Progressive Lenses

Progressive lens “Zones”

Progressive lenses, sometimes referred to as “no-line” bifocals, provide vision correction for the three basic vision zones – distance vision, intermediate vision, and near vision. Because they provide vision in these three zones, they are often thought of as a type of trifocal.

In reality, progressive lenses are neither a type of bifocal or trifocal – they are “aspheric” in design, which means the curvature (and focusing power) gradually changes from the top of the lens to the bottom. It is this gradual change or “progression” in power from top to bottom that gives rise to the name “progressive.”

Progressive lenses provide a great solution for many people who find their present lens design limits their vision for a particular distance or activity. Progressives offer a range of vision as close to natural as can be obtained from prescription eyeglasses. They provide clearer vision not just for distance, intermediate and near but also for all distances in between. Because there is no abrupt change of power in the lens, there are no visible dividing lines.

The distance zone of the lens allows you to see objects from a few feet away to as far as your eye can see. The mid-range portion of the lens (“progression corridor”) allows you to clearly see anything at an arm’s length, such as your computer screen, objects on your desk, or items on a shelf at the supermarket. The lowest part of the lens, the near zone, allows you to see up close. The design of progressive lenses also allows a more natural and relaxed head posture when viewing objects at slightly longer reading distances, such as a newspaper or computer screen.

More Options – A variety of progressive lens designs are available today. Some progressives are designed with a wider intermediate zone to work especially well for computer use. Others have a larger reading zone. In the past, a larger frame was often required when selecting progressive lenses. If a frame was too small, a large portion of the near zone was removed when cutting the lens to fit the frame. Many lens manufacturers now offer “compact” progressive designs that work very well with smaller frames. Progressives are available in glass, plastic, polycarbonate, and photochromic (light-sensitive) lenses.

Modern progressive lenses offer outstanding clarity and comfort for seeing at all distances. Modern designs also make the adaptation process much easier than in the past. if you’ve tried progressives before, realize that much has changed in both lens design and materials. The next time you update your glasses, be sure to ask if progressive lenses might be right for you.

Computer Vision Syndrome: Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

The benefits of modern-day computing and the Internet have led to a group of eye and vision-related problems. Collectively, this group is called Computer Vision Syndrome or CVS. CVS is caused by spending an extended amount of time looking at computer screens and other digital devices.

Between work and home computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones, it’s easy to log a lot of hours staring at a screen. (We’ve certainly experienced it ourselves!)

Looking at a computer screen is different from reading printed pages, and often makes your eyes work harder. For example, screen glare and reflections, low contrast, and poor definition make text difficult to read on a digital display. The way we interact with digital displays, software and Internet pages is also different from “traditional” paper-based reading and writing. And uncorrected vision problems and age-related vision changes can also be contributing factors for CVS.

Symptoms of CVS

Common symptoms that can begin or become worse due to CVS include:

  • Eyestrain
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry and irritated eyes
  • Neck and shoulder pain

When patients describe these symptoms, we use a comprehensive exam to check for visual clarity, focus, alignment, and movement issues.

Treatment and Preventive Measures for CVS

Reducing the stresses that build up with prolonged computer and digital device use is key to treating CVS. A combination of treatment and preventative measures can help protect and improve your eyesight. For example:

Find your sweet spot. Our eyes naturally look out and downward. To accommodate this, position your computer monitor so the center of your screen is a few inches below eye level, and 20 to 28 inches from your eyes.

Adjust your lighting. Give yourself ample lighting, but position your digital screen and your light sources to avoid glare.

Use anti-glare screens. When you have little or no control over your surrounding light, use an anti-glare filter over your computer screen. If glare is a problem at work, ask your employer to supply an anti-glare filter for your computer.

Take breaks and blink frequently. Allow your eyes to refocus at a distance and relax by looking around the room every 20 minutes. To prevent eyestrain, rest your eyes for 15 minutes every two hours. And be sure to blink! It helps keep your eyes moist and reduces your chances for developing dry eyes.

Your eyes work hard for you. Give them the rest and support they need to stay healthy. And if you’re concerned about CVS for yourself or a loved one, please call us 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.

