Children Need Sunglasses Too

Summer or winter, what you don’t know can harm your child’s eyes! The beach, the backyard pool…even the ski slopes are very inviting but eye damage can be just around the corner. The most immediate danger is photokeratitis, a painful type of corneal sunburn linked to the bright sunlight reflected off water, sand and snow. Reflected sunlight can double the exposure to harmful UV rays. Long-term exposure to UV light can lead to cataracts, skin cancer around the eyelids and even damage to the retina.

The amount of UV that reaches earth is dependent on the latitude and elevation. More reaches the earth near the equator and at higher elevations. When the sun is directly overhead during mid day, the amount of UV reaching earth is much greater than before 10 AM or after 4 PM.

Ultraviolet damage is cumulative. Exposure to UV light, wind, and dryness can cause pingueculas. These are abnormal, but usually non-cancerous, growths on the white part of the eye near the nose. They can start in the teen years or early adulthood and can grow onto the front part of the cornea, possibly requiring surgical removal. Protection from UV exposure and wind starting early in life can help reduce the incidence of these growths. It is estimated that 80% of lifetime absorption to UV light occurs before the age of 18. Unfortunately, a recent survey found that a high percentage of parents are unaware of the potential for damage and rarely protect their children’s eyes.

Lighter colored eyes, just as lighter skin, have less pigment and are therefore more susceptible to damage from the sun. Infants are especially at risk for sun damage because of the clarity of their corneas and lenses. One of the problems with young children wearing sunglasses is that they tend to pull them off! Sunglasses made from tough, shatter-resistant, polycarbonate, are available in sizes for infants and toddlers. Some sunglasses for children even come with elastic bands built right into the frames. A variety of sun-protection hats, T-shirts and other clothing is also available for children.

Everyone, including children, should protect their eyes from the sun’s harmful rays. Sunglasses with UV protection can help boost the eyes’ ability to filter out the damaging rays. However, sunglasses that do not block UV rays should be avoided. Sunglasses shade the eyes from the bright sun and cause the pupils to dilate somewhat. If the UV rays are not blocked by the lenses, more UV enters the eyes that if no lenses are worn.

Guidelines for selecting sunglasses for your child:

  • Sunglasses should block 99% to 100% of both types of ultraviolet rays: UV-A and UV-B. Be wary of labels that claim a product blocks harmful UV without specifying exactly what amount of UV rays they block.
  • Select sunglasses that suit children’s active lifestyles. Lenses should be impact resistant and the frames should be bendable, unbreakable and/or have snap-on temples. Polycarbonate is the most impact resistant material available and the best choice for active children. Children’s sunglasses should never be made of glass.
  • Check the lenses carefully for scratches, bubbles and distortions. Here’s an easy test for non-prescription lenses: hold the glasses away from your eyes and look through the lenses at a good horizontal or vertical line, such as a window frame. If the line appears wavy instead of straight, the glasses may actually make it more difficult to see (although some distortion may be seen with prescription lenses for corrective purposes).
  • Have your child try on the sunglasses before making a purchase. The lenses should be large enough to shield the eyes from most angles (above, below and either side) and to block light that enters in around the frames. The sunglasses should also fit snugly against the bridge of the child’s nose in order to reduce the amount of sunlight that enters the eyes.
  • Check the sunglasses periodically to make sure they fit well and are not damaged. Children often don’t complain about their vision even when there is a problem. A regular check of their glasses is a good idea.
  • Look at the amount of UV protection, lens quality, and durability to assure that you buy the right sunglasses for your child. If you have questions, always consult your eye doctor.

Sources:
1. American Optometric Association
2. Prevent Blindness America

Dry Eye Syndrome: Symptoms and Treatment

dry eyesDry eye syndrome is a common condition that we see most often in older adults. We call it “keratoconjunctivitis sicca.” You can call it DES, or simply dry eye.

For millions of people, dry eye is a condition in which the eyes don’t produce enough tears to adequately lubricate and nourish the surface of the eye (the cornea) and surrounding tissues. Dry eyes can also be caused because the eyes produce poor quality tears that can’t do the job they were intended for.

Why Your Tears are Important

Tear production directly impacts the health and comfort of your eyes. Your tear glands constantly produce small amounts of tears, creating a smooth surface over the cornea. This constant lubrication is essential so your eyelids can open and close over your eyes without causing irritation or soreness.

