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Macular Degeneration Hasn’t Stopped Judi Dench, And It Shouldn’t Stop You Either

Judi Dench 640×350

You may recognize this Academy Award-winning actress from her numerous performances on TV, movies, the stage, and the big screen. But aside from offering the world artistic masterpieces, Dame Judi Dench provides hope and inspiration to low vision patients around the globe.

Dench has been vocal about her struggles with vision loss due to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and shares why the progressive eye disease isn’t stopping her from accomplishing her goals.

What is Macular Degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration is an eye condition that causes the gradual breakdown of the macula center of the retina, resulting in central vision loss — but does not lead to total loss of sight. So, for example, when a person with advanced AMD looks at their grandchild they may see the clothes the child is wearing, but not the child’s face.

There are two types of AMD: wet and dry. Dry AMD is much more common than wet, affecting more than 8 out of 10 patients with the condition.

Dry AMD is caused by slow degradation of the macula that leads to deposits of damaged retinal cells and gradual vision loss over several years. Wet AMD comprises about 20 percent of all AMD cases and is more severe than the dry type. Wet AMD occurs when new blood vessels develop underneath the retina and leak fluid, causing distorted vision and vision loss. Vision loss occurs much faster with wet AMD, resulting in permanent scarring inside the eye and severe vision loss.

Symptoms of AMD include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty recognizing faces
  • Difficulty or inability to adjust to dim light
  • Straight lines appearing wavy or distorted
  • Requiring bright light to perform daily tasks
  • A dark spot in the center of your visual field (wet AMD)

The onset of symptoms may be subtle and can easily go unnoticed. That’s why regular comprehensive [eye exams] are so crucial. The earlier the diagnosis and treatment, the better the outcome.

Unfortunately, there aren’t yet any known cures for either version of AMD, but there are a few treatments that may help slow vision loss. Moreover, your low vision optometrist can provide you with low vision aids and devices to help you continue to live a full, independent life.

How Judi Dench Copes With AMD

Judi Dench has both types of AMD, one in each eye. She announced her diagnosis in 2012 but reassured the public that her condition wouldn’t prevent her from continuing to perform.

In the early stages of her condition, she would have her script printed out in enlarged fonts. As her condition deteriorated, she lost her ability to read. Nowadays, friends or family members read and repeat the lines aloud to help her memorize her script.

In a recent interview, Dench shared that her vision loss spurred her to ‘find a way of just getting about and getting over the things that you find very difficult.’

While AMD has made performing and completing day-to-day tasks more challenging, it hasn’t prevented Dench from leading a full and happy life.

Low Vision Aids for Macular Degeneration Can Help!

Living with vision loss is challenging, but we can help. Our low vision aids and devices help patients with sight-threatening conditions like glaucoma and AMD maximize their usable vision so they can carry out daily tasks.

At The Low Vision Center at Family Eyecare Center of Optometry, our goal is to help ensure that you maintain a high quality of life, even with vision loss.

To schedule a low vision consultation for yourself or a loved one, call The Low Vision Center at Family Eyecare Center of Optometry today.

The Low Vision Center at Family Eyecare Center of Optometry serves patients from Los Angeles, Westchester, El Segundo, and Playa Del Rey, California and surrounding communities.

Frequently Asked Questions with Dr. Harold Ashcraft

Q: What are some risk factors for developing age-related macular degeneration?

  • A: AMD risk factors include family history, being over 55 years old, smoking, obesity, cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol. If any of these apply to you, speak with your low vision optometrist regarding the steps you can take to lower your risk of developing this vision-robbing eye disease.

Q: What are the first symptoms of AMD?

  • A: At first, you may notice gradual or sudden changes in your vision. Straight lines may begin to appear distorted, or dark, blurry areas or whiteout may appear in the center of your vision. Dry AMD can sometimes take up to a decade to progress. With wet AMD, symptoms often appear and progress quickly, with very little warning.

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Why You Regularly Need to Replace Your Sunglasses

Did you know that sunglasses, or at least sunglass lenses, regularly need to be replaced? 

