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Eye Safety

How smoke from wildfires affects your vision

By | Blog, Community Outreach, Eye Care, Eye Facts, Eye Safety, Latest Heritage News

By John Egan

From her home, Heather Burgett sees the smoky haze from wildfires ravaging the Los Angeles area. She feels the impact of that wildfire smoke, too.

Burgett’s throat is scratchy, prompting her to stock up on cough drops. She also is experiencing exhaustion, a possible byproduct of her body ridding itself of airborne toxins. And she is coping with watery, itchy eyes.

“I wear contacts, so I’ve been only able to wear them for a short time, and then I have to switch to glasses,” says Burgett, a public relations professional who lives in Santa Monica.

“It’s nothing all that dramatic compared to all the people that have lost homes, but living in this toxic air does have its effects,” she adds.

Wildfire smoke’s effect on vision

During the 2019 wildfire season, Burgett and thousands of her Southern California neighbors have struggled with vision problems as a result of the smoky, toxic air. In particular, wildfires generate carbon and dust particles that irritate your eyes, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).

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Doctors say symptoms of eye irritation triggered by wildfire smoke include burning, itching, tearing up, redness, grittiness, temporarily blurred vision, and aggravation of dry eye and allergy conditions.

“Even a healthy person’s eyes can be bothered by prolonged exposure to smoke,” says Dr. Robert Weinreb, chairman and distinguished professor of ophthalmology at the University of California, San Diego.

Fortunately, wildfire smoke should not lead to major, persistent vision loss, according to Dr. Gerami Seitman, an ophthalmologist at UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco.

How to protect your eyes from smoke

Seitman and Dr. Matilda Chan, a fellow ophthalmologist at UCSF Medical Center, and Dr. Vivian Shibayama, an optometrist at UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute in Los Angeles, share their advice for preventing and treating eye irritation caused by wildfire smoke. Their tips include:

  • STAY INSIDE: If possible, stay indoors with the windows closed when outdoor air quality is poor.
  • USE AN AIR PURIFIER: While you’re indoors, use an air purifier to decrease the presence of eye irritants.
  • WEAR GLASSES, NOT CONTACTS: Don’t wear your contact lenses, as they attract airborne particles from wildfire smoke.
  • PROTECT YOUR EYES OUTDOORS: If you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors, wear wrap-around goggles to reduce exposure to wildfire smoke. Don’t have wrap-around goggles? Prescription eyeglasses or sunglasses can help block eye irritants.
  • RINSE OUT YOUR EYES: Wash away eye irritants with over-the-counter saline rinse or artificial tears. If you’re using artificial tears more than four times a day, stick with the preservative-free variety. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends storing artificial tears in your refrigerator to add eye-cooling relief.
  • TRY EYE DROPS FOR RELIEF: If itchy eyes are bugging you, try over-the-counter, itch-alleviating antihistamine eye drops.
  • APPLY A COMPRESS: Place a cold compress to your closed eyes to help alleviate itching.
  • SEE AN EYE DOCTOR: If your symptoms don’t improve, make an appointment with an eye care provider.

 

Smoke’s effects can linger after fires are out

Don’t overlook the fact that even when the smoke has cleared, barely visible ash and dust can remain in the air for up to two weeks after a wildfire has been extinguished, according to the AAO.

Also, keep in mind that eye irritation is a comparatively minor inconvenience when you consider the devastation of wildfires.

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As of early November, nearly 6,200 blazes had scorched close to 200,000 acres during California’s 2019 wildfire season, damaged or destroyed 725 structures, and killed three people.

By the way, wildfires aren’t confined to California. Wildfires occur across the U.S., meaning smoke from burning grass, trees and homes could pose a health – and vision – hazard wherever you live.

Coronavirus Can Land On your Glasses: How To Disinfect Your Specs.

By | Blog, Community Outreach, coronavirus, COVID, COVID-19, Eye Care, Eye Facts, Eye Safety, Health and Nutrition, Latest Heritage News

Glasses can act as a barrier between you and a person who is coughing or sneezing, but that also means the virus can lurk on the surface.

May 20, 2020, 5:10 AM PDT / Source: TODAY

By A. Pawlowski

Amid all the warnings about contaminated surfaces possibly spreading the new coronavirus, many people may not be aware of a “surface” they’re touching all day: their glasses.

