More children are being diagnosed with nearsightedness, but experts aren’t sure why

Posted by & filed under Childrens Vision.

 

 

More children are being diagnosed with nearsightedness, but experts aren’t sure why.

 

 

Helping to prevent nearsightedness in children may be as simple as urging them to spend more time outside, some experts say.

Possibly due to changing habits among children — spending more time reading in dim light and spending more time indoors than those of past generations — doctors are seeing an increase in the number of cases of nearsightedness, also known as myopia.

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC recently opened a Myopia Treatment Center to meet the growing demand.

Nearsightedness is a condition in which vision gets blurred when viewing an object at a distance. In some countries such as China nearsightedness has reached epidemic proportions with as much as 80% of the population being affected.

For a person with normal vision, the light ray reflecting from an object passes through the cornea and gets focused directly on the surface of the retina.

But for those with myopia, the light rays get focused at a point in front of the retina rather than on its surface. This is because the eyeball becomes elongated, making distant objects seem blurry.

Ken Nischal, Children’s chief of the Division of Pediatric Ophthalmology, said there is a 4 percent increase in myopia among children globally. In the six years since he has been with the hospital, he has seen a rise in the number of children with the condition.

“Myopia is often a result of the eyeballs being longer than they should be. If left untreated, severe myopia in adulthood can lead to retinal detachment, premature cataracts and glaucoma,” he said.

The new center, Dr. Nischal said, is focusing on prevention, study and treatment of myopia. “It will also be a consolidated treatment center where appropriate therapy, education, information and surveillance for nearsightedness will be available under one roof,”

A 2016 report by the National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health states that 4 percent of children ages 6 to 72 months have myopia. Another 9 percent of older children (ages 5 to 17 years) have myopia, or nearsightedness in the United States.

In 2011, Children’s Hospital saw 5,500 patients with myopia; in 2016, that number rose to a whopping 18,500. 

Dr. Nischal said one reason for the rise is that the hospital overall is seeing a higher number of patients over the years.

He primarily blamed the growing number of cases on kids trying to see or read in dim light, and not heavier use of technology. “You are not going to be able to pull children away from their iPads and such,” Dr. Nischal said. “But what is often ignored is the lighting condition in which they read. When you read close up all the time, particularly in dim light, the brain assumes it is better to be nearsighted so as to reduce the pressure of focusing for near.”

He advises parents to ensure that reading time in dim light be reduced.

“Ensure the light is over the shoulder on the object they are reading. Switching off the lights and reading under cover is also not good. Dim lights stimulate the eyes to grow,” he said.

Wadih Zein, staff clinician at the National Eye Institute in Bethesda, Md., said a number of genetic and environmental factors are at play as they relate to myopia.

“Children these days spend more time doing near tasks [reading, being on their iPads or iPhones] than what was required of generations in the past. But we can’t say that it is a cause for myopia, although it is definitely a factor,” Dr. Zein said.

 

There is, however, some debate on near-work activities as a factor in developing myopia.

Leslie G. Hyman, vice chair of research at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia, believes the specific causes for the rise in myopia are unknown.

“No studies to date have found more television or use of newer technologies to be associated with an increase in myopia. For many years many have assumed that spending more time in near-work activities leads to an increase in myopia, and there are studies that have found an association between reading more books and myopia. However, results of studies that have investigated the relationship between myopia and near work have been inconsistent,” Dr. Hyman said.

But there is something that all experts agree on as far as myopia is concerned: spending more time outdoors.

Dr Laura Nennig with Eyecare Associates of Lees Summit noted “The one factor found in a number of studies to be protective for developing myopia is spending more time outside. Children who spend more time outdoors are less likely to develop myopia than children who spend more time indoors even when we factor in gaming and other devices.”

“We don’t yet understand exactly why spending more time outdoors helps to prevent myopia. There has been much interest in identifying the specific reasons and investigators have explored various possibilities including sunlight [possibly vitamin D], and use of the eyes [looking at objects far away and close by] but the answers remain unclear,” said Dr. Nennig.

Other advice Dr. Nennig has for parents is to ensure that children get adequate sunlight.

