Alamo Optometry Blog

July 1, 2010

UV Protection

Filed under: Blog,Educational,U.V. Light,Vision Care Tips — gkblog @ 8:32 am

Ultraviolet (UV) Light

(As appeared in Alamo Today, July 2010, pg. 24)

             Summer is finally here and the rain is done (hopefully).  Now that we will be heading out into the sun, it is time to discuss UV protection.  The harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun can have several ocular consequences in addition to all of the other body and skin conditions.  I will address some of the potential eye issues here.

            First of all, ocular UV protection should be a priority year round.  Even though we receive more ultraviolet in the summer months than in winter, we are exposed every day, regardless of weather and temperature.  Ultraviolet exposure is cumulative throughout life, and approximately 75% is accumulated by the age of 18.

            Exposure to UV has ocular complications such as cataracts and pingueculas.  Everyone knows that cataracts form later in life and are a normal part of the aging process.  However, long-term UV exposure can expedite the process.  Studies have shown that people that live on or near the equator generally get cataracts about 10 years earlier than people who live closer to the poles.  This is due to the fact that those people receive the most daily UV radiation throughout the year.  A pinguecula is the common yellow-looking bump and the white part of the eye.  Many people have these and they are completely benign.  Over time these tend to become red and irritated in dry and/or allergic conditions and prolonged contact lens wear can cause more irritation.  The more inflamed the eye gets, the quicker these pingueculas tend to grow.  Keeping the eye lubricated and having UV lenses are your best defense against further complications.

            For eye protection, the best thing you can do is have UV-blocking lenses in your glasses.  Fortunately, there are several ways this can be accomplished.  The first thing to remember is that your lenses do not have to be tinted to be UV-protected.  Conversely, all tinted lenses do not block ultraviolet light.  Simply having tinted plastic lenses in your glasses will not block any of the harmful rays from the sun; plastic lenses do not inherently have any UV protection.  To obtain the necessary protection, a UV filter must be present in the lenses.  This is a clear filter and it does not alter the appearance or color of the lenses in any way.  For those of you who enjoy wearing sunglasses, the most common way to get this is to have polarized lenses.  In addition to blocking the sun’s harmful rays, these lenses eliminate glare, which make vision sharper and more comfortable.  The effects are especially noticeable in high-glare situations such as driving, skiing, and water sports.  For those that want tinted lenses and clear lenses without two separate glasses, then transitions lenses might be an option.  These lenses come inherent with UV protection and are clear indoors and dark outdoors.  Like polarized lenses, transitions lenses are available in single vision, bifocals, and progressive lenses.

            Some people just don’t like to wear sunglasses.  As was mentioned before, the lenses do not need to be tinted to block UV.  Patients that are uncomfortable with tinted lenses can have their clear glasses made out of polycarbonate lenses.  These lenses have a UV filter and are thinner, lighter, and are impact-resistant compared to plastic lenses.  Lastly, there are contact lenses that come with UV protection.  Even though that is very important, only the area covered by the contact lenses is protected; the rest of the eye, eyelids, and surrounding area are therefore left exposed.

            Patients of all ages should wear some form of UV protection outdoors.  Whether they are inexpensive over-the-counter sunglasses for your children or higher quality polarized lenses for the adults, this protection is like “suntan lotion for the eyes” and will definitely reduce the ocular consequences of UV radiation.  You are welcome to come into the office anytime if you have any questions and we can demonstrate the improved vision and contrast with our Maui Jim polarized sunglasses.

 Dr. K. at Alamo Optometry is your hometown eye doctor for outstanding service, vision care, and designer eyewear.  He can be reached at 820-6622 or visit his office at 3201 Danville Blvd., Suite 165 in Alamo.  Visit our website at: www.alamooptometry.com and become a fan on our Alamo Optometry Facebook page.

