Back to School Checklist: Don’t Forget the Eye Exam!

With school starting up again, and lists including everything from the essential newest styles to school supplies – one item to make sure is on the list is your child’s comprehensive eye exam.  While we may notice subtle changes in appearance as our children grow and develop, there are many changes also occurring within the eye that are unseen.  This marks the importance of annual eye exams that will assist in monitoring the development of your child’s vision as they grow.  Routine vision screening or eye examination at an early age is very important to detect risk factors, such as lazy eye, crossed eyes, and color blindness that can potentially cause irreversible loss of vision or blindness.  A majority of vision impairment issues go undetected since young children with impaired vision are often unaware of their vision issues—it is, after all, how they’ve always seen things. It is on us as parents and educators to look for signs of visual impairment.

Although schools generally do some basic testing of children’s vision, there is no doctor to perform a comprehensive exam or diagnose problems with your child’s eyesight.  According to experts, nearly 90 percent of what is taught in school is done so visually, therefore without excellent vision, children are left at a disadvantage.  Those with poor eyesight may struggle with school and learning, leaving them unable to reach their maximum potential.  A yearly comprehensive eye exam can not only ensure your child’s vision is healthy or corrected, but also rule out diseases that can potentially lead to vision loss.

Many vision problems begin at an early age, so it’s important for children to receive proper eye care.  In addition to changes in the front of the eye, the back of the eye (the retina) should also be examined in order to rule out signs of damage or disease.  Many conditions, such as retinal detachments and retinal holes can be treated successfully if diagnosed early. 

In a recent optomap-related patient story, Dr. Nicolas Belill’s dedication to provide the utmost care to all of his patients by offering an optomap screening as a part of every exam, is highlighted.  A young patient, Josh and his mother went to see Dr. Belill for a routine eye exam, spurred only by Josh’s difficulty reading small print.  Josh showed no other symptoms, had no previous ocular issues and was in overall good health for a child of his age.

The optomap image revealed extensive hemorrhages and exudates in the periphery as well as very unusual looking vessels.  Dr. Belill initially suspected Coats’ Disease, a rare retinal disease that manifests in macular damage and vision loss, usually not caught until very late in the disease process.  Josh was immediately referred to a retinal specialist who confirmed the diagnosis.  Coats’ Disease tends to have a very poor vision prognosis, very often leading to eye enucleation.  In this case, where the evidence resided in the periphery, it could have been missed had the optomap not been done, potentially saving Josh’s vision.  Read the entirety of Josh’s story here.

Patient Story - Josh

Talk to your eye care professional about including optomap as part of the exam – it is a non-invasive option for your child and takes only seconds to get a highly-detailed view of the retina, which is critical for early disease detection.  The optomap image provides your doctor with an overview of approximately 200° or 82% of your child’s retina in a single capture, giving them a more detailed view than can be achieved by other means.   We all know children can be squirmy and may have difficulty sitting still for an eye exam, optomap exams are quick, easy and cause no discomfort on a child who would much rather be picking out his or her favorite back to school sneakers! 

Ultraviolet Radiation and Your Eyes: Get Sun Smart!

As the summer heats up many of us are eager to enjoy the warmth of the sun and the activities that go along with it.  While continued awareness of the importance of UV protective clothing and sunscreen exists, there is a lack of emphasis on the impacts the sun and UV exposure has on the eyes.  UV damage to the eyes is known as the “invisible threat” and its impacts are measured and classified by the strength of the UV ray in nanometers (nm).  

UVC: These rays are below 280 nm. The upper atmosphere absorbs these, so they do not reach us, therefore protection from these rays is not overly necessary.

UVB: These are between 315 – 380 nm. These manage to make it to the earth’s surface and are notorious for damaging sight. They can cause snow blindness but are notably responsible for sunburn and several types of skin cancer. Research has shown that these rays are strongest during the summer and at higher altitudes.

UVA: These are the most dangerous being 315 – 380 nm. They are known for causing chronic eye damage. Studies have indicated that these rays get absorbed by the lenses of our eyes leading to damage of the retina. They contribute to the occurrence of cataracts, are also a major cause of aging and unfortunately can pass through clouds, glass, water and clothing.

In order to keep eyes protected from solar radiation, 100% UV block sunglasses should be worn anytime outdoors in daylight.  Even on cloudy days, damaging UV rays can penetrate the cloud coverage. 

Who is at Risk?

Everyone (including children) is at risk for eye damage from UV radiation that can lead to vision loss. Any factor that increases the amount of time you spend in the sun will increase your risk.

People who work or play in the sun for long periods of time are at the greatest risk.

The risk of sun related eye problems is higher for people who:

  • spend long hours in the sun
  • have had cataract surgery or have certain retina disorders
  • are on certain medicines, such as tetracycline, sulfa drugs, birth control pills, diuretics and tranquilizers that increase the eye’s sensitivity to light 

Additionally, extended UV exposure has been linked to significant eye problems, including cataracts, macular degeneration, pingueculae, pterygia and photokeratitis.   Many skin cancers can occur on the eyelids and external features of the eye.  Additionally, while ocular melanoma is rare it is the most common eye cancer in adults, because of the increasing number of UV related cataracts and eye cancers; Prevent Blindness, and many other organizations, strongly recommend that everyone utilize UV protection eyewear, not only those who engage in outdoor disciplines and recreation.