“Even if it is not possible to let them play outside, encourage them sit by a window where they can get more sunlight. An Australian study reports at the International Specialty Lens Meetings found that chances of nearsightedness increases when exposure to sunlight is less than two hours a day,” Dr. Nennig said.

Dr. Nennig may be right. A study published in JAMA Ophthalmology, an international peer-reviewed journal for ophthalmology, suggests that lack of exposure to sunlight may be a cause of the reshaping of eye and several disorders associated with it.

Dr. Zein of the National Eye Institute said of the many environmental factors at play as far as myopia is concerned, the ones that we know about are reading time and inadequate exposure to sunlight. “Reducing the former and increasing the latter will definitely help decrease the progression rate of myopia,” said Dr. Zein.

 

Dr. Nennig also notes that there are new therapies that are being put forward to prevent myopia including the use of special drops, bifocal contact lenses and corneal reshaping lenses.  “Our office has been using a corneal reshaping technology call CRT for several years with good success.  We recently had a 12 year old who heard about us from Bejing, China who came to Lees Summit for CRT treatment and she no longer needs to wear glasses and is 20/20 in each eye.” Dr. Nennig added “some of our office attends the International Myopia Control meeting every year so we can bring these new technologies and practices to our patients.”

 

Preventing, understanding nearsightedness

How to restrict screen time

  • Avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting for children younger than 18 months
  • For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day.
  • For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media

Source: American Association of Pediatrics

How to recognize whether your child has myopia

  • The child asks to sit at the front of the classroom.
  • He or she moves very close to the TV or movie screen.
  • The child lacks interest in sports or other activities that require good distance vision.

Symptoms of myopia

  • Blurred vision.
  • Squinting and frowning when viewing an object.
  • Frequent headaches.
  • The child holds books or other objects close to his or her face.

 

Dr. Nennig is an Associate Doctor with Eyecare Associates of Lees Summit located at 221 NW McNary Court, right off Chipman Road. Call today for an appointment at 815-524-8900.

Parents: The solar eclipse is nothing to fear. Here’s how to watch it with your kids.

Posted by & filed under Childrens Vision, Eye Health.

 

 


(Fethi Belaid/AFP/Getty Images)

Parents: The solar eclipse is nothing to fear. Here’s how to watch it with your kids.

(This is reprinted from the Washington Post.)

 

A total solar eclipse is an incredible thing — something I deeply believe should be experienced by adults and children alike. It literally illustrates how our solar system works as the moon travels directly between the sun and Earth. It is a science class brought to life in a way schools will never be able to re-create.For kids, this could be a significant moment in their little lives. They could be inspired to learn more about space and science in general. For older students, it could trigger exciting new career goals. For you, parent, the eclipse will give you the opportunity to create a memory your children won’t forget.As the big event gets closer, some schools have decided to close on Aug. 21, simply because they can’t handle the logistics of wrangling a thousand kids to watch the solar eclipse. That makes sense. It’s unfortunate for parents who aren’t going to be able to arrange child care that day, let alone child care that will help the kids watch the eclipse. But I understand the eclipse may be a burden — particularly when special equipment and planning is needed to ensure the kids are able to watch it safely.

Capital Weather Gang’s Angela Fritz breaks down what will happen when a total solar eclipse crosses the U.S. on Aug. 21. (Claritza Jimenez, Daron Taylor, Angela Fritz/The Washington Post)

Some of the letters I’ve read from schools to parents, though, have made me anxious. They include phrases like “the dangers of watching this event.” That can easily be interpreted as, “this event is dangerous and should not be watched.” I hate to think that kids — or anyone, really — missed out on the eclipse because they thought it was something to fear.

If your child’s school is closing, I hope the letter encourages parents to watch it with their kids and explains how to do it safely. If I were writing it myself, here’s what it would say:

Dear parent,

A really exciting thing is happening on Monday, Aug. 21 — a solar eclipse! For many people, this may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see our solar system in action. And it’s a great teaching moment for our kids.

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between Earth and the sun, blocking our view of the sun. The eclipse will occur across the continental United States on Aug. 21. It will start on the West Coast and end on the East Coast. Everyone in the continental U.S. will be able to see at least a partial eclipse on this day.