December 3, 2009

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) vs. Health Savings Accounts (HSA)

Filed under: Vision Care Tips — Tags: — admin @ 11:39 pm

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) vs. Health Savings Accounts (HSA)

(As appeared in <a href=”http://www.yourmonthlypaper.com”>Alamo Today</a>, December 2009, pg. 27)

 The holiday season has arrived and on top of all the hustle and bustle that brings, insurance decisions for a lot of people need to be made for this year and next year.  Many companies have their open enrollment during this period, so cafeteria, vision, and medical plans can be in effect as of January 1.  In addition, many of our patients want to (and often need to) fully utilize their benefits for this year or they will be forfeited.  To help clarify, here is a brief introduction to the common types of benefits that can be used at our office.
 A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is one of a number of tax-advantaged financial accounts that can be set up through a cafeteria plan of your employer.  An FSA allows an employee to set aside a portion of his or her earnings to pay for qualified expenses as established in the cafeteria plan; most commonly for medical expenses but also often for dependent care or other expenses including eye care, dental, and orthodontics.   Money deducted from an employee’s pay into an FSA is not subject to payroll taxes, resulting in a substantial payroll tax savings.  Depending on the employer, an FSA may be utilized by paper claims or an FSA debit card,  also known as a Flexcard.  The important thing to remember is that any unused money not spent by December 31 will be forfeited by the employee.  As the end of the year approaches, it is paramount that you know how much is left in your account to ensure full utilization. 
 By comparison, a Health Savings Account (HSA), is a tax-advantaged medical savings account available to employees who are enrolled in a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) for your medical insurance. The funds contributed to the account can be made by both the employer and employee and are not subject to federal income tax at the time of deposit. Unlike a flexible spending account, funds roll over and accumulate year over year if not spent.  Funds may be used to pay for qualified medical expenses at any time without federal tax liability. Like an FSA, most HSA patients have a debit card that can be used to cover any out-of-pocket expenses.
 The government has a wide range of specified expenses that qualify as a medical expense.  These include any office co-pays, pharmacy bills, any necessary or elective surgical procedures (including LASIK), dental bills, orthodontics, and laboratory bills.  Included in that list is any vision correction device (glasses, computer glasses, contact lenses, sports goggles, etc.) and sunglasses (prescription and non-prescription).  As long as your purchase is made by the end of the year, it will count on your 2009 account balance. 
In addition to these tax-friendly accounts, do not forget to utilize your vision insurance.  At our office, we are providers for Vision Service Plan (VSP), Eyemed (which can include vision coverage for Anthem Blue Cross and Aetna if the plan has a eye care provision), and Medicare.  All plans have an exam benefit and have variable material allowances towards glasses or contact lenses.  Some plans recycle on the change of the new year, so this is an optimal time to use your benefits.  Between your vision coverage and your FSA or HSA, most if not all of your charges will be covered.
Since this can be confusing for some people, we are available to answer any of your questions regarding insurance and FSA/HSA utilization.  We are able to verify any insurance coverage on-line within a matter of minutes as long as we have all of the necessary information.  You will always receive a detailed receipt showing your purchase if any proof is needed by your employer.  We look forward to seeing you this holiday season and in the years to come.

Dr. K. at Alamo Optometry is your hometown eye doctor for outstanding service, vision care, and designer eyewear.  He can be reached at 925-820-6622 or visit his office at 3201 Danville Blvd., Suite 165 in Alamo.  Visit our website at: ww.alamooptometry.com.

August 11, 2009

School-Aged Vision

Filed under: Vision Care Tips — Tags: , — admin @ 11:34 pm

School-Aged Vision

(As appeared in Alamo Today, August 2009, pg. 30)

