Bright Winter Eyes

Protecting our eyes in the winter is essential for preventing short and long term problems.
Eye dryness is very common, especially on cold brisk days. Finding comfort near a warm toasty heater or fireplace can dry the eye surface too. Maintain good eyelid hygiene, stay hydrated and use artificial tears to control mild dry eye symptoms.

iStock_000023582367SmallSunglasses are important for preventing keratitis (a burn on the cornea surface) and aging effects such as cataracts, pinguecula and macular degeneration. Snow-blindness or keratitis is a painful corneal condition that can occur when the outermost layers of the cornea are damaged (like a sunburn). Damage can occur in as little as an hour of exposure to ultraviolet radiation, the risk is intensified at higher altitude.

Damage to the eye doesn’t stop on the surface. Cumulative ultraviolet exposure damages the lens of the eye causing cataract formation. Research has also found that UV radiation contributes to macular degeneration.

Wearing good UV blocking sunglasses protects all layers of the eye. The UV radiation reflected off of water and snowUV and sunglasses is dangerous too.

Don’t hang-up your sunglasses because it is winter, year-round UV protection is a proactive way to promote good eye health and clear vision for adults and children.


I See Smoke

A google search looking for “what’s in a cigarette?” produced the list below. Most of the products containing these ingredients earn a special danger or poison label. The substances are not listed on a pack of cigarettes.

Here are a few of the chemicals in tobacco smoke and the other places you can find them (list from the American Lung Association):

Acetone – found in nail polish remover
Acetic Acid – an ingredient in hair dye
Ammonia – a common household cleaner
Arsenic – used in rat poison
Benzene – found in rubber cement
Butane – used in lighter fluid
Cadmium – active component in battery acid
Carbon Monoxide – released in car exhaust fumes
Formaldehyde – embalming fluid
Hexamine – found in barbecue lighter fluid
Lead – used in batteries
Naphthalene – an ingredient in mothballs
Methanol – a main component in rocket fuel
Nicotine – used as insecticide
Tar – material for paving roads
Toluene – used to manufacture paint

How naive am I? I thought all the danger in cigarettes came from the nicotine in the tobacco leaves. I couldn’t understand where all the poisons and toxins on the above list came from. Further googling introduced me to the “additives” in cigarettes. Chemicals are added to the tobacco to flavor and fragrance the cigarette “brand”. There are additives for improving texture and holding the leaves together. I can only assume that burning the tobacco and additives creates more toxins.



Crying man with cigarette So what does this have to do with eyeballs? Unfortunately smoking contributes to many ocular conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration, dry eye disease, diabetic retinopathy and retinal vascular occlusions. Fortunately if you quit inhaling the toxic chemicals, the risk of related ocular diseases is nearly extinguished to the non-smoker level.


Sun Protection

Most of us take precautions to protect our skin from the damaging sun radiation by putting on a hat and applying sunscreen.
A significantly smaller percentage of people put on sunglasses to protect the eyes from the same ultraviolet risks. Besides glare and discomfort from the brightness, the ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun cause premature aging to the skin around the eye and the structures of the eye. In fact, the sun is the greatest environmental factor contributing to cataract formation.

SUNGLASSES provide a barrier to other eye irritants as well. Wearing sunglasses protects the eyes from wind, dust, pollen and debris. This is particularly beneficial for sports like cycling and running. maui jim 2016
COMFORT from good quality sunglasses is attributed to reducing glare and eliminating squinting. Glare can be direct from the light source or indirected (reflected). Reflected glare is eliminated best with polarized lenses. Polarized lenses are especially helpful for watersports, fishing and on the snow, skiing and snowboarding.
QUALITY SUNGLASSES will protect against all UV wavelengths (A,B and high energy wavelengths). The lenses will be centered and have clearer optics than the sunglasses you find at the grocery store and gas stations. A premium sunglass frame is comfortable, fits well and is durable. It is also resistant to corrosion, tarnish, peeling and chipping.

Long-Term UV damage cannot be repaired. It is cumulative. Protect your eyes today, wear quality sunglasses.
And don’t forget the kids, they are more susceptible to UV damage than adults.


Keep Your Vision Healthy

Clear View

Did you know your eyes are windows to your general health? Many systemic conditions can be detected with a dilated eye examination. Looking into a dilated eye, I can see a view of the blood vessels and assess vascular health. Your eyes can tell a lot about your visual health and overall wellness.
Besides helping you see better, annual eye exams can aid in detection of serious eye conditions, like glaucoma and cataracts and health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. This is important since you won’t always notice the symptoms yourself – and some of these diseases cause irreversible damage.

If it’s been at least a year since your last eye examination, call the office and schedule an appointment. (707)762-8643. Schedule online.


How Does Diabetes Damage Your Eyes?

