Light and Your Health
Flip a light switch and on comes the light, step outside in the morning and sunlight has killed the darkness of night. Light is all around us and something we give little thought to it unless we need it and don’t have it. Different colors of the light spectrum effects our bodies, moods, and overall health so it’s probably something we should be thinking about. Blue Light, also known as High Energy Visible Light can heal us but it can also damage our eyes and lead to insomnia.
The Benefits of “Good” Light
Sunlight lets us produce beneficial vitamin D but it can also burn our skin if we don’t wear sunscreen. Our bodies use blue light to regulate our sleep/wake cycle. Blue light also plays a role in basic functions of the human brain keeping us alert, helping our memory, emotions, and cognitive performance. In certain conditions, light therapy using the correct wavelengths of light is an effective treatment for a range of conditions.
Harmful “Bad” Light
LED lights, TV and other devices with screens such as smartphones, pads and computers expose us to much more blue light than ever before. Studies have shown that blue light negatively effects the body's circadian rhythm, or biological clock having an impact on our ability to sleep.
Getting the right amount of sleep every night is very important to your overall health. While we sleep, our bodies restore mental and physical energy and rebuild muscle tissue. Light also suppresses the secretion of melatonin, the hormone that tells your brain it's time for bed.
Research has also shown that a specific band of blue light can be harmful to our eyes. High-energy blue-violet light at the lower end of the visible light spectrum, near ultra-violet (UV) light, has been found to cause significant damage to retinal cells and is a risk factor for the onset of age-related macular degeneration; the leading cause of vision loss in the USA.
Ultra-Violet light is incredibly damaging to our bodies, especially our eyes. UV light is the main reason you should wear sunglasses. Even on an overcast day the UV light is still present doing damage to your eyes.
A simple way to protect your body and eyes from the dangers of “bad” light is to limit your exposure. Avoid watching television or checking your email in bed at night, try taking a warm bath or reading a book to relax before your go to bed. Spent less time outside, especially during the middle of the day and be sure to wear polarized sunglasses and sunscreen when you are outside.
Record your “screen time” (checking your smartphone, looking at your TV or pad, working at your computer etc.) for a day. You will probably be surprised at just how often you are looking at a digital device.
Talk us about eyeglass lenses that help protect eyes from harmful blue and Ultra-violet light while letting the "good" light through to your eyes. This type of lens reduces your exposure to harmful “bad” light.
Tears provide moisture and lubrication to help you see, and to keep your eyes comfortable. Tears are a mixture of water, oils, mucus, antibodies, and proteins. This mixture is designed to lubricate your eyes and prevent infections. Tears are secreted from glands around your eyes. If you experience dry eyes or irritation, there is a breakdown somewhere in this system.
- When tears don’t provide enough moisture, you will notice one or more of these conditions:
- Blurry vision
- Itchy eyes
- Feeling as if there’s something in your eye
- Light sensitivity
Sometimes, dry eyes create too many tears - this condition, known as reflex tearing, sounds counter intuitive but occurs because a lack of moisture irritates your eye. A distress signal is sent through your nervous system for more lubrication. Your body responds by sending a flood of tears to make up for the dryness. This type of tear is mostly water designed to wash debris away. Tears like this can’t coat your eye’s surface like regular tears because they lack mucus.
What Causes Dry Eyes?
Often the cause is a lack of balance in your tear-flow system. Other causes include:
- Environment – your air conditioner, heater, or other things near you is causing your tear film to dry out
- Prolonged use of digital devices such as smart phones, pads and TV's
- The natural aging process
- Side effects of certain drugs like antihistamines
- Diseases that affect your ability to make tears, like Sjogren's syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and collagen vascular diseases – one reason why we suggest you have Dr. Kramer examine your eyes
- Problems that don’t allow your eyelids to close the way they should
The most common treatments.
Artificial tear drops and ointments are the most common treatments. Many types of drops are available over the counter. Since no one product works for everyone it might take a few to figure out the one that’s right for you. If you have chronic dry eye, you need to use the drops even when your eyes feel fine, or they won’t stay wet enough. If your eyes dry out while you sleep, you can use a thick product, like an ointment, at night. Make an appointment to see Dr. Kramer for further advice.
Vision and learning are related.
Good vision is necessary for students to reach their full academic potential.
80% of what a child learns in school comes through visual pathways.
One in four children has a vision disorder that interferes with his or her ability to learn.
60% of children who have difficulty with learning have undiagnosed vision problems, which aren’t detected by routine vision screenings. See the picture below for a better idea on how screenings can fail.
Any child struggling in school may have a specific learning disability, a learning-related vision problem or both. Symptoms of learning-related vision problems include:
- Short attention span
- Bringing reading or writing material close to the eyes
- Slow reading or avoidance of reading
- Crossed eyes
- Excessive blinking or rubbing the eyes.
Or the child may just say, “I can’t see the board.”
One or more of these symptoms may be a result of vision problems. Identifying all contributing causes of the learning problem increases the chances that the problem can be successfully treated.
The first and most important step is to see an optometrist for a comprehensive eye exam. At Kramer Family Eyecare this includes:
- Visual acuity: How clearly does the child see?
- Binocular coordination: Do both eyes work together?
- Convergence: Do both eyes move together when reading?
