Fighting Back Against Spring Allergies

dandelions Fighting Back Against Spring Allergies

Spring is finally here after a long, cold winter where we saw record snows in Connecticut. But with the welcome warm weather, daffodils, and budding trees comes something not quite as pleasant…seasonal allergies. For people that suffer with spring allergies, this beautiful time of year can be pretty uncomfortable. Knowing what causes spring allergies and how to relieve your symptoms can help you enjoy the beauty of this time of year without constant sneezing, a runny nose, or itchy, watery eyes.

Spring allergies are often triggered by pollen being released into the air by trees, grasses and weeds as they germinate and grow. When pollen gets into the nasal passages or eyes of someone who’s allergic, the human immune system reacts by releasing antibodies to attack the pollen. This defense mechanism causes the allergens to release histamines, which cause the allergic reactions people suffering with spring allergies know all too well.

When pollen counts are high, allergies get worse. Some experts are predicting that 2013 will be especially bad for seasonal allergies, so now is the time to start taking necessary precautions. Allergy symptoms can be particularly bad on breezy days when the wind picks up pollen and circulates it through the air. But wet days cause a drop in pollen counts because rain washes away allergens, providing some relief.

The symptoms of spring allergies include runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, sneezing, and sometimes a scratchy throat and coughing. Spring allergies can also trigger asthma attacks, so asthma sufferers should be especially careful this time of year. If you’ve never been diagnosed with spring allergies but you notice that your eyes and nose are itchy and uncomfortable during the spring months, a visit to your doctor can help confirm your condition. You may be referred to an allergist for additional testing to determine exactly what you are allergic to. This information will help your medical team develop a plan to fight back against your allergies. Spring allergies can be treated with antihistamines, decongestants, eye drops and nasal sprays, depending on each person’s unique symptoms.

It’s nearly impossible to completely avoid seasonal allergies if you live in an area with high pollen activity in the spring, but symptoms can be managed effectively in most cases. Try to stay indoors whenever the pollen count is high. Pollen counts usually peak in the morning. Keep doors and windows closed whenever possible to keep spring allergens out. An air purifier may also help. If you have air filters in your home, clean them often along with shelves, windowsills and other places where pollen tends to collect. Vacuuming and sweeping more often in the spring can also help remove allergens from your home.

Allergies can take the enjoyment out of being outdoors during this beautiful time of year for seasonal allergy sufferers, but with the right knowledge and game plan in place, you can fight back and breath easier.

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New Bionic Eye Implants Give Hope to the Blind

Digital Eye New Bionic Eye Implants Give Hope to the Blind

A new prosthetic device that can restore some basic sight to the blind has recently been approved by the FDA. Second Sight is the name of the California-based company that makes this incredible device, called the Argus II. They have received approval to market their retinal prosthetic to patients with advanced retinitis pigmentosa, which is a degenerative eye disease that can cause blindness. This is the first approved treatment for the disease in the United States.

The main function of the implant is to give patients enough sight to restore mobility, although some patients have been able to identify large letters as well.

The Argus II, has three main parts: a glasses-mounted video camera, a portable computer, and a chip implanted near the retina. The video camera sends image data to the computer, which is worn on a belt. The processor converts the image data into electrical signals that are beamed to a chip implanted near the retina. The signals are then sent to an array of 60 electrodes that stimulate the retinal cells. These electrodes essentially do the work of the light-sensing cells that have degenerated.

So far, the system can’t help patients make out different colors, but it can provide them with enough visual sensation to sense the outlines of things nearby. The company is developing software that will enable the device to stimulate patients to see color by providing electrical signals at different frequencies.

Surgeons in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Baltimore have already been trained in the surgery to implant the device. New medical technology like this gives hope to the blind and inspiration to us all.

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Your Eyes Can’t Talk, But Can They Write?

Eye Writing Your Eyes Can’t Talk, But Can They Write?

New technology has recently been developed to help patients without the use of their limbs or voice to write using only their eyes. Researchers in France have created an exciting new way for people to communicate that doesn’t require a pen and paper.

The researchers developed a system that allows users to write in cursive on a video monitor using only their eyes. Dr. Jean Lorenceau of the Universite Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris has developed a method for translating eye movements into writing on a screen.

