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How Smartphone Apps Help Low-Income Communities

People who don’t have in-person access to an eye doctor may go years without getting their eyes examined. Now, thanks to smartphone technology, people in low-resource communities or who find it difficult to visit their eye doctor for other reasons can now have access to certain eye exams.

Even if a person doesn’t own a smartphone, volunteers or other people in their community can conduct a simple vision screening test via a phone app. If the app identifies problems, it could signal the need for an in-person eye exam.

Vision Problems Are Not Being Checked

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 2.2 billion people globally have a near or distance vision impairment, with rates of unaddressed near vision impairment at greater than 80% in western, eastern and central subregions of Sub-Saharan Africa.

In the United States, only 13% of those experiencing visual symptoms, ranging from poor night vision and blurry vision to red eyes and double vision, visited their eye doctor for an eye exam and treatment.

How Can We Get People to Undergo Annual Eye Exams?

According to a study published in the Lancet Digital Health, using smartphones for eye screening and referrals could triple the number of people seeking primary care for eye disorders and boost the uptake of hospital services in low-resource settings.

This Lancet study, conducted in Kenya, demonstrates how smartphone-based screening allows non-expert community volunteers to visit homes and conduct eye exams, freeing up capacity among specialized eye care services.

While smartphone apps aren’t a substitute for a comprehensive eye exam by an eye doctor, they certainly can help. They may assist in managing ongoing eye conditions and notify the patient you when a doctor’s help is required.

By eliminating an initial visit to the eye doctor, patients can get their eyes checked from the comfort of their own home. Only if an eye problem is detected will they need to go visit the eye doctor.

This isn’t to say that people should not go to their eye doctor, but if for some reason it’s financially difficult to go on an annual basis, or they don’t have direct access to an eye doctor, a smartphone app is a great solution.

To learn more about smartphone apps that conduct vision screening tests, contact Child & Family Eye Care in The Woodlands today.

At Child & Family Eye Care, we put your family’s needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 281-363-4362 or book an appointment online to see one of our The Woodlands eye doctors.

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Q&A

What can an eye exam app do?

Vision screening apps allow you to measure your visual acuity using your smartphone and help determine whether you need an in-person exam by an eye doctor. The app may measure your lens power, test for color perception and vision distortions, and monitor possible vision changes related to eye conditions and diseases like macular degeneration. It may even locate an eye care provider nearby and enable you to book an appointment.

What can in-person eye exams detect?

A comprehensive eye exam can assess your vision and diagnose eye disease. Eye diseases such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration, can go undetected for years because their symptoms may not become apparent until the condition is at a more advanced stage. Unfortunately, by then it may be too late to prevent irreversible vision loss and even blindness.

What Eye Drops Are Best For My Eyes?

Are you suffering from red, irritated and scratchy eyes? Do you feel like you have something stuck in your eyes? These are hallmark symptoms of dry eye syndrome, a condition that occurs when your eyes are not properly lubricated due to insufficient tear production, blocked glands, or unbalanced tear composition.

The symptoms can be so unpleasant that many rush to the nearest pharmacy to find the perfect eye drops that will offer them the relief they need so that they can get back to focusing on other things.

However, seeking the ideal artificial tears to relieve dry eyes can be a daunting process. The eye drops shelf at the drug store offers so many options that it’s hard to know which ones are right for you. What’s more, some can actually make your symptoms worse.

Not all eye drops are created equal—currently, there are 6 main categories of artificial tears available over the counter. Choosing the artificial tears based on your specific needs can help narrow your options.

The 6 Types of Eye Drops / Artificial Tears

Preserved Artificial Tears

Preserved artificial tears contain added preservatives to maintain a very long shelf and keep bacteria at bay once the bottle is opened. Unfortunately, it also causes inflammatory dry eye disease, meibomian gland dysfunction and an allergic reaction in those who are sensitive, leading to redness, irritation and inflammation. While these drops may offer temporary relief, long term they can do more harm than good. Moreover, the preservatives may leave residue on contact lenses.

