‘Tis the season… for toy buying

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As a mom and an eye doctor I always tried to buy toys for my kids that were not just fun but that also helped develop their visual skills. One of the most important things to remember when buying gifts for kids is to keep it age appropriate. Nothing is worse than a kid who receives a toy or game that is frustrating to play because it is above the child’s skill set. Most toys have age levels printed on the front so it’s easy to stick to the age guidelines. Although iPad games and electronic devices may seem like super hot gifts, they actually can overstimulate young minds and experts recommend sticking to “classic” toys as gifts.

Dr. Mary Gregory (Omni Vision and Learning in Minnesota) and Dr. Kellye Knueppel (Vision Therapy Center in Wisconsin) are optometrists who specialize in developmental optometry and each has created her own list of toys that helps nurture specific visual skills. Here is an abridged list of my favorites.

  • Eye/hand coordination – toys like Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys and Legos
  • Visual Memory – remember the game Simon with the colored flashing lights? Oldie but goodie.
  • Visual Perceptual skills – there are a lot of toys out there that fit into this category, including jigsaw puzzles, Battleship, Go Fish, Bingo, Old Maid , dominoes, and Bop It.
  • Visual Motor Integration and Fine Motor skills – finger painting, bead stringing, Lite-Brite (love this one) and Spirograph.
  • Imagination – any toy that allows you to play “pretend” falls in this category – current toys such as Fingerlings, Polly Pocket (yes, they are back!), and these adorable plushy pets called Pomsies are all on the Good Housekeeping’s list of top toys of 2018.

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No matter what toys you buy for the little ones in your life this holiday season it’s the time you spend face to face with your child that is the most rewarding present of all.

Happy Holidays!

National Diabetes Month

20739543558_58dae0d23b_cNovember is National Diabetes Month and this gives me the opportunity to get up on my soapbox and shout through my megaphone about the importance of yearly eye exams. For patients who know they have diabetes, dilated eye exams are crucial in order to ensure that there is no diabetic retinopathy in the back part of the eye which if not treated can lead to blindness.

So what is diabetes and how does it affect your eyes? Diabetes is a disease which according to the CDC affects more than 100 million Americans and interferes with the body’s ability to store and utilize sugar. Very often patients who are unaware that they are diabetic will experience scary fluctuations in vision which will bring them into my office to see what’s going on. At this point I will refer them out for blood work and a visit with the primary doctor to check for diabetes. Changes in blood sugar can cause these wild changes in the prescription which will stabilize once the glucose (sugar) levels are under control. Once someone has had diabetes for many years and/or has poor control of their sugar levels, the risk of having diabetic retinopathy skyrockets. Diabetic retinopathy happens when the small blood vessels on the back surface of the eye weaken and leak blood and fluid into the retina. If this progresses further without blood vessels shutting off and the creation of new abnormal blood vessels creating scarring which can cause vision loss and/or blindness.

How do you prevent this? The key is keeping blood sugar levels under tight control. This is accomplished by paying attention to diet, exercising, keeping blood pressure and cholesterol under control and not smoking – in other words – maintaining a healthy lifestyle. One important number to be aware of when you come in for your eye exam is your HA1C (or glycosylated hemoglobin) which reflects the overall blood sugar levels over a three month period. Generally this number should be under 7.

All diabetic patients get a letter sent to their primary doctor after their eye exam with the results of the retinal evaluation. If there is retinopathy the primary doc may have to tinker with the meds in order to achieve better glucose control. Above all, be vigilant about any vision changes that are scary or unusual. As I always tell my patients, nothing is stupid or trivial and I’d rather check you and find nothing than have you ignore something serious.

Eye Safety On Halloween

woman wearing halloween costume

Halloween is around the corner and as you’re putting the final touches on your costume and stocking up on candy, here are some tips about keeping your eyes healthy while not missing out on the fun.

