3 Things to Know About the Leading Cause of Vision Loss

In the United States, cataracts are the leading cause3 women walking of vision loss. Though cataracts are a common condition, maybe you have a parent, grandparent or close friend that has had surgery, our familiarity shouldn’t take away from the importance of the issue. We use health observance days, weeks or months to help bring attention to issues that can affect you. And this month, as your vision benefits provider, we’re sharing some useful information for Cataract Awareness Month. Here are three topics to start a good knowledge foundation. It is also recommended to consult with your eye doctor about any concerns you might have about cataracts or other vision health questions.

What is a cataract?

A cataract, considered a medical condition, is a clouding on the lens of your eye. The cloudiness prevents light from entering the eye. Cataracts can cause blurred vision or complete vision loss. There are also different types of cataracts such as congenital, traumatic and secondary. Age-related cataracts are the most common and usually develop after age 40.

Surgery is the only way to completely treat vision loss caused by cataracts, but whether surgery is necessary depends on your specific condition. There are other treatments like contacts or glasses, but surgery is recommended when your vision loss interferes with your ability to perform normal and everyday tasks.

Symptoms can develop over time

Age-related cataracts will develop over time, so you might not notice changes in your vision right away. If you have a cataract, the ways your vision can be affected include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Double vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Vision trouble at night
  • Fading of bright colors or yellow vision

If you’re changing your eyeglass prescription more often without much improvement to your vision, this could be a sign or symptom. Not often, but sometimes, you’ll be able to see a cataract in your eye. It will look like a cloudy or yellow-colored spot in your pupil. If you have any of these symptoms, or notice any of these signs, make an appointment with your eye doctor.

Some risk factors, but no definitive cause

Researchers have not found the definitive reason cataracts form, but there are factors that could put you at higher risk of developing a cataract. Some of these risk factors include:

  • Long-term exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Family history
  • Eye injury or inflammation
  • Smoking
  • Long-term use of steroids
  • Excessive alcohol use

According to Prevent Blindness, the leading volunteer eye health and safety organization that named Cataract Awareness Month, as you get older, “you are at greater risk of developing a cataract” and they explain a cataract, most often, is a part of getting older.

Possible prevention with carotenoids

On the other hand, maintaining a healthy diet and getting the right nutrients could possibly help prevent cataracts from developing. Certain carotenoids, or antioxidants, may protect against cataracts, according to the American Optometric Association. The two types of carotenoids that studies show help in cataract prevention include lutein and zeaxanthin. Maintaining a diet that incorporates these nutrients can be beneficial in preventing cataracts. The American Optometric Association suggests eating five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, which can provide about 5 to 6 mg of carotenoids, including lutein and zeaxanthin. Some foods rich in these nutrients include kale, collard greens, spinach, broccoli, peas, turnip greens and tangerines. Using sunglasses to protect yourself and your kids from UV rays that can contribute to cataract development is also an important part of a healthy vision lifestyle.

We encourage you to schedule your annual comprehensive dilated eye exam to maintain healthy vision and detect cataracts or other vision problems.

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Encourage Your Dad to Pick Up These Habits for Eye Health

father and sonSince Father’s Day is this Sunday and June is designated Men’s Health Month, we’re going to focus on some healthy vision habits for men. These habits are recommended for everyone, of course, but we can encourage our fathers, sons, brothers, husbands, friends and colleagues to take better care of their vision health. Everyone needs a good reminder, now and then. Along with these four habits, tell your dad to visit the eye doctor for a comprehensive dilated eye exam, too. Routine eye exams are important for older adults because certain eye conditions can be diagnosed and treated early.

Adding these habits to a daily routine will help to protect eyes and keep them healthy.

  1. Wear sunglasses.

Especially important if he spends a majority of his day outside. Prolonged UV exposure can cause serious damage to the cornea, lens, retina and other parts of the eye. Cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration have all been linked to extended exposure to ultraviolet rays. If he is already in the habit of putting on sunglasses every time he steps outside, just be sure his lens block out 99 to 100% of UVA and UVB rays.