Your tears also:

  • Reduce the risk of an eye infection
  • Wash away dirt and debris in your eyes
  • Keep the surface of your eyes smooth and clear

Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome

Common symptoms of dry eye syndrome include:

  • Irritation
  • Itching
  • Redness (“bloodshot eyes”)
  • An increased sensitivity to light

If you think, “Hey, that’s how I felt last week,” think back to what you were doing. We’ve all had red, dry eyes at some point. Were you in a hot, windy environment? Working in an office with air constantly blowing onto your face? Or spending too much time staring at a computer, cellphone or TV screen?

A constant breeze can dry out your eyes. Staring intently at digital displays of a TV screen can cause you to not blink as often as you should; when that happens, your eyes don’t get the moisture they need.

If you weren’t trekking across the Sahara Desert (or watching a long movie about it on TV), and you’ve noticed that your eyes feel dry more often than they used to, please let us know. We can schedule an appointment to help determine if you have dry eye and what treatment options are right for you.

Treatments for Dry Eye Syndrome

While common, dry eye syndrome isn’t something you’ll simply “get over,” like the common cold. Instead, we can prescribe one or more treatments for you to help alleviate the symptoms.

Treatments may include:

  • Applying eye drops. If your eyes are chronically dry, then applying moisture by using artificial tears throughout your day may help. Splashing water in your face won’t do the trick. That’s because your tears are more than just water. They also contain other ingredients that help fight infection and lubricate the eye to keep it moist.
  • Ointments and other medications. If you need a little help getting those tears to start flowing, we may be able to prescribe medication to help.
  • Conserving your natural tears. To keep natural tears in your eyes longer, the small ducts that allow tears to drain can be blocked with tiny silicone or gel–like plugs that can later be removed, if needed. A surgical procedure is also available to permanently close the tear ducts.

If you’re concerned about dry eye, or think you or a loved one may have the condition, give us a call to schedule an appointment. We’re here to help!

Nothing in this article is to be construed as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the recommendations of a medical professional. For specific questions, please contact our office.

Adapted with permission from: Dry Eye: What Is It and What Can You Do To Help?CooperVision.com.

Blurry Vision Up Close? Consider Multifocal Contacts

At about age 40, many of our patients begin having difficulty focusing their eyes on objects up close. They now have to hold anything they are reading farther away from their eyes in order to see it clearly. A condition called presbyopia is a likely cause. It’s both very common and very treatable.

If you’d like an alternative to reading glasses, consider multifocal contact lenses. They allow your eyes to focus up close, far away and in between without the need for eyeglasses.

How multifocal contact lenses work

A single multifocal contact lens contains multiple prescriptions. There’s typically one prescription to correct up close vision, one for distance vision, and one for intermediate distance vision. This design lets your eyes smoothly transition for clear vision at different distances.

What’s the difference between multifocal and bifocal contacts?

Multifocal contact lenses have a range of prescriptions (optical powers) in the same lens. Much like progressive eyeglasses, multifocal lenses provide a gradual transition between the different prescriptions in each lens.

Bifocal lenses, on the other hand, have just two prescriptions in each lens. And there is a distinct edge between the near and far vision prescription areas of the lens. This can be a problem for some patients because instead of having a gradual transition between prescriptions, they have to learn how to visually switch between the two prescriptions. In addition, bifocals may adversely affect your depth perception.

Types of multifocal contacts

Manufacturers of multifocal contact lenses use either soft lens materials or “hard” rigid gas permeable (RGP) materials. In addition to conventional soft lenses, there are also advanced soft lenses made with silicone hydrogel. This material allows more oxygen to reach your eyes so they stay comfortable longer.

The most common multifocal lens design features a set of concentric circles. The circles cover the range of lens powers we prescribe so you can see up close and at different distances.

There are also blended designs that keep both the near and distance prescriptions close to the center of your eye (your pupil). This design mimics a natural viewing experience by correcting the specific points of aberration in your eyes.

Are multifocal contact lenses right for you?

We can help you determine if multifocal lenses are the best solution for you. Here are some  key benefits and drawbacks to consider.

Key benefits of wearing multifocal contacts

  • Sharper vision for the range of distances from near to far
  • A less abrupt switch between prescriptions
  • The ability to see in most conditions without extra eyewear

Drawbacks to wearing multifocal contacts

For some people, multifocal lenses may be:

  • More difficult to adjust to due to a different viewing experience
  • Accompanied by nighttime glare and hazy or shadowy vision during the adjustment period
  • More expensive because of the increased complexity in design

Alternatives to multifocal contact lenses

Multifocal lenses aren’t the best choice for everyone. Bifocals may be the answer to correct your presbyopia. Other options include:

  • Pairing reading glasses with normal contact lenses
  • Monovision contact lenses, meaning you wear one lens to correct only near vision in one eye and one lens to correct only distance vision in your other eye.
  • Surgical correction or lens implantation recommended by your doctor

If presbyopia has become a problem for you, we encourage you to make an appointment with us to discuss your options. Your eyesight and vision health are our top concern.

