Health Features

Eye Spy

Your eyes are amazing organs that allow you to work, play, create and experience the world around you. That’s why keeping them healthy is so important. Especially as you get older, proper care can prevent health and vision problems or catch issues early on. Here are some ‘insights’ into what makes the eye such a fascinating, complex and delicate part of the body.

Presbyopia is a near-vision condition tied to aging, and it can happen fairly suddenly, according to Dr. Julia Pulliam, a Washington University optometrist. “Some people realize one day that they can’t focus clearly on a book, phone or other close object,” she says. “They have to hold items at a distance in order to see them.” She says that by your early 40s, the eyes’ lenses start to lose their flexibility and ability to focus up close, especially in low light. The condition tends to worsen with age, so it’s important to have your eyes checked regularly to find out if you need vision correction (or a prescription update).

If you’re experiencing presbyopia, the good news is, you have some options to correct it. Pulliam says most people choose glasses with ‘no-line’ progressive lenses to help them see both near and far. “These lenses have been around for a while, and they work well because they give you a natural range of vision,” she explains. “You need different amounts of magnification to see different things, whether it’s a prescription label or a highway sign. The closer an object is, the more power you need.”

Some patients with presbyopia opt for traditional bifocals or trifocals with lines instead of progressives, and others choose laser vision correction. There are a number of options because each patient’s needs are unique, Pulliam says. A minimally invasive surgical procedure or special contact lenses may help as well.

Corneal inlay: A small-aperture corneal inlay can help correct presbyopia by adjusting the amount of light that enters the eye. It’s a tiny, doughnut-shaped device inserted into a small pocket in the cornea of the nondominant eye. The inlay helps narrow the field of vision and provide clearer sight at close range. The procedure usually is done during an office visit.

Multifocal contact lenses: These can help people with the condition see clearly at all distances, according to Pulliam. You can get them in daily wear or longer wear, up to four weeks.

color wheel
☛ Your eye color is actually the hue of your iris, a round structure surrounding the pupil.

☛ The iris usually is blue, brown, hazel or green.

☛ Your eye color is unique to you. A sibling may have the same color, but his or her irises will have different characteristics.

☛ Eye color is associated with genes involved in the production, transport and storage of a brown pigment called melanin. Brown eyes have more melanin in the iris, and blue eyes have less.

☛ Some people have different-colored eyes (heterochromia), which can be caused by genetic changes, problems during eye development, disease or injury. Famous people with the condition include the late musician David Bowie, actress Jane Seymour and baseball player Max Scherzer.

☛ The iris color a child will have usually can be predicted by looking at the parents’ eye colors, but genetic variations can produce unexpected results (like a brown-eyed child from blue-eyed parents).

☛ Most babies are born with blue eyes that darken in the first three years of life.

☛ A different-colored ring around the iris, known as a corneal arcus, may be a sign of high cholesterol but doesn’t affect vision or cause harm to the eye.

Sources: National Library of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, American Academy of Ophthalmology 

Did you know? Brown is the most common eye color worldwide.

eye floaters
Floaters are spots that show up in your field of vision, often appearing like specks, strings or cobwebs. They can be either harmless or a cause for concern. Many times, age-related changes in the eye are to blame, so it’s important to visit a doctor if you notice them.

“Floaters are not always a sign of something bad; in fact, they are very common as we age,” says Dr. Jeffrey Weaver, an optometrist at Optical Expressions. “The vitreous humor that fills the eye becomes more liquid as you get older. Small clumps of collagen move around and cast shadows on the retina, and you see them as floaters.”

Sometimes, though, they can signal a more serious issue. “A large number of new floaters, especially with light flashes, could be caused by a retinal detachment,” Weaver says. “If you experience an episode of this, you should get a dilated eye exam immediately.”

Usually, floaters are small and don’t interfere much with vision. But sometimes, a large part of the vitreous humor separates from the retina, causing a central floater called a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD). “Unless these cause a tear in the retina, they generally are not serious, though they are more noticeable than small floaters,” Weaver explains. “There are treatments for floaters and PVD, but the risks usually outweigh the benefits.”

ocular migraines
Many people are familiar with migraine headaches, which can cause severe pain, nausea and light sensitivity. However, there’s another kind of migraine—the ocular migraine—that may be less common or well known. Ocular migraines are not related to eye floaters, but they also cause disturbances in the field of vision, according to Weaver. “They usually result in wavy, zigzag lights or lines and sometimes cause a blind spot in your vision,” he says. Like migraine headaches, they are related to blood vessel inflammation, and they may last 30 minutes or more.

sunglasses: the facts
☛ The eyes are particularly sensitive structures, so protecting them from ultraviolet light is very important year-round.
☛ Wearing proper sunglasses can help keep your eyes and the delicate skin around them healthy.
☛ Many different types of sunglasses are available, but look for a label that says ‘UV400.’ This means the glasses block up to 100% of ultraviolet light.
☛ You can’t really judge sunglasses by price. Some are expensive but don’t do a very good job of blocking UV rays.
☛Lens color or darkness does not make a difference in the effectiveness of sunglasses. UV400 protection is the most important consideration.
☛ Kids need proper sunglasses, too.
☛ In addition to a good pair of sunglasses, protect your eyes and eyelids with a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen.
☛ Limit sun exposure, especially at midday.
☛ Certain medications like tetracycline, doxycycline and sulfa drugs can increase your eyes’ sensitivity to UV radiation.
☛ Some contact lenses come with UV protection, but that only applies to a small area of your cornea. You still need good sunglasses!
☛ Wraparound sunglasses with side panels can provide even greater protection for your eyes and the skin around them.
☛ Sunglasses are important for activities like skiing and beachgoing to protect against glare from water, sand and snow.

Source: Dr. Jay Pepose, founder and medical director of Pepose Vision Insititute