Eye Healthy Foods for the Holidays

Sharing meals with family and friends is one of the major highlights of the holiday season. Whether you treat yourself to old recipes or you try new ones, consider adding these eye-healthy foods to your holiday feast!

LEAFY GREEN VEGETABLES

Be sure to start your holiday meal with a salad, it’s an excellent way to ensure that you and your guests get plenty of zeaxanthin and lutein, two nutrients that help protect your central vision. Adding kale, spinach, or romaine lettuce to salads helps your eyes absorb damaging blue light, combats the effects of cigarette smoke and pollution, and also decreases your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition that affects the macula, the part of your retina responsible for central vision. You will also find lutein in grapes, kiwis, broccoli, peas, corn, Swiss chard, and collard greens. 

TURKEY AND BEEF

Turkey and lean beef, two of the main ingredients in many holiday meals, keep your eyes strong and healthy. Both foods are high in zinc, a nutrient important to the retina and the choroid layer under the retina. Zinc is essential for good night vision. Eating foods that are high in the nutrient can also reduce your risk of cataracts and AMD. Other foods that contain zinc include pork, dairy products, chick peas, black-eyed peas, crab, oysters, beans, spinach, mushrooms, cashews, and almonds. 

CARROTS

It wasn’t an old wives tale, it is true Carrots are good for your eyes! They contain beta carotene, a substance that turns into vitamin A when eaten. Eating carrots can benefit your night vision and could possibly reduce your risk of cataracts, AMD, and dry eyes. Other foods that contain beta carotene include pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash. All great ingredients to include into your holiday feast. 

FISH

Fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce your risk of developing AMD, dry eye, and glaucoma. Salmon, mackerel, flounder, tuna, halibut, herring, and sardines would be a great addition to your holiday meals.
 

WHOLE GRAINS

Whole grains reduce your risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes and can also decrease your risk of AMD. Substituting whole grain flour for white flour in holiday breads and muffins is a simple way to boost your whole grain intake. Other good whole grain sources include wild rice, brown rice, popcorn, oatmeal, bulgur, barley, buckwheat, and couscous. 

FRUIT

Fruits high in vitamin C, such as strawberries and oranges, also offer important vision benefits. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, a substance that can prevent cell damage caused by free radicals. Vitamin C-rich foods help keep the collagen in your cornea healthy and reduce the risk of cataracts and AMD. You can also find vitamin C in grapefruit, kiwi, blueberries, peas, broccoli, and tomatoes.


Sensible food choices, along with regular eye examinations, can help you protect your vision. For eye healthy recipes, visit our EYE COOK section in our website.

Happy Eating and Happy Holidays!

Age-Related Macular Degeneration & Alzheimer’s

Similar Diseases, Different Locations, Possible Common Treatments

There are many similarities between two age-related diseases (Age-related Macular Degeneration and Alzheimer’s disease) that can affect thousands of people world-wide. In the United States there are 11 million people that have some form of AMD and it is estimated to grow to 22 million by the year 2050. Furthermore, in 2016 it was estimated that the cost to care for those with AMD was $512 billion. Worldwide it is estimated that by 2020, there will be 96 million people with AMD. National Eye Institute 

The second aging disorder that causes high degree of damage is Alzheimer’s disease. Presently, in the United States there are 5.4 million people with Alzheimer’s disease and this will increase to approximately 13.8 million by 2050. In 2016, the cost for caring for these patients was $236 billion. Worldwide the numbers of Alzheimer’s patients are estimated to be 44 million and the global cost is $605 billion. Alzheimer’s Association

Similar Risk Factors

The risk factors for both AMD and Alzheimer’s disease are very similar to each other. These include aging, smoking, and high cholesterol. Both diseases are found more frequently in women than men and in approximately 5% to 15% the diseases are found in more than one family member. There is also a genetic risk factor of a lipid transport protein called Apolipoprotein E (ApoE) that provides elevated risk in AMD patients if they carry the allele 2 variant and higher risk in Alzheimer’s patients if they carry the allele 4 variant.

