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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 Eye Care Associates in Flagstaff 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.”

 

Best Eye Hygiene Tips

4 Tips to Prevent Eye Infections | Eye Doctor Near You

What Causes Eye Infections?

Viruses are responsible for many infections, such as the flu, the common cold, conjunctivitis (pink eye) and coronavirus. With the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in full-swing, it’s important to be aware of good hygiene practices, especially for the eyes, as they are a portal for infectious diseases. By implementing the practices below, you can significantly reduce the risk of contracting or transmitting a viral infection.

What Is a Virus?

A virus is a submicroscopic infectious agent that reproduces itself by invading a host cell, replicating its DNA inside it. This infected cell then replicates rapidly, spreading millions of new viral cells throughout the body. Once infected, we feel sick and experience the unpleasant side effects of rising temperature, sore limbs and other symptoms as our immune system recognizes the virus as being foreign and vigorously fights against it.

How Does a Virus Travel Between Organisms?

For a virus to cause disease, it must first enter a body, called a target host. A target host can get infected directly, via infected droplets (such as when kissing), or indirectly, when coming into contact with droplets from a cough, sneeze, or tears left on a surface. Infected droplets enter the body through one of the mucous membranes, such as the eyes, nose or mouth.

Even if the infected person near you shows no symptoms, they can still be contagious. Depending on the virus, it can survive on a surface for some time and can be picked up from a doorknob or an elevator button. This is why practicing good hygiene is an effective way to prevent indirect viral transmission.

4 Crucial Eye Hygiene Practices

By implementing the following hygiene practices, you will better protect yourself and others from viral infection.

1. Routinely wash your hands

We, humans, touch many surfaces throughout the day. If we’re not careful, we can catch an infection, particularly from hard surfaces like plastic and stainless steel.

Viruses can also be picked up while preparing and eating food; using the toilet; or handling an animal. Make sure that you regularly and thoroughly wash your hands, ideally for a minimum of 20 seconds with soap and water, to kill viruses (and bacteria) on the surface of your skin. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

2. Keep your hands off your face

Studies show that the average person touches their face up to 23 times per hour, and that the majority of contacts involve the eyes, nose and mouth. Doing so puts you at risk for getting a virus or transmitting the virus to another. Try to be conscious and avoid touching your face whenever possible.

3. Avoid rubbing your eyes

Rubbing your eyes is an instinctual response to tiredness or itchy eyes. It feels great to rub your eyes because doing so stimulates tear production, temporarily relieves itchiness, lubricates the eyes, and removes irritants. However, if your hands are unwashed, rubbing your eyes can put you at risk of contracting an infection, such as conjunctivitis or coronavirus. In fact, conjunctivitis has been linked to respiratory infections like the common cold, the flu, and COVID-19.

4. Use makeup with caution

Given the information provided above regarding infections, the following advice should come as no surprise:

  • Don’t share your makeup with anyone else, whether for eyes, lips or face.
  • Don’t use a cosmetic brush previously used by another when testing makeup products. Instead, request single-use applicators and wands.
  • Don’t use a product past its expiration date.
  • Don’t use the same makeup products after you’ve been sick or have had an eye infection.
  • Don’t share face cloths or face towels with anyone else.
Eye Care Associates at Flagstaff is committed to helping you manage your long-term eye health. From all of us at Eye Care Associates, please stay safe and take care of yourself and your loved ones. Call us today: 928-774-7949 to find out our eye exam appointment availability or to request an appointment with one of our Flagstaff eye doctors.

The Power of Tears

tears dry eyes rubbingTears literally enable us to see. They lubricate our eyeballs and eyelids, thus preventing our eyes from dehydrating. They also provide a smooth surface for refracting light, supply oxygen, and are a vital component of the ocular defense system that protects against a range of pathogens. Below we’ll delve into the composition and types of tears, and further explain why they are so beneficial to our physical and emotional well-being.

Structure of Tears

Tears are made up of three layers: lipids, aqueous and mucous.

