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World Braille Day 2019

Each year during the month of January we recognize World Braille Day which gives us the opportunity to take a moment and appreciate the incredible gift that Braille has given to those who are blind or suffer from vision loss.

What is Braille?

Braille is a tactile representation of letters and numbers that can be utilized by people with vision loss to read using their fingers. The system uses combinations of six raised dots – three rows of two – that serve to represent the numbers, letters and even symbols such as music notes.

Braille History:

Braille was developed by a young Frenchman named Louis Braille and was first published in 1829. Braille invented the system at the age of 15 after he became blind as the result of an accident. The idea was originally based on night writing, a touch-based military code developed for Napoleon’s army by Charles Barbier as a strategy for soldiers to be able to communicate silently in the dark. Barbier’s code was ultimately rejected because it was too difficult to be used effectively by the soldiers. Barbier and Braille later met at the Royal Institute for the Blind in Paris and Braille was able to adapt the idea into a more functional system. In braille, the characters, or letters, are each represented by a cell or block with a particular arrangement of raised dots.

Not Just the ABC’s

While first developed for the French alphabet, braille has since been expanded for many languages including all the European-based languages, as well as Arabic and Asian languages. Even within those languages there are different forms of the system. For example, in English, there is Grade 1 braille which is composed of the representation of the 26 letters of the Roman alphabet and is primarily used for those learning to read and write the language. Grade 2 on the other hand is the type of braille you are likely to see written in public places such as menus or signs as it is more complex. Grade 2 includes higher level punctuation, abbreviations and contractions. Lastly, Grade 3 is a form of shorthand designed for personal use such as taking notes or writing letters.

In addition to the cells which represent the letters, braille may also include illustrations, graphs and symbols such as bullets or arrows. Further, a cell can also represent a number, a word or a punctuation mark. Because braille takes up more space than standard print there are many abbreviations or contractions that represent words or word sequences to save space. This also helps to improve the speed at which one can read and write using the system.

How To Write Braille

Writing braille requires some tools. To do it by hand you need a stylus, which is a metal tool that is used to create the dots, a slate, which is a type of stencil used to align the dots into neat cells and card-stock paper which is heavy enough to emboss. You can also write braille with a special braille typewriter or an electronic brailler as well as certain computer programs with a braille embosser printer.

Being able to read and write braille allows those with vision impairment to learn and express themselves in a way that they would otherwise not be able to. While newer technologies such as screen readers and other computer based programs have become more common in recent years, braille is the foundation of innovation in improving the lives of the blind and vision impaired.

Diabetes and Your Eyes

Diabetes is becoming much more prevalent around the globe. According to the International Diabetes Federation, approximately 425 million adults were living with diabetes in the year 2017 and 352 million more people were at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. By 2045 the number of people diagnosed is expected to rise to 629 million.

Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness as well as heart attacks, stroke, kidney failure, neuropathy (nerve damage) and lower limb amputation. In fact, in 2017, diabetes was implicated in 4 million deaths worldwide. Nevertheless preventing these complications from diabetes is possible with proper treatment, medication and regular medical screenings as well as improving your diet, physical activity and adopting a healthy lifestyle.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the hormone insulin is either underproduced or ineffective in its ability to regulate blood sugar. Uncontrolled diabetes leads to hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, which damages many systems in the body such as the blood vessels and the nervous system.

How Does Diabetes Affect The Eyes?

Diabetic eye disease is a group of conditions which are caused, or worsened, by diabetes; including: diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, glaucoma and cataracts. Diabetes increases the risk of cataracts by four times, and can increase dryness and reduce cornea sensation.

In diabetic retinopathy, over time, the tiny blood vessels within the eyes become damaged, causing leakage, poor oxygen circulation, then scarring of the sensitive tissue within the retina, which can result in further cell damage and scarring.

The longer you have diabetes, and the longer your blood sugar levels remain uncontrolled, the higher the chances of developing diabetic eye disease. Unlike many other vision-threatening conditions which are more prevalent in older individuals, diabetic eye disease is one of the main causes of vision loss in the younger, working-age population. Unfortunately, these eye conditions can lead to blindness if not caught early and treated. In fact, 2.6% of blindness worldwide is due to diabetes.