In AMD and Alzheimer’s disease there are 3 events that make the pathologies very similar except that they are found in different locations, either the retina or the brain.

1. Amyloid beta is a protein that is not present in normal tissues but larger quantities accumulate in the brain for Alzheimer’s patients and are identified to be plaques by MRI scans. The presence of these plaques is defining (pathognomonic) for Alzheimer’s disease. In AMD patients amyloid-beta deposits are found to accumulate underneath the retina and form small clumps of protein-lipid materials called drusen. This is significant because the amyloid-beta is very toxic and harmful to the surrounding cells and when it is accumulating in tissues, it causes the cells to be damaged and loss their abilities to function.

2. A second feature of both AMD and Alzheimer’s disease is that there are high levels of tissue damage, loss of function and a lot of cell death in the retina and brain.

3. Finally, both diseases have damage to the mitochondria, which are small units within the cells that are critical to keeping the cells alive. The mitochondria are the “batteries” of the cell providing energy to keep the retina and brain cells functioning. Mitochondria are similar to the batteries in a flashlight. You can have a very expensive flashlight but if you do not have good batteries, the flashlight will not work. It is a similar situation to the cell. As long as the mitochondria are healthy and providing energy the cells can function. However, when the mitochondria start to die, then the cells will lose their functions and cell death will occur. This is true for all types of cells in the body, such as nerve cells, muscle cells, retinal cells, heart cells, etc. In other words, healthy mitochondria are critical to keep cell alive and functioning well.

Future Treatments

Using a novel in vitro model called cybrids (cytoplasmic hybrids), Dr. Cristina Kenney’s laboratory has shown that when mitochondria from patients with AMD are placed into specialized human retinal cells, the AMD mitochondria will cause the cells to die more rapidly than normal because they are so damaged. With this important discovery, the goal of the research group has been to identify drugs and proteins/peptides that can rescue the damage AMD mitochondria and protect the retinal cells. Their research is moving forward very quickly and testing drugs is the top priority for Dr. Kenney’s group. By rejuvenating the mitochondria from ‘old-damage’ to ‘new-healthy’ will prolong the health of the retinal cells and protect vision loss from AMD. What is learned in these studies will have long reaching applications to other aging-diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Low Vision and Smart Phones

Many of us just use the basics on our smart phone and never personalize them for our own needs. It is worth taking the time to adjust our phones to take advantage of the special services that may be available and unused. Making a phone call or sending a text message with a smart phone can be challenging, however, with simple modifications, keeping in touch with the world can become a snap. Getting comfortable with your smart phone will make staying in touch with your loved ones very easy.

If you’ve used a smartphone these past several years you already know that a great deal of voice command capabilities come built in to most current models, so you can verbally instruct your smartphone to “Call my wife,” or “Read my last text message.” The smart phone has been a wonderful addition to the world of technology; with built-in accessibility features these phones have provided individuals with visual impairments the ability to carry out several activities that have been difficult without the use of a magnifier or other assistive device.

One way to make it easier to see the names in your contact list is to magnify the text on the screen. After tapping the “SETTINGS” icon on your home screen, you will find “ACCESSIBILITY” features under General Settings or Personal Set-up. Accessibility features can be used to visually enhance the use of your smart phone. Adjusting the size of the text, under the “LARGER TEXT” selection can magnify the print in your contact list so that names are easier to see. Simply sliding the prompt on the larger text screen to the right will enlarge print throughout your smart phone: phone contacts, text messages and emails.

Despite enlarging text, you still may find it difficult to see contacts on your screen. That is where tools called “VOICE ASSISTANTS” or “TEXT-TO-SPEECH” can make it less stressful for you. After you have enabled the settings, you can engage them by speaking into your unit’s microphone. On most phones, this feature can be turned on by holding down the home button. Once you hear a beep, you say the name of a person or business. You can access your contact list by asking your voice assistant to call people from your contact list or by reciting the phone number you are trying to connect to.

