Good Nutrition Important For Eye Health As You Age

Poor vision has many causes and treatments, and as you grow older, you will likely experience some type of vision loss or reduction in visual performance.

For older adults, bright lights, glare while driving at night and even blindness can dramatically affect quality of life, but the treatment isn’t just glasses or a stronger prescription – it’s also nutrition and supplementation.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness for Americans older than 60, according to the American Optometric Association. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 7.3 million people are at substantial risk for vision loss from AMD. Other estimates indicate that as our population continues to rapidly age, as many as one in three could be diagnosed with AMD in the next 20 years.

AMD deteriorates central vision, affecting everything from seeing faces clearly to literally having no central vision at all. Key risk factors for AMD are age, family history, smoking (past or present), low macular pigment, light skin and eyes, obesity and Caucasian women are also at slightly higher risk.

Macular Pigment Optical Density (MPOD) is a brief, non-intrusive exam performed by many optometrists throughout the country, which measures macular pigment in the back of the eye.

Think of macular pigment as “internal sunglasses” for the back of your eye – they absorb harmful blue light that can adversely affect eye health. Internal sunglasses protect the photoreceptors in the back of the eye – specifically the cones, which are responsible for central vision, color, sharpness and sensitivity to bright light, among others. Two key carotenoids, Zeaxanthin (zee-uh-zan-thin) and Lutein, comprise the internal sunglasses, which can become thin as we age, unable to block or absorb harmful blue light. In order to keep the internal sunglasses thick and dense, it is important to replenish Zeaxanthin, the predominant carotenoid in the area where the concentration of cones is the highest.

Zeaxanthin is very scarce in the average daily diet, and vegetables like kale, corn, collard greens, spinach, and peppers naturally provide nutrients to help maintain macular health, but supplementation is often necessary. For example, one would have to eat approximately 20 ears of corn to get a recommended dosage of 8 to 10 milligrams of natural dietary Zeaxanthin per day.

Supplements like the EyePromise brand of eye vitamins help rebuild macular pigment through unique nutritional formulas that feature the highest levels of all natural Zeaxanthin, derived from paprika. In addition to protection, Zeaxanthin and Lutein can improve visual performance, reduce glare issues and sensitivity to bright light, as well as improve color intensity and contrast sensitivity.

“Too often we concentrate our diets on weight, blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure, but ignore one of the most important organs in our bodies – our eyes,” says Dr. Dennis Giehart, founder of Zeavision. “An abundance of science has found low macular pigment puts people at risk for AMD, and increasing Zeaxanthin in the diet can help improve macular pigment for improved visual performance.”

Vision shouldn’t be something you take for granted as you age. Take care of your eyes with proper nutrition and supplementation if necessary, and ask your eye care professional about having your macular pigment measured to maintain your central vision

CDC Urges Americans To Get Flu Vaccine

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22, Weise) reports, “Parents should put flu shots on their to-do list now, ‘a tuning up for winter,’ says William Schaffner, president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.” Schaffner and other medical experts “on Wednesday urged Americans, especially pregnant women and children, to get vaccinated.” Urging others to follow his example, CDC Director Thomas Frieden “rolled up his sleeve and got his shot during the news conference.”

The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22, Roan) “Booster Shots” blog reports that most “drugstores, clinics, workplaces and doctor’s offices” already have the flu vaccine, according to health officials. “In addition to the traditional shot and nasal spray, an intradermal shot is now available consisting of a tiny needle that injects vaccine under the skin.” And, there is “a fourth type of flu vaccine is available to people ages 65 and older which consists of a much stronger dose of vaccine.” Frieden said, “It’s never been easier to get vaccinated, and now is the right time to get vaccinated.”

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22, Martin, Subscription Publication) “Health Blog” reports that almost 70% of medical professionals are now urging their patients to get the flu shot. This figure represents a 10% increase compared to 2010. Meanwhile, data show that seniors are the most likely group to get vaccinated.

