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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Improve Your Brushing Technique

When it comes to dental hygiene, brushing and flossing are some of the most important routines for your smile, yet they could possibly use a little improvement.

Why You Need to Brush Twice a Day

Brushing and flossing can remove plaque, Improve your brushing techniquetartar and stains. These three culprits can cause problems of all sorts:

  • Cavities
  • Gum disease, like gingivitis or periodontitis
  • Weakened tooth enamel, making teeth more susceptible to chips or cracks

Conditions like these can wreak havoc on your smile. But the issues don’t stop there.

Bad oral health doesn’t just put you at risk for cavities, gum disease, and weakened tooth enamel; it can increase risks for serious conditions like diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Follow these steps to ensure that you are brushing properly.

Six Steps for Better Brushing

  1. Place your toothbrush bristles at a 45-degree angle to the gumline.
  2. Use just enough pressure to feel bristles against your gums and between teeth. Don’t squish the bristles.
  3. Brush all inner and outer tooth surfaces several times, using short, circular strokes. Be sure to brush along the gumline as well.
  4. Brush chewing surfaces straight on. Clean the inside surfaces of front teeth by tilting the brush vertically and making up-and-down strokes with the front of the brush.
  5. Clean only one or two teeth at a time.
  6. Brush your tongue, as oral bacteria can remain in taste buds.

By following these brushing techniques, you will keep your smile healthy and help improve your overall health.

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6 Ways to Protect Your Eyes this Allergy Season

When spring arrives, I feel hopeful and happy, uplifted by the colors and weather. That is until… my eyes start to itch and my nose starts to tickle. Yes, despite the daffodils and rising temperatures, spring means allergies for me, and I’m guessing if not for you, someone close to you.

So, as your vision benefits provider, we want to make sure you protect your eyes this allergy season. Here are 6 tips to get you started:

  1. Avoid exposure

Try to minimize your exposure to allergens by keeping windows closed and wearing sunglasses with as much coverage as possible. Whether at home or in your car, air conditioning, filtering the air, can provide some relief.

  1. Use eye dropsallergy season

There are many brands, so consult your eye doctor for a recommendation. Allergy eye drops will reduce the histamine in your eye tissues, so this might be a good option to directly help your swollen, watery, red and itchy eyes. You can try over-the-counter for your mild symptoms, but if you don’t see improvement, see your eye doctor for prescription eye drops.

  1. Remove contact lenses

During allergy season, wearing your eyeglasses instead of your contact lenses may help with eye allergies. The surface of your contact lenses can collect allergens.

  1. Treat with medications

Again, if over-the-counter eye drops aren’t enough, oral medications can relieve your eye allergy symptoms. Antihistamines, decongestants, and other options can be prescribed by your doctor or bought over the counter.

  1. Don’t itch!

Although it might provide temporary relief, rubbing your eyes can lead to thinning of the cornea and a risk of eye infections. Also, when you rub your allergy eyes, the itching releases more histamines, worsening the symptoms. When the itching becomes unbearable, grab the eye drops instead.

  1. Try other remedies

Immunotherapy, steroids and mast cell stabilizers are examples of other treatments you can discuss with your doctor. At home remedies, like a cold washcloth or compress, cucumber slices or tea bags placed on your eyelids can be soothing. Changing your clothes when you get home and showering before bedtime are some other strategies.

If you do struggle with the seasonal allergies of spring, we hope you still get to enjoy the positive offerings of the season.

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Be Aware: Stress from the perspective of your oral and vision health

We talk about it, hear about it and complain about it. The phrase “I’m stressed out” has become so overused, we may even dismiss it. Despite the abundant information and worn out terms, the harm stress can cause is worthy of the overemphasis. So we are going to use the occasion of Stress Awareness Month to bring attention to the ways stress can affect your oral and vision health.

You may associate stress with lack of sleep and feeling overwhelmed, but two common physical symptoms of stress are associated with your oral health — jaw pain or clenching and teeth grinding. Stress can also affect your vision temporarily.