Diabetic Retinopathy

As mentioned above, diabetes can result in cumulative damage to the blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue located at the back of the eye. This is called diabetic retinopathy.

The retina is responsible for converting the light it receives into visual signals to the optic nerve in the brain. High blood sugar levels can cause the blood vessels in the retina to leak or hemorrhage, causing bleeding and distorting vision. In advanced stages, new blood vessels may begin to grow on the retinal surface causing scarring and further damaging cells in the retina. Diabetic retinopathy can eventually lead to blindness.

Signs and Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

The early stages of diabetic retinopathy often have no symptoms, which is why it’s vitally important to have frequent diabetic eye exams. As it progresses you may start to notice the following symptoms:

  • Blurred or fluctuating vision or vision loss
  • Floaters (dark spots or strings that appear to float in your visual field)
  • Blind spots
  • Color vision loss

There is no pain associated with diabetic retinopathy to signal any issues. If not controlled, as retinopathy continues it can cause retinal detachment and macular edema, two other serious conditions that threaten vision. Again, there are often NO signs or symptoms until more advanced stages.

A person with diabetes can do their part to control their blood sugar level. Following the physician’s medication plan, as well as diet and exercise recommendations can help slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy.

Retinal Detachment

Scar tissues caused by the breaking and forming of blood vessels in advanced retinopathy can lead to a retinal detachment in which the retina pulls away from the underlying tissue. This condition is a medical emergency and must be treated immediately as it can lead to permanent vision loss. Signs of a retinal detachment include a sudden onset of floaters or flashes in the vision.

Diabetic Macular Edema (DME)

Diabetic macular edema occurs when the macula, a part of the retina responsible for clear central vision, becomes full of fluid (edema). It is a complication of diabetic retinopathy that occurs in about half of patients, and causes vision loss.

Treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy and Diabetic Macular Edema

While vision loss from diabetic retinopathy and DME often can’t be restored, with early detection there are some preventative treatments available. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (when the blood vessels begin to grow abnormally) can be treated by laser surgery, injections or a procedure called vitrectomy in which the vitreous gel in the center of the eye is removed and replaced. This will treat bleeding caused by ruptured blood vessels. DME can be treated with injection therapy, laser surgery or corticosteroids.

Prevent Vision Loss from Diabetes

The best way to prevent vision loss from diabetic eye disease is early detection and treatment. Since there may be no symptoms in the early stages, regular diabetic eye exams are critical for early diagnosis. In fact diabetics are now sometimes monitored by their health insurance to see if they are getting regular eye exams and premium rates can be affected by how regularly the patients get their eyes checked. Keeping diabetes under control through exercise, diet, medication and regular screenings will help to reduce the chances of vision loss and blindness from diabetes.

 

The Dangers of An Online Eye Test

An online eye test may seem like a convenient way to check your vision or get an eyeglass prescription but beware, these tests aren’t all they are chocked up to be. In fact, they may even be dangerous.

What is an online eye test really testing?

An online eye test is actually not an eye test at all but just a vision or sight test – and a partial test at that. It is designed to measure your visual acuity and refractive error (nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism) and to determine an eyeglass prescription – which is the lens power needed to correct the refractive error in your vision.

Given that there is no one with medical training actually performing or checking the accuracy of the test, it is questionable how well the exam does even this. In fact, when an eye doctor does a refraction for glasses or contact lenses it also involves some judgement on the doctor’s part. The eye doctor will often adjust the prescription slightly based on the patient’s age, occupation or hobbies. The doctor may prescribe a prism in the lenses to help with binocularity and to prevent double vision in those who have deviations of the eye. There is no way an online exam can do any of this.

Further, a refraction is only one very small part of an eye exam and if it takes the place of a regular comprehensive eye exam by an eye doctor, you put your eyes and vision at serious risk.

A Comprehensive Eye Exam – Where Online Tests Fail

Even if the eyes see clearly and you have 20/20 vision, there may still be vision problems or eye disease present even without pain, blurred vision or other symptoms. What the online eye test fails to measure is your complete visual health and capacity (beyond just visual acuity), the curvature of the eye (which is needed for accurate lens prescriptions- especially for contact lenses) and an assessment of the health of the eye itself.