When we are caught up in the delights of summer we tend to overlook the simple proactive measures that we can take to protect against vision loss and UV related eye damage and even life-threatening ocular cancers.  In addition to taking a few extra moments to protect yourself and your loved ones before rushing out into the sunshine, it is imperative that people take the time for annual eye exams. An optomap screening is an excellent, expedient way to get a comprehensive view of the retina and to gain essential information about one’s ocular health. optomap is the only proven, clinically-validated, ultra-widefield retinal image that can capture 82% or 200⁰ of the retina, which can reveal incredibly subtle changes from the central pole to the far periphery of the retina in a single capture – and in a fraction of a second – so you can get out there (well-protected, of course) and enjoy that summer sun.

Celebrate Safely and Protect your Eyes this Summer

One of our favorite times of the year in the United States surrounded by cookouts, pool parties, friends and family, the 4th of July is upon us.  In addition to all the splendor, the month surrounding July 4th festivities also brings an increase of fireworks displays as well as an increase in firework-related injuries.  Prevent Blindness America and the American Academy of Blindness sponsor June and July as Fireworks Eye Safety Months to raise awareness of the dangers, as well as, the safe protocols for viewing or handling pyrotechnic displays or devices. Most fireworks-related injuries occur during the month of July, and according to the most recent Consumer Product Safety Commission report, 14% of fireworks injuries have been eye injuries occurring mostly in children between the ages of 10 and 14.   It is easy for any of us to get caught up in all the excitement and activity or become distracted by hosting responsibilities, conversations, and crowds.  Take into consideration, as well, that these festivities and shows are generally conducted past dusk and simply navigating an event with numerous people and smoke can become challenging, let alone successfully dodging the sparkler-wielding children. Keep yourself, your children and your eyes safe this summer and enjoy holiday traditions with some important safety tips provided by the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Fireworks Eye Safety Tips

For those who attend professional fireworks displays and/or live in communities surrounding the shows:

  • Respect safety barriers at fireworks shows and view fireworks from at least 500 feet away.
  • Do not touch unexploded fireworks; instead, immediately contact local fire or police departments to help.

For those who decide to purchase consumer fireworks because they live in states where they are legal, the Academy recommends the following safety tips to prevent eye injuries:

  • Always have an adult supervise children, even sparklers! Sparklers burn up to 1800°F
  • Ensure everyone is a safe distance of at least 500 feet when setting off fireworks.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person
  • Don’t shoot fireworks out of a glass or metal container. The explosion could shatter and expel glass or metal shards!
  • Don’t hover. Never have any part of the body directly over a firework when lighting
  • Firework didn’t ignite the first time? Soak it in water and discard it. Serious eye trauma and other injuries can occur when people mistake a firework for a “dud” or think that it’s no longer active or hot.
  • Importantly, protect your eyes and wear safety glasses when setting off fireworks

The people injured by fireworks aren’t necessarily handling the explosives themselves. In fact, 65% of people injured by fireworks were bystanders, according to another study.  This goes to show that children and people not handling fireworks themselves are in as much danger as the people actually lighting fireworks.

What to Do for a Fireworks Eye Injury

Fireworks-related eye injuries can combine blunt force trauma, heat burns, and chemical exposure. If an eye injury from fireworks occurs, it should be considered a medical emergency.

  • Seek medical attention immediately.
  • Do not rub your eyes.
  • Do not rinse your eyes.
  • Do not apply pressure.
  • Do not remove any objects that are stuck in the eye.
  • Do not apply ointments or take any blood-thinning pain medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen unless directed by a doctor.

If you or a loved one has sustained an eye injury related to a fireworks display, seek medical attention immediately. Depending on the extent of the injury, the emergency team may recommend that you consult with your local eye doctor for continued care.

Additionally, the summer season is an excellent time of year to schedule a comprehensive eye exam with your eye doctor. With a more flexible schedule and perhaps some time off, it’s probably easier to get you in to have your eyes thoroughly evaluated.

optomap offers a comprehensive view of the retina to gain essential information about ocular health. It is the only proven, clinically-validated, ultra-widefield retinal image capturing 82% or 200⁰ of the retina. optomap can help eye doctors in detecting potential issues before symptoms even begin to develop, which can improve patient outcomes in the long run by allowing for earlier treatment. Visit our website prior to scheduling your next eye exam to locate an optomap provider near you. 

optomap Providing the Next Generation with a Comprehensive Skill Set for Practice

At the New England College of Optometry (NECO), preparing the next generation of optometrists requires equipping them with a comprehensive skill set for practice.  Timothy Bossie, OD, the Director of Owned Clinics and Outreach Services at NECO, observes that such proficiency should encompass being comfortable with cutting edge diagnostic technology. Bossie, who serves as a preceptor for 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students, shares that a recent implementation of the Optos California ultra-widefield™ (UWF) imaging system has proved to significantly enhance examination of the retina, as well as, improve productivity in the busy teaching clinic.