In our second installment of vision and eye health throughout our lifetime, this month we will discuss the needs of a school-aged child. In contrast to preschool kids, school-age children are required to use their eyes and vision not only learning, but for comprehension, extended times of visual attention, and sports. From learning to read in the early years to taking notes and transitioning quickly between the board to your paperwork in junior high and high school the visual demands placed on a student are many and varied.
To be able to succeed in school, good vision is paramount. According to the American Optometric Association, it has been estimated that nearly 80% of learning occurs through the eyes. However, about 20% of school-aged children struggle to read. Some of these children suffer from learning disabilities that inhibit their ability to read. And some children are labeled as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), because an undetected vision problem can have the same signs and symptoms as ADHD. Obviously these children will have problems with learning, but sadly a large portion of children have vision difficulties that are interfering with reading.
The major thing to know as parents is that vision is more than just seeing 20/20. Obviously that is important, but you also need the ability to understand and respond to what is seen. Every child needs to have the following skills to effective read and learn: visual acuity, eye focusing, eye tracking, eye teaming, eye-hand coordination, and visual perception. If any or all of these necessary skills are lacking, your child will have to work harder to compensate. This can lead to headaches, fatigue, and inattention to detail.
As children progress in school, they face increasing demands on their visual abilities. The size of print in schoolbooks becomes smaller and the amount of time spent reading and studying increases significantly. When the visual abilities of the child are unable to keep up, learning becomes difficult and frustrating. When this occurs, children will start to avoid reading and other near work or attempt to do the work with lower efficiency, and experience discomfort, fatigue, and a short attention span.
Keep in mind that a child might not always tell their parents that they have a vision problem because they assume that is the way everyone sees or struggles to see. Some signs to look for that your child might have a vision problem include: frequent eye rubbing or blinking, avoiding reading, headaches, covering or favoring one eye, tilting the head to read, seeing double, consistently losing place when reading, and lower reading comprehension.
In addition to the vision requirements for school and learning, sports and recreation activities also come with their own vision issues. Besides good vision, depth perception, wide peripheral vision, and effective eye-hand coordination are essential for success in any sport. If appropriate, contact lenses offer an effective means of correcting any vision issues while allowing for the freedom of running and exercising without the hassle of glasses. For those who are not interested in contacts, sports goggles are also a great option. These are becoming more fashion-forward and are impact resistant. The lenses should be made in polycarbonate, which are shatter-proof. In addition, they can be tinted for day games, or have transitions lenses (which turn from clear to dark) for more versatility. Regardless of the type of glasses or sunglasses, your child should have UV protection. Children receive about 75% of their entire UV exposure for their lifetime by the time they are 18. More children should be wearing UV-blocking sunglasses and have UV protection in their everyday glasses.
Vision changes can occur without your child or you noticing them. We recommend a comprehensive eye exam at the latest before entering Kindergarten, and then every 1-2 years thereafter, unless otherwise directed. Keep in mind, the earlier a problem is found and treated, the higher the success rate and improvement in your child’s education and well-being.

Dr. K. at Alamo Optometry is your hometown eye doctor for outstanding service, vision care, and designer eyewear. He can be reached at 925-820-6622 or visit his office at 3201 Danville Blvd., Suite 165 in Alamo. Visit our website at: ww.alamooptometry.com.

March 2, 2009

Conjunctivitis

Filed under: Vision Care Tips — Tags: — admin @ 11:28 pm

Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)
Tuesday, February 24, 2009

(As appeared in Alamo Today, March 2009, pg. 35)

This is the time of the year when we are all fighting the winter colds and flus. The same bacteria and viruses that cause these illnesses also cause conjunctivitis. It is very common for different family members or co-workers to either have the upper respiratory infection or the conjunctivitis, or both.
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, often called “pink eye,” is a common eye disease, especially in children. It may affect one or both eyes. Some forms of conjunctivitis can be highly contagious and easily spread in schools and at home. While conjunctivitis is usually a minor eye infection, sometimes it can develop into a more serious problem.
Conjunctivitis may be caused by a viral or bacterial infection. It can also occur due to an allergic reaction to irritants in the air like pollen and smoke, chlorine in swimming pools, and ingredients in cosmetics or other products that come in contact with the eyes. Bacterial conjunctivitis is an infection most often caused by staph. or strep. bacteria from your own skin or respiratory system. Infection can also occur by transmittal from insects, physical contact with other people, poor hygiene (touching the eye with unclean hands), or by use of contaminated eye makeup and facial lotions.
Viral conjunctivitis is most commonly caused by contagious viruses associated with the common cold. The primary means of contracting this is through exposure to coughing or sneezing by persons with upper respiratory tract infections. It can also occur as the virus spreads along the body’s own mucous membranes.
Practicing good hygiene is the best way to control the spread of conjunctivitis. Once an infection has been diagnosed, follow these steps:
Don’t touch your eyes with your hands.
Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.
Change your towel and washcloth daily, and don’t share them with others.
Discard eye cosmetics, particularly mascara.
Don’t use anyone else’s eye cosmetics or personal eye-care items.
Follow your eye doctor’s instructions on proper contact lens care.
For allergic conjunctivitis, avoid rubbing your eyes. Instead of warm compresses, use cool compresses to soothe your eyes. Over the counter eye drops are available. Antihistamine eye drops should help to alleviate the symptoms, and lubricating eye drops help to rinse the allergen off of the surface of the eye.
At our office, conjunctivitis can be diagnosed through a focused office visit. Testing, with special emphasis on evaluation of the conjunctiva and surrounding tissues, will include:
Patient history to determine the symptoms the patient is experiencing, when the symptoms began, and the presence of any general health or environmental conditions that may be contributing to the problem.
Visual acuity measurements to determine the extent to which vision may be affected.
Evaluation of the conjunctiva and external eye tissue using an optometric microscope.
Evaluation of the inner structures of the eye to ensure that no other tissues are affected by the condition.