Just as we need regular medical and dental checkups as a part of preventative health care to prevent disease and maintain our health, we also need regular eye exams. A vision test does not suffice. A comprehensive eye exam will examine much more than just how well you see. It will also check for visual processing, color vision, depth perception and proper eye movement. It will measure your eye pressure, examine the back of your eye and look for early signs of eye disease or conditions such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetes, tumors and high blood pressure – many of which threaten your eyes and vision if not caught early.

If you do have some vision loss, the doctor will be able to determine if there is any serious underlying problem that is causing the disturbance in your vision. If you don’t have symptoms that doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. Many serious eye conditions develop gradually without any symptoms. Some eye diseases do not affect the macula, and therefore you may still have good vision even though there is a problem (such as glaucoma, early dry macular degeneration, early cataract, diabetes, blood pressure and even tumors). Many of these conditions threaten the eyes and even general health if not caught early and when undetected they can cause permanent and irreversible damage to your vision

Eye exams are the best way to detect these early and treat them before they develop into serious eye problems.

Whether online vision tests are inaccurate, misleading or simply insufficient, they can fail to provide essential information and can delay or prevent vision saving treatments. Additionally, you could be walking around with the wrong vision prescription which can cause unnecessary eye strain, headaches and difficulty.

Will an Online Eye Test Really Save you Money?

No. Besides the fact that most eye exams are covered by insurance, the eye exam you are getting from an eye doctor is much more thorough and comprehensive than an online eye test, so you are not comparing apples to apples. The eye doctor’s exam uses real equipment and performs a complete and professional evaluation of your vision and eye health. There is simply no comparing this to a self administered test on a computer screen.

An online eye test may be touted as a time and money saving convenience however, that is hardly the case. An eye exam is a medical procedure that requires training, precision, and proper equipment. Anything less can put your eyes and vision at serious risk.

 

Eye Dangers in the Dorm – Eye Health for College Students

It’s almost back to school time for college students and whether this is your first time away from home or you are already a pro, you want to be prepared with as much knowledge as possible to live safely on your own. This knowledge includes eye and vision safety, as failing to take care of your eyes today could cause damage to your eyes and vision now and in the future.

So put down your text books for a second and learn these four simple lessons about protecting your precious eyes:

Blue Light Protection

College students spend a LOT of time in front of screens. From each class, homework assignment, and research project, to texting, tinder, netflix and gaming – life is largely digital. This comes with a slew of potential side effects known as computer vision syndrome, including sore and tired eyes, headaches, neck, shoulder and back pain, dry eyes and blurred vision, largely due to the effect of the blue light emitted from the screens. Research shows that blue light can also impact your sleep quality and may possibly be connected to the development of retinal damage and macular degeneration later in life.

There are a few ways to protect your eyes and vision from blue light and computer vision syndrome:

  1. Use computer glasses or blue-light blocking coated lenses or contact lenses when working on a screen for long periods of time. These lenses are made to allow optimal visual comfort for the distance and unique pixelation of working on a computer or mobile screen, by reducing glare and eye strain. They also block potentially harmful blue-light radiation from entering your eyes.
  2. Prescription glasses may be considered as well. Many students who never needed glasses previously experience eyestrain with extensive hours studying in university. A minor prescription can make a big difference in reducing eye fatigue and helping to improve concentration.
  3. Implement the 20-20-20 rule by taking a break every 20 minutes to look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This allows your eyes to pause from the intensity of the computer screen.
  4. Depending on your environment, eye drops prescribed from the eye doctor may be helpful. Your blink rate often goes down substantially when you are concentrating on reading or computer work, which can cause dry eyes. Using eye drops and remembering to blink frequently can help reduce these uncomfortable symptoms.
  5. Install bluelight filters on your digital devices to reduce the amount of blue light exposure. There are a number of free apps available to download on your phone or computer.

Proper Contact Lens Use

Many college students opt for contact lenses as they are convenient and great for the appearance, but they come along with responsibility. The busy days and late nights can sometimes make contact lens care difficult so make sure to plan ahead. If you wear contact lenses you need to make sure that you always get them from an authorized lens distributor and that you follow your eye doctor’s instructions for proper care.

