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Family Eyecare Center of Optometry:
Dr. Harold Ashcraft OD

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The Best Foods for Your Eyes

We all know that eating nutrient-rich foods, drinking plenty of water, and exercising can boost our health. So it’s no surprise that these same activities also support eye health. Research has shown that regularly consuming certain vitamins and nutrients can actually prevent or delay sight-threatening eye conditions and diseases such as macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma. 

Here’s a list of the best vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that can help keep your eyes healthy for a lifetime. 

We invite you to consult with our eye doctor, Dr. Harold Ashcraft, to discuss which nutrients are most suited to your specific eye health and needs. 

Vitamins and Nutrients That Support Eye Health

*Always best to speak with your primary care doctor before taking any vitamins or supplements, and to ensure you consume the correct dosage for your body.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A deficiency can cause a host of eye health issues, including dry eyes and night blindness. In fact, vitamin A deficiency is a leading cause of blindness worldwide.

Vitamins A and A1, which are essential for supporting the eye’s photoreceptors (the light-sensing cells) in the retina, can be found in foods like carrots, leafy greens, egg yolks, liver, and fish. 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Eating Omega-3 rich foods like fatty fish can support eye health in a few ways. DHA and EPA, 2 different types of Omega-3 fatty acids, have been shown to improve retinal function and visual development.  

Omega-3 supplements can also ease dry eye symptoms. A randomized controlled study found that people who consumed Omega-3 supplements experienced improved tear quality, which resulted in reduced tear evaporation and increased eye comfort.  

Lutein and Zeaxanthin

Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants that accumulate in the lens and retina and help filter out damaging UV rays and blue light. One study showed that individuals who had the highest levels of these nutrients in their diets had a 43% lower chance of developing macular degeneration than those who had consumed the least amount.  

Spinach, egg yolks, sweet corn, and red grapes are some of the foods that contain high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin. 

Vitamin C 

High amounts of vitamin C can be found in the aqueous humor of the eye, the liquid that fills the eye’s anterior chamber and supports corneal integrity. This has prompted scientists to consider this vitamin’s role in protecting eye health. 

Research suggests that regularly taking vitamin C (along with other essential vitamins and minerals) can lower the risk of developing cataracts, and slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration and visual acuity loss.

While vitamin C appears to support eye health in a variety of ways, it’s still unclear whether taking this supplement benefits those who aren’t deficient. Vitamin C can be found in various fruits and vegetables, like bell peppers, tomatoes, citrus fruits, broccoli, and kale. 

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps protect fatty acids from becoming oxidized. Because the retina has a high concentration of fatty acids, sufficient vitamin E intake is crucial for optimal ocular health. 

Vitamin E can be found in almonds, flaxseed oil, and sunflower seeds. 

Zinc

Healthy eyes naturally contain high levels of zinc. A zinc deficiency can cause night blindness, and thus increasing zinc intake can improve night vision. Zinc also helps absorb Vitamin A, an essential antioxidant. 

Make sure to avoid taking high doses of zinc (beyond 100 mg daily) without first consulting your eye doctor. Higher doses of zinc have been associated with side effects such as reduced immune function. You can increase your zinc intake naturally by consuming more oysters, meat, and peanuts. 

Phytochemical Antioxidants

Phytochemical antioxidants are chemicals produced by plants that contain several health benefits. Some studies show that these plant-based chemicals may enhance vision and eye health as well as prevent age-related eye diseases and complications by alleviating ocular oxidative stress. Oxidative stress within the eyes contributes to several eye conditions, including  dry eye syndrome. Consuming more produce with these antioxidants can help balance the anti-oxidant and pro-oxidant system, resulting in healthier eyes. 

Personalized Eye Nutrition 

If you or someone you know is looking for ways to boost or maintain eye health, speak with an optometrist near you about what supplements and vitamins are best for you. For an eye doctor in Los Angeles, give us a call at 310-620-6495.