When going out in public, prescription specs or sunglasses can serve as a kind of barrier between the wearer and strangers who are coughing or sneezing, with the respiratory droplets landing on the lenses.

The virus can persist on glass for up to four days, one study found. It can also be detected for up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel — materials that may be used in lenses and frames.

People often take glasses on and off all day, potentially transferring more of the virus onto their specs with their hands. Some rub their eyes after handling glasses or put the tips of the frame into their mouths, potentially exposing them to the pathogen.

NBC contributor believes he got coronavirus through his eyes — how does that happen?

Dr. Barbara Horn, president of the American Optometric Association, said she’s become much more conscious of the cleanliness of her eyewear during the pandemic.

“It’s very important,” Horn, an optometrist who lives in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, told TODAY.

“I’m certainly not saying glasses are the main culprit by any means, but you just always want to be careful — making sure you’re cognizant of the fact that glasses can transfer (the virus) and be aware of how to clean them properly.”

Here are Horn’s tips for disinfecting glasses:

Clean your glasses after being out in the public:

Horn doesn’t need prescription glasses, but wears sunglasses constantly and makes sure to clean them after a trip to the grocery store or other places where she’s around other people.

“Every time I walk in my home, the first thing I do is… wash my hands and then wash my glasses,” Horn said.

Soap and water are the best option

The new coronavirus is very sensitive to all soaps, said Dr. Joseph Vinetz, an infectious disease doctor at Yale Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut.

Always rinse the lenses first with water to avoid grinding any particles that may be on the surface into the glasses and scratching them, Horn advised.

Put a drop or two of soap, like dish soap, onto the lens and rub it around lightly with a microfiber cloth.

Disposable lens cleaning wipes can work, too.

Make sure to clean the nose pads, which touch the face constantly and can get dirty, and the edge where the lens meets the frame: “Lots of dust and debris can get trapped in that little space,” Horn said.

Don’t forget to clean the frame, including the earpiece that goes behind the ear.

Rinse and dry with a soft cloth. Avoid using paper towels, which have fibers that can easily scratch lenses. If using a non-disposable cloth to clean glasses, wash that cloth as well after cleaning the specs.

It’s the same procedure for sunglasses.

Don’t worry about the little screws in the frame rusting if you wash your glasses. It shouldn’t happen if you let the frame air dry, plus screws can be easily replaced, so that shouldn’t be a concern, Horn said.

Don’t blow on glasses to clean them

Many people use their breath to steam up the lenses to try to clean them. “Especially right now, you don’t want to breathe on your glasses,” Horn said, to avoid putting any germs on them.

Don’t use rubbing alcohol or bleach

These cleaning agents can be harsh on anti-reflective or non-glare coatings on lenses, Horn cautioned. They could also make the frame more brittle. Stick to soap and water.

Household disinfecting wipes should be OK to use occasionally on frames, but again, skip the lenses, she advised.

Don’t put the frames in your mouth

It’s a common habit, but it’s not a good idea since frames may be germy and potentially lead to an infection, “especially during these times,” Horn said.

The same goes for rubbing your eyes, especially since coronavirus can enter the body through them, binding to receptors on the surface of the eyes and spreading throughout the body, NBC News medical correspondent Dr. John Torres told TODAY.

Another reason: People can actually go blind from rubbing their eyes because they can break down the front layer of the cornea, Horn warned.

Bottom line:

Touching glasses can potentially spread germs so cleaning them throughout the day — especially during a pandemic — would be ideal, Horn said.

6 Simple Ways to Take Better Care of Your Eyes

By | Blog, Community Outreach, Eye Care, Eye Facts, Eye Safety, Health and Nutrition, Latest Heritage News
Your eye doc wanted us to pass these along.
Woman rubbing eyes outside

If any of your body parts were to write a mournful ballad about feeling underappreciated, it might be your eyes. Be real: Is eye care really at the top of your priority list? Probably not, but it likely needs to be a little higher than it is right now. Think about how much your eyes do for you all day long, from the moment you snap them open to, you know, begin your day, to when you close them at night so you can finally get some rest. Taking care of them is essential.

Looking after your eyes (lol) when there’s nothing wrong with them might feel pointless. But you’ll appreciate it in the long run, Beeran Meghpara, M.D., an eye surgeon at Wills Eye Hospital, tells SELF. “I see people daily in my office with eye problems that are preventable,” he says.