  1. Have less screen time.

Whether he is on his smartphone a lot, or spends the majority of his workday in front of the computer screen, having less screen time or, at least, resting the eyes every 20 minutes, is a good habit to practice. Or try putting away the phone at a certain time every night as part of the evening routine.

Digital eye strain from too much time staring at a digital surface is a growing concern for all of us. To prevent it, some other steps include keeping a distance from the screen and using one device at a time. We can also encourage each other to put down our electronic devices and connect face-to-face more.

  1. Use eye protection.

We don’t ever plan on getting hurt, but we can take steps to prevent it from happening. Consider protective eyewear, whether playing sports, at the workplace, or doing chores at home. Polycarbonate lens are recommended because they can withstand an impact. There are different kinds of eye protection for different activities, so be sure you’re choosing the right ones. This is true for protecting your eyes from workplace hazards, too–make sure you have the proper protection for the job.

  1. Eat fruits and vegetables.

Not sure this would be considered a habit, but let’s make it one. How about eating an apple on the way to work or eating carrots everyday as an afternoon snack as a newly-formed habit? More specifically, try foods containing vitamins linked to eye health like spinach, almonds and eggs. Working on other healthy choices, like quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight, can greatly impact your overall health and prevent possible vision problems.

On Father’s Day this Sunday, check in with your dad and make sure he is visiting the eye doctor. A new pair of sunglasses or a yearly subscription to a vegetable delivery service would be a useful and thoughtful gift. Most importantly, tell him you care about him. That alone could be enough motivation for him to visit the eye doctor and pay more attention to his vision health.

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7 Warning Signs Your Child Has a Vision Problem

Signs of vision problems in children can go undetected. Children, since they don’t have a comparison, will not always be able to tell that something is wrong with their vision. They’ll think the color or degree of clarity is normal. And since, from the child’s perspective, they don’t know anything is wrong, the vision problem might manifest itself in a different way such as a struggle with or avoidance of reading.

Let’s look at ways to detect and recognize if your child is having vision problems. And then, whether you’ve noticed any of these signs or not, taking your children to get a comprehensive eye exam with your eye doctor will give you peace of mind that their eyes are healthy.

Possible signs your child needs glasses or has a vision problem

Squinting – If your child is squinting a lot, it could be a sign of trying to focus.

Rubbing eyes frequently – This is normal behavior Children's visionfrom a tired child, but it could be a sign of eye strain, eye fatigue or other vision problems. Notice what kind of activity your child is doing when the sign is displayed. This will help determine if they are struggling or just tired.

Covering or closing one eye – Your child might do this in an attempt to focus and could be a sign of misaligned eyes.

Tilting head – Tilting of the head is another way your child might try to fix misaligned eyes or the angle of vision. Both signs, covering one eye or tilting the head, could also be a sign of amblyopia, a vision condition also called lazy eye. It’s one of the most common vision problems in children.

Sitting close to the TV/ holding books or electronic devices close to the face – This could be a sign of nearsightedness, or myopia. Again your child could be trying to correct blurry vision. Also, just like adults, children can experience digital eye strain.

Tripping or bumping into things – If your child is walking into objects that you and the rest of the family aren’t, this could be an indicator of a vision problem. Sometimes a child with poor vision can be overlooked as just clumsy.

Avoiding reading – What may appear to be disinterest, could be a reaction to poor vision. When reading together, if your child has a difficult time following along with you, or loses their place while reading, this could be a sign. If there is a lack of concentration or avoidance of schoolwork all together, this could be a reaction to a vision problem.

Signs could be more obvious – your child might have headaches or tell you their eyes hurt. This would especially make sense if conveyed at the end of the day, after eyes are strained all day to focus and correct blurry vision. A comprehensive eye exam for children is so important because, as the American Optometric Association states, early detection and treatment “provide the very best opportunity to correct vision problems.”