Even though the diagnosis of conjunctivitis is relatively straightforward, the cause of the condition is often more difficult. Depending on the exact signs and symptoms, several different kinds of causes can overlap. In addition, other more serious issues such as a foreign body in the eye or a corneal infection can initially cause some of the symptoms of conjunctivitis, but needs to be treated in a different manner. We are able to diagnose, treat, and manage all forms of conjunctivitis due to our extensive training and equipment that allows us to see very clearly the structures of the eye. We have same-day appointments for any type of emergency visit.

Dr. K. at Alamo Optometry is your hometown eye doctor for outstanding service, vision care, and designer eyewear. He can be reached at 925-820-6622 or visit his office at 3201 Danville Blvd., Suite 165 in Alamo.

January 14, 2009

Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS)

Filed under: Vision Care Tips — Tags: — admin @ 11:22 pm

(As appeared in Alamo Today January 2008 edition, pg.34)

Computer eyestrain affects more than 70 percent of the approximately 143 million Americans who work on a computer on a daily basis, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA). Eyestrain and other symptoms of computer vision syndrome don’t occur only in adults. Millions of children work at a computer and/or play video games every day, either at home or in school. Prolonged computer and gaming device viewing can stress a child’s eyes and may affect normal vision.

Computer eyestrain and computer vision syndrome are caused by our eyes and brain reacting differently to characters on a computer screen than they do to printed characters. Our eyes have little problem focusing on printed material that has dense black characters with well-defined edges. But characters on a computer screen don’t have the same degree of contrast and definition. CVS is caused by our eyes and brain reacting differently to characters on a computer screen than they do to printed characters. Words on a computer screen are created by combinations of tiny points of light (pixels), which are brightest at the center and diminish in intensity toward their edges. This makes it more difficult for our eyes to maintain focus on these images. If you or your child spend more than two hours per day in front of a computer screen, it’s likely you will experience some degree of computer vision syndrome. Symptoms of CVS include: headaches, burning and tired eyes, blurred vision, double vision, and neck and shoulder pain.

There are several things you can do to help with the symptoms of CVS. First, attempt to cut down on the glare at your screen by altering the lighting near your desk. Next, keep your head above the level of your monitor. This will allow you to be more ergonomically situated and reduce neck and shoulder strain. Permit yourself to take breaks from the monitor. Allow for a short 1-minute period of rest about every 30 minutes; look out a window, down the hall, get a drink of water, or just close your eyes to allow you to defocus from the monitor. Lastly, stay hydrated. We recommend drinking plenty of water, and using lubricating drops as needed. It is also recommended to reduce your caffeine intake, as it is a diuretic and dries your eyes out further.

However, the most important thing is to make sure you have computer prescription glasses, either single vision or progressives. Having an up-to-date prescription can definitely reduce the amount of strain and focusing necessary for continued monitor work. In addition, lenses with a good antiglare coating will not only make your lenses cosmetically look better, but will reduce about 95% of the glare from your monitor. Finally, studies are showing that low tints on the lenses will filter out some of the unnecessary light entering the eye, therefore making vision a little bit easier.

