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Back-To-School: Why [Eye_Exams] Are More Important Than Ever

Since the onset of COVID-19, many children have been learning remotely through distance learning programs. While parents are concerned about their children falling behind academically, eye doctors are concerned that undiagnosed vision problems may impact the child’s school performance.

Undetected vision problems may hinder a child’s ability to learn. That’s why eye doctors strongly recommend that children undergo a thorough eye exam before the new school year begins.

While it’s tempting to rely on vision screenings provided by schools, these superficial visual acuity tests can identify only a limited number of eyesight problems. Only a comprehensive eye exam conducted by an eye doctor can accurately diagnose and address a wide range of problems related to vision and eye health. 

Why Are Eye Exams Important?

Up to 80% of children’s learning is visual, so even the slightest vision problem can have a negative impact on their academic achievement. Taking a child in for an eye exam once a year will allow your eye doctor to detect and correct refractive errors like myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism, and check their visual skills, such as convergence insufficiency, binocular vision, focusing and more.

Comprehensive eye exams are the best way to detect mild and serious eye health conditions. Routine eye exams are especially important for children with a family history of eye health problems.  

How Is Vision Affected By Online Learning?

The amount of time children spend looking at digital screens was already a concern in the pre-pandemic era—but the COVID pandemic has only exacerbated the issue. According to the Indian Journal of Ophthalmology, children spent twice as much time on screens during COVID-related closures than they did prior to the pandemic.

For one thing, spending prolonged periods of time on digital devices forces the eyes to work harder, making children (and adults) more susceptible to digital eye strain, one of the hallmark symptoms of computer vision syndrome. People who spend 2 or more consecutive hours staring at a screen are at higher risk of developing this condition. 

Some computer vision syndrome symptoms include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Dry eyes
  • Eye fatigue
  • Eye pain
  • Headaches
  • Neck and shoulder pain

These symptoms can be caused by a combination of the following factors:

  • Glare and reflections from the screen
  • Excessive time looking at a screen
  • Poor lighting
  • Poor posture
  • Screen brightness
  • Undetected vision problems 

In addition to digital eye strain, several studies have found that children who spend many hours indoors doing “near work” — writing, reading and looking at computers and other digital devices — have a higher rate of myopia progression. 

A study published in the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s professional journal, Ophthalmology, found that first-graders who spent at least 11 hours per week playing outside in the sunshine experienced slower myopia progression. Some researchers think that exposure to sunlight and looking at distant objects while playing outdoors might help decrease myopia progression.   

While regular eye exams are essential for every member of the family, they’re especially important for those who spend a good portion of their day in front of a screen. 

Don’t put off your child’s annual eye exam. Schedule an appointment with Family Eye Care in Old Bridge today!

 

Q&A

1. At what age should a child have an eye exam?

According to the American and Canadian Optometric Associations, it’s recommended for a child to have their first eye exam between 6-12 months of age.

Before a child starts school, they should undergo an eye exam, and every one to two years after that, based on their eye doctor‘s recommendation.

2. Does my child need an eye exam if they passed the school vision screening?

Yes! School vision screenings are superficial eye evaluations designed to diagnose a limited number of vision problems like myopia. They do not check for visual skills and other problems that may hinder your child’s academic success.

Your eye doctor will evaluate your child’s vision and eye health, along with visual abilities, including depth perception and eye tracking, to let you know whether your child’s eyes are “school-ready.”

 

Childhood Myopia Is in Crisis Mode on a Global Scale

How common is myopia (nearsightedness) ?  The numbers may shock you.  By 2050, nearly half of the world’s population—about 5 billion people—will be myopic.

How can you help you child from becoming myopic?  

What Is Myopia?

Myopia occurs when the eye elongates (grows longer).  Light rays then focus in front of the light-sensitive retina rather than directly on it.  Things far away start to look blurry.  Things at near are still clear.  That is why it is called NEAR-sightedness.

Myopia tends to develop during childhood, when the eyeballs rapidly grow (along with the rest of the body), mainly between the ages of 8-18. It can occur in adults as well, as people now spend more and more time on computer and other digital devices.

It can worsen slowly or quickly, but it is not only that it is inconvenient.  It is much more serious than that.  People with progressive myopia are more likely to develop serious eye diseases like cataracts, retinal detachment, macular degeneration and glaucoma later in life.  These conditions can lead to permanent loss of vision and even blindness.  The idea is, what can we do now, to prevent that?

