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There is a lot more that goes into finding the right pair of sunglasses than just fit and fashion. While it’s important to look and feel great in your shades, sunglasses also have the very important job of properly protecting your eyes from the sun.
Here are a few facts about the dangers of UV exposure:
- Chronic UV exposure is linked to cataracts and macular degeneration in the long term.
- Intense UV exposure can cause symptoms of eye pain and irritation within 6-12 hours.
- Some medications such as birth control and certain antibiotics can increase sensitivity to UV so take extra precaution.
- The most common source of UV is the sun especially with depletion of the earth’s ozone layer.
- Outdoor UV exposure is common in construction workers, landscapers and fisherman.
- Some indoor occupations also get high exposure such as dentists, medical and research technician, electric welding.
Here is what you need to consider to make sure you select a pair of sunglasses that look and feel great and offer full sun protection.
- 100% UV protection: The number one most important feature of your sunglasses must be proper UV protection. Look for a pair that blocks 99-100% of UVB and UVA rays. Lenses labeled as “UV 400,” block all light rays with wavelengths up to 400 nanometers, which includes all UVA and UVB rays.
- Frame size: Pay attention to the size of the frame – the bigger (meaning the more surface area they cover and the less light they let in from the top and sides) the better. Wraparound styles are the best frames at keeping UV rays from entering in through the sides of the glasses.
- Lens materials, coatings and tints: There are many options for lenses designed to help you see better and more comfortably in certain conditions. Polarized lenses, photochromic lenses, anti-glare coatings, mirror-coatings and gradient tints are just a few. Your best bet is to speak to a professional optician to determine which options are best suited for your needs.
- Frame shape: The general rule for selecting a pair of eyewear that looks great is to contrast the shape of your face with the shape of the frame. For example if you have a round face, try out an angular frame, and for a square-shaped face, a rounder, softer frame will look great. Along with shape, the size of the frames should be considered. Frames should not be too large, small, narrow or wide for your face.
- Proper fit: Your sunglasses should feel comfortable; they shouldn’t squeeze at your temples but they also shouldn’t be so loose that they will fall off. Your eyelashes shouldn’t touch the lenses and the frames should rest comfortably on your nose and ears.
- Lifestyle fit: Your eyewear should be the proper fit for your lifestyle. For example, if you are active in sports or outdoor activities, polarized lenses in a durable frame are a must. There are many sunglass manufacturers out there that make eyewear to match certain lifestyles and activities so speak to your optician about your interests and hobbies to make sure you find the best pair to match your needs.
- Frame color: The same wardrobe colors that match your skin tone, will look good in your eyewear. Generally speaking, if you have cool-toned skin (pink or rosy undertones) you will look best in blue-based hues such as blues, pinks, purples or greys. Alternatively, if you have warm-toned skin (golden or apricot undertones), you will want to try out yellow-based colors such as golds, oranges, reds, browns or tans.
Remember, sunglasses aren’t just for fun in the sun. Dangerous UV rays can penetrate clouds and reflect off of water and snow. So even when the sun isn’t shining, a good pair of sunglasses should be worn every day to keep your eyes safe and to help you see your best.
Cataracts are a leading cause of vision loss in the United States and Canada. Here are 6 things you need to know.
1. Chances are you will develop a cataract!
Cataracts are considered part of the natural aging process so if you live long enough, you will likely eventually develop one.
2. A cataract is a clouding of the usually transparent lens in your eye.
The lens in your eye focuses light onto the retina at the back of your eye, allowing you to see. When your lens starts to clouds up, the images projected onto your retina become blurry and unfocused. You can compare this to looking through a dirty or cloudy window. If the window is not clear, you can’t see!
3. Age is not the only risk factor for cataract development.
While the risk of developing a cataract does increase as you age, it is not the only factor. Other risk factors include eye injury, certain medications (eg: steroids), diseases such as diabetes and macular degeneration, lifestyle choices such as alcohol consumption, smoking and prolonged exposure to the sun.
4. Your treatment options are not limited to surgery.
If cataracts are detected in the early stages of development, non-surgical options including stronger glasses or even better lighting go a long way to help alleviate the condition’s detrimental impact on your vision at first. However, most people do need cataract surgery eventually. Fortunately, the procedure is very low risk and has an excellent success rate. It is relatively non-invasive, often requiring no more than a tiny laser-assisted incision, performed in an outpatient clinic.