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The Sun’s So Bright, You Gotta Wear Shades

Wearing sunglasses is one of the coolest ways to maintain your vision health. It’s such a good idea, the National Eye Institute (NIH) included wearing sunglasses as one of their five recommendations for Healthy Vision Month, along with getting a comprehensive dilated eye exam. Exposing your eyes to the sun’s strong rays can cause severe damage and lead to a lot of different problems. Keeping sunglasses on is an easy way to protect yourself and your family, just make sure you purchase the right kind.

Protect your eyes from these scary conditions

Sunglasses can help protect your eyes from the sun’s rays damaging the cornea, lens, retina and other parts of your eyes. UV exposure for many hours or over the years can cause serious eye damage, eye conditions or worsen the symptoms of these conditions. Certain types of cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration have all been linked to extended exposure to ultraviolet rays. The NIH reports that 20% of cataract cases are caused by extended UV exposure. Cataracts and macular degeneration can result in vision loss.

Other conditions include pingueculae, pterygiumWhy it’s Cool to Wear Sunglasses and photokeratitis. Pingueculae and pterygium are both growths on your eye’s conjunctiva (the clear covering over the white part of your eye). Photokeratitis, also called snow blindness, is like having sunburned eyes, or more technically, a sunburned cornea. But even though it has the alternative name of snow blindness, you don’t need to be around snow to develop the condition. Photokeratitis, caused by overexposure to UV rays, is painful and results in a temporary loss of vision. These all sound terrible, but we know they can be prevented with proper sunglasses.

Now let’s make sure you’re getting the protection you need by choosing the right kind of sunglasses.

Choose wisely, check labels

When deciding what sunglasses to buy, choose a pair that blocks out 99 to 100% of UVA and UVB rays. Also, consider a pair that wraps around your eyes to provide more coverage. Polarized lenses are a popular choice because they reduce glare, especially useful when you’re around water or snow. But still make sure they have the 100% UV protection.

With sunglasses that have dark tinted lens, still look for a 100% UV protection label, because a dark lens doesn’t always mean protection. It’s the material of the lens or the way the lens are treated that make them block the UV rays. Similarly, the price doesn’t guarantee UV protection either. So don’t assume an expensive pair has the protection you need or an inexpensive pair doesn’t have the protection you need.

Overall, make sure they fit properly so you’re getting as much protection from the harmful rays as possible. And if you aren’t sure your sunglasses have the proper UV protection, use your eye doctor as a resource.

Still need protection on cloudy days

Even though the summer has arrived and the sun is bursting, remember to wear your sunglasses not only in the warm months but throughout the year. You might not think to grab your sunglasses when it’s overcast, but the sun’s rays can be just as harmful on cloudy days, too.

If you haven’t already, create the habit of putting on your sunglasses every time you walk outside, and make sunglasses a part of your healthy vision lifestyle. We wish you a happy summer!

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The Link Between Family History and Your Vision

I remember learning in school how eye color is determined by the dominant and recessive genes of our parents. Remember the chart we filled in with uppercase and lowercase letters?

But when it comes to your vision, you mightFamily link to vision health share more than your parents’ eye color. You could have inherited an eye disease. Just like it’s important to know your family’s medical history for heart and other diseases, it’s the same for your family’s eye health history, suggests the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

The National Eye Institute (NIH) recommends talking to family members including parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Since some eye diseases are passed down, knowing your family’s eye health history could help determine if you are high risk.

May is Healthy Vision Month and knowing your family’s eye health history is one of the five steps the NIH recommends to keep your eyes healthy, along with getting a comprehensive dilated eye exam, using protective eyewear, wearing sunglasses, and living a healthy lifestyle.

What to know

Glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are hereditary and two of the leading causes of blindness in adults, but they don’t have early stage symptoms. The Glaucoma Research Foundation states that your risk of glaucoma with increase four to nine times if the disease exists in your family history. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, you have a “50 percent chance of developing AMD” if the disease runs in your family.

