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.

View Video

The Importance of An Eye Exam

Why You Need An Eye Exam

The end of the year is fast approaching – when was the last time you had an eye exam? Was it a comprehensive eye exam?
eye exam
To keep your eyes healthy and maintain your vision, the American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends a comprehensive eye exam every two years for adults ages 18 to 60, and annual exams for people age 61 and older. However, if you have a family history of eye disease (glaucoma, macular degeneration, etc.), diabetes or high blood pressure, or have had an eye injury or surgery, you should have a comprehensive exam every year, unless otherwise indicated by your doctor.
Also, adults who wear contact lenses should have annual eye exams.

An important part of the comprehensive eye exam is the dilated eye exam to look inside your eye. Drops are placed in each eye to widen the pupil and allow more light to enter the eye. This gives your doctor a clear view of important tissues at the back of the eye, including the retina, the macula, and the optic nerve. This allows for early diagnosis of sight-threatening eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, etc.

To better understand the importance of the dilated eye exam, here is a video from the National Eye Institute (NE) that explains what to expect.

At the end of your comprehensive eye exam your doctor should raise any concerns he has with you. But it is up to you to be prepared to react and ask questions for peace of mind and to help save your vision.

Questions To Ask After Your Eye Exam

It is always important to know if anything about your eyes have changed since your last visit. If the doctor says no, then the only thing you need to know is when they want to see you again.

If the doctor says the have been some minor changes, you need to know what questions to ask, such as:

  • Is my condition stable, or can I lose more sight?
  • What new symptoms should I watch out for?
  • Is there anything I can do to improve or help my vision?
  • When is the next time you want to see me?

If the doctor sees a marked change in your vision or give you a diagnosis of eye disease, you would want to ask:

  • Are there treatments for my eye disease?
  • When should I start treatment and how long will it last?
  • What are the benefits of this treatment and how successful is it?
  • What are the risks and possible side effects associated with this treatment?
  • Are there any foods, medications, or activities I should avoid while I am undergoing this treatment?
  • If I need to take medication, what should I do if I miss a dose or have a reaction?
  • Are there any other treatments available?
  • Will I need more tests necessary later?
  • How often should I schedule follow-up visits? Should I be monitored on a regular basis?
  • Am I still safe to drive?

Your vision is a terrible thing to lose, but with proper diet, exercise and no smoking, along with regularly scheduled eye exams, you improve your chances of maintaining your sight.

11/5/15

Susan DeRemerSusan DeRemer, CFRE
Vice President of Development
Discovery Eye Foundation

Common Pediatric Eye Diseases

8/21/14

In the third of this series, Buddy Russell, from the Emory University Eye Center, provides a great overview of common pediatric eye diseases.

Some Conditions Frequently Seen in Pediatrics

A basic understanding of some of the conditions that may be present in pediatric patients is important to not only know what they are but also understand well enough to explain to the parent or caregiver. The following is intended to be an overview of some of those conditions and not a complete explanation.Girl with eye chart-common pediatric eye diseases

