Vision And Driving

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By Stephen Cohen, O.D. – 

If you have a child of driving age, you get to experience the pleasure – as well as the anxiety – of having a child out on the road behind the wheel. Sixteen to 19-year-olds are the highest risk driving group, particularly during the first driving year. These vision and driving facts and tips could help to reduce the risk factors for all drivers, but especially for new drivers.

Vision good enough for TV or the classroom isn’t necessarily good enough for the road. Even a mild prescription can sometimes make a difference. Peripheral awareness is seeing things off to the side while still paying attention to the road directly ahead. All drivers should periodically scan the road left and right to maintain awareness and reduce visual fatigue. Depth and color perception, and focusing and eye coordination skills, all impact driving. During an eye exam, these skills are tested and quantified. Even mild vision problems can impact driving judgment, especially at night. Glare (e.g., oncoming headlights), can cause temporary but dramatic decreases in vision, but there are glasses lens coatings that can dramatically reduce glare. Drivers can also gaze slightly down and to the right side of the road to reduce the oncoming glare affect. Sunglasses, especially those with polarized lenses, reduce daytime brightness and glare. This is particularly important this time of the year, when daylight hours are the longest. Not all sunglasses are created equal. Better quality sunglasses typically have sharper optics, allowing for clearer vision. As obvious as it may sound, drivers should remember to not use their sunglasses at night.

Air conditioning vents pointed directly in the drivers face can dry out the surface of the eyes, causing temporary blur. Also, when we are concentrated on driving, our blink rate (which creates new tears) will decrease, causing drying and resultant blur. So keep blinking!

Particularly if you share a car, remember to adjust the rear and side-view mirrors to reduce blind spots, keep windshields clean, fasten seat belts (half of auto fatalities were not using theirs), and have young drivers commit to not use cell phones or text messaging while driving (about 25 percent of all accidents).

Driving can be a wonderful privilege. By recognizing that our eyes are the first-line defense, we can better anticipate and react to potential obstacles and hazards. Especially for new drivers, these tips may increase road safety, so that we can all likely sleep better at night!


Ill Huff, And I’ll Puff

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By Stephen Cohen, O.D. – 

“Which is better? One or Two?” This question has been associated with eye exams for years, and been the basis for more than one comedy routine. Most people fret over this question (of which, by the way, there is no correct answer!). The other area that people often fret about is the “air puff” test. To this day, I still have long-time patients ask about this test, even though I have not even used that piece of equipment since 1988! Many even put off their eye exams entirely because of the anticipation of this single test, but the air puff test is no longer considered the standard of care for glaucoma testing. Current tests are quick, more accurate and less bothersome.

Technological advances have played a significant role in improving our diagnostic ability. Digital refracting systems help achieve the sharpest and most accurate glasses prescription, and digital photography can document any part of the eye. Non-invasive scanning lasers quickly screen for the earliest signs of glaucoma, up to five to 10 years before other tests. Peripheral vision testing can accurately find even the most subtle changes that might be caused by glaucoma or neurological changes. Topographical mapping measures thousands of points on the surface of the eye in just seconds to more accurately fit contact lenses, prepare for LASIK surgery or pick up early diseases of the cornea, the clear front of the eye.

With March being National “Save Your Vision” month, an ounce of prevention can provide a lifetime of healthy vision for you and your family (for your children or grandchildren, remember that a school vision does not replace a comprehensive eye exam). When it comes to your eye exam, nobody will huff or puff, and you don’t even have to study for the “one or two” question!


Drying Out After The New Year

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By Stephen Cohen, O.D. – 

Go on that diet. Exercise more. Spend more time with family. Save more money. The start of the New Year gives us a clean slate to work with. While you’re editing your 2013 list of resolutions, let me add a few small things you can do on a regular basis that will enhance your most precious sense – your vision – and provide you with better comfort as well.

Our eyes are coated by a very complex protective layer of tears. Each time we blink, we re-coat our eyes with new tears that help to maintain the quality of our vision. When this layer of tears is disrupted, we can experience symptoms such as irritation, burning, stinging, heaviness, fatigue, scratchiness, blur, redness, itchiness and foreign body sensation. Because their association with dry eyes is often overlooked, fatigue (especially late in the day), and blur (particularly with complaints of fluctuation of vision) need to be emphasized.

Our environment and lifestyle can contribute to dry eyes. Living in the desert; flying on an airplane; and exposure to wind, smoke, dust, vents and fans can all compromise our tear film. Computer work, as well as certain medical treatments and medications can also impact our tear film.

With that background, here is a list of “dry eye” resolutions:

  • Don’t wait until your eyes hurt to use artificial tears. Keep your eyes lubricated throughout the day. It is akin to preventing a fire rather than trying to put one out.
  • Carry the right type of eye drop with you. Not all drops are the same, and some that claim to treat dryness (those with vasoconstrictors to “get the red out,” and others with certain preservatives) will actually increase dry eye symptoms.
  • DRINK WATER! A new daily standard is to consume one ounce of water for every two pounds of body weight (e.g., a 150 lb. individual should consume 75 ounces of water daily).
  • If you wear contact lenses, make sure you are using the right contact lens solution, and not just whatever is on sale. Some newer solutions will actually help to keep your contacts hydrated during the day. Daily disposable contact lenses could be a worthwhile consideration, where you have a new lens every day. Also, if you travel, consider wearing your glasses on the airplane.
  • If you suffer from dry eyes, moist heat (10 minutes or longer) can help the glands that produce part of the tear film to work better; helping to slow the evaporation of tears between blinks.
  • Increase consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids (cold water fish and supplements such as flaxseed oil and fish oil). These fatty acids are not naturally produced by our bodies, and studies are showing that these WILL help to decrease dry eyes.
  • GET YOUR EYES EXAMINED. If you experience even occasional symptoms associated with dry eyes, there are tests to determine the exact cause and specific treatments that can help. A thorough review of your current systemic meds can help to uncover problems and there are also new prescription medications to treat the causes of dry eyes.

These simple steps can help to make 2013 even brighter, clearer and more comfortable than last year. Now give me 50 and then get back on that treadmill!


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