Eye care is essential to protecting the long-term effectiveness of your vision. But what is eye care? It might be more things than you ever imagined. Continue reading to learn more.

You’ve found this blog. Good.  Odds are that you have been checking email, networking on Facebook, and generally browsing the web while the television is on in the background.  Now, close your eyes and picture darkness. No more email, Facebook, television, or being able to see the beauty this world has to offer, including those you love.  This is the reality you face if you fail to take the necessary steps to take care of your eyes. This article will explore tips to improve the health of your eyes, your children’s eyes, as well as to better protect them from common dangers associated with diminished or complete loss of sight.

Eye Care Preventative Maintenance

It is recommended to have your vehicle’s oil changed every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, an annual physical for health, and to visit the dentist at least once every six months.  This is common knowledge passed along from generation to generation. However, if you asked someone how often someone should visit an optometrist for a routine exam you would get a variety of different answers varying from every six months to every five years.  

Why is it that there are cultural standards for time periods relating to other important preventative maintenance milestones but not for regular eye exams?  If the choice was to either lose a tooth or be completely blind, most people would likely choose to live life without a tooth compared to being blind. Yet, most people are more likely to have more frequent visits to the dentist than an optometrist.

Top Article: What is Eye Strain?

A common misconception is that a visit to an optometrist isn’t warranted until you’re experiencing pain or vision problems.  Yes, you should visit an optometrist immediately if you have one of these occur, but you should also schedule regular checkups at least once every two years; preferably once every year. What is good eye care? It starts by visiting an optometrist who will conduct a general inspection of your eyes to examine for trauma injury or signs of potential eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, or macular degeneration.  If eye conditions are caught and treated in early stages then, as with most diseases, they are likely treatable, and you can prevent more severe issues from arising.

Do you have children?  If so, it is imperative that they have early and regular eye screens.  It is recommended that they have their first screening prior to starting kindergarten.  Research has exhibited that vision, much like hearing, is correlated to their learning and development.  Children in school with undiagnosed or undetected vision problems will struggle to read, write, comprehend, and participate in basic learning activities.  

eye care
Woman’s Eye — Image by © Simon Jarratt/Corbis

Compare it to a child who has hearing issues.  How can a young child effectively communicate to other people if they can’t properly hear the words that are spoken to them?  Also, don’t leave it up to your children to tell you that they have a problem with their vision. Your child may not know what “normal vision” is, as they know no different. Thus, there’s no reason for them to complain.  

Finally, in regard to caring for your child’s eye health, a school nurse conducting a “sight test,” or something similar to when you had a screen to obtain your driver’s license does, not count as preventative maintenance.  Those persons are not trained for nor does the equipment used possess the capacity to identify trauma injury or other diseases which have been previously mentioned in this article.

There are many licensed optometrists throughout the United States with various avenues to go about choosing an optometrist.  

Eye Care Tips

Below are a few tips that you may find useful:

  • Ask your family or friends who their optometrist is or if they have one they’d recommend.  At the end of the day, word of mouth is still the most useful and powerful marketing tool. You trust your family and friends to provide honest recommendations and feedback as they care for you and are not motivated by monetary gains.
  • Your family’s primary physician is also a good resource.  Dependent upon their level of knowledge of optometrists in the area you may get one or numerous referrals.  Note- if your primary physician believes that there is an issue with your eyesight they may provide a direct referral to an optometrist which will likely expedite the appointment process compared to scheduling an appointment on your own.  Make sure to always mention any eye concerns to your primary physician.
  • To keep expenses at minimum, if you have vision insurance contact your provider for a list of optometrists which are covered in your network.  If you have vision insurance but you visit an optometrist outside of your provider’s coverage you will be paying a significant amount more out of pocket.

Proper Nutrition

What is eye care? Surprisingly, it can boil down to your diet as well. Obtaining a beach body shouldn’t be your only motivation to eat healthy.  The types of foods you put into your body will impact your eyesight in addition to your overall well-being. Omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zinc, and vitamins C and E assist in preventing or delaying vision problems which often occur in the aging process such as macular degeneration and cataracts.  Recommended types of foods to eat which may contribute to healthier eyes are:

  • Any type of leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, and collard greens.
  • Seafood which is high in fat content such as salmon, tuna, or other types of oily fish.
  • Oranges or other types of citrus fruits
  • Pork and oysters
  • If you’re following a vegetarian or vegan diet then foods such as nuts, beans, tofu, or other high protein meat substitutes are recommended.