Preservative-Free Artificial Tears

Preservative-free artificial tears are great for contact lens wearers as they don’t cause any preservative build-up on the lenses. They are also suitable for those with sensitive eyes since they contain fewer ingredients that can cause irritation.

Preservative-free eye drops typically come in a box of 28 to 30 small vials that fit in a pocket or purse.

To use these drops, just pop the top off and insert the drops into your eyes. Some of these vials can be re-capped to allow you to continue to use the vial for up to 24 hours, but not longer. Refrigerate opened vials between uses to prevent any bacterial growth.

Oil-Based Artificial Tears

Oil-based tears come in preserved and preservative-free versions. These are thicker than traditional eye drops, as they contain an oil-based formulation. The oil helps prevent the watery portion of the tears from evaporating too quickly.

If you suffer from moderate or severe dry eye, oil-based artificial tears may be a great option. However, they’re not recommended for contact lens wearers, as the oils may stick to the surface of the lenses, making it difficult to keep them clean.

Eye Drop Spray or Mist

These sprays are preservative-free and are used to relieve dryness and irritation in both the eyes and eyelids. They’re easy to use, especially for those who struggle to insert drops into their eyes.

To use the spray, just close your eyes and spray onto your closed eyelids. Once you blink, the tears will slide into your eyes.

Don’t use the spray if you’re wearing makeup, lotions, or creams on your eyelids, as it can cause the makeup or lotion to enter your eye.

Artificial Tear Gel

Artificial tear gel adds a thick coating of tears and can be used at any time of the day or night. However, the thicker consistency of the gel drop may blur your vision for several minutes.

The gel is applied in the same way as eye drops. It effectively soothes the eyes and provides extended relief for both moderate to severe dry eye.

Most artificial tear gels contain preservatives, so they can only be used up to 4 times a day, and usually they are not safe for contact lens wearers.

Artificial Tear Ointment

Dry eye ointments are thick and coat the front of your eye. They’re usually used 1 to 2 times daily as needed. It may be best to use them at bedtime, as it will blur your vision.

Get Dry Eye Relief Today!

Artificial tears may be a good way to temporarily relieve eye dryness. However, using the wrong type of eye drops can be worse than not using any drops at all. So be sure to consult your eye doctor before you get eye drops.

Keep in mind that eye drops don’t address the root cause of dry eyes; they just provide temporary respite from the uncomfortable dry eye symptoms. Only an eye doctor can examine your eyes to determine the underlying cause of your symptoms and recommend the best treatment for your unique case of dry eye.

Schedule an appointment with Child & Family Eye Care in The Woodlands to learn more about dry eye syndrome and to find out which treatment is best for you.

Q&A

Frequently Asked Questions with Troy Wagner OD

Q: What is dry eye syndrome?

    • A: Dry eye syndrome is a condition where your eyes either produce low-quality tears or don’t produce enough tears to keep your eyes hydrated. This may be due to certain diseases (like diabetes or other autoimmune diseases), aging, allergies, hormonal changes, smoking, poor air quality, medications and the environment.

    Q: What are the symptoms of dry eye syndrome?

          • A: Dry eye syndrome can cause a wide range of symptoms including:Itchy eyes
            A feeling that there is grit or debris in the eye
            Blurred vision
            Burning sensation
            Dryness
            Irritation
            Sensitivity to light and glare

      Q: Artificial Tears

                • A: Artificial tears are drops used to lubricate dry eyes. These drops help maintain moisture on the surface of your eyes. Artificial tears are available without a prescription from your optometrist. There is no one brand works best for every form of dry eyes. Aside lubricating the surface of your eyes, artificial tears can also promote healing of the eyes. Additionally, some types of drops work to decrease the evaporation of tears from the surface of your eyes. Artificial tears may also contain thickening agents, which keep the solution on the surface of your eyes longer.

      Quality Frames For Prescription Eyeglasses & Computer Glasses In Shenandoah, Texas. Visit Child & Family Eye Care for an eye exam and eyeglasses that match your style.