 

Why You Should Not Rub Your Eyes

Dry Eye Girl 640×350Though it may seem harmless, rubbing your eyes is something many of us do from time to time. Doing so feels good because it stimulates tear flow and eye lubrication, which offers relief for dry eyes and helps remove dust and other irritants. Furthermore, rubbing your eyes can be therapeutic, as pressing down on your eyeball stimulates the vagus nerve, which decreases your heart rate, thus relieving stress.

So why do eye doctors advise against rubbing your eyes? That’s because rubbing your eyes poses a threat, especially now, as COVID-19 can be spread through the eyes' mucous membranes. Moreover, rubbing can potentially damage your eyes’ structure and vision.

How is Rubbing Your Eyes Harmful?

  • Continuous eye rubbing in susceptible individuals can cause the cornea to thin and weaken, leading it to bulge forward and become more cone-like. This is known as keratoconus — a serious condition that can lead to distorted vision and ultimately the need for a corneal transplant or specialized contact lenses, such as scleral lenses.
  • If you have a foreign object in your eye, your natural instinct is likely to rub it in an attempt to remove the object. However, this can potentially cause more damage as the object can scratch the cornea. Instead, try flushing it out with saline solution or artificial tears.
  • From a hygienic perspective, it’s important to remember that your hands are covered in germs and bacteria. Therefore, sticking a finger that hasn't been thoroughly washed with soap and water into your eyes can cause an infection, such as conjunctivitis, to flare up. Recent evidence shows that the coronavirus can also be transferred from the hands to the eyes.
  • Rubbing is harmful to people with certain pre-existing eye conditions. If you have progressive myopia (short-sightedness caused by a lengthened eyeball) or glaucoma (a condition that damages the optic nerve), rubbing your eyes can exacerbate the condition and worsen eyesight. Eye rubbing is particularly bad for a glaucoma patient with already heightened eye pressure. It can engender nerve damage and permanent vision loss.
  • Retinal tear or detachment can occur due to the heightened eye pressure caused by the rubbing.
  • Excessive eye rubbing can negatively affect your appearance. It can cause tiny blood vessels to break, resulting in bloodshot eyes, dark circles and wrinkles around the eyes.

Why Do You Rub Your Eyes?

When your eyes are feeling itchy, it is natural to rub them. Sometimes you do it and are not even aware you are rubbing your eyes. But this can cause some big problems.  Sometimes rubbing your eyes just makes it worse because they itch and bother you even more. This happens because rubbing your eyes causes the release of histamines. Histamines can start the itching and allergy response. Allergy medicines are commonly called anit-histamines because they block histamines. This is the way they stop itching.

Rubbing your eyes isn’t all bad, sometimes it can temporarily help. It releases more tears, which in turn causes the meibomian glands, situated within your eyelids, to secrete much-needed oil into our eyes. That adds moisture and protects your tears from evaporating.

However, if you frequently rub your eyes because they are dry or irritated, contact Dr. Harold Ashcraft immediately.

What You Can Do To Stop Rubbing Your Eyes

Keep your eyes hydrated by using artificial tears or eye drops. They can be found over the counter at the pharmacy, and are especially effective against dry eyes. Certain eye drops, such as antihistamines and mast cell stabilizers, can be prescribed by Dr. Harold Ashcraft to help prevent the itchy feeling that leads you to instinctually rub your eyes. In more severe cases, such as in allergy sufferers, steroid eye drops can be used to avoid chronic eye rubbing.

Excessive eye rubbing, whether due to chronic dry eye, itchy eyes, or habit, should be addressed to prevent any ocular and vision damage. Contact Family Eyecare Center of Optometry at  Los Angeles to schedule a visit, determine the cause of your itchiness, and find out which drops to use in your specific case.

 

Your Eyes Are the Windows to Your Health

Your eyes aren’t just the windows to your soul — they can also reveal valuable information about your general health beyond whether you need glasses, including: diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. It is not unusual for people to come in for an eye exam just to check their eyesight and then have certain health issues or predispositions picked up by the optometrist. 

