• Computer screens, smartphones and TVs - blue light from electronic devices raising concerns for eye health

    (BPT) - Your morning probably starts off in a routine. You might watch the weather report on your flatscreen TV before jumping into the shower, answer an email on your tablet shortly after getting dressed, or text a friend while eating breakfast.

    We use our eyes much differently than any generation before us, and dramatic shifts in digital tool usage and media consumption are exposing eyes to blue light from electronic devices, which could adversely affect your vision in the future.

    Studies show denizens of the digital world are significantly increasing time spent in front of their computers, smartphones, and other blue light-emitting devices. The average American spends about two hours and 19 minutes online plus another two hours and 20 minutes conducting non-voice activities on tablets as well as mobile phones every day, according to a survey by eMarketer, Additionally, recent Nielsen ratings reveal that the average American spends about 34 hours per week watching live television, and another three to six hours watching recorded programs.

    What does this mean for our eyes? Blue light, which radiates from digital sources like computers, smartphones, and televisions, can have an adverse effect on visual cells.  In fact, researchers are learning blue light, found in sunlight and some indoor lighting, plays a role in the incidence and severity of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

    Fortunately, Mother Nature arms us with macular pigments, zeaxanthin (zee-uh-zan-thin) and lutein that act like "internal sunglasses". These pigments protect and enhance vision, and are found in the center of the macula in the back of your eye. Internal sunglasses protect the cones and rods that are responsible for central and peripheral vision, respectively and can enhance vision as well.

    The density of macular pigment is largely determined by diet, but can change as we age. As macular pigment becomes thinner or less dense, harmful blue light can reach and damage the photoreceptors (rods and cones). The resulting damage can lead to visual performance challenges and contribute to other eye issues like fatigue, strain, sleeplessness, and even more serious conditions like AMD. 

    Thick, or dense macular pigment can improve visual acuity for activities like reading in dim light or needlepoint; reduce sensitivity to bright light like sunlight or stadium lights; improve recovery time from glare from things like oncoming headlights; and enhance contrast sensitivity such as seeing an object clearly against its background.

    Increasing macular pigment density can be achieved by replenishing the macular pigments zeaxanthin and lutein. According to the American Optometric Association, (AOA) of the 600 carotenoids found in nature, zeaxanthin and lutein are the only two that are deposited naturally in the macula.

    Since the human body does not produce the zeaxanthin and lutein it needs, good nutrition is essential.  Lutein is plentiful in leafy-green vegetables like spinach, kale, and broccoli. Zeaxanthin, on the other hand, is found in foods like corn, eggs, and peppers, but only in trace amounts. For most Americans, a significant zeaxanthin dietary gap exists, resulting in less protection and potentially decreased visual performance.

    The quantity of these pigments in the macular region of the retina can be measured with a macular pigment optical density (MPOD) exam.  MPOD exams are quick, non-invasive, and available through leading optometrists.

    For those who cannot consume enough zeaxanthin and lutein through the diet, eye vitamins like EyePromise offer macular health formulas designed to increase MPOD and build internal sunglasses that provide vision protection and enhancement.

    As computer, tablet, and smartphone usage increases, society's collective exposure to blue light will also continue to surge. Optimal health of our internal sunglasses is imperative in safeguarding our eyes from harmful blue light today and into the future.
  • Eye-opening facts about aging eyes and vision problems

    (BPT) - Most Americans know that vision problems begin to increase as they age. What they may not realize is that reduced vision is also linked to a higher frequency of falls, injuries and depression. Eye disorders such as cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration can rob seniors of their independence.

    Here are some facts and tips for maintaining eye health and vision while aging gracefully:

    Many people can avoid vision loss as they age

    Losing sight as you age should not be considered an inevitability. In fact, the World Health Organization states that 80 percent of blindness is preventable if the disease or condition causing it is diagnosed and treated in time.

    Although many people find that they need reading glasses as they get older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in six seniors has a vision impairment that cannot be corrected with glasses or contact lenses. This may be caused by common eye conditions and diseases, including:

    * Cataract, a clouding of the eye's lens.

    * Glaucoma, a disease which can rob the eye of its peripheral vision.

    * Age-related macular degeneration, the deterioration of the central vision that is responsible for the ability to see fine details clearly.

    With proper preventive care and timely treatment, many seniors can avoid permanent vision loss due to these diseases.

    Eye exams are key to healthy vision

    Many eye diseases and conditions have few or no noticeable symptoms until vision has already been lost, so it's important to keep up with regular exams.

    By age 40, a person should have obtained a baseline comprehensive medical eye exam and by age 65, eye exams should be scheduled every one to two years, or as recommended by an ophthalmologist - a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis, medical and surgical treatment of all eye diseases and conditions.

    Finding an ophthalmologist can be easy

    There are approximately 30,000 ophthalmologists across the United States.

    For seniors concerned about the cost of seeing an ophthalmologist, EyeCare America, a national public service program of the Foundation for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, is available to ensure seniors have access to eye care they need.

    The program matches eligible seniors who haven't seen an ophthalmologist in three or more years with one of more than 6,000 volunteer ophthalmologists who provide them with a comprehensive eye exam and care, often at no out-of-pocket cost for up to one year. To see if you, your friends or family members are eligible, visit www.eyecareamerica.org.

    A healthy body also benefits your eyes

    Here are a few tips to help care for your eyes between exams:

    * Eat well. Ensure you include citrus fruits, vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains, dark green leafy vegetables and cold water fish in your diet.

    * Exercise regularly. Not only does it help your heart, waistline and energy levels, but 30 minutes of physical exercise a day will also benefit your eyes.

    * Wear sunglasses. Sunglasses protect the eyes from cataracts and even eye lid cancers, so make sure you wear them, especially during the summer, when at the beach or in the water, when participating in winter sports, and when taking medications that increase your sensitivity to light.

    * Don't smoke. Smoking increases your risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, as well as risks for cardiovascular diseases that indirectly influence the health of your eyes.

    "Keeping your eyes in good health is incredibly important, and the first step is to get an eye exam," says Dr. Charles P. Wilkinson, an ophthalmologist and chair of EyeCare America. "Most people take vision for granted until they notice changes-too late to avoid vision loss. Maintaining your eye health can help you keep your independence."

    EyeCare America is co-sponsored by the Knights Templar Eye Foundation with additional support from Alcon.
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  • Workplace Eye Injuries by the Numbers - Infographic

     About 300,000 Americans visit the emergency room each year due to workplace eye injury. Out of all eye injuries sustained on the job, 40 percent happen in the fields of manufacturing, construction and mining, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.