  1. Nystagmus – Nystagmus is a vision condition in which the eyes make repetitive, uncontrolled movements, often resulting in reduced vision. These involuntary eye movements can occur from side to side, up and down, or in a circular pattern. As a result, both eyes are unable to hold steady on objects being viewed. Unusual head positions and head nodding in an attempt to compensate for the condition may accompany nystagmus. Most individuals with nystagmus can reduce the severity of their uncontrolled eye movements and improve vision by positioning their eyes to look to one side. This is called the “null point” where the least amount of nystagmus is evident. To accomplish this they may need to adopt a specific head posture to make the best use of their vision. The direction of nystagmus is defined by the direction of its quick phase (e.g. a right-beating nystagmus is characterized by a rightward-moving quick phase, and a left-beating nystagmus by a leftward-moving quick phase). The oscillations may occur in the vertical, horizontal or torsional planes, or in any combination. The resulting nystagmus is often named as a gross description of the movement, e.g. downbeat nystagmus, upbeat nystagmus, seesaw nystagmus, periodic alternating nystagmus. Having nystagmus affects both vision and self-concept. Most people with nystagmus have some sort of vision limitations because the eyes continually sweep over what they are viewing, making it impossible to obtain a clear image. If a refractive error is found, contact lenses may be the most effective way of obtaining best-corrected vision.
  2. Strabismus – Strabismus is any misalignment of the eyes. It is estimated that 4% of the U.S. population has strabismus. Strabismus is most commonly described by the direction of the eye misalignment. Common types of strabismus are esotropia (turn in), exotropia (turn out), hypotropia (turn down), and hypertropia (turn up). Eye misalignment can cause amblyopia in children. When the eyes are oriented in different directions, the brain receives two different visual images. The brain will ignore the image from the misaligned eye to avoid double vision, resulting in poor vision development of that eye. Also, an eye that sees poorly tends to be misaligned. The goal of strabismus treatment is to improve eye alignment, which allows for better work together (binocular vision). Treatment may involve eyeglasses, contact lenses, eye exercises, prism, and / or eye muscle surgery.
  3. Amblyopia – Amblyopia, sometimes called a “lazy eye,” occurs when one or both eyes do not develop normal vision during early childhood. Babies are not born with 20/20 vision in each eye but must develop it between birth and 6-9 years of age by using each eye regularly with an identical focused image falling on the retina of each eye. If this does not occur in one or both eyes, vision will not develop properly. Instead, vision will be reduced and the affected eye(s) are said to be amblyopic. This common condition, affecting up to 4% of all children, should be diagnosed and treated during infancy or early childhood to obtain optimum three-dimensional vision and to prevent permanent vision loss. What causes amblyopia?
      • Misaligned eyes (strabismus)
        Misaligned eyes are the most common cause of amblyopia. When both eyes are not aimed in exactly the same direction, the developing brain “turns off” the image from the misaligned eye to avoid double vision and the child uses only the better eye — the dominant eye. If this persists for a period even as short as a few weeks, the eye will not connect properly to the visual cortex of the brain and amblyopia will result.
      • Unequal refractive error (anisometropia)
        Unequal refractive error is an eye condition in which each eye has a different refractive error and therefore both eyes cannot be in focus at the same time. Amblyopia occurs when one eye (usually the eye with the greater refractive error) is out of focus because it is more nearsighted, farsighted or astigmatic than the other. Again, the brain “turns off” the image from the less focused eye and this eye will not develop normal vision. Because the eyes often look normal, this can be the most difficult type of amblyopia to detect and requires careful vision screening of acuity measurements at an early age. Treatment with glasses or contact lenses to correct the refractive error of both eyes, sometimes with part-time patching of the better seeing eye, is necessary in early childhood to correct the problem.
      • Obstruction of or cloudiness (deprivation)