Always follow the wearing schedule and never sleep in lenses that are not designed for extended wear. Clean and disinfect as needed, and don’t rinse them with anything other than contact lens solution. Failing to follow the proper use and hygiene for contact lenses can result in irritation, infections and even corneal scarring which can result in vision loss.

One-day disposable lenses can be a great option especially for college students as they offer ultimate convenience (no cleaning and storing) and optimal eye health.

Further, if you enjoy wearing contact lenses, then remember to get a proper fit from your eye doctor. Many “exclusive” contact lenses available online may actually be poorly fit and made from inferior materials. One size does not fit all.

UV Protection

Ultraviolet rays from the sun are known to cause long term eye damage and lead to vision threatening eye conditions such as macular degeneration and cataracts. Additionally in extreme cases of unprotected UV exposure you can get sunburned eyes, known as photokeratitis, which can cause a gritty, dry feeling, burning, swelling, light sensitivity, vision changes and sometimes serious pain. These symptoms typically go away within a day or two. Wearing 100% UV reflective sunglasses whenever you are outside – rain or shine – is a first step to eye protection. A large brimmed hat to protect the eyes from exposure from the top and sides is also a recommended addition for sunny days.

Get a regular eye exam

To start off college with the right foot forward, it’s recommended to get a comprehensive eye exam prior to the start of the the school year, especially if you haven’t had one recently. This way you can ensure that your eyes and vision are in top shape and, if you wear glasses, that your prescription is still accurate. The last thing you want to worry about when getting adjusted to college is problems with your eyes and vision.

It’s also recommended for students that are going away to another city to get a recommendation for a local eye doctor in case of an emergency. Most eye doctors know of colleagues located in other cities who they could recommend.

Just remember to think about your eyes because the better you take care of them now, the healthier eyes and vision you will have down the line.

Local Road Closure This Week

57A17C52 D506 45C5 B59B B0C47E94D0BFThis week there will be a full closure of the Woodinville-Duvall road. The full closure is between West Snoqualmie Valley Road NE and West Snoqualmie River Road NE with no emergency access beginning Saturday, June 23 at 8 a.m. to Friday, June 29 at 6 p.m. Intermittent one lane closures will also take place from West Snoqualmie River Road to State Route 203 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. from June 23 through June 25.

Closed: Jun 23, 2018 at 8:00 am

Anticipated opening date: Jun 29, 2018 at 6:00 pm

Full county info at https://gismaps.kingcounty.gov/MyCommute/?basemap=basemapKC&clid=1092

Ocular Migraines

Migraine Awareness Month:

An ocular migraine is any migraine headache that involves a visual disturbance such as flashes of light, seeing stars or zigzags or the appearance of blind spots in the visual field. Ocular migraines can interfere with your ability to go about your daily tasks such as driving, reading or writing, however, the visual symptoms don’t last long and do go away completely once the migraine has passed.

What is an Ocular Migraine?

The term ocular migraine may refer to a couple of different conditions. Firstly, migraines with auras often have eye-related symptoms that precede the actual headache. An aura is a physical symptom that is experienced usually within 5 minutes to an hour before a migraine comes on, and can include:

  • Blind spots (scotomas) or partial vision loss
  • Flashes of light, spots or zigzag patterns
  • Visual, auditory (hearing) or olfactory (smell) hallucinations or disruptions
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Mental fog, trouble finding words and speaking

These types of ocular migraines commonly appear by obstructing a small area of vision which spreads gradually over 5 minutes.

A second type of ocular migraine is when you actually experience temporary vision loss or disruptions (flashes, blind spots, zigzag lines etc.) during or immediately following the migraine headache. Ocular migraines can also sometimes appear without any head pain at all. They may also be called eye, ophthalmic, or retinal migraines.

What Causes Ocular Migraines?

Similar to classic migraines, the exact cause of an ocular migraine is unknown. Genetic predisposition seems to be a factor to some extent, and having a family history of migraines does put you at greater risk.

While they don’t know the cause, experts have seen that spasms in the blood vessels and nerve cells in the retinal lining at the back of the eye are associated with ocular migraine symptoms.