Since computer vision syndrome and playing video games is a mainstay in today’s society, we are introducing Gunnar Optiks glasses to the office. These specialized glasses are made with computer-specific tints and coatings to help reduce much of the symptoms of CVS. They can have no prescription (if you currently wear contact lenses), or can be made with your specific prescription in either single vision lenses or progressives. In addition to the prescription, coatings, and yellow tint, the frames have a high wrap, which helps control against airflow near the eyes, and allows the eyes to remain moist. Our display has most of the frames to try on with a computer screen so you can see the results for yourself.

We are finding more and more that CVS is not a condition for adults only. Children, with an increased amount of computer and video game use, are just as likely to have symptoms as adults. CVS requires a multi-factorial approach; ergonomics, current eyewear with coatings, staying hydrated, and taking breaks will all help to alleviate these problems. We are more than happy to discuss your optical and ocular health options and what would work best for you at your exam.

Dr. K. at Alamo Optometry is your hometown eye doctor for outstanding service, vision care, and designer eyewear. He can be reached at 925-820-6622 or visit his office at 3201 Danville Blvd., Suite 165 in Alamo.

October 1, 2008

Myth Busters

Filed under: Vision Care Tips — Tags: — admin @ 11:17 pm

(As appeared in Alamo Today October 2008 edition, pg.27)

I thought for this month’s article I would tackle some everyday questions and myths regarding the eyes and eye care and help set the record straight. Let’s see how many you can get right.

TRUE/FALSE: The eye, and retina in particular, can reveal many effects of both prescription drugs and systemic diseases.

Answer: True. The retina is the only place in the body where blood vessels can be directly observed without an invasive procedure. It can give a very good indicator of the status and medical control of systemic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. In addition, some medications can also cause some harmful consequences in the eye, which need to me monitored. Some of these include tamoxifen (for breast cancer), some heart medications, and prednisone. That’s why it is very important to let your eye doctor know what medications you are taking to make sure they are not affecting your eyes.

TRUE/FALSE: I don’t want to start wearing my glasses because they will only make my eyes worse.

Answer: False. Before you have any type of vision correction, your brain is used to seeing blurry because it has nothing else to compare it to. When you do get glasses, your brain is then presented with a clear image. If you then remove your glasses, it appears that your vision is worse. Now that your brain knows what it should be seeing, your vision prior now appears much worse, even though your prescription has not changed. Keep in mind, everything else being equal, if your prescription is going to change, it will change regardless of how much you wear your glasses.

TRUE/FALSE: Contact lenses are labeled as medical devices.

Answer: True. Federal law requires an annual examination to renew your contact lens prescription. Regardless of how your vision or comfort is with your contacts, after 12 months the prescription expires. This has caused some frustration with patients, as they don’t understand why they can’t just order more contacts. For eye and corneal health and to ensure the contacts are not causing any detriment to the eye, it was federally mandated a few years ago that annual exams would be necessary.

TRUE/FALSE: Reading in the dark will hurt the eyes.

Answer: False. Although reading in the dark will add some strain and possibly be uncomfortable, it does not cause any damage to the eyes. Having good light enables you to see easier and generally causes less fatigue while reading.

TRUE/FALSE: You get cataracts and glaucoma when you are elderly.

Answer: True and False. Cataracts are a completely normal part of the aging process. As you age, cataracts begin to develop and gradually decrease vision and increase glare. In comparison, glaucoma is more likely as you age, but you do not get glaucoma just because you are older. It thankfully only affects about 4-5% of the population, and your likelihood increases as you age. Cataracts are a normal process; glaucoma is a disease and is not.

TRUE/FALSE: Gray tinted lenses are better for sun protection than any other color.

Answer: False. The color of the lens makes no difference. It is the UV filter in the lenses that blocks the harmful rays from the sun. A tinted lens lets just as much UV light through to your eyes than a clear lens. All lenses should either be made of a UV-blocking material (polycarbonate), be polarized, or have a UV coating applied to the lenses.

TRUE/FALSE: Eating carrots can improve eye health.