How To Know Whether Your Child Is Myopic

Below are some telltale signs to watch for: 

  • Blurred distance vision – Objects in the distance are blurred; kids may complain that they can’t see the board
  • Headaches – When myopia isn’t corrected, it can cause eye strain and headaches.
  • Head tilting or squinting – If your child squints or tilts his or her head while watching TV, for example, it may be a symptom of myopia. 
  • Looking at objects too closely – If you notice your child moving closer to the TV or squinting as they try to see the writing on the board, it may indicate myopia.

What should a parent do?

  • The firs thing is to bring your child in early for an eye examination in the same way you bring your child to the pediatrician for a well baby visit or bring your child to a Pediatric Dentist, for example.
  • The first eye exam should be at age 1, and then at age 3.  The next visit should be at age 5, and then every year a child is in school.  The visual system is the most important system to bring in information from the world around us.  if a child has difficulty with the visual system, it can make reading and learning much more difficult. 

What Parents Can Do to Slow Their Child’s Myopia Progression 

  • Teach the 20-20-20 rule: During screen time, take a break every 20 minutes to look at an object across the room or out the window about 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Encourage your child to go outdoors for at least 90 minutes a day, preferably in the sunshine. Studies show that playing outdoors reduces the risk of developing myopia and slows its progression. 
  • Limit the amount of time your child spends staring at a screen, reading and doing close work such as homework. 
  • When your child uses a digital screen, make sure that it isn’t too close to the face.

How We Can Help

We, at Family Eye Care offer treatment methods known as myopia control or myopia management. These include

  • Orthokeratology,
  • bifocal eyeglasses,
  • Vision Therapy,
  • Syntonic Phototherapy
  • Special multifocal soft contact lenses, and
  • Special concentrations of Atropine.

Regular eyeglasses and contact lenses don’t prevent its progression but do correct myopia so the child can see and function normally.

Some offices and doctors may offer some of these.  We offer all of these so we can find the problem and create a program that is specific for you.  

If your child shows signs of myopia, schedule a Comprehensive Eye Examination with our doctors at Family Eye Care in Old Bridge as soon as possible.

Q&A

How is myopia diagnosed?

Our examinations are directed specifically for children.  In our office children do not need to know their letters to have an examination.  An integral part of our examination is also to make sure your child’s eyes are healthy and normal.  Some of the tests are objective (done by the doctor) and some are subjective (answers by the child) when applicable.  

Can myopia lead to blindness?

High myopia may increase your child’s risk of developing more serious eye conditions later in life, such as cataracts, retinal detachment and glaucoma. Left untreated, high myopia complications can sometimes lead to blindness—which is why a comprehensive eye examination every year is very important.  

Why and When is a Dilated Eye Exams Important?

Fortunately, in our office we have the Optomap Retinal Camera that enables us to have a wide view of the retina.  At times, we may need to dilate the pupils to have a direct view of the retina if the photo reveals suspicious findings that require further investigation and a direct view of the retina.  This may be due to diabetes, a nevus, or other findings in the retina.

like a nuisance. But when you consider the benefits of a dilated eye exam, the temporary blurred vision and sensitivity to light that typically follow are definitely worth it.  

What is a Dilated Fundus Examination?   

As stated above, the Optomap takes a picture of the retina, the back part of the eye).  That enables to see far more to the sides than any other instrument We then look directly into the eye through the pupil, the black part in the center of the iris (the color part).  The pupil is actually a window that controls the amount of light that enters the retina.  Normally, the pupil is wide to allow the most light in.  When there is too much light, the pupil becomes smaller, to limit the amount of light that comes in.  When we use the instrument to look into the eye, the pupil naturally becomes smaller and it becomes more difficult to see the that various structures within the eye. 

When we Dilate the pupil, that “window” stays open to enable us to see parts of the eye we would not otherwise see.  We use special eye drop medication to open the pupil.  We can then see parts within the retina that are not otherwise visible: blood vessels, retina, optic nerve, and macula. 

Dilating the eyes makes it easier for your optometrist to detect the following conditions and diseases: 

  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma 
  • Diabetic Retinopathy
  • Macular Degeneration
  • Retinal Tumors, Retinal Detachment, or Retinal Tears
  • Eye Floaters

Many of these conditions can develop without noticeable symptoms.  The idea is to prevent vision loss and to identify problems when they can more easily be treated.

The Dilation Process

First we check your visual acuity.  We then insert the eye drop medication to dilate the pupil. Typically, the pupils dilate within about 15-20 minutes.  The pupils usually remain dilated for 4-6 hours, and during this time you may be sensitive to light because since pupils are now larger, they allow more light to enter. That is why you may want to bring someone with you to drive.  Some people use their sunglasses until their eyes return to normal.  We will give you dark glasses that will make it easier for you to function.