For some, there are certain environmental triggers, or a combination of factors, that cause migraines. These differ on an individual basis but can include:

  • Stress
  • Bright lights or loud sounds
  • Strong smells
  • A sudden or drastic change in weather conditions
  • Eating, or exposure to, certain food substances such as, alcohol, caffeine, nitrates, MSG (monosodium glutamate), artificial sweeteners and tyramine.

Since triggers are different for everyone it’s advised to try to identify yours by keeping a journal to track your environment, diet and lifestyle habits, when you experience a headache.

Treatment for Ocular Migraines

Treatment for ocular migraines is usually not necessary as the symptoms typically resolve themselves within 30 minutes. It is advised to rest and avoid doing things that require vision and concentration until the headache goes away and the vision symptoms cease. If you are experiencing an ocular headache:

  • Lie down in a quiet, dark room when possible
  • Massage or apply pressure to the temples and scalp
  • Apply a damp towel to the forehead

If you experience auras, taking a migraine medication when the aura occurs, can often reduce the intensity of the headache that follows. In other words, you can use the aura as a warning sign that a headache is coming on and treat it preventatively. Your doctor may prescribe a pain reliever for associated head pain and, if migraines are chronic, a preventative medication may be given.

It’s important to note that if you are experiencing any unusual visual symptoms or an increase in frequency or duration of symptoms, you should see an eye doctor right away to rule out any serious, vision threatening conditions. Symptoms such as floaters or flashing lights can also be a sign of a retinal tear or hole.

If you get migraines, among the best ways to prevent them are to keep your mind and body healthy by eating nutritious foods, getting enough rest and managing stress effectively.

Sports Vision Deconstructed

Vision is a critical component to succeed as an athlete and this doesn’t just mean having 20/20 vision. There are a number of visual processes that are involved in optimal sports performance, whether you are playing a weekly little league game or competing in professional sports.

The eyes and the brain work together to receive, process and respond to visual and sensory information and this amazing ability is what allows us to engage with the world around us. However, when one or more of these processes is disrupted, whether it be the eye itself or in the processing of the information that the eye brings in, it can cause difficulty in a number of areas, particularly movement and sports.

Here is a breakdown of some of the visual skills you rely on for athletic performance:

Visual Acuity: the ability to see clearly is one of the most important aspects of vision. To improve visual acuity your eye doctor can prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses, as well as prescription sunglasses, swimming goggles and sports goggles. LASIK or refractive eye surgery or orthokeratology may also be options for improving visual acuity without having to wear vision correction during play.

Dynamic Visual Acuity: the ability to see moving objects clearly.

Peripheral Vision: your side vision or the ability to see out of the corner or sides of your eyes when you are looking straight ahead.

Peripheral Awareness/Visual Concentration: The ability to be engaged in a task while having awareness of peripheral and other visual stimuli without being distracted by them.

Depth Perception: the ability to perceive the relative distance and speed of objects in your field of vision.

Visual Tracking: the movement of the eye that allows for the ability to follow a moving object, switch visual attention from one object to another or to track a line of text. This allows an athlete to “keep an eye on the ball”.

Focusing: allows for the ability change focus quickly and clearly from one distance or object to another.

Eye Teaming: the ability for the two eyes to work together in coordination.

Hand-Eye, Body-Eye Coordination: the ability of your eyes to guide your hands and body to carry out movements accurately and effectively.

Visual Reaction Time: how quickly your brain is able to interpret visual information and respond with the appropriate motor action.

Often we take the wonder of our eyes and brain for granted, not realizing all of the systems that must be in place in order for us to perform optimally in our daily lives… all the more so for top notch sports performance (and these are just the functions that are related to your eyes!)

Typically, visual processes occur automatically, without us paying much attention to them, but they are skills which can be improved. If you feel that you or your child might have some difficulty with one or more of these visual skills, speak to your eye doctor. Through proper eyewear, exercises, nutrition and sometimes vision therapy, it can be possible to improve upon these skills and as a result, enhance your performance on the field. In fact, professional athletes often utilize a combination of vision therapy and nutritional supplements (such as lutein and zeaxathin) to enhance their vision and reaction time for better performance on the field.

Additionally, you want to make sure – whether you have visual processing issues or not – that you protect your eyes properly. Unfortunately, many injuries occur from an over-confidence that the eyes are safe during sports. Speak to your eye doctor about the right sports safety eyewear to protect your or your child’s eyes during your favorite sports.