According to a study conducted at the University of São Paulo, the UV protection that sunglasses provide deteriorates over time. You may adore your current ones, but if you’ve been rocking those shades for two or more years, it might be time to get a new pair. 

In addition to the UV-blocking properties, anti-reflective and anti-scratch coatings wear down, and the frame material may become brittle over the years, too. Even if you have the most durable sunglasses available, regular lens-replacement is the best way to ensure that your vision is maximally protected from the harmful effects of ultraviolet light. 

UV Light and Sunglasses

The protective efficacy of your sunglasses comes in large part from the lens coating of dyes and pigments that reflect and absorb ultraviolet radiation. They create a barrier that prevents UV radiation from penetrating your eyes.

However, this protective coating can, and often does, break down over time. Wear and tear can cause an invisible web of tiny abrasions, compromising its UV-blocking power. Furthermore, the protective dyes and pigments aren’t able to absorb UV rays indefinitely; the more sunlight they’re exposed to, the more rapidly they’ll become ineffective. 

A pair of shades worn on occasion and in mild conditions is likely to remain effective longer than a pair that is heavily used in a more intensely sunny environment. For example, if you spend long days on the water paddling, kayaking, or canoeing, the protective coating on your lenses will deteriorate more quickly than it would if you only wear your shades to go grocery shopping or sit in a cafe. 

Why It’s Important to Protect Your Eyes From UV

Protecting your eyes from the sun is critical no matter where in the world you are, as UV exposure places you at risk for developing eye diseases like eye cancer, pterygium, and pinguecula — which can result in disfigurement and discomfort — as well as cataracts and macular degeneration — which cause vision loss and, in severe cases, blindness.

Even short-term overexposure can result in photokeratitis, a corneal sunburn. Symptoms include eye pain, swelling, light sensitivity, and temporary vision loss. Some people experience it when spending too much time boating or skiing without wearing eye protection. Snow and water can increase solar exposure because they reflect sunlight toward your face.  

What to Look for When Getting New Sunglasses

When choosing new sunglasses, make sure they’re labeled 100% UV protection or UV400. Although most pairs sold in the United States and Canada offer this degree of protection, it’s still worth confirming before making the purchase. Keep in mind that factors like cost, polarization, lens color, or darkness don’t have much to do with the level of UV protection. Even clear prescription lenses can be UV protective. 

It’s important to note that there is a lot of counterfeit sunwear in the marketplace. This is dangerous since counterfeit eyewear may not provide much-needed ultraviolet protection. So if the price of a renowned brand is too good to be true, it’s probably a fake. 

The size and fit of the sunglasses is important. Bigger is definitely better if you spend a lot of time outdoors. Larger wrap-around eyewear is best if you regularly ski or spend many hours in the water, as this style blocks light from all directions. 

To find out whether it’s still safe to wear your favorite shades, visit a Westchester, Los Angeles eye doctor to determine whether your lenses still offer the right level of UV protection. It’s also a good opportunity to discuss prescription sunwear. 

For more information about UV safety, or to get the perfect sunglasses tailored to your vision needs and lifestyle, contact Family Eyecare Center of Optometry in Westchester, Los Angeles today!  

 

References 

https://biomedical-engineering-online.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12938-016-0209-7

 

Does Obesity Impact Eye Health?

Nation-wide awareness about the vast dangers of obesity is at an all-time high, with TV shows like “The Biggest Loser” and health initiatives such as Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign shining a spotlight on the importance of fitness and good nutrition. However, despite the public’s knowledge of obesity’s effects on hypertension, stroke, and diabetes, many are not aware of how it damages eye health and vision.

Increasing evidence shows that people who are clinically obese have an elevated risk of developing serious eye diseases. It is widely known that expanding waistlines place people at a higher risk of getting diabetes, heart disease, and cancer — but researchers say the link between obesity and deteriorating vision is the “risk factor that no one talks about”. Professor Michael Belkin and Dr. Zohar Habot-Wilner, from the Goldschleger Eye Institute at the Sheba Medical Center, found a consistently strong correlation between obesity and the development of four major eye diseases that may cause blindness: 

  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma
  • Diabetic retinopathy

The researchers said that although the evidence was out there suggesting a link between obesity and these conditions, their study emphasizes the optometric risks of obesity which can help motivate people to shed those extra pounds.