Preventing, detecting eye problems key to vision health

It’s one of our most important senses, but people often take it for granted.

For some reason, people tend to put eyesight on the back burner instead of being proactive. Especially for people who don’t wear glasses or contacts, it can be years between visits to the eye doctor.  It’s important to take care of our eyes because they are so valuable to virtually every aspect of life.

Preventative eye care is the solution. Vitamins are an easy way to help maintain good eyesight.

To better protect the eyes between exams, lutein is one of the best things you can take. It helps to protect the macula, which controls central vision.

Lutein is found in many vitamin supplements as well as in green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli.

In addition to lutein, beta-carotene, found in carrots, and omega-3, found in fish oil, are also important for healthy eyes.

Fish oil is extremely valuable, not only for eye health, but for overall health, as well. The omega-3 is found in several different types of fish, but for those who don’t care for fish or want a more concentrated dose, fish oil supplements are the way to go.

Vitamins A, C and E have also been found to promote better eye health.

Vitamins require minimal effort, but they can provide numerous benefits. Taking supplements can prevent dry eyes, macular degeneration and even cataracts.

Vitamin supplements can really be amazing and the benefits can go beyond eye health, but it’s important to consult your own physician or optometrist before starting a vitamin regimen.

Children’s eye care is especially important. Taking care of kids’ eyes is crucial.

It’s so important to address eye care from Day 1. A child’s eyes should be checked at every health exam throughout the toddler years, and then they should be visiting an optometrist in addition to having regular eye screenings at school.

She said catching problems early will lead to a better quality of life and better vision.

A lot of times, a teacher will be the one to notice a child with vision problems, but ideally, we would like to catch any problems even before they get to school. The earlier a problem is detected, the less likely it will become permanent.

Eye rubbing, squinting and poor focusing can be red flags. Vitamins can also benefit kids’ eyes but should be cleared by a doctor or optometrist first.

Just staying on top of regular eye exams can make a world of difference for both children and adults. Most people don’t hesitate to visit a doctor if their back is hurting or even if they are having hearing problems. If we pay the same attention to our eyes, we will all be able to see the world a little better.

Drinking Water May Reduce Chances Of Developing Type 2 Diabetes

The UK’s Daily Mail Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/17, Bates) reported, “Drinking water instead of fizzy drinks could dramatically reduce your chances of developing type 2 diabetes,” according to a study presented Sept. 16 at the Sustaining the Blue Planet: Global Water Education Conference in Montana. Harvard University researchers presented “new evidence which shows replacing sugar-sweetened drinks with water can lead to weight loss and help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by seven per cent.”

For a Healthy, Happy Return to School, Expert Advice From The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore

Transition from Summer to a Back-to-School Sleep Schedule Typically, during the summer, children go to bed later and wake up at different times, because they do not have to follow a school schedule. Shelby Harris, Psy.D., C.BSM, Director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center, can discuss how a child can adjust his/her sleep schedule to once again become acclimated to getting up earlier for school. Dr. Harris can provide advice on how kids can start school well-rested and establish a consistent sleep schedule which can help optimize learning. Her pointers include:

Maintain a steady sleep-wake schedule 7 days a week. No catching up on the weekends!

Have a regular and relaxing bedtime routine to wind down the hour before bedtime.

Make sure each step of the bedtime routine slowly moves closer and closer to the bed (e.g. bath, brush teeth, then into bedroom for PJs, book and finally bed).

Get back on a good, healthy diet overall. Oftentimes, kids’ diets will change over the summer. Limit sugar, chocolate, soda – especially from lunch afterwards.

Limit electronics and schoolwork within an hour of bedtime (and don’t allow them during the night, either!)

