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Being Thankful for Your Sight and Keeping it Healthy

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The Holidays are a time to be grateful for all the privileges and blessings we have. It is a time to celebrate family and gather with our extended family members and friends. It is an opportunity to reflect on the freedoms we enjoy as Americans. But how often are we conscious of how privileged we are to be healthy? We should give thanks daily, and not just once a year, for the ability to see. Of all our senses, most of us probably value our sight the most. After all, what would Thanksgiving be without the ability to see the faces of those we love?

We should never take clear vision for granted, and the way to keep seeing clearly is to schedule regular eye exams. At least 75 percent of disease-related vision loss could be prevented with proper treatment, so that is reason enough to stay up-to-date with vision screenings. Many eye disorders such as cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy are preventable and treatable but they can cause blindness if they go undiagnosed. What many people do not understand is that the progression of degenerative eye disease is so gradual that you may not notice any effects for quite some time. By the time you notice that your vision is not as clear, you may have already lost some of your sight and that damage is irreversible.

Besides getting eye examinations, there are some precautions that you can take every day to prolong your vision. Sunglasses will help prevent exposure to UV rays that can cause eye damage and cataracts. If you are a smoker, get help to quit smoking. Cigarettes can increase your risk for degenerative eye disease as well as cancer.

This holiday, be thankful for the gift of sight by being proactive about your vision. Do your part by protecting your eyes in the sun, and put aside the cigarettes. Get your eyes examined at least every two years and let your eye doctor know if you have any vision changes. And take time to enjoy the sights around you this holiday. Put the “thanks” in Thanksgiving this year by caring for your vision!

For more information on your sight and keeping it healthy, please visit YourSightMatters.com.

Do Carrots Improve Eyesight?

Fresh carrots bunch on rustic wooden background.

Parents will tell their kids anything to bring about a desired result. Take eating vegetables, for example. Parents will tell their kids that spinach will make you big and strong or that broccoli makes you smarter. Mom and dad may call it “motivation,” while the children may view it more as “manipulation.” Maybe the ends justify the means, but when the kids grow up they probably question, “Why am I not as strong as Popeye when I ate a whole lot more spinach than he did?”

The presentation of carrots on a dinner plate is often prefaced by the adage, “Eat all your carrots and you will always have good eyesight!” Is there any truth to this statement, or is it a bunch of baloney? Actually, since the Middle Ages, carrots have been heralded as miracle vegetables and were thought to cure anything from snakebites to STDs. These orange root vegetables were not associated with strong eyesight until centuries later during World War II. The British Royal Air Force wove a fabricated tale about skilled fighter pilot John “Cats’ Eyes” Cunningham, saying that he attributed his excellent night vision to a steady diet of carrots. Soon, it was mandated that everyone should eat carrots so they could see better during the mandatory blackouts, but this was mere propaganda. The Royal Air Force was actually utilizing radar to locate German bombers before they reached the English Channel (Source: How Stuff Works).

Before we dub the carrot a phony when it comes to improving eyesight, let’s examine its merits. Although it cannot restore vision loss or make any structural changes to the eye, the carrot is beneficial for overall vision health.

Vitamin A

Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, a carotenoid pigment which is an essential precursor for vitamin A. Deficiencies in vitamin A are the leading causes of blindness in the developing world. Lack of vitamin A can also lead to:

  • Cataracts
  • Macular degeneration
  • Xerophthalmia (a disease which is characterized by dry eyes, swollen eyelids and corneal ulcers)
  • Lutein

Carrots contain lutein, an important antioxidant. Lutein-rich foods are known to increase the density of pigment in the macula, the yellow-shaped oval area in the center of the retina. As pigment density increases, the retina is protected more and the risk for macular degeneration decreases.

In summary, the carrot provides many benefits for healthy vision, but eating carrots every day will not restore vision to 20/20. Optical deformities like astigmatism, conditions like strabismus and diseases like glaucoma cannot be corrected by eating Bugs Bunny’s food of choice. Corrective lenses and eye procedures would still be necessary even if every American ate a steady diet of carrots. Because carrots are rich in vitamin A and lutein, they are always a good choice for a nutrient-packed snack. So keep packing those carrot sticks in the school lunches, mom. But don’t expect X-ray vision from little Tommy. He will still need to wear his glasses every day!

For more information on carrots and eyesight, please visit YourSightMatters.com.

How a 23-Year-Old Went Blind In One Eye After Wearing Cheap Halloween Contacts

Male eye with dark eyeshadow makeup black eyebrow and orange colored decorative contact lens with serious look closeup

Meet Julian Hamlin, a 23-year-old from Florence, South Carolina, who went blind in his left eye after wearing color contacts he bought at a gas station.

Hamlin, who currently works as an administrative assistant and a receptionist, says he bought the pair for $15 without a prescription back in 2010. Local gas stations and beauty stores sold these cheap color contacts, and many teens in his area would buy them, he told BuzzFeed Life in an interview. Hamlin wore the lenses almost every day and took proper precautions to disinfect and replace them each month. “There were no warnings or instructions about the risks,” he says.

