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8 Ways Your Eyes Change With Age

Our eyes and vision change with age. Your eye doctor can monitor these changes — some of which are a natural part of the aging process — and identify any eye conditions or diseases early enough to treat them and prevent vision loss. Read on to learn more about the different types of eye changes one may encounter with age.

Age-Related Eye Conditions and Diseases

Cataracts

If your vision is starting to get blurry, you may be developing cataracts. There are a few types of cataracts, but the one usually caused by aging is known as a “nuclear cataract”. At first, it may lead to increased nearsightedness or even a temporary improvement in your reading vision. But with time, the lens gradually turns more densely yellow and clouds your vision. As the cataract slowly progresses, the lens may even turn brown. Advanced yellowing or browning of the lens can lead to difficulty distinguishing between shades of color, and left untreated, it can eventually lead to blindness. Luckily, cataract surgery, where the cloudy lens is replaced with a clear lens, is an extremely safe and effective treatment option.

Blepharoptosis

Blepharoptosis or ptosis is a drooping of the upper eyelid that may affect one or both eyes. The eyelid may droop only slightly or may droop enough to cover the pupil and block vision. It occurs when there is a weakness of the eye’s levator muscle that lifts the eyelid. This condition is usually caused by aging, eye surgery, or disease affecting the muscle or its nerve. Fortunately, blepharoptosis can be corrected with surgery.

Vitreous detachment

This occurs when the gel-like vitreous fluid inside the eye begins to liquefy and pull away from the retina, causing “spots and floaters” and, sometimes, flashes of light. This occurrence is usually harmless, but floaters and flashes of light can also signal the beginning of a detached retina — a serious problem that can cause blindness, and requires immediate treatment. If you experience sudden or worsening flashes and increased floaters, see Dr. Arlene Schwartz immediately to determine the cause.

Other Age-Related Changes

In addition to the above eye conditions and diseases, the structure of our eyes and vision change as we get older.

Presbyopia

Why do people in their 40s and 50s have more difficulty focusing on near objects like books and phone screens? The lens inside the eye begins to lose its ability to change shape and bring near objects into focus, a process is called presbyopia. Over time, presbyopia, also known as age-related farsightedness, will become more pronounced and you will eventually need reading glasses to see clearly. You may need multiple prescriptions – one prescription to enable you to see up close, one for intermediate distance, and one for distance vision. In that case, people often get bifocals, multifocals or PALs, and they can be combined with contact lenses as well.

Reduced pupil size

As we age, our reaction to light and the muscles that control our pupil size lose some strength. This causes the pupil to become smaller and less responsive to changes in ambient lighting. The result? It becomes harder to clearly see objects, such as a menu, in a low-light setting like a restaurant.

Dry eye

Our tear glands produce fewer tears and the tears they produce have less moisturizing oils. Your eye doctor can determine whether your dry eye is age-related or due to another condition, and will recommend the right over-the-counter or prescription eye drops, or other effective and lasting treatments, to alleviate the dryness and restore comfort.

Loss of peripheral vision

Aging causes a 1-3 degree loss of peripheral vision per decade of life. In fact, one may reach a peripheral visual field loss of 20-30 degrees by the time they reach their 70s and 80s. While peripheral vision loss is a normal part of aging, it can also indicate the presence of a serious eye disease, like glaucoma. The best way to ascertain the cause is by getting an eye exam.

Decreased color vision

The cells in the retina responsible for normal color vision tend to decline as we age, causing colors to become less bright and the contrast between different colors to be less noticeable. Though a normal part of aging, faded colors can at times signal a more serious ocular problem.

Beyond the normal changes that come with age, the risk of developing a serious eye disease, such as age related macular degeneration and glaucoma, increases. Routine eye exams are essential to keeping your eyes healthy. Your eye doctor can determine whether your symptoms are caused by an eye problem or are a normal byproduct of aging.

If you or a loved one suffers from impaired vision, we can help. To find out more and to schedule your annual eye doctor’s appointment, contact Hartsdale Family Eyecare in Hartsdale today.

E-learning Without Eyestrain: Guide for Visual Health For Students During the COVID-19 Pandemic

If your child is e-learning, be proactive to help prevent vision problems. If your child appears to be having screen-related eye fatigue, there may be underlying vision problems made worse by excessive screen time.

(Downloadable PDF of this guide can be found here.)

girl using computerThere is one topic that comes up over and over in the exam room right now and that is school. Let’s face it, school is challenging this year for everyone – students, parents, teachers, administrators, and everyone who knows any of these people. Every child’s case is unique and they need to do what is best for them. I get a lot of questions about vision specifically from parents whose children are e-learning.