7 Eye Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore

While we all know that regular eye exams can help detect warning signs of disease and prevent vision loss, many people fail to seek medical attention when there is an acute problem with the eye. In fact, only about half of Americans that are at risk for serious vision loss have been examined by an eye doctor within the last year, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While it’s true that some eye symptoms resolve on their own, it’s better not to take the chance when your eyesight is at risk. Here are seven eye symptoms that should be checked out by an eye doctor immediately, as they could indicate a serious underlying condition that could threaten your vision. Remember, even if you think the issue is minor, getting proper medical attention could be vital to saving your vision.

  1. Frequent FloatersFloaters are shadows or spots that appear to float through your field of vision, particularly when you are looking at a solid colored or bright background such as the blue sky or a white wall. They can appear in a variety of shapes such as a shower of dots or mosquito shaped for example. It is common to see floaters on occasion, however if you experience a sudden increase, especially in combination with pain, flashes or loss of peripheral vision, you should see a doctor immediately. Flashes of light may appear as a quick spark or jagged streaks of light or arcs among other shapes. This could be a sign of a very serious problem such as detached or torn retina, a hemorrhage or bleeding inside the eye, an inflammation of the vitreous or retina caused by an infection or injury or an eye tumor. In the case of a retinal detachment, the different pattern of floaters or flashes depend on how the retina tears, so if you suddenly notice a distinct pattern of floaters or light in your vision, don’t delay: seek medical attention within 24 hours.
  2. Persistent Redness or IrritationWhile minor redness can simply be a result of allergies, exhaustion or extended contact lens wear, there are some more serious causes of eye redness, especially if it persists or is accompanied by pain, swelling, discharge, vision disturbance or severe itchiness. Along with conjunctivitis (or pink eye) which can be a very contagious eye infection, redness can indicate a corneal scratch, uveitis or glaucoma.
  3. Excessive Watery EyesWhether you have a foreign object in your eye or are experiencing dryness due to allergies or environmental factors, eye watering is a natural response to keep your eyes healthy, comfortable and safe. When it is constant and disruptive, however, this is no longer normal. Excessive eye watering could indicate a chronic condition such as dry eye syndrome, tear duct problems or problems with the cornea such as a scratch or an ulcer.
  4. Foreign Body in the EyeIf you experience a foreign object in your eye, the first thing to do it try to flush it out. Never rub the eye as it could cause even greater damage. If your efforts to flush the object out are not successful it is time to see a doctor. Additionally, if you are experiencing vision disturbances, pain or redness while the object is there or after you think you have removed it, see an eye doctor immediately.
  5. Ptosis (Droopy Eyelid)Ptosis or drooping eyelids is seen in one or both eyelids and can be caused by benign conditions such as allergies or merely part of the aging process. Nevertheless, it can also be a sign of a serious condition such as nerve damage, a stroke, brain tumor or a condition called myasthenia gravis, which is a neurological condition that affects the muscles of the eye. It is also sometimes a result of eye surgery or injury. Often ptosis will resolve gradually on its own, however it is something that should be checked out, especially if it occurs suddenly, to ensure there is no serious underlying cause.
  6. Bleeding EyesA subconjunctival hemorrhage in the eye is when a blood vessel right under the surface of the eye breaks. You will see that the white part or sclera of the eye has turned red. Usually, this common occurrence is nothing to be concerned about as this can happen from something as simple as straining, a sneeze or cough. In this case there is nothing to do and it will resolve on its own. If however, the redness comes after an injury to your eye or head it could indicate that there is bleeding in the brain and should be examined immediately.
  7. Moderate to Severe Eye PainThere are several causes of eye pain, the most serious of which is acute angle closure glaucoma or uveitis. Other causes of pain can include corneal abrasions and ulcers, scleritis, orbital cellulitis and sinusitis.

When it comes to problems with the eye, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and get them checked out. Doing otherwise, could cost you your eyesight. Your eye doctor can help.

New Medicare Cards to be Issued in 2018

Medicare/CMS will be removing Social Security Numbers from Medicare cards to prevent fraud, fight identity theft, and keep taxpayer dollars safe. Policyholders who live in Washington state will have their new cards mailed to them between June 2018 through April 2019.