It may be difficult to read or work on computer when your eyes are dilated, and your vision may be blurred.

Dilated Eye Examinations are an important part of keeping your eyes healthy. To schedule your comprehensive eye exam, call Family Eye Care in Old Bridge today!

Q&A

#1: At what age should one have a dilated eye examination? 

There is no specific age that you need to have your eyes dilated,  In our office, using the Optomap, we can usually obtain a very clear, wide, and detailed view of the retina.  At times, further investigation is needed. 

#2: Will I be able to return to work after a dilated eye examination? 

Each person reacts differently.  If your job requires you to focus on small print or detail, it may be challenging. Typing and writing may also be difficult with dilated pupils. Plan on doing activities that are less visually demanding for those few hours. 

 

Are Contact Lenses Safe For Young Children?

A question we are often asked is: ‘Is my child too young for contact lenses?’

This is an important question, and the answer may surprise you. 

For children with myopia (nearsightedness), contact lenses can be one of the ways we can address 2 problems at the same time.  One, vision correction, and two, prevention of the worsening of myopia.

In our office, at times, we can even address Amblyopia (lazy eye) with special therapeutic contact lenses.

Contact Lenses have the benefit of a child not breaking or losing their glasses.  It enables children to easily participate in sports and other physical activities. 

Some children and young teens ask their parents for contact lenses because they feel self-conscious wearing glasses. Contact lenses may even provide children with the confidence boost they need to come out of their shell. Daily Disposable contact lenses are single-use one-day soft contacts, since there is no cleaning or maintenance involved. 

Ortho-keratology are special lenses worn as a night retainer, to prevent further progression of myopia.

Some parents are concerned about eye health and safety. Fortunately, contact lenses are just as safe for children as they are for anyone else, and there are special lenses, MiSight that are FDA approved SPECIFICALLY FOR CHILDREN to prevent them from progressing as rapidly in myopia.  This means that the manufacturer had to prove to the FDA that they are

  1. safe for children, AND 
  2. control the progression of myopia.

In our practice, Family Eye Care, we provide special care for children, teens, and patients of all ages with a wide variety of contact lenses. If you’re concerned about the safety of contacts for your child, we’ll be happy to explain and explore ways to ensure maximum safety, optimal eye health and comfort. To learn more or to schedule a pediatric eye exam for contact lenses, contact us today. 

What Are the Risks of Having My Child Wear Contact Lenses?

A study published in the January 2021 issue of The Journal of Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics found that kids aren’t at a higher risk of experiencing contact lens complications. 

The study followed nearly 1000 children aged 8-16 over the course of 1.5-3 years to determine how contact lenses affected their eye health. 

The results indicate that age doesn’t have an effect on contact lens safety. In fact, the researchers found that the risk of developing infections or other adverse reactions was less than 1% per year of wear — which is comparable to contact lens wearers of other ages.

But before you decide that contact lenses are right for your child, you may want to consider whether your child is ready to wear them. During his or her eye doctor’s appointment, the optometrist may ask about your child’s level of maturity, responsibility, and personal hygiene. Since many children are highly motivated to wear contacts, they tend to display real maturity in caring for their lenses. That said, in the initial stages, parents may need to play an active role, as their child gets used to inserting and removing the new contact lenses.  

It’s important to note that just as with any other medical device, contact lenses are not risk-free. Anyone who wears contact lenses has a chance of developing eye infections or other complications with contact lenses. However, when worn and cared for according to your eye doctor’s instructions, contact lenses are low-risk and perfectly safe for children and teenagers.

So, go ahead and bring your child in for a contact lens consultation! We’ll help determine if your child is ready for contacts and answer any questions you or your child may have. To schedule your child’s contact lens fitting or eye exam, contact Family Eye Care in Old Bridge today.  

The Eye Examination for Contact Lenses

  • Are you planning on wearing contact lenses for the first time?
  • Do you need a new contact lens prescription?
  • Are your current contacts not as comfortable as you wish they were?

We prescribe standard and even specialty contact lenses.

The first step is a comprehensive eye examination to determine eye health and the prescription you need.  The next step is a contact lens examination that consists of special tests to make sure you are seeing the clearest and that you obtain clear, comfortable, and healthy vision.   

Is an eyeglass prescription the same as a contact lens prescription?

No, a prescription for eyeglasses is different than one for contact lenses. An eyeglass prescription is for lenses that are positioned approximately 12 millimeters from your eyes. A contact lens prescription is measured for lenses that sit directly on the surface of your eye.  At times, a special lens is needed 

Contact Lenses that are unique to you.