Antioxidant Rich Chocolate Cherry Sunrise

The eyes are highly metabolically active. In fact, the retina has the highest metabolic rate of any tissue in the body and is therefore vulnerable to oxidative injury. The most notable antioxidants which help to support the eye are vitamin C, vitamin E; the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin; selenium and phytonutrients. One method of assessing the antioxidant capacity of a particular food is expressed in ORAC units (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity). Spices such as cloves, cinnamon and turmeric have a very high ORAC value. Natural cocoa, coffee and green tea are all great sources of antioxidants and have high ORAC values. Other foods high in antioxidants include berries, nuts, dried fruit, vegetables and beans.

Culinary preparation influences the quantity of antioxidants present in a particular food. Since many antioxidants are found in the peel or outer parts of fruit and vegetables, peeling eliminates a significant portion of antioxidants. When berries are boiled to make jam, the heat denatures the antioxidant capacity of the vitamin C and phytonutrients. Jam has little antioxidant capacity especially when compared to fresh berries. Steaming vegetables retain more antioxidants than boiling in water. The nutrient lutein found in kale is more accessible to our bodies when the plant cell walls are broken down through cooking or pureeing.

Oxidation is a natural process that occurs during normal cellular function as oxygen is needed to produce energy by the cells in our eyes and bodies. Free radical formation is derived from this normal metabolic process and from external sources like x-rays, cigarette smoking, air pollutants and sunlight.

Free radicals have a strong affinity for electrons and can damage cells and genetic material. To help with the battle against free radicals, every cell in the body creates its own antioxidant enzymes to diffuse free radicals. In addition, we can acquire antioxidants from food. A balance between free radicals and antioxidants is necessary for proper physiological function and to reduce oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress is thought to play a role in age-related macular degeneration, age-related cataract formation, glaucoma and other diseases. Including antioxidant rich foods in your diet everyday will help to reduce the risk or slow the progression of many chronic eye diseases associated with aging.

Chocolate Cherry Sunrise

4–8oz servings

  • 1 1/4 cup hot coffee, freshly brewed
  • 4 dates, pitted, diced
  • 3/4 cup tart cherries, frozen
  • 1 banana, cut into chunks, frozen
  • 2 tsp matcha green tea powder
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder of choice
  • 3 T natural cocoa powder
  • 2 T almond butter
  • 2 red kale leaves, ribs removed
  • 5 ice cubes
  • 4 tsp cacao nibs
  • mint, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Allow dates to steep in the hot coffee.
  2. Place the rest of the ingredients into a high speed blender.
  3. Add the coffee and dates.
  4. Blend until smooth and creamy.
  5. Pour into glasses, sprinkle with cacao nibs. Garnish with mint.

Nutrition Facts (per serving):

Calories: 205 kcal; Protein: 9.5 g; Carbohydrates: 36 g; Dietary Fiber: 6 g; Fat: 5.25 g

Antioxidant Highlights:

Coffee: caffeic acid

Tart Cherries–3 egg: vitamin A, vitamin C

Almond Butter: vitamin E, vitamin B2, fiber

Green Tea: epigallocatechin gallate

Kale: vitamin A, vitamin C, lutein+zeaxanthin

Natural Cocoa and Cacao Nibs: folate, procyanidin

ORAC Values:

Coffee: 15,000

Tart Cherries: 3,474

Almond Butter: 4,454

Green Tea: 1,384

Kale: 1,770

Natural Cocoa: 55,654

Cacao Nibs: 62,100

Foods That Fight Inflammation

Acute inflammation is a normal and healthy part of the body’s immune response; it is needed for healing an injury or fighting an infection. However, chronic inflammation inside our body diminishes our body’s ability to repair itself. Researchers believe inflammation is linked to many chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s and certain cancers. Eye conditions associated with inflammation include age–related macular degeneration, dry eye and uveitis.

An anti–inflammatory diet helps to promote the lowering of overall levels of inflammation in the body. Certain foods can ramp up the body’s inflammatory response while other foods dampen the response. Two essential fatty acids important to the balance of inflammatory response are omega-3 and omega–6. Omega–3’s form the building blocks of a number of anti–inflammatory compounds and lower the production of inflammatory proteins. Foods high in omega–3 fatty acids include oily, cold water fish like mackerel, salmon and black cod. The pro–inflammatory omega–6 fatty acids are found abundantly in corn, safflower and peanut oils, as well as processed and refined foods. The current recommendation is a ratio of one omega–3 fatty acid to four omega–6 fatty acids.