E-learning can be the most visually stressful type of education because it is a set schedule of screen use for a large portion of the day, every day. In a classroom setting, there is a lot moving around and looking up at the board and at friends to provide visual novelty. In a Virtual School and homeschool setting, the schedule can be much more flexible to allow for visual breaks. Teachers are working as hard as they can right now, but they are not children’s vision experts.

Here is a list of some helpful guidelines to ensure that your children can get the most out of E-learning this fall, without as much eyestrain.

Why is this important?

For many years, Optometrists have helped office workers who suffered from Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), a collection of eye and vision problems related to excessive computer use. It was originally thought that CVS was an adult problem, but now research has shown that children can (and do!) experience this problem, too. This can be compounded by the increased screen time and the general stress of e-learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Common symptoms from long-term computer use are:

  • Eyestrain
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry eyes
  • Neck and shoulder pain

It is not hard to imagine how any or all of these can make learning difficult for a child who has to be in front of a computer or laptop most of the week.

What can you do?

Proper posture for child computer users

1. Have The Right Set up

My personal preference is that the workstations are in public areas of the house, like the living room and dining room. This has several advantages. One is that we can easily check on them and help them if needed. Another is that it is a psychological distinction of their “work area” from their “personal area.” Also, it is just nice to see our kids during the day. 🙂

  • Selecting a screen – Bigger is better! The larger the screen, the easier it is to focus on details.
  • Screen settings – Often selecting 110% or 125% magnification helps.
  • Position the screen – Position the center of screen straight ahead so head doesn’t need to tilt back or to side. Position screen further back on the desk. Allow for at least Elbow Distance from the eyes to screen.
  • Chairs – should be firm with back support.
  • Foot rest – If the child’s feet can’t touch the ground, a foot rest can stabilize them.
  • Lighting – You don’t want it to be too dark or too bright. Being near a window is great for natural light, as long as the direct sun is not shining in the child’s eyes or directly on the screen.
  • Water – Designate a place for a water bottle or cup so kids stay hydrated.
  • Clutter – Keeping the environment clear of visual distraction can help your child focused on class content.

Here is a cute comic about setting up a work station for kids.

2. Posture

We all know that it can be difficult to get kids to maintain any particular position, specifically if they are little. However, showing them the proper posture and reminding them often can go a long way to helping them stay comfortable during work.

Here are recommendations for efficient posture for kids at the computer.

  • Their back should be against the chair for support.
  • The chair seat should not compress behind the knees and cut off circulation.
  • Their feet should rest firmly on a floor or footrest (no dangling)
  • The head should be balanced on neck (not tilted back or too far forwards)
  • The upper arms close to body and relaxed
  • The elbow should angle >90° (forearm below horizontal)
  • The wrist should be neutral (not flexed)

(Adapted from Workstation Ergonomics Guidelines for Computer Use by Children.)

3. Do Children Need Computer Glasses?

As we age, we may need glasses to see small print up close. Children, however, have more visual focusing ability so they don’t usually complain of not being able to see the screen. However, many children do have functional issues and benefit from wearing glasses at the computer.

Some of these conditions are:

  • Refractive problems – Conditions such as farsightedness (hyperopia) and astigmatism can make it more difficult to see the screen. Even a low prescription can cause a child to have headaches if they are not wearing eyeglasses.
  • Focusing problems – If children’s eyes do not focus accurately on the screen, glasses can help make it easier. Having glasses can make the difference between working comfortably and headaches and blurry vision.
  • Rapid Fatigue – Some children can see the screen clearly for the first 15 or 20 minutes then start to lose interest because they can’t sustain focus on it.
  • Convergence problems – Some children have issues where their eyes either tend to over-converge (tend to turn in) or under-converge (don’t turn in enough). In both instances having the right glasses helps keep the image of the screen clear and single and makes reading easier.
  • Specialized prescriptions – Some children have unique vision problems and require alternate prescriptions such as prism or bifocals, these should definitely be taken into account.

 

4. What About Blue Light?!?

bluetech girl with ipad 1024x682Blue light is a very popular topic in 2020. Many companies can say just about anything to sell their lenses. We need more scientific study in this area about which frequencies of light matter, how much filtering is needed, and what are the effects. At this time the research indicates:

  • There is very little reason to think that light from computers and devices is going to cause permanent eye disease. (UV light from the sun is a much, much greater concern and that is why we recommend UV-blocking sunglasses for all ages.)
  • Blue light can interfere with circadian rhythm and sleep cycles. There absolutely is evidence that blue light exposure especially at night will affect sleep . The best bet is no screen use a couple of hours before bedtime. But if that is not possible, then blue light protection in glasses, as well as night-mode device settings, can help.
  • There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that patients have less eyestrain and fatigue by limiting the scatter of blue light. The only people who seem to dislike blue light filters are people who need to see colors extremely precisely, such as a digital designer.