      If You Want Perfect Vision For Summer, Start Thinking LASIK Now!

      woman enjoying summerWhether you have big summer plans or prefer a more low-key vacation, having clear vision without having to wear contacts or glasses will give you the freedom to experience the world in a whole new way. If you’ve been contemplating LASIK for a while and pushing it off, perhaps the following reasons will convince you this is a great time to consider this successful option for getting rid of your glasses once and for all. Could it be the right time to visit Child & Family Eye Care for a consultation regarding your LASIK candidacy and start your path to life without eyeglasses?

      Why Is It Best To Have LASIK Done Before Summer Vacation?

      Make Your Travels Comfortable

      If you wear glasses or contacts, you know the struggle involved in traveling with eyewear. You want to sleep on the plane or in the car but don’t know the best place to safely keep your glasses. Following LASIK, you’ll no longer have to worry about losing a contact lens or breaking a pair of glasses.

      Hassle-Free Vision

      When you wear glasses or contacts, the list of eye-related items to pack in a suitcase can be daunting. In the past, you may have packed an extra pair of glasses, prescription sunglasses, extra contact lenses, storage solution, lens cases and cleaning solutions. With clearer vision after LASIK, you’ll be able to cross these items off your packing list.

      Even if your summer plans involve little more than playing some ball with your kids and lounging by a pool, not having to worry about breaking or misplacing your eyewear can make these activities more pleasant and less stressful.

      Enjoy The Great Outdoors

      One of the most compelling reasons to undergo LASIK before the summer is quality of life. You’ll be able to see underwater while swimming and participate in watersports without the need for prescription goggles or the fear that your glasses might break or your lenses might pop out. Then there’s the ability to simply notice every small detail of your vacation with vivid clarity.

      Perfect For College Students, Too

      An additional, yet important, benefit of choosing LASIK before the summer is that college students will have enough time to recover and adjust to their new vision before the new academic year begins. The surgery is generally free of complications and requires very little down-time, but blurry vision can sometimes be a short-term side effect. While this doesn’t apply to the majority of patients, giving yourself enough time to completely recover before school starts in the fall will set you up for success.

      Get Your LASIK Screening By Calling Child & Family Eye Care

      There are so many reasons to choose LASIK now, before summertime. But all those reasons boil down to an overall increased quality of life, which is what our practice offers with LASIK. If you are ready for improved, hassle-free, and effortless vision, call Child & Family Eye Care today.

      With summer’s warm weather just around the corner, you might be planning for more time out in the fresh air.

      If you’re a glasses or contact lens wearer, you know that they can be uncomfortable for doing sports, swimming, and being in windy conditions.

      LASIK surgery can give you the freedom to engage in whatever outdoor activities you like without needing to wear glasses or contact lenses.

      Visit our practice to evaluate your LASIK candidacy and begin your journey to hassle-free vision.

      Can a Nutritious Diet Prevent Age-Related Cataracts?

      slice orange fruit and strawberries 1116558Age-related cataracts are extremely common — so common, in fact, that more than half of all adults develop cataracts in one or both eyes by age 65. Left untreated, cataracts can gradually cause vision loss, even blindness. You can take steps to prevent this. By consuming foods or supplements rich in antioxidants, you may be able to slow the development and progression of cataracts.

      What are Cataracts?

      Cataracts refer to the clouding of the eye’s natural lens due to light passing through to the retina in a scattered, rather than focused, manner. This leads to changes in vision, resulting in blurry vision and faded colors. This also impacts one’s ability to clearly see at night.

      Cataracts come in three forms: nuclear, cortical, and posterior capsular, each of which depends on their locations on the lens.

      Age-related cataracts are caused by tissue breakdown and protein clumping on the lens. Exactly why this happens isn’t yet clear. Cataracts must be taken seriously. Unaddressed, they can lead to vision loss or even blindness.

      Once a cataract has developed, there is no cure except to have it surgically removed

      How Are Cataracts Diagnosed?

      To diagnose cataracts, an optometrist will assess the patient’s visual acuity, color vision, and evaluate their sensitivity to bright light. our doctors will also examine the front of the eye using a microscope, called a slit lamp, and check the retina for signs of cataracts.