Contact Lenses for Dry Eyes

Have you been told you can’t wear contact lenses because your eyes are too dry? Or have you stopped wearing contacts because your lenses made your eyes feel dry and irritated?

If so, here’s some good news: today there are new contact lenses and contact lens care products that are making contact lens wear more comfortable than ever.

Dry Eyes: A Common Problem

Statistics vary from study to study, but the conclusion is consistent: dry eye problems are very common. In July 2014, Contact Lens Spectrum reported results of a survey that found approximately one-third of adult patients visiting eye care providers had some degree of dry eye.

And for computer users, the problem appears to be even worse. In a study published in American Journal of Ophthalmology (July 2013), researchers in Japan found that among full-time office workers who routinely use a computer, roughly 60 percent of males and more than 75 percent of females showed signs and symptoms of dry eye disease (DED). Risk factors included being over age 30 and using a computer more than eight hours per day.

It’s no wonder, then, that many people find their contact lenses feeling dry from time to time.

If you have severe dry eyes, the only real solution to contact lens dryness discomfort is to see your eye care provider to have your dry eye condition successfully treated before attempting or resuming contact lens wear.

But if your dry eye symptoms are relatively mild, you may find that asking your eye care provider for a different type or brand of contact lenses or switching to a new contact lens care regimen may significantly improve your contact lens comfort.

Contact Lenses Designed To Retain Moisture

Because dryness discomfort is a primary reason why people discontinue contact lens wear, several lens manufactures have introduced soft contacts that are specifically designed to retain moisture better than previous hydrogel technology. Examples of these moisture-retaining soft lenses include:

Proclear lenses (CooperVision) are made of a high-water hydrogel material and feature technology that uses molecules similar to those in human cell membranes. These molecules attract and surround themselves with water, keeping Proclear lenses moist and comfortable for 12 hours of wear or longer, according to the company. Other contact lenses that feature proprietary technology to retain moisture longer than other soft lenses include Extreme H2O lenses (Hydrogel Vision) and Dailies Total 1 lenses (Alcon).

Extreme H2O lenses are available in weekly and two-week disposable designs; Dailies Total 1 lenses are one-day disposable lenses.

Your eye care provider can discuss these and other brands of hydrogel and silicone hydrogel lenses that may stay moist and comfortable longer than your previous and/or current lenses.

Moisture-Enhancing Lens Care Products

Sometimes, changing to a different contact lens solution or lens care system can significantly improve your wearing comfort. In particular, if you wear silicone hydrogel lenses, some of these lenses will stay moist longer with the use of specific care products.

But don’t make any changes to your lens care products without first consulting with your eye doctor. Certain lenses perform better with specific solutions, and your doctor can make the best choices for you based on your specific needs.

Different brands of contact lens solutions can look the same on the store shelf. Bring all care products that you are currently using with you when you visit your doctor so there is no confusion regarding the products you are using.

Preservative-Free Lens Care

Most contact lens wearers use multipurpose care solutions for rinsing, disinfecting and storing their lenses. These products contain preservatives that sometimes can irritate your eyes and make them feel dry.

If you lenses are becoming uncomfortable — even if you have used multipurpose solutions for months without problems — ask your eye care provider if switching to a preservative-free lens care system with hydrogen peroxide as the disinfecting agent might be a better choice for you.

Daily Disposable Contact Lenses

Lens deposits that form on contact lenses over time can cause lenses to dry out more easily and cause discomfort. To eliminate day-after-day buildup on lenses, consider switching to daily disposable lenses that you discard after a single use.

Often, switching to daily disposable lenses eliminates discomfort issues, whether they are caused by lens deposits, dryness or sensitivity to preservatives in lens care products.

Rewetting Drops

contact lensesSometimes contact lens-related dry eyes can be solved with occasional use eye drops known as contact lens rewetting drops. Ask your eye care provider which brands are best for the type of contact lenses you are wearing.

Do not use artificial tears or other eye drops while wearing contact lenses without first checking with your eye doctor, as some drops can discolor or damage your lenses or cause your contacts to adhere to the surface of your eyes.

Can Fish Oil Relieve Dry Eyes?

If you have dry eyes, there may be a simple way for you to treat the problem and get a number of other health benefits, too — start taking a daily fish oil supplement.