We can’t stare at the sun without protective eyewear, though. That means a little bit of preparation is needed before Aug. 21.

This is why you need special sunglasses to view the total eclipse
Capital Weather Gang’s Angela Fritz explains what could happen to your eyes if you were to watch the Aug. 21 eclipse without special sunglasses and how to spot the ones that work. (Claritza Jimenez, Daron Taylor, Angela Fritz/The Washington Post)

Here’s how to watch it safely with your kids:

  1. Locate some solar eclipse glasses. Some libraries and museums are giving them away for free. If you can’t find a free pair, you can buy them online from one of the reputable vendors at the bottom of this email.
  2. Make sure your child’s glasses fit his or her face. If they’re too large, you may be able to cut and tape them at the nose to make them smaller. Your child should be able to see through both of the dark lenses.
  3. Prior to the eclipse, explain to your child that we shouldn’t stare at the sun because it will damage our eyes. But also let them know that with these special glasses, we CAN look at the sun so we can see this awesome event. It may also be helpful to explain that they have to keep their glasses on because that’s the only way to see the moon moving in front of the sun. Without the glasses, the sunlight is too bright and you won’t be able to see anything!
  4. During the eclipse, keep the glasses on while you want to look at the sun. It’s a long event, so it’s okay for your child to take the glasses off if he or she wants to do other things. Just put them back on before you look at the sun again.
  5. If you live in the path of totality, your child can safely take the glasses off during the time when the moon is completely obscuring the sun. You’ll want to be able to see that with your bare eyes! When totality ends, put the glasses back on.

If you aren’t able to get the special glasses, there are other ways to “watch” and enjoy the solar eclipse:

— One way is through a camera obscura. Take a box — a shoebox works well — and poke a very small hole in it on one end. When you point the hole toward the sun during the eclipse, you’ll be able to see the moon covering up the sun on the opposite side of the box, where the light shines through.

— You can also watch the ground for something special. It’s similar to the way that you can see the eclipse in a camera obscura shoebox. The space between leaves creates little holes where the light passes through, and the result is thousands of little solar eclipse shadows on the ground.

— You might also enjoy paying attention to how the ambient light changes during the eclipse. It may become a little bit cooler, too. Animals may become very quiet — or perhaps your neighborhood dogs will start barking! It will be fascinating to see how nature responds to this event.

The most important thing is to enjoy this special event safely with your child — no matter how you decide to view it. It will be a memory you’ll never forget.

Sincerely,

Angela Fritz
Science enthusiast/Space nerd

Here’s a list of eclipse glasses brands and vendors from the American Astronomical Society:

Brands (Products)

Vendors

Retail “chains”

Online vendors:

 

 

 

Eyecare Associates of Lees Summit. Serving Lees Summit for 30 years. Call for an appointment today at 816-536-3803

 

7 Things You Should Know About Eyelid Twitches

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

 

Eyelid Twitches : 7 Things You Should Know About Them

 

You may have experienced this before. Out of nowhere, your eyelid starts twitching uncontrollably. While this can be a cause of aggravation, eyelid twitches, spasms or tics are actually quite common. Here are 7 things you should know about this eye condition:

  1. Eye twitches are generally caused by a repetitive, involuntary spasm in your eyelid muscles and are known in medical terms as a blepharospasm.
  2. Almost all sudden-onset eye twitching is not considered to be a serious medical condition, though it can be hard to treat without knowing the underlying cause.
  3. Eyelid twitches can occur sporadically, though some people have been known to feel them for a few consecutive days or weeks
  4. Stress, tiredness, eyestrain, caffeine alcohol or tobacco usage, dry eyes, allergies or nutritional imbalances are factors that can trigger or exacerbate eye twitches. The body produces endogenous cortisol (a steroid) when stressed, which may cause biological warning signs to the body to de-stress.
  5. If reducing stress does not alleviate the twitches, your eye doctor can perform a refraction (vision test) and comprehensive eye health exam to see if eye treatment can resolve the problem. Sometimes the solution is relieving eyestrain by updating your glasses.
  6. Rarely, a twitch will continue despite these efforts to alleviate triggers. In that case, they can be treated with Botox injections to help stop the muscles in your eyelid from contracting.
  7. Eyelid spasms are only considered a medical emergency when the twitch is accompanied by red or swollen eyes, unusual discharge, a drooping eyelid or twitching in other parts of the face. These may be symptoms of a more serious neurological disorder.