Some of the common medical issues in children, such as dyslexia, ADD and ADHD share symptoms with those of learning-related vision problems. Difficulty in school isn’t always a sign of a learning disorder. It could be as easy as discovering that the child’s eyes aren’t working properly. Any child whose verbal ability surpasses his or her ability to learn visually should be evaluated for a potential vision problem.
Copyright: Carolanne Roach, OD. Used with permission
Don't Leave Your Glasses in the Car!
It's easy to forget and leave your glasses or sunglasses in the car and this really isn't good for them. The sun quickly raises the temperature in the car to the point that it effects the materials your glasses are made of. Damage can be severe to the point that the frame or lenses are distorted beyond repair or the temperature change just causes a screw or two to loosen up. Either way the best thing to do is not leave them in your car!
Enhance Your Vision With Anti -Glare Technology
Anti-Reflective Coatings: The product we recommend isn't truly a "coating". It is a process that results in the treatment becoming part of the lens itself and is,
therefore, very durable.
This technology is a huge improvement over the early versions of anti-reflective coatings that often flaked off. This process also results in a hardened surface providing scratch-resistance.
Your eyes are protected from glare and reflections that cause blurry vision as well as eye strain. Reflections from the lens surface is virtually removed, allowing more light to pass through, helping you see better. This technology reduces night-time glare from headlights, tail lights and street lights for safer driving. It also protects your eyes from computer reflections that cause eye fatigue.
Important additional benefits of this technology is reduced lose of light at the lens surface due to reflection allowing a brighter image to be seen; This is particularly important as we age, or develop cataracts or when hi-index (“thinner and lighter”) lens materials are used. Regular plastic lenses lose 7.5% of incoming light but hi-index materials may block as much as 25%. This decreases vision at all light levels but causes particular difficulties where less light is available such as night driving.
We provide multiple levels of anti-reflective protection depending on your needs, ranging from the basic Crizal Easy to the premium Crizal Sapphire. For our sunglass wearers we offer Crizal Sunshield. This product provides a safer and more comfortable outdoor environment because of the Ultra Violet blocker. All provide excellent glare reduction and protection from lens scratches. Be sure to ask us about these vision and comfort enhancing products.
Don't Clean Your Glasses with Wood!
Tissues, cotton T shirts, paper towels and toilet paper are NOT the kind of material you should be using to keep your lenses clean! I know it's tempting to use cotton and wood by-products to clean your lenses but prevent scratches and damage to your lenses you really don't want to do this. Instead use a lens cleaning fluid to wet the lens and a micro lens cloth to wipe them clean. If you don't have lens cleaner put them under running water to remove any debris before cleaning them with the lens cloth.
Often patients complain to me that they suffer from eye fatigue when working at a computer or watching a lot of TV. Taking a break and looking at something else such as looking out of the window or across the room for a few minutes can help. Many of us spend more time looking at screens (computer, smart phone, TV, GPS, etc) than we used to do so eye fatigue is much more prevalent.
Diet and Nutrition for Your Eyes
Did you know that adding antioxidants to you diet can improve your eye health?
We only have one pair of eyes and it makes sense to take the best possible care of them. There is a growing body of research that has linked nutrients such as lutein/zeaxanthin, vitamins C, E, and zinc with reducing the risk of some eye diseases – particularly macular degeneration and cataracts. We strongly encourage you to add foods rich in these nutrients to your diet or take supplements.
Lutein & Zeaxanthin – found predominately in green leafy vegetables and eggs these important nutrients reduce the risk of macular degeneration and other chronic eye diseases such as cataracts.
Vitamin C - this antioxidant, found in fruits and vegetables, is linked in many scientific studies to lowering the risk of cataract development , and when taken in combination with other essential nutrients, slowing the progression of macular degeneration and visual acuity loss.
Vitamin E – this antioxidant found in sweet potatoes, nuts, and fortified cereal, is thought to protect the eyes cells from free radicals which break down healthy eye tissue.
Zinc – an essential trace mineral, Zinc plays a vital role by bringing vitamin A from the liver to the retina in order to produce a protective pigment in the eyes (melanin). Zinc is highly concentrated in the eye – mostly in the retina and choroid – the vascular tissue layer lying under the retina.
Essential Fatty Acids – fats are actually an essential part of our diet, maintainining the integrity of the nervous system, fuel cells, and boosting the immune system. Scientific research has shown two omega-3 fatty acids are an important factor for proper retina function and visual development.
Diabetes and Eye Health
Diabetes is the leading cause of vision loss for Americans under the age of 74. Early detection and timely treatment is essential in preventing diabetes-related blindness. We are committed to educating our patients about ways of preventing and minimizing eye complications caused by diabetes. Dr. Kramer routinely works with other health care professionals, including primary care physicians, endocrinologists, podiatrists, pharmacists and specialty eye surgeons, to ensure patients receive the highest quality care, maintain good vision, and live healthy lives.
Digital Eye Strain
We all use digital devices with screens; phones, pads, laptops, desktop computers, TV's etc. often more than we think we do, or at least would admit! Using these devices often causes eye strain and exposes our eyes to Blue Light which can be harmful to our vision and has been linked to sleep and eating disorders.
I often hear my patients say they have headaches, their eyes ache or "feel scratchy" or tired which are often symptoms of eye strain. There are often solutions to these problems from the type of lenses or contacts you choose to the type of lens treatments put on your lenses. Please discuss any problems you are having with us and we will tell you about the solutions available.
This report from The Vision Council gives a little more detail on the issues people are facing.