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May is Healthy Vision Month!

Top 10 Tips to Save Your Vision
More than 20 million Americans suffer from severe vision loss.  While not all eye diseases can be prevented, there are simple steps that everyone can take to help their eyes remain healthy now and reduce their changes of vision loss in the future.  Here are the top 10 tips from the Missouri Society of Eye Physicians & Surgeons to safeguard your vision:

  1. Baseline eye exam - Adults with no signs or risk factors for eye disease should ge a baseline eye disease screening by age 40 - the time when early signs of disease and changes in vision may start to occur.  Based on the results of the initial screening, an ophthalmologist will prescribe the necessary intervals for follow-up exams.  Anyone with symptoms or a family history of eye disease, diabetes or high blood pressure should see an ophthalmologist to determine how frequently your eyes should be examined.
  2. Early intervention - Most serious eye conditions, such as glaucoma and AMD, are more easily and successfully treated if diagnosed and treated early.  Left untreated, these diseases can cause serious vision loss and blindness.  Early intervention now will prevent vision loss later.
  3. Know your eye care provider - When you go to get your eyes checked, there are a variety of eye care providers you might see.  Ophthalmologists, optometrists and opticians all play an important role in providing eye care services to consumers.  However, each has a different level of training and expertise.  Make sure you are seeing the right provider for your condition or treatment.  Ophthalmologists are specially trained to provide the full spectrum of eye care, from prescribing glasses and contact lenses to complex and delicate eye surgery.
  4. Know your family history - Many eye diseases cluster in families, so you should know your family's history of eye disease; it may put you at increased risk.  Age-related eye diseases, including cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration are expected to dramatically increase over the next decade - from 28 million today to 43 million by the year 2020.
  5. Wear sunglasses - UV-blocking sunglasses delay the development of cataracts, since direct sunlight hastens their formation.  Sunglasses prevent retinal damage; they also protect the eyelid skin to prevent both wrinkles and skin cancer around the eye, and both cancerous and non-cancerous growths on the eye.  The U.S. standard states that the lenses should have a UVB (280 to 315nm) transmittance of no more than 1 percent and a UVA (315 to 380nm) transmittance of no more than 0.5 times the visual light transmittance.
  6. Don't Smoke - Smoking is directly linked to many adverse health effects, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD).  Studies show that current smokers and ex-smokers are more likely to develop AMD than people who have never smoked.  Smokers are also at increased risk for developing cataracts.
  7. Eat right - Vitamin deficiency can impair retinal function.  The believe that eating carrots improves vision has some truth, but a variety of vegetables, especially leafy green ones, should be an important part of your diet.  Researchers have found people on diets with higher levels of vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin and the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPS are less likely to develop early and advanced AMD.
  8. Eye protection - An estimated 2.5 million eye injuries occur in the United States each year, so it is critical to wear proper eye protection to avoid eye injuries during sports such as hockey and baseball and projects such as home repairs, gardening and cleaning.  For most repair projects and activities around the home, standard ANSI-approved protective eyewear will be sufficient.  Sports eye protection should meet the specific requirements of that sport;  these requirements are usually established and certified by the sport's governing body and/or the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).
  9. Contact lens care - Follow your Eye M.D.'s instructions regarding the care and use of contact lenses.  Abuse, such as sleeping in contacts that are not approved for overnight wear, using saliva or water as a wetting solution, using expired solutions, and using disposable contact lenses beyond their wear can result in corneal ulcers, severe pain and even vision loss.
  10. Be aware of eye fatigue - If your eyes are tired from working at a computer or doing close work, you can follow the 20-20-20 rule:  Look up from your work every 20 minutes at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.  If eye fatigue persists, it can be a sign of several different conditions, such as dry eye, presbyopia or glasses with lenses that are not properly centered.  See an Eye M.D. to determine why you are having eye fatigue and to receive proper treatment.

Find Eye M.D.s in your area or ask an Eye M.D. a question by visiting www.GetEyeSmart.org.

 

Are you at Risk for Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)?

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of severe vision loss among Americans age 65 and over.  Knowing your risk factors, being aware of your family history and keeping regular appointments with your Eye M.D. can help reduce your risks for vision loss from macular degeneration.  In its most severe form, known as wet AMD, the disease can lead to permanent loss of central vision, which is essential for driving, reading and recognizing faces.

Here are the top five risk factors for AMD:

  • Being over the age of 60
  • Having a family history of AMD
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Obesity
  • Hypertension

If you have any two of these risk factors, you should schedule an appointment with your Eye M.D. for a complete evaluation.  Your Eye M.D. may recommend certain preventive measures that can reduce your risk of vision loss from this disorder.