Eye Exams and Your Health

Eye examinations can help doctors detect general health conditions early enough to intervene. Advanced screenings enable eye doctors to better predict cardiovascular incidents like stroke, and possibly detect signs of mental changes such as Alzheimer’s. Read below to learn how eye exams can unveil a whole lot more than just eye health.

Brain Cancer & Stroke

Because of the similarities between the blood vessels in the eye and brain, an eye doctor can occasionally detect an issue taking place in the brain by examining the blood vessels in the eyes. If swelling or shadows in the eye is observed, it may indicate a serious condition in the brain, like a tumor, or clots that might result in a stroke.

Diabetes

Diabetes can cause damage to the blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye, resulting in Diabetic Retinopathy (DR) and Diabetic Macular Edema (DME). If an optometrist detects leaky blood vessels in the eye, the patient would be advised to see a doctor to help control their blood sugar. Changes are gradual, and they start before visual symptoms are noticed. The earlier diabetic eye disease is managed, the better the chances are of preserving eyesight. 

Hypertension

High blood pressure, characterized by having too much pressure in the blood vessels, can be detected during an eye exam, sometimes even before it’s diagnosed by your regular doctor. The damaged blood vessels lead to swelling, hemorrhages, and leaking — all of which can be observed in the eyes. According to the CDC, hypertension “the silent killer” affects nearly 1 in 3 adults, and up to a whopping 20% of those don’t even know they have it. So early detection at an eye doctor’s evaluation can be truly life-saving.

High Cholesterol 

Eye exams can also detect a buildup of cholesterol. High cholesterol is among the easiest conditions to spot during a complete eye exam, as the cholesterol deposits manifest on the front of the eye, appearing as a thin, gray rim around the cornea. It can also be detected in the retina by assessing artery and vein patterns.

These deposits may indicate the current or future development of Retinal Blood Vessel Occlusion, a condition where blockages restrict blood flow to the back of the eye, causing temporary or permanent vision loss. 

Heart Conditions

In some cases, heart conditions associated with a buildup of plaque in the carotid artery in the heart can also lead to deposits that clog the ocular arteries in the eye. If an optometrist detects such changes to the vascular structure at the back of the eye, he or she will typically recommend going to a specialist.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Sudden vision loss may be attributed to Multiple Sclerosis (MS). While the optometrist can recognize signs indicating the presence of MS, such as the color and appearance of the optic nerve, such cases will be referred for further testing to confirm the diagnosis.

Thyroid

Thyroid disease can make itself apparent through the eyes in several ways. The thyroid gland controls the hormones that regulate tear production so some thyroid disorders can cause dry eye disease. Additionally, overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can make the extraocular muscles enlarge and stiffen, causing bulging eyes — an indicator of Graves’ disease. 

Inflammation

Systemic conditions that are associated with inflammation in the body can have an inflammatory effect on the eyes. Uveitis, for example, causes eye inflammation, redness, and blurred vision, and tends to occur in people with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune diseases. 

Cancer

Breast cancer, leukemia, and other metastatic cancers are occasionally discovered during an eye evaluation. In addition to brain cancer mentioned above, melanoma and basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer) can be detected, and eye doctors can also diagnose lymphoma and other eye tumors. Eye exams save lives.

What the Future Holds 

Alzheimer’s 

Recent studies show that a non-invasive and precise imaging device called Octa (optical coherence tomography angiography) can signal the presence of eye changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Because the retina is in many ways an extension of the brain, the altered blood vessels at the back of the eye offer a glimpse into the changes taking place within the brain.

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease can often be misdiagnosed as its early symptoms are characteristic of other conditions. Research has shown that subtle eye tremors, an early Parkinson’s marker, could be detectable using advanced eye exam technology. One day soon, practitioners may send patients to an eye doctor to test for this and other diseases.