Fish oils and fatty fish — such as salmon, tuna and sardines — are excellent sources of omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA) that are important to health.

Fatty acids are important for the normal production and functioning of cells, muscles, nerves and organs throughout the body. Fatty acids also are required for the production of hormone-like compounds that help regulate blood pressure, heart rate and blood clotting.

Essential fatty acids, like those found in fish oil, are called “essential” because our bodies can’t produce them; to stay healthy, we have to get them from our diet.

Fish oil contains two important “long chain” omega-3s called eicoapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Our bodies need EPA and DHA for many vital functions, including producing tears to keep the eyes moist and healthy.

Other health benefits of EPA and DHA include reduced risk of heart disease and a reduction of chronic inflammation that can lead to a variety of serious diseases, including osteoarthritis, cancer, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.

Daily supplements of fish oil, when used alone or in tandem with lubricating eye drops, appear to reduce dry eye symptoms, including burning, stinging, redness and intermittent visual disturbances.

For example, a recent study published in Ophthalmology demonstrated that adults with dry eye symptoms who took daily oral supplements of omega-3 fatty acids totaling 360 mg EPA and 240 mg DHA for 30 days experienced an increase in tear secretion, a decrease in the rate of tear evaporation and a reduction in dry eye symptoms, compared with controls.

Based on these results and findings from other studies, many eye doctors are recommending fish oil supplements for their patients who suffer from dry eyes.

Some research suggests these same omega-3 fatty acids may also reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.

If you don’t like the idea of taking fish oil supplements every day, it appears you may obtain the same benefits by eating grilled cold-water fish at least three times a week. Good sources of EPA and DHA omega-3s include salmon, sablefish, tuna and halibut.

Is There a Vegetarian Alternative?

If you are a vegetarian, you can use freshly ground flax seeds or liquid flaxseed oil as an alternative to fish oil for the treatment of dry eyes.

But there’s a catch: Instead of containing EPA and DHA, flax seeds and flaxseed oil contain a “short chain” omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) that must be converted to EPA and DHA during digestion. And this conversion process isn’t very efficient. Our bodies convert only about 5 percent of dietary ALA into EPA and DHA.

You can purchase whole flax seeds in bulk at most health food stores. To get the greatest nutritional benefit, grind the seeds with an automatic coffee grinder right before you use them. Sprinkle the freshly ground seeds over salads, add them to a smoothie or mix them in fruit juice.

Flaxseed oil supplements are available in capsules or as a liquid. The capsules may seem more convenient, but you have to take a large number of them to achieve the daily dose of EPA and DHA many eye doctors recommend to treat dry eyes.

Also, the nutritional value of flaxseed oil is easily destroyed by light, heat and oxygen. So when purchasing flaxseed oil, look for a cold-pressed variety and keep it refrigerated to prolong its potency.

Precautions

Omega-3 fatty acids from fish are classified as GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, fish oil can cause stomach upset and/or diarrhea in some individuals, especially if taken in high doses.

Other possible side effects include increased burping, acid reflux, heartburn and abdominal bloating or pain. Risk of these side effects can be minimized if you take fish oils with meals and if you start with low doses.

Also, some fish oil supplements have a fishy aftertaste. This can be reduced by refrigerating the capsules or liquid, or by purchasing brands that promise no such problems.

Concerns about mercury poisoning from fish oils generally are unfounded. When present in waterways, methylmercury accumulates in fish meat more than in fish oil, and testing of fish oil supplements show they generally contain little or no mercury. Still, if this is a concern, using flaxseed oil as an alternative eliminates this issue.

As with any nutritional supplement, it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor before taking significant quantities of fish oil or flaxseed oil for dry eyes to avoid unwanted side effects or interactions with any prescription or over-the-counter medicines you may be taking.

For example, fish oil and flaxseed oil can increase the risk of bleeding if you are taking blood thinners (even aspirin).

Also, long-term use of fish oil may cause a vitamin E deficiency in some individuals. If you begin taking a daily fish oil supplement for dry eyes, consider taking a vitamin E supplement as well. For safety, discuss your plans with your physician or eye doctor before taking any nutritional supplements.

Important Tips for Contact Lens Wearers

Whether you’re new to contact lenses, or you’ve been wearing them for years, it’s important to put the following tips into practice.

Putting in and Removing Your Contact Lenses

First, wash and dry your hands thoroughly.

contact lensesWhatever is on your hands when you touch your contact lenses could end up in your eyes. That’s why it’s important to thoroughly wash your hands with antimicrobial soap. Then dry your hands thoroughly with a clean towel before handling your contact lenses.

