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Family Eyecare Center of Optometry:
Dr. Harold Ashcraft OD

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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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Surprising Health Problems That Can First Be Detected In Your Eyes

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It is amazing how much you can learn about someone in just a few seconds.

A facial expression quickly lets you know if a person is happy or sad, bored or EXCITED, stressed or carefree. Your first impression may suggest if this person is friendly and likeable, or something on the contrary.

You have heard the saying, “Eyes are the window to the soul”. It sounds cliché, but it has some truth to it.

Not only can you get a sense of another’s feelings just by looking at them, but looking into their eyes with a microscope provides important information about his or her overall health.

National Geographic’s “Eyes: The Windows To Your Health” shows there is more beyond what meets the eye.

Warning signs of certain conditions may be visible in the eyes before other parts of the body.

Changes in blood vessels or arteries in the back of the eye may indicate hypertension, or high blood pressure. There may be leakages or hemorrhaging in the blood vessels, a narrowing or change of color of the arteries in the retina, or even microscopic spots of blood on the sclera (the white part of the eye).

Signs of diabetes can also be detected. Chronic high blood sugar levels damage tiny retinal blood vessels, which can cause these vessels to leak a yellowish fluid or blood. This may be a sign of diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of blindness among working individuals in North America.

Other health problems that can be detected in your eye include:

1) Autoimmune disorders

2) High cholesterol

3) Nutritional deficiencies

4) Thyroid disease

5) Certain cancers or tumors

Many eye conditions develop without immediate or noticeable symptoms, so early detection is key to prevent possible damage to your sight.

Dr. Ashcraft uses various tools during your annual eye exam to check for these warning signs, including digital retinal photography. This camera takes a detailed photo of your retina and is available within seconds, giving you the opportunity to see what Dr. Ashcraft sees in your eye. Taking these photos annually helps Dr. Ashcraft monitor any changes in your eye health.

At Family Eyecare Center, we want to make sure your eyes are as healthy as can be. To schedule your annual eye exam and retinal photos, give us a call at 310-670-4411.

Video Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPAbANevTqM

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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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