      Once cataracts have been diagnosed, the condition must be carefully monitored with regular eye exams. Because vision deteriorates over time, eyeglass or contact lens’ prescriptions will need to be frequently adjusted.

      It is strongly advised to regularly wear sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats to avoid the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays on the eyes. Furthermore, since cataracts cause poor night vision, with halos around street lights and car headlights, people with cataracts may need to stop driving at night.

      Once the condition has reached an advanced stage, the cataract will have to be surgically removed and replaced with a synthetic intraocular lens (IOL).

      Diet and Nutritional Supplements Can Help Against Cataracts

      Research suggests that antioxidants play an important role in staving off cataracts. In one study of 30,000 women aged 49 and older, those who consumed the most antioxidants had a 13% lower risk of developing cataracts than the group of women who consumed the least.

      Certain foods and supplements rich in antioxidants may protect against free radicals — unstable atoms that cause cellular damage — that attack the lenses of the eyes and contribute to the formation of cataracts. Four powerful nutrients, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, lutein and zeaxanthin, can delay the onset and even decrease the risk of developing cataracts.

      Foods containing these nutrients include:

      Lutein and zeaxanthin

      Kale, spinach, egg yolks, salmon and certain yellow and orange vegetables, such as cantaloupes, corn, carrots and peppers

      Vitamin C

      Apples, bananas, grapefruit, oranges, peaches, spinach, tomatoes

      Vitamin E

      Nuts: hazelnuts, almonds, peanuts (including peanut butter)

      Seeds: sunflower seeds

      Oils: soybean, canola, corn, sunflower, safflower, wheat germ

      Green leafy vegetables: spinach, broccoli

      Fruit: kiwi, mangos, tomatoes

      Vitamin-fortified cereals

      To preserve eye health and reduce the risk of cataracts, you’ll want to avoid processed, fried and junk foods.

      Consult our doctors to learn about nutrition’s role in avoiding cataracts and which other steps you can take to maintain eye health.

      Child & Family Eye Care serves patients from The Woodlands, Magnolia, Shenandoah and Tomball, in Texas.

      References:

      https://www.allaboutvision.com/nutrition/cataracts.htm#:~:text=Antioxidant%20vitamins%20and%20phytochemicals%20found,and%20E%2C%20lutein%20and%20zeaxanthin.

      https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/nutrition/nutrition-and-cataracts

      https://www.aop.org.uk/advice-and-support/for-patients/eye-conditions/cataracts

      https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/eye-and-vision-problems/glossary-of-eye-and-vision-conditions/cataract#:~:text=A%20cataract%20is%20a%20cloudy,in%20infants%20and%20young%20children.

      https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/cataracts-treatment

      https://www.reviewofoptometry.com/article/how-to-help-prevent-cataract

      https://www.allaboutvision.com/nutrition/lutein.htm#:~:text=The%20best%20natural%20food%20sources%20of%20lutein%20and%20zeaxanthin%20are,and%20zeaxanthin%20include%20egg%20yolks.

       

      3 Reasons Why You Should Kickstart the New Year With Vision Therapy

      holidays mug blog imageIt’s that time of year again when we sit down with a pumpkin spice latte in hand and think of a resolution we can take upon ourselves for the new year. Here at Child & Family Eye Care, we believe that the best resolutions are the ones that positively impact other areas of our lives and enhance our overall quality of life. Vision therapy offers just that! This therapy is made up of a series of customized visual exercises designed to develop or regain visual processing skills.

      Vision Therapy is highly effective in treating:

      • Amblyopia, (or “lazy eye”)
      • Strabismus, (or “eye-turn”)
      • Eye movement disorders
      • Focusing disorders
      • Binocular vision problems
      • Vision, balance, and memory problems associated with brain injury

      Even those with 20/20 eyesight can benefit from vision therapy because perfect eyesight doesn’t mean perfect vision. Below are the ways in which vision therapy will help you kick-off the new year.

      Improve Existing Vision Skills

      You’re good at what you do, be it at work, school or sports. But can you do better? By training the eyes and brain to work in unison, you increase your potential for greater performance. Not only will you be more efficient, but performing tasks will become more enjoyable. This especially applies to school-aged children, as their brains are still in rapid development. Vision therapy effectively enables the brain to correctly process information for optimal academic success.