How Obesity Contributes to Eye Disease

A Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 is considered overweight and above 30 is regarded as obese. A high BMI is tied to several chronic systemic health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke, among others. Recent research indicates that a handful of ocular diseases can now be added to that list. 

Serious eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration are more common in individuals with obesity, as well as floppy eyelid syndrome, retinal vein occlusions, thyroid-related eye diseases, and stroke-related vision loss. 

The connection between obesity and these eye diseases is likely due to the increased risk of peripheral artery disease. This occurs when the tiny blood vessels bringing oxygen to parts of your body like the feet, kidneys, and eyes become compromised.

Your eyes are particularly prone to damage from obesity because the blood vessels in the eyes (called arterioles) are easily blocked, since they’re extremely thin and small — as thin as ½ the width of a human hair! 

Most people are not aware that obesity may increase the rate of developing cataracts, too. Cataracts result when the focusing lens in the eye becomes cloudy and requires surgery to be replaced. In addition to age, cataract development is associated with obesity, poor nutrition, gout, diabetes and high blood sugar levels, though the exact cause isn’t clear.

A Healthy Lifestyle Can Reduce Your Risk of Ocular Disease

Knowing about the risk of vision loss may give those with a high BMI the extra motivational boost they need to lose weight. The good news is that a few lifestyle changes can reduce the associated risks.

An active lifestyle and a balanced, nutritious diet lower obesity and improve overall physical and eye health. Give your body a boost by incorporating important nutrients, such as vitamins C and E, zeaxanthin, omega 3, zinc, and lutein, many of which are found in green leafy and dark orange vegetables, as they have been shown to reduce the onset, progression, and severity of certain eye diseases. 

We Can Help Keep Your Eyes Healthy in Westchester, Los Angeles

While a healthy diet and regular exercise greatly increase your chances of living a disease-free long life, they alone are not enough to ensure long term healthy eyesight. Regular eye exams with Dr. Harold Ashcraft can help prevent or detect the onset of ocular disease, and maintain vision that is clear and comfortable.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your vision or eye health, don’t hesitate to call Family Eyecare Center of Optometry — we’re here for you. 

How Smoking Affects Vision

Smoking harms nearly every system in your body — including your eyes. 

Though we are all aware of the health effects associated with smoking, such as lung cancer, heart disease, and bad teeth, few know about the negative impact it can have on our vision. 

How Smoking Impacts Eye Disease 

Smoking, especially 20 cigarettes or more daily over a long period of time, can adversely impact your vision. Cigarette smoke is made up of compounds that can damage health and have been shown to cause cerebral lesions which affect the area of the brain that processes vision.

More specifically, tobacco addiction increases the risk of developing vision-robbing diseases such as macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy. Moreover, smoke is an irritant that can cause or exacerbate dry eye syndrome. Below we’ll delve a little further into each of these conditions. 

Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Smoking

Smokers run a high risk of developing AMD, a condition that severely impairs central vision, making it difficult or impossible to read, drive, recognize faces and colors, and leads to permanent vision loss in those aged 65 or older. Fortunately, the risk can be dramatically diminished by putting an end to tobacco smoking — even if later in life. 

Cataracts and Smoking

Heavy smokers double their risk of developing cataracts, the leading cause of blindness. Cataracts are characterized by clouded, blurred or double vision, photophobia, and reduced night vision. However, cataract surgery is common and replaces the clouded lens with an artificial intraocular lens. 

Uveitis and Smoking

Uveitis, the inflammation of the eye’s central layer, is an ocular disease that can lead to blindness. This condition damages important structures of the eye, notably the iris and retina, and can lead to cataracts, glaucoma and retinal detachment. Smokers have a 2.2 times higher risk of developing uveitis than non-smokers. 