5. Cataracts have warning signs
Cataracts don’t suddenly develop overnight. If you notice you have cloudy vision or see halos around lights, have trouble with night vision or see double in one eye, make a visit to your eye doctor a priority so you can get it checked out.
6. What you eat can reduce your risks.
Don’t let cataracts interfere with your quality of life. Be sure to schedule regular eye exams so that you stay on top of your overall eye health.
Your eyes are constantly at work for you, playing a vital role as you navigate through each day. As May is healthy vision month, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Know your genesWhile your eyes may be the same color as your father’s eyes, you may have inherited glaucoma from your mother’s side of the family. Your genes are an important factor in your eye health as many eye diseases are known to be hereditary. It’s vital that you know your family’s eye health history. Sharing this information with your eye care practitioner at your next eye exam will help us determine which diseases you’re at risk for so that we can help put you on the right path for prevention or treatment.
- Protect your eyesWhether it’s strong UV rays from the outdoor sun or hazards in the workplace, there is protective eyewear available suited to the environment you’re in. You should wear sunglasses when you’re outside, sports goggles or glasses during active play and protective goggles to keep dangerous substances found at home or in the workplace from harming your eyes.
- Maintain your eye health by eating rightEating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale have proven to be beneficial for your eye health. Flax seeds, fish and fortified eggs that are high in omega 3 fatty acids are also known to aid in maintaining healthy eyes. Having an overall healthy lifestyle by not smoking, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight has been proven to reduce risk for many eye diseases.
- Give them a breakYour eyes work really hard every day, especially if you are in front of a computer screen. Remember to apply the 20-20-20 rule to prevent eye strain: every 20 minutes look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- Get a dilated eye exam every yearBe sure to have a dilated eye exam at least once a year. A thorough check is the only way to spot any problems that exist or are developing. Some eye diseases, which cause vision loss if not treated early, have no warning signs at all and can only be detected in this way.
All of these tips will help you keep your sight in check and go a long way in ensuring that you maintain healthy sight your whole life through.
Independence Day may have passed but fireworks season is still in full swing and fireworks-related injury and death is a real and serious danger. According to the 2014 Annual Fireworks Report, compiled by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission there were at least 11 deaths and 10,500 injuries due to fireworks last
While the most common injuries occurred to the hands and fingers (approximately 36%), about 1 in every 5 of the injuries (19%) were to the eyes, where contusions, lacerations and foreign bodies in the eyes were the most common injuries. The danger to the eyes is serious and can result in permanent eye damage and loss of vision. Fireworks can rupture the globe of the eye or cause chemical and thermal burns, corneal abrasions and retinal detachment.
Sadly, children from 5-9 years of age had the highest estimated rate of emergency department-treated fireworks-related injuries (5.2 injuries per 100,000 people) and children under 15 years old accounted for 35% of the total injuries. Nearly half of those injured were bystanders and not actually handling the fireworks themselves.
Here are Five Fireworks Safety Tips to enjoy fireworks safely:
- The safest way to view fireworks is at a professional public display rather than at home use.
- When viewing fireworks, carefully adhere to the safety barriers and view them from at least 500 feet away.
- Never touch unexploded fireworks. Contact local fire or police departments immediately to deal with them.
- Never let young children play with any type of fireworks even sparklers.
- In cases where consumer fireworks are legal, use them safely. Anyone that handles fireworks or is a bystander should wear proper protective gear and eyewear that meet national safety standards.
- Professional grade fireworks should only be handled by trained pyrotechnicians.
If a firework-related eye injury does occur, seek medical attention immediately. Try to leave the eye alone as much as possible; do not rub or rinse the eyes, apply pressure or try to remove an object that has entered the eye.
In addition to knowing the dangers and safety precautions yourself, it’s important to teach your children about firework safety. Always remember that while they are fun to enjoy in the right setting, fireworks are explosive devices and should be treated as such.
According to Women’sEyeHealth.org, ⅔ of blindness and visual impairment occurs in women. Additionally, an estimated 75% of visual impairment is preventable or correctable with proper education and care. With the increased risks for women it’s critical for women to know about the risks and prevention to effectively protect their eyes and vision.