Getting the proper nutrients and maintaining a healthy weight will decrease your probability of obesity-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes.  People often associate severe diabetes outcomes with having a limb amputated and other mobility-related issues. Did you know that type 2 diabetes is the number one reason which causes blindness in adults?  If you have questions about what foods you should eat to maintain or improve eyesight you should consult with your primary physician, optometrist, and/or a registered dietician.

Related: Eye Strain Causes

Eye Care & Exposure to the Sunwhat is eye care

Most people are aware of the dangers the sun and ultraviolet rays present to our skin which leads to sunburns and skin cancer.  This is why when you’re at the beach or the pool you see mothers putting layer upon layer of sunscreen on their children. However, not as many people are aware that those same ultraviolet rays can have a harmful impact upon your eyes as well.  

How does the sun hurt your eyes exactly? Well, to keep things simple and not get too technical, the radiation emitted from the sun pass through the eye’s cornea and reach the lens and retina which is what causes damage.  The overexposure to the radiation is what causes the damage, either temporary short-term like “snowblindness” or longer-term effects such as those listed in the next paragraph.

A person who spends a significant amount of time in the sun increases their probability of eye damage which includes common conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration, pingueculae, pterygia, and photokeratitis.  People planning to spend an extended amount of time outside such as at the pool or beach should check the UV index before heading outdoors. The UV index has been developed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Weather Service which provides a color and number-coded warning system to alert people the dangers of being outside on any given day.  The UV index is as follows:

  • GREEN (0-2): No danger to the average person,
  • YELLOW (3-5): Little risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure
  • ORANGE (6-7): High risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure
  • RED (8-10): Very high risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure
  • PURPLE (11+): Extreme risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure

Essentially, a higher UV index number indicates a greater risk of eye damage and the level of preventative measures a person should take to protect their eyes.  Regardless of the UV index level, a person planning to spend any extended time outside in the sun should wear sunglasses, which we will cover later.

When the UV index is between a 6 and a 10, people should attempt to limit the amount of time they spend outside between the hours of 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM or plan to take breaks by going inside every so often.  

If the UV index is 11 or higher, it is strongly recommended to avoid sun exposure between those same hours of 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM. Between these times, the radiation levels are extremely high and can cause both skin and eye damage in a relatively short time period.  Extreme caution should be taken to protect both your eyes and skin whenever the UV index is 11 or higher.

Other risk factors that people should be mindful about regarding ultraviolet rays and potential eye care damage the sun presents:

  • The location which you live or are visiting.  Ultraviolet rays are higher and more dangerous in tropical areas and closer to the equator.  For example, your risk of eye damage from the sun is much greater if you live in Florida compared to Rhode Island. Therefore, eye care is even more important.
  • The higher level of altitude you are at will increase the impact of ultraviolet rays because you are closer to the sun.
  • The hours between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM present the greatest amount of threat from ultraviolet rays in most areas.
  • The landscape will also factor into ultraviolet radiation exposure.  If you are in an open setting like a farm the levels will be greater as there is not much to block the ultraviolet rays compared to if you are downtown in an urban area where tall buildings provide some sun blockage and relief.
  • Be cautious if you are in an area which has reflective properties such as snow or sand.  Ultraviolet rays which have been reflected off another surface can be almost twice as dangerous compared to being received directly from the sun.
  • Pay attention to any types of medication you are taking as they may increase your body’s sensitivity to the sun.  If taking any of the following medications you should read the warning label and be extra cautious if you plan on spending time outside: tetracycline, sulfa drugs, birth control pills, diuretics, and tranquilizers.  Consult with your physician if you are on any of these medications and either live in an area with higher levels of ultraviolet radiation or plan to visit such an area.

Choosing the Correct Sunglasses for Proper Eye Carewhat to do for eye care?