Also, avoid using cream or oil-based soaps and lotions before touching your contacts, as these can contaminate your lenses or leave an oily film.

Always start with the same eye for contact lens insertion.

When inserting your contacts, start with the same eye every time. You’ll be less likely to switch the lenses by mistake. That’s especially important because your left and right contact lenses can have different prescriptions.

Place your contact lens in your palm.

Hold your contact lens by putting it in the palm of your hand. Pinching the lens between your fingers increases the chance you’ll nick it with your fingernail. Fingernails can harm the surface of the lens, and are also a rich source of bacteria.

Remove Your Contacts if You Experience Pain or Discomfort

If your contact lenses start to hurt or feel uncomfortable, or if people comment on the redness of your eyes, remove your lenses. Then check them for cracks or scratches, and discard any damaged lenses.

If pain or discomfort happen repeatedly when wearing your contact lenses, give us a call to schedule an appointment. We can help diagnose the problem and make sure you have the right lenses for you. In the meantime, it may be best to wear your eyeglasses instead.

Stock up on contact lens solution

Unless you wear daily disposable contact lenses, it’s a hassle to discover you’re out of lens cleaning solution at the end of a long day. Having contact lens solution on hand is especially important because you should use fresh cleaning solution each time you touch and store your contact lenses. Never use tap water to clean your contacts. It can contain impurities and infectious microorganisms.

Keep Your Glasses With You

Having your glasses available, especially during vacations, will come in handy. For example, many contact lens wearers prefer their glasses first thing in the morning before they head out for the day. And if debris or another irritant makes your lenses uncomfortable during the day, you’ll be glad you kept a pair of glasses with you.

Always Wear Sunglasses, Even is With UV-protective Contacts

Even UV-protective contact lenses don’t block all of the UV rays that harm your eyes. Wearing UV-protective sunglasses will help reduce the strain and harm to your eyes and vision. Be sure to tell us about the kinds of outdoor activities you do so we can help assess your exposure risk and recommend the right protection for you.

Only Buy Contact Lenses From Legitimate Sources–and With a Valid Prescription

Any contacts you buy need to be prescribed by a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist–even lenses without vision correction, such as color contacts or decorative contacts worn for Halloween. In fact, in the U.S., you cannot buy contact lenses without a valid prescription. That’s because contact lenses are considered medical devices. And only a licensed eye care professional can ensure your contacts are medically safe and properly fitted for you.

Remember, taking care of your contacts is essential to taking care of your vision and your eye health.

If you’d like to schedule an appointment to see if contact lenses are right for you, or if you have questions about your current contacts or are experiencing any wearing problems, please give us a call.

Nothing in this article is to be construed as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the recommendations of a medical professional. For specific questions, please contact our office.

Contact Lens Basics

Contact lenses are an excellent vision correction option for people of all ages. According to data provided by The Vision Council in September 2014, approximately 16 percent of the U.S. population (roughly 39.3 million adults) report wearing contact lenses at least part time.

Recent advances in lens materials and care products have made contact lenses more comfortable than ever. Even people who have had problems wearing contacts in the past often are good candidates for contact lenses today.

Here are the basics you should know about modern contact lenses. For the very latest information, visit your eye care provider for a comprehensive eye exam and contact lens evaluation to see which lenses might be best for you.

Types of Contacts – By Lens Material

Basically, there are three major categories of contact lenses based on the materials they are made of:

Soft Contact Lenses

Also called hydrogel or silicone hydrogel lenses, soft contact lenses are very thin, moist and flexible. The term “hydrogel” is used because they are made of water-absorbing materials that give them a watery, gel-like feel. In fact, roughly 40 to 70 percent of the weight of a soft lens is due to the water it contains. This, combined with the fact that soft lenses are very thin, makes them immediately comfortable and very easy for most people to wear. Approximately 90 percent of contact lenses worn in the U.S. are soft lenses. Most of these are silicone hydrogel lenses, which transmit more oxygen to the surface of the eye than conventional hydrogel lenses.

Rigid Gas Permeable Contact Lenses

Also called GP or RGP lenses, these contacts are made of rigid plastics and often provide sharper, more stable vision than soft lenses. GP contact lenses also enable more oxygen to reach the surface of the eye than many soft lenses, which may decrease the risk of certain contact lens-related eye problems. But because of their rigid nature and thicker profile, GP lenses can take some time to get used to, and some people cannot wear the lenses comfortably. For these reasons, less than 10 percent of contact lenses worn in the U.S. are rigid gas permeable lenses.