There are a number of specific eye diseases, many of which cause vision impairment, that are more prevalent in women. Part of the reason for this is that women tend to live longer than men. These risks are exacerbated by often avoidable behavioral and environmental conditions such as smoking, poor diet and nutrition, a sedentary lifestyle and sun exposure to name a few.
Research shows that some of the statistics showing that women are at a higher risk of certain vision-threatening conditions depend on the living conditions and access to health care of the population being studied. Nevertheless, other eye conditions such as dry eye syndrome, autoimmune diseases related to the eyes (such as rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren’s Syndrome, systemic lupus erythematosus, and multiple sclerosis) and cataracts are inherently more prevalent in women than men. Furthermore, women are more at risk for diseases associated with age, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), since they statistically live a few years longer than men.
Here are some facts about a few of the common eye diseases that women in particular should be aware of.
Cataracts are when the lens of the eye becomes clouded causing vision loss and eventually blindness if not treated. Nevertheless, treatment for the condition, which is usually a minor surgery, is very common and highly successful. An age-related condition, more than half of North Americans age 65 and older have at least one cataract. While longer life expectancy is a factor, women also have been found to be intrinsically more at risk for developing cataracts.
While it is likely that most people that live long enough will eventually develop a cataract, there are a few things that can increase your chances such as smoking, and possibly diet and sun exposure. If you have diabetes, maintaining proper blood sugar levels might play a role in prevention. Scheduling a yearly, comprehensive eye exam is the best way to catch and treat cataracts early to prevent vision loss.
- Dry Eye Disease
Dry eye disease is a condition in which the eye does not create enough lubricating tear film to keep the surface moist and comfortable. While it doesn’t lead to blindness, dry eye can cause severe suffering and affect quality of life. It can also increase the chances of infection and impair visual acuity leading to decreased ability to read and drive, particularly at night. The condition is most common in middle aged and older adults, particularly women and is one of the leading causes of visits to the eye doctor.
Severe dry eye is sometimes caused by Sjögren’s syndrome, which is a chronic, multi-organ autoimmune disorder that also results in dry mouth and often arthritis, which is much more common in women.
Dry eye disease is intrinsically 2-3 times more common in women than in men, which may be may be because of hormonal differences, and the use of birth control can result in increased dry eye as well.
There are a number of treatments available for dry eyes, including artificial tear solutions, ointments, anti-inflammatories and sometimes inserting tear duct plugs.
- Age-related Macular Degeneration and Glaucoma
For both of these vision threatening diseases, age is the greatest risk factor, making the risk higher for women who statistically live longer. Women are twice as likely to develop AMD as men. African Americans are at higher risk for glaucoma, making black women over the age of 60, one of the highest risk groups for the disease. Family history is also a strong risk factor.
The best way for women to keep their eyes and vision intact is to have a comprehensive eye exam every year and to take care of themselves by not smoking, wearing UV protective eyewear, maintaining proper nutrition and exercise. Because many of these diseases don’t show symptoms until it is too late, early detection is essential to eye health.
Bonus Info: Pregnancy and Eyesight
Pregnancy can affect a woman’s vision, though the changes are often temporary. Although it’s definitely recommended for women with gestational diabetes to have diabetic retinopathy screenings, and it is generally safe to have a routine eye exam while you’re expecting, you should know that your prescription may not be “guaranteed” as it is subject to change until about 6 weeks after the yet-to-be-born baby stops nursing.
Many women complain that their contact lenses feel uncomfortable during pregnancy. The eye contours can shift due to hormones and swelling, so the lens might not fit the same way. You may want to try a different type of contact, or switch to glasses for a few months.
Spring is in the air. But along with the beauty of the blooming flowers and budding trees, comes allergy season. The high pollen count and allergens floating in the fresh spring air can certainly wreak havoc on the comfort level of those suffering from allergies, causing an otherwise nature-loving individual to seek respite indoors. Your eyes are often one of the areas affected most by allergens which can leave them red, itchy and watery, making you feel achy and tired.
Tree pollens in April and May, grass pollens in June and July and mold spores and weed pollens in July and August add up to five months of eye-irritating allergens. That is quite a long time to stay indoors!
Don’t hibernate this spring and summer!