Your Eye Doctor’s Appointment Could Change Your Life

So the next time you visit Dr. Harold Ashcraft at Family Eyecare Center of Optometry in Los Angeles, remember that a comprehensive eye exam can do more than determine your eyeglasses or contacts prescription. Dr. Harold Ashcraft can evaluate your eyes for existing or potential health issues, and communicate them to your primary care physician for the best possible care. By knowing that you’re at risk for a certain disease, you can take precautions early on and manage the condition as needed. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Don’t Let Smoking Take Away Your Sight: 6 Reasons to Quit Today!

2018 is here!

It’s a new year, which means many people are signing up for gym memberships, starting new diets, and resolving to have a healthier and happier year.

Speaking of health—

Did you know that smoking negatively affects every organ of your body?

With every puff of smoke, thousands of toxic chemicals are wreaking havoc on your lungs, your heart, your skin, and yes—even your eyes!

So, what do your eyes have to lose because of smoking? A lot.

Every time you light up, you are increasing your risk of developing the following eye problems:

macular degeneration 300×2251. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

Photo from: https://allabouteyes.com/need-know-macular-degeneration/

Smokers are twice as likely to develop AMD as non-smokers (1). Macular degeneration causes loss of central vision, which may affect your ability to do simple activities like read, drive, or see people’s faces clearly. There is currently no cure for AMD, but there are treatments that can slow down its progress (2).

 

2. Cataracts

Photo from: http://healthletter.mayoclinic.com/common/images/1326/Cataract_Small.jpg

Cataracts impair vision because of a clouding of the eye’s lens. Your vision would be similar to as if you were looking through a fogged-up window. Other signs and symptoms of cataracts include seeing “halos”, light sensitivity, and difficulty with night vision (3). Smokers are two to three times more likely than non-smokers to develop cataracts. (4)

3. Dry Eye

Photo from: https://www.aao.org/image.axd?id=1c14c64c-e971-49ac-8624-d02d90475284&t=636450766679600000

Tobacco smoke aggravates symptoms of dry eye syndrome. Symptoms of dry eye include:

  • Irritation
  • Dryness
  • Feeling of something in the eye; grittiness
  • Redness
  • Stinging
  • Blurred Vision

4. Retinopathy of Prematurity

Pregnant women who smoke have a higher likelihood of giving birth prematurely. In addition to low birth weight, premature babies are more susceptible to developing a potentially blinding condition, called retinopathy of prematurity. This condition is characterized by the growth of abnormal blood vessels throughout the retina and can cause future eye problems including (5):

  • Retinal detachment
  • Crossed Eyes (Strabismus)
  • Nearsightedness (Myopia)
  • Lazy Eye (Amblyopia)
  • Glaucoma

5. Uveitis

This condition is an inflammation of the uvea, which is the middle layer of the eye. Inflammation can cause permanent tissue damage within the eye. Side effects may include light sensitivity, pain, redness, floaters, and decreased vision (6). Tobacco users are twice as likely as non-smokers to develop uveitis (7)

6. Other conditions

Smoking increases likelihood of developing certain cancers of the eye, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy.

The moment you give up smoking is the moment you start to improve your overall health. Watch below to see what changes happen inside your body once you quit smoking.

Your likelihood of developing eye diseases starts to diminish as soon as you quit.

Instead of lighting up a cigarette, let your eyes light up with all the wonderful things they can see!

For tips and support on how to quit smoking, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/index.html

Many eye conditions develop slowly and without immediate symptoms, so we encourage you to continue getting regular eye exams. Start your year off right and give us a call today to schedule your annual eye exam with Dr. Ashcraft.