Diabetic Retinopathy and Smoking

Smoking raises one’s risk of developing diabetes by up to 40 percent thereby increasing the risk of retinopathy as well. Diabetes damages the blood vessels in the retina, causing them to leak blood into the eye, which — in severe cases — can deprive the retina of oxygen and result in blindness.

Dry Eyes and Smoking

Dry eye syndrome is a common eye condition characterized by insufficient tears to keep your eye lubricated, or the tears are not composed of the correct balance of water, lipids, and mucous to maintain proper lubrication. Common symptoms include red, itchy, and gritty eyes.

Heavy smokers, and those exposed to secondhand smoke, not only double their risk of developing dry eye but also exacerbate an existing condition, especially among the contact lens wearers.

How Secondhand Smoke Affects Eye Disease 

Secondhand smoke— which includes the smoke that emanates from the end of a cigarette as well as the smoke exhaled— is nearly as harmful to health and vision. Second-hand smoke places others’ eyesight in danger, particularly in young children and infants. Furthermore, studies indicate that women who smoke during pregnancy put the newborn baby at risk of being born with eye disease or visual impairment that could affect his or her ability to learn.

Stop Smoking Now to Save Your Vision

The good news is that giving up smoking can have an immediate effect on your health — and it’s never too late to quit! Once the habit is broken, your body will begin to repair itself to prevent vision loss. It can be challenging to quit, as it requires dedication, support, and advanced planning. Dr. Harold Ashcraft and the rest of the staff at Family Eyecare Center of Optometry in Westchester, Los Angeles care about your health and will be happy to provide any assistance or resources to help you quit smoking and improve your eye health. Keep in mind that if you smoke, quitting smoking is the most important step you can take to protect your health and vision.

If may be hard, since this habit is hard to break. But think about all of the benefits that will come to you, including better health and saving money. It will be worth all the effort you make.

 

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Low Vision Optometrist in Los Angeles, California

Do You Suffer From Vision Loss?

Have You Been Told “Nothing More Can Be Done?”

If you or a loved one are having problems seeing and doing the things you enjoy, Dr. Ashcraft can help. If you have been told by your eye doctor that a change in your eyeglass prescription will not help you see better, call Dr. Ashcraft. He is trained to design special glasses that can make a difference.

Learn more about how Dr. Ashcraft can help you read,
drive, watch tv, see faces, and use a computer or phone.

How to Drive With Bioptic Telescopic Glasses

How To Watch Television and Recognize Faces

How To See Your Phone, Tablet and Computer

How To Read Mail, Magazines, & Other Printed Material

Suffering From Macular Degeneration? Told “Nothing More Can Be Done?” Hope is in Sight!

Our low vision doctor, Dr. Harold Ashcraft, helps patients in the greater Los Angeles area with Macular Degeneration, Diabetic Eye Disease, Cataracts, Stargardt’s Disease, and other vision problems see better so they can go back to doing the things they want to do such as driving, reading, watching TV, using a phone or computer, seeing faces and much more.

Driving with Bioptic Glasses for Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration causes central vision loss and makes it harder to drive. You need to get a lot closer to signs before you can read them. You may have trouble making out traffic lights. Night time driving may be even worse. These problems can make you very nervous and anxious while driving.

Nevertheless, low vision driving bioptic telescope glasses may help you continue to drive. Commonly called bioptics, these special glasses have miniature telescopes mounted above your eye level on a pair of prescription glasses. When you need to see a sign or a traffic signal, you take a quick look through the telescope.

The California DMV allows driving with Bioptic Telescope Glasses as long as certain vision requirements are met. You need to see better than 20/200 vision in the stronger eye. You may also need in the car training with the bioptic telescopic glasses.

Dr. Ashcraft can recommend a DMV certified trainer when needed. Dr. Harold Ashcraft has helped many patients drive safely in California, so they can be continue to be independent and live their life to the fullest.

Macular Degeneration Reading Glasses

Macular Degeneration causes a central blind spot which makes it tough to read small print. In addition, your eyes will struggle as you focus on new words. Words may jump in and out of your field of sight. Reading may be slow.