People who are at risk should know the symptoms of wet AMD, the form most likely to cause rapid and serious vision loss.  These include sudden, noticeable loss or distortion of vision, such as seeing "wavy" lines.  See an Eye M.d. right away if these symptoms occur.  Current treatments for wet AMD provide an excellent chance of stopping vision loss and may actually restore some vision when macular degeneration develops.  Earlier diagnosis of wet AMD gives a better chance of successful treatment.  For more information about AMD, visit geteyesmart.org or click here.

  

Don't Let an Eye Injury Ruin Your Valentine's Day

It is no joke that hundreds of eye injuries happen every year when people are celebrating special occasions.  Often the last thing on their mind is the danger that something like a flying champagne cork can present.  This Valentine's Day, remember to be safe when opening the champagne bottle and keep love in the air, not flying champagne corks.  Watch a video on how to properly open a bottle of champagne.

In the event that an eye injury does occur, it is important to seek medical help immediately.  If you think you have injured your eye, contact your Eye M.D. or seek emergency medical help at once.

 

Vigorous Exercise May Prevent Vision Loss

Exercise may have yet another benefit - vision protection.  In a recent U.S. study, researchers found that vigorous exercise reduced the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.  The study tracked approximately 41,000 runners for more than seven years.  It suggested that people can possibly lessen their risk for these eye diseases by taking part in a vigorous fitness regimen.  On average, running 2 to 4 km (1.2 to 2.5 miles) a day reduced the risk by 19% and running more than 4 km a day reduced the risk by 42% to 54%, compared with those who ran less than 2 km a day. It seems exercise could provide similar protective benefits for the eyes as it does for the heart and other bodily systems.

A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s naturally clear lens, your eye becomes like a window that is frosted or yellowed. Cataracts are a leading cause of vision loss, especially as we age. Age-related macular degeneration reduces vision in the central part of the retina. Macular degeneration can cause sudden, severe loss of vision in the middle of your visual field. For more information on these and other eye diseases, visit http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/diseases/

 

Eat for Eye Health

The old adage that eating carrots will improve your vision is not entirely true.  It is actually vitamin A, a nutrient found in carrots, that helps protect your eyes; this is the same nutrient that is found in many other vegetables including leafy greens, spinach, broccoli and sweet potatoes.  The important thing is to make sure to include a variety of vegetables in your diet for good eye health.

Want to learn more about eye-healthy foods, including delicious recipes from celebrity chefs?  As part of its National Give the Gift of Sight campaign, EyeCare America is offering a free, colorful recipe book, called Feast Your Eyes on This!  The cookbook makes for a wonderful gift filled with eye-healthy dishes and can be printed out at www.eyecareamerica.org.

 

October - Eye Injury Prevention:  When it Comes to Your Eyes, Make it Home Safe Home

You might think that the family home is a fairly unthreatening setting.  And responses to a recent public survey commissioned by the American Academy of Ophthalmology show that people generally agree.

  • Less than half of survey respondents mentioned the home - especially the yard or garage - as the most common site of serious eye injury.
  • Only 35 percent of those surveyed always wear protective eyewear when doing home repair or projects

However, medical statistics tell a different story:  nearly half of all eye injuries each year occur in and around the home, and home-based injuries are increasing each year.  This alarming trend is why the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Ocular Trauma now recommend that every household have at least one pair of ANSI-approved protective eyewear for use during projects and activities that may present risk of injury.  (ANSI-approved protective eyewear is manufactured to meet the American National Standards Institute eye protection standard.)  Here are some common places for eye injuries to occur:

In the house:

  • Using hazardous products and chemicals such as oven cleaner and bleach for cleaning and other chores (accidents involving common household products cause 125,000 eye injuries each year).
  • Cooking foods that can splatter hot grease or oil.
  • Opening champagne bottles during a celebration.
  • Drilling or hammering screws or nails into walls or hard surfaces like brick or cement; the screws or nails can become projectiles, or fragments can come off the surface.
  • Using hot objects such as curling irons around the face; inadvertent contact with the user's eyes can cause serious injury.
  • Loose rugs and railings or other hazards that could cause falls or slips.

In the yard:

  • Mowing the lawn.
  • Using a power trimmer or edger.
  • Clipping hedges and bushes.

In the garage or workshop:

  • Using tools (power or hand).
  • Working with solvents or other chemicals.
  • Any task that can produce fragments, dust particles or other eye irritants.
  • Securing equipment or loads with bungee cords.

For more eye healthy tips, visit www.geteyesmart.org

 

Are Your Child's Eyes Ready for School?