In short, I do not believe that every single person requires blue light blocking glasses. I think it can help many children and adults feel more comfortable. If your child appears to be having screen-related fatigue, see Dr Schwartz for a comprehensive eye exam & discuss it – there may be other visual problems that should be addressed first.

For many patients (including children) a low prescription to reduce fatigue, as well as blue light filter and anti-glare treatment, can be the best combination for reducing eyestrain in front of the computer. Buying a blue light filter is only one part of reducing visual eyestrain. At Hartsdale Family Eyecare, we can custom make the best glasses for your child!

5. Taking Breaks.

If using digital devices is the problem, then stopping using them is part of the solution. Optometrists refer to proper working distance and taking breaks as “visual hygiene” – like dental hygiene but for your visual comfort. Keep in mind, looking away from the computer only to check messages on the phone doesn’t really count as a visual break! The important thing to remember is that breaking up long sessions into shorter sessions helps a lot to release tension in the eyes. There are some suggestions that are helpful.break time

  • Before classes start – Do a few deep blinks and eye stretches (we often call these Eye Yoga)
  • 20/20/20 Rule – Every twenty minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds This lets the focus of the eyes relax.
  • 1/5 Rule – Every hour take at least a 5 minute break and move around. This wakes these eyes, body, and brain up, especially if they go outside (see #6).

I know that you do not have perfect control of your children’s schedule, but by setting reminders you can try to develop these habits.

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6. Getting Outdoors!

What is even better than looking out a window? Actually getting outside and moving around. Children’s brains (and mood!) function better with some good old physical activity.

What is even better than looking out a window? Actually getting outside and moving around. Children’s brains (and mood!) function better with some good old physical activity. Make a point of scheduling a time to go outside or go for a run together! Even if they can’t exercise, just being outdoors is great for them. The change of scenery will help break up the routine.

Even if it just a short walk of the dog, or just standing in the yard or back porch, there are big visual benefits. First, the eyes get to fully relax when they look very far away. Instead of the space of just 5 or 10 feet in the room, outside we can 100 or 1000 feet away. Second, the natural light contains the full spectrum of light frequencies. Also, we tend to blink a lot more when we are outside moving around than we are just looking at a screen “in the zone” of e-learning. This keeps the eyes moist and comfortable. And there is a lot of research that shows that taking young children outside is one of the best ways to reduce the chances of them becoming myopic (nearsighted).

Of course, if you are outside in the sun, wear sunglasses to protect the eyes from UV light!

7. When To Have An Eye Exam

Extensive computer use is more difficult for all patients, but some children are at greater risk. Here are some situations when you should schedule an eye and vision evaluation for your child who is e-learning:

  • Pre-existing visual problems – If your child has on-going visual dysfunction, definitely have an evaluation and discuss all the options to limit the visual stress of e-learning.
  • Symptoms – Any symptoms of fatigue or eyestrain should be evaluated.
  • Overdue – Many patients are overdue for visits due to offices being closed in the spring. Children’s vision can change extremely rapidly, so we recommend annual exams for children in school. This is especially true if they are e-learning.

I want to highlight one specific symptom – blurry vision when looking far away. This can happen for several reasons but there are 2 important reasons to consider:

  1. Recently developed myopia (AKA nearsightedness).
  2. Eyestrain up-close is causing a focusing spasm (a red flag)

Both of these are on the rise around the world generally due to increased screen time and decreased outdoor time. Both of them have management options that can reduce future problems, including good habits, glasses, and Vision Therapy. Make sure you discuss this at their appointment.

Please refer to this presentation slideshow about e-learning called “A Guide to E-Learning without eyestrain”

Conclusion

As different as it is from classroom education, e-learning can be very effective. And it certainly is beneficial in social distancing and keeping everyone safer from COVID-19. With the information above you can help make sure that e-learning does not cause vision problems as well.

Good luck this year! We are cheering for you. If we can help in any way, please reach out at hartsdalefamilyeyecare@gmail.com or call us at at 914-725-1600

-Dr. Arlene Schwartz

Coronavirus and Your Eyes – What You Should Know

As coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads around the world, health professionals are demanding that people limit their personal risk of contracting the virus by thoroughly washing their hands, practicing social distancing, and not touching their nose, mouth, or eyes. In fact, it may surprise you to learn that the eyes play an important role in spreading COVID-19.