Even at the lowest ultraviolet ray index it is recommended that you should wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun.  When shopping for a pair of sunglasses you should look for those which provide 100% UV ray protection. Additionally, sunglasses which are larger and more close-fitting to your face provide extra coverage around the sensitive areas of your eyes which may decrease the likelihood of a sunburn.  If you’re not sure whether or not your sunglasses provide adequate protection you should take them to your optometrist for their opinion. Most optometrists have special instruments to test and determine whether or not they are of quality and meet industry-recommended standards.

Screen Time and Your Eyesight

Eye care also has a lot to do with the time you spend on your cell phone, computer, or looking at any type of screen. Did anything catch your eye when Apple updated their software in October 2018?  One thing people noticed is there is now an option for your device to generate a report exhibiting how much time you spend looking at your phone.

People know they spend a lot of time on their devices, but do you really want to know exactly how much time?  It may alarm people how much time they are taking away from their everyday life with their head stuck in their phone or other devices.  However, they are probably not taking into consideration the negative impact excessive amounts of screen time may have on their eye health.

The Vision Council informs consumers that spending a significant amount of screen time, whether it be the television, phone, computer, or tablet, can cause eye strain and other vision problems.  The scary news is that over the years the amount of screen time has increased among all generations. Think about what has changed over the decades. Television used to be the first device which was related to screen time as people did their work on typewriters or pens/paper and smart phones did not yet exist.  Then, computers were developed so that increased a person’s screen time at both work and home. Currently, people are constantly attached to their technology with the rise in popularity of smart phones. Ask yourself a question, when you’re a passenger in a vehicle, are you conversing with other and looking at what is outside of the vehicle or do you have your eyes squared directly on your phone?  Before smart phones were invented people did not have access to screen time devices while in a vehicle.

Related Article: Protect Eyes From Computer Screen Eye Strain

Those headaches at work or home may not be related to any type of stress; rather, it may be the result of eye strain due to an excessive amount of screen time.  The longer you focus on your technology the more strain you are causing your eyes which could result in headaches.

Headaches are not the only side effect of prolonged screen time.  When you are looking at your screen are you intensely focused upon that specific gadget? Are you forgetting to blink as a result? Failure to blink enough leads to dry eyes.  Dryness in the eyes can lead to burning and itching sensations. While there are hypotheses that extensive screen time can lead to permanent eye damage, there are contrasting studies that remain inconclusive at the moment.  However, researchers do anticipate with younger generations being raised with around the clock availability of devices at their fingertips that more eyesight issues will occur. Therefore, leading to more conclusive research that excessive screen time does contribute to long-term and permanent eye damage.

Tips How to Use Technology & Still Protect Eye Care

Do not panic and throw away all of your technology gadgets because of what you have just read.  There are tips to help people enjoy their technology while still following good eye care practices.

  • Just take a break and blink for a few minutes.  Something as simple as getting up from your desk to take a restroom break or speak to a co-worker could give your eyes the break they need.
  • Increase the font size of your application.  Most technology applications nowadays, including smartphones, have settings where you can alter the font size.  Or, if you utilize a word processor you can increase the zoom of the document.
  • There are also screens for computers and cases made for smart phones which can filter to reduce the glare which will also reduce eye strain.
  • Invest in a pair of BlueBlocker glasses to reduce the effects of blue light on your eyes and bodyeye care tips

Eye Care Tips for Parents

What is eye care? For parents it may entail regulating how much screen time your children are allowed.  As previously mentioned, younger generations have much greater access to technology via multiple outlets which is a concern for future eye health problems.  Here are some tips parents should consider to hopefully reduce potential problems for eyesight.

  • First and foremost, parents need to be good role models themselves when it comes to using technology.  If a child witnesses their parents constantly on their phones when eating dinner, watching television, or riding in a vehicle they are going to assume this is normal and emulate.  You watch your words and actions around your children so why should the amount of time you spend on technology be any different?
  • Do your children pay for their devices, data, or internet?  If not, then you have the authority to monitor and set reasonable expectations for the amount of screen time they are allowed.  This doesn’t have to go as far as not allowing them to take their devices to school or put a time limit per day on certain device’s parental settings; rather, it could be something as simple as not allowing them to take their devices to bed with them in the evenings.  A lot of people are guilty of lying down to go to bed only to spend a lot of time browsing the web or social networking before actually trying to fall asleep.
  • Dependent upon the age of the children, parents can make them complete certain activities such as homework, chores, or other activities the parent deems worthy before allowing their children screen time.  Younger children may be required to clean their room or do minimal chores whereas older children, such as teenagers, must have completed their homework or maintain a certain GPA level.

