Our Blog

Blue Light

Posted on March 28th, 2017.

Americans stare at digital screens. A LOT. We also live and work under CFL lightbulbs and spend time outside in sunlight. All of these are sources of high-energy visible light, or blue light. So what is blue light exactly? It is a part of the visible light spectrum (between 400nm and 500 nm). It is a very short wavelength and produces a higher level of energy. As a result, overexposure to blue light has been linked to several problems.

Many studies have shown the correlation between blue light exposure and disruption of the sleep/wake cycle. Blue light has been proven to suppress the release of melatonin, which is the hormone responsible for helping us fall asleep. The more time we spend on screens just before bed, the less good sleep we are going to get!

Blue light also contributes to digital eye strain. Because blue light is a lower wavelength, it is the most scattered of the visible spectrum rays. This makes it the hardest wavelength in which to focus. Combining blue light with the stress of focusing for so long while staring at a screen is a recipe for eye strain.

New studies are also revealing the occurrence of retinal damage due to long-term exposure to blue light rays. An American Optometric Association paper on “Light and Eye Damage” states, “shorter wavelengths of the visible spectrum (i.e. blue light) show the greatest effects…in the retinal pigment epithelium”. Although no study has directly linked blue light exposure to macular degeneration in humans, many researchers believe the possibility is strong.

Blue light is not going away. 87 % of Americans use a digital devices such as a phone, tablet, or screen over 2 hours per day and this is only going to increase. The long-term impact of cumulative blue light exposure on our eyes will affect us all. For this reason it is important to have blue light protection in your glasses. Did you know that a simple coating or tint can be added to your glasses that will block the damaging effect of blue light? Come see us and ask us about your options to reduce blue light exposure and digital eye strain.

 
 
 

WHAT IS LOW VISION?

Posted on Feburary 15th, 2017.

Low vision should not be confused with blindness. Low vision is a condition that cannot be made clear by ordinary eyeglasses, contact lenses, or intraocular lens transplants. Sometimes low vision involves a lack of acuity, meaning that objects do not come into focus. Other times, it involves the inability to distinguish colors, see contrasts, or determine spatial relationships among objects.

WHAT CAUSES LOW VISION?

Low vision has a variety of causes, including eye injury, diseases, and heredity. It is the third most common physical impairment for people over 65 (after heart disease and arthritis). The most common causes of low vision in the older population are due to macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetes. In younger patients the visual impairment is most commonly a result of prematurity, retinal disease, genetics, or various ocular traumas or injuries.

WHAT IS A LOW VISION EXAM?

A low vision examination differs from a so-called “regular eye exam”. The primary distinction of a low vision exam is that it comprehensively evaluates vision functioning and its effects on daily life activities. Dr. Miller evaluates the severity and nature of the vision loss and prescribes special optical devices to maximize remaining vision.

Losing the ability to drive safely, read quickly, and view a television or computer screen easily can cause many people with low vision to become isolated. They feel unable to get around town independently, earn a living, or even shop for the necessities. Some visually impaired people become completely dependent on friends and relatives, while others suffer alone. Total dependence does not have to happen, because there are many ingenious low vision devices and strategies that can help people overcome vision impairment and live independently. The first step is to visit an eye doctor who specializes in low vision care.

Dr. Miller has been performing low vision evaluations for over 20 years and is the consulting low vision specialist for the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. She can evaluate the degree and type of vision loss, prescribe appropriate low vision devices such as magnifiers, telescopes, and video magnification. She can also recommend non-optical adaptive devices, such as large print material, audio tapes, special light fixtures, and signature guides. And just as importantly, as a low vision specialist, Dr. Miller can provide referrals to counselors and state organizations that can help visually impaired patients cope with their new life situation.

Attitude is another very important aspect in low vision. If you have low vision, no matter how many doctors you see and devices you try, you cannot be helped unless you really want to be helped. The loss of one’s vision can be a life changing experience to go through. It’s very common to go through a variety of emotions from anger to hopelessness. Finding others with the same problems through support groups is a great help.

Most insurance providers cover about one-half of the low vision evaluation cost. This is considered a medical visit and is not billed through a vision plan. The low vision devices prescribed are generally NOT covered by any insurance company, including Medicare.
If you have low vision, the most important thing to remember is that there is help out there, and you are not alone! Please call us.

 
 
 

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, an important time to spread the word about this sight-stealing disease.

Posted on January 19th, 2017.

Over 3 million Americans, and over 60 million people worldwide, have glaucoma. It is the leading cause of vision loss in the United States.
Glaucoma is called “the sneak thief of sight” since there are no symptoms and once vision is lost, it is lost permanently. As much as 40% of vision can be lost without a person noticing.

Vision loss is caused by damage to the optic nerve. The optic nerve acts like an electric cable with over a million wires. It is responsible for carrying images from the eye to the brain. When the pressure within the eye becomes too great, there is stress on the optic nerve and it slowly begins to die.
Those at higher risk for glaucoma include people of African, Asian, and Hispanic descent. Other high-risk groups include: people over 60, family members of those already diagnosed, diabetics, and people who are severely nearsighted. Regular eye exams are especially important for those at higher risk for glaucoma, and may help to prevent unnecessary vision loss.

There is treatment for glaucoma. The important thing is to catch it early! Treatments for glaucoma include the use of eye drops, lasers, or sometimes surgery to help to reduce the pressure within the eye.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness. More than half of those who have glaucoma don’t know they have it.  The best way to find out is to have a routine, regular eye examination. At Northwest Hills Eye Care, we check for glaucoma as a part of a routine eye exam. We have specialized machines to detect glaucoma and monitor it. Dr. Miller and Dr. Stola are both certified optometric glaucoma specialists which means that they are able to diagnose and treat glaucoma. Don’t lose your sight. Come in and see us!