Since you probably don’t want to join their ranks, we polled eye doctors for their tips on simple, easy things you can do to take better care of your eyes. Try these to preserve your vision and lower the odds you’ll have to deal with eye issues in the future.
1. Take your contacts out before you shower, swim, or otherwise get water on your face.

You probably already know other contact lens must-dos, like never sleeping in them. But a lot of contact lens wearers don’t realize they shouldn’t let their lenses get wet.

Your contact lenses basically act as a sponge, Dr. Meghpara says. Wearing contacts in the shower and while swimming can expose them to things like bacteria and parasites. “[They] get absorbed into your lenses, which are a conduit into your eyes,” Dr. Meghpara says.

Some of those pathogens may cause eye irritation or an eye infection, he says, but others can be more serious. One of those is acanthamoeba, a parasite that can live in lakes and oceans and cause a rare infection called acanthamoeba keratitis. This is an infection of the cornea that can cause eye pain and redness, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, excessively watery eyes, and a feeling that something is in your eyes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the worst cases, acanthamoeba keratitis can cause blindness. “It can be devastating,” Dr. Meghpara says

Again, acanthamoeba keratitis is rare. But why increase your risk of even garden-variety eye irritation by wearing your contacts in water?

2. Wear safety glasses when you do any home improvement projects—even with simple stuff.

It makes sense that someone like Chip Gaines would wear safety glasses, since he regularly wields a nail gun. Nails and eyes aren’t quite peanut butter and jelly. Even if you don’t have a home renovation show, you should don protective eyewear when you DIY improvement projects, including ones as simple as hanging a picture frame, Dr. Meghpara says: “We’ve seen people try to hang up a picture, and a piece of the nail or frame broke off and ended up in their eye.” Dr. Meghpara says.

Eye protection is especially important if you work with tools for your job. Every day, about 2,000 workers in the United States have job-related eye injuries that require medical treatment, according to The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Wearing safety goggles can prevent about 90 percent of these injuries, according to the American Optometric Association, making this a super important step.

3. See an eye doctor at least every two years, or more frequently if necessary.

You probably do this just about as often as you visit the dentist, which might be…uh…next to never. But instead of rolling your eyes at this advice, do your due diligence and walk them on over to the eye doctor every two years. That’s how often the American Optometric Association recommends that adults aged 18 to 60 get an eye exam.

“It is very important to have a comprehensive eye exam at least every other year,” Tatevik Movsisyan, O.D., M.S., assistant clinical professor of advanced ocular care and primary care clinics at The Ohio State University College of Optometry, tells SELF.

This applies even if you think you have great vision. Regular eye exams can detect eye diseases and conditions that may have no early symptoms, like glaucoma, James Khodabakhsh, M.D., chief of the department of ophthalmology at Cedars Sinai Medical Center and CEO/medical director of the Beverly Hills Institute of Ophthalmology, tells SELF. Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that can cause blindness, but catching it early can hinder its progress. Bottom line: See your eye doctor every other year, or more frequently than that if you have risk factors like a family history of eye diseases.

4. Pamper your eyelids with a warm compress every day.

Your eyelids have Meibomian glands that pump oil onto the surface of your eyes and create a healthy tear film, Dr. Meghpara says. But as you get older, these glands don’t pump out oil as much as they used to.

If your eyelids aren’t pumping out enough oil, you can develop dry eye or blepharitis (a condition that causes an inflammation of the eyelid), Dr. Meghpara says. Applying warmth to those glands can soften up any oil that’s clogged in there, making them more likely to work the way they should.

To use a warm compress, simply wet a washcloth with warm water, close your eyes, and press the compress up against your eyelids for a few moments, Muriel Schornack, O.D., an optometrist at the Mayo Clinic, tells SELF. “I tell all my patients: If you do this now every day, it can hopefully prevent a problem with dry eye later on,” Dr. Meghpara says.

5. Eat a balanced diet.

The American Optometric Association specifically recommends that you try to get certain nutrients in your diet on a regular basis for the sake of your eyes.

