Answers to your vision concerns about kids and video games

With the holiday season in full effect, you can bet that many kids will be receiving a video game or a new system in the next few weeks. In fact, one million PlayStation 4 consoles were sold in North America in the first 24 hours of its recent launch. Sadly, I was not one of those lucky ones.

Since the dawn of the television age, parents have been wondering “How much is too much?” After home video games were introduced, the question became even more relevant. Below you will find some of the most common concerns parents have and how to address each issue.

  1. Will video games ruin my kid’s eyes? Certainly, overuse of the visual system, especially up close, can lead to eyestrain, fatigue, redness of the eyes, and eye rubbing, but it cannot be stated conclusively that video games will directly lead to permanent damage.
  2. How much time should I let my kids play video games? 20 minutes of game play followed by a break is plenty. As for how much cumulative time per day, you are the best judge – but at our house we have a maximum of one hour of screen time daily. Then again, I must be fairly conservative because a recent study stated that 85% of kids use an electronic device up to four hours a day.
  3. Are video games good for anything? Besides allowing you to have some fun with your kids, a recent study demonstrated that some video games can improve hand-eye coordination. Also, in young children who have parental participation, certain video games can improve literacy.

So, while allowing your child to play Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty 24/7 may be a lousy idea, a small amount gaming with your child can be a good thing. Remember, about 60% of video game titles are rated “E” for everyone, so let’s have some fun!

~David Ardaya, OD

This original article by Golden Optometric optometrist David Ardaya has also been published by the California Optometric Association, where Dr Ardaya is a past president of the Orange County chapter.

Are Colored Contacts Dangerous?

catcontactlensesThinking about buying some inexpensive colored contact lenses from the pharmacy, beauty salon or 99 Cent store? You might want to re-think that idea. Sure, they’re cheap,  but the sale of contact lenses (even colored lenses) without a valid prescription is prohibited by federal law. Plus, most of these stores don’t have the training or knowledge to provide instruct you on how to care for your new lenses.

So what’s the risk? Improper care can lead to infection of the cornea. The condition, called keratitis, is very common. And contacts that aren’t fitted correctly can cause abrasions of the cornea. The abrasion can get infected and could lead to ulcers. If these ulcers go untreated, they can cause scarring on the cornea, which is irreversible and permanently affects vision. If you’re a first-time contact lens wearer, complications increase.

But it’s just for one night, right? Even just one night of wearing these ill-fitted contacts can put you at risk. And if you’re drinking, the dehydration increases the risks. Please, save yourself the risks and potentially serious consequences, and consult a licensed optometrist to get fitted for your colored contacts, whether for regular use or Halloween.

For more information, read this article on ABCnews.com.

Suffering from Dry Eyes? Flaxseed to the Rescue!

Omega-3 supplements might help your dry eyes.

Do your eyes burn, sting or have redness? These are symptoms of dry eyes and they may affect your ability to wear contact lenses or cause twitching of the eyes. Flaxseed oil could be the solution you’ve been looking for. Many doctors are now recommending a daily supplement of flaxseed oil and fish oil which both contain omega-3 fatty acids that have multiple health benefits, including prevention of dry eyes.

Protection and Prevention
Flaxseed oil contains an omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA); when digested, it is converted to two other omega-3s, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which have been shown to reduce inflammation, and may help prevent chronic diseases such as arthritis and heart disease.

Precautions
Consult with your eye doctor or family physician before taking significant quantities of any new supplement. Especially if you take prescription or non-prescription drugs, as adverse drug interactions can occur.

When used with blood thinners (even aspirin), both flaxseed and fish oils can increase the risk of bleeding and reduce blood clotting so be careful and consult with your doctor.

Vitamin E deficiency can be caused by long-term use of fish oil — if your multi-vitamin doesn’t already contain it, look for fish oil supplements that also have vitamin E .

For more information, take a look at this article.

Can Tetris Help Lazy Eye In Adults?

Lazy eye, amblyopia, is usually treated in children with an eye patch over one eye (to help strengthen the other) or a specially fitted contact lens to block out light in one eye, forcing the other eye to work harder.

But what about for adults? Are we stuck looking like pirates? There may be a much more fun alternative. A recent study on adults used Tetris as a way of improving vision in amblyopes with surprising results. Arrrrrr!

Pink Eye: What to Look Out For

Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is an inflammation of the thin membrane lining the inner eyelid or white part of the eye. When inflamed, the eye turns pink or red, hence its name. Treatment of conjunctivitis depends on its root of cause. Possible causes include infections from viruses, bacteria, allergens, pollutants and underlying diseases of the body. Common symptoms of conjunctivitis include:

  • Redness
  • Swelling of the eyelids
  • Watery eyes
  • White, green or yellow mucous discharge
  • Crusting and stickiness around eyelids especially upon awakening
  • Itching or burning sensation
  • Swollen and tender areas in front of the ears

Conjunctivitis of viral and bacterial origin can be highly contagious. Tips for prevention of spreading the infection include frequent hand washing, avoidance of touching eyes and avoidance of sharing common objects such as towels, linens and make-up.