Culinary herbs and spices contain a vast array of powerful phytochemical compounds many which have anti–inflammatory properties. Turmeric is a highly pigmented root noted for both its anti–inflammatory and anti–oxidant attributes. Turmeric most notably is found in tandoori and curry powders. Ginger root is a common ingredient in Asian cuisine having both anti–inflammatory and anti–nausea properties. Oregano, basil and rosemary are delicious anti–inflammatory herbs. The phytonutrients allicin and quercetin found in garlic and onions have immunity boosting properties. Antioxidants protect the body from the inflammatory effects of free radicals. Colorful food like berries and peppers, as well as kale, beets and green tea are all excellent sources of antioxidants. Food high in fiber helps to minimize the inflammatory response that can occur following a rapid increase or decrease in blood sugar levels. Foods high in fiber include raspberries, beans, legumes, vegetables and cinnamon.

While dietary changes are not intended to supplant traditional medical therapies recommended by your doctor, food offers a delicious symphony of nutrients with anti–inflammatory disease–preventive benefits. The researchers at Oregon Health & Science University state that tart cherries have the “highest anti–inflammatory content of any food.” Making smart food choices to keep the immune system in balance will help facilitate health and well being. According to Emperor Charlemagne in the 9th century, “An herb is the friend of physicians and praise of cooks.”

Tandoori Seasoning©

Makes about 2/3 cup

  • 3 T paprika, sweet or smoked
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 T ground ginger
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 T dehydrated minced onion
  • 1 T dark brown sugar
  • 2 T dried oregano
  • 2 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper, optional

Directions:

  1. Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.
  2. Transfer to an airtight container.
  3. Store at room temperature for up to one month.

Suggested Uses:

  1. Sprinkle on steamed vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli or Brussels sprouts.
  2. Rub onto salmon or cod; drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven.
  3. For Tandoori Roasted Pumpkin Seeds: Discard the stringy mesh around the seeds but do not rinse. Spread onto an oven safe pan and sprinkle with the tandoori seasoning. Bake at 300 F for 10 – 15 minutes until light and crispy.

Balancing Life and Work

At one time or another, nearly everyone struggles to balance the demands of work and family. Work isn’t necessarily associated with a career – it can be volunteer work, or tasks associated with a hobby or passion. And family can be a spouse, siblings, a much–loved pet or an aging parent.

So, it goes without saying that nearly everyone – including stay–at–home moms and professionals with no children – experiences the frustration and ensuing stress of being tugged at from different directions and feeling like there’s just not enough time in the day.

What’s even more complicated is that these feelings of anxiety, frustration or hopelessness often multiply, says life coach and intuitive teacher Amy Piper.

“Stress is not only created by a response to an external situation or event – a lot of daily stress is created by ongoing attitudes or recurring feelings of agitation, worry, anxiety, anger, judgments, resentment, insecurities and self–doubt,” Piper says. “These emotions are known to drain our emotional energy while we are engaging in everyday life. This leads to more fatigue and an endless cycle of negative emotions.

Piper says that finding balance starts with defining your identity and recognizing your personal mission in life. It means knowing who you are and what matters most, so that you honor your priorities in the way you want and need to honor them rather than adhering to society’s or someone else’s expectations.

“When your mind and emotions are balanced – when you are in heart coherence – your physical systems function more efficiently, resulting in emotional stability, mental clarity and improved cognitive function,” she says.

Here are a few tips Piper says can help balance out your world:

  1. Clearly define who you are and what’s important, and prioritize accordingly. Start the day with a list of priorities that are intimately related to the larger goals of your work, and then give yourself a 6 p.m. deadline to complete them. In the meantime, commit to the larger values in your life – relationships, exercise, spirituality and fun – in a concrete way by putting those activities on your calendar.
  2. Establish routines and habits that support the goals you deem important. Habits (good and bad) become the cornerstones of your lifestyle over time. For example, if long–term health and vitality are important to you, incorporate walking into your daily routine, and plan family time that’s activity–centered. The steps add up over the weeks and years, and can make a huge difference. And don’t forget your vision. Remember to protect your eyes from the sun, take breaks from your electronic devices and schedule regular eye exams.
  3. Eliminate or reduce time suckers (activities or people) that don’t add value to your life and support your long–term goals or mission. You need to know how to recognize and hold honest boundaries in relationships, remaining true to your own needs while being connected to other people.
  4. Delegate tasks that are not important to your goals. This means you must recognize that some things just don’t matter – being an awesome cupcake baker is not essential to being a loving mother. Hire someone else to bake your cupcakes or turn the baking experience into a project you can enjoy with your child.
  5. Be present and experience the fullness of the moment. If you’re off the clock, unplug from work, set your phone aside and immerse yourself in the present situation and company without burdening yourself with guilt, frustration or anxiety. Engage in authentic conversations with your family members and enjoy their company without being distracted or otherwise preoccupied.