Each contact lens is different.  There is no one size that fits all eyes. A contact lens must be the correct shape for your cornea.  The lens for the right eye might even even different than the left.  We will take determine the best contact lens design for your eyes. 

In addition to standard contact lenses, we provide special lenses for:

  • children that are becoming nearsighted,
  • adults that want to be able to see more clearly at distance and at near
  • people who want to be able to see clearly without wearing contact lenses during the day
  • special conditions such as keratoconus, prosthetic lenses, lenses after LASIK damage 

What is the Cornea ?  What does corneal curvature mean?

The cornea is the clear front surface of the eye.  Each cornea has a unique curvature.  Astigmatism means that there is a different curve along the horizontal and vertical plane of the cornea.  Patients with astigmatism may benefit from a special lens to help see clearly.   

Pupil and iris size

The size of your pupil and iris (the colored part of your eye) is also important in determining the best contact lens design.

Tear film evaluation

This test evaluates the quality of your tears.  This is important to success with contact lenses.  Contact lenses tend to dry out during the day and if someone’s cornea is already dry, then contact lenses can make the situation worse.  If you have dry eye disease, standard contact lenses may not be right for you, but you may still be able to wear contact lenses. 

Wearing the best type of contact lenses for your eyes allows you to enjoy all of the benefits of wearing contacts, while keeping your eyes healthy and comfortable. 

If you’re already a contact lens wearer, it is important that you have a full eye examination each year to make sure that your eyes continue to be healthy, and also to ensure that the lenses are providing you with optimum vision and comfort.

Contact Family Eye Care in Old Bridge to book your contact lens eye exam today!

3 Ways Diabetes Can Affect Your Vision and Eyes

Did you know that people with diabetes are 20 times more likely to get eye diseases than those without it? There are three major eye conditions that diabetics are at risk for developing: cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. To prevent these sight-threatening diseases, it’s important to control your blood sugar level and have your eyes checked at least once a year by an eye doctor. 

But First, What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that is associated with high blood glucose levels. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, helps our cells get energy from the sugars we eat. Diabetes develops when the body doesn’t produce or respond to insulin effectively, leaving too much sugar in the blood stream instead. Over time, diabetes can lead to potentially irreversible ocular damage and poor eyesight. However, by taking care of your blood sugar levels and your eyes, you can prevent vision loss.

Annual eye exams are recommended for everyone, but routine screenings are even more important for diabetics. Eye doctors may send diabetic eye health reports to a patient’s primary care physician or internist to adjust medication as needed to prevent complications.

What’s the Link Between Vision and Diabetes? 

Blurred vision or fluctuating eyesight clarity is often one of the first noticeable signs that diabetes has begun to affect your eyes. Sometimes, fluid leaking into the eye causes the lens to swell and change shape. This, in turn, makes it difficult for the eyes to focus, resulting in fuzzy vision. Such symptoms can indicate that an eye disease is developing, or may simply be due to imbalanced blood sugar levels which can be rectified by getting your blood sugar back to healthy levels. 

If you start to notice blurry vision, make an appointment with Dr. Moshe Roth as soon as possible.

The 3 Ways Diabetes Impacts Vision 

Cataracts

While cataracts are extremely common and a part of the natural aging process, those with diabetes tend to develop cataracts earlier in life. Characterized by a clouding or fogging of the lens within the eye, cataracts impede light from entering the eye, causing blurred vision and glares. The best treatment is cataract surgery, which is very safe and effective. 

Glaucoma

Glaucoma refers to a group of eye diseases characterized by optic nerve damage. Since it tends to impact peripheral vision first, glaucoma often goes unnoticed until significant damage has occurred. However, routine glaucoma screenings can detect warning signs; early treatment can prevent disease progression and vision loss. 

Although there is no true cure for glaucoma, most glaucoma patients successfully manage it with special eye drops, medication, and on occasion, laser treatment or other surgery. The earlier glaucoma is diagnosed and managed, the better the outcome.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the small blood vessels on your retina (capillaries) become weakened and then balloon (microaneurysm) due to poorly controlled blood sugar levels. The resulting poor blood circulation in the back of the eye causes more abnormal blood vessels to grow, which also bleed or leak fluid, and can lead to scar tissue, retinal detachment and even blindness, over time.

Often there are no symptoms until the advanced stages of diabetic retinopathy, where patients may begin to see spots and missing patches in their vision. Retinopathy can be treated through surgery and eye injections, but the best way to prevent this disease from progressing is to regularly have your eyes screened.

The good news is that diabetic eye disease can often be prevented with early detection, proper management of your diabetes and regular diabetic eye exams. Contact Family Eye Care in Old Bridge to set up your eye doctor’s appointment today. 