If you suspect you have conjunctivitis, it is important to have your eyes checked for medical treatment. Be careful not to use eye drops prescribed from previous infections or those prescribed for someone else as they can be inappropriate and can exacerbate your current infection.

Styes and Lid Lesions

The most common lesions on the lids are styes. Styes are caused from blocked oil glands on or around the edge of the eyelid that results in bumps that are red, tender to touch and painful. They can be triggered by many factors that include overproduction of oil, bacterial infections or lack of proper hygiene. Bacterial involvement can often lead to increased inflammation, pain and pus. Never pop a stye as its contents can spread infection. Without proper treatment and drainage, persistent styes can turn into chalazions. In contrast to styes, chalazions are often painless bumps that can persist for more than several weeks and become cosmetically unappealing. Larger chalazions can cause discomfort and pressure to the cornea, leading to blurry vision.

Many other types of eyelid lesions include papilloma, xanthelasma, nevus, cysts, verruca, seborrheic keratosis and many more. Although most lid lesions are benign, some are malignant and cancerous such as basal cell carcinoma. Eyelid lesions are detected and diagnosed during comprehensive eye exams.

If you have a lesion or stye, make an appointment with your eye doctor to have it diagnosed and a remedy prescribed.

Happy First Day of Spring: Relief for Eye Allergy Misery

Itchy, watery, or swollen eyes? Light sensitive? You may have allergic conjunctivitis — inflammation of tissue lining the eyelids. Exposure to allergens releases histamines and the conjunctiva (clear membrane covering the “white” of the eye) swell. Pollen, pet dander, and perfumes can all trigger allergies.

Wrap-around sunglasses can prevent allergens from entering the eyes. Artificial tears temporarily wash allergens out. Antihistamine drops alleviate itchy eyes. Oral antihistamines can reduce itchiness, but can dry out eyes. Decongestant drops, labeled as “red eye relief,” will initially decrease redness, but dry out eyes and increase redness long-term. If none of these works, ask your optometrist about mast cell stabilizer drops, or for chronic and severe cases, corticosteroids.

The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends all eye allergy sufferers visit their eye doctor. Eye allergies don’t usually harm your eyesight, but there are some rare conditions such as eczema that can. Since there are so many options to treat eye allergies, it is best to have your eye doctor diagnose the problem and discuss the right treatment for you.

What Do You Know About Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is called “The Silent Thief of Sight” because in its early stages, there are no symptoms or pain. According to the National Eye Institute, 2.7 million people in the U.S. have glaucoma but only half of them know it.

In honor of World Glaucoma Week, here are some facts about glaucoma from the Optos website:

  • Glaucoma tends to run in families
  • A person can have glaucoma and not know it
  • Vision lost from glaucoma can NOT be restored
  • A complete glaucoma exam consists of more than only measuring eye pressure
  • Glaucoma is not necessarily caused by an increase in eye pressure

Here’s a fun rap video to promote awareness about The Silent Thief of Sight.

Amblyopia (Lazy Eye) In Children

3% of children in the U.S. have reduced vision due to amblyopia. Amblyopia is a developmental disorder where one eye sees worse than the other even with glasses.

In order to develop good vision both eyes must see clearly and point straight ahead. If a child has a high prescription or an eye that points either in or out there is a risk that the eye will not develop properly.

Risk factors for amblyopia can be easily detected during a comprehensive eye exam. It is important for children to have early exams because the fine tuned connections between your brain and eye develop the most before the age of 6. Amblyopia can cause permanently reduced vision but can be treated with early intervention.

Macular Degeneration: Dry and Wet

Image courtesy of http://adameducation.com/

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD or ARMD) is a disease of the macula that causes loss of central vision, leaving side vision relatively unchanged.  The macula, an area of the retina that lines the inside back wall of your eye, is responsible for sharp, central vision necessary for many activities such as reading, driving, and recognizing faces.  AMD usually occurs in people who are age 50 and older.

There are two forms of AMD – dry and wet.  The more common, early form of dry AMD accounts for 85-90% of all AMD patients.  In dry AMD, yellow deposits known as drusen begin to accumulate at the macula.  Vision loss is generally slow and gradual.  At any time, dry AMD can progress to the more severe, wet AMD where there is swelling under the macula caused by leaky new abnormal blood vessels or choroidal neovascularization (CNV) leading to a sudden loss of vision.

Although the exact cause is unknown, AMD risk factors include:  age, smoking (2-3 times higher risk in smokers), a family history of AMD, being Caucasian or female, obesity (body mass index (BMI) >30 has 2.5 times greater risk), hypertension, high cholesterol, and prolonged UV exposure.

No cure or treatments exist for dry AMD, although nutritional supplements such as zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin and antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, and E may help prevent or slow its progression.  FDA-approved drugs directed at the abnormal blood vessels in wet AMD include Visudyne with Photodynamic Therapy (PDT), Avastin, Macugen, Lucentis, Eylea, and anti-VEGF injection therapy.

Early signs of macular degeneration can be detected in a comprehensive dilated retinal exam.  Have your eyes examined yearly by your optometrist.  If you are age 50 or older and are concerned of the symptoms you’re experiencing, have an exam sooner as early detection and appropriate follow-up care are keys to preserving your vision.