  • Most importantly, don’t wear contact lenses you bought at the flea market or in the dollar store. It is illegal to buy these non FDA approved contact lenses and it is also illegal for the vendors to sell them. There is a myth out there that just because the contacts don’t have a prescription, they are safe to use – WRONG.  Aside from the prescription aspect of the lenses, there is also the fit of the lenses to worry about, the material it is made from, and the liquid that it is stored in. If the lens is too tight it will suction on to the eye and bacteria and other germs can grow underneath leading to an eye infection at best and a corneal ulcer at worst.
  • Don’t share contact lenses – this is good advice all year round but is more of an issue this time of year. Remember the blog post about underwear and contact lenses? Go back and read it again – sharing contacts is like sharing dirty underwear. Yuk.
  • Makeup is a great way to complete a costume – make sure you don’t share makeup especially eyeliner and mascara with anyone else. Don’t glue costume elements near your eyes and don’t line the inner aspect of your eyelid – the glue can wreak havoc on your skin and give you a corneal scratch (just treated one of these) and lining the inside of the eye can cause infection and dryness.
  • Remove your makeup before going to bed.
  • Avoid costumes with eye holes that block your vision.
  • Carry a flashlight when trick or treating to increase visibility.
  • Be careful with costume props that are pointy and can poke someone in the eye such as swords and wands.

We love to see our patients dressed up in their costumes – come by to show off and for some eyeball related candy.

greyscale photo of day of the dead corpse bride

 

Are You Addicted To Your Smartphone?

apple applications apps cell phoneThe other day I got an alert on my cell phone telling me that I had spent an hour that day on my phone. After I got over the shock of being spied on by my phone I clicked on the alert to check it out. A new feature offered up by the latest apple software update iOS 12 allows you to track how much time you spend on your phone and breaks it down even further by how much time you spend on each app. Another interesting feature is the ability to limit how much time on you spend on each app – for example – if you decide you are wasting way too much time on Facebook you can set a time limit of an hour a day and after that you will not be able to access the app anymore. There is also a new feature called “downtime” which limits your usage of certain apps before bedtime. 

apple apple device cellphone deviceWhy is this important? There are many reasons too much screen time is not good for you, ranging from decreased socialization to lack of productivity to outright cell phone addiction (yes this is a thing). From an optometric perspective, too much screen time leads to a condition called Digital Eye Strain. Symptoms of this are tired eyes, headaches, fatigue, dry eye, light sensitivity, and a range of other annoying symptoms. While we can prescribe glasses for this condition (stay tuned for more on this in another post) the best way to combat eye pain from too much screen time is to limit the amount of time you spend on screens. Kudos to Apple for creating this useful new tool.  

 

What Do You Mean My Kid Needs Glasses??!!

pexels-photo-914931.jpegThe other day the cutest little girl came in for her first eye exam. She was starting third grade and was an excellent student reading above grade level. Her parents were sure she didn’t need glasses but thought it was time for her to start having routine eye exams. She was articulate and outspoken and wanted to be done with her visit so she could get on with her day. She read the eye chart in her right eye all the way down to the tiniest letter and was eager to do the same on the left eye. To everyone’s surprise she struggled, barely getting down to the second to last line, guessing and growing frustrated as she realized something wasn’t right. She also had some trouble seeing in 3D which indicated that her two eyes were not working together. At the end of the exam I told her parents that although her right eye was perfect she was hyperopic, or farsighted in her left eye and the large discrepancy between the two eyes had created amblyopia (lazy eye) in that left eye. She left with a new pair of glasses and a follow-up appointment in three months.

80% of learning is visual – if your child does not see well he or she will not do well in school. Sometimes kids are unable to realize or articulate that something is wrong – either they will think that whatever they are experiencing is normal or they just won’t complain. Vision screenings at the pediatrician are not a substitute for a full and comprehensive eye exam. Eye exams are recommended at the age of six months (by specialized infantsee providers) and subsequently yearly after the age of three. Early use of iPads and other digital devices creates a new challenge for children’s developing visual systems and seeing well involves more than just seeing 20/20 on an eye chart. Evaluation of tracking, eye teaming and convergence are crucial to ensuring optimal ocular performance and subsequent academic success.

kids-girl-pencil-drawing-159823.jpegThis little girl and her family were lucky that she was doing so well in school despite her amblyopia and suboptimal visual system. Don’t wait until your child complains or you get a note sent home from the school nurse or your child’s teacher – book your childs yearly exam now before the school year gets underway.