Easing a Child’s Back-to-School AnxietyChildren as well as teens are often anxious about going back to school. Anxiety can be a result of a transition from elementary to middle school, or challenges socially or academically. Mental health professionals at the Montefiore School Health Program observe many of these issues first-hand and are highly qualified to comment on a wide variety of back-to-school psychological issues. The Montefiore School Health Program, the largest of its kind in the U.S., offers a wide range of medical, dental, mental and community-based services to students and their families in elementary, middle and high schools throughout the Bronx. Since its inception more than 25 years ago, this essential program has steadily grown to 18 full-service centers throughout the borough.

Christine Cheng, Ph.D., Psychology Training Coordinator, licensed clinical psychologist, Montefiore School Health Program, and Instructor of Pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Dr. Cheng helps children cope with various difficulties, such as anxiety, depression, trauma, bereavement and loss, impulse control, and adjustment issues, and she enjoys seeing children overcome them and blossom in their natural social milieu.

Bullying: What if Your Child is Being Bullied, or is a Bully?Bullying can impact the wellbeing of children and young people and have serious long-term consequences. It can undermine educational attainment and self-esteem and can destroy a sense of security. The most common forms of bullying reported by children are being verbally bullied, followed by exclusion and physical bullying. Parents and schools also need to be aware that cyber-bullying is affecting younger age groups as more children get mobile phones and have computer access.

Over the past four years, the Montefiore School Health Program mental health division has developed a curriculum called S.T.A.R., Strengthening Tween and Adolescent Relationships. This is an eight-week classroom based program designed to foster healthy relationships between students and reduce teen dating violence. S.T.A.R. was created by Cheryl Hurst, a Senior Social Worker at PS/MS 95 in the Bronx, one of 18 schools that make up the Montefiore School Health program, to teach 12 to 14 year olds how to develop healthy friendships and communicate in nonviolent and supportive ways. Ms. Hurst identified such a huge need, learning about the problems these kids face: cyber-bullying, financial pressures on parents who have lost jobs, poor parental support and more.

The Best School Lunch is Delicious and Energizing Whether packed in a brown bag or served on a cafeteria tray, a nutritious school lunch that’s tasty and satisfying is a welcome midday break for kids and gives them energy to get through the rest of the day. Clinical dietitian Lauren Graf, MS, RD, has tips for parents and kids as they gear up for another school year, from packing a colorful lunch with fresh fruits and vegetables to spotting healthy choices on the cafeteria line. Even for the pickiest of eaters, parents can find the right nutritional balance for their kids and help them adopt good eating habits that can last a lifetime.

Does your Child Need Eyeglasses? Now is the Best Time for Pediatric Eye Exams. The start of a new school season is the best time to have your child’s eyes examined. Some are obvious, such as sitting close to the TV or holding toys close to the eyes. Squinting to see at a distance, covering or closing one eye to see, may also indicate a need for glasses. It is important to remind parents that many eye disorders are inherited, especially a need for glasses. If Mom or Dad wore glasses at an early age, it would not be unusual for their child to need glasses as well.

Eating Apples, Pears May Be Linked To Lower Risk Of Stroke

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/16, Parker-Pope) “Well” blog reports, “A large Dutch study has found that eating apples and pears is associated with a lower risk of stroke.”

The Orlando Sentinel Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/16, Jameson) reports that the research, published “in Stroke, a journal of the American Heart Association, spanned 10 years and included more than 20,000 adults ages 20 to 65. None had cardiovascular disease at the start of the study.”

WebMD Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/16, Hendrick) reports, “The researchers say the risk of stroke was 52% lower for people who ate a lot of white-fleshed fruits and vegetables, compared to those who didn’t.”

BBC News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/16) reports, however, that “no link was found between stroke incidence and green (dark leafy vegetables, cabbages and lettuces) orange/yellow (mostly citrus fruits) or red/purple fruits and vegetables.” Also covering the story were HealthDay Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/16, Gordon) and the UK’s Telegraph Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/16, Adams).