Eye Care & Contact Lenses: Risks and Proper Care

According to the Centers for Disease and Control, it is estimated that 45 million people in America wear contact lenses.  People opt for contact lenses instead of corrective lenses (glasses) for aesthetic or other personal reasons. However, there are risks associated with choosing to wear contact lenses, including the development of conditions such as eye infections, corneal ulcers, pink eye (conjunctivitis), corneal abrasions, or general eye irritations.  If a condition is serious and left untreated for an extended period of time it may even lead to permanent blindness.

If you are one of the estimated 45 million people in the county who wears contacts, you need to contact your optometrist immediately for an assessment if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • You have a general discomfort in your eyes which was not caused by a trauma-related injury.
  • There has been an excessive number of tears for no apparent reason, or you notice other forms of discharge coming from your eyes.
  • Sensitivity to light has now become a problem.
  • Your eyes are itchy, burning, or experiencing other forms of discomfort.
  • Redness has appeared in one or both eyes.
  • Vision has become blurry either continuously or at spontaneous moments which you know is not normal.
  • Swelling of the eyes

As with most medically-prescribed corrective devices, the rewards often outweigh the risks and most risks can be mitigated by following the recommended established procedures.

  • If you are new to wearing contact lenses it is recommended to have your optometrist or one of their office staff properly show you how to rub and rinse your contact lenses.  They should be more than willing to help as it is understandable this is new to you. Also, there are numerous instructional videos available on the internet exhibiting proper techniques. Just make sure the source is credible.
  • Pay close attention to the labeling of your contact lenses to ensure you clean and disinfect to their specific instructions.  Companies develop products made with different materials and substances so if you decide to switch brands do not automatically assume the way you should clean and disinfect your new lenses is the same as your old lenses.
  • Do not overfill the case with your solution.  Make sure you dispose of all of the remaining solution after each use.  It is imperative to never, under any circumstance, reuse any lens solution due to the risk of contaminated solution from previous use.
  • Water may be the substance of life, but it shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near your contact lenses.  This encompasses all types of water, including sterile water. It has been found that tap and distilled water contain substances which may cause a corneal infection, Acanthamoeba keratitis, which is resistant to all known treatments and cures.
  • Before you get into any body of water, this includes showers, baths, swimming pools, hot tubs, lakes, oceans, etc., you should remove your contact lenses.  There is risk of contracting bacteria from water.
  • Make sure that you purchase a new contact lens storage case, at minimum, every three months and immediately discard your old one for sanitary purposes.

LASIK Surgery & Eye Care

If you have come across this article there is a good chance you are seeking information to prevent eyesight deterioration, or your eyesight has already reached the point which corrective measures need to be taken.

A common question someone wearing glasses hears is, “Have you considered getting LASIK surgery?”  This article will not go into the details of what LASIK surgery actually encompasses as there are various procedures aimed at treating myriad causes. Rather, this article wants to make the reader aware of potential risks associated with the procedure.  As with all information contained in this article persons should always seek the medical advice of a licensed optometrist as only they can advise the best method for treatment.

  • The procedure will more than likely cause a decrease in the amount of tears your eyes produce; therefore, leading to your eyes being dry for approximately six months after the surgery.
  • The potential for glare, halos, or double vision may be a result of the procedure.  Immediately after the surgery you are likely to have difficulty seeing at night. This is anticipated to last up to a few weeks after the surgery.  However, your vision in dim light after the surgery may actually be worse compared to that before your surgery.
  • The procedure may not fully correct the problem(s) and the vision may only be slightly improved to that before the surgery.  This may lead to the need for another procedure within a year or two in search of better results.
  • Other surgical complications may arise which are harder to reverse or require the patient to wear glasses or contact lenses even though they had the procedure.  As with any medical procedure, there is always the risk of complications occurring during the surgery which may lead to a loss of vision.
Dr. Barry

Dr. Barry

November 5, 2018