If you are experiencing eye twitches and are overdue for an eye exam give us a call today and make an appointment!

 

Eyecare Associates of Lees Summit 816-524-8900

Facts About Our Amazing Eyes

Posted by & filed under General Vision.

 

 

 

We don’t often give our AMAZING eyes as much thought as we should, that is until something goes wrong and our vision is affected. But when you learn more about eyes, you realize just how amazing they are. Here are a few facts you may enjoy:

 

1. Eyes began to develop 550 million years ago. The simplest eyes were patches of photoreceptor protein in single-celled animals.

2. Your eyes start to develop two weeks after you are conceived.

  1. The entire length of all the eyelashes shed by a human in their life is over 98 feet with each eye lash having a life span of about 5 months.
  2. To protect our eyes they are positioned in a hollowed eye socket, while eyebrows prevent sweat dripping into your eyes and eyelashes keep dirt out of your eyes.
  3. Your eyeballs stay the same size from birth to death, while your nose and ears continue to grow.
  4. An eye is composed of more than 2 million working parts.
  5. Only 1/6 of the human eyeball is exposed.
  6. Corneas are the only tissues that don’t have blood.
  7. The human eye weights approximately just under an ounce and is about an inch across.
  8. An eye cannot be transplanted. More than 1 million nerve fibers connect each eye to the brain and currently we’re not able to reconstruct those connections.
  9. 80% of our memories are determined by what we see.
  10. Eyes heal quickly. With proper care, it takes only about 48 hours to repair a minor corneal scratch.
  11. There are about 39 million people that are blind around the world.
  12. 80% of vision problems worldwide are avoidable or even curable.
  13. Humans and dogs are the only species known to seek visual cues from another individual’s eyes, and dogs only do this when interacting with humans.
  14. A fingerprint has 40 unique characteristics, but an iris has 256, a reason retina scans are increasingly being used for security purposes.
  15. People who are blind can see their dreams if they weren’t born blind.
  16. “Red eye” occurs in photos because light from the flash bounces off the back of the eye. The choroid is located behind the retina and is rich in blood vessels, which make it appear red on film.
  17. 80% of what we learn is through our eyes.
  18. Eyes are the second most complex organ after the brain.

Keep those amazing eyes healthy. Come see us for regular checkups and make sure those amazing eyes of yours last you a lifetime. To make an appointment call 816-524-8900.

 

Serving Lees Summit for 30 years. Conveniently located right off Chipman Ave at 221 NW McNary Ct. Call 186-524-8900 today for an appointment.

 

Eye injections help vision loss in diabetes.

Posted by & filed under Eye Health.

 

 

Eye injections help vision loss in diabetes.

For the past 20 years, Julio has taken medication daily to treat his diabetes, but it was still a shock when he suffered a hemorrhage in his right eye more than a year ago.

“I could see blood,” said the 46-year-old from Kendall, who did not want his full name used. “It started with minor bleeding and I couldn’t see from my right eye.”

He was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, a common complication of diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The condition is characterized by progressive damage to the blood vessels of the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye that is necessary for good vision. Often, the vessels swell and leak fluid or even close off completely.

If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can cause significant vision loss. Symptoms include blurred vision, distortion and a change in vision. It is not curable but treatable.

 

Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness among U.S. adults ages 20-74, according to the CDC. Early diagnosis and timely treatment are critical, as 50 percent of patients are diagnosed too late for treatment to be effective, the CDC said.

For those who receive timely treatment, intravitreal injection has changed the course of the disease, said Dr. Andrew Schimel, retina specialist at the Center for Excellence in Eye Care at Baptist Health South Florida. Medicine is injected inside the eye, near the retina, which counteracts the damage to the blood vessels.