 

Sources

1—Centers for Disease Control And Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/features/smoking-eyesight/

2—All About Vision. http://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/amd.htm

3–Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cataracts/symptoms-causes/syc-20353790

4—Centers for Disease Control And Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/features/smoking-eyesight/

5–National Eye Institute. https://nei.nih.gov/health/rop/rop

6—National Eye Institute. https://nei.nih.gov/health/uveitis/uveitis

7—American Academy of Ophthalmology. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/smokers

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If You’ve Had Enough Of Your Dry, Irritated Eyes, Try These Instead

“Dr. Ashcraft, I love the convenience of my contacts, but wearing them makes my eyes feel very dry. What should I do?”

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We commonly hear this comment and similar concerns from patients in our office.

Just like the age-old question of whether the chicken or the egg came first, it may be difficult to pinpoint whether your contact lenses are causing eye irritation, or if dry eye symptoms are causing discomfort with your contact lenses.

Either way, no one wants to experience the burning, redness, and irritability of dry eye syndrome (especially when it feels like your contact lens is suction cupped to your eyeball).

Fortunately, there is a way for contact lens wearers to see well without aggravating dry eye symptoms.

Contact Lenses: Which Kind Is Best For Me?

Daily disposable contact lenses are the best option for contact lens wearers who experience dry eye. Here are three reasons why.

1. Lenses can develop microscopic buildup from substances found in your tears, including calcium, proteins, and lipids. Even after being cleaned, these deposits may remain and cause discomfort.

2. Contact lens solutions, which clean and disinfect lenses, can cause irritation in some users with sensitive eyes.

3. Are you guilty of sometimes falling asleep at night without removing your contacts? You’re more prone to bacterial infection and other eye problems.

Since they are discarded after a single-use, wearing daily disposable contacts helps eliminate these issues.

“Feel Fresh with Dailies – Daily Disposable Contacts at LensCrafters”

Your eyes are healthiest and most comfortable when you replace your contact lenses frequently. If you are experiencing discomfort with your contacts or dry eye symptoms, talk to Dr. Ashcraft about the best option for you.

Top image by Flickr user suanie used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license. Image cropped from original.

Video–https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvz9peBDDU8

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The Red Eye Secret Visine Doesn’t Want You To Know

eye

Gets the red out! 10 hours of comfort! Protects and soothes irritated eyes! Fast acting!

These are the promises made by over-the-counter (OTC) red eye relief products like Visine, Clear Eyes, and Murine. They advertise themselves as the solution to your red eye problems. Some of you are believers and keep your Visine close at all times.

I have some news for you and you might not like it. Stop. Yes, stop now for your own sake. To better understand, read Bryan’s experience below. This was in a posting to Medhelp.org:

A few years ago, I started using Visine/Clear Eyes/Opcon A to treat minor eye redness. I did not realize the harmful effects that these products had on your eyes, and I used them regularly for about 2-3 years. Now I am suffering from rebound hyperemia, or rebound effect. My eyes are bloodshot all the time unless I use these drops. Almost a month ago I stopped using the redness reliever drops cold turkey. Today, my eyes look a little better, but there are still red veins in my eyes. The red veins are still visible, but are not as red as they used to be. Is there any way to get rid of them completely? Or is there any way to get treatment to help my eyes return to the way they were before I started using these drops?

 

Bryan is suffering the effects of overusing OTC red eye relief drops. His experience is not unique, as we see patients coming into our office with similar problems. The warning labels for these products include that overuse can cause more eye redness, but that warning is often overlooked.

How Visine is Hurting, Not Helping, Your Red Eye

Visine and similar drops contain drugs called vasoconstrictors, which work by shrinking the red blood vessels in the white part of the eye. The smaller the blood vessels, the less red your eyes will appear. Look on the ingredients list and you will often recognize these drugs as terahydrozoline or naphazoline. You may look and feel on top of the world for a little while after using these drops, but frequent use is unsafe and can lead to more serious problems.

Reduced ocular blood flow

Your eye’s blood vessels help transport oxygen and important nutrients throughout the structures of your eye. Constantly shrinking these vessels means your eyes do not get all the oxygen or nutrients it needs, thus compromising your eye health.