Stress and Oral Health

Here are 4 ways stress can affect your mouth:

  1. Gum disease or periodontal disease is a bacterial infection caused by inflammation of the gums and surrounding tissue. Warning signs include red and swollen gums, gums that pull away from your teeth and persistent bad breath. When you are under stress, your ability to fight off infections (like gum disease) is affected.
  1. Bruxism is the technical term for the condition of grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw which can be caused by stress. Symptoms include headaches, tooth sensitivity and a sore jaw.
  2. Canker sores are small ulcers in the mouth and may be caused by stress. The severity can vary. Also, if you chew on your tongue, cheeks or inside of your mouth, you could be susceptible to canker sores.
  3. Temporomandibular disorders, more easily referred to as TMD (or TMJ), are a range of conditions that affect the muscles and joints in your jaw and neck. Symptoms include jaw pain and soreness, clicking of the jaw and discomfort when you move your jaw up and down. Stress may cause or aggravate TMD.

Stress and Vision Health

When you think about stress, you might not associate it with your eyes or vision. Here are some symptoms:Stress Awareness Month

Tunnel or blurry vision: Lose of peripheral vision and a slight blurriness can occur when your stress levels increase.

Eye twitching: That annoying spasm occurring in your eye could be a sign of stress.

Eye strain: Recently, we covered digital eye strain from prolonged time in front of a screen, but the stress occurring in your life can also cause eye strain and fatigue.

Eye floaters: Spots and specks that float across your field of vision are not necessarily a cause for concern, but you may notice them during times of elevated stress.

Solutions with a dental and vision focus

While stress reduction methods like yoga, physical activity and breathing exercises have been abundantly endorsed, here are some recommendations specifically for your oral and vision health.

From the perspective of your oral health, talk to your dentist if you have jaw pain or if you grind your teeth. You may not be aware that you grind your teeth at night, so a visit to the dentist could discover the problem and will prompt a discussion about possible treatments.

During stressful situations, try to relax your face, neck and shoulders to avoid clenching your jaw. Avoid gum and tough foods that cause extra chewing and effort from your jaw.

Practicing good oral hygiene and maintaining your regimen, even during the difficult times, will help prevent dental issues. Daily brushing and flossing to remove plaque buildup can help the fight against gum disease like gingivitis and periodontitis. And try not to turn to caffeine or sugar when you are feeling stressed. Both choices are detrimental to your oral health.

From the perspective of vision health, if you continue to have some of these stress-related eye problems, be sure to visit your eye doctor. But since most stress-induced eye problems are temporary, find the most effective stress reducing tactics that work for you personally, and give yourself some time for the symptoms to subside and go away.

Here are more ways to alleviate stress and more information on the ways stress affects your eyes.

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Wellness Wednesday Recipe: Healthy Carrot Muffins

Searching for a healthy Easter snack? The Easter Bunny and your kids will love these whole-wheat carrot muffins.

Ingredients

  • 1¾ cups white whole wheat flour or regular whole wheat flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamonHealthy Carrot Muffins
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups peeled and grated carrots* (that’s potentially a lot of carrots—about 3 large or up to 6 small/medium)
  • ½ cup roughly chopped walnuts
  • ½ cup raisins (I like golden raisins), tossed in 1 teaspoon flour
  • ⅓ cup melted coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 2 eggs, preferably at room temperature
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (also called raw sugar), for sprinkling on top

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. If necessary, grease all 12 cups on your muffin tin with butter or non-stick cooking spray (my pan is non-stick and doesn’t require any grease).
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, ginger and nutmeg. Blend well with a whisk. In a separate, small bowl, toss the raisins with 1 teaspoon flour so they don’t stick together. Add the grated carrots, chopped walnuts and floured raisins to the other ingredients and stir to combine.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the oil and maple syrup and beat together with a whisk. Add the eggs and beat well, then add the yogurt and vanilla and mix well. (If the coconut oil solidifies in contact with cold ingredients, gently warm the mixture in the microwave in 30 second bursts.)
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix with a big spoon, just until combined (a few lumps are ok). Divide the batter evenly between the 12 muffin cups. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with turbinado sugar. Bake muffins for 13 minutes, or until the muffins are golden on top and a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.
  5. Place the muffin tin on a cooling rack to cool. If you have leftover muffins, store them, covered, at room temperature for two days, or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Freeze leftover muffins for up to 3 months.

Recipe and photo credit: http://cookieandkate.com/2015/healthy-carrot-muffins-recipe/

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