November is Diabetes Awareness month. High amounts of blood sugar can harm the internal structures of the eye. Below are some of the things that diabetes can do to the eyes.

  • Blurry or Double Vision. Fluctuating blood sugar and fluctuating vision are connected. A change in glucose levels affects the eye’s ability to maintain sharp focus. It may take several months after your blood sugar is well controlled for your vision to stabilize.


  • Diabetic Retinopathy. The leading cause of diabetes-related vision loss is diabetic Diabetic Retinopathy retinopathy. This condition damages the network of blood vessels supplying the retina with blood and oxygen. It also causes abnormal growth of blood vessels on the retina. When these vessels leak they damage  the retina causing permanent vision loss.
  • (the picture on the left is an example of fluid and blood leakage in diabetic retinopathy.)



  • Cataracts. People with diabetes have a much greater risk of developing cataracts and at an earlier age. A cataract is clouding of the eye’s natural lens and results in glare and obscured vision.
  • Glaucoma. Diabetes also increases your risk of developing glaucoma. This condition results from an increase in fluid pressure inside the eyeball, which causes damage to the retina and optic nerve. If untreated, glaucoma leads to gradual but permanent vision loss.

Actions to take right now include the following: Eating sensibly, the American Diabetes Association recommends filling half your plate with vegetables, a quarter of the plate should be lean protein and the rest a carbohydrate. Make time for 30 minutes of exercise everyday. Take your medicine as prescribed and know your blood sugar level.

Preventing diabetes is the best way to avoid diabetic damage to the eyes, but if you already have diabetes, regular eye examinations can prevent permanent damage to the eye due to elevated blood sugar.



Westside Goes to Seattle

It’s been nearly a month since Maureen, Nannette and I came home from the American Optometric Association (AOA) meeting in Seattle.  seattle starbucksWe had amazing weather, it was in the mid-80’s! Besides enjoying the weather, the abundance of coffee and a beautiful city, we attended some excellent classes.
Nannette participated an ocular anatomy workshop where she dissected a cow’s eye to better understand the structures and function of the eye. She and Maureen also went to a lensometry workshop to learn the intricacies of measuring lens prescriptions and parameters such as power, astigmatism and axis postition.
The new buzz in eyecare is the effect of blue light that is emitted from digital devices. It is thought that exposure to the blue light can cause sleep disruption and even macular damage. It’s nearly impossible to avoid our phones, tablets, computers and even TVs so blue light filters and gaming glasses are available.
Maureen went to a contact lens course which emphasized the importance of proper care, cleaning and replacement to maintain successful wear of contact lenses.
OCT AOAAll 3 of us spent time looking at new equipment and asking the vendors questions about instruments we use in our office. We found and purchased some items to use for our dry eye treatments. I also bought a device to aid in determing spectacle prescriptions for my pediatric patients.
The courses that I learned the most at were one on glaucoma and another on cataracts. In particular the cataract course described new technology and how it compared to current surgical procedures. The educator also talked about the “premium” intra-ocular lenses (IOLs) that include multi-focal and toric designs to correct most refractive errors.

We returned to Petaluma inspired and ready to implement our new knowledge.




How the Eye Sees Color

Color VisionThe 6 to 7 million cones in the human retina are responsible for color vision. The cones are photoreceptors concentrated in the central zone of the retina called the macula. The center of the macula is called the fovea, and this tiny (0.3mm diameter) area contains the highest concentration of cones in the retina and is responsible for our most acute color vision.

Inherited forms of color blindness often are related to deficiencies in certain types of cones or outright absence of these cones. Color blindness is not a form of blindness at all, but a deficiency in the way we see color. With this vision problem, individuals have difficulty distinguishing certain colors, such as blue and yellow or red and green.

Color vision deficiency is an inherited condition that affects males more frequently than females. An estimated 8 percent of males and less than 1 percent of females have color vision problems.

Red-green color deficiency is the most common form of color deficiency. Red-green color blindness is caused by a common X-linked recessive gene. Your mother must be a carrier of the gene or be color deficient herself. Fathers with this inherited form of red-green color blindness pass the X-linked gene to their daughters but not their sons, because a son cannot receive X-linked genetic material from his father.

Any time a mother passes along this X-linked trait to her son, he will inherit the color vision deficiency and have trouble distinguishing reds and greens.

There is no cure for color blindness. But some coping strategies may help an individual function better in a color-oriented world. Most people are able to adapt to color vision deficiencies without too much trouble. But some professions should be avoided, such as graphic designer, ship pilots, interior decorator and other occupations that  require precise differentiation of colors and depend on accurate color perception.

If the color deficiency is identified early enough in life, the individual may be able to compensate by training for one of the many careers that are not as dependent on the ability to see in a full range of colors.