Eating for Eye Health

The eyes are most often exposed to the damaging effects of the surrounding environment, and unfortunately they are most frequently unprotected. Diffuse light, cigarette smoke, car exhaust gases or simply the dusted, dry air can affect our sensitive visual system. But apart from avoiding external damaging factors, we must also include in our diet food items that contain substances which are vital for the good health of our eyes.

Those so much talked about, vital substances called “antioxidants” can protect our organism from free radicals. These beneficial substances include vitamins A, E, and C, as well as micro-elements such as selenium and carotenoids. From a nutritional point of view, the American National Eye Institute conducted a research which has demonstrated that there are indeed certain nutrients that can ensure the protection of our eyes. The most significant foods that can prevent ocular degeneration are the ones which are rich in beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, zeaxanthin and lutein, zinc and omega-3 fats.

Among these excellent foods we could of course mention carrots. They are full of beta carotene, which is an antioxidant that reduces the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration process. Carrots can be part of salads, soups or they can be part of a side dish for lunch or dinner. They can be added to most anything: hummus, salsa, peanut butter, guacamole and low calorie dressings. Some other foods that are excellent for the good health of our eyes include broccoli, bell peppers and Brussels sprouts. They all provide a good quantity of vitamin C, which is yet another essential antioxidant for the protection of our eyes. These veggies can be steamed, roasted, added to omelets or soups. Also, they may be combined for a delicious “pasta primavera” (spring time pasta), with a little bit of oil and garlic.

Of course, not only fruit and veggies are good for the eyes. Apparently, the meat which is healthiest for the eyes is the ostrich meat. This kind of meat can actually be a substitute for turkey, chicken, pork or lamb meat. It has the quality of absorbing all kinds of seasonings and it contains zinc, iron and a lot of proteins. Zinc is actually one of the most essential ingredients for the maintenance of healthy eyes. Zinc is contained by the retina. This substance is responsible for the good functioning of enzymes which are actually meant to ensure the eyes’ health. Turkey meat also contains a lot of zinc and the B-vitamin niacin which can protect the eyes against cataracts disease. Turkey meat can be used in sandwiches, salads, chili and tacos or burgers.

Another veggie which contains high levels of beta carotene is the sweet potato. As their name suggests, sweet potatoes do indeed have a sweet taste. These vegetables can be included in recipes for dinner side dishes. They can be baked with a small quantity of oil or they can be used for the famous French fries.

Another amazing food that can do wonder to one’s eyes is spinach. This one contains four essential ingredients that can protect one’s eyes. Thus, spinach contains vitamin C, high quantities of zeaxanthin, lutein and beta carotene. All these antioxidants can be found in the macula’s tissue. They have the special capacity of absorbing 40%-90% of the intensity of blue light, and therefore can act like a sort of eyes’ sunscreen. Several research results have attested that if we eat foods which contain a large quantity of zeaxanthin and lutein, our macula’s pigment density can be increased. This means that our retina is better protected, and therefore there is a much lower probability of macular degeneration for our eyes. Spinach is generally eaten as a side dish. However, it can be a delicious salad or omelet ingredient. It is low in calories and rich in vitamins, so there is no reason why to avoid such a beneficial healthy food. The key is to give it a good taste, without overcooking it so as not to lose its nutritive qualities.

There are even foods which can help protect those very small blood vessels that are found deep inside our eyes. Such foods include sardines and wild salmons. Because of that it’s highly recommended to eat at least 2-3 portions every week.

By Claudia Miclaus

Column Connects Benefits Of Food To Body Parts

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/14, Huget) in its “Eat, Drink & Be Healthy” column lists some foods and health benefits according to body parts. Egg yolks and yellow corn aid the eyes because “carotenoids that give fruits and vegetables their color, may help ward off age-related macular degeneration.” The article mentions foods that benefit the brain (salmon, tuna, sardines); bones (milk, fortified soy beverages); heart (baked potato, prune juice); lungs (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy); stomach (ginger); colon (beans and peas); prostate (green tea); ovaries (ice cream) and mentions the relevant study and why the respective foods may have the beneficial effects.