Intravitreal injection has become the most common ophthalmic procedure performed in the United States, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Other treatments for diabetic retinopathy include laser surgery and pars plana vitrectomy, said Dr. Harry Flynn, retina specialist at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Laser surgery shrinks abnormal new vessels and reduces swelling. The procedure fixes leakage or hemorrhaging as a result of diabetic retinopathy, Flynn said.

Pars plana vitrectomy is a mechanical approach to eye surgery, removing blood and scar tissue from the eye, Flynn said. This procedure is only used for advanced and complex cases of diabetic retinopathy, such as when patients have lost the ability to drive or navigate independently.

Not every patient with diabetic retinopathy requires treatment, said Dr. Mark Herriott, a board certified optometrist with Eyecare Associates of Lees Summit. Patients with mild cases of the disease can receive counseling on how to monitor and control their glucose levels. Moderate to severe cases are referred to retina specialists.

In Julio’s case, he underwent outpatient surgery to reattach his retina and then received an intravitreal injection to optimize his vision. He has regained complete vision in his right eye but has light cataracts in both eyes.

Cataracts cloud the natural lens in the eye; symptoms include blurred vision, increased difficulty seeing at night and sensitivity to the glare from lights. Most cataracts develop in people 55 and older, but they occasionally occur in infants and young children, according to the American Optometric Association. Diabetic patients have irregularities in their blood, including increased sugar and cortisone levels, which lead to the early onset of cataracts.

To try to prevent cataracts, diabetic patients should monitor their blood sugar levels and keep them steady through medications, diet and exercise. Also, diabetic patients should have their eyes examined yearly.

As for Julio, he is happy to have regained his full vision.

“I feel good,” Julio said. “Before surgery, I couldn’t see in my right eye.”

Dr. Herriott notes that November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. He reminds all diabetics that they should be seeing their eye doctor at least once a year to make sure no treatable diabetic eye damage is occurring.

 

 

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Eyecare Associates of Lees Summit, 221 NW McNary Ct. Call 816-524-8900 today to make an appointment.

 

 

 

 

 

Zika Virus

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Zika Virus

 

Zika Virus, also known as ZIKV, is the latest infectious disease threat to capture the attention of the American public. With its origin in Brazil, the host country of this year’s Summer Olympics, and its association with potentially severe birth defects, Zika understandably has many people concerned.

 

In the continental United States, there have recently been confirmed cases of Zika infection transmitted by mosquitoes in one Miami, Florida neighborhood. At least for now, however, there is very little risk of a person becoming infected with Zika from mosquitoes here in the Midwest. At this time there are NO locally transmitted cases of Zika Virus in the greater Kansas City area.

 

The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. Other symptoms include muscle pain and headache. Many people infected with Zika won’t have symptoms or will have mild symptoms, which last less than a week. However, Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly and other severe brain defects.

 

The most common way of becoming infected with Zika Virus is to be bitten by an Aedes species

mosquito that has bitten another person infected with the virus. It can also be transmitted by an infected pregnant woman to her baby, or by a person having unprotected sex with an infected partner.

 

Because there is currently no vaccine or treatment for ZIKV, the best approach to the virus is PREVENTION OF MOSQUITO BITES and reduction of potential mosquito breeding places where we work, play and live.

Here’s how:

 Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants

 Stay in places with air conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside

 Take steps to control mosquitoes inside and outside your home

 Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – registered insect repellents, following the product label instructions.

 

Eliminating standing water in and around homes and businesses will make it more difficult for mosquitoes to breed. This can be done by dumping and draining items that hold water, such as tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flowerpots, or trash containers; and tightly covering water storage containers. To keep mosquitoes out of your homes and businesses use screens on windows and doors, repair holes in screens, and use air conditioning when available.

 

Mosquito breeding may be addressed in public areas such as parks by using chemical applications to kill mosquito eggs/larvae.

 

For more information on this rapidly changing public health issue, visit http://www.cdc.gov/zika or www.jacohd.org or http://www.cdc.gov/zika/prevention/prevent-mosquito-bites.html .

 

Caution: Pregnant women should not travel to any area with Zika, which currently includes 2 counties in the Miami, Florida Area.

