes or eyes that feel very tired are common sensations after focusing on a screen for too long. You may develop a headache or migraine or feel your back and neck becoming stiff and sore. After too long of a screen session you may feel as if you can’t focus well.

Prevention and Treatment

A simple way to help prevent eye strain is to follow the 20/20/20 rule. For every 20 minutes of close-up or screen work, look at an object 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.  This allows your eyes to relax and reduces the chance of digital fatigue. You can even get an app to remind you to take your 20/20/20 break!

Shutting down electronics at least an hour before bed and making sure you are getting the best quality sleep possible is important for your eye health. You may also need to make modifications to your work environment to ensure good lighting and properly positioned screens in your workspace. Your eye doctor may recommend filters for your monitor or glasses that reduce the glare from your screen.

Digital fatigue is a very real issue. Give your eyes a break from technology as much as possible and talk to your optometrist about other ways you can reduce eye strain.

Benefits of Vision Insurance

VisionIf you are someone with eyesight issues, you know how expensive it can be to have an eye exam, and pay for glasses or contacts. Having vision insurance can really help keep costs down. Here’s what you’ll want to know about this type of insurance, and what it covers.

Eye Exams

One major perk of having vision insurance is that most plans cover the cost of a yearly eye exam. Many policies will completely pay for the annual exam, but check your plan to be sure. You may have to pay a set co-pay amount, or pay a percentage of the exam fee at the time of the service.

Frames and Lenses

Vision insurance will typically cover the expense of new glasses on a periodic basis, very commonly every one to two years. This portion of insurance coverage may provide an allotment toward the glasses of your choice, or have you select from a specific collection of frames. Lenses are usually standard plastic or glass without any extra options. Anti-glare and scratch-resistance are valuable options for which you may want to pay a little more.

Contact Lenses

Most vision insurances provide a set amount toward a year’s supply of contact lenses. Your optometrist will prescribe the best brand and type for your particular needs. Some people have conditions like astigmatisms or severe near- or far-sightedness, that requires specialized lenses which are more expensive than standard offerings. Though you may have to spend extra to get a year’s supply, be sure to change your contacts on the prescribed schedule to keep your eyes healthy and comfortable.

If your company offers vision insurance and you have already had eyesight issues, it can be a very minimal investment from your paycheck to cover all of your eye care needs. Talk to your optometrist’s office to see what plans are accepted, and to your employer about enrollment in your company’s plan. If you have any additional questions, or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact your Phoenix eye doctor.

Symptoms Of Early Cataracts

Male ophthalmologist conducting an eye examinationOne of the many conditions that can be detected through yearly eye exams is the early onset of cataracts. This painless but sight-stealing condition happens to many people as they age, but can also affect a younger person. Here are the symptoms that should prompt an immediate call to the optometrist.

Cloudy Vision

As a cataract begins to develop, the changes are very slight. The lens of your eye becomes cloudy, and you may not catch it for a while. Vision in low light conditions may start to be noticeably difficult, and you may catch yourself squinting during nighttime driving. This is exactly the type of symptom that annual eye exams are designed to detect, since the doctor will notice them well before they can cause you trouble.

Sudden Shift in Vision

Have you been nearsighted most of your life, or had issues seeing up close? A sudden change in your ability to see near and far may indicate a cataract. This generally points to a more advanced condition, and your sight is likely to decline further from that point.

Glares and Halos

Night vision can be quite a challenge once cataracts begin to form. Not only can dark conditions make it difficult to see shapes and surfaces, but the glare from light sources (such as headlights and street lamps) can be nearly blinding. A bright ring will encircle light sources and may cause you to be temporarily blinded. Night driving can be quite a hazardous activity for those who have forming cataracts.

Double Vision

Last but not least, a symptom such as double vision is a strong indicator of cataract formation. This often happens in the beginning of the cataract’s life cycle, and may eventually fade as the cataract develops over time.

Early formation of cataracts can be brought on by diabetes, cancer treatments using radiation, and lifestyle choices such as alcohol and tobacco use. If you fall into any of those categories, eye exams are even more important for you. If you develop any of the above symptoms, call your Phoenix optometrist right away.

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!

Tips To Prepare For An Eye Exam

Eye ExamOne of the most common questions we hear from new patients (especially those who are a bit nervous) is, “what do I have to do to prepare myself for an eye exam?”

Well, the good news is that there’s very little real preparation that is necessary. Eye exams are quick and painless, usually only taking a few minutes at most. A child as young as 12-18 months can, and should, have an eye exam. It’s one of the least demanding medical procedures a person could undergo.

If you want to prepare for the exam, the most important thing to bring with you is information. Here are some of the things that an eye doctor might want to know. Being prepared can help them create a more accurate diagnosis of your eyesight.

Three Things An Optometrist Wants To Know About Your Eyes:

1 – Family Medical History 

Ocular problems are an early warning sign for many forms of disease, including maladies like diabetes, which are not directly related to vision. If you have a history of diabetes, glaucoma, strokes, high blood pressure or similar problems that are passed down genetically, you should tell your eye doctor during the exam.

2 – How You Use Your Eyes

Take a moment before the appointment and reflect on how you use your eyes during the day. How much time do you spend staring at computer screens, or printed materials? Do you more often focus on things up close or far away? Are you doing a lot of precise detailed work?

Being able to tell your optometrist these things may help them decide on the right prescription if, for example, you need corrective lenses. Your lenses should comfortably fit your lifestyle.

3 – Previous Vision Problems

If you’ve had any issues with your vision in the past, your eye exam is the time to mention them. This would include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Grey-outs or loss of vision
  • Extreme / frequent eye strain, pain or headaches
  • Difficulties with night vision or “halos” around lights
  • Physical alterations such as coloration

Telling your eye doctor about previous problems helps clue them into things to look for when examining your eyes.

The next time you have an upcoming eye exam, you have nothing to worry about. If you have any further questions, ask a qualified Phoenix optometrist.

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!