Prevent the Spread of Pink Eye as Children Head Back to School

According to the American Journal of Infection Control, more than 164 million school days are missed annually in U.S. public schools due to the spread of infectious diseases. An astonishing 3 million of those school days are lost as a result of acute conjunctivitis, also known as “pink eye.”

In recognition of September’s “Children’s Eye Health Month,” the American Academy of Ophthalmology wants to teach parents and educators how to prevent the spread of pink eye in the classroom.

“Pink eye is all too common amongst children, it is one of the most common conditions I treat,” says Lee Duffner, MD, ophthalmologist and clinical correspondent for the Academy. “The only way to really prevent pink eye from spreading is to practice good hygiene.”

What is conjunctivitis? Conjunctivitis is the term used to describe swelling of the conjunctiva — the thin, filmy membrane that covers the inside of your eyelids and the white part of the eye, known as the sclera. There are three forms of conjunctivitis: viral, bacterial and allergic.

Viral conjunctivitis, the most common form of pink eye, is caused by the same virus that causes the common cold. Just as a cold must run its course, so must this form of pink eye. It is also very contagious.

Bacterial conjunctivitis is a highly contagious form of pink eye, caused by bacterial infections. This type of conjunctivitis usually causes a red eye with a lot of pus.

Allergic conjunctivitis is a form of conjunctivitis that is caused by the body’s reaction to an allergen or irritant. It is not contagious. This type of conjunctivitis is usually associated with redness in the white of the eye or inner eyelid.

How do you get pink eye and how do you prevent it? Conjunctivitis, whether bacterial or viral, can be quite contagious. Children are usually most susceptible to getting the condition from bacteria or viruses because they are in close contact with so many others in schools or daycare centers. Some of the most common ways to get the contagious form of pink eye

        --  Reusing handkerchiefs and towels when wiping your face and eyes
        --  Forgetting to wash hands often
        --  Frequently touching eyes
        --  Using old cosmetics, and/or sharing them with other people
        --  Not cleaning contact lenses properly

Prevention:

Practicing good hygiene can help prevent the spread of conjunctivitis. If a child is infected, make sure to do the following to help prevent the spread of the illness:

        --  Encourage children to wash their hands often.
        --  Tell them to avoid touching their eyes.
        --  Discourage the reusing of towels, washcloths, handkerchiefs and
            tissues to wipe their face and eyes.
        --  Change their pillowcase frequently.

Treatment: With viral conjunctivitis, symptoms can last from one to two weeks and then will disappear on their own.

For bacterial conjunctivitis, an eye doctor will typically prescribe antibiotic eye drops to treat the infection.

Allergic conjunctivitis treatment often includes applying cool compresses to the eyes and taking antihistamines.

Home care tips: A compress applied to closed eyelids can relieve some of the discomfort of pink eye. To make a compress, soak in water then wring out a clean, lint-free cloth. If a child has conjunctivitis in one eye only, don’t use the same cloth on both eyes in order to avoid spreading the infection from one eye to the other.

If a child has bacterial or viral conjunctivitis, a warm compress is usually best. If their eyes are irritated by allergic conjunctivitis, try a cool water compress. Over-the-counter lubricating eyedrops — artificial tears — may also provide relief from pink eye symptoms.

If these symptoms persist, be sure take your child to see an eye doctor to receive proper care.

Electronic Device Overuse May Lead To Increased Risk For Injury

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/11, BU8, Korki, Subscription Publication) reported, “As people harness their bodies to use more electronic devices in more places, they may unknowingly be putting themselves at a greater risk of injury.” Too much laptop, smartphone, and tablet computer use in and out of the office may leave people “at greater risk of eye strain, tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.” What’s more, “repetitive actions that lead to overuse of muscles and tendons can inflame them, causing pain in the hands, shoulders, neck and back.” The article advised readers to take a frequent break from their electronic devices to rest their minds and bodies.