Coronavirus is transmitted from person to person through droplets that an infected person sneezes or coughs out. These droplets can easily enter your body through the mucous membranes on the face, such as your nose, mouth, and yes — your eyes. Tthe virus is also transmitted from surfaces.

But First, What Is Coronavirus?

Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, causes mild to severe respiratory illness associated with fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. Symptoms typically appear within 2 weeks of exposure. Those with acute cases of the virus can develop pneumonia and other life-threatening complications.

Here’s what you should know:

Guard Your Eyes Against COVID-19

  • Avoid rubbing your eyes. Although we all engage in this very normal habit, try to fight the urge to touch your eyes. If you absolutely must, first wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Tears carry the virus. Touching tears or a surface where tears have fallen can spread coronavirus. Make sure to wash your hands after touching your eyes and throughout the day as well.
  • Disinfect surfaces. You can catch COVID-19 by touching an object or surface that has the virus on it, such as a door knob, and then touching your eyes.

Coronavirus and Pink Eye

Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, refers to an inflammation of the membrane covering the front of the eyeball. Conjunctivitis is characterized by red, watery, and itchy eyes. Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious and can be spread by coughing and sneezing, too.

According to a recent study in China, viral conjunctivitis may be a symptom of COVID-19. The study found conjunctival congestion in 9 of the 1,099 patients (0.8%) who were confirmed to have coronavirus.

If you suspect you have pink eye, call your eye doctor Dr. Arlene Schwartz in Hartsdale right away. Given the current coronavirus crisis, we ask patients to call prior to presenting themselves at the office of Dr. Arlene Schwartz, as it will allow the staff to assess your condition and adequately prepare for your visit.

Contact Lenses or Eyeglasses?

Many people who wear contact lenses are thinking about switching to eyeglasses for the time being to lower the threat of being infected with coronavirus.

Wearing glasses may provide an extra layer of protection if someone coughs on you; hopefully that infected droplet will hit the lens and not your eye. However, one must still be cautious, as the virus can reach the eyes from the exposed sides, tops and bottoms around your frames. Unlike specialized safety goggles, glasses are not considered a safe way to prevent coronavirus.

Contact Lenses and COVID-19

If you wear contacts, make sure to properly wash your hands prior to removing or inserting them. Consider ordering a 3 to 6 month supply of contact lenses and solution; some opticals provide home delivery of contact lenses and solutions. At this stage there is no recommendation to wear daily lenses over monthlies.

Don’t switch your contact lens brand or solution, unless approved by your optometrist or optician.

Regularly Disinfect Glasses

Some viruses such as coronavirus can remain on hard surfaces from several hours to days. This can then be transmitted to the wearer’s fingers and face. People who wear reading glasses for presbyopia should be even more careful, because they usually need to handle their glasses more often throughout the day, and older individuals tend to be more vulnerable to COVID-19 complications. Gently wash the lenses and frames with warm water and soap, and dry your eyeglasses using a microfiber cloth.

Stock up on Eye Medicine

It’s a good idea to stock up on important medications, including eye meds, in order to get by in case you need to be quarantined or if supplies run short. This may not be possible for everyone due to insurance limitations. If you cannot stock up, make sure to request a refill as soon as you’re due and never wait until the last minute to contact your pharmacy.

It is important that you continue to follow your doctor’s instructions for all medications.

Digital Devices and Eyestrain

At times like this, people tend to use digital devices more than usual. Take note of tiredness, sore eyes, blurry vision, double vision or headaches, which are symptoms of computer vision syndrome if they are exacerbated by extensive use of digital devices, and might indicate a need for a new prescription in the near future. This usually isn’t urgent, but if you’re unsure, you can call our eye doctor’s office.

Children and Digital Devices

During this time your children may end up watching TV and using computers, tablets and smartphones more frequently and for more extended periods too. Computer vision syndrome, mentioned above, can affect children as well. We recommend limiting screen time to a maximum of 2 hours per day for children, though it’s understandably difficult to control under the circumstances.

Try to get your child to take a 10 to 15 minute break every hour, and stop all screen time for at least 60 minutes before sleep.

Children and Outdoor Play

Please follow local guidelines and instructions regarding outdoor activities for your children. If possible, it’s actually good for visual development to spend 1-2 hours a day outside.

From all of us at Hartsdale Family Eyecare in Hartsdale, we wish you good health and please stay safe.