These include lutein and zeaxanthin, which are found in foods like spinach, kale, and eggs, and may reduce your risk of chronic eye diseases. Vitamin C, which is in tons of fruits and vegetables (including ones other than oranges), might slow the progression of age-related vision loss. Then there’s vitamin E, which you can get from vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and green veggies like spinach and broccoli, and which can potentially help protect cells in your eyes from tissue breakdown. Omega-3 fatty acids from sources like flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and fish are important for proper functioning of your retina, which sends visual messages to your brain. There’s also zinc (found in oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, crab, lobster, and more), which helps your body produce melanin, a protective pigment in the eyes.

Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet also reduces your risk of developing or exacerbating hypertension and type 2 diabetes, all of which can lead to eye complications, Dr. Movsisyan says.

6. Wear your sunglasses—yes, even when it’s cloudy or freezing.

While the sun might not seem as powerful when hiding behind clouds or during winter, it’s still there—and it can still harm your eyes. Sunglasses can protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation, which may cause eye issues like pinguecula and pterygia (growths on the conjunctiva, the clear tissue that covers the white part of the eye), or keratitis (inflammation or damage to the cornea itself), Dr. Schornack says.

While some eye protection is better than none, the Mayo Clinic specifically recommends looking for sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays, screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light, have lenses that are perfectly matched in color and free of distortions and imperfections, and have lenses that are gray so you can see colors clearly. Wrap-around or close-fitting sunglasses are also ideal to protect your eyes from every angle, the organization says.

If you have any questions at all about your eye health, call your eye doctor or get one if you don’t have one already. A lot of times, eye conditions can be controlled or reversed if they’re caught early, Dr. Meghpara says. Translation: Future you might thank present you for sticking with an eye-care regimen.

November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month

By | Eye Care, Eye Facts, Eye Safety, Health and Nutrition

Diabetes:  What It Is, Prevention, and Its Affect on the Eyes

What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is the condition in which the body does not properly process food for use as energy. This causes glucose (sugar) to build up in the blood. Too much glucose in the blood can cause damage throughout the body, including the heart, kidneys, feet, teeth, skin, blood vessels in the body, and the small blood vessels in the eyes. In the United States alone, there are 29.1 million people diagnosed with diabetes and it is the seventh leading cause of death.

Can Diabetes Be Prevented?
Type 1 Diabetes (a total lack of insulin available to control the body’s glucose levels) cannot be prevented but those with the disease can help prevent or delay the development of complications by keeping their blood sugar in a target range and by having regularly scheduled medical exams and dilated eye exams to detect early signs of complications.

Type 2 Diabetes (insufficient insulin in the body or the body unable to use it as it should), on the other hand, can, in most cases, be prevented. Research studies have found that moderate weight loss and exercise can prevent or delay Type 2 Diabetes. According to the Diabetes Research Council, with the correct treatment and lifestyle changes, many people with diabetes are able to prevent or delay the onset of complications. For more information on a “wellness approach to diabetes”:  https://www.diabetesresearch.org/document.doc?id=260

Does Diabetes Affect the Eyes?
Diabetes does affect the eyes and can cause cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy.

What are Cataracts?
Cataracts is a condition where the eye’s naturally clear lens becomes cloudy, or opaque. With diabetes, uncontrolled blood sugar levels speed up the development of cataracts in adults and younger people as well.

 What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a disease that occurs when too much fluid builds up in the front part of the eye. This fluid buildup increases the pressure within the eye, which, in turn, damages the optic nerve. According to the National Eye Institute, glaucoma is sometimes called “silent thief of sight” because it slowly damages the eyes and can cause irreparable harm before there are symptoms.

                 vision-with-and-without-glaucoma

There are treatments to delay vision loss, but no cure, making it a leading cause of blindness all over the world. According to the Glaucoma Foundation, there is considerable evidence that having Type 2 Diabetes along with the duration of the disease, and having uncontrolled blood sugar levels increases the risk of developing primary open angle glaucoma (the most common type of glaucoma).

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is a condition of the eye in which the blood vessels in the retina swell, leak, close off completely, or abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. Between 12,000 and 24,000 new cases of blindness from diabetic retinopathy occur in the United States each year, according to the CDC, and many could be prevented with early intervention. But a significant percentage of Americans with diabetes are not aware of their risk of vision impairment from the disease.

Oftentimes there are no visual symptoms with diabetic retinopathy, but an examination of the retina can reveal the tiny dot and blot hemorrhages in the eye.