Yoga May Benefit People With Type 2 Diabetes

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/3, Norton) reported that according to a study Share to FacebookShare to Twitter recently published online in the journal Diabetes Care, yoga classes in addition to standard medical care may benefit middle-aged and senior patients with type 2 diabetes. The practice may help with weight and blood glucose control, the study of 123 people found. What’s more, practicing yoga may lead to fewer signs of oxidative stress, which may lead to fewer complications associated with type 2 diabetes, such as damage to the kidneys, heart, and eyes.

Video Games May Help Improve Amblyopia In Adults

Medscape Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/9, Waknine) reports, “Adults with amblyopia can achieve substantial improvements in visual acuity by playing video games for 40 hours,” according to a study Share to FacebookShare to Twitter published online Aug. 30 in PLoS Biology. For the National Eye Institute-supported study, “investigators placed an eye patch over the good eye in 20 adults aged 15 to 61 years and randomly assigned them to one of three intervention groups,” two of which played video games and the third which underwent traditional occlusion therapy. “Results showed that 40 hours of video play…yielded a 30% improvement in visual acuity.”

Video Games May Help Children With Lazy Eye

CBS News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/3) reported that video games may be “a possible therapy to lazy eye,” according to a paper Share to FacebookShare to Twitterpublished in the August issue of the journal PLoS Biology. Researchers discovered that “participants in a pilot study playing a minimum 40 hours of video games registered improvements both in their visual acuity and 3-D depth perception.” Lazy eye is “estimated to affect two of three out of every 100 American children, according to the National Eye Institute.”

6 Best Foods for Eye Health

Many people are trying to find was to improve vision naturally. This is certainly a worthy endeavor. But no matter how many eye exercises one does, a person’s vision will not get better without proper nutrition. Like you brain and heart, your eyes respond better to certain foods than others. This guide will show the foods that are in a sense…eye candy!

Food 1: Carrots

We have always heard to eat our carrots in order to have good vision; well guess what? This is true. Carrots are a great source of Vitamin A, and eating enough of them can help prevent eye problems such as night blindness. Carrots also contain other nutrients critical to maintaining retina health, and keeping Macular Degeneration at bay.

Food 2: Spinach

Spinach didn’t do much for Popeye’s right eye, but spinach does more than make people strong to the finish. Spinach is filled with Vitamin A and antioxidants that will help restore your vision. Spinach also has lutein, which is an elixir of sorts for your eyes.

Food 3: Kale

Kale is a cabbage that is purple or green, and it’s headless. Dr. Joel Furhman and other nutritionists sees kale as the most healthy vegetable on the planet. Kale is very high in beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Plus, kale doesn’t lose its nutrients when you steam, micro-wave, or stir fry it (but don’t boil it).

Food 4: Papaya

Vitamin A is the best “alphabet vitamin” for the eyes, and papaya contains 46% Vitamin A. Papaya is a versatile food because it can be eaten raw or cooked, it’s great with both salads and stews, and you can make it into a tea. The leaves can also be steamed and eaten along with spinach for even more nutrition for your eyes.

Food 5: Milk

Milk is a great source of vitamins A, B, and D. Milk also has plenty of protein which is an essential building block for your eyes and the rest of your body as well. Milk helps make oatmeal creamier; this is great because oatmeal is another food that can help improve your sight.

Food 6: Salmon

Salmon as well as white fishes such as tuna contain Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A and D; these help you brain which in turn improves the health of your eyes. In order to benefit from these you should eat it about 2 to 3 times per week.

Nutrition is an important part to any aspect of physical therapy; eye therapy is no exception. You can do your eyes a favor by eating more of these foods above.

By Jon J Nestorovic

Blindsided: Vision problems on the rise

The number of blind individuals is on the rise.

According to the National Federation of the Blind statistics, there are currently 1.3 million blind people, of all ages, in the United States. Within a few years, that number is expected to increase substantially, especially among those over 65.