Refocus on the Digital Age with Computer Glasses

technology computer woman blue light

Digital devices have impacted our world in so many positive ways, allowing us to connect, work, play and get information at the speed of light. But all of this good brings with it a measure of concern: Digital Eye Strain or Computer Vision Syndrome.

Focusing on your vision on digital devices for long periods can cause eye fatigue and eyestrain. In fact, up to 70% of North American adults suffer from symptoms of Digital Eye Strain which include:

  • Headaches
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Sore eyes
  • Dry or watery eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Neck, shoulder or back pain

In addition to these symptoms, emerging research shows that blue light from digital devices causes sleep disturbances by interfering with the REM cycle of sleep.

As people move from their computer to their tablet to their phone, more and more of these symptoms are being seen, and in younger and younger people.

How They Work

Computer glasses reduce eye strain by adjusting the focus slightly so your eyes feel like they are focusing on something further away. They also have a tint to remove the glare and block blue light from entering into your eyes.

Finding the Right Pair

There are a number of companies that make computer glasses, some that are designed for device users without a prescription or that would wear the glasses with contact lenses. Other manufacturers provide options to incorporate vision prescriptions into the lens.

When shopping for computer glasses you want to make sure you find the right pair. The eyewear should sit nicely on your face and provide a comfortable tint.

Children and Computer Glasses

Children are using digital devices more than ever and this trend will only continue as smartphones take over and tablet and computer-based learning increases. Their use extends well beyond the school day as well, as they use computers for homework and gaming and smartphones to text with their friends.

Computer glasses should be used for kids preventatively before eye strain begins to keep their eyes healthy longer and prevent nearsightedness.

Don’t wait for eye strain to affect you and your family members. Take computer vision syndrome seriously and ask Dr. Schwartz about how computer glasses can help.

8 Tips to Relieve Winter Dry Eyes

Whether you live in a climate with cold winter weather or you are planning a ski trip up north, winter can be a challenge if you suffer from dry eyes. Dry, cool air, cold winds and even drier indoor heating can cause eye irritation, burning, itchiness and redness, and sometimes even excessively watery eyes as more tears are produced to compensate for the dryness. Many people have a chronic feeling that they have something in their eye and some even experience blurred vision. These symptoms can be debilitating!

Dry eyes is one of the most common complaints eye doctors get from patients during the winter season, especially in the cooler climates. That’s why we’d like to share some tips on how to relieve dry eye discomfort, and how to know when your condition is serious enough to come in for an evaluation.

Tips to Relieve Winter Dry Eyes:

  1. Keep eyes moist using artificial tears or eye drops. You can apply these a few times each day when the eyes are feeling dry or irritated. If over-the-counter drops don’t help or if you have chronic dry eyes, speak to your eye doctor about finding the best drops for you. Since not all artificial tears are the same, knowing the cause of your dry eye will help your eye doctor determine which brand is best suited for your eyes.
  2. Use a humidifier to counteract the drying effects of indoor heaters or generally dry air.
  3. Point car vents or indoor heaters away from your face when the heat is on. Try to keep your distance from direct sources of heating, especially if they blow out the heat.
  4. Drink a lot! Hydrating your body will also hydrate your eyes.
  5. Protect your eyes outdoors with sunglasses or goggles – the bigger the better! Larger, even wrap-around glasses as well as a hat with a wide brim will keep the wind and other elements out of your eyes. If you wear goggles for winter sports, make sure they fit well and cover a large surface area.
  6. Soothe dry eyes using a warm compress and never rub them! Rubbing your eyes will increase irritation and may lead to infection if the hands are not clean.
  7. Give your eyes a digital break. People blink less during screen time which is why extensive computer use can lead to dry eyes. Follow the 20/20/20 rule by taking a break every 20 minutes to look 20 feet away for 20 seconds and make sure you blink!
  8. For contact lens wearers: If you wear contact lenses, dry eyes can be particularly debilitating as the contact lenses can cause even further dryness and irritation. Contact lens rewetting drops can help your eyes feel better and may also allow you to see more clearly. Not all eyedrops are appropriate for use with contact lenses, so ask your optometrist which eyedrop is compatible with your contacts and cleaning solution. If rewetting drops don’t help, consider opting for glasses when your dry eyes are bad, and speak to your optometrist about which brands of contact lenses are better for dry eyes. Many people find dry eye improvement when they switch to daily single use contact lenses.

Chronic Dry Eyes or Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome is a chronic condition in which the eyes do not produce enough tear film, or do not produce the quality of tear film needed to properly keep the eyes moist. While winter weather can make this condition worse, it is often present all year round. If you find that the tips above do not alleviate your discomfort or symptoms, it may be time to see a optometrist to see if your condition requires more effective medical treatment. 