Hybrid Contact Lenses

These advanced contact lenses have an optical center made of rigid gas permeable plastic, surrounded by a zone made of soft lens material. This hybrid design provides the sharp optics of a GP contact lens, with wearing comfort that is more comparable to that of soft lenses. But this combination of features also makes hybrid contact lenses significantly more costly to manufacture, causing them to be more expensive than soft lenses or GP lenses. And fitting hybrid lenses can be more challenging and time-consuming than fitting soft or GP lenses. For these reasons, less than 5 percent of contact lens wearers in the U.S. wear hybrid lenses.

Types of Soft Contact Lenses

Within the dominant category of soft contact lenses, there are many types of lenses to choose from to fit your vision correction and lifestyle needs.

Disposable lenses

Most soft contact lenses sold today are disposable lenses: you wear them for a recommended number of days, and then throw them away and replace them with a fresh pair. Most disposable lenses are designed to be discarded and replaced monthly or every two weeks. But there are also daily disposable lenses that are designed to be discarded after being worn only once, eliminating the need for lens care products. Replacing your contacts frequently decreases the risk of lens deposits that can lead to discomfort and eye infections.

Daily wear or extended wear lenses

Daily wear lenses are contacts that must be removed before sleep. Extended wear lenses are contacts that have been approved by the FDA for continuous wear (24 hr/day) for up to 30 days. Wearing contact lenses during sleep — even extended wear lenses designed for this purpose — significantly increases the risk of eye infections. For this reason, most eye doctors recommend daily wear.

Single vision or multifocal lenses

Most contact lens wearers are under age 45 and see well with conventional “single vision” lenses that have the same power for seeing objects at all distances. But for people over age 40 who need a bifocal prescription, there are a variety of multifocal soft contact lenses to eliminate (or significantly reduce) the need for reading glasses. Multifocal contact lenses are available in GP and hybrid lens designs as well.

Toric lenses for astigmatism

Toric soft lenses are hydrogel or silicone hydrogel lenses with a special design that corrects astigmatism as well as nearsightedness or farsightedness. These lenses have two types of lens power — a “sphere” power to correct nearsightedness or farsightedness, and a “cylinder” power to correct astigmatism — and a special design to keep the astigmatism power aligned properly. (GP and hybrid contacts can correct common types of astigmatism without a toric design.)

Color and special-effect lenses

Soft lenses also are available in colors to enhance the color of your eyes or change them from brown to blue, green or a variety of other attractive colors.

For an even more dramatic change in appearance, there also is a wide variety of special-effect soft contact lenses that can make you look like an alien, a vampire, or some other startling creature.

Color and special-effect contact lenses also are available without refractive power for people who don’t need corrective eyewear and simply want to change the appearance of their eyes. Like contact lenses with corrective power, however, contact lenses worn for cosmetic purposes only must be fitted and prescribed by a licensed eye care provider, properly cleaned and stored, and worn and replaced as specified by the prescriber.

Which Contacts Are Best for You?

The first step in determining the best contact lenses for your needs is to have a comprehensive eye exam with your eye care provider. During this exam, your doctor will perform a number of tests that will determine if you are a good candidate for contact lens wear.

In some cases, conditions like dry eyes or allergies must be successfully treated before contact lens wear is recommended. But with today’s modern lens materials and designs — in particular, with the availability of daily disposable contact lenses in several designs, including toric lenses for astigmatism and multifocal lenses for age-related loss of near vision — most people can wear contact lenses successfully, whether it’s for full-time daily wear, for sports and other outdoor activities, or for special occasions.

Eyeglasses That Suit Your Style

Eyeglasses play two important (and very different) roles — they correct your vision to influence how you see the world; and they contribute to your appearance and style, influencing how the world sees you.

So it’s wise to keep these two functions in mind when shopping for glasses: you want glasses that give you the best vision possible — and that complement your style, too!

When it comes to style, it’s all about the frames.

Would You Wear Flip-Flops with a Business Suit?

First things first: Unless your budget simply won’t allow it, you should be thinking about purchasing more than one pair of glasses to complement your wardrobe and lifestyle.

Even if your style is just-off-the-beach casual, you wouldn’t wear flip-flops to an important business meeting, would you? (Okay, maybe if you’re in the surfboard business you might, but you get the picture, right?) Or wear running shoes with an evening dress. So dispel yourself of the notion that one pair of glasses will give you the look you want or need for every situation.

