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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.

15 Fun Facts About Your Eyes You Probably Didn’t Know !

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

Young woman in sunglasses

You’ve had your peepers since you were born, so you may think you know them pretty well, but here are some fun facts you may not know about eyes:

  • The average blink lasts for about 1/10th of a second.
  • While it takes some time for most parts of your body to warm up to their full potential, your eyes are on their “A game” 24/7.
  • Eyes heal quickly. With proper care, it only takes about 48 hours for the eye to repair a corneal scratch.
  • Seeing is such a big part of everyday life that it requires about half of the brain to get involved.
  • Newborns don’t produce tears. They make crying sounds, but the tears don’t start flowing until they are about 4-13 weeks old.
  • Around the world, about 39 million people are blind and roughly 6 times that many have some kind of vision impairment.
  • Doctors have yet to find a way to transplant an eyeball. The optic nerve that connects the eye to the brain is too sensitive to reconstruct successfully.
  • The cells in your eye come in different shapes. Rod-shaped cells allow you to see shapes, and cone-shaped cells allow you to see color.
  • You blink about 12 times every minute.
  • Your eyes are about 1 inch across and weigh about 0.25 ounce.
  • Some people are born with two differently colored eyes. This condition is heterochromia.
  • Even if no one in the past few generations of your family had blue or green eyes, these recessive traits can still appear in later generations.
  • Each of your eyes has a small blind spot in the back of the retina where the optic nerve attaches. You don’t notice the hole in your vision because your eyes work together to fill in each other’s blind spot.
  • Out of all the muscles in your body, the muscles that control your eyes are the most active.
  • 80% of vision problems worldwide are avoidable or even curable.

Who knew your eyes could be so amazing and complex? See your VSP network eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam every year to give your eyes the attention they deserve.

Sunglasses for kids protect eyes from sun damage

By | Eye Care, Eye Facts

As summertime draws near, ophthalmologists are nudging adults to be sure their children are sporting a pair of sunglasses to protect their eyes from sun damage.

The Vision Council issued a report last week that claimed while 73 percent of adults slip on a pair of shades when it’s sunny, only 58 percent of parents offer a pair to their kids. And since many experts believe our eyes get 80 percent of their total lifetime exposure to the sun’s UV rays by age 18, there is plenty of good reason to keep a pair handy for your little one.The report, which polled 10,000 adults in the US, found that more than half of us lose or break our sunglasses every year, and more than a quarter of us never bother to wear them anyway.

THE CUTEST KIDS IN HOLLYWOOD

If you have blue eyes, your eyes are more at risk for UV damage, experts say. But even brown eyes need protecting from the sun’s rays, which can cause a variety of eye problems, including irritation, cataracts, and cancer. In addition, a good pair of sunglasses can protect your eyes from wrinkles and crow’s feet, say experts.

The good news is that it’s never too early, or too late, to start wearing sunglasses, Paul Michelson, an ophthalmologist in California and chairman of the medical advisory arm to The Vision Council, told WebMD.

When it comes to buying sunglasses for both yourself and your child, price isn’t what’s important, he added. Rather, look for shades that offer protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Also, aim for comfort, and a bit of style. “Get sunglasses that you feel you look good in, so you will wear them,” he said.

Also considering you’re likely to break or lose them anyway, it’s a good idea to buy several pairs to keep stored in your car, your purse, or in your sports bag.

When shopping for styles for your kids, a slew of sunglass companies from Ray Ban to Oakley have targeted what kids want with rich colors and creative frames, such as cat-eye or geometric shapes in tortoise or green. Plastic sunglass frames can mimic adult styles, as can miniature wraparounds for a sporty look.

All About Vision, a website devoted to eye care, recommends visiting an optician and having your child fitted for the right pair. You might consider opting for clip-on sunglasses if your child wears prescription eyeglasses — rather than attaching with metal clips, you can purchase ones that magnetically attach.

Kids are also looking for brand name appeal, adds All About Vision. To meet the brand-conscious demand, “major eyewear manufacturers have teamed up with Disney, popular cartoons, and young celebrities to create eyewear and sunglasses made for and appealing specifically to children.”

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.”

 

Holidays Can Be a Dangerous Time for Eyes

By | Blog, Eye Care

16/12/2013
by Milan Eye Center

The holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year for most people. Staying on the go throughout the day can be very hectic and stressful, which is the perfect way for accidents and injuries to occur. In order to stay safe this holiday season, you should take the proper precautions so that you and your family avoid as many accidents as possible. While trips and falls can be common as you are decorating your home, keeping your eyes safe from harm is an important factor that may sometimes get overlooked, but ensuring eye safety during the holidays should be something that should be at the top of everyone’s list.

DANGERS OF GLASS ORNAMENTS

Glass ornaments can be very beautiful displayed on your family’s Christmas tree. Many are passed down from one generation to the next and cherished as family keepsakes. These fragile items can be broken in an instant, and small fragments of glass can fly everywhere when that happens. If you must clean up the shattered glass, be sure to keep your eyes protected from the tiny fragments that could make their way into the eye. Wear gloves and be sure to wash your hands after cleaning the mess so that you will not accidentally get any foreign object in your eyes.

If you do end up with glass or any other foreign object in your eye, wash your hands and try to flush the object out using a saline solution or clean water. Do not try to remove any object that appears to be embedded in the eyeball and never rub your eyes. You should also never attempt to remove a large object from the eye that makes closing the eye hard to do.

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, WREATHS AND TREES

Hanging Christmas lights makes everyone feel more festive during the holidays, but it can also be dangerous, especially if you have to climb a ladder or stand on something that is slightly unstable. It is possible to end up getting poked in the eye with those tiny bright lights that would cause an eye injury. Pine needles that can be found on festive wreaths and Christmas Trees can also pose as a threat to the eyes.

If you get poked in the eye with small objects that could cause some damage, first look in the mirror and examine your eye. Look for any blood in the white portion, this could be a sign of an injury, or it could also be nothing to worry about. If you are feeling pain when you look from side to side or top to bottom, you may need to contact your eye doctor. If your vision is blurry as you are looking through your injured eye, a visit to the local ER may be necessary.

The holiday season may be full of exciting events; but a trip to the local emergency room should not be one of them. By making sure that your eyes stay protected as you decorate your home; you will have one less thing to worry about during this festive time of year.