“There’s are all these little trends we are seeing that are impacting us,” said Greg Trapp, executive director for the New Mexico Commission for the Blind.

As the population is growing older, more people are becoming blind due to diabetes, glaucoma, cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Also, Trapp notes, there is an increasing number of people losing their vision as a result of firearms wounds and other physical accidents — or having complications related to brain cancer or brain tumors.

Nearly 800,000 seniors, ages 65 and over, are blind — and that number is expected to increase to 1.6 million by 2015 and to 2.4 million in the year 2030, according the the federation.

People these days are living longer than ever and they are living past the health of their eyes, Trapp said.

Diabetes is the No. 1 cause of acquired blindness in the U.S., and there are a number of diseases that can occur as a result of diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy, which is a damaging of the retina, is the most common diabetic eye disease. A person with diabetic retinopathy may have swelled blood vessels deep in the eye that may leak or have new vessels appear on the retina. This disease can be detected during a dilated eye exam in which drops are put into the eyes. Although the dilated eye exam leaves patients blurry-eyed and sensitive to light for a few hours, these should be done yearly, especially for those at risk for diabetes and those who already have it, according to the American Optometric Association.

Cataracts, a clouding of the lens of the eye, can develop even in younger people with diabetes. Glaucoma is the increasing of fluids and pressure in the eye, and leads to the loss of vision or optic nerve damage. People with diabetes are twice as likely to develop glaucoma, according to the National Eye Institute’s website, nei.nih.gov.

Another trend that will hit the Commission for the Blind harder in the next few years is the increasing number of children born with optic nerve hypoplasia, also known as septo-optic dysplasia or DeMorsier’s syndrome. Optic nerve hypoplasia is the under-development or absence of optic nerves and its cause it unknown. It has increased about 600 percent in the last 30 years, said Trapp, the executive director for the commission. “No one knows the cause of it; it is kind of a mysterious condition,” Trapp said.

Optic nerve hypoplasia is the leading ocular cause of visual impairment and blindness in young children. Children with this condition range from being totally blind with no light perception, to having relatively good vision. It is not curable, but some children may experience increased vision throughout their early childhood years, according to facts from the The Vision Center at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles website.

About 93,600 school-age children are blind, with 10,800 of those being both deaf and blind, according to the Nation Federation of the Blind website (statistics are from 2002).

“The wave of kids with the condition has yet to wash over us. We see it coming like a tsunami.”

The commission provides technology, employment and aid for the blind and visually impaired during three major stages of life: education, employment and senior care. With a large number of kids born with optic nerve hypoplasia, they will see a bigger demand for their services in years to come, Trapp said – not to mention the Baby Boomers growing older and living past the health of their eyes.

And if people can’t afford proper vision care and exams, letting conditions like glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy go, the situation could get worse, said Dr. Edward Hernandez, opthemologist and owner of Eyes of the Southwest.

“It’s all about getting in to see your eye doctor for annual checkups,” Hernandez said.

Even when a patient develops an eye problem, like glaucoma, they can get treatment, like glaucoma drops to lower the pressure in the eyes, and prevent it from getting any worse. That doesn’t mean they should wait until they notice symptoms — glaucoma is a silent blinder and a person will not know they have until their sight becomes hindered. It also doesn’t matter if a person doesn’t have diabetes — eye health is very important for everyone and anyone can contract these conditions, Hernandez said.

When it comes to cataracts, everyone will get it sooner or later — it’s just a matter of how bad it can get, Hernandez said. There are more than 3 million cataract surgeries performed annually, he said.

People with diabetes should keep their blood sugar, blood cholesterol and blood pressure levels in check and at healthy levels. This will reduce the risk of getting diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma or cataracts. Don’t wait until you have any of these conditions and don’t fall back on knowing that there are a couple of laser surgeries that can be performed to treat these conditions.

