Everywhere we look, we’re reading, shopping, banking, or being entertained online with digital devices small and large-at work, at school, at play, and on our way in-between. In fact, according to the American Optometric Association’s (AOA) 2014 American Eye-Q® survey, 55 percent of adults use computers, smartphones, tablets or other hand-held devices for five or more hours a day. And a separate AOA survey showed that 83 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 17 use an electronic device for more than three hours a day. Digital use will continue to increase, making it more important than ever for consumers to make smart eye care choices and to see an eye doctor for yearly comprehensive eye exams.
Give Your Eyes a Break
The AOA recommends following the 20-20-20 rule to ward off digital eye strain – take a 20-second break every 20 minutes and view something 20 feet away.
“Although ongoing technology use doesn’t permanently damage vision, regular, lengthy use of technology may lead to a temporary condition called digital eye strain,” said David A. Cockrell, O.D., president of the AOA. “Symptoms can include burning or tired eyes, headaches, fatigue, loss of focus, blurred vision, double vision or head and neck pain.”
Early research has also shown that overexposure to high-energy, short-wavelength blue and violet light emitted from electronic devices may also contribute to digital eye strain. Blue light may also increase the likelihood of developing serious eye conditions such as age-related macular degeneration. Optometrists can suggest lens options such as non-glare, filtering lenses to help protect vision from harmful blue light.
Be a Savvy Shopper
Shopping online can be great for some products that aren’t individually custom-made like prescription eyeglasses. However, health and safety trump convenience when it comes to eyewear. Internet orders often result in incorrect prescriptions or other problems with products that get sent through the mail, costing consumers more time and money in the long run. According to a 2011 study conducted by the AOA, the Optical Laboratories Association and The Vision Council, nearly half of all glasses ordered online had either prescription errors or failed to meet minimum safety standards.
“Eyeglasses are an investment in your health and must be custom-fitted not only to be comfortable, but also to be sure precise prescription needs are met so that you’re actually seeing your best,” said Dr. Cockrell.
When it comes to really seeing what’s going on with your eyes, there is no substitute for a comprehensive, yearly eye exam by an eye doctor. Despite catchy claims, there is truly no ‘app’ for that. While a variety of new mobile applications claim to evaluate vision or the fit of eyeglasses, often these apps give inaccurate or misleading information, and misinformed consumers end up delaying essential, sight-saving exams. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical and can often prevent a total loss of vision and improve quality of life.
“Comprehensive, yearly eye exams are one of the most important, preventive ways to preserve vision, and the only way to accurately assess eye health, diagnose an eye disorder or disease, and determine if you need corrective lenses,” said Dr. Cockrell.
“Not caring for your underwear can lead to nasty smells, but not caring for your contacts can lead to nasty eye infections.”
Dr. Inouchi offers tips to help protect your family from eye infections
As cold and flu season continues to show its ugly face in our communities, Dr. Inouchi encourages families to practice good hygiene habits to prevent the spread of infectious disease, including conjunctivitis, also known as “pink eye,” which can be easily spread, especially this time of year.
What is conjunctivitis?
Conjunctivitis is an inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva, the thin transparent layer of tissue that lines the inner surface of the eyelid and covers the white part of the eye. Conjunctivitis is a common eye disease, especially in children, and because it is contagious, it usually starts in one eye and spreads to the other, affecting both eyes.
If your child has conjunctivitis, he or she may experience the following symptoms:
- A gritty feeling in one or both eyes
- Itching or burning sensation in one or both eyes
- Excessive tearing
- Discharge coming from one or both eyes, usually causing the eyes to be “sticky” upon awakening.
- Swollen eyelids
- Pink discoloration to the whites of one or both eyes
- Increased sensitivity to light
What causes conjunctivitis?
“Conjunctivitis is commonly caused by contagious viruses associated with the common cold,” said Dr. Inouchi. “This type of pink eye can be spread easily, especially among children in school, due to their close proximity to others. However, it’s usually a minor infection and can be treated easily. Conjunctivitis can also occur from a bacterial infection, which can happen if someone touches their eye with unclean hands or if they were using contaminated cosmetics or other facial products.”
In addition, conjunctivitis can be caused from irritants and chemicals (pollen, smoke, and chlorine in swimming pools) or allergens (pet dander or dust mites).
How is conjunctivitis treated?
“The appropriate treatment for conjunctivitis depends on its cause,” said Dr. Inouchi. “Conjunctivitis caused by a viral infection can’t be treated with antibiotics; it simply has to run its course, like with the common cold. Cool compresses, extreme care with hygiene, and artificial tear solutions are effective home remedies.”
Bacterial conjunctivitis is usually treated with antibiotic eye drops or ointments prescribed by your eye doctor. Patients could see improvement after three of four days of treatment, but the entire course of antibiotics must be taken to prevent the bacteria from mutating and the conjunctivitis from returning.
Practicing good hygiene habits, including the steps below, is the best way to control the spread of conjunctivitis:
- Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing and do not touch or rub your eyes with your hands (coughing into the middle arm/sleeve helps to prevent spread through hands).
- Regularly disinfect surfaces such as countertops, bathroom vanities, and door handles with an appropriate antibacterial cleaner.
- Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently and try to avoid touching the eyes or mouth.
- Change your towel and washcloth daily, and don’t share them with others. If one eye is infected, don’t use the same cloth on the other eye.
- Replace liquid forms of eye makeup and wash makeup brushes with antibiotic soap products.
- Don’t use anyone else’s personal eye care items (mascara, etc.)
If you suspect your child has conjunctivitis, Dr. Inouchi can determine if he or she has the infection and advise you on treatment options. To make an appointment with Dr. Inouchi, call 808.949.2662