Diabetes and Your Eyes

Diabetes is becoming much more prevalent around the globe. According to the International Diabetes Federation, approximately 425 million adults were living with diabetes in the year 2017 and 352 million more people were at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. By 2045 the number of people diagnosed is expected to rise to 629 million.

Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness as well as heart attacks, stroke, kidney failure, neuropathy (nerve damage) and lower limb amputation. In fact, in 2017, diabetes was implicated in 4 million deaths worldwide. Nevertheless preventing these complications from diabetes is possible with proper treatment, medication and regular medical screenings as well as improving your diet, physical activity and adopting a healthy lifestyle.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the hormone insulin is either underproduced or ineffective in its ability to regulate blood sugar. Uncontrolled diabetes leads to hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, which damages many systems in the body such as the blood vessels and the nervous system.

How Does Diabetes Affect The Eyes?

Diabetic eye disease is a group of conditions which are caused, or worsened, by diabetes; including: diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, glaucoma and cataracts. Diabetes increases the risk of cataracts by four times, and can increase dryness and reduce cornea sensation.

In diabetic retinopathy, over time, the tiny blood vessels within the eyes become damaged, causing leakage, poor oxygen circulation, then scarring of the sensitive tissue within the retina, which can result in further cell damage and scarring.

The longer you have diabetes, and the longer your blood sugar levels remain uncontrolled, the higher the chances of developing diabetic eye disease. Unlike many other vision-threatening conditions which are more prevalent in older individuals, diabetic eye disease is one of the main causes of vision loss in the younger, working-age population. Unfortunately, these eye conditions can lead to blindness if not caught early and treated. In fact, 2.6% of blindness worldwide is due to diabetes.

Diabetic Retinopathy

As mentioned above, diabetes can result in cumulative damage to the blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue located at the back of the eye. This is called diabetic retinopathy.

The retina is responsible for converting the light it receives into visual signals to the optic nerve in the brain. High blood sugar levels can cause the blood vessels in the retina to leak or hemorrhage, causing bleeding and distorting vision. In advanced stages, new blood vessels may begin to grow on the retinal surface causing scarring and further damaging cells in the retina. Diabetic retinopathy can eventually lead to blindness.

Signs and Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

The early stages of diabetic retinopathy often have no symptoms, which is why it’s vitally important to have frequent diabetic eye exams. As it progresses you may start to notice the following symptoms:

  • Blurred or fluctuating vision or vision loss
  • Floaters (dark spots or strings that appear to float in your visual field)
  • Blind spots
  • Color vision loss

There is no pain associated with diabetic retinopathy to signal any issues. If not controlled, as retinopathy continues it can cause retinal detachment and macular edema, two other serious conditions that threaten vision. Again, there are often NO signs or symptoms until more advanced stages.

A person with diabetes can do their part to control their blood sugar level. Following the physician’s medication plan, as well as diet and exercise recommendations can help slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy.

Retinal Detachment

Scar tissues caused by the breaking and forming of blood vessels in advanced retinopathy can lead to a retinal detachment in which the retina pulls away from the underlying tissue. This condition is a medical emergency and must be treated immediately as it can lead to permanent vision loss. Signs of a retinal detachment include a sudden onset of floaters or flashes in the vision.

Diabetic Macular Edema (DME)

Diabetic macular edema occurs when the macula, a part of the retina responsible for clear central vision, becomes full of fluid (edema). It is a complication of diabetic retinopathy that occurs in about half of patients, and causes vision loss.

Treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy and Diabetic Macular Edema

While vision loss from diabetic retinopathy and DME often can’t be restored, with early detection there are some preventative treatments available. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (when the blood vessels begin to grow abnormally) can be treated by laser surgery, injections or a procedure called vitrectomy in which the vitreous gel in the center of the eye is removed and replaced. This will treat bleeding caused by ruptured blood vessels. DME can be treated with injection therapy, laser surgery or corticosteroids.

Prevent Vision Loss from Diabetes

The best way to prevent vision loss from diabetic eye disease is early detection and treatment. Since there may be no symptoms in the early stages, regular diabetic eye exams are critical for early diagnosis. In fact diabetics are now sometimes monitored by their health insurance to see if they are getting regular eye exams and premium rates can be affected by how regularly the patients get their eyes checked. Keeping diabetes under control through exercise, diet, medication and regular screenings will help to reduce the chances of vision loss and blindness from diabetes.