The lipid layer is the outermost layer and prevents the evaporation of tears. The lipids are produced by tiny glands in the eyelids called the meibomian glands.

The aqueous layer, which is the middle layer, makes up 95% of our tears. This layer supplies nutrients to the cornea, prevents infection, and heals ocular damage. This layer is effectively made up of water and is produced by the lacrimal gland.

The mucous layer is the one closest to the eye. It coats the cornea and provides a level platform that allows for an even distribution of the tear film over the eye. This layer is produced by even smaller glands called goblet cells.

The Three Types of Tears

Tears are composed of water, salts, amino acids, antibodies and lysozymes (antibacterial enzymes). However, there are several types of tears, and their composition varies. For example, the tears we shed while crying are different from the tears that flood our eyes in the presence of irritants like onions, dust or allergies.

Humans produce the following three kinds of tears:

  1. Basal – these tears are constantly at the front of the eyeball and form the liquid layer over the eyeball to keep it lubricated.
  2. Reflex – these tears appear when the eye is irritated, such as when the eyes feel gritty or when we get dust, sand or other small foreign objects in our eyes.
  3. Psychogenic – these tears are sparked by emotion. They possess a higher protein level than basal and reflex tears, which makes them thicker, causing them to stream more slowly. Psychogenic tears are made up of higher concentrations of stress hormones such as adrenocorticotropic hormone and leucine enkephalin (a natural painkiller). This suggests that emotional tears play an important role in balancing stress hormone levels.

Tears Serve the Following Functions

Prevent dryness
Tears prevent dryness by lubricating the surface of the eye. Each time we blink we spread this cushioning layer of tears across the front of the eyes.

Supply oxygen and nutrients
Oxygen and nutrients are delivered to the cornea through our tears.

Prevent infection
Not only do tears wash away foreign bodies that enter the eye, but they can also prevent infection thanks to an antibacterial property contained within tears called lysozyme. This antibacterial agent fights off the germs we pick up in our surroundings.

Heal ocular damage
Tears are made up of substances that heal damage to the surface of the eye. Damage can be caused by foreign objects and even high exposure to UV rays.

Create a smooth surface on the eye
Tears lubricate and smooth our eye’s surface, leading light to be correctly focused and enabling us to see clearly.

Remove Toxins
Emotional tears contain more toxic byproducts than reflex tears (caused by irritation), and can thus flush out many toxins and stress hormones.

Dull pain and improve mood
Crying for extended periods of time releases Oxycontin and endorphins. These feel-good hormones can help diminish both physical and emotional pain. Once the endorphins are released, your body may enter a more relaxed stage, with Oxycontin providing you with a sense of calm and well-being.

As you can see, tears are invaluable for clear vision, protecting your eyes, flushing out irritants, and soothing emotions.

If you feel that your eyes are not as comfortable or your vision is not as clear as usual, contact Dr. Grimh at Eye Care Associates in Flagstaff today. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 928-774-7949 to find out our eye exam appointment availability, or to request an appointment with one of our Flagstaff eye doctors.

Corona Virus Updates

Protecting our Patients from Coronavirus

We appreciate your patience as we continue to follow the recommendation of the CDC and the American Optometric Association to reduce our services to urgent/emergency eye care only. We understand this is necessary to help keep our staff and community safe from the COVID-19 virus but realize the inconvenience it may cause as well.

Our office staff will be available M-F from 8:00am – 12:00pm to schedule appointments, answer questions, take payments, order contacts and triage for emergencies.

One of our doctors will be available during these hours for urgent/emergency eye care for both new and current patients. If you need urgent/emergency eye care after hours you can call our office at 928-774-7949 and listen for instructions.

We are offering to extend contact lens prescriptions for those who are forced to reschedule your current appointments. Call our office to place your order. If you have glasses or contact lenses currently on order we will be contacting you soon to make arrangements to get those out to you.

We apologize for the inconvenience this may cause, if you have any questions feel free to give us a call M-F 8:00am-12:00pm.

Sincerely,

Eye Care Associates