That said, here are some general tips for a few common styles:

Eyeglasses for Serious Business

To put your best face forward and exude confidence with a wide variety of business clients and colleagues, it’s usually best to stay with conservative frame shapes and colors. Also:

  • Minimalist metal or rimless frames are always good.
  • Classic oval and rectangular shapes usually look best with business attire.
  • Silver, gunmetal, brown and black are good choices for men.
  • Silver, gold, espresso brown, burgundy and black are good choices for women.
  • Classic tortoise patterns also work well for women and men.
  • Avoid bright colors or unusual shapes.
  • Avoid very large and very small lens sizes; stay in the middle.

Glasses That Show Your Creativity

For a more creative or fashion-forward appearance and for fun times outside the office, consider frames that are more attention-grabbing in shape and color:

  • Consider geometric shapes in thicker and larger plastic frames.
  • For metal frames look for styles with more temple detailing.
  • Consider frames with more dramatic colors or patterns.
  • Multi-colored laminates are often a good choice.
  • Retro or vintage styles with modern detailing and/or colors also are good.

Glasses for the Modern Baby Boomer or Senior

Just because you’re eligible for an AARP card doesn’t mean you have to wear stodgy, old-fashioned glasses.

For a more youthful appearance, consider frame styles that are uplifting for the face, such as upswept rectangles for men and soft cat-eye shapes for women.

Pay attention to scale. Avoid those huge metal frames that older men often wear. Also, make sure your eyes are well-centered within the lens opening and purchase anti-reflective lenses to draw more attention to your eyes.

Also, frames with lighter colors and a high-gloss finish often look more youthful on women.

The Young Intellectual

Whether you’re studying art, French literature, finance or engineering, college is a time to develop your own identity — and show off your style.

Seize the day and don’t be afraid to express yourself. Experiment with eyewear styling, including eye-catching colors, shapes and sizes.

Want to go in a different direction? Try a retro frame in basic black.

Glasses for the Weekend Warrior

Most working adults live dual lives — their normal 9-to-5 weekday life and their (usually) more active life on the weekends.

Just as dress shoes are the wrong attire for the gym, the glasses you wear in the office are nearly always the wrong choice for sports and active wear.

For the best comfort, performance and safety during “weekend warrior” hours, choose at least one pair of sports-appropriate eyeglasses or sunglasses.

Styling can range from wraparounds to more conventionally shaped eyeglasses and sunglasses. Sporty looks can include bright colors and modern combinations of metal and plastic materials.

Some important words about lenses here: Make sure you choose lightweight polycarbonate or Trivex lenses for your sports glasses and sunglasses. Lenses made of these materials are far more impact-resistant than other eyeglass lenses, and they are significantly lighter, too, to stay comfortably in place on your face. Also, consider getting sun-sensitive (photochromic) treatment applied to these lenses for optimal sight in changing light conditions.

For sunglasses for sports and active wear, consider polarized lenses to more effectively reduce glare caused by light bouncing back from water, concrete and other reflective surfaces.

The Complete Package

A common misstep people make when putting together a wardrobe is forgetting about their glasses and sunglasses.

At a minimum, the well-dressed woman or man should have an eyewear wardrobe that includes:

  1. A pair of glasses for the office, computer and/or formal wear
  2. A pair of glasses for a casual wear
  3. A pair of glasses with photochromic polycarbonate (or Trivex) lenses for sports and active/safety wear
  4. A pair of “dress” sunglasses for fashion use

(If you spend significant amounts of time fishing, on the beach or boating, consider a pair of sports glasses with polarized polycarbonate lenses for superior protection from glare.)

Cateract Surgery and Modern IOLs

If you have cataracts and need surgery to restore your vision, fear not — cataract surgery is one of the most frequently performed surgeries, and modern cataract surgery is safer and produces better visual outcomes than ever before.

Still, you should be well informed about what to expect before, during and after your cataract surgery, and which of the many types of intraocular lenses available these days is the best choice for your needs.

Cataract Surgery Basics

In cataract surgery, the cloudy lens inside your eye is removed and replaced with an artificial lens — called an intraocular lens, or IOL — to restore clear vision.

Cataract surgery typically is performed on an outpatient basis and you are awake throughout the procedure, which takes only about 15 minutes.

Modern cataract surgery requires only a small incision in the eye, because the cloudy lens is broken up into small pieces with an ultrasonic probe before it is removed from the eye. This small-incision technique reduces the risk of complications and promotes faster healing and vision improvement.

After all remnants of the cloudy lens have been removed from your eye, the cataract surgeon inserts a clear IOL behind the iris and pupil, in the same location your natural lens occupied. (In special cases, an IOL might be secured to the front of the iris, but this is less common.)