Tips for a Better Low-Vision Phone Experience

Whether you use some or all of the low-vision phone features described in this article, there are still more things you can do to improve phone usability that don’t require a trip to Accessibility settings. Some involve choosing hardware and software, others are simple, and cost nothing.

  • Right-size your phone: How much magnification you need depends on your vision, of course, but also on the size of the phone you choose. If you need a high level of zoom, or larger text, you might want to pick a phone with a larger screen, which will allow more of the screen contents to remain visible when you zoom or crank up the font size. You’ll find Android and iOS phones with screens up to 5.7 inches. Tablets are bigger. The challenge of a large phone for some low-vision users is the need to hold the device close to your eyes to view it. Before you choose a phone, be sure to handle and use the model you’re planning to buy.

  • High-contrast wallpaper: You can change the background of your Home screen by turning any photo into wallpaper, or picking from wallpapers already available on the device. Using a solid color, rather than a busy photo that obscures your app icons and the text on the Home screen can make it much easier to locate text and icons. If a solid background seems boring, try a starry sky or snowy scene, for a dark or light look, respectively.

  • Apps with dark mode and/or font size options: Apps that focus on reading and navigation often have their own accessibility-enhancing options. Apple’s iBooks and Amazon’s Kindle app allow you to change font size, and even typeface, as well as changing the background or text color of what you’re reading. Seek out apps that compensate for what might be missing in your phone’s operating system, or that simply offer a better experience.

Get the Most from your Phone

The good news about smartphones is that they all provide features to support those with low-vision or whose eyesight has simply changed due to age. Your challenge is to try out as many of these features as possible, and decide which ones are right for you.

For tips and instruction on how to use smartphone (Iphone/Android) if you have low vision:

How a visually impaired person can use a smartphone

How To Set Up An Android Phone/Tablet For Low 

How I Use My iPhone 7 Plus | Life, Legally Blind 

World KC Day

World KC Day is November 10th! 

World KC Day is an awareness day to help bring a spotlight to keratoconus and honor those that live and cope with keratoconus every day.

Keratoconus, often abbreviated as “KC”, is a non-inflammatory eye condition in which the normally round dome-shaped cornea progressively thins causing a cone-like bulge to develop. This results in significant visual impairment.

Do you or someone you know have KC?

Here are some ways you can join the National Keratoconus Foundation and thousands around the world in spreading the word about keratoconus:

⇒ Join the NKCF Twibbon campaign
⇒ Add yourself to the World KC Map
⇒ Post about keratoconus and use #worldkcday as your hashtag
⇒ For more information about World KC Day visit worldkcday.com

The National Keratoconus Foundation is a program of the
Gavin Herbert Eye Institute at the University of California, Irvine.

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Back to School – Why Eye Exams are Important!

Summer is almost over and it’s back to school season. As parents, many of us are busy ensuring our kids are ready and prepared for the new year; worrying about school supplies, new clothes, and new haircuts. There is always a long list of things to do before school starts. But something that often gets overlooked is getting your child’s eyes examined annually.

Early eye examinations are crucial to make sure children have normal, healthy vision so they can perform better at schoolwork and play. Early identification of a child’s vision problem can be crucial because children often are more responsive to treatment when problems are diagnosed early.

Early eye exams also are important because children need the following basic skills related to good eyesight for learning:

  • Near vision

  • Distance vision

  • Binocular (two eyes) coordination

  • Eye movement skills

  • Focusing skills

  • Peripheral awareness

  • Hand-eye coordination

Parents also need to be alert for the presence of vision problems such as ‘crossed’ eyes or ‘lazy’ eye. These conditions can develop at a young age. ‘Crossed’ eyes or strabismus involves one or both eyes turning inward (towards the nose) or outward. Amblyopia, known as ‘lazy’ eye, is a lack of clear vision in one eye, which can’t be fully corrected with eyeglasses. ‘Lazy’ eye often develops as a result of ‘crossed’ eyes, but may occur without noticeable signs. Lazy eye can be treated if caught early.

