Computer Vision


Back to School

School age children can experience unexpected and sudden changes in vision that may lead to behavioral and attention issues in the classroom. Make a comprehensive eye examination a priority for your child this year.

Some important health and safety tips for your child’s eyes:

  • Look for indicators of vision issues.    Common signals that your child may be experiencing a vision problem include covering one eye, holding reading materials close to the face, a short attention span and complaining of headaches or other discomfort.


  • Prevent eye strain by monitoring use of digital devices. Increased exposure to electronic devices in and out of the classroom can cause digital eyestrain, including burning or itchy eyes, headaches, blurred vision and exhaustion. The American Optometric Association recommends following the 20-20-20 rule (taking a 20-second break, every 20 minutes and looking at something at least 20 feet away), blinking frequently and adjusting your child’s computer screen to prevent glare can prevent discomfort.


  • Wear appropriate eye protection for sports and outdoor activities.  Well-fitting, protective eye wear and quality sunglasses that offer UV protection are also critical to maintaining key visual skills for sports and preventing injuries.


One in four children has an undiagnosed vision problem because changes in their eyesight go unrecognized by both the child and their parents. Include an eye exam on your back to school list. It may be the single most important investment you can make in your child’s education and overall health.



Digital Eyestrain


A 2016 report by the Vision Council found that 60% of Americans use digital devices for 5 or more hours each day. 70% of Americans use 2 or more devices at a time.
The term Digital Eyestrain has replaced the term Computer Vision Syndrome due to the increase in types of digital devices. Digital Eyestrain is defined as “physical discomfort of one’s eyes after spending periods of time throughout the day in front of a digital device, such as a computer or smartphone.”

The list of Digital Eyestrain symptoms is long:

Eyestrain, Burning Eyes, Difficulty Refocusing, Grittiness, Dry Eyes, Blurred Vision, Headaches, Irritation, Tired Eyes, Neck/Shoulder/Back Pain, Double Vision, and Redness.

It is reported that we blink an average of 10 times a minute normally, when reading, using a smartphone or other device the blink rate drops to 4 times a minute. Blinking is a vital component to ocular surface health and tear stability. More important than how often we blink is how well we blink. An incomplete blink can cause more tear instability than not enough blinks. A complete blink is necessary to stimulate a muscle on the eyelid margin that releases an important component of the tear film.

Treatment for Digital Eyestrain includes wearing the best visual correction for the task. Reducing glare and fatiguing light with coatings is beneficial also. For contact lens wearers the proper correction for the working distance is important. A clean contact lens surface and proper blinking can minimize dry eye symptoms.


Vision at Work

According to a 2015 survey of employed US adults who had vision benefits, 92% of the respondents felt that the quality of their work was impacted by visual disturbances at the workplace. Only 13% reported this fact to their employer, even though 99% of them felt that seeing well was important. More than half of those surveyed said they were bothered by light issues at work. The top light issues or visual disturbances were tired eyes, light reflecting off a computer screen, bright glaring light, dry eyes and headaches.

When I first started my optometry career I had a huge book dedicated to occupational eye care. The book was published before the ubiquitous use of computers so the content of the book included various types of bifocals and lens designs to meet the demands of secretaries, carpenters and other occupations. There was a chapter dedicated to the wielding profession and the proper selection of tints and protective eyewear. The proper design of eyewear and safety are still very important, but more complaints involve computers and electronic devices than 25 years ago.

65% of Americans report suffering from digital eyestrain. Symptoms of digital eyestrain include neck pain, eye strain, blurred vision, headache and dry eyes. A combination of factors foster the onset of digital eye strain, including the proximity of the screen, the frequency and duration of use and the degree of exposure to high-energy visible (HEV) or blue light emitted by video screens. You don’t need to suffer. Poor vision and compromised visual working conditions reduce our productivity. Solutions are available to relieve and minimize digital eyestrain.


Visual Comfort at the Computer

computer and glasses

There are many symptoms of computer vision strain: eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, watery eyes, tired or burning eyes, squinting, and eye pain.
If you experience any of the above, here are a few things you can do now to improve your situation.
Lighting is one of the biggest problems. Light should be distributed equally to avoid discomfort. The overhead lights and windows are often too bright. If possible dim the lights over your computer and rearrange your workstation to avoid facing bright light sources such as a window. Use blinds to adjust the light allowed into the room.
If auxiliary lights are used they should be low wattage and not make the documents or desk brighter than the computer screen. Remember you are trying to equalize the lighting.
Workstation set-up is also within your control. Avoid reflective materials such as white or shiny surfaces. Desktops should be matte.
Lower the monitor and increase blink rate to reduce tear evaporation which contributes to dry eyes.