 

Have an Eye Safe Halloween

 

Brush Up Before You Dress Up

Halloween is one of the most fun times of the year for children and adults alike. When else do you get to dress up as anyone (or anything) you want, socialize with friends and eat lots of treats? Nevertheless, lurking behind those costumes and all that fun are some hidden dangers that you need to be aware of and many of them could affect your eyes and vision. Brush up on these preventative measures to help you and your children to stay safe and enjoy the holiday.

Masks

Masks can really make or break a costume but they can also increase danger, especially for children. Masks that block visibility or the ability to breathe can be extremely dangerous. You want to make sure that you and your children have a complete, unobstructed visual field, especially if they will be crossing streets.

Facepaint

Facepaint can be a great alternative to a mask, but it comes with its own set of precautions. Buy face paint that is hypoallergenic and do a spot test to make sure there is no allergic reaction anyway. Make sure to keep the paint out of the eyes and be careful during application especially with sharp, pointed brushes that can scratch the eye. If face paint or any other substances get into the eyes, immediately flush the eyes thoroughly with saline or water as chemical splashes can cause significant eye damage within minutes. This should be done before consulting your eye doctor. If irritation persists however, it should be looked at by an eye doctor.

Props

Try to avoid costumes with sharp or pointed props such as spears, swords or guns that shoot. Warn children at play to never point an object at a person’s head or eyes.

That goes for spray cans of silly-string, as well. The chemicals in these products can be very dangerous to the eyes, risking chemical conjunctivitis and serious eye irritation. The pressure at which the string is sprayed can also cause eye damage including a corneal abrasion (a scratch to the surface of the eye) if sprayed into the eye at a close range. These popular Halloween products should be avoided or, if necessary, children should be seriously cautioned not to spray anyone near the neck or face.

Visibility

Speaking of sight, you want to make sure that you and your children are visible to motorists on the streets. Chose brightly colored costumes and carry a flashlight to increase visibility. Consider adding some reflective tape to the costume or props as well.

Decorative Contact Lenses

Decorative contact lenses can look great, but they can cause serious damage. That’s why even non-corrective contact lenses are considered a medical device, which must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration or Health Canada, and require a prescription from an eye doctor.

Never buy fashion, decorative, cosmetic, colored or theater contact lenses (or any other name that they go by) from a beauty or costume supply store or any unauthorized vendor. You should purchase them only with a prescription from an eye doctor after an eye exam to measure your eye and assess your eye health.

Why?

Contacts obtained through an unauthorized source may not be safe to wear. They might cause a corneal abrasion, allergic reactions, infections and decreased vision which can even lead to blindness.

Plus, your optician or eye doctor will give you instructions for proper use and hygiene such as washing your hands, storing and cleaning the lenses properly and removing them as prescribed.

If you are wearing any type of contact lenses and you notice redness, pain or blurred vision, take them out immediately. If symptoms persist, see your eye doctor as soon as possible.

Stay Safe

Don’t make Halloween into a truly scary holiday. Take heed of these potential dangers and take the necessary precautions to stay safe. Happy Halloween!

Exercise and Your Eye Health

 

Regular exercise is an essential component of overall health and wellness. It is proven that exercise reduces sickness and disease; it increases strength, immunity, and mental health; and it also helps regulate bodily functions and maintain a healthy weight. Research shows that exercise can lower our risk of chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema, as well as other eye diseases such as glaucoma, cataracts and wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Whereas, a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of these diseases and of vision loss, studies show that even moderate exercise at least three times a week can improve the prognosis of the above-mentioned chronic illnesses and reduce the risks of developing vision threatening eye diseases.

Inactivity is an even higher risk factor if you have other co-factors for developing eye diseases, including: a family history, previous eye injury or surgery, diabetes, high blood pressure or very high myopia. A combination of healthy lifestyle habits which include regular exercise and a nutritious diet and tending to your mental and emotional well-being can reduce these risks significantly.

Tips for Incorporating Physical Activity Into Your Day

  1. Make it a priority. Schedule your exercise time into your day as if it is a non-negotiable appointment. Find the time of day that works best – for some that is early morning and for others late at night. Work your way up to a half hour at least three times a week.
  2. Be realistic. You don’t need to become a fitness expert to experience the benefits of exercise. Walking, yoga, swimming, even dancing around the house are all options for staying fit. Find a type of exercise that you love so you will enjoy working this habit into your life.
  3. Just move. Find ways to move your body throughout your day. Park your car a little further away from the mall entrance, take the stairs instead of the elevator or walk or bike to work. Remember, every little bit of movement helps.
  4. Find something you enjoy. Often finding the right exercise is a good stress reliever, and reducing stress will also reduce risk of many chronic diseases.
  5. It’s never too late. Exercise for the elderly can be a challenge especially during the cold winter months, when many seniors can’t get out of the house due to the weather. Even walking up and down the stairs in the house or following an exercise video can be helpful to keep from being sedentary.