After wearing the same brand of contact lenses for about two years, he woke up in March 2012 with a severe infection.

“It was so out the blue. … I just woke up and my eye felt weird, so I went to the doctor, but he thought it was pinkeye,” says Hamlin. Three days later, he was in the hospital with blindness in his left eye due to a severe corneal ulcer (a sore in the lining of the eye due to an infection). Hamlin later developed glaucoma from increased eye pressure, which would require a permanent stent (pictured above, right) to help drain fluid from his eye.

“It’s been a long, painful journey,” Hamlin says of the 15 surgeries, including seven corneal transplants, he has needed since 2012.

In a two-year span, Hamlin says, his medical expenses have topped $250,000, although there has been little improvement in his vision. “My left eye is completely blurry; it’s been a big transition,” says Hamlin, who has also suffered unemployment and emotional pain due to his injuries. “I’ve had to miss so many days of work, and I can’t lift anything over 25 pounds because it increases the pressure in my eyes, so I’m limited in my jobs,” he says.

Hamlin is often required to wear an eye patch or sunglasses because of the increased sensitivity in his eyes. “It’s very hard to wear an eyepatch in public. … It took my family three months to get me out of the house, because people can be so cruel and disrespectful about it,” says Hamlin.

“Please do not wear these on Halloween — it might be more difficult and expensive to get a prescription, but a $10 pair isn’t worth the risk and pain,” Hamlin says.

Hamlin is currently trying to control his glaucoma and make sure he is healthy so his most recent corneal transplant takes well. His hope is to recover enough minimal vision in his left eye so that he can be fitted for corrective glasses which can help balance his sight as best possible.

It’s actually illegal to sell contact lenses — even novelty ones — without a prescription in the U.S., since they’re considered medical devices.

“There is no difference between corrective and costume lenses — they all need to be fitted to your eye by a qualified eye care professional who can write a prescription,” Thomas Steinemann, M.D., clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and professor of ophthalmology at Case Western Reserve, tells BuzzFeed Life. If contact lenses don’t fit the shape of the eye properly, Steinemann says, they can cause discomfort, pain, and scratching.

Plus, most cheap novelty contacts you see in stores aren’t actually FDA-approved.

“Many of these illegal lenses are cheaply made overseas from older materials and they are not FDA-approved for sale in the United States,” Steinemann says. Researchers have found increased levels of chlorine in costume contacts, which can be very dangerous for the eyes. Additionally, Steinemann says, the toxic dyes and paints used to tint contact lenses can leak out into the eye if it’s a poorer-quality lens.

Cheap lenses are also more likely trap germs and cause scratching, which can lead to blinding infections.

Studies have shown these lenses don’t allow as much oxygen through for the eye to breathe properly, which is very important for corneal health, Steinemann says.

“The pigment in the lens makes the surface rougher so it’s much easier for bacteria, fungi, and amoebas to bind and cause a blinding infection,” he says. Likewise, the rough surface can cause abrasions, especially if the lens isn’t fitted to your eye, and once part of the cornea is lost, this can very easily cause permanent damage.

So if you do plan on wearing costume contacts this Halloween, the American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests the following safety guidelines:

• Only buy decorative contact lenses from retailers who require a prescription and sell FDA-approved products.
• Get a valid prescription from a doctor. Even those with perfect vision need to get examined and fitted for the right size contacts by an eye health professional.
• Redness, swelling, excessive discharge, pain, or discomfort can signal eye infection. If you have any these symptoms, see your doctor immediately.

And no matter what, you should always treat your contact lenses with extra care.

“No matter what, you need to be responsible enough to wear contact lenses,” Steinemann says. This means having excellent hygiene when handling your lenses, making sure to clean and disinfect everything properly, and following the replacement instructions perfectly, Steinemann says.

“You want to have a fun Halloween, not end up in the ER and possibly blinded for life.”

To see pictures of Hamlin and his infected eye, please visit Buzzfeed.com.

Breast Cancer Can Have an Affect On the Eyes

optometry concept - pretty young woman having her eyes examined

October is breast cancer awareness month and ocular health can show signs of metastasis.

Most people are not aware that breast cancer can cause health changes in the eyes. The most common place in the body for breast cancer to spread (beyond the lymph tissue in the breast area) is to the eyes. In men, lung cancer is more likely to spread to the eyes. These tumors that develop in the eyes, in the choroid (choroidal metastasis) are not detected until you have a dilated eye examination, because they cause no symptoms to your vision, or no pain to your eye. The choroid is a vascular layer in the retina that supplies the eye with a large portion of blood. Once a tumor grows so big, it will eventually affect vision, but by then, it is too late in the course of the condition to have a positive outcome.

Both men and women (men can have breast cancer, although more rare), should obtain an eye exam if they have been recently diagnosed with breast cancer. The reason, is to ensure, that metastasis to the choroid has not taken place yet.