Take a Break. Follow the 20-20-20 rule. Take a 20 second break every 20 minutes. Focus your eyes on images at least 20 feet away.

It is important to have an accurate spectacle or contact lens prescription for computer use. Often a prescription designed just for the computer can relief most eye symptoms. Call (707-762-8643) or schedule an appointment online to resolve your computer vision issues.


Back to School with Technology

Today’s gadgets and devices are placing demands on young eyes. The benefits of technology have a downside, especially when it comes to the eyes. Stress on the accommodative system (focusing) causes eye fatigue.

This can cause headaches, blurred vision and other related chronic discomforts.
Nearly 1 in 4 children are on digital devices 3 or more hours per day.
School text books are rapidly moving to tablets
40% of young adults spend at least 9 hours per day on digital devices.

Computer lab

10 things you should know about digital eyestrain:

  • BLURRED VISION Think about how you look at your phone, then your computer screen, back to your phone then at the TV. Like any muscle that is holding in one position for a length of time it contracts and then has a hard time relaxing. Same goes for your eye muscles. You have been looking at near objects, the muscles have contracted, then you quickly look up and the muscles have locked up and can’t relax and your vision becomes blurred.
  • TIRED EYES. Any muscle that is fatigued is going to be sore and tired.
  • HEADACHES. When your eyes are tired you will get headaches. This type of headache tends to occur around the eyes.
  • BODY FATIGUE. At the end of the day patients are finding they are just too tired and need to close their eyes. When the eyes are closed there is nothing for them to foccus on and the muscles can relax.
  • DRY EYES. Your blink rate goes down when the eye is focusing. Every time you blink the eye needs to readjust and that is work for your eye so the blink rate drops when you focus at near work. It can drop to 10 times a minute for computer work and 4 to 6 times a minute when looking at a smart phone or tablet. Not blinking allows the eyes to dry.
  • LIGHT SENSITIVITY. Eye muscles are extremely tired when working all day. When light comes into your eye it constricts the pupil which is right next to the ciliary body. the muscles that focus the eye. So when light comes into the eye it is a similar feeling to focusing. It is similar to lifting weights all day then someone comes along and punches you in the arm. That muscle is sore and tender.
  • EYE RUBBING. What tired muscle doesn’t feel good when you rub it?
  • POOR NIGHT VISION. Our eyes do not know how to focus on light. If you are staring at a light in the distance you wouldn’t be able to tell how far away it really is.
  • REDUCED CONCENTRATION. Any time a muscle is over used, such as the eye focusing on light all day, it becomes more difficult for the eye muscles to continue to hold that position.
  • DOUBLE VISION. Diplopia or double vision is caused when the eyes do not work together. Staring at near objects such as a computer, phone or tablet require persistant converging and diverging all day. The muscles become so tired they lose the ability to hold a position and we see double.

It is difficult to avoid the use of computers and tablets, but you can take steps to reduce digital eyestrain. Wearing the correct prescription and taking advantage of blue light blocking coatings are 2 ways to make your eyes more comfortable. Make an appointment.



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.




Omega-3 Eye Benefits

Salmon filet on a wooden carving board.

Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid (EFA). EFAs are important nutrients critical for the normal production and functioning of cells, muscles, nerves and organs. Fatty acids also are required for the production of hormone-like compounds that help regulate blood pressure, heart rate and blood clotting.

Several studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may help protect adult eyes from macular degeneration and dry eye disease. In a large European study , participants who ate oily fish like salmon at least once a week had half the risk of developing wet macular degeneration, compared with those who ate fish less than once a week.

In India a study was done with computer users. Half of the group were given 2 capsules of omega-3 fatty acids and the other group was given 2 capsules of a placebo. Each group took the supplements for 3 months. At the end of the 3 month trial a survey of the participants revealed dry eye symptoms diminished after dietary intervention with the omega-3 supplements . The omega 3 users also reduced abnormal tear evaporation and increased the density of the conjunctival goblet cells on the surface of the eye. The goblet cells secrete substances that lubricate the eye during blinks, stabilize the tear film and reduce dryness.

The typical American diet, characterized by significant amounts of meat and processed foods, tends to contain 10 to 30 times more omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids. This imbalance of  fatty acids appears to be a contributing cause of a number of serious health problems, including heart disease, cancer, asthma, arthritis and depression.

One of the best steps you can take to improve your diet is to eat more foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and fewer that are high in omega-6 fatty acids.

The best food sources of a beneficial omega-3 FA are cold-water fish. The American Heart Association recommends a minimum of two servings of cold water fish weekly to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and many eye doctors likewise recommend a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids and/or supplements to reduce the risk of eye problems.