Learn to recognize when imbalance is creating stress and be deliberate about honoring your priorities. You’ll be happier and healthier – mentally, spiritually and physically.

Computer Vision Correction

Working for long periods on a computer is a demanding visual task. Daily, millions of Americans use a computer for hours at a time, both at work and at play. Many of them routinely experience symptoms of headache, fatigue, blurry vision, scratchy eyes, or pain in the shoulders, neck or back.

Our eyes and brain react differently to characters displayed on a computer screen than they do to characters printed on paper. Computer images are less distinct than printed characters, may have perceptible flicker, and usually have less contrast between characters and the background. Computer users must rapidly switch focus from keyboard to monitor and vice versa; this constant refocusing can also contribute to symptoms.

What are computer glasses?

Computer glasses are prescription glasses that are specifically designed to wear when doing computer work. They allow you to focus your eyes comfortably on a computer screen, which is usually farther away than reading material is held.

General purpose bifocals and trifocals are not designed for computer work. Bifocals force the wearer to tilt the head back in order to focus on the screen, while looking through the lower portion of the bifocal lenses. While conventional trifocals allow a more normal head posture, they generally have too small an area for viewing the computer screen and the visible dividing lines can be a significant distraction.

Which kind of computer glasses are the best?

There is no one type of computer glasses that fits all or is the best for everyone. Visual ability, personal preferences of the computer operator, the type of work, the distance between the computer user’s eyes and the monitor, and lighting design in the workplace should all be taken into consideration when selecting computer glasses.

Lens design and lens options vary significantly from manufacturer to manufacturer. It’s always best to make your final selection of computer glasses based upon the advice and recommendations of your eye doctor; however, all of the options listed below have proven to be beneficial for computer users.

Progressive Addition Lenses

Surveys conducted among persons working long hours with computers revealed that Progressive Addition Lenses (PALs) were the lenses of choice. These modern lenses have more than just the cosmetic advantage of “no lines.” They provide all the benefits of bifocals but add the feature of continuous clear vision at all distances, including mid-range distance (arm’s length). Several lens manufactures have introduced PALs designed specifically for computer use. These specialized PALs allow an even wider field of view for near and intermediate working distances than standard PALs.

Anti-Reflective coating

Today’s advanced Anti-Reflective (AR) coatings eliminate bothersome reflections from overhead lights and computer monitors. AR coatings not only reduce reflections but increase the amount of light transmitted through the lenses to the wearer’s eyes. It may seem strange but AR coated lenses actually appear clearer than uncoated clear lenses…sometimes appearing to be nearly “invisible.”

Natural light sources (windows) can be especially bothersome in the workplace. When a window is located over the wearer’s shoulder, natural light striking the back surfaces of the lenses bounces directly into the wearer’s eyes. Since outside light levels are quite high, the intensity of these reflections can be even greater than reflections from light sources within the workplace. An AR coating placed on the back surfaces of the lenses eliminates these “outside” reflections as well.

High Index Lenses

Modern technology has created lenses that bend light differently so that stronger corrections are thinner than when made in conventional materials. Such lenses are called “high index”. High index materials can drastically reduce the thickness and weight of prescription lenses. Lens thickness can sometimes be cut by as much as 50% by simply using a higher index material and choosing an appropriate frame. High index materials are more shatter resistant than traditional plastic and will improve the appearance of any prescription.

Note: High index lenses bend light to a greater degree so an anti-reflective coating is especially recommended to maximize their performance and cosmetic advantages.

In Conclusion

  • Computer glasses provide a wide field of view so that the user can clearly read both their computer screen and closer printed material.
  • Anti-glare coatings can be used to eliminate bothersome reflections from windows, overhead lights and other nearby computer monitors.
  • Use of high-index lens materials keeps lenses thinner and lighter in weight.
  • Computer glasses give the most natural, comfortable vision possible.
  • Computer PALs provide clearer vision for reading and viewing screens at intermediate distances better than any previously designed lens.

If you’re one of the millions of people who use a computer on a regular basis, be sure to ask your eye doctor about “computer glasses” the next time you have your eyes examined or replace your current prescription.

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.

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.

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.