We all know the importance of using sunscreen to protect our skin from the sun's harmful rays, but what about protection for our eyes?
May is Ultraviolet Awareness Month (Prevent Blindness America), and eye doctors across the nation are urging Americans to protect their eyes by wearing sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats. "Recent studies have shown that prolonged exposure to the sun's invisible, high energy ultraviolet rays without protection may cause eye conditions that can lead to vision loss, such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration," says Dr. Robert G. Leikin, a practicing optometrist at Baltimore Eye Physicians. Sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat are the best defense system for your eyes against sunlight and harmful UV rays. To be effective, both must be worn every time you are outside for prolonged periods of time, even when it is overcast.
But what type of sunglasses should you buy? "The most important thing is to purchase sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays," says Dr. Leikin." The ability to block UV light is not dependent on the darkness of the lens. UV protection can come from adding chemicals to the lens material during manufacturing or from a chemical coating applied to the lens surface. Prescription sunglasses, especially polarized lenses, are best suited for outdoor activities involving beach and boating due to the high level of glare from the sand and water. Dr. Leikin and his staff at Baltimore Eye Physicians will assist you in selecting sunglasses, frames and lens coatings suitable for your level of sun exposure.
In addition to the damage caused by repeated sun exposure over time, you need to protect your eyes from acute damage caused by a single day in the sun. Excessive exposure to ultraviolet light reflected off sand, snow or pavement can burn the eye's surface. Similar to sunburns, eye surface burns usually disappear within a couple of days, but may lead to further complications later in life.
Baltimore Eye Physcians is offering 25 percent off their already competitively priced selection of designer sunglasses and eyewear frames (Offer good May 1-June 15). (Discount applies to a complete pair-frame and lenses. Other restrictions may apply.)
UV safety tips from the American Academy of Ophthalmology:
• Don’t be deceived by color or cost. The ability to block UV light is not dependent on the price tag or how dark the sunglass lenses are.
• Don’t focus on color or darkness of sunglass lenses: Select sunglasses that block UV rays.
• Check for 100 percent UV protection: Make sure your sunglasses block 100 percent of UV-A rays and UV-B rays.
• Choose wrap-around styles: Ideally, your sunglasses should wrap all the way around to your temples, so the sun’s rays can’t enter from the side.
• Wear a hat: In addition to your sunglasses, wear a broad-brimmed hat to protect your eyes.
• Don’t rely on contact lenses: Even if you wear contact lenses with UV protection, remember your sunglasses.
• Don’t be fooled by clouds: The sun’s rays can pass through haze and thin clouds. Sun damage to eyes can occur anytime during the year, not just in the summertime.
• Protect your eyes during peak sun times: Sunglasses should be worn whenever outside, and it’s especially important to wear sunglasses in the early afternoon and at higher altitudes, where UV light is more intense.
• Never look directly at the sun. Looking directly at the sun at any time, including during an eclipse, can lead to solar retinopathy, damage to the eye’s retina from solar radiation.
• Don’t forget the kids: Everyone is at risk, including children.
• Protect their eyes with hats and sunglasses. In addition, try to keep children out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s UV rays are the strongest.
Sports Eye Safety: More to Lose Than a Game
BALTIMORE—April 9, 2012—Spring weather often signals the beginning of the season for many favorite outdoor activities and sports. The National Eye Institute reports that 100,000 sport-related eye injuries occur in the United States each year, 42,000 of which result in a trip to the emergency room. Wearing protective eyewear can prevent 90 percent of sport-related eye injuries.
Sport-Related Eye Injuries
Baltimore Eye Physicians Optometrist, Robert G. Leikin says, “Three types of eye traumas can result from sports injuries: corneal abrasion, blunt injuries and penetrating injuries. Regular glasses do not provide sufficient protection during sports, and a broken lens may even cut the eye.”
Eyeglass Lenses for Sports
The National Eye Institute recommends Polycarbonate lenses, which provide the best eye protection for many sports because they are thin and lightweight, impact resistant, scratch resistant, and can be designed to meet most eyewear designs or prescriptions.
Contacts for Sports
If you currently wear glasses, you might consider the freedom contacts can offer during sporting activities. Not only can contacts be more comfortable during sports--there is no lens weight on the face or slipping of frames from perspiration to contend with-- contacts also offer better peripheral vision. Baltimore Eye Physicians offer an array of contact lenses for their patients’ unique vision including multi-focal contact lenses that now offer those who have been wearing bifocal eye glasses the option to wear contacts.
Some sports, particularly racquet sports, have a higher risk for eye injury due to balls and racquets traveling at high speeds. Protective goggles are highly recommended, either alone for those that do not have vision problems, or in addition to contacts.
Sunglasses for Outdoor Sports
Outdoor sports pose an additional risk of sun over-exposure, which can lead to serious eye-health problems like cataracts, macular degeneration, and eye-related skin cancers. “Sport-specific designed sunglasses made with polarized lenses that block 99 to 100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays are best suited for outdoor activities involving beach and boating due to the high level of glare,” says Dr. Leikin. Boaters, sport-fisherman, water-skiers, and others who engage in outdoor sports with an inherent danger of excessive exposure to sun and wind are at risk for developing pterygiums, strange skin-like growths that cover the inner corner of the eyeball that can eventually grow to cover the pupil and impair vision permanently if not surgically removed.
When an Injury Occurs
A serious eye injury is not always immediately obvious. If you do sustain an eye injury, Dr. Leikin says you should see an ophthalmologist or visit the nearest emergency room right away, even if the injury seems minor at first. Delaying medical attention can cause the damaged areas to worsen and could result in permanent vision loss or blindness.