 

Our guest author Ellen Dorshow-Gordon, MPH, MT(ASCP) is an epidemiologist with the Jackson County Health Department. She is a guest author for the Lee’s Summit Health Education Advisory Board.

 

 

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Eyecare Associates of Lees Summit, 221 NW McNary Court, . 816-524-8900

About 9.6 million Americans are severely nearsighted

Posted by & filed under Eye Health.

Marleen-wearing-vintage-glasses-with-strong-lenses-03

Severe nearsightedness affects many Americans.

 

About 9.6 million Americans are severely nearsighted, a new study finds.

Rates of nearsightedness — also known as myopia — in the United States rose from 25 percent in the early 1970s to 40 percent around 2000, the study authors said.

Most cases of nearsightedness can be corrected with eyewear or surgery. However, severe nearsightedness can cause complications that threaten vision.

The new study is based on federal data, plus an analysis of an American Academy of Ophthalmology database. The researchers estimate that nearly 820,000 Americans have a degenerative form of myopia called progressive high myopia, which can cause weakening of the retina.

More than 40,000 of these individuals may also develop an even more serious condition called myopic choroidal neovascularization.

This is “a severe complication of myopia with abnormal fragile blood vessels growing underneath the retina that can bleed — leading to severe visual loss,” explained Dr. Mark Fromer. He is an ophthalmologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

“This is the first study of its kind to determine the prevalence of this debilitating disease in the United States,” said Fromer, who reviewed the new findings.

Rates of progressive high myopia are higher among women than men — 0.42 percent versus 0.25 percent — and about 527,000 women have the condition, compared with 292,000 men, according to the study published online June 21 in the journal Ophthalmology.

“The findings emphasize the growing issue of nearsightedness and the burden it creates in terms of medical complications that cannot be fixed with just glasses or contacts,” study lead author Dr. Jeffrey Willis, a retina fellow at the University of California, Davis Eye Center, said in a journal news release.

Dr Laura Nennig with Eyecare Associates of Lees Summit recommends annual eye exams for persons who have severe levels of nearsightedness.  “Regular and periodic eye exams can often detect more serious problems with severe nearsightedness when they remain treatable” according to Dr. Nennig.

 

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Eyecare Associates of Lees Summit, 221 NW McNary Court. 816-524-8900

Survey shows awareness of blue light remains low

Posted by & filed under Childrens Vision, Eye Health.

 

Survey shows awareness of blue light remains low

kid-child-smartphone-device

According to surveys parents underestimate the amount of time their children spend of computer devices that emit blue light.

Results of a survey conducted by VSP Vision showed that the majority of parents are not aware of the impact of blue light from digital devices on vision.

VSP Vision surveyed more than 1,000 parents on their digital device usage and awareness of blue light, according to a VSP press release.

The parents reported that they spent about 61 hours per week looking at screens. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed reported that they felt their family spends too much time on digital devices. Specifically, 44% felt that their children were addicted to digital devices.

Fifty-eight percent of the parents surveyed were slightly or not at all aware of blue light in correlation to digital devices or its potential impact on vision, but 10% reported that they had taken steps to reduce their family’s blue light exposure.

Additional findings from the survey showed that 49% percent of the parents currently mandate or used to mandate limitations on children’s daily device usage but also said those rules are not enforced. Sixty-three percent said they think it is important to unplug from technology. However, only 13% ranked their family’s vision as their leading concern regarding digital device usage.

“Whether we’re at home, in a classroom, or at the office, our eyes are exposed to more and more blue light in today’s device-driven world,” Gary Morgan, OD, VSP optometrist, said in the release. “Technology continues to change the way we live and allows us to be more efficient and connected, but even with its benefits, we must be mindful of the impact of increased blue light exposure on our eyes. While medical research continues to study the possible long-term health impacts of blue light, both parents and their children can take practical steps now to reduce their exposure, ease digital eye strain and maintain good vision.