      Learn New Skills With Ease

      Many people make it their resolution to learn a new skill in the upcoming year but an underlying vision problem can interfere with that. Since learning is 80% visual, vision therapy offers an excellent opportunity to gear up for success! Undiagnosed or untreated vision problems related to convergence and focus can cause memory and reading problems and hinder learning. our doctors will use an array of tools, such as prisms, specialized lenses, filters, balance beams, and computerized visual activities to train the eye-brain connection and help you learn more efficiently in almost any area that requires vision.

      Gain The Confidence You Crave

      Whether you’re a pro-athlete or a 4th grader struggling to read, improved vision skills will boost your confidence. This confidence will surely trickle into other areas of your life leading to increased self-esteem.

      Start 2020 by empowering yourself or your child with vision therapy. Call Child & Family Eye Care to book your appointment today.

      Child & Family Eye Care serves patients in The Woodlands, Magnolia, Shenandoah, and Tomball, and throughout Texas.

      Is My Child Too Young for Vision Therapy?

      Preschool Children Vision TherapyThe first years of a child’s life are crucial in ensuring the healthy and normal development of various body parts, especially the visual system. As a child’s body grows, so do the eyes. This can cause changes in vision. Keeping a close eye on, well, your child’s eyes, can help ensure that they are developing in a healthy way.

      It’s important for parents and teachers to be on the lookout for problems with visual processing, as they can interfere with a child’s academics, social life, and extracurricular endeavors. This is especially evident during the school years when reading, writing, homework, and after-school activities become a part of their normal daily routine.

      Even if a child has no refractive errors (such as nearsightedness or farsightedness) and has 20/20 vision, he or she may still have difficulties with visual processing or focus. These types of visual complications are often more difficult to detect, but may still impact various aspects of a child’s development.

      When a child’s visual difficulties hinder their learning or social interactions, it may be time to try vision therapy.

      What is Vision Therapy?

      Vision therapy is a personalized regimen of exercises that can improve and strengthen visual functions. Each patient has unique needs and different degrees of visual health, which is why our doctors and the team at Child & Family Eye Care create a customized vision therapy program to get the best results for your child.

      Vision therapy is compared to physical therapy, only for the eyes instead of the entire body. The techniques and exercises can teach the eyes to improve specific areas of vision, such as focus, eye teaming, hand-eye coordination, and visual tracking, among other skills. The doctor may include prisms or special eyeglasses to boost the therapy program.

      Most children’s vision therapy takes place in our office and usually once a week. You’ll be instructed to continue some of the exercises at home for 15-20 minutes daily, which will support the in-office treatment.

      At What Age Can Children Begin Vision Therapy?

      Vision therapy is offered to children as young as 6 years of age. Kids can develop problems with visual perception and clarity that aren’t always detected with a standard vision exam or school screening. Of course, every child is different, and the best way to know if they’re ready for vision therapy is to schedule a consultation with our doctors.

      Does Vision Therapy Really Work?

      Vision therapy has been proven to improve visual skills and functions in both children and adults. It is an approved treatment by recognized organizations in the medical community, such as the American Optometric Association and the Canadian Association of Optometrists.

      Keep in mind that it can take several months to notice significant improvement. Consistency is key. Young children, especially in the toddler years, need a steady routine to achieve the best possible results.

      It’s important to note that vision therapy does not fix your child’s learning abilities or correct any refractive errors. The goal is to improve their visual function so that their skills in reading, writing, schoolwork, and social activities are strengthened for a better quality of life.

      Contact our doctors and the knowledgeable staff at Child & Family Eye Care to schedule a consultation and see whether vision therapy is right for your child.

      our doctors serves patients in The Woodlands, Magnolia, Shenandoah, and Tomball, and throughout Texas.

