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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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.

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.

Issues That Could Affect Your Child’s Vision

boy-with-glassesVision loss is feared more than the loss of any other sense and is considered to affect the quality of life more than most other issues. When it comes to children, even partial vision loss can be damaging because it can affect the way that your child learns and develops. There are several different types of issues that may affect your child’s vision. Awareness is key to prevention and treatment.

Refractive Errors

Refractive errors such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism are the most common types of issues that affect children’s vision. Since children are working to constantly adapt to their surroundings, they may not realize that they have a vision problem and the issue may manifest as an inability to focus, chronic headaches, or poor eye-hand coordination. In most cases, these issues can be corrected with glasses or contacts, but extreme cases may require surgery.

Alignment Disorders

Alignment disorders are generally more obvious than other types of issues. One eye may drift to the side, an eyelid may droop, or the surface of an eye may appear cloudy, affecting the vision. In some cases, however, the condition may be intermittent, so it is important to continually look for these symptoms and alert an eye doctor to any concerns. Alignment disorders may be corrected with surgery, an eye patch, eye drops, or a combination depending on the cause.

Pediatric Retinoblastoma

Pediatric retinoblastoma is a type of kid’s eye cancer that usually affects children under six years of age. About 95 percent of children diagnosed in the US are able to be treated successfully and a majority of these children retain most or all of their sight. The prognosis for retinoblastoma improves greatly with early diagnosis and treatment. One of the most common warning signs that you can look for is a white glare on the pupil when it is directly exposed to light.

Diseases and Infections

Diseases and infections such as conjunctivitis, styes, and blocked tear ducts are usually minor problems that are easily resolved. However, these issues may develop into larger problems that affect the vision if care is not taken. Conjunctivitis may resolve on its own depending on the cause, but the child should be kept away from others during the healing process to avoid infecting others or being exposed to other contaminants while the eye is sensitive.

Blocked tear ducts may be opened up using massage techniques recommended by a pediatrician or ophthalalmogist. Allowing the eyes to dry out may be dangerous for the vision, so drops may be needed to keep the eye moist while the tear ducts are blocked. Styes are caused by an infection in the eyelash follicle, so it is important to keep the area clean so that the infection can clear without causing damage.

By working to spot potential issues, you can help to preserve your child’s eye health and vision.

 

amanda-duffyAmanda Duffy
Freelance blogger

How to Lessen Computer Vision Syndrome

Your eyes are your window to the world – but your eyes get a lot of extra strain thanks to the advent of new technology. Especially at work, we’re looking at screens of all different sizes and types all the time. And what happens to our eyes can be more than just a case of tired muscles; in fact, it’s got a name – computer vision syndrome.

The cause of that is obvious – lots of screens, as we said, and often multiple screens. In addition to computer vision syndrome, sufferers can feel headaches and eye fatigue among other symptoms. Luckily there are steps you can take to reduce or mitigate the chance of eye strain. Setting up a work station properly can help, as can anti-glare screens or placement of technology in relationship to sources of natural light.

If you’re focused on the health of your eyes, this graphic is an absolute must-read.

How to Protect Your Eyes in the Digital Age

thumbnail_eugene
Eugene Feygin
Program Manager at Quill.com

How Your Eyes May Have Evolved

Lens manufacturer and eyewear giant Essilor has produced the short video below to explain the complexity behind the human eye and how your eye may have evolved. Explore the components that make-up a human eye, from light sensitive stigma used by single-celled organisms to the lens you’re using to read this article. They have also written an article about the “Top Modern Eye Dangers and How to Prevent Them” to help you take care of your remarkable eyes.


essEssilor UK

There Is Something In Your Eye – Now What?

It is never planned. You could be putting on makeup, gardening, or even just running errands on a windy day, but all of a sudden you have something in your eye and it hurts. What do you do?
something in your eye

Small Foreign Objects

First and foremost – DON’T RUB your eye!! This could scratch your cornea and make things much worse.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  •  

  • In a well-lighted area, look in a mirror to try and find the object in your eye.
  •  

  • If you wear contacts, remove them before trying to remove the object or flushing your eye.
  •  

  • Try blinking and letting your natural tearing flush out the object.
  •  

  • If the object is on the colored part of the eye or under the upper lid you can try to flush it out gently with clean cool or lukewarm water in one of three ways:
     

    1. Completely fill an eyecup or small juice glass with water and put your open eye into the container to flush out the object. Do this standing over a sink as the water will overflow.
    2.  