If you have macular degeneration, your current glasses are most likely not strong enough.

Using a hand magnifier is not much better. It can help when you need to take a quick look at small print but it is not practical for reading. It is hard to hold a magnifier stable for more than a few minutes at a time.

If you get new glasses, they may not seem much better than you old ones. Your eye doctor may have told you that your glasses are as strong as they can be made. That is usually not true. Custom Macular Degeneration Glasses come in higher magnifications which can help you read better.

To read better, you need more magnification and you need the right magnification.

Fortunately, custom low vision glasses for macular degeneration are available that have the magnification you need. These include prismatic reading glasses and Clear Image 2 microscope reading glasses. Other vision aids and devices are also possible.

During your examination at the Low Vision Center at Family Eyecare Center of Optometry, Dr. Harold Ashcraft will show you a variety of low vision macular degeneration glasses so you can see for yourself that reading is possible again.

watching old woman 640×427

Watching TV With Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration can make it harder for you to watch TV. To see the TV better, you might do one of the following:

    • Sit closer to the TV.
    • Get a bigger TV with a high definition large screen.
    • Use telescopic glasses to make the screen bigger. This is similar to using a low power pair of binoculars to see better at the distance. These low vision glasses may have special tints and anti-glare treatments to reduce glare and improve contrast.

At the Low Vision Center at Family Eyecare Center of Optometry, you can see for yourself how these telescopic TV glasses will help you see and enjoy watching television again.

Using Your Phone and Computer With Macular Degeneration

Like other activities that require light, macular degeneration can make it very hard to see your phone and your computer. You may need to make the font a lot bigger, change the contrast or get very close to the device.

During your low vison examination, Dr. Harold Ashcraft will show you different magnifications in low vision glasses and near focused telescopic glasses to find the right vision solution to comfortably view your phone and computer.

Like other activities which require light, patients with macular degeneration may find it difficult to operate their phone. You may have to move your mobile devices very close to your eyes. You can also magnify your fonts to operate the phone. When you visit our low vision center, we will recommend low vision glasses that will help enhance your vision while improving light transmission and reducing glare.

How Can You Make Out Faces?

 MG 9212

Another serious challenge you can face as an AMD patient is making out faces. Due to the central blind spot, every image, object, or face directly in front of you will appear blurry.

Macular degeneration may make it hard for you to see faces until you get very close. Although you may still recognize people you know by their voice or shape, you might not be able to make out facial features or see if they have their eyes open or are smiling or frowning. Luckily, Dr. Harold Ashcraft has special low vision glasses to help you see faces.

Contact us Today

Because everyone’s situation is different, Dr. Harold Ashcraft offers a free telephone consultation to discuss your situation; what you are able to do and what you want to do. If he feels he can help you, he will schedule you for an examination.

During the examination, Dr. Harold Ashcraft will show you custom low vision glasses, telescopes, microscopic reading lenses and other aids and devices. You will see firsthand how these low vision aids can help you return to the activities your want to do, and enjoy your life to the fullest measure possible.

Call Dr. Ashcraft today at our toll free number 888-648-9525 (24 hours a day) to schedule your free telephone consultation.

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Family Eyecare Center of Optometry
8735 La Tijera Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90045

Serving patients from all of Los Angeles County and the surrounding area- Los Angeles: Santa Monica, Mar Vista, Palms, Marina Del Rey, Playa Del Rey, Venice, West Los Angeles, Playa Vista, Westchester, CA; South Bay Cities: El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, Palos Verdes, Harbor City, San Pedro, Hawthorne, Gardena, Lawndale, Carson, Torrance, Long Beach; San Fernando Valley and San Gabriel Valley: Chatsworth, Encino, Glendale, Northridge, Reseda, Sherman Oaks, Thousand Oaks, Burbank, Pasadena, Van Nuys, Woodland Hills, Hollywood; Palmdale and Lancaster, Bakersfield, Santa Clarita, Santa Barbara, and Ventura

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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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We Are Open! 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. Please read our safety protocols here.