Here are some practical tips to keep your eyes happy as the allergy season comes upon us.
- Avoid rubbing your eyes. This makes the symptoms worse because it actually sets off an allergy cascade response which causes more inflammation and itch. Plus, rubbing might lead to a scratch which will cause greater, long term discomfort.
- Plan your outdoor time wisely. One of the seasonal allergens that disturbs eyes is pollen, so it is a good idea to stay indoors when pollen counts are high, especially in the mid-morning and early evening.
- Wear sunglasses outside to protect your eyes, not only from UV rays, but also from allergens floating in the air.
- Check and clean your air conditioning filters to make sure they are working properly to filter out irritants.
- Use a humidifier or set out bowls of fresh water inside when using your air conditioning to help moisten the air and ensure that your eyes don’t dry out.
- Taking a shower or bath helps wash off allergens from the hair and skin. Cool down with some cool compresses over your eyes. This reduces the inflammatory response and the itchiness.
- Allergy proof your home:
- use dust-mite-proof covers on bedding and pillows
- clean surfaces with a damp cloth rather than dusting or dry sweeping which can just move dust to other areas or into the air
- remove any mold in your home
- keep pets outdoors if you have pet allergies
- Remove contact lenses as soon as any symptoms appear. Some contacts can prevent oxygen from getting to your eyes and tend to dry them out or blur vision due to oil or discharge build up under the lens. This will just worsen symptoms and cause greater irritation. Further because allergies can swell the eyes, contacts might not fit the way they usually do, causing discomfort.
- Speak to your optometrist about allergy medications or eye drops that can relieve symptoms. Certain allergy eye drops are not compatible with contact lens wear and in fact can bind onto the lens and cause further irritation. If your allergies are severe and you don’t want to stop contact lens wear, then ask your OD for a prescription allergy drop that can be applied before inserting your contacts. This may help prevent the allergic response and provide more comfortable lens wear.
These are only a few steps you can take to make your eyes more comfortable during allergy season. Remember to seek medical help from your eye care professional if symptoms persist or worsen.
Last week, people in South America, Europe, North Africa, and parts of Asia and the Middle East saw a solar eclipse. As you may have heard, looking directly at a solar eclipse is very dangerous for your eyes and vision. Nevertheless, this rare event is something that many people want to experience when it does happen. While the next time Americans will have a chance to see a total eclipse will be in August 2017, this is what you need to know to be prepared in protecting your eyes when witnessing this rare event.
Dangers of the Sun
First of all, any time that you stare at the sun, the strong rays can kill cells in your retina. The retina is the light-sensitive area at the back of your eye which receives light from the lens of your eye and sends signals to the optic nerve. If the retina is damaged, this will cause you to go blind. The reason that most people don’t make as big of a deal about this on a regular basis as they do with a solar eclipse is that the sun light is so strong, most people don’t and aren’t able to stare at it. Usually your eye will automatically respond with ways to protect your retina by contracting the pupils, squinting or looking away.
A solar eclipse, however, goes through a number of stages and when the sun is partially eclipsed or most of it is covered, the light does not seem as bright, so the protective reactions from your eye don’t occur. Nevertheless, the part of the sun that is visible is just as strong and intense as looking at the full sun, leaving your eyes vulnerable and unprotected. Further, because a solar eclipse is such a unique event, many people are tempted to look – even when they know they shouldn’t, thinking that a few seconds of exposure can’t really do much harm.
This thinking is unfortunately very wrong. You may be familiar with the science trick where you can light a paper on fire on the sidewalk using the sun and a magnifying glass. Sunlight is so strong, that when you concentrate the light with a lens, you can start a fire. The lens of your eye similarly acts to concentrate the sun’s light onto your retina – basically burning it just like the paper in that experiment. A brief encounter -even a few seconds- between your eyes and this intense exposure to the sun is enough to do serious damage.
Usually people don’t realize right away that damage has been done since there is no initial pain with a retinal burn. It can often take several hours for symptoms to manifest and at this point it is already too late.
NEVER LOOK DIRECTLY AT AN ECLIPSE! In fact, you should never look directly at the sun.