    3. Use a clean eyedropper and fill with water. Be careful to not touch the tip of the eyedropper to the eye.
    4.  

    5. Turn your head so your eye is down and to the side, then hold your open eye under a faucet.

     

  • If the object is in the corner or on the white part of the eye you can try flushing the eye using one of the methods listed above or a using wet cotton swab or twisted piece of tissue to lightly touch the foreign object. Make sure to not apply pressure to the eye.
  •  

  • If it is under the lower lid you can use any of the methods above by gently pulling down on your lower lid to access the object, but be careful to not push the object further down.
  •  

  • A scratchy feeling of slight discomfort may continue for a short time after removing a small object. I discomfort continues after 24-48 hours, your eye becomes red or your vision becomes blurred, immediately seek medical attention.
  •  

  • Never use tweezers, toothpicks or other hard objects to remove an object as these could damage your eye.

Never try to remove a piece of metal, anything that has punctured your eye or an object that will not come out after flushing with water. Cover both eyes to help prevent eye movement and there is no pressure on the eyes. Have a friend drive you to eye doctor immediately.

Chemicals

Do not touch your eye, but IMMEDIATELY flush your eye with clean running water from a faucet.

  • Flush your eye for a minimum of 15 minutes holding your eye open and at an angle so the runoff water does not run into the other eye. If both eyes are affected or the chemicals are on other parts of the face or body, you need to do the flushing in a shower.
  •  

  • If you wear contact lenses, leave them in and start flushing immediately. If they do not fall out from the flushing process you can try to remove them. Then repeat the entire flushing process.
  •  

  • Seek medical attention immediately upon completing the flushing process, regardless of how your eyes feel.

Prevention

The best way to protect yourself from getting anything into your eyes is to protect them.

  • Never use chemicals without wearing goggles that completely surround and protect the eyes.
  •  

  • Wear specially designed goggles when swimming.
  •  

  • Wear goggles when participating in sports where you could get hit with any flying object like a ball or bat. Also in any sport where you could get an opponent’s elbow or hand in your eye.
  •  

  • Wear protective eyewear when using power tools or striking tools like hammers.
  •  

  • When you are cycling, in dusty areas or it is windy, also protect your eyes with sunglasses or other protective eyewear.

 
Susan DeRemer

Susan DeRemer, CFRE
Discovery Eye Foundation

Can You Get Sunburned Eyes?

You know to slather on lots of sunblock before going out in the sun, and to keep applying it throughout the day. What about your eyes? Do you always wear a brimmed hat and sunglasses? Even on cloudy days? Can your eyes get sunburned?

The short answer is yes, you can get sunburned eyes, and just like you skin, it could come back and haunt you in the future.
 

eyes get sunburned
photo courtesy of Sarah DeRemer

Severely sunburned eyes, known as photokeratitis, is a result of prolonged exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays and can cause a burning sensation and blurred vision. Realize that these damaging UV rays do not just come directly from the sun, but also from the reflection of these rays from water and sand.

Symptoms of sunburned eyes include:

  • Eye pain
  • A  gritty feeling
  • Burning sensation
  • Red eyes
  • Swollen eyes and/or lids
  • Watery eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Glare and halos around lights
  • Headaches

These symptoms are temporary and should resolve on their own within 24 to 48 hours. If the symptoms last longer, see your eye doctor immediately.

While waiting for your eyes to recover you might want to:

  • Stay indoors and wear sunglasses to help with your increased light sensitivity.
  • Keep your eyes moist with preservative-free artificial tears.
  • Use OTC pain relievers to help with the pain and follow the recommended dosage.
  • DO NOT rub your eyes.
  • If you wear contact lenses, remove them immediately and stop wearing them until your eyes have returned to normal.
  • You may find that placing a cool, damp cloth over your closed eyes is soothing.

Just like with your skin, the UV rays do have a long-term effect on your eyes.  Sunlight can cause a slow deterioration of the cells in your eyes that could lead to eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Therefore it is best to limit you exposure to both direct and reflected UV rays.