In addition, myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism are common vision problems that have been linked to genetics.

What to do

Have a discussion with your family. Get regular eye exams, and talk to your vision care provider. After sharing your family’s eye health history with the doctor, she will be able to look for any signs of potential problems.

Be proactive about your eye health and overall health. Staying fit and eating fruits and vegetables, like leafy greens, will keep you and your eyes healthy. Wearing sunglasses and being aware of eye strain, if you spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen or other electronic devices, are also proactive ways to keep your eyes healthy.

While you figure out where your green eyes came from, learn about your family’s eye health history. You’ll be one step closer to healthy vision.

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5 Recommendations for Healthy Vision Month

Sight could be one of the five senses that we take for granted the most. The National Eye Institute (NIH) says more than 23 million Americans (age 18 and older) have never had an eye exam. That is why Healthy Vision Month is important.

Started in 2003, the NIH promotes Healthy Vision Month to encourage us to make eye health a priority. This year the focus is women’s eye health. The NIH made it easy for you to recognize the occasion with five steps to keep your eyes healthy. Check these off your list and keep them in mind not just this month, but all year.

Get a comprehensive dilated eye exam–Schedule a comprehensive dilated eye exam with your vision care provider. Some common eye diseases do not have early symptoms, but a comprehensive dilated eye exam can detect these diseases in the early stages.

Use protective eyewear–Make sure you and your family are using protective eyewear during sports and other recreational activities. A good reminder now that the summer months are here. Also, when you are taking care of chores around the house or if you have a job that could pose a risk to your eyes, safety glasses can prevent injury.

Know your family eye health history–Do some research and check in with your family members (parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles). Knowing if your family has vision problems or diseases will help determine if you are at high risk.

Wear sunglasses–When you purchase sunglasses, pick a pair that blocks out 99-100% of UVA/UVB rays. The sun can have negative effects on your eyes. For example, extended UV exposure can cause cataracts.

Live a healthy lifestyle–Your overall health affects the health of your eyes. More specifically, maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your risk of diabetes, which can lead to diabetic eye disease and vision loss. Other recommendations–consume healthy foods, refrain from smoking, and manage any chronic health conditions. All of these can be linked to your vision health.

Now, participate even more with Healthy Vision Month–share this information with your family and friends. We’re happy you’re not taking your eyesight for granted.

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How to Properly (or Improperly) Clean Your Eyeglasses

Lately, you started wearing glasses a bit more often or maybe all the time. You found a fantastic pair of frames, and road signs are clear again! Whether you are new to the joys of wearing glasses or a seasoned wearer, you’re probably well aware of the frequent bother of keeping your vision clear of specks and smudges on your lenses. And maybe you often breathe on your glasses and grab the bottom of your shirt to wipe them clean. Turns out, that’s a bad idea! Read on for the proper (and improper) ways to
clean your eyeglasses
.

Don’t spit or exhale! I’ve seen lots of people do it, but you can’t assume these tactics are free of bacteria or particles. You can use eyeglass cleaner spray, but if you don’t have that available, use lukewarm tap water. You can also use a tiny amount of safe dishwashing soap.

Do your best to not wipe your lenses when they are dry. Water might not always be accessible, but debris already on the surface of your lenses can Clean your glasses properlycause scratches when you clean them. Pre-moistened lens wipes are also an option.

Resist using your shirt, despite the convenience. There are microfiber cloths specifically made for cleaning lenses. Using a tissue, paper towel or other material could scratch the surface. If you don’t have a microfiber cloth for eyewear, be sure to use a clean, soft cotton cloth.

Make a visit to your eye care provider. They may be able to give some recommendations or provide a more thorough cleaning.

Start the habit of cleaning your glasses every day. Since they are an investment, and you love your new frames, keep them as long as you can. These tips will help their longevity.

Look for other tips caring for your eyeglasses in upcoming blogs.

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