Dr Laura Nennig from Eyecare Associates of Lees Summit in a related blog goes in to more detail on blue light and how it affect us.  See her recent blog for more information.

laura-nennig

Dr. Laura Nennig works for Eyecare Associates of Lee’s Summit near Kansas City; her special interests include nutrition and preventive vision care as well as advanced contact lens technology used to treat ocular disease. She has no financial interest in any products mentioned in this article.

 

Blue Light

Posted by & filed under Childrens Vision, Eye Exams.

 

 

 

kid-child-smartphone-device

 

Life hack for better sleep:  Reduce Blue Light exposure at night

We all know UV light (ultra-violet) is harmful to our eyes, but did you know that blue-violet light (emitted with from artificial sources or the sun) can also cause health issues? With our kids all using Chromebooks or other tablets for school work in and out of class, they are being exposed to a lot more screen time than they were even 5 years ago. In a Harvard article Blue Light has a Dark Side, their research shows a strong link between evening blue light exposure and poor sleep. We’re finding that our kids are more susceptible to this effect than adults, so much so that the American Medical Association deems this a public health issue.

 

eye1

Until 1879, when the light bulb was invented, human beings have had very limited amounts of light to use at night and most of us would be limited to being awake when the sun was up and asleep at night when the sun was down. You’ve likely heard of circadian rhythms, aka your body’s clock, and that they regulate our sleep-wake cycle, but it turns out that the circadian system is more like a fancy a blue light detector. Using the eyes, the body is looking for blue skies to know when to wake up.  The circadian system uses the brightness of sky to stimulate alertness and wake us up long before we had alarm clocks. Before the light bulb, we only had fire to help light the night. Flames from hearths or candles emit light along the red side of the spectrum (hence why they look red or orange to us). These interfere very little with the brain’s ability to regulate the sleep hormone melatonin.

The down side of blue & violet colored light (380-450µm), even at low intensity, is that it significantly suppresses melatonin production, the chemical that helps you feel ready to sleep. This effect continues a full hour after we stop exposing ourselves to the blue light source.  This means if we use computers, tablets or smart phone until we want to sleep, our bodies will have a hard time falling asleep and getting restful sleep. We also tend to stay awake longer due to the increased alertness from the light’s stimulating effect on the brain. These wavelengths stimulate your brain to stay alert better than caffeine!

Camping with limited access to devices and electric lights is great way to demonstrate the power of this effect. Even if you’re normally a night owl, you’d find it easier to wake up earlier; after about 2 weeks you’ll wake with the sun feeling refreshed, having successfully reset your body’s clock.

Importance of sleep is to make ‘wake’ worthwhile. The body is looking for a very bright signal during the day and a very low signal at night, but when we spend a lot of time indoors, and use devices at night, we are exposed to a consistent signal all the time, which is neither bright nor dim but lies in the middle somewhere. This stimulation will extend the day and reduce or halt the production of melatonin. Without this hormone, you won’t feel like you are sleepy or ready to go to bed.  The good and bad side to the blue side of the spectrum is that we can use it to make us feel more alert during the day, but it also doesn’t allow us to wind down at night.

So what can we do to improve our sleep? Remove all LEDs and LCD screens (smart phones, TVs, computers) from our lives? I certainly am not ready to give up mine. Remove the blue light from our devices giving our screens a permanent state of yellowy-orange hue? Also a bad idea, as the bright white of the screen is helping me be alert while I write this blog at 9 am. A balance is key to any successful change.

The very same technology that is causing the sleep problems can be used to help you catch those all-important Z’s. The simplest solution, besides discontinuing screen time an hour before bed, is using a selective filter program. My favorite program (F.Lux) will automatically monitor the time and select how much blue light should be emitted. So if I’m writing at 9 am there is no filter and my screen looks bright white; at 9 pm my screen is tinted very orange. I’ve been using this for a while and feels calming to look at in the evening. There are variations for android called twilight, but it doesn’t work quite as well as the one I have on my PC (F.Lux works on Apple devices too, but requires some simple modification).  . See what colors of light your specific device gives off here.
If you are unable to modify your devices (due to a school or work limitation), I recommend wearing glasses that filter out some or all of the blue-violet light. If you find that you must use a device for the hours preceding sleep, then a pair of glasses that block more of those rays can be helpful.  This pair of glasses is designed specifically for nighttime device usage. Although you could wear them all the time, these lenses have a yellow tint, like BluTech or Gunnar lenses for example.