Sport Injury Prevention
The best way to prevent an injury is to be prepared. Before you head outdoors, remember to first consider the safety of your eyes and wear the appropriate eye protection. The best choice of eye protection depends on the risks associated with the activity, so be sure to consult your optometrist first for their recommendations on the best option for your chosen sport and unique vision.
National Sports Eye Safety Month
In honor of April’s National Sports Eye Safety Month (American Academy of Ophthalmology), Baltimore Eye Physicians is offering a 20 percent discount on the purchase of a complete pair of glasses or sunglasses (Mention Offer Code: ses0412, valid 4/15-5/15). Experienced opticians are available to assist you in choosing the proper sport-specific protection and recommend the appropriate lenses, which can be clear, tinted, or polarized, or Dr. Leikin can evaluate your vision for contact lens options.
Computer Vision Syndrome: The New Occupational Hazard
Working Long Hours at the Computer May Strain Your Eyes and Affect Your Productivity
Did you know that the American Optometric Association has named March Save Your Vision Month?
More than half of the country’s workforce spend their workday in front of computers, with the result that as many as 50 to 90 percent of workers experience Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). Fast becoming the number one occupational hazard of the 21st century, uncorrected CVS is not only uncomfortable, but studies show it can also affect worker productivity and accuracy.
The symptoms of CVS include sore, tired, burning or itching eyes, watery eyes, dry eyes, headache, blurry or double vision, increased light sensitivity, sore neck and backache. Although you may not be able to change the nature of your job or all the factors that can cause eyestrain, you can take a few simple steps to reduce eyestrain and improve your productivity at work.
Here are 5 Steps to Reduce Computer Vision Eye Strain
Computer users should have an eye exam at least once a year. Be sure to tell your eye doctor how often you use a computer at work and at home. Customized computer glasses, prescribed specifically to reduce eyestrain, can make a world of difference in your eye comfort level. Your regular glasses, even bifocals or trifocals, are probably not quite right for computer work, which falls into an intermediate vision zone. Contact lenses often become dry and uncomfortable during sustained computer work.
Harsh office lights and sunlight coming in through a window can cause glare as well as reflections on the computer screen. You can reduce excessive light by lowering blinds, using lower intensity light bulbs or positioning your computer monitor so that windows are to the side of it, rather than in front or behind. Computer glasses with anti-reflective (AR) coating can significantly reduce the amount of glare and reflected light that reach your eyes.
If you have an old, tube-style monitor, replace it with a high resolution, flat-panel liquid crystal display (LCD) with a diagonal screen size of at least 19 inches. Old CRT screens can have an imperceptible flicker image, which is a major source of eye strain. Check that the text size and color is optimal. Black text on a white background is the best color combination for your eyes.
Take a break from the computer screen every 20 minutes or so by looking at a distance object for 20-30 seconds to relax your near focus or accommodation. Also, a routine eye exercise can be performed so your eyes don’t “lock up” (a condition called accommodative spasm). Look away from the screen at a distant object for 10 or 15 seconds, and then look at something up close for the same amount of time. This should be repeated about 10 times. Next take a “blink break.” Close your eyes very slowly 10 times. Blinking rewets your eyes and helps avoid dryness and irritation. Studies show that people working at computers blink about five times less than normally.
Choose monitors that can tilt and swivel. Position the monitor 20 to 24 inches away.
The center of the screen should be about 10 to 15 degrees below your eyes for comfortable positioning of your head and neck. If you are looking down at the keyboard while typing, lower the monitor slightly to reduce the strain on your neck muscles.
Prevent Blindness America reported A Healthy Diet Can Help Protect Vision apropos of Low Vision and AMD Awareness Month.
According to a study by the National Eye Institute (NEI), age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects two million Americans and is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in those over the age of fifty. Due to the aging baby-boom population, the statistics for AMD are projected to double by 2020 from the current 200,000 Americans diagnosed with the disease annually.
Although AMD is an incurable condition, early detection is key to avoiding vision loss. If you have no risk factors for the eye disease and you are 65 years or older, you should have an eye exam every one to two years. Now is the time to schedule your annual comprehensive eye exam this month.
What Is AMD?
AMD is deterioration or breakdown of the
macula, the small but vital portion of the retina that controls our central vision, allowing us to see details clearly. The deterioration may cause symptoms such as blurriness, dark areas or distortion of our central vision, and may severely affect a person’s ability to read and drive, which has an enormous impact on productivity, independence, and quality of life.
There are two types of AMD, Atrophic (dry form) and Exudative (wet form). About 90 percent of patients have the common dry form of the condition. Dr. B. Eric Jones, ophthalmologist and retinal specialist at Baltimore Eye Physicians, warns, “People who develop dry AMD must carefully monitor their central vision and report any changes to their eye doctor because the dry form can change into the more damaging wet form.”
Wet AMD, although much less common than the dry form of macular degeneration, can be treated. The earlier that wet AMD is diagnosed, the better chance you have of preserving your remaining central vision, “If the blood vessels go unchecked, they can lead to significant loss of central vision, that’s why it is so important that you and your ophthalmologist monitor your vision in each eye carefully,” Dr. Jones says.
Although the cause of AMD is still unknown, there are some known indicators. AMD occurs with advancing age and is more prevalent in Caucasians and smokers. Additionally, those with obesity and high cholesterol appear to be at higher-risk for developing the condition.
In dry AMD, studies show that certain doses of zinc, vitamins E and C, and beta-carotene (vitamin A) can be beneficial in controlling the progression of mild and moderate macular degeneration significantly reducing the risk of advanced age-related AMD by as much as 25 percent.