It is possible to develop color vision problems later in life. Sudden or gradual loss of color vision can indicate any number of underlying health problems, such as cataracts. Color blindness can occur when changes due to aging  damage retinal cells. An injury or damage to areas of the brain where vision processing takes place also can cause color vision changes. If you feel your perception of color is changing, schedule an eye exam.

At Westside Optometry we use a desaturated color vision test that takes a couple of minutes.


How does Diabetes Damage the Eyes?

Vision Loss

Over time uncontrolled blood sugar and poor circulation can harm the internal structures of the eye.
Blurry or Double Vision
Fluctuating blood sugar and fluctuating vision are connected. A change in glucose levels affects the eye’s ability to maintain sharp focus. It may take several months after your blood sugar is well controlled for your vision to stabilize.
Diabetic Retinopathy
The leading cause of diabetes-related vision loss is diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy can damages the network of blood vessels supplying the retina or cause the growth of  abnormal  blood vessels on the retina. When these fragile blood vessels leak, the fluid and blood damage the retina and can cause permanent vision loss.
People with diabetes have a much greater risk for developing cataracts and at an earlier age. A cataract is clouding of the eye’s natural lens and results in the inability to focus light, glare and compromised vision,
Diabetes also increases your risk of developing glaucoma. Glaucoma causes irreversible damage to the retina and optic nerve. If untreated, this damage leads to vision loss.

Scheduling regular eye exams can help detect diabetes-related eye diseases before they cause irreversible damage.
Exercise, a healthy diet and keeping glucose levels and blood pressure controlled can also help control eye problems.


Aging Eyes


It’s a fact of life that vision can change over time, resulting in a number of noticeable differences in how aging adults see the world around them.
Common age-related vision problems include difficulty seeing things up close or far away, problems seeing in low light or at night, and sensitivity to light and glare. Some symptoms that may seem like minor vision problems may actually be signs of serious eye diseases that could lead to permanent vision loss, including:

  • Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). An eye disease affecting the macula, the center of the light sensitive retina at the back of the eye. AMD can cause loss of central vision.
  • Cataracts. A clouding of the lens of the eye that usually develops slowly over time and can interfere with vision. Cataracts can cause a decrease in visual contrast between objects and their background, a dulling of colors and an increased sensitivity to glare.
  • Diabetic Retinopathy. A condition occurring in people with diabetes, which causes progressive damage to the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina. The longer a person has diabetes, the more likely they are to develop the condition, which can lead to blindness.
  • Glaucoma. An eye disease leading to progressive damage to the optic nerve due to rising internal fluid pressure in the eye. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness.
  • Dry Eyes. Dry Eye occurs when there is insufficient tears to nourish the eyes. This can be caused by medications, hormones and environmental factors. Poor tear quality can cause dry eye symptoms too.

Many eye diseases have no early symptoms and may develop painlessly; therefore adults may not notice changes in vision until the condition is quite advanced. Healthy lifestyle choices can help ward off eye diseases and maintain existing eyesight. Eating a low-fat diet rich in green, leafy vegetables and fish, not smoking, monitoring blood pressure levels, exercising regularly and wearing proper sunglasses to protect eyes from Ultraviolet (UV) rays can all play a role in preserving eyesight and eye health. Early diagnosis, treatment of serious eye diseases and disorders is critical and can often prevent a total loss of vision, improve adults’ independence and quality of life.

The best way to prevent eye disease and continue leading an active productive live is to maintain yearly eye exams or follow the doctor’s recommendations.


Too Much Sun can be Dangerous for Eyes

Corneal Sunburn

If the eyes are exposed to excessive amount of Ultraviolet (UV) radiation over a short period of time, “sunburn” called photokeratitis can occur on the surface of the eye (the cornea). This condition Sun and the Eyes may be painful and includes symptoms such as red eyes, a foreign-body sensation or gritty feeling in the eyes, blurry vision, excessive tearing and extreme sensitivity to light. Photokeratitis is also called snowblindness because it occurs often when enjoying winter sports where the light is reflected from the snow. It is usually temporary and rarely causes permanent damage, but can take days to heal.
 Premature Aging
Ongoing exposure to UV radiation, however, can cause serious harm to the eyes and age them prematurely. Research has shown that exposure to small amounts of UV radiation over time increases the chance of developing cataracts, macular degeneration and eye cancer.

Whether it’s cloudy or sunny, summer or winter protect your eyes from the sun’s rays in order to decrease the risk of eye diseases and disorders.
A good rule of thumb to follow is to wear sunglasses, glasses or contact lenses with UV protection, apply sunscreen and wear a hat to protect the eyes and tissues around them.
And don’t forget your children, their eyes are more susceptible to damage from UV.
A good way to monitor eye health, maintain good vision and keep up-to-date on the latest UV protection is by scheduling yearly comprehensive eye exams.