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.  

 

Are video games bad for your eyes?

person holding game pads
Photo by EVG photos on Pexels.com

The president of China, Xi Jinping, seems to think so. The Xinhua News Agency came out with an article this past week that stated that since the “vision health of our country’s young people has always been a great concern” to Xi Jinping, the country is going to start limiting the number of new online video games available for sale. A recent study found that there was a 12% prevalence of myopia (or nearsightedness) in first grade children, a number that jumped to 67.4% by seventh grade. Excessive reading and/or prolonged near point work has long been a contender in the lineup of reasons for why nearsightedness develops, and the Chinese have glommed onto the specific near point activity of gaming as an activity to limit in order to curtail the myopic epidemic.

There are many theories as to why myopia develops, and there is no one culprit to blame. Genetics play a role as does lack of spending time outdoors and near point stress from prolonged reading as well as the digital world that we now inhabit. Doctors are reluctant to blame any one thing for the development of myopia and many do not agree with China’s video game restriction. Instead of totally banning video games, parents should rather limit screen time and encourage their children to play outside. Kids (and adults) should also be encouraged to follow the 20/20/20 rule – every twenty minutes, look twenty feet away for twenty seconds. As you can imagine gaming industry stock dropped in response to China’s announcement….

focus photo of super mario luigi and yoshi figurines
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Contact Lens Health Week

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Although we have talked about good contact lens hygiene in the past (remember the underwear analogy?) in honor of Contact Lens Health Week (August 20-24) I will reiterate some of the dos and don’ts of proper contact lens usage.

  • Don’t sleep or nap in your contacts. Ever. This kind of risky behavior increases the chances of contact lens related eye infection by 6-8 times. These types of eye infections can lead to using drops hourly, vision loss, and surgery. Just Don’t Do It.
  • Wash your hands before putting your fingers in your eyes to touch your contacts.
  • Daily disposables are the healthiest modality of contact lens wear. If you do wear bi-weekly or monthly contacts make sure you are using fresh solution in your clean case every day and don’t wear your contacts beyond the recommended wear schedule. Yuk. An old dirty contact lens can also cause infections.
  • No swimming or showering with contact lenses. Microbes in water can adhere to contacts and cause…you guessed it – terrible eye infections.
  • If your eye hurts or looks red or weird don’t put your contact lenses in your eye and hope for the best – make an appointment ASAP with your optometrist.
  • Make an appointment yearly to see your optometrist. Not all contact lens related complications are visible to the naked eye and a thorough professional evaluation is necessary to ensure your eyes are getting enough oxygen and have no corneal defects.

#onepairtakecare – you only get one pair of eyes – treat them well!

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