Dr. Lorenceau’s technique tricks the body’s own circuitry by using a flickering screen to capture eye movements. The brain thinks the eyes are following a moving object, but the device uses known eye motion-detection technology to translate these movements into smooth cursive writing that is fully controlled by the subject.

Other devices for communicating solely with the eyes do exist today, but they are less sophisticated. Existing devices typically let a user select choices from a menu in sequence rather than actually write. Dr. Lorenceau points out that giving users the ability to create something completely by themselves is unique to his device. He has just been selected by the French National Research Agency to partner with a physician caring for ALS patients in developing his device further, as well as a company to continue to develop the device and a programmer to develop software for cursive eye writing recognition.

Exciting technological advancements like this give hope to people living without the use of their limbs or the ability to speak. As science develops new devices to assist these patients, their ability to communicate with others can be greatly improved. Medical technology is evolving by leaps and bounds these days, which begs the question, what other disabilities can also be overcome through science?

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Show Your Eyes Some Love This Valentine’s Day

heart shaped strawberry Show Your Eyes Some Love This Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is typically celebrated with flowers, cards, jewelry, and candy. Heart-shaped boxes filled with chocolates and little candy hearts will be shared by many. But we can also use this heart-themed holiday to remind ourselves to show our eyes a little more love this year by eating healthier…after you finish that box of chocolates of course.

The exact guidelines for a healthy diet vary from one nutrition expert to the next, but there are a few key items almost always included as part of a healthy eating plan. We’ve all heard that drinking more water and eating vegetables should be part of our daily dietary habits, but what exactly are the real benefits of these recommendations?

Dietary supplementation is another topic where professional opinions vary widely, but research is starting to prove that certain supplements can contribute significantly to our health and wellbeing. Often times, the supplements recommended to improve your overall health also carry some important vision benefits as well.

The tips below have significant research supporting their health benefits for your body and eyes:

Drink more water. We’ve all heard this before, but the reality is most people don’t drink anywhere close to enough water on a daily basis. Your body is composed of roughly 60 to 70 percent water. Blood is mostly water, and your eyes, muscles, lungs and brain all contain lots of water too. You need water to regulate body temperature and to carry important nutrients to your organs and tissues, including your eyes. Water also transports oxygen to your cells, removes waste and protects your joints and organs. Aim for 4-6 total glasses of pure water each day. Food, juice and other beverages also contribute to your daily water intake, but pure water is best because it doesn’t contain any calories, sugar or caffeine, which can dehydrate you.

Eat more vegetables. A diet rich in vegetables offers a wide range of proven health benefits. Vegetables are loaded with healthy vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Many also contain powerful antioxidants that protect our eyes, organs and other cells from damage. When selecting vegetables for your diet, try to focus on eating a diverse mix of colors to add the most nutrition to your meals. Dark green, red and purple vegetables offer some of the most nutrient-rich options. For eye health, vegetables with the nutrient lutein provide great daily support for your vision. Vegetables high in lutein include leafy greens like spinach and kale, broccoli, squash, Brussels sprouts, orange peppers, green beans, peas and sweet potatoes. Orange vegetables like carrots contain high amounts of beta-carotene, which also supports good eye health.

Take the right supplements. Dietary supplements are expensive and often times we take them without really knowing why or how much to take. Some supplements can be dangerous when taken in high amounts, so you should be careful when choosing which supplements to take. Consulting with your doctor before taking anything new is always good advice. There is one supplement in particular that has been researched heavily over the past few years and many health professionals recommend taking it every day for its ability to improve cardiovascular, eye and skin health. It can also contribute to lowering cholesterol and triglycerides, easing joint pain and improving mood in some cases. The supplement we’re talking about is Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and taking a fish oil supplement is one of the best ways to add more Omega-3’s into your diet. Look for a fish-oil supplement that has been purified to remove any potentially harmful environmental contaminants like mercury. Pharmaceutical grade fish oils are also available for those that want to ensure they are taking the highest quality fish oil available. As an alternative, flax seed oil also contains high levels of healthy Omega 3’s.