Answer: True. Carrots will help maintain eye health, not improve vision. Carrots are rich in vitamin A, which is very important in the health and functioning of the retina. Vitamin A deficiency is a leading cause of blindness in under-developed countries. So eating carrots will not help you see better, but maintain overall eye health.

TRUE/FALSE: Only males can be colorblind.

Answer: False. It is much more likely for a male to be color blind than a female, but it is not impossible for a female. Since this condition is X-linked, both X chromosomes need to carry the gene for a woman to be colorblind. Since males only have 1 X chromosome, if it is on that chromosome, that male will be colorblind.

Dr. K. at Alamo Optometry is your hometown eye doctor for outstanding service, vision care, and designer eyewear. He can be reached at 925-820-6622 or visit his office at 3201 Danville Blvd., Suite 165 in Alamo.

August 1, 2008

Back to School

Filed under: Vision Care Tips — Tags: — admin @ 11:11 pm

(As appeared in Alamo Today August 2008 edition, pg.24)

It seems like yesterday that our kids got out of school. Now as we turn the calendar to August, it is time to start thinking about back to school and going off to college. For most parents, including myself, that usually means stocking up on clothes and school supplies. In addition to these necessities to start school off on the right foot, it is important to have an eye exam on your list.

Good and comfortable vision gives your child the first tool in learning and doing well in school. Since a large amount of learning is done through the eyes, if your child has difficulty seeing the board or their up-close work, they will not start off the year right. In a pediatric exam, I determine the child’s prescription, eye health, peripheral vision, and eye teaming and movement skills; at a first visit, I also test depth perception and color vision. Here are some common refractive and binocular vision disorders that can hinder vision, and therefore the ability to learn.

Myopia is commonly referred to as near-sightedness. That means that without any correction, a person has difficulty seeing in the distance. This is very common among students, and tends to progress as the child gets older. Blurry distance vision will hinder things such as taking notes in class, sports, and driving. This can easily be addressed with contacts or glasses.

Hyperopia, or far-sightedness, is the opposite of myopia. If you are far-sighted, it is easier for you to see distance than up close. Since you need to focus more up close than you do far away, a hyperope usually has near vision problems. Being in a constant state of “focusing” can lead to headaches, eyestrain, and early fatigue. Sometimes the problem is more complicated, but most of the time reading glasses for homework can make a huge improvement.

Astigmatism, unlike the prior conditions, typically affects distance and near vision equally. Astigmatism means that the cornea, the clear front part of your eye, is shaped more oblong than spherical. Because it is steeper in one direction, when light comes into the eye, it doesn’t come to one single point of focus. It can cause distorted and uncomfortable vision; however, astigmatism can typically be corrected with glasses or contact lenses.

Binocular vision disorders are those that involve the muscles and movements of the eyes, and how well they work together. If the eyes are turned or have the tendency to do so, or don’t “team” well, sustained focusing can cause objects to appear blurry, distorted, and possibly double. These conditions can be very difficult for the parents to identify, because in some cases, the child may see 20/20 and not have any noticeable vision problems. However, it can be very frustrating because the student or adult for that matter, will have difficulty with sustained near-task work, which can lead to early fatigue, headaches, and avoidance of the task altogether.

As a whole, most screenings at your child’s pediatrician office or school will reveal if your child needs an eye exam. However, they generally do not have the knowledge or expertise to ascertain some of the above-mentioned conditions. Parents always ask when they should have their kids’ eyes checked. Sometimes an exam is needed as early as 6 months of age, however, that is rare. Preschool age is generally a good time to have your child checked. Your child does not need to know his/her letters to do the exam; the prescription can be arrived at without the active participation of the patient. I do recommend a first exam before kindergarten at the latest. Kids accept the world that is presented to them because they have nothing else to compare it against. If objects are blurry, they assume that is how it is until it is proven in the exam room that they should be seeing much better. Our office and staff are very kid-friendly; we all have children of our own and there are toys and books to make the children more comfortable.

Dr. K. at Alamo Optometry is your hometown eye doctor for outstanding service, vision care, and designer eyewear. He can be reached at 925-820-6622 or visit his office at 3201 Danville Blvd., Suite 165 in Alamo.

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