In addition, parents should watch their child for indication of any delays in development, which may signal the presence of a vision problem. Difficulty with recognition of colors, shapes, letters and numbers can occur if there is a vision problem. Children generally will not voice complaints about their eyes, therefore parents should watch for signs that may indicate a vision problem, including:

  • Sitting close to the TV or holding a book too close

  • Squinting

  • Tilting their head

  • Constant eye rubbing

  • Extreme light sensitivity

  • Poor focusing

  • Poor visual tracking (following an object)

  • Abnormal alignment or movement of the eyes (after 6 months of age)

  • Chronic redness of the eyes

  • Chronic tearing of the eyes

  • A white pupil instead of black

Scheduling Eye Exams for Your Child

If eye problems are suspected during routine physical examinations, a referral should be made to an eye doctor for further evaluation. Eye doctors have specific equipment and training to assist them with spotting potential vision problems in children.

When scheduling an eye exam for your child, choose a time when he or she usually is alert and happy.

Glasses and Contacts

Keep these tips in mind for kids who wear glasses:

  • Plastic frames are best for children younger than 2.

  • Let kids pick their own frames.

  • If older kids wear metal frames, make sure they have spring hinges, which are more durable.

  • An elastic strap attached to the glasses will help keep them in place for active toddlers.

  • Kids with severe eye problems may need special lenses called high-index lenses, which are thinner and lighter than plastic lenses.

  • Polycarbonate lenses are best for all kids, especially those who play sports. Polycarbonate is a tough, shatterproof, clear thermoplastic used to make thin, light lenses. However, although they’re very impact-resistant, these lenses scratch more easily than plastic lenses.

  • Your eye doctor can help you decide what type of vision correction is best for your child.

Specialists state that 80% of what your youngster learns in school is taught visually. Untreated vision troubles can put children at a substantial disadvantage. Be certain to arrange that your child has a complete eye exam before school starts.

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A Healthy Diet for Your Eyes!

As we age, it’s normal to experience a change in eyesight, so it is important that we’re doing everything we can to keep our eyes clear and healthy. Eating a nourishing diet is not only good for your body, it’s also great for your eyes. There’s an easy way to improve your eye health: Start by making the same nutritious food choices that are good for your overall health and wellness.

The following vitamins, minerals and other nutrients are essential for good vision and may protect your eyes from sight-robbing conditions and diseases such as Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD).

Fruits and Vegetables

The nutrients in both fruits and vegetables provide antioxidants, which can help maintain healthier eyes. Fruits and vegetables also provide protection because many of their nutrients deliver antioxidants that our bodies cannot synthesize.

For example, lutein and zeaxanthin are important antioxidants that help prevent degeneration in the lens and retina. Eating a diet rich in these carotenoids helps reduce the risk of AMD by fighting oxidation in the retinal cells of the eye.

Foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin are typically dark-colored fruits and vegetables, including: 

  • spinach
  • kale
  • collard greens
  • yellow corn
  • carrots
  • kiwi
  • mangos
  • melons

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Eating fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines, that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids also helps lower the risk of AMD. Omega-3 fatty acids are rich in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is important for eye health and visual function. People with dry eye syndrome (i.e., low tear production) can benefit from a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids because dry eye is linked to low levels of DHA.

However, studies have found that omega-3 fatty acid vitamin supplements may not provide as much protection. That means it’s better to eat the fish than just take omega-3 supplements. It’s important to note that heavy consumption of fish can contribute to high mercury levels (How Much is Too Much Mercury). 

