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How early should I bring my child in for an eye exam?
Tuesday, 07 August 2012

It's back to school time and many parents ask us when they should bring their children in for exams.  This is usually followed by "well, they get their eyes tested at the pediatrician" or "they get tested at school."  It is important to understand that these are vision screenings and while they are effective at picking up large or gross problems, they can easily miss issues with the health of the eye, the alignment of the eye muscles, or near focusing issues.  An examination with an eyecare specialist such as an ophthalmologist or optometrist is much more accurate and thorough.  During an eye exam, the child's acuity is tested as well as eye muscle alignment, pupil reaction, color testing and depth perception.  The pupils are dilated to relax the focusing muscles and the doctor will use a special handheld light called a retinoscope to accurately measure the child's prescription. Once the pupils are dilated the doctor can also check the health of the inside of the eye. 

Early exams are critical for diagnosing certain conditions because it great increases the chances for recovery.  One condition, although rare, called retinoblastoma is a life-threatening form of cancer found in the eye in children. Another condition called amblyopia or "lazy eye" is a cause for blindness that is completely preventable if caught early in children.  It occurs when there is a large difference in prescription between the two eyes and the brain will "turn off" the bad eye and only develop the good eye.  If caught early, spectacle lenses can be prescribed to make the bad eye see clearly and force the two eyes to work together equally. 

The American Optometric Association recommends eye exams at 6 months old, 3 years, before entering school and every two years thereafter.  Certain risk factors may warrant more frequent eye exams such as low birth weight/prematurity, a family history of retinoblastoma or genetic eye disease, infection in the mother during labor or difficult delivery, a family history of high prescriptions, ametropia, or strabismus, and nervous disorders.  Although not offered at our office, some doctors participate in the nationwide public health program called InfantSEE which provide free exams to children under 12 months old.  Follow this link to find a doctor near you http://www.infantsee.org/

Can certain foods and vitamins help my vision?
Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Eating the right foods can be essential to eye health.  It has been shown that certain vitamins and minerals in food can actually prevent deterioration of the eyes and alleviate symptoms such as dry eye and night blindness.  These can be broken down into the categories of antioxidants, minerals, flavonoids, lutein/zeanthin, and essential fatty acids. 

Antioxidants help prevent macular degeneration and cataracts.  Some such as Vit A and beta carotene can even help with night blindness and adapting between light and dark.  These antioxidants are Vitamin A, beta carotene, C, D, and E and can be found in foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, liver, chicken, eggs, milk, kale, peppers, oranges, cantoloupe, broccoli, salmon, almonds and fortified orange juice among others. 

Minerals such as zinc and selenium help Vit A reduce night blindness and may also help prevent the progression of macular degeneration.  These can be found in foods like oysters and other seafood, beef, dark meat of turkey, and enriched brown rice and noodles. 

Bioflavonoids have also taken on the term "super food" or super-antioxidant which can also help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration.  These include berries such as strawberries and blueberries.  Other foods include cherries, citrus fruits, tea and red wine. 

Lutein and Zeanthin have a protective function to the macula and are found in many macular degeneration vitamin formulas.  These can also be found in spinach, kale, turnip greens, collard greens, and squash. 

Essential fatty acids or Omega-3's help prevent macular degeneration and also help dry eye symptoms.  These are found in cold water fish such as Alaskan salmon, mackeral and herring.  While flaxseed oil does have certain benefits like aiding in digestion,  it gets converted in the body to Omega-6 and does not have the same eye benefits as pure fish oil. 

In summary, most nutrients for the eyes can be obtained through a healthy diet.  Also, if you plan on taking vitamins and minerals, ask your optometrist or ophthalmologist because taking too much of a certain vitamin can actually be harmful, especially if taking other medications. 

Can I Really Make My Brown Eyes Blue?
Thursday, 07 June 2012

Wedding season is here and many patients are asking if they can give their eyes a "pop" of color for the big day.  Fortunately, many contact lens companies have colored lenses that can give those eyes an extra desired brightness.  There are three types of colored contact lenses for light, medium, and dark colored eyes or irises. 

 For light eyes, there are colors that act more like filters to "enhance" the natural color that is already there.  For instance, if you have blue eyes, the blue enhancer would make it a deeper blue or the aquamarine enhancer would play up more of the green/blue tones in the eyes.  These will not have much of an effect on dark eyes.  The second type are called "opaque" lenses for dark eyes where the color is actually applied to the surface of the lenses and the center is left clear where the pupil is.  These come in a range of colors that can change the color of your eyes pretty easily.  However, going from very dark eyes to something light can give a very fake appearance, so ask your doctor or optician about what color would best compliment your eye color. The third type are for people with medium to light eyes that enhance the color and also have a defining ring around the edge to give the appearance of a larger iris. 

A word of caution about colored contact lenses in Colorado is that they will tend to dry out faster than some of the more breathable clear lenses on the market.  The color pigment in the lenses blocks oxygen from going through the lenses and patients complain they cannot wear the lenses as long during the day before they start to dry out.  Keeping this in mind, they can still be a lot of fun and an easy way to play up your eyes for the summer months!

What can be done about my droopy eyelids?
Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Excess skin of the upper eyelids and puffiness below the eyes can give the appearance of being tired and even sad or angry.  Many people also don't realize that their excess eyelid skin can "hood" or block some of their peripheral vision.  In order to get rid of the shadowed vision, patients may find themselves constantly raising their brows in order to open the eyes and let more light in.  This can lead to headaches and forehead wrinkles.  

Fortunately, there is an outpatient procedure called a blepharoplasty that can remove the excess skin from the upper eyelids giving a more rested and youthful appearance.  The puffiness or "bags" that occur below the eyes are actually fat pads that have protruded forward over time and can also be removed.  During the procedure an incision is made to remove the extra skin and then the eyelid is stitched together near the crease.  The fat pads are removed via an incision from inside the lower lid, so there are no sutures on the outside.  The whole procedure takes about 20 minutes per eyelid and the downtime is 2-3 days with peak bruising being around day 3.  It takes 2-4 weeks for bruising to go away completely. 

If you are unhappy with your appearance or feel your vision is affected from heavy eyelids, consultations are complimentary at Northwest Eye Center.  In most cases, health insurance will have covereage for blepharoplasties if deemed necessary which our doctors can determine. 

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