        Obstruction of or cloudiness in the normally clear eye tissues may also lead to amblyopia. Any disorder that prevents a clear image from being focused can block the formation of a clear image on the retina and lead to the development of amblyopia in a child. This often results in the most severe form of amblyopia. Examples of disorders that can interfere with getting a clear image on the retina are a cataract or cloudy lens inside the eye, a cloudy and or irregular shaped cornea, or a droopy upper eyelid (ptosis) or eyelid tumor.It is not easy to recognize amblyopia. A child may not be aware of having one normal eye and one with reduced vision. Unless the child has a misaligned eye or other obvious external abnormality, there is often no way for parents to tell that something is wrong. In addition, it is difficult to measure vision in very young children at an age in which treatment is most effective.To treat amblyopia, a child and their caregiver must be encouraged to use the weaker eye. This is usually accomplished by patching the stronger eye. This covering of the stronger eye with an adhesive patch, an cclude contact lens or temporary surgery often proves to be a frustrating and difficult therapy. Patching will often continue for weeks, months, or even years in order to restore normal or near normal vision and maintain the improvement in the amblyopic eye. Occasionally, blurring the vision in the good eye with eye drops or lenses to force the child to use the amblyopic eye treats amblyopia. In some cases, cataract surgery or glaucoma surgery might be necessary to treat form deprivation amblyopia. Patching may be required after surgery to improve vision, and glasses or contact lenses may be required to restore appropriate focusing.Surprising results from a nationwide clinical trial in 2005 show that many children age seven through 17 with amblyopia may benefit from treatments that are more commonly used on younger children.
        Treatment improved the vision of many of the 507 older children with amblyopia studied at 49 eye centers. Previously, eye care professionals often thought that treating amblyopia in older children would be of little benefit. The study results, funded by the National Eye Institute (NEI), appear in the April issue of Archives of Ophthalmology.
  4. Congenital Cataract – A congenital cataract, or clouding of the crystalline lens is present in 2-3 per 10,000 live births of children. The presence of a visually significant cataract in a child is considered an urgent disorder. The resultant form deprivation of vision requires immediate surgery to remove the obstruction, prompt optical correction and amblyopia therapy in unilateral cases. Until the 1970s, it was generally believed that there was no means of restoring the vision in an eye with a unilateral congenital cataract. However, subsequent studies demonstrated that excellent visual results could be obtained with early surgical treatment coupled with optical correction with a contact lens and patching therapy of the fellow eye. However, treatment results continue to be poor in some infants with unilateral congenital cataracts due to a delay in treatment or poor compliance with contact lens wear or patching therapy of the fellow eye. The Infant Aphakia Treatment Study (IATS) was designed to compare the visual outcomes in children 1 to 6 months of age with a unilateral congenital cataract randomized to optical aphakic correction with contact lenses or an intraocular lens (IOL). Children randomized to IOL treatment had their residual refractive error corrected with spectacles. Children randomized to no IOL had their aphakia treated with a contact lens. In previous publications we have shown that the visual results are comparable for these two treatments at 1 year of age, but significantly more of the infants randomized to IOL implantation required additional intraocular surgeries.
  5. Accommodative Esotropia – Accommodative esotropia refers to a crossing of the eyes caused by farsightedness. Accommodative esotropia is a type of strabismus. Children who are farsighted easily and automatically focus on objects at distance and near through accommodation. As a result, a child who is farsighted usually does not have blurred vision. However, in some children who are farsighted, this accommodative effort is associated with a reflex crossing of the eyes. Accommodative esotropia can begin anywhere from 4 months to 6 years of age. The usual age of onset is between 2 and 3 years of age.Full-time use of the appropriate hyperopic glasses prescription or contact lenses will often control the esotropia. When wearing the correction, the child will not need to accommodate and hence the associated eye-crossing reflex will disappear. However, after removing the prescribed correction, the crossing will reappear, perhaps even more than before the child began wearing the correction. Sometimes the correction will only cause the crossing to disappear when the child views a distant object. However, when gazing at near objects, crossing may persist despite the use of the correction. In these circumstances, a bifocal lens is often prescribed to permit the child to have straight eyes at all viewing distances. One potential advantage of contact lenses compared to spectacles when correcting hyperopic powers is the decrease in accommodative demand. The increased effort to converge the eyes with spectacles requires one to over come the resultant base out prism when viewing a near object.