Rebound hyperemia

Vasoconstrictors temporarily reduce the size of the blood vessels in your eye. After the drug wears off, your blood vessels will revert back to their original size. However, after prolonged use those blood vessels can permanently enlarge, causing your red eye to look even worse. This is called rebound hyperemia, or rebound effect. Your eyes can become addicted to these drops. It is a vicious cycle of using your drops, worsening your red eye symptoms, and repeat.

“Eye Whitening Eye Drops”–Are They Safe to Use? By Brian Boxer Wachler, M.D.


The Real Cause of (And Solution to) Your Eye Redness

Red eye relief drops are not treating the cause of your eye redness, only temporarily managing the symptoms. The key to eliminating redness is to find out the real problem. This could be a number of things:

  • Bacterial or viral infections
  • Inflammation
  • Allergies
  • Irritants like smoke or dust
  • Dry eye
  • Stress and/or lack of sleep
  • Certain medications

An eye exam with Dr. Ashcraft is necessary to identify the source of the problem and appropriate treatment.

Treatment options and recovery times will depend on the severity of your symptoms and how long you used the drops. For mild cases, artificial tears and prescription drops can aid in recovery time. For more severe circumstances, ocular steroids and other medical therapies may be an option.

So, what now? Your first step is to stop using the drops today. Throw them away! Your eyes will be red and uncomfortable, but you can place cool compresses over them to provide some relief. Next, call our office to schedule an appointment with Dr. Ashcraft. Save yourself time, money, and frustration by getting the proper treatment you need sooner rather than later. Your eyes will thank you!

 

Top image by Flickr user Pete used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped from original.

Youtube Video–https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqTjpJKsKoQ

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First Prescription Eye Drop Approved For Dry Eye Symptoms

What does Jennifer Aniston have in common with you and millions of other Americans?

jennifer aniston toronto film festival cake movie

Unless you are on the celebrity A-list and grace the cover of countless magazines and television screens, it is probably not what you think.

Dry eye syndrome.

Yep, that pesky condition that makes your eyes irritated, burn, or itch, among other things. (Now being on the cover of a magazine sounds so much more exciting). Jennifer does not even like to leave her house without her artificial tears because her dry eyes are so bothersome.

Do you also suffer from dry eyes? Hear what Jennifer has to say about it:

Your eyes’ ability to produce and drain tears is vital to the protection of your eye.

Tears help keep the surface of the eyes moist and lubricated, as well as keep out harmful particles such as dust or debris. Having dry eye syndrome does not necessarily mean you cannot produce any tears. Rather, your eyes may not produce the necessary quantity or quality of tears.

This can be a result of many factors, including the natural aging process, or a dry or windy climate. Women, contact lens wearers, and individuals taking particular medicines—antihistamines, anti-depressants, and certain blood pressure medications—tend to have a higher risk for dry eye, as well.

Symptoms of dry eye include:

 

  • Burning or stinging sensation
  • Itchiness
  • Redness
  • Irritation
  • Occasional blurry vision
  • Grittiness, or feeling like something is in the eye

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the first prescription eye drop, Xiidra, to treat the symptoms of dry eye disease.

Over one thousand patients, between the ages of 19 and 97, participated in four clinical studies to determine the safety and efficacy of the drug. Participants who used Xiidra twice a day for twelve weeks reported more improvement in their dry eye symptoms than those who used placebo eye drops for the same amount of time.

If dry eyes are becoming a normal interference in your life, now is a good time to show your eyes some eyelove.

Talk to Dr. Ashcraft about the symptoms you are experiencing, and together you can discuss what options will be best for you. Give us a call at 310.670.4411 to schedule an eye exam today! Your eyes will thank you.

Source: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm510720.htm

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COVID-19 ReOpening—Expectations
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the safety and well-being of our patients, staff and doctors is our first priority. Read Safety Protocols.

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