“We’re taking this step to protect our seniors from fraudulent use of Social Security numbers which can lead to identity theft and illegal use of Medicare benefits.

“We want to be sure that Medicare beneficiaries and healthcare providers know about these changes well in advance and have the information they need to make a seamless transition.”

– CMS Administrator Seema Verma

Ultraviolet Light and your Eyes

If you want strong, healthy eyes and clear vision for life, a major step you can take is to protect your eyes from UV radiation. Wearing proper eye protection from the sun reduces the risk of a number of eye diseases and other conditions that are caused or worsened by UV exposure.

Eye Diseases Linked to UV Exposure

UV exposure has been linked to a number of serious eye diseases including macular degeneration and cataracts.

Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is a condition in which the macula of the eye breaks down, leading to a loss of central vision and is a leading cause of age-related vision loss. Macular degeneration develops over time so a lifetime of exposure to UV can contribute it’s likelihood.

Cataracts

Cataracts occur when the natural lens of the eye becomes clouded, resulting in blurred vision and eventually blindness. The len is responsible for focusing the light that comes into the eye, allowing clear vision. Cataracts can be treated by a simple surgery to replace the clouded lens with an artificial lens. UV light contributes to certain types of cataracts, which account for about 10% of all cases.

Skin Cancer

Another serious disease that can affect the eyes is skin cancer which can appear on the eyelids or the area around the eyes. Skin cancer is known to be linked to extended exposure to UV and your eyes can be a difficult area to protect with sun block as you don’t want it to get too close to the eyes.

Other Eye Conditions Linked to UV Exposure

Photokeratitis or Corneal Sunburn

Photokeratitis or a corneal sunburn in layman’s terms can occur with intense exposure to the sun without proper eye protection. It is commonly experienced after a day skiing or snowboarding at a high altitude or at the beach. Corneal sunburns can be extremely painful and can sometimes cause a temporary loss of vision.

Pterygium

Pterygium, also known as “surfer’s eye” is a growth that forms on the conjunctiva which is a layer over the sclera or the white part of your eye. Sometimes they grow onto the cornea as well. Often pterygia are harmless but if they grow too large they may begin to impact your vision. In this case, surgery may be necessary. Pterygia are commonly found in individuals who spend a significant amount of time outside in the sun or wind.

How to Properly Protect Your Eyes From UV

The more time you spend outside, the greater the risk for your eyes, however you can easily minimize this risk with proper protection. Here are a few tips to ensure you are doing what you can to safeguard your eyes:

Proper Sunglasses

Fully protective sunglasses should block out 99-100% of UV-A and UV-B rays. You can achieve this through purchasing a pair of sunglasses, applying a UV blocking coating to your glasses or opting for photochromic lenses which are eyeglass lenses which turn dark when exposed to sunlight. Most contact lenses will also have UV protection but this is just for the area of the eye covered by the lens.

Since UV exposure can enter from the air, the ground or from the sides, wrap-around and large lensed frames can provide added protection.

Add a Wide Brimmed Hat

A wide brimmed hat or visor will stop about half of the UV rays from even reaching your eyes as well as reduce the exposure coming in from the top or sides of your sunglass frames.

Know Your Environmental Risk Factors

UV exposure is largely dependent upon your location and your surroundings. If you are located at a high altitude you will likely be exposed to more UV than at lower altitudes. UV also reflects off of snow, sand, water and even asphalt so be aware that you are getting increased exposure under these conditions.

Know Your Additional Risk Factors

There are a number of other factors that can increase your exposure or risk of eye damage from UV. For example, certain medications increase the sensitivity of your eyes and skin to sunlight (speak to your doctor about any medications you are on). Previous eye surgery or eye diseases can also increase your risk factors for UV eye damage. Additionally if you work in certain fields such as welding or medical scans or radiation or use tanning beds, you can be exposed to additional UV radiation. If there is nothing you can do to change your exposure, make sure you are properly protecting your eyes with goggles or glasses and a hat.

Regular Eye Exams

Make sure you schedule a comprehensive eye exam on a regular basis to ensure your eyes are healthy. If you are over 50 or have increased risk factors for eye disease, you should schedule exams at least on a yearly basis or according to your eye doctor’s recommendations.