 

Buddy Russell - pediatric contact lensesBuddy Russell, FCLSA, COMT
Associate, Specialty Contact Lens Service
Emory University Eye Center

Nystagmus In Children

8/7/14

Nystagmus is a condition of uncontrolled eye movements. Patients with nystagmus are unable to maintain their eyes in a fixed position of focus. The movements can be pendular, swaying evenly side to side, or, jerk into one direction and drift toward the opposite direction. It can be present early in life or acquired as an adult. It can occur in eyes with poor vision from other anomalous development, or eyes that appear perfectly normal. In almost all patients the vision is compromised to some degree. In some patients, the eye movement is less, and the vision better, in an eccentric position that causes the patient to adopt a face turn, tilt or head posture so they can use this quieter position (“null point”) to navigate during their daily activities. To date there have been no consistently effective treatments for this condition.

Lingua and Grace - nystagmus
Dr. Lingua and Grace Nassar

Treatment efforts have been either medical (drugs to reduce the amplitude of the nytagmus movement) or surgical (to move the “null point” into straight ahead gaze to eliminate a head turn, or, directed at reducing the effective contracture of all the eye muscles to reduce the amount of movement). In general, surgical treatment of nystagmus has been disappointing.

In 2002, Dr. Robert Sinskey, noted cataract surgeon and phacoemulsification pioneer, proposed a revolutionary concept, that nystagmus could only be truly effectively controlled by removing the forward portion of the eye muscle and detach it completely from the eye. Since the twitching eye muscles were controlled by nerves sending that pulsatile information, any operation that allowed the muscles to remain attached to the eye would never quiet the movement. He performed this novel surgery in 2000 and published the results in 2002. It did not receive attention in the nystagmus surgery community, as most experts worried that the surgery would limit normal eye movements excessively. The operation does remove the forward portion of the eye muscle but, surprisingly, the eyes are still able to move to allow reading, computing, and driving.. In 2012, I had the opportunity to view a patient he operated 10 years prior and was impressed with how successful the results were even after 10 years. Coincidentaly, I was caring for a 17 year-old patient with nystagmus who had already undergone the 2 currently accepted eye muscle procedures for nystagmus without success. His movements remained uncontrolled, he could not maintain eye contact with anyone, and is his vision was less than that needed for a drivers license. In 2013, I offered him the Sinskey procedure and the results were remarkable. His nystagmus was quieted, his vision improved (20/25) enough to qualify for a drivers license and to return to school.

Since 2012, we have adapted, augmented and perfected the procedure and performed the surgery on over 12 patients with similar remarkable results. All patients experience a marked reduction in the amplitude of the nystagmus (60-100%), and all patients demonstrate improved vision (1-8 lines of the acuity chart), especially at the reading position.

Visit the YouTube posting “Meet Grace for an example of how this surgery can impact a child’s life and the hopes of their parents. Visit www.eye.uci.edu for further information, contact information and scientific data on the procedure.

Robert Lingua, MDRobert W. Lingua, MD
Director, Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus
Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, UC Irvine

Children Can Wear Contact Lenses Too

7/24/14

Several studies have shown that children as young as eight years are able to wear gas permeable,[1-3] corneal reshaping,[4-8] and soft contact lenses.[9-12] Gas permeable (hard) contact lenses were originally thought to slow the progression of nearsightedness, but two randomized clinical trials have shown that they do not slow the growth of the eye,[1, 3] so they are primarily fit on children who have difficulty handling soft contact lenses or who have highly irregular corneas (the clear window on the front of the eye) possibly from trauma or eye problems such as keratoconus. children - contact lens for childrenCorneal reshaping contact lenses are worn during sleep only. They temporarily flatten the cornea so that a nearsighted child can see clearly throughout the day with glasses or contact lenses. These contact lenses have been shown to slow eye growth in children.[4-7] Typical soft contact lenses have no effect on the progression of nearsightedness,[13] but soft bifocal contact lenses (typically worn by adults over the age of 40 who otherwise have difficulty seeing clearly at near) have been shown to slow the growth of the eye.[14-17]

Children also benefit from contact lens wear other than slowing the progression of nearsightedness. Children feel better about their athletic abilities, their appearance, and their peer interactions when they wear contact lenses than when they wear spectacles.[11] They even feel smarter if they wear contact lenses than if they wear spectacles, but only if they originally didn’t like to wear spectacles. Children also report that they prefer to participate in activities while wearing contact lenses more than while wearing spectacles, and the most-preferred vision correction is contact lens wear.

It has even been shown that most children (8-12 years of age) require only about five extra minutes to learn how to insert, remove, and care for their contact lenses when compared to teenagers (13-17 years of age). They also show similar benefits as the older group. In fact, children between the ages of 8 and 18 years of age are less likely to require discontinuation of contact lens wear due to problems encountered and also less likely due to experience irritation of the eye due to contact lens wear than college students between the ages of 19 and 25 years.[18, 19] After wearing soft contact lenses for 10 years, those fit as children (7 to 12 years of age) reported similar rates of painful red eyes that required visits to the eye doctor than those fit as teenagers (13 to 17 years of age), and those fit as children as exhibited similar eye health as those fit as teenagers.[20]

Personal experience, backed up by scientific evidence, shows that children as young as eight years can routinely wear contact lenses. When considering contact lens wear for your child, determine the primary reason you would like your child to wear contact lenses. If it is to slow the progression of nearsightedness, then corneal reshaping and soft bifocal contact lenses are the most effective methods. Unfortunately, neither of these contact lenses comes in a daily disposable modality. If your child doesn’t like to wear glasses or finds it difficult to participate in recreational activities with glasses, then daily disposable contact lenses may be best for your child. Contact lenses that are thrown away daily eliminate the need to clean and care for the lenses, reducing care of the lenses to insertion in the morning and removal at bedtime.