Healthy eyes and vision are necessary for school success and an enjoyable life.  Parents naturally want to help their children learn and succeed in school and enjoy life.  Vision and eye health care key to students' ability to do well in the classroom, on the playground, in sports and when studying at home.  Since children usually don't complain about subtle problems with their eyesight or eyes, it's important that they receive vision screening and eye health check-ups with a primary care doctor, pediatrician or other qualified health professional during well child exams, when they enter school or whenever a vision or eye health problem is suspected.  If a vision or eye program is detected, your healthcare professional should refer you to an Eye M.D. (ophthalmologist).  For more information on eye health, visit:  www.geteyesmart.org

 

Early Treatment of ROP Helps Kids Achieve Their Best Possible Vision

People who care about the vision of kids born prematurely will be encouraged by the new results from the Early Treatment of Retinopathy of Prematurity Study (ETROPS).  This nationwide study followed children born prematurely through age 6.  It confirmed the effectiveness of the screening tools pediatric ophthalmologists use to identify the preemies most likely to benefit from retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) treatment.  These diagnosis and treatment methods help kids achieve their best possible vision.  ROP can damage visual development and, in the worst case, lead to blindness.  Babies born very prematurely and/or with very low birth weight are at highest risk of vision damage.  So, doctors monitor preemies' eyes carefully for signs of ROP.  Treatment provided at the right time can make a significant difference in some preemies' changes for good vision.

This study showed that babies with "type 1 eyes" (and other specific symptoms) were most likely to benefit from early ROP treatment:  at age 6 their risk of severe vision loss (20/200 or worse) was reduced and their eyes were less likely to have structural disorders.  Still, more than 65 percent of children treated early had 20/40 or worse at age 6.  The ultimate goal is to find the causes of ROP and prevent it, says lead researcher William V. Good, MD.  Learn more about ROP and ETROPS, and meet a family who benefitted from early treatment.

 

In the News:  Pink Eye

According to a recent article in U.S. News and World Report, a study conducted in mice concludes that scientists now know what part of the pink eye virus causes the eye to exude discharge and spread the disease.  As a result of this study, scientists can now work on a treatment that could make pink eye much less infections.  When scientists tested mice with pink eye, they found that the protein coat of the virus induces inflammation.  They also determined that inflammation could be blocked by a peptide containing components of the same protein coal.  This study could lead to a better treatment for pink eye, which is highly contagious and now keeps children and adults home, away from others, for up to two weeks.  Inflammation causes red, irritated eyes, blurry vision and uncomfortable discharge.  And unfortunately, there is no known effective treatment for it.  Now that scientists have figured out what causes the inflammation, there's hope that they may find a way to block it.

 

Who should I see to get my annual eye examination, an ophthalmologist or an optometrist?

An ophthalmologist is an Eye M.D., either a medical doctor or a doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.).  Eye M.D.s have finished at least four years of college, at least four years of medical school, and at least four years of additional postgraduate training after medical school.  An optometrist has had college education and then an O.D. (doctor of optometry) degree granted after four years of study in an optometry college, but an optometrist has not attended a medical school nor has he or she received postgraduate medical training.  (Be careful not to confuse the D.O. and O.D. degrees.)  If you have no visual complains and are in good general health, either an optometrist or an ophthalmologist could be a good choice.  If you have medical problems, or if you are at risk for, suspect or have been told that you have an eye disease, examination by an ophthalmologist may be a better choice.

 

How Diabetes Affects Your Eyes

Diabetes is a disease that affects the body's ability to produce and/or use insulin in amounts sufficient to control blood sugar levels.  People with any type of diabetes can develop hyperglycemia, which an excess of blood sugar, or serum glucose.  Although glucose is a vital source of energy for the body's cells, a chronic elevation of serum glucose causes damage throughout the body, including the small blood vessels in the eyes.

As a result, if you have diabetes you run the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, in which damage occurs to the delicate blood vessels inside the retina at the back of the eye.  You are also at increased risk for developing cataracts (clouding of the normally clear lens in the eye), or glaucoma (a disease that results in damage to the optic nerve).

Diabetic retinopathy, the most common diabetic eye disease, is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina.  Nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR) is the earliest stage of diabetic retinopathy.  With this condition, damaged blood vessels in the retina begin to leak extra fluid and small amounts of blood into the eye.  Sometimes, deposits of cholesterol or other fats from the blood may leak into the retina.

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) occurs when abnormal blood vessels begin to grow on the surface of the retina or optic nerve.  The new blood vessels are abnormal and do not supply the retina with normal blood flow.  The new vessels are also often accompanied by scar tissue that may cause the retina to wrinkle or detach.