~ Andi Murphy

LIVING WELL: Don’t lose sight of eye health

Don’t be blinded by common eye myths.

In considering one’s eye health, it’s important to look at all the facts and see through all the myths. So let’s start with the first myth – that there is nothing you can do to prevent vision loss. The real facts are that more than 90 percent of eye injuries can be prevented; early detection of vision problems is crucial to preventing vision loss from many eye diseases (e.g. diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma); and regular eye exams can help save one’s sight.

This leads to myth number two – that eye exams are only necessary if you’re having problems. In fact, everyone should have regular eye exams whether there are any noticeable signs of vision problems or not.  Prevent Blindness America recommends that children should be tested at birth, again at 6 months, before entering school and then periodically throughout the school year. Adults should be tested every two years or more often, as directed by one’s physician. People with diabetes or an eye disease should receive a comprehensive eye exam annually.

Some myths have been perpetuated by our well-meaning parents (and perhaps continued by all who then became parents) who cautioned that sitting too close to the television would ruin our eyes; eating carrots would help our eyes; and reading in dim light would damage our eyes. The facts: sitting too close to the TV or spending too much time watching it or the hand-held electronics everyone is attached to now does not damage one’s eyes. In fact, young children have a greater ability to focus on objects closer to their eyes than adults do, so children sitting closer or holding reading material closer makes sense. Typically, the distance increases as one gets older. But again, regular eye exams for children can detect vision problems if ones exist. And while carrots are a great source of vitamin A, which is an essential vitamin for sight, only a small amount of vitamin A is needed for good vision. Not to knock carrots, but a well-balanced diet with or without carrots provides adequate nutrition for vision. As for dim lights, eye strain most probably will result but no permanent damage will occur.

Eye strain also comes from reading fine print for too long but doing so will not damage or “wear out” one’s eyes. Reportedly, this is one of the most widely held myths but there is no evidence to support that reading too much or for too long will cause any damage or wear.

Contact lenses and glasses can correct vision enough to improve eyesight, but will not “cure” vision problems caused by physical injury or heredity (such as nearsightedness or myopia). Even though going without glasses will not damage one’s vision further, it’s important to keep your corrective lenses prescription current for a host of reasons, not the least of which is to be able to see well! Some people, particularly athletes, prefer contact lenses, which provide better peripheral vision than glasses. And contact lenses have come a long way to incorporate the need for correcting both nearsightedness and farsightedness for those who need lenses for distance as well as reading.

The fine print on all of this is to have your eyes examined regularly; report any visual problems immediately; and give your eyes the rest and support they need!

Five Natural Strategies that May Help Protect Your Healthy Vision

There are natural, common-sense strategies you can employ to help protect your healthy vision.

    1. Quit smoking, if you currently do. Smoking ramps up free radical production  throughout your body, and puts you at risk for less-than-optimal health in many ways. If you want healthy vision for your whole life, you cannot afford to risk less-than-optimal eye health with cigarettes.
    1. Care for your cardiovascular system. High blood pressure can cause damage to the miniscule blood vessels on your retina, obstructing free blood flow.
    1. Normalize your blood sugar. Excessive sugar in your blood can pull fluid from the lens of your eye, affecting your ability to focus. And, it can damage the blood vessels in your retina, also obstructing blood flow.
    1. Eat plenty of fresh dark green leafy vegetables, especially kale. Your mother was right – eat your vegetables. Studies have shown that a diet rich in dark leafy greens  helps support eye health. And that those with the highest consumption of carotenoid-rich vegetables, especially ones rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, had increased vision health.
  1. Consume omega-3 rich foods such as fresh caught salmon – or supplement with krill oil. A study published in the August 2001 issue of Archives of Ophthalmology found that consuming omega-3 fatty acids was protective of your healthy vision.

However – especially if you’re a Baby Boomer or older – you may want to hedge your bets on wise supplementation to help protect your eyes’ healthy function