The best ways to protect your eyes include wearing sunglasses that block 100% of the UV rays and a hat.  Not all sunglasses have UV protection, so make sure the ones you select do, and wear them whenever outdoors. Even on a cloudy day as UV rays penetrate clouds. For maximum protection consider wrap-around glasses to protect you from direct and indirect sunlight.  If you are participating in sports, goggles or glasses designed for your specific sport might be the best option. And don’t forget to wear a brimmed hat. It will not only protect you from indirect sunlight, it will also protect your face from sunburn.

Susan DeRemer

Susan DeRemer, CFRE
Discovery Eye Foundation

Double Vision and Cataracts

Double Vision and Cataracts

Double vision, like all sudden vision irregularities is definitely something to take seriously, especially if you’ve had no history of it in the past. Even if it’s a temporary thing, it’s still something you should talk to your eye doctor about, just in case. double vision and cataracts

Known to the medical community as diplopia, double vision is when a person sees two images of an object where there should only be one, either some of the time or all of the time. The second image can be horizontally, vertically, or diagonally placed to the original, depending upon the cause of the doubled images.

Normal vision, called single binocular vision, works by having each eye produce its own image. Your brain allows your eyes to work together, so you can focus on a single area, then reconciles the two slightly images together, giving you clear sight.

Eye muscles that don’t work as well as they should, or nerves connected to the eye not functioning properly can very well result in double vision.

There are three basic types: physiological, binocular, and monocular.

+ Physiological double vision affects images in the background – things you are not currently focusing upon. This type of double vision can even be something the patient doesn’t notice, because the brain can compensate for it. Children are the most likely to complain about this kind of double vision.

+ Binocular double vision are cases where double vision occurs in both eyes, because they are not working together as they should. If you can cover one eye to get rid of the double vision, it’s binocular double vision.

+ Monocular double vision, in which only the images from one eye is doubled sometimes produces an effect known as ghosting, where the doubled-images appear to be very close together. If you cover the unaffected eye, you’ll still experience double vision. This is often an early sign of a cataract – a cloudy part in the lens of the eye. The light coming into your eyes can be scattered by the cataract, causing double vision in that eye. According to Prevent Blindness America (PBA), cataracts are the biggest cause of blindness in the world, and the most common reason people over 40 lose their vision. In the United States alone, more than 22 million people over the age of 40 are affected by cataracts. The number is expected to grow to more than 30 million by 2020 as the population ages.

Signs of a Cataract

Cataracts begin small, and unless you just happen to get a comprehensive eye exam just as it develops, it will be unnoticeable. As it grows, your vision may blur just a little, or become somewhat cloudy. In some cases, a cataract will cause lights to flare and seem too bright to your eyes. Colors may look faded. Sometimes, they can even briefly improve your vision. Eventually, however, you’ll notice a loss of vision quality that will necessitate a visit to your eye doctor – like double vision.

No one is sure why cataracts develop, which is one reason it’s so important to get a comprehensive eye exam at least once a year, especially if you happen to be over 40 years old. Age is one of the most common risk factors for cataracts, but other risks include family history, previous eye injuries or surgeries, use of corticosteroid medication, smoking, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and ultraviolet radiation, just to name some.

Cataract Treatment

Medical science has been rapidly advancing over the past few decades, including the fields involving the eye. Where a cataract was once sure to cause blindness in one or both eyes, if caught early enough, they can be removed by surgery in a fairly simple procedure. At first, the effects of cataracts can even be temporarily corrected with new glasses or the right lighting, but eventually it will grow to the point where surgery should be seriously considered.

Today’s methods of cataract surgery are highly successful. Statistics from PBA state more than 3 million Americans go through cataract surgery every year, with 9 out of 10 having their vision fully restored afterwards.

The standard procedure is for the surgeon to remove the clouded lens in your eye and replace it with a clear plastic device called an intraocular lens (IOL). These IOLs are constantly being improved, so surgeons can insert them more easily, and they are more useful to the patient receiving them. In fact, even specialized IOLs are being developed. Some might block ultraviolet light to prevent retinal damage, while others may very well correct your vision so you no longer need glasses if you needed them before.

If you find the sight in one of your eyes is showing double images, it may be a cataract, but fortunately, the state of optical surgery is so well-developed today, you can have a cataract removed in the course of an afternoon, and have clearer vision for decades to come.

5/26/16

Laura O'Donnell thumbLaura O’Donnell
EyeCare 20/20