 

 

 

 

 

Shingles of the Eye Cases Are on the Rise

By | Eye Safety, Health and Nutrition, Latest Heritage News

 

By Christina Ianzito, AARP, May 15, 2019 | Comments: 0

The side effects of the shingles virus can range from extremely unpleasant to nightmarish, especially when the virus affects the eye. Unfortunately, shingles of the eye is rising dramatically, according to researchers at the University of Michigan’s Kellogg Eye Center who found that the incidence has tripled since 2004.

 

The study results were presented at the 2019 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology meeting in Vancouver recently and given how dramatic the findings are, says lead author Nakul Shekhawat, “we are now looking at overall incidences of shingles in that time frame and seeing if there’s a similar pattern.”

 

Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which first enters the body as chickenpox (which nearly every adult over 40 had as a child) and never leaves. It stays dormant in sensory nerve roots, and in about one-third of us, reactivates later in life as shingles. Its most common early symptoms are itching, tingling or pain, followed by an angry red rash along the nerve path traveled by the virus — the path depends on where the virus has been “sleeping.”

 

It often appears as an angry red rash on the torso, but about 20 percent of cases show up in the eye area on one side of the face — typically with redness on and around the eyelid, and sometimes on the forehead and scalp.

 

“It can be confusing and is often misdiagnosed in the early stages,” says James Chodosh, an ophthalmologist with expertise in viruses at Massachusetts Eye and Ear in Boston. “Sometimes people complain of a headache, or think it’s a skin infection, or allergy. It’s only when the characteristic rash comes out that patients are more definitively diagnosed, and that can lag.”

 

It’s most dangerous when it affects the cornea (the clear, front part of the eye), which can result in vision loss, and, in rare cases, blindness. It’s also “very painful,” says Shekhawat, “Because the cornea has a dense concentration of nerves. It’s one of the most sensitive parts of the body.”

Shingles is typically successfully treated with antiviral medication, but in about 20 percent of cases results in post herpetic neuralgia — chronic pain that lingers long after the infection subsides. The treatment is more effective sooner than later, which is why it’s important see a doctor as soon as you suspect you may have shingles, preferably within 72 hours, says Keith Baratz, ophthalmologist at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota: “Time is of the essence.”

 

Shekhawat says the increase in shingles cases may be attributed to the aging of the population — as we age our immune systems weaken and have a tougher time fighting off the virus when it tries to reactivate.

 

The good news: The shingles vaccine is extremely effective.

 

The CDC recommends that people 50 or older get the latest vaccine, Shingrix, even if they’ve already been vaccinated with the older vaccine, Zostavax. Zostavax is only about 50 percent effective in preventing shingles. Shingrix is 97 percent effective in people ages 50 to 69, and 91 percent effective in those 70 and up.

 

Shingrix requires two doses, the second dose two to six months after the first.

 

The bad news: The vaccine can cause flulike symptoms for a day or two. And a Shingrix shortage has recently left many people scrambling to get even one dose. (To find it near you, try the CDC’s vaccine finder or the Shingrix vaccine locator.)

 

The side effects are small price to pay, notes the Mayo Clinic’s Baratz. “I’ll take some fever and chills for 24 hours over a one-in-three chance of getting shingles. I think it’s an easy decision.”

 

One Reason Myopia (Nearsightedness) is on the Rise!

By | Community Outreach, Eye Care, Eye Facts, Eye Safety

An incredible 1.6 billion people worldwide suffer from some form of nearsightedness (myopia), which can vary from being mild to severe.

Myopia is the world’s most common eyesight problem, but in the last two decades there has been a significant increase in the number of children being diagnosed with the condition.

Recent research suggests that a quarter of children now need glasses to correct blurred distance vision caused by myopia.

A study carried out has found that a lack of outdoor activity (less than 45 minutes a day) and a general increase in the amount of time (more than 2 hours a day) spent using near vision (video games, computers) can affect eye development in children.

Reducing the risk of myopia
There is a genetic link to the development of myopia, with those who have a familial history of the eye condition being more likely to suffer from it too.

For children who are predisposed to developing myopia, it was suggested that they spend at least 15 hours a week outside and minimize the amount of time doing long stints of activities that require near vision.

Simple changes, such as increasing the amount of time outdoors and limiting the use of liquid crystal monitors at close range (laptops, computer games etc) can help reduce the risk of developing myopia.