Some doctors believe that children should not be fit with contact lenses until they are teenagers. However, there is considerable evidence that indicates children are very capable of contact lens wear, and they experience significant benefits, visually and socially. Talk to your eye doctor about contact lens wear for your child, and if your doctor says that children should not be fit with contact lenses, consider a second opinion.

References
[1] Katz J, Schein OD, Levy B, et al. A randomized trial of rigid gas permeable contact lenses to reduce progression of children’s myopia. Am J Ophthalmol 2003;136:82-90. (Go Back)
[2] Khoo CY, Chong J, Rajan U. A 3-year study on the effect of RGP contact lenses on myopic children. Singapore Med J 1999;40:230-7. (Go Back)
[3] Walline JJ, Jones LA, Mutti DO, et al. A randomized trial of the effects of rigid contact lenses on myopia progression. Arch Ophthalmol 2004;122:1760-6. (Go Back)
[4] Cho P, Cheung SW. Retardation of Myopia in Orthokeratology (ROMIO) Study: A 2-Year Randomized Clinical Trial. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2012;53:7077-85. (Go Back)
[5] Cho P, Cheung SW, Edwards M. The longitudinal orthokeratology research in children (LORIC) in Hong Kong: a pilot study on refractive changes and myopic control. Curr Eye Res 2005;30:71-80. (Go Back)
[6] Santodomingo-Rubido J, Villa-Collar C, Gilmartin B, et al. Myopia Control with Orthokeratology Contact Lenses in Spain (MCOS): Refractive and Biometric Changes. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2012. (Go Back)
[7] Walline JJ, Jones LA, Sinnott LT. Corneal reshaping and myopia progression. Br J Ophthalmol 2009;93:1181-5. (Go Back)
[8] Walline JJ, Rah MJ, Jones LA. The Children’s Overnight Orthokeratology Investigation (COOKI) pilot study. Optom Vis Sci 2004;81:407-13. (Go Back)
[9] Rah MJ, Walline JJ, Jones-Jordan LA, et al. Vision specific quality of life of pediatric contact lens wearers. Optom Vis Sci 2010;87:560-6. (Go Back)
[10] Walline JJ, Gaume A, Jones LA, et al. Benefits of Contact Lens Wear for Children and Teens. Eye Contact Lens 2007;33:317-21. (Go Back)
[11] Walline JJ, Jones LA, Sinnott L, et al. Randomized trial of the effect of contact lens wear on self-perception in children. Optom Vis Sci 2009;86:222-32. (Go Back)
[12] Walline JJ, Long S, Zadnik K. Daily disposable contact lens wear in myopic children. Optom Vis Sci 2004;81:255-9. (Go Back)
[13] Walline JJ, Jones LA, Sinnott L, et al. A randomized trial of the effect of soft contact lenses on myopia progression in children. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2008;49:4702-6. (Go Back)
[14] Anstice NS, Phillips JR. Effect of dual-focus soft contact lens wear on axial myopia progression in children. Ophthalmology 2011;118:1152-61. (Go Back)
[15] Lam CS, Tang WC, Tse DY, et al. Defocus Incorporated Soft Contact (DISC) lens slows myopia progression in Hong Kong Chinese schoolchildren: a 2-year randomised clinical trial. Br J Ophthalmol 2014;98:40-5. (Go Back)
[16] Sankaridurg P, Holden B, Smith E, 3rd, et al. Decrease in rate of myopia progression with a contact lens designed to reduce relative peripheral hyperopia: one-year results. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2011;52:9362-7. (Go Back)
[17] Walline JJ, Greiner KL, McVey ME, et al. Multifocal contact lens myopia control. Optom Vis Sci 2013;90:1207-14. (Go Back)
[18] Wagner H, Chalmers RL, Mitchell GL, et al. Risk Factors for Interruption to Soft Contact Lens Wear in Children and Young Adults. Optom Vis Sci 2011;88:973-80. (Go Back)
[19] Wagner H, Richdale K, Mitchell GL, et al. Age, behavior, environment, and health factors in the soft contact lens risk survey. Optom Vis Sci 2014;91:252-61. (Go Back)
[20] Walline JJ, Lorenz KO, Nichols JJ. Long-term contact lens wear of children and teens. Eye Contact Lens 2013;39:283-9. (Go Back)

Jeffrey Walline - contact lenses childernJeffrey J. Walline, OD, PhD
Associate Professor
Chair, Research and Graduate Studies
The Ohio State University College of Optometry

10 Ways to Save Your Vision

More than half of the people responding to a 2012 survey from the American Optometric Association said they valued their eyesight more than their memory or ability to walk. In honor of Save Your Vision Month, here are some everyday things you can control to help “save your vision.”