The NECO clinic provides multiple specialty services including primary care, contact lenses, myopia control, vision rehabilitation, post-concussion and low vision care.  The California was quickly embraced by the providers at the clinic. The optomap imaging was integrated in a broad application, used primarily as a screening tool and for baseline images in the primary care setting, but also in the low vision clinic for documentation and diagnosis with the population that presents with a variety of preexisting retinal conditions.  Bossie notes that being close to Boston University means that a majority of NECO patients are young students and college educators who are often pressed for time and wish to defer dilation to expedite a routine visit. He points out that in these cases the optomap technology allows the patient to be screened quickly with a comprehensive view of the retina which allows the doctors to determine if there is any potential issue that would necessitate dilation and further examination.

optomap produces the only 200-degree single capture image of the retina, providing detailed information regarding pathology that may be present beyond the vortex vessels.  These far peripheral pathologies may often go undetected using traditional examination techniques and equipment. Unlike full spectrum, white-light used in conventional devices, optomap technology incorporates low-powered laser wavelengths that scan simultaneously. The lasers create a virtual point, posterior to the iris plane and then the lasers pivot in order to create the large scanning angles.

Bossie underscores that the technology has enhanced the ability to educate students on peripheral retinal disease. “Being able to quickly photo document so far out allows us to review and assess everything but in particular far peripheral retinal lesions which we’ve always had a hard time imaging. For example, I recently had an urgent examination and the patient was diagnosed with two peripheral retinal tears. I was able to utilize the retinal image to tangibly educate both the patient and the students on what I saw and how it needed to be treated.”

Access additional details and read the full testimonial.

“Our providers and students are amazed out how far out in the periphery the optomap images can capture. I am blown away by how I can get a really good ultra-wide field view of the retina and then, with the OptosAdvance software, zoom in and out on any portion of the image without losing any resolution.” Quotes Bossie on the Optos California.

Over the years, optomap has proven to be irreplaceable in the NECO clinic and has aided both in efficient patient flow as well as a much-needed diagnostic and teaching tool.  UWF imaging technology gives eye care providers imagery and diagnostic information about the retinal periphery that can’t be provided by small-field imaging methods.   As an eyecare professional, you may increase your practice efficiency and enhance patient care with optomap, just like Dr. Bossie, and so many others. Contact us today to find out more.

Taking Steps to Healthy Vision: Your Vision, Your Future

It’s second nature to schedule your yearly physical, or routine dentist appointment, but what about your eye health?  When was your last comprehensive eye exam?  A yearly eye exam is just as important as any other routine appointments you make.  This May, during Healthy Vision Month, NEI and Prevent Blindness urge you to take control of your vision, and decide what you want to see in the future.  Learning how to protect your eyes is the first step in preserving eye health. 

Most vision problems are in fact preventable.  Take a look at some everyday tips in order to take the first step in preserving your eye health:

  • Wear sunglasses (even on cloudy days!)
    Sure, sunglasses are fashionable, but more importantly, they protect your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays and help keep your vision sharp. 
  • Maintain a well-balanced, healthy diet
    It is true, carrots are good for your eyes! Diets rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables — especially dark leafy greens— is important for keeping your eyes healthy. 
  • Get plenty of physical activity
    Regular exercise comes with a lot of great benefits. It can boost your mood, reduce stress, help you stay at a healthy weight — and protect you from serious eye diseases! 
  • Give your eyes a rest
    Do your eyes ever feel achy at the end of the day? If you spend a lot of time at the computer or staring at your phone, you may forget to blink — and that can tire out your eyes. 
  • Protect your eyes
    About 2,000 people in the United States get a serious work-related eye injury every day. Eye protection is so important both in and out of work.

Healthy vision is much more important than just what meets the eye.  Healthy, or, not so healthy, vision can be a big indicator in other areas of systemic health.  The eye functions as a window to the body and its health.  By viewing the different tissues of the eye, eye care providers are able to see early warning signs of many serious, chronic diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol, cancers, rheumatoid arthritis and more.  The eye is in fact the only place in the body where a doctor can have an unobstructed view of blood vessels, nerves and connecting tissue, without surgery.  Because the eye has the same microscopic tissue as our other major organs and is an important part of our larger nervous system, abnormalities spotted in the eye may signal the same changes in other parts of the body. 

Healthy Vision Month is aimed to encourage Americans to make eye health a priority and inform them of the steps they can take to protect their vision.  Most importantly, getting a comprehensive eye exam.  Your optometrist or ophthalmologist can review your personal and family history, assess your vision, and evaluate the internal and external anatomy of your eyes to rule in or out any problems.  If an issue is detected, treatment can be initiated as soon as possible, which can improve outcomes and slow or reverse the underlying disease process. Even if you don’t have any vision or eye problems, you should still schedule a comprehensive exam.   An optomap screening is an excellent addition to any eye exam, offering a comprehensive view of the retina and to gain essential information about ocular health. optomap is the only proven, clinically-validated, ultra-widefield retinal image that can capture 82% or 200⁰ of the retina.  Visit our website prior to scheduling your next eye exam to locate an optomap provider near you.