       

      8 Tips to Relieve Winter Dry Eyes

      Whether you live in a climate with cold winter weather or you are planning a ski trip up north, winter can be a challenge if you suffer from dry eyes. Dry, cool air, cold winds and even drier indoor heating can cause eye irritation, burning, itchiness and redness, and sometimes even excessively watery eyes as more tears are produced to compensate for the dryness. Many people have a chronic feeling that they have something in their eye and some even experience blurred vision. These symptoms can be debilitating!

      Dry eyes is one of the most common complaints eye doctors get from patients during the winter season, especially in the cooler climates. That’s why we’d like to share some tips on how to relieve dry eye discomfort, and how to know when your condition is serious enough to come in for an evaluation.

      Tips to Relieve Winter Dry Eyes:

      1. Keep eyes moist using artificial tears or eye drops. You can apply these a few times each day when the eyes are feeling dry or irritated. If over-the-counter drops don’t help or if you have chronic dry eyes, speak to your eye doctor about finding the best drops for you. Since not all artificial tears are the same, knowing the cause of your dry eye will help your eye doctor determine which brand is best suited for your eyes.
      2. Use a humidifier to counteract the drying effects of indoor heaters or generally dry air.
      3. Point car vents or indoor heaters away from your face when the heat is on. Try to keep your distance from direct sources of heating, especially if they blow out the heat.
      4. Drink a lot! Hydrating your body will also hydrate your eyes.
      5. Protect your eyes outdoors with sunglasses or goggles – the bigger the better! Larger, even wrap-around glasses as well as a hat with a wide brim will keep the wind and other elements out of your eyes. If you wear goggles for winter sports, make sure they fit well and cover a large surface area.
      6. Soothe dry eyes using a warm compress and never rub them! Rubbing your eyes will increase irritation and may lead to infection if the hands are not clean.
      7. Give your eyes a digital break. People blink less during screen time which is why extensive computer use can lead to dry eyes. Follow the 20/20/20 rule by taking a break every 20 minutes to look 20 feet away for 20 seconds and make sure you blink!
      8. For contact lens wearers: If you wear contact lenses, dry eyes can be particularly debilitating as the contact lenses can cause even further dryness and irritation. Contact lens rewetting drops can help your eyes feel better and may also allow you to see more clearly. Not all eyedrops are appropriate for use with contact lenses, so ask your optometrist which eyedrop is compatible with your contacts and cleaning solution. If rewetting drops don’t help, consider opting for glasses when your dry eyes are bad, and speak to your optometrist about which brands of contact lenses are better for dry eyes. Many people find dry eye improvement when they switch to daily single use contact lenses.

      Chronic Dry Eyes or Dry Eye Syndrome

      Dry eye syndrome is a chronic condition in which the eyes do not produce enough tear film, or do not produce the quality of tear film needed to properly keep the eyes moist. While winter weather can make this condition worse, it is often present all year round. If you find that the tips above do not alleviate your discomfort or symptoms, it may be time to see a optometrist to see if your condition requires more effective medical treatment.

      Diabetes and Your Eyes

      Diabetes is becoming much more prevalent around the globe. According to the International Diabetes Federation, approximately 425 million adults were living with diabetes in the year 2017 and 352 million more people were at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. By 2045 the number of people diagnosed is expected to rise to 629 million.

      Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness as well as heart attacks, stroke, kidney failure, neuropathy (nerve damage) and lower limb amputation. In fact, in 2017, diabetes was implicated in 4 million deaths worldwide. Nevertheless preventing these complications from diabetes is possible with proper treatment, medication and regular medical screenings as well as improving your diet, physical activity and adopting a healthy lifestyle.

      What is Diabetes?

      Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the hormone insulin is either underproduced or ineffective in its ability to regulate blood sugar. Uncontrolled diabetes leads to hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, which damages many systems in the body such as the blood vessels and the nervous system.

      How Does Diabetes Affect The Eyes?

      Diabetic eye disease is a group of conditions which are caused, or worsened, by diabetes; including: diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, glaucoma and cataracts. Diabetes increases the risk of cataracts by four times, and can increase dryness and reduce cornea sensation.

      In diabetic retinopathy, over time, the tiny blood vessels within the eyes become damaged, causing leakage, poor oxygen circulation, then scarring of the sensitive tissue within the retina, which can result in further cell damage and scarring.