November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month.  Learn more about diabetic eye disease and the EyeSmart EyeCommitted effort to encourage people with diabetes to get regular eye exams at www.geteyesmart.org/eyecommitted.


Senior Eye Safety Includes Preventing Slips and Trips

Simple steps around the home can prevent eye injuries among seniors and other household members.

The most common fear for family members when an elderly relative falls is broken bones.  But eye injuries can be just as serious and debilitating.  Home is where most eye injuries occur, and slips and falls are among the most common type of home injuries.  Slippery stairs, loose railings, or sharp edges on furniture can lead to painful falls and devastating eye injuries for seniors, as well as children and other household members.

October is Eye Injury Prevention Month and the Missouri Society of Eye Physicians & Surgeons (MoSEPS) wants to remind seniors and their caregivers to be especially aware of their home environment and take preventive steps to lessen their risk of eye injury.  "Family members are often concerned about their elderly relatives falling," said Executive Director Jill Hancock.  "The most unexpected falls can cause the worst injuries.  For the sake of your loved ones, you should take the proper precautions to help prevent dangerous and potentially blinding accidents in the home."

Approximately 2.5 eye injuries occur every year.  According to this year's Eye Injury Snapshot, an annual clinical survey of eye injuries across the U.S., of the more than 1 million eye injuries estimated to take place in and around the home, 11 percent of all eye injuries are caused by slips and falls.

Consider taking these safety steps around the home to diminish the risks of injuring your eyes:

  • Make sure that rugs and shower/bath/tub mats are slip-proof
  • Secure railings so that they are not loose
  • Cushion sharp corners and edges of furnishings and home fixtures

IN the event you do suffer an eye injury, have an ophthalmologist examine the injury as soon as possible, even if the injury seems minor at first.  Eye injuries can lead to long-term eye health problems, including the development of glaucoma and cataracts.  Additional information regarding eye injury prevention and treatment can be found at www.geteyesmart.org

 

Is it Pink Eye?

The kids have returned to school and so have eye infections.  If you or your child wakes up with itchy, red, and swollen eyes, it's possible you have an eye infection.  Conjunctivitis, more commonly known as "pink eye" irritates the thin, clear layer covering the eyeball and part of the eyelid (the conjunctive).  "Pink eye" is very common and can be quite contagious.  It is often caused by a virus or bacteria and can also be caused by allergies or environmental irritants.  Many people want to know how long pink eye is contagious.  Unfortunately, there is no certain answer.  The infectious state may last from a couple of days to more than a week.  One rule of thumb is that if there is any discharge coming from the eye, then there is a risk of transmission.

Here are some symptoms to look with conjunctivitis:

  • Inflammation of the eye
  • Increased tearing
  • Soreness of the eye
  • Foreign body sensation
  • Itchiness of the eye
  • Hazy or blurred vision due to mucous or pus
  • Excess mucous (pus)
  • Crusting of the eyelashes in the morning

Regardless of the cause, conjunctivitis should not disrupt your vision.  More serious conditions, such as damage to the cornea, very severe glaucoma or inflammation inside the eye can also cause the conjunctiva to become inflamed and pink.  If your case of "pink eye" affects your vision or you experience eye pain, you should see an ophthalmologist. 

 

Medical Myth Exposed

Wearing contacts will make astigmatism worse.

False.  Astigmatism happens when the cornea (the clear front window of the eye) curves more in one direction than in the other - like a football.  A normal cornea is round and smooth, like a basketball.  Soft contact lenses, including those made to correct astigmatism, usually do not cause any change in the astigmatism of any eye.  Rigid contact lenses may occasionally mold the cornea (the clear front window of the eye) with a resulting change (usually a reduction) in astigmatism, but this molding is not permanent, and the eye returns to its original state if contact lens wear is discontinued.  A severe change in astigmatism could signal an underlying corneal disease.  If you experience a severe change in astigmatism, you should consult an Eye M.D. for an evaluation of the corneas of your eyes.

 

Did you Know?  Why Some Eye Drops Need to be Refrigerated?

Evidence suggests that some ophthalmic medications, such as certain glaucoma medications, may degrade or breakdown if they get too warm or are kept too long at room temperature.  This is generally not a major concern, however, if the medications are used as instructed and not exposed to extremely high temperatures (like being left in a hot car).  Some individuals also prefer to refrigerate their drops so that they can more easily determine if they put the drop in the eye properly or because the drop may feel more comfortable to the eye when cool.