Your Eyes Are the Windows to Your Health

Your eyes aren’t just the windows to your soul — they can also reveal valuable information about your general health beyond whether you need glasses, including: diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. It is not unusual for people to come in for an eye exam just to check their eyesight and then have certain health issues or predispositions picked up by the optometrist. 

Eye Exams and Your Health

Eye examinations can help doctors detect general health conditions early enough to intervene. Advanced screenings enable eye doctors to better predict cardiovascular incidents like stroke, and possibly detect signs of mental changes such as Alzheimer’s. Read below to learn how eye exams can unveil a whole lot more than just eye health.

Brain Cancer & Stroke

Because of the similarities between the blood vessels in the eye and brain, an eye doctor can occasionally detect an issue taking place in the brain by examining the blood vessels in the eyes. If swelling or shadows in the eye is observed, it may indicate a serious condition in the brain, like a tumor, or clots that might result in a stroke.

Diabetes

Diabetes can cause damage to the blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye, resulting in Diabetic Retinopathy (DR) and Diabetic Macular Edema (DME). If an optometrist detects leaky blood vessels in the eye, the patient would be advised to see a doctor to help control their blood sugar. Changes are gradual, and they start before visual symptoms are noticed. The earlier diabetic eye disease is managed, the better the chances are of preserving eyesight. 

Hypertension

High blood pressure, characterized by having too much pressure in the blood vessels, can be detected during an eye exam, sometimes even before it’s diagnosed by your regular doctor. The damaged blood vessels lead to swelling, hemorrhages, and leaking — all of which can be observed in the eyes. According to the CDC, hypertension “the silent killer” affects nearly 1 in 3 adults, and up to a whopping 20% of those don’t even know they have it. So early detection at an eye doctor’s evaluation can be truly life-saving.

High Cholesterol 

Eye exams can also detect a buildup of cholesterol. High cholesterol is among the easiest conditions to spot during a complete eye exam, as the cholesterol deposits manifest on the front of the eye, appearing as a thin, gray rim around the cornea. It can also be detected in the retina by assessing artery and vein patterns.

These deposits may indicate the current or future development of Retinal Blood Vessel Occlusion, a condition where blockages restrict blood flow to the back of the eye, causing temporary or permanent vision loss. 

Heart Conditions

In some cases, heart conditions associated with a buildup of plaque in the carotid artery in the heart can also lead to deposits that clog the ocular arteries in the eye. If an optometrist detects such changes to the vascular structure at the back of the eye, he or she will typically recommend going to a specialist.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Sudden vision loss may be attributed to Multiple Sclerosis (MS). While the optometrist can recognize signs indicating the presence of MS, such as the color and appearance of the optic nerve, such cases will be referred for further testing to confirm the diagnosis.

Thyroid

Thyroid disease can make itself apparent through the eyes in several ways. The thyroid gland controls the hormones that regulate tear production so some thyroid disorders can cause dry eye disease. Additionally, overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can make the extraocular muscles enlarge and stiffen, causing bulging eyes — an indicator of Graves’ disease. 

Inflammation

Systemic conditions that are associated with inflammation in the body can have an inflammatory effect on the eyes. Uveitis, for example, causes eye inflammation, redness, and blurred vision, and tends to occur in people with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune diseases. 

Cancer

Breast cancer, leukemia, and other metastatic cancers are occasionally discovered during an eye evaluation. In addition to brain cancer mentioned above, melanoma and basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer) can be detected, and eye doctors can also diagnose lymphoma and other eye tumors. Eye exams save lives.

What the Future Holds 

Alzheimer’s 

Recent studies show that a non-invasive and precise imaging device called Octa (optical coherence tomography angiography) can signal the presence of eye changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Because the retina is in many ways an extension of the brain, the altered blood vessels at the back of the eye offer a glimpse into the changes taking place within the brain.

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease can often be misdiagnosed as its early symptoms are characteristic of other conditions. Research has shown that subtle eye tremors, an early Parkinson’s marker, could be detectable using advanced eye exam technology. One day soon, practitioners may send patients to an eye doctor to test for this and other diseases.

Your Eye Doctor’s Appointment Could Change Your Life

So the next time you visit Dr. Moshe Roth at Family Eye Care in Old Bridge, remember that a comprehensive eye exam can do more than determine your eyeglasses or contacts prescription. Dr. Moshe Roth can evaluate your eyes for existing or potential health issues, and communicate them to your primary care physician for the best possible care. By knowing that you’re at risk for a certain disease, you can take precautions early on and manage the condition as needed. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.