The eyes are the only place in the body where we can actually see your blood vessels. For that reason, many health issues effecting other parts of the body can be observed in the eyes and sometimes before that disease is known to you. Medication side effects can affect your vision too.
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
Home and classroom digital device use is up among school-age children; Dr. Inouchi recommends yearly back-to-school eye exams
According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), parents severely underestimate the time their children spend on digital devices. An AOA survey reports that 83 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 17 estimate they use an electronic device for three or more hours each day. However, a separate AOA survey of parents revealed that only 40 percent of parents believe their children use an electronic device for that same amount of time. Eye doctors are concerned that this significant disparity may indicate that parents are more likely to overlook warning signs and symptoms associated with vision problems due to technology use, such as digital eye strain.
Eighty percent of children surveyed report experiencing burning, itchy or tired eyes after using electronic devices for long periods of time. These are all symptoms of digital eye strain, a temporary vision condition caused by prolonged use of technology. Additional symptoms may include headaches, fatigue, loss of focus, blurred vision, double vision or head and neck pain.
“When parents think about their kids’ mobile consumption habits, they often don’t think about how much time they spend on devices in the classroom,” said Dr. Inouchi. “Each year when school starts we see an increase in kids complaining of symptoms synonymous with eye strain. Essentially, they’re going from being home over the summer with a minimal amount of time spent using their devices back to a classroom full of technology, and their time on devices often doubles, leading to a strain on the eyes.”
Optometrists are also growing increasingly concerned about the kinds of light everyday electronic devices give off – high-energy, short-wavelength blue and violet light – and how those rays might affect and even age the eyes. Today’s smartphones, tablets, LED monitors and even flat screen TVs all give off light in this range, as do cool-light compact fluorescent bulbs. Early research shows that overexposure to blue light could contribute to eye strain and discomfort and may lead to serious conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which can cause blindness.
When it comes to protecting eyes and vision from digital eye strain, taking frequent visual breaks is important. Children should make sure they practice the 20-20-20 rule: when using technology or doing near work, take a 20-second break, every 20 minutes and view something 20 feet away. According to the survey, nearly one-third (32 percent) of children go a full hour using technology before they take a visual break instead of every 20 minutes as recommended.
Additionally, children who normally do not require the use of eyeglasses may benefit from glasses prescribed specifically for intermediate distance for computer use. And children who already wear glasses may find their current prescription does not provide optimal vision for viewing a computer screen. An eye doctor can provide recommendations for each individual patient.
Dr. Inouchi suggests the following guidelines to help prevent or reduce eye and vision problems associated with digital eye strain:
- Check the height and position of the device. Computer screens should be four to five inches below eye level and 20 to 28 inches away from the eyes. Digital devices should be held a safe distance away from eyes and slightly below eye level.
- Check for glare on the screen. Windows or other light sources should not be directly visible when sitting in front of a computer monitor. If this happens, turn the desk or computer to prevent glare on the screen. Also consider adjusting the brightness of the screen on your digital device or changing its background color.
- Reduce the amount of lighting in the room to match the computer screen. A lower-wattage light can be substituted for a bright overhead light or a dimmer switch may be installed to give flexible control of room lighting.
- Adjust font size. Increase the size of text on the screen of the device to make it easier on your eyes when reading.
- Keep blinking. To minimize the chances of developing dry eye when using a computer or digital device, make an effort to blink frequently. Blinking keeps the front surface of the eye moist.
Dr. Inouchi recommends every child have an eye exam by an optometrist soon after 6 months of age and before age 3. Children now have the benefit of yearly comprehensive eye exams thanks to the Pediatric Essential Health Benefit in the Affordable Care Act, through age 18.
“Parents should know that vision screenings miss too many children who should be referred to an optometrist for an eye examination to correct vision,” added [NAME]. “Eye exams performed by an eye doctor are the only way to diagnose eye and vision diseases and disorders in children. Undiagnosed vision problems can impair learning and can cause vision loss and other issues that significantly impact a child’s quality of life.”
For additional information on children’s vision and the importance of back-to-school eye exams, or to make an appointment for your child with Dr. Inouchi for a comprehensive eye exam, visit call 808.949.2662.