 

Taking Flomax May Cause Cataract Complications

A new study confirms the link between patients taking Flomax and complications when undergoing cataract surgery.  Men taking Flomax to treat an enlarged prostate face more than double the risk for serious complications should they need cataract surgery.  In this new study, 7.5 percent of the men who had taken Flomax in the two weeks before cataract surgery had a serious complication, compared with 2.7 percent of those who had not taken the drug.  That makes it a 2.3 times greater risk.  This study strengthens an existing study from 2005 about risks associated with taking Flomax before cataract surgery.  The 2005 study found that men taking Flomax or other alpha-blockers before cataract surgery had complications during and immediately after the procedure.

Flomax is often prescribed to treat an enlarged prostate, a condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH, which affects almost three of four men 70 and older.  Women are also prescribed Flomax, for urinary problems.  Anyone who is taking or has ever taken Flomax or a similar alpha-blocker should tell his or her ophthalmologist prior to cataract surgery.  If you have cataracts and know you will need cataract surgery you should consult with your prescribing physician before starting to take any alpha-blocker.  Do not discontinue taking an alpha-blocker without talking to your doctor.

 

Patients Won't Lose Sleep Over Blue-Light-Blocking Lens Implants

A new Australian study looked at whether blue-light-blocking intraocular lenses (IOLs) would disrupt sleep patterns in patients who had this type of lens implanted after cataract removal.  Blue-light-blocking IOLs are often prescribed as part of risk-reduction for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) for susceptible patients.  However, blocking blue-spectrum light had the potential to affect production of melatonin, which is important for sleep regulation.  The researchers followed 49 patients, 18 with blue-light-blocking IOLs, comparing them to the 31 patients who received conventional IOLs, at six months after surgery.  The final results showed no affect on people's sleep patterns or sleep quality in the patients with blue-light-blocking lenses.

 

Summer Safety for Children

Spring is upon us and summer is right around the corner, which means children spend more time outdoors - trips to the beach, outside sporting leagues and playing in the yard.  Research shows that children's eyes can be damaged from sun exposure, just like their skin.  This damage may put them at increased risk of developing debilitating eye diseases such as cataracts or macular degeneration as adults.  It is important to make sure your children are wearing 100 percent UV blocking sunglasses.  Whenever you are outside with children, remember to put a hat and/or sunglasses on them just as you would yourself.  Children should be taught at a young age to wear sunglasses  and hats to protect their eyes from the sun, so they will grow up with healthy sun protection habits.  Keep children out of the sun between peak times - 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. - when the sun's UV rays are the strongest.

Here are some summertime safety suggestions for children.

Make sure your kids wear sunglasses - Sunglasses for children may be purchased inexpensively.  Check for 100 percent UV protection when buying sunglasses:  Make sure your sunglasses block 100 percent of UV rays and UV-B rays.  Don't focus on the color or darkness of sunglass lenses:  Select sunglasses that block UV rays.  The ability to block UV light is not dependent on the price tag.  Look for glasses with a polycarbonate lens; children under six may need a pair with straps to keep them in place.

Wear protective eyewear when playing sports.  Tens of thousands of sports and recreation-related eye injuries occur each year.  The good news is that 90 percent of serious eye injuries are preventable through use of protective eyewear.  While helmets are required for many organized sports like baseball, protective eyewear unfortunately is not.  For all age groups, sports-related eye injuries occur most frequently in baseball, basketball and racquet sports.  Sports eye protection should meet the specific requirements of that sport; these requirements are usually established and certified by the sport's governing body and/or the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).

If sand gets in your child's eyes, no rubbing.  If a child gets sand blown or thrown into his eyes, an adult should immediately take him to a sink with running water.  You should restrain the child from rubbing his eyes, as this can irritate the thin corneal tissue and make symptoms worse.  Encourage the child to blink; also crying will help as the tears remove eye irritants.  If the child's eye still bothers him, it is important to seek medical attention from an Eye M.D.

 

Eating Healthy Prevents Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

A new study confirms the importance of eating healthy to help protect our eyes from age-related macular degeneration (AMD).  Researchers found that people whose diets have higher levels of certain nutrients -- vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA--and had high levels of low-glycemic index (low GI) foods, were less likely to develop early and advanced AMD.  Although the researchers say clinical studies are needed before physicians can begin recommending specific nutrient doses or dietary patterns to AMD patients, there's no need for people to delay adding healthy food to their shopping carts.  Sources of AMD-protective nutrients include citrus fruits, vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains, dark green leafy vegetables and cold water fish.  The GI value is based on how fast a food's carbohydrates raise the body's blood sugar levels; low GI foods have less impact on blood sugar fluctuations.<

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