Solutions for Viewing an Eclipse
There are a few options for safely viewing these rare events. First of all, you can purchase special eclipse glasses which are glasses made with specific lenses that block out dangerous wavelengths of light. Alternatively, you can make a pinhole projector which will project a miniature image of the eclipse onto the ground through a piece of cardboard or paper with a hole in it. You can learn how to make a pinhole camera on the NASA website.
So whether you are experiencing a solar eclipse or are out enjoying the warm sunshine, now you know how powerful the sun’s rays really are.
March is Save Your Vision Month, a time to raise public awareness about how to protect your eyes and your vision. Most people aren’t aware that 75% of potential vision loss can be prevented or treated. This largely depends on patients being proactive and educated about their eye health.
Here are 10 important steps to protect and preserve your precious eyesight:
- Regularly have your eyes checked: For a number of eye diseases, early detection and treatment is critical to success in saving your vision. Many conditions – such as diabetic eye disease, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and glaucoma – have minimal or no symptoms, particularly in the early stages. A comprehensive dilated eye exam is sometimes the only way to detect eye disease early enough to save your sight and prevent vision loss.
- Know your family history: A number of eye diseases involve genetic risk factors, including glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Be aware of the incidence of eye disease in your family and if you do have a family history make sure to be monitored regularly by a trusted eye doctor.
- Wear sunglasses: Exposure to UVA and UVB rays from sunlight is associated with a higher risk of AMD and cataracts. Wear sunglasses with 100% UV protection year round, any time you are outdoors. It’s worthwhile to invest in a pair of quality sunglasses which will have UV protection that lasts, as well as better glare protection and optics.
- Eat healthy: Diet plays a large role in eye health, especially certain nutrients such as antioxidants, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins and minerals found in leafy green and orange vegetables. Keep your diet low in fat and sugar and high in nutrients and you can reduce your risk of developing AMD or diabetes, two of the leading causes of blindness.
- Stop smoking: Smokers are four times more likely to develop AMD.
- Wear eye protection: If you play sports, use power tools or work with dangerous equipment or chemicals, make sure to wear proper safety glasses or goggles to protect your eyes from injury. Never take risks as many permanent eye injuries happen within seconds.
- Manage diabetes: If you have diabetes or hyperglycemia, manage your blood sugar levels to reduce the risks of diabetic retinopathy.
- Limit alcohol intake: Heavy drinking is associated with higher risks of developing cataracts and AMD.
- Exercise: Yet another benefit of regular physical activity is eye health including reduced risk of AMD.
- Educate yourself: Below is some basic information about four of the most common vision impairing eye conditions.
4 Most Common Eye Conditions:
Typically an age-related disease, cataracts cause a clouding of the lens of the eye which impairs vision. You can’t completely prevent this condition as more than half of individuals will develop a cataract by the time they are 70-80 years old. Cataract treatment involves a common surgical procedure that is one of the safest and most commonly performed medical procedures with a 98% success rate.
- AMD (age-related macular degeneration)
A progressive condition that attacks central vision, AMD usually affects individuals 50 and older. Disease progression may be slow and early symptoms minimal, making an eye exam critical in early detection. Risk factors include race (more common in Caucasians), family history, age, UV exposure, lack of exercise, smoking and poor diet and nutrition. AMD can cause irreversible vision loss. While there is no cure, the progression of the vision loss can be slowed or halted when caught early. Individuals often develop a condition called low-vision which is not complete blindness but does require a change in lifestyle to deal with limited eye sight.
Glaucoma is the 2nd leading cause of blindness worldwide, resulting from damage to the optic nerve most often caused by pressure build up in the eye. Vision loss is progressive and irreversible. Studies show that 50% of people with the disease don’t know they have it. While there is no cure, early detection and treatment can protect your eyes against serious vision loss and if caught early enough vision impairment could be close to zero. Risk factors include old age, diabetes, family history, ethnic groups (African Americans and Mexican Americans have higher risk factors), and previous eye injury.
- Diabetic retinopathy
The most common diabetic eye disease, this is a leading cause of blindness in adults which is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina. All people with diabetes both type 1 and type 2 are at risk, and the disease can often progress without symptoms, so regular eye exams are essential to prevent permanent vision loss. Regular eye exams and maintaining normal blood sugar levels are the best ways to protect vision.
The best way to protect your vision is to be informed, develop healthy habits and to get your eyes checked regularly. See you soon!