During the day, I recommend wearing your normal glasses with a special coating to block some of the blue-violet light all the time. My patients find it more comfortable to work at the computer all day with 25% blocked when compared to normal glasses without the coating. Their glasses are still clear and only block the specific wavelengths that are over stimulating the circadian system.

The benefit of reducing this spectrum is beyond just melatonin effects, it also reduces scatter from the light emitted from the computer monitor. The shorter the wavelength, the more light will scatter inside the eye, and blue-violet colors are much shorter than orange-red colors. Reducing scatter has the effect of sharpening the image quality on the retina inside the eye. Clearer images lead to less eye strain, which makes many people more comfortable while using a device. Because of this reduction in eye strain, I recommend this type of lens to be worn all day for those using devices 3+ hours/day. 67% of millennials use devices 5+ hours/day and those younger, including our kids, are not much behind them; this leads to a lot of eye strain, in fact 73% of those under 30 experience digital eye strain symptoms.

If you think your child is having a hard time in school, it may just be too much time spent on electronics before bed.  The AMA report (linked above) shows that reducing screen time before bed improves quality of sleep (defined as more time spent in REM sleep) as well as helps the students focus better in school the next day. It recommends that if you or your kids are unable to reduce time spent with devices, that you consider glasses that block a greater percentage of blue light for the 2-3 hours before bedtime. With our school district issuing Chromebooks to all our students, I want to ensure our students have the best possible chance to be successful and quality sleep is a good place to start. **

 

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**Although this article focuses on how blue light affects our kids, reducing screen time before bed is also advantageous for adults. Mostly though improving sleep cycles, we see reduced risk of cancer (especially breast cancer), lower risk of developing macular degeneration and improving sleep quality. More general information is found at AllAboutVision.com/cvs/blue-light.htm.

 

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Dr. Laura Nennig works for Eyecare Associates of Lee’s Summit near Kansas City; her special interests include nutrition and preventive vision care as well as advanced contact lens technology used to treat ocular disease. She has no financial interest in any products mentioned in this article.

The Value of an Eye Exam at Eyecare Associates of Lees Summit

Posted by & filed under Eye Exams.

The Value of an Eye Exam at Eyecare Associates of Lees Summit

 

Eye Exam in Manhattan BeachHave you been putting off that eye exam? Here are three reasons you should consider getting your eyes checked sooner rather than later, courtesy of Eyecare Associates of Lees Summit:

Changes in your visual acuity – Do you find yourself straining to read fine print or view distant objects that have never posed a problem before? The eye changes over time in a variety of ways. Changes in the shape of the eye may produce astigmatism, nearsightedness or farsightedness, while age-related changes in the lens muscles may make it harder for you to adjust from one field of vision to another. Vision screening and other tests can help us find out what is causing your trouble so we can correct it.

Fatigue or discomfort – Eyestrain, headaches, and other forms of discomfort can occur as a byproduct of the same focusing difficulties mentioned above, even if you are not aware of any actual changes in your vision. Constant or recurring eyestrain can make everyday life challenging and reading or writing all but impossible. If you are having more discomfort than usual lately, a visit to our optometrist can tell whether or not you need prescription lenses or other corrective care.

Preventative wellness care – Diseases of the eye such as glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration can lurk silently for years before they start to affect your vision — and by that point they may have reached an advanced stage that makes successful treatment much more difficult. A comprehensive eye exam at our clinic can reveal even the earliest signs of such problems, giving us the best possible chance to treat them.

Schedule Your Eye Exam at Eyecare Associates of Lees Summit Today

Now that you have three sound reasons to schedule a comprehensive eye exam with one of the highly qualified eye doctors at Eyecare Associates of Lees Summit, make that appointment while those reasons are still fresh in your mind. Our skilled team can help you see more clearly for life! Call 816-524-8900 today for your eye exam.

 

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Serving Lees Summit since 1987. Located off Chipman at 221 NW McNary Road.