      The longer you have diabetes, and the longer your blood sugar levels remain uncontrolled, the higher the chances of developing diabetic eye disease. Unlike many other vision-threatening conditions which are more prevalent in older individuals, diabetic eye disease is one of the main causes of vision loss in the younger, working-age population. Unfortunately, these eye conditions can lead to blindness if not caught early and treated. In fact, 2.6% of blindness worldwide is due to diabetes.

      Diabetic Retinopathy

      As mentioned above, diabetes can result in cumulative damage to the blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue located at the back of the eye. This is called diabetic retinopathy.

      The retina is responsible for converting the light it receives into visual signals to the optic nerve in the brain. High blood sugar levels can cause the blood vessels in the retina to leak or hemorrhage, causing bleeding and distorting vision. In advanced stages, new blood vessels may begin to grow on the retinal surface causing scarring and further damaging cells in the retina. Diabetic retinopathy can eventually lead to blindness.

      Signs and Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

      The early stages of diabetic retinopathy often have no symptoms, which is why it’s vitally important to have frequent diabetic eye exams. As it progresses you may start to notice the following symptoms:

      • Blurred or fluctuating vision or vision loss
      • Floaters (dark spots or strings that appear to float in your visual field)
      • Blind spots
      • Color vision loss

      There is no pain associated with diabetic retinopathy to signal any issues. If not controlled, as retinopathy continues it can cause retinal detachment and macular edema, two other serious conditions that threaten vision. Again, there are often NO signs or symptoms until more advanced stages.

      A person with diabetes can do their part to control their blood sugar level. Following the physician’s medication plan, as well as diet and exercise recommendations can help slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy.

      Retinal Detachment

      Scar tissues caused by the breaking and forming of blood vessels in advanced retinopathy can lead to a retinal detachment in which the retina pulls away from the underlying tissue. This condition is a medical emergency and must be treated immediately as it can lead to permanent vision loss. Signs of a retinal detachment include a sudden onset of floaters or flashes in the vision.

      Diabetic Macular Edema (DME)

      Diabetic macular edema occurs when the macula, a part of the retina responsible for clear central vision, becomes full of fluid (edema). It is a complication of diabetic retinopathy that occurs in about half of patients, and causes vision loss.

      Treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy and Diabetic Macular Edema

      While vision loss from diabetic retinopathy and DME often can’t be restored, with early detection there are some preventative treatments available. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (when the blood vessels begin to grow abnormally) can be treated by laser surgery, injections or a procedure called vitrectomy in which the vitreous gel in the center of the eye is removed and replaced. This will treat bleeding caused by ruptured blood vessels. DME can be treated with injection therapy, laser surgery or corticosteroids.

      Prevent Vision Loss from Diabetes

      The best way to prevent vision loss from diabetic eye disease is early detection and treatment. Since there may be no symptoms in the early stages, regular diabetic eye exams are critical for early diagnosis. In fact diabetics are now sometimes monitored by their health insurance to see if they are getting regular eye exams and premium rates can be affected by how regularly the patients get their eyes checked. Keeping diabetes under control through exercise, diet, medication and regular screenings will help to reduce the chances of vision loss and blindness from diabetes.

      April is Women's Eye Health and Safety Month

      Hey women! Did you know that women are more likely to suffer from vision problems and are at higher risk of permanent vision loss than men? Well 91% of the women surveyed recently didn’t know that, which means that many of them aren’t taking the necessary precautions to prevent eye damage and vision loss.  

      According to a recent study, the statistics for many of the major vision problems show that women have a higher percentage of incidence than men. These include:

      • Age-related Macular Degeneration 65%
      • Cataracts 61%
      • Glaucoma 61%
      • Refractive Error 56%
      • Vision Impairment 63%

      Women are also more susceptible to develop chronic dry eye, partially because it is often associated with other health issues that are more common in women such as ocular rosacea which is three times more prevalent in women.  Hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause can also contribute to dry eye.  