The surgeon then completes the procedure by closing the incision (a stitch may or may not be needed), and a protective shield is placed over your eye to keep it safe in the early stages of recovery.

Recently, lasers (similar to those used in LASIK vision correction surgery) have been approved for certain steps in cataract surgery. These “femtosecond” lasers provide even greater precision for these tasks and may make cataract surgery outcomes even more accurate and predictable.

Laser-assisted cataract surgery, however, usually is significantly more costly than a conventional cataract procedure. Ask your eye doctor or cataract surgeon for more information about this new technology.

Choosing the Best IOL

During your pre-operative exam, your eye doctor or cataract surgeon will discuss the latest IOLs that are available for cataract surgery and help you choose the right lens for your needs and budget.

With many premium IOLs to choose from these days, it’s important to consider your priorities and visual expectations after your procedure.

Generally, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I want good distance vision but also the most economical solution, so I have the lowest possible out-of-pocket expenses after insurance or Medicare coverage for my cataract surgery?
  2. Am I willing to pay an out-of-pocket premium to get the latest IOL technology that might provide slightly sharper vision than a conventional IOL or decrease my need for glasses after surgery?

If you want to keep costs down, ask your surgeon which IOLs will result in the least amount of out-of-pocket expenses for your cataract procedure. Standard IOLs of this type provide excellent vision for most patients, and your surgeon can advise you about your expected visual outcome with this choice.

For some patients, a premium IOL may provide noticeably better vision after cataract surgery than a standard IOL.

Examples of premium intraocular lenses include aspheric IOLs that correct visual aberrations that can cause halos around lights and other vision problems, and toric IOLs that correct astigmatism as well as nearsightedness or farsightedness.

Also, consider which of the following is your highest priority after surgery:

  1. The sharpest distance vision possible (knowing this means you will likely need reading glasses).
  2. The greatest freedom from glasses after surgery (knowing this means your distance vision without glasses will likely be less clear than with option 1).

If the sharpest possible distance vision is your top priority — so you can see clearly without glasses for driving, sports and other activities — your best option may be a premium IOL designed for distance vision only. Though this option means you will likely need reading glasses, most people who choose these IOLs are very pleased with their distance vision after cataract surgery and find that wearing reading glasses when needed is worth the trade-off.

If you want the greatest freedom from glasses after cataract surgery (and are willing to put up with a slight decrease in the sharpness of your distance vision to get it), your best choice may be a presbyopia-correcting IOL.

There are two types of presbyopia-correcting IOLs, which are designed to provide good vision at all distances:

  • Multifocal IOLs. These IOLs, like multifocal or progressive eyeglass lenses, have several lens powers to help you see quite clearly at multiple distances — far away (for driving), at arm’s length (for computer use), and close up (for reading).
  • Accommodating IOLs. These presbyopia-correcting IOLs have only one lens power, but have the ability to move slightly within the eye in response to focusing effort, thereby mimicking the eye’s natural focusing ability prior to the onset of presbyopia.

Most people who choose presbyopia-correcting IOLs are very pleased with their vision without glasses. However, many still require glasses occasionally for better driving vision (especially at night) and for reading small print.

It’s also important to know that whether you choose a distance-only or a presbyopia-correcting IOL, it’s not unusual for you to still have some minor blurred vision without glasses.

If you want the best possible vision without glasses after cataract surgery, ask your eye surgeon if you are a good candidate for LASIK or other vision correction procedures to enhance or “fine-tune” your eyesight a few months after surgery.

Be sure to ask plenty of questions during your pre-operative exam so you are completely comfortable with your choice of IOL and your decision to proceed with cataract surgery before signing surgical consent forms.

Cataract Surgery Recovery

An uncomplicated cataract surgery typically lasts only about 15 minutes. But expect to be at the surgical center for 90 minutes or longer, because extra time is needed for final measurements and a brief exam and consultation with your surgeon before and after the procedure.

You must have someone drive you home after cataract surgery; do not attempt to drive until you have visited your eye doctor the day after surgery and he or she tests your vision and confirms that your visual acuity is adequate for you to drive safely without glasses.

You will have several follow-up visits after surgery to monitor the health of your eye and the quality of your vision. Be sure to use all medications as directed to promote healing and reduce the risk of complications, and follow all other instructions your eye surgeon and eye doctor give you.

Finally, be patient — it can take several weeks or even months for your vision to peak after surgery. Your eye doctor will keep you informed of your progress and prescribe glasses or recommend an additional vision correction procedure if needed.