You can also find omega-3 fatty acids in plant-based sources, such as:

  • nuts
  • seeds (flax seeds and chia seeds)
  • dark, leafy greens (romaine, arugula, spinach)

B Vitamins

Higher levels of B vitamins may lower your risk of developing AMD.

Foods that are high in vitamins B6 include:

  • bananas
  • chicken
  • beans
  • potatoes
  • fish
  • liver
  • pork

 

Foods that are high in vitamin B12 include:

  • dairy
  • eggs
  • meat
  • poultry
  • shellfish

 

 

Consider large salads as your main course for lunch and dinner, adding relatively small amounts of animal protein, if desired. You also can opt for low-glycemic foods, such as whole grain breads and pastas, which can lower the risk of AMD by stabilizing blood glucose levels.

For healthy recipes visit Eye Cook.

Driving at Night – Tips on how to drive safe

Your night vision will naturally decline as you get older. While it may not always be a problem, it can make activities such as night driving more hazardous. Unfortunately, many people don’t take this fact as seriously as they should.

Night vision can be impaired not only by the darkness, but also by the sudden glare of lights from oncoming cars, traffic signals, etc. Our eyes are forced to constantly adjust, leaving brief periods of impaired vision between adjustments.

Tips on how to drive safe at night:

  • Make sure that you see your eye doctor regularly for eye exams. (At least once every two years, more often if you have certain eye conditions).
  • Ask your eye care professional to prescribe special eyeglasses that may help you see better on the road at night. Anti-reflective coatings can cut down on glare.
  • Minimize the risks of driving at night as you get older by planning your trips before you leave home. Drive only on streets you know, and avoid dark, unlighted roadways.
  • Wear good sunglasses on bright days and take them off as soon as the sun goes down. Prolonged exposure to glare from sunlight or headlights can temporarily affect your visibility at night. It can also lead to eyestrain and drowsiness.
  • Keep your windshield clean. Sometimes dust can accumulate on the inside of your windshield that you may not notice during the day. This dust can catch the light from oncoming cars’ headlights and make it difficult for you to see.
  • Dim the lights on your dash. Bright interior lights can hinder your visibility of things outside your vehicle.
  • Do not look at oncoming headlights while driving; it can leave you blind for as much as five full seconds.
  • If you are driving through wooded areas, use your peripheral vision to watch for deer on the sides of the road. Oftentimes, you won’t see the deer themselves, but their eyes reflecting the headlights of passing cars. If you have any passengers in your vehicle, ask them to keep watch so you can focus your attention on your driving.
  • If you are over the age of 60 it is important to continually evaluate your nighttime driving skills, so that you are not endangering yourself and others.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Proper Lens Care

If you’ve ever slept in your contact lenses, worn disposable lenses past the prescribed replacement schedule, rinsed your contact lenses with tap water or gone for a dip in the community pool without removing contacts from your eyes first, it’s time to rethink your habits.

lensMost problems associated with contact lenses cause minor irritation, but serious eye infections from poor lens hygiene can be extremely painful and may lead to permanent vision loss. About 80 to 90 percent of contact lens-related eye infections are bacterial. A type of infection you can get is called pseudomonas aeruginosa, a fast-growing bacterial infection that can lead to a hole in your cornea. Unfortunately, patients who get this infection have a high chance of permanent scarring and vision loss. Beyond bacteria, fungal infections are also potential threats to your vision.

Do:

  • Always wash and thoroughly dry your hands before handling contact lenses.
  • Carefully and regularly clean contact lenses as directed by your eye care specialist. If recommended, rub the contact lenses with your fingers and rinse them thoroughly before soaking the lenses overnight in multipurpose solution that completely covers each lens.
  • Store lenses in the proper lens storage case, and replace the case at least every three months. Clean the case after each use, and keep it open and dry between cleanings.
  • Use only fresh solution to clean and store contact lenses. Never reuse old solution—it loses its effectiveness. Change your contact lens solution according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, even if you don’t use your lenses daily.
  • Always follow the recommended contact lens replacement schedule prescribed by your eye care specialist.
  • Remove contact lenses before swimming or entering a hot tub.Avoid tap water to wash or store contact lenses or lens cases.
  • See your eye care professional for your regularly scheduled contact lens and eye examination.

