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.

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

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Eugene Feygin
Program Manager at Quill.com

Eat A Rainbow

4/8/14

When planning what to eat, think of a rainbow.  Eating brightly colored fruits and vegetables helps to give your body the nutrients it needs.  These same nutrients are the disease-fighting components that give fruits and vegetables their array of colors.

by Sarah DeRemer - rainbow
by Sarah DeRemer

Eating a variety of colors can help –

  • Strengthen your immune system
  • Lower risk for certain cancers
  • Help ward off type 2 diabetes
  • Maintain heart heath
  • Improve memory
  • Reduce the risk for some eye diseases

 

 

Red

The pigments that make some foods red are known as anthocyanins and lycopene.  These are the compounds that fight free radicals and prevent oxidative damage to cells, important to preserving eye health, keeping our hearts healthy and helping to fight cancers. Heat concentrates lycopene levels so cooked tomatoes and tomatoe sauces have higher concentrations than raw fruit.

Add red to your meals by tossing a handful of raspberries, strawberries, goji berries or pomegranate seeds into your cereal, slicing roasted beets or red bell pepper into a salad, or adding cooked red adzuki or kidney beans to a rice dish.

Here are examples of red fruits and vegetables:

  • Red apples
  • Adzuki beans
  • Beets
  • Red cabbage
  • Cherries
  • Cranberries
  • Goji berries
  • Pink grapefruit
  • Red grapes

  • Red peppers
  • Pomegranates
  • Red potatoes
  • Radishes
  • Raspberries
  • Rhubarb
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon

For a recipe filled with lycopene, try a zesty Orange and Tomato Salsa, one of three salsa crudas using brightly colored fruits.

Orange & Yellow

Orange fruits and vegetables contain beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant that promotes eye health, can delay cognitive aging and protect the skin from sun damage.  Beta-carotene also converts to vitamin A, which is important for night vision and the health of your immune system.  Orange foods also contain vitamin C, another antioxidant that boost the immune system, but also protects against cardiovascular disease.  Yellow fruits and vegetables contain lutein, another nutrient important for healthy vision.

Some of the sources you can enjoy include:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Pumpkin
  • Apricots
  • Cantaloupes
  • Summer squash
  • Citrus fruit

  • Papayas
  • Peaches and nectarines
  • Sweet corn
  • Yellow peppers
  • Mangoes
  • Pineapple
  • Yellow tomatoes

To incorporate more orange/yellow foods into your diet, replace French fries with crisp, baked sweet potato slices, keep dried apricots, pineapple or mangoes handy for a ready-to-eat snack or add sweet potatoes to black beans or chili for a color and texture boost.

To get your day off to a great start, try an Apricot-Orange Breakfast Smoothie.

Green

Green fruits and vegetables are colored by natural plant pigment called “chlorophyll” and are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin,  pigments that may help your eyes filter damaging light rays, thus protecting against macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss in people over 65. Green fruits and vegetables are also a good source of vitamins C & K, fiber, folate and magnesium which contain anti-cancer properties as well as helping promote strong bones and teeth.

Some examples of the green group include:

  • Green apples
  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Avocados
  • Green beans
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Green cabbage
  • Cucumbers
  • Green grapes
  • Celery

  • Green Pepper
  • Honeydew melon
  • Kiwi
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Limes
  • Green onions
  • Peas
  • Green pepper
  • Spinach
  • Zucchini

A delicious way to eat your greens is a Summer-time Asparagus, Strawberry and Spinach Salad.

Blue & Purple

Blue and purple fruits and vegetables are rich anthocyanins, lutein, zeaxanthin, resveratrol and vitamin C.  These nutrents help protect cells and heal your body. Research suggests they play active roles in promoting eye and heart health, preventing premature aging, reducing inflammation, decreasing cancer cell growth and improving memory.

Foods such as blueberries, figs, eggplants, plums and grapes get their gorgeous hue from the phytochemical anthocyanin (also found in red foods). Anthocyanins act as powerful antioxidants that protect cells from damage and may help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer. Studies have even shown that eating more blueberries is linked with improved memory function and healthy aging.

Be sure to help yourself to plenty of blue/purple foods, such as

  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Eggplant
  • Figs
  • Juneberries
  • Plums

  • Prunes
  • Purple grapes
  • Raisins
  • Purple cabbage
  • Bilberries
  • Acai berries

Here is another easy yet eye-healthy dish from our Eye Cook webpage, Eggplant and Tomato Pasta .

White

White fruits and vegetables are colored by pigments called anthoxanthins, which may help lower cholesterol and blood pressure.  Onions also have the flavonoid quercetin, known for its anti-inflammatory properties and cardiovascular health benefits.   As we know, being heart-healthy is also being eye-healthy.

Some members of the white group, such as bananas and potatoes, are also a good source of potassium, while the hard-shelled coconut is considered a “superfood” because its natural water is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes, while the raw coconut meat (flesh), which is found around the inside of a coconut shell contains high levels of lauric acid, for helping reduce cholesterol and promoting brain health.
Some examples of the white group include:

  • Bananas
  • Cauliflower
  • Coconut
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Jicama
  • Mushrooms

  • Onions
  • Parsnips
  • Pears
  • Potatoes
  • Radishes
  • Shallots
  • Turnips

This recipe for Dark Chocolate Fondue, not only has cream of coconut, but is wonderful when dipping bananas!

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