      It’s important for women to know the risks for eye-related diseases and vision impairment and the steps they can take to prevent eventual vision loss.  Here are some ways that you can help to protect your eyes and save your eyesight:

      • Find out about family history of eye diseases and conditions.
      • Protect your eyes from the sun by wearing 100% UV blocking sunglasses when outdoors.
      • Don’t smoke.
      • Consume a healthy diet with proper nutrition and special eye health supplements as prescribed by an eye doctor.
      • Adhere to contact lens hygiene and safety.  
      • Adhere to cosmetic hygiene and safety precautions. 
      • Protect your eyes against extended exposure to blue light from computers, smartphones and LED lamps. 
      • If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant and have diabetes, see an eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam. In women who have diabetes, diabetic retinopathy can accelerate quickly during pregnancy and can present a risk for the baby as well. 

      Mothers are often charged with caring for the eye health of the entire family, but too often their own eye health needs fall to the wayside. It is critical that mothers take care of their eyes and overall health so that they can be in the best condition to care for their families. 

      Speak to your eye care professional about your personal eye health and vision risks and the precautions and measures you should take to protect your eyes.  Encourage the other women in your life to do so as well.  Once vision is lost, it often can’t be regained and there are many steps you can take to prevent it with proper knowledge and awareness.  

      The most important way to prevent vision loss is to ensure you schedule regular eye exams. Don’t wait for symptoms to appear as many eye issues are painless and symptomless, and sometimes by the time you notice symptoms, vision loss is untreatable. 

      Understanding Eye Color

      eyes green close up woman

      Eye color is a hereditary trait that depends on the genes of both parents, as well as a little bit of mystery. The color of the eye is based on the pigments in the iris, which is a colored ring of muscle located at the center of the eye (around the pupil) that helps to control the amount of light that comes into your eye. Eye color falls on a spectrum of color that can range from dark brown, to gray, to green, to blue, with a whole lot of variation in between. 

      Genetics

      The genetics of eye color are anything but straightforward. In fact children are often born with a different eye color than either of their parents. For some time the belief was that two blue-eyed parents could not have a brown-eyed child, however, while it’s not common, this combination can and does occur. Genetic research in regards to eye color is an ongoing pursuit and while they have identified certain genes that play a role, researchers still do not know exactly how many genes are involved and to what extent each gene affects the final eye color.

      The Iris

      Looking at it simply, the color of the eye is based on the amount of the pigment melanin located in the iris. Large amounts of melanin result in brown eyes, while blue eyes result from smaller amounts of the pigment. This is why babies that are born with blue eyes (who often have smaller amounts of melanin until they are about a year old) often experience a darkening of their eye color as they grow and develop more melanin in the iris. In adults across the globe, the most common eye color worldwide is brown, while lighter colors such as blue, green and hazel are found predominantly in the Caucasian population. 

      Abnormal Eye Color

      Sometimes the color of a person’s eyes are not normal. Here are some interesting causes of this phenomenon.

      Heterochromia, for example, is a condition in which the two eyes are different colors, or part of one eye is a different color. This can be caused by genetic inconsistencies, issues that occur during the development of the eye, or acquired later in life due to an injury or disease. 

      Ocular albinism is a condition in which the eye is a very light color due to low levels of pigmentation in the iris, which is the result of a genetic mutation. It is usually accompanied by serious vision problems. Oculocutaneous albinism is a similar mutation in the body’s ability to produce and store melanin that affects skin and hair color in addition to the eyes.

      Eye color can also be affected by certain medications. For example, a certain glaucoma eye drop is known to darken light irises to brown, as well as lengthen and darken eyelashes.

      Eye Color – It’s More Than Meets the Eye

      It is known that light eyes are more sensitive to light, which is why it might be hard for someone with blue or green eyes to go out into the sun without sunglasses. Light eyes have also shown to be a risk factor for certain conditions including age-related macular degeneration (AMD).  

      Color Contact Lenses

      While we can’t pick our eye color, we can always play around with different looks using colored contact lenses. Just be sure that you get a proper prescription for any contact lenses, including cosmetic colored lenses, from an eye doctor! Wearing contact lenses that were obtained without a prescription could be dangerous to your eyes and your vision.