Protection & Prevention

If you are exercising outdoors or playing contact sports, make sure to protect your eyes with sunglasses or sports safety glasses to ensure your eye health and safety.

Regular exercise can significantly decrease your risks of certain eye conditions but you still have to ensure that you visit your eye doctor for regular exams. Schedule a comprehensive eye exam every year to ensure your vision and your eyes are healthy and to catch any possible problems as early as possible.

Eye health and disease prevention are just two of the many health and wellness benefits you gift yourself when you make exercise a regular part of your lifestyle. Speak to your doctor if you have any health issues that need to be considered. At any age or level of physical fitness, you can find some form of exercise that works for you.

 

Is Too Much Screen Time Dangerous For Your Kids?

Screen Time Pros and Cons

Whether it is homework, email, gaming, chatting with friends, searching the web or watching Youtube, kids these days seem to have an endless number of reasons to be glued to a screen. Many parents out there are wondering how bad this can be for their kids and whether they should be limiting screen time. 

There are certainly benefits to allowing your kids to use digital devices, whether it is educational, social or providing a needed break. However, studies show that excessive screen time can have behavioral consequences such as irritability, moodiness, inability to concentrate, poor behavior, and other issues as well. Too much screen time is also linked to dry eyes and meibomian gland disorders (likely due to a decreased blink rate when using devices), as well as eye strain and irritation, headaches, back or neck and shoulder pain, and sleep disturbances. Some of these computer vision syndrome symptoms are attributed to blue light that is emitted from the screens of digital devices.

Blue light is a short wavelength, high-energy visible light that is emitted by digital screens, LED lights and the sun. Studies suggest that exposure to some waves of blue light over extended periods of time may be harmful to the light-sensitive cells of the retina at the back of the eye. When these cells are damaged, vision loss can occur. Research indicates that extreme blue light exposure could lead to macular degeneration or other serious eye diseases that can cause vision loss and blindness. Studies show that blue light also interferes with the regulation of the the body’s circadian rhythm which can have a disruptive impact on the body’s sleep cycle. Lack of quality sleep can lead to serious health consequences as well. 

Beyond these studies, the long term effects of blue light exposure from digital devices are not yet known since this is really the first generation in which people are using digital devices to such an extent. While it may take years to fully understand the impact of excessive screen time on our eyes and overall health, it is probably worth limiting it due to these preliminary findings and the risks it may pose. This is especially true for young children and the elderly, who are particularly susceptible to blue light exposure. 

How to Protect the Eyes From Blue Light

The first step in proper eye protection is abstaining from excessive exposure by limiting the amount of time spent using a computer, smart phone or tablet – especially at night, to avoid interfering with sleep. Many pediatricians even recommend zero screen time for children under two. 

The next step would be to reduce the amount of blue light entering the eyes by using blue light blocking glasses or coatings that deflect the light away from the eyes. There are also apps and screen filters that you can add to your devices to reduce the amount of blue light being projected from the screen. Speak to your eye doctor about steps you can take to reduce blue light exposure from digital devices. 

As a side note, the sun is an even greater source of blue light so it is essential to protect your child’s eyes with UV and blue light blocking sunglasses any time your child goes outside – even on overcast days. 

The eyes of children under 18 are particularly susceptible to damage from environmental exposure as they have transparent crystalline lenses that are more susceptible to both UV and blue light rays. While the effects (such as increased risk of age-related macular degeneration) may not be seen for decades later, it’s worth it to do what you can now to prevent future damage and risk for vision loss. 

 

Scleral Lenses After Eye Surgery, LeAnne’s Story

LeAnne visited Dr. Schwartz after undergoing LASIK eye surgery. LeAnne explained that at first she was nervous but all the stories of how great it was really allayed most of her fears. However, after the LASIK eye surgery, LeAnnes vision was not fixed like she had hoped. LeAnne knew that %5 of peoples who undergo LASIK still need glasses, she just never thought it would be her.

A particularly bothersome side effect of the LASIK surgery was that lights at night made it very hard to see, and LeAnne was worried that her driving during the night was not safe.

After searching on the internet, LeAnne came across Dr. Schwartz, a scleral lens specialist, fitting custom designed contact lenses for patients with sensitive eyes and difficulty with contact lenses. LeAnne loves her scleral lenses, she says that she cannot believe how clear her vision is and highly recommends them to everyone.

Learn more about scleral lenses.