If you don’t care for the taste of fish, another way to make sure your diet contains enough omega-3 is to take fish oil supplements. These are available in capsule and liquid form and many varieties feature a “non-fishy” taste. The best time to take the supplement is with a meal so it is absorbed better.

Other good sources of omega-3 include flaxseed, flaxseed oil, walnuts and dark leafy vegetables. However, your body can’t process the vegetarian sources as easily as the fatty acid found in fish.

Too much Omega-6 can interfere with the body’s absorption of omega-3. To reduce your intake of omega-6s, avoid fried and highly process foods. Many cooking oils including sunflower oil and corn oil are very high in omega-6 fatty acids. High cooking temperatures also create harmful trans-fats.

Trans fats may contribute to a number of serious diseases, including cancer, heart disease, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, arthritis and immune system disorders.

For a more nutritious diet and potentially better eye health try theses simple changes:

  1. Replace cooking oils that are high in omega-6 fatty acids with olive oil, which has significantly lower levels of omega-6 fatty acids.
  2. Eat plenty of fish, fruits and vegetables.
  3. Avoid hydrogenated oils (found in many snack foods) and margarine.
  4. Avoid fried foods and foods containing trans fats.
  5. Limit your consumption of red meat.

Eye Strain

Our eyes were designed for us to use as hunters and gatherers. Now we hunt and gather information on the internet. We are not fully equipped to handle all of the demands placed on our eyes by today’s technological time
We have become a society seekeing efficiency and convenience. However the very devices that bring those benefits havae a downside, especially eye fatigue. The eye has a muscle, called the ciliary body that tenses up as it tries to focus on back-lit screens, hour after hour. When this muscle locks up it causes a variety of uncomfortable symptoms.

By reducing the amount of blue light that enters the eye, individuals will be able to increase their comfort and reduce eye fatigue, headaches, blurred vision and other related discomfort that can hamper the efficiency we use our smart phones and tablets for in the first place.

Within the visible light spectrum there is “good blue light” and “bad blue light.” The good blue light helps our body’s biorhythms and sleep patterns. While overexposure to High Energy Visible (HEV) or “bad blue light,” attacks us with a wide range of annoying and chronic conditions associated with Computer Vision Syndrome and Digital Eye Strain.

Fortunately there is an anti-reflective lens treatment that reflects the HEV blue light away from the eyes. This coating ensures the portion of blue light we need for optimal contrast and other health benefits is allowed to pass through while preventing the “bad blue light” from reaching our eyes. If you are bothered by eye strain and are spending more time staring at a screen ask about the blue-blocking anti-glare coating for your next pair of glasses.


Electronics and Kids Eyes

This is my last back-to-school  post for the year, but I feel  very strongly about providing children with good vision. A vision screening performed in the pediatrician’s hallway or the vision test done at school are no substitute for a comprehensive eye examination.

Eye chart - kids exams

My focus today is the use of technology: phones, games, computers and tablets. Summer vacation probably wasn’t much of a break from electronic devices for most children. The integration of technology into the classroom is more reason for children to have an eye examination.

  • Kids are digitally connected longer than parents think. According to a survey done by the American Optometric Association (AOA), 83%of children report using an electronic device more than 3 hours daily while only 40% of of parents think their kids exceed that mark; furthermore, 42% of kids report 5 hours of use or more.
  • All that time can cause eye problems. 80% of children report their eyes have burned, itched, felt tired or had blurry vision after using an electronic device.
  • Kids aren’t taking appropriate breaks. Students should follow the 20-20-20 rule. This simple rule advises that after 20 minutes of computer, tablet or other device work, the user take 20 seconds to look in the distance at least 20 feet away.
  • Most learning happens visually. An estimated 80% of all classroom learning happens through visual pathways – nearly all tasks a child performs depend on good vision.
  • Get children eye exams early. I recommend a child’s first eye exam happen at 6-12 months of age.

Get your kids off to a good start this school year. Schedule a back-to-school  eye examination.


Myopia Prevention

It might not be possible to prevent nearsightedness (myopia) completely, but researchers are making interesting discoveries about controlling myopia in children.
One intriguing finding is that kids who spend more time outdoors appear to have less risk of becoming nearsighted. Researchers in the U.K. found that for each additional hour children Myopiaspent outdoors per week. the risk of myopia fell by about 2 percent.
Though the cause for this finding is not fully understood, some scientists believe exposure to sunlight increases levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the eyes, which may prevent elongation of the eyeball.
So if you want to minimize the chances of your child developing myopia, the best advice to give them might be, “go out and play.”

Stepping away from video games and other screens can reduce visual stress which is thought to contribute to nearsightedness also. Click here to read about myopic stress.