© Tammy Mcallister - save your vision
© Tammy Mcallister | Dreamstime Stock Photos

 1. Enjoy a cup of tea – Green tea contains antioxidants, like vitamins C and E, lutein, and zeaxanthin that help protect against AMD and cataracts.  It is it hydrating, helping you produce tears.

 2. Take time to blink – On an average you blink about 15 – 20 times a minute. However, that rate drops by half when viewing text on a screen. Try using the 20/20/20 rule when staring at a screen: Every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds so you can blink naturally and give your eyes time to relax.

 3. Wear sunglasses and a hat – Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays can deteriorate vision over time, leading to cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The American Optometric Association recommends sunglasses that block at least 99 percent of UVA and UVB radiation and that screen out 75 – 90% of visible light. And if you plan to spend a lot of time outdoors, it’s a good idea to get sunglasses with lenses that are polarized, which means that they’ve been treated to reduce glare.  Since the sun doesn’t just affect your eyes from the front, try wearing a large brimmed hat to further protect your eyes.

4. Increase the seafood in your diet – Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to bolster heart and brain health, as well as decrease your risk of eye disease. According to a study published in the 2011 Archives of Ophthalmology, women who ate canned tuna and dark-fish meat (mackerel, salmon, sardines, bluefish, swordfish) just once a week reduced their risk for AMD by 42%, as opposed to people that ate the same fish less than once a month.

 5. Eat a rainbow – Eating a full rainbow of fruits and vegetables regularly helps give your body the nutrients it needs.  In addition to fiber, vitamins and minerals, naturally colored foods contain what are known as phytochemicals, which are disease-fighting substances that also give fruits and vegetable their array of colors.  Star nutrients are lutein and zeaxanthin—pigments found in such foods as dark, leafy greens, broccoli, zucchini, peas, and Brussels sprouts. Also important are antioxidants found in red foods such as strawberries, cherries, red peppers and raspberries,  Orange foods have beta-carotene and include carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes and yams.

6. Use digital screens at a safe distance – The brightness and glare from computers, tablets, smartphones and televisions can lead to eyestrain after prolonged use. Recent studies have also shown ill-effects from the UV rays from these devices.  Symptoms can include headaches, blurred vision, dry or red eyes and difficulty refocusing. Experts recommend keeping the computer screen at least an arm’s length away and that you hold a handheld device at least 16 inches from your eyes.

 7. Contact lens solutions serve a purpose – While approximately 85% of contact lens wearers claim that they’re caring for their lenses properly, only 2% are according to a study out of Texas. The most harmful but common problem is moistening contacts with saliva instead of saline solution.

 8. Make-up makeover – Replace tubes of mascara after three months, as it is a breeding ground for bacteria. Sharpen liner pencils regularly and while it is okay to line the base of your lashes, using the liner inside the lash line can block oil glands. Replace eye shadows yearly and don’t share your eye cosmetics.

 9. Use protective goggles –   According to a 2008 study from the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Ocular Trauma, of the 2.5 million eye injuries in the US annually, nearly half happen at home.  Sports activities are another cause of eye injuries, from contact sports to sports that use balls that could catch you unaware.  When snowboarding or skiing remember to protect your eyes from the sun and wind with tinted goggles that have UV protection.

 10. Have a yearly eye exam – Even if you don’t wear corrective lenses, adults should get a comprehensive eye exam (which includes dilating your pupils with drops) by age 40. After that a yearly eye exam is recommended to keep your eyes healthy and catch any changes in your eyes that may be indicators of eye disease.  If you have a family history of glaucoma or age-related macular degeneration, or you have diabetes, you are at a higher risk for vision-related issues and your doctor may elect to see you more often.  If you have symptoms such as persistent pain inside or behind your eyes, redness, or gradual loss of vision, make an appointment with your doctor immediately.

Susan DeRemerSusan DeRemer, CFRE
VP of Development
Discovery Eye Foundation