If it has, an ocular oncologist will be added to the team of professionals in treating your cancer. While undergoing treatment for breast cancer, you can experience many ocular side effects from the medications that are taken. The eye problems you may encounter are red, itchy or burning eyes, constant watering or watery eyes, pink eyes or inflammation of the white part, blurry vision, double vision, floaters or dark spots in vision, and eye pain.

The list of chemotherapy, radiation drugs, and hormone therapy medications that cause ocular side effects is long. Many of which haven’t been on the market long enough to know or identify ocular side effects. Historically, tamoxifen has a reputation of causing retinal changes at the macula. Its use has been declining because there are newer medications that have fewer side effects, but patients who are in remission are placed on the drug anywhere from 2-10 years.

A few things you can do if you are taking medication to treat breast cancer to improve your ocular symptoms are:

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Don’t rub or touch your eyes unless you are cleaning your eye area.
  • Discontinue contact lens use til the treatment is over.
  • Supplement your tears with over the counter artificial tears up to 6x daily. Using these artificial tears once a day just isn’t enough to provide relief.
  • See your eye doctor quickly if you notice any changes to your vision while you are undergoing treatment.

Schedule your eye appointment with your eye doctor to review in office imaging of your retina to monitor any retinal changes, OCT imaging is available to document any macular problems. Also, your doctor can discuss other dry eye treatments available.

For more information about breast cancer and your eyes, please visit MorningJournal.com.

Child’s Eye Exam 101: How Often Should I Get My Child’s Eyes Checked?

female pediatrician in white lab coat examined little girl

25 percent of school-age children have vision problems, and only about one third of all American children have an eye exam before entering school, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA).

A child with uncorrected eye problems may have trouble seeing the board in class, seeing friends and family’s faces clearly, and participating in sports. Regular eye exams ensure that eye or vision problems are found and treated early.
“The human visual system goes through significant development after birth,” says Barry Kay, O.D. “The six muscles that control each eye have to learn to work together, move smoothly and accurately and turn in at the exact point to allow us to see up close. In addition the eyes have to learn to focus properly and see fine details.”

Dr. Kay says that the most of this development occurs before a child turns seven, so starting eye exams early is important.

If a child is squinting, holding things close to his or her face, or if a child’s eye is turning in or out independently of the other, Dr. Kay says that the child should have an eye exam. Ophthalmologists, pediatric ophthalmologists and optometrists can all perform eye exams.

Even if a child’s eyes and vision appear fine, parents should still make sure their eyes are examined regularly, as many eye and vision problems have no symptoms. Dr. Kay says, “Yearly exams can detect issues that could cause permanent vision loss and depth perception issues.” Children born prematurely or kids with a family history of eye problems may need more frequent and/or detailed eye exams.

Further insights from the iTriage clinical team:

When to schedule your child’s eye exams:
A child’s pediatrician or primary care provider usually performs initial eye screening exams, and he or she can let you know if your child needs an eye specialist.

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), if the child has no symptoms and does not have any risk factors that increase his or her chance of developing eye problems, he or she should receive eye exams at the following intervals:

  • At 6 months
  • At 3 years
  • Before first grade and every two years after

If a child has risk factors that increase his or her chance of developing eye problems, he or she should receive eye exams at the following intervals:

  • By 6 months of age or as recommended
  • At 3 years of age or as recommended
  • Annually or as recommended
  • Children considered at risk of developing eye and vision problems include children:
  • Who are premature, have a low birth weight, have problems with oxygen at birth, or who have grade III or IV intraventricular hemorrhage
  • Have a family history of retinoblastoma, congenital cataracts, or metabolic or genetic disease
  • Whose mother has an infection during pregnancy, such as rubella, toxoplasmosis, STDs, cytomegalovirus or HIV/AIDS
  • Who have high refractive error
  • Who have strabismus
  • Who have anisometropia
  • Who are known or suspected to have central nervous system dysfunction such as developmental delay, cerebral palsy, dysmorphic features, seizures or hydrocephalus

During the eye exam:

  • Comprehensive eye exams performed by an eye specialist usually take half an hour to one hour, though they may take longer depending on your child’s needs.
  • Many eye specialists perform eye exams in retail settings.
  • Medical history

During your child’s eye exam, an eye specialist will ask you questions about your child’s health history. He or she will want to know whether your child:

  • Was born prematurely
  • Blinks excessively
  • Has delayed motor development
  • Rubs his or her eyes frequently
  • Does not maintain eye contact
  • Cannot maintain a gaze while look at objects
  • Has poor eye tracking skills
  • Has failed a vision screening at school or during a doctor’s visit
  • Has a family history of eye or vision problems, including nearsightedness, farsightedness and lazy eye

If the child is old enough, the eye specialist will then measure the child’s “visual acuity” by having the child read letters on a chart distanced from where the child is sitting or standing. This test helps the eye specialist determine how clearly the eyes are seeing.

The eye specialist will also test a child’s depth perception, eye muscle movements, color vision and the way the child’s pupils respond to light.

https://blog.itriagehealth.com/child-eye-exam/

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Anna, IL  62906
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