Don’t:

  • Use cream soaps. They can leave a film on your hands that can transfer to the lenses.
  • Use saliva to rinse or lubricate your contact lenses
  • Use homemade saline solutions. Improper use of homemade saline solutions has been linked with a potentially blinding condition among soft lens wearers.
  • Put contact lenses in your mouth or moisten them with saliva, which is full of bacteria and a potential source of infection.
  • Use tap water to wash or store contact lenses or lens cases.
  • Use products not recommended by your eye care specialist to clean and disinfect your lenses.
  • Use saline solution and rewetting drops not designed for contact lenses.
  • Sleep in contact lenses. The contact lens and your eyelid act as a double barrier, potentially trapping bacteria on the lens directly on your eyes.

Stem-Cell Clinics for AMD Treatments: Choose Wisely

People considering stem-cell therapy for eye-related issues need to take precautions in choosing clinics at which to have their procedures, warned Ocular Surgery News in January 2017. Patients should “find clinics that are licensed, associated with an academic center, have a history of running clinical trials and do not require patients to pay out of pocket.”

genetic research abstract blue background 3d illustration In a presentation to the American Society of Retina Specialists, Dr. Ajay E. Kuriyan of the University of Rochester reported that three patients who underwent bilateral intravitreal injection of stem-cells for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) suffered bilateral vision loss. The clinic at which all three procedures were performed did not have a licensed ophthalmologist on-site, and the stem-cell injections were administered by a nurse practitioner, Ocular Surgery News reported. Each patient paid $5,000 for the procedure.

Kuriyan told Ocular Surgery News that there are several warning signs for potentially dangerous clinics, including whether the facility is a standalone clinic that is not affiliated with an academic institution or has no history of conducting clinical trials. The other big warning sign, he said, is if patients are asked to pay.

“Stem-cell treatments hold great promise for the treatment of AMD and other eye conditions,” DEF Medical Director Dr. Anthony Nesburn said. “Patients — and physicians — need to take great care in choosing the right studies in which to access such treatments.”

Lauren Hauptman

How to Protect Your Eyes During Allergy Season

protect your eyes during allergy seasonIt seems like every season is allergy season. In the spring, it’s the tree and flower pollen. Summer adds grass pollen. In the fall, it’s weed pollen. People who have allergies have symptoms such as sneezing, sniffling, and nasal congestion, but allergies can affect the eyes, too. They can make your eyes red, itchy, burning, and watery, and cause swollen eyelids.

Here are 8 tips on how to get relief from Eye Allergies:

1. Get an early start. See your eye doctor before allergy season begins to learn how to reduce your sensitivity to allergens.

2. Try to avoid or limit your exposure to the primary causes of your eye allergies. In the spring and summer, pollen from trees and grasses are the usual suspects. Ragweed pollen is the biggest culprit in late summer and fall. Mold, dust mites and pet dander are common indoor allergens during winter.

3. Protect your eyes from airborne allergens outdoors by wearing wraparound-style sunglasses.

4. Don’t rub your eyes if they itch! Eye rubbing releases more histamine and makes your allergy symptoms worse.

5. Use plenty of artificial tears to wash airborne allergens from your eyes. Ask your eye doctor which brands are best for you.

6. Cut down your contact lens wear or switch to daily disposable lenses to reduce the build-up of allergens on your lenses.

7. Shower before bedtime and gently clean your eyelids to remove any pollen that could cause irritation while you sleep.

8. Consider purchasing an air purifier for your home, and purchase an allergen-trapping filter for your heating/cooling system.

If you’re curious about the current pollen count in your area, or are going on a trip and want to find out if you need to pack the eye drops, visit www.pollen.com.