There are many different ways to show your eyes some extra love this year, but these three dietary suggestions will give your overall health and vision a serious boost. Your body and your eyes will thank you! Happy Valentines Day from Harvey & Lewis Opticians!

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New Year…New You!

2013 New Year New Year…New You!

As 2012 draws to a close, this is the time of year where we reflect on the previous twelve months and make plans for the year ahead. And as always, people all over the country will make their annual New Year’s resolutions. Most resolutions are related to some form of self-improvement, with health-related plans being some of the most common. Specific commitments like exercising more, eating healthier, and stopping smoking are all great resolutions that millions of people will make. But something as simple and general as taking better care of ourselves, including our vision, would also make for a great resolution to begin 2013.

Here are some ideas for how you can kick off the New Year right by taking a fresh look at your eye health:

- Get a routine eye examination, especially if it’s been more than a year since your last screening.

- Have your eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions updated to make sure you’re seeing as clearly as possible.

- If your current eyeglasses are scratched, it might be time for new lenses. Ask your eye care professional about special coated lenses that help prevent future scratches and reduce glare.

- If you’ve noticed any changes in your vision over the past year, be sure to inform your eye care professional at your next appointment. Many common eye conditions can be treated more effectively when caught early on, so don’t ignore any problems or discomfort you’re experiencing.

- Want to start the New Year with a new look? Updating your frames can make a dramatic difference in your appearance and your local eye care professional can help you select the perfect pair to compliment your unique facial features and style.

All of these items can help improve your eye health in the New Year. As we wind down from the past year and look forward to 2013, take a moment to think about what improvements you can make to your overall health…and don’t forget your eyes!

Harvey & Lewis Opticians would like to thank all of our valued friends and clients for another wonderful year and we wish everyone a very happy and prosperous New Year! We look forward to keeping your eyes healthy for many years to come.

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Keeping Your Eyes Comfortable In Cold Weather

Winter Sun Keeping Your Eyes Comfortable In Cold Weather

When the weather turns colder this time of year, many people start experiencing increased dry eye symptoms. If your eyes are feeling dry or scratchy as the winter season begins, here are a few tips to help keep them healthy and comfortable.

During the cold weather months, we spend a lot more time indoors with the heat on. Combine that with the dry atmospheric conditions that winter brings and you’ve got a recipe for dry eyes. Our tear glands don’t always produce fluid fast enough to maintain the proper moist, protective coating that our eyes require to stay hydrated in these conditions. This often leads to dry eyes that may cause blurred vision or a scratchy, burning sensation.

The good news is there are a few things you can do to keep your eyes more comfortable during the long winter months.

Use Eye Drops. Eyes get dry because they lack the right amount of moisture to keep them lubricated, and the cold winter weather reduces eye moisture considerably. Over-the-counter eye drops can provide temporary relief for many people when dry eye symptoms show up. There are many different types of eye drops to choose from at your local pharmacy, so it’s best to check with your eye care professional to identify what type of dry eye you are experiencing to ensure you’re using the right drops for your specific needs.

Wear Sunglasses. When your eyes are exposed to freezing temperatures and harsh winter winds, it’s easy to see why they can become dry. Wearing sunglasses will help keep your eyes protected from these extreme conditions while retaining precious moisture on the surface of your eyes. Sunglasses also shield your eyes from blinding glare that can occur when the sun reflects off of white snow, so keeping your eyes covered when you are outside in the winter offers many benefits.

Take Omega 3 Supplements. Eye drops can help add moisture to dry eyes from the outside, while Omega 3 supplements can help improve eye moisture from the inside. When taken on a regular basis, research has shown that supplements rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, like fish oil and flax seed oil, can improve tear composition. These supplements help keep tears healthy, which in turn keeps your eyes feeling more comfortable. Ask your eye care professional or doctor before starting any new dietary supplementation program and choose purified fish oil supplements, which are widely available.

Try a Room Humidifier. Heating a home in the winter can dry out indoor air, which can lead to dry eyes as well. A room humidifier can add moisture back into your home, which can help reduce dry eye symptoms.

Winter doesn’t have to be a season of discomfort for eyes. Using these tips will help keep your eyes feeling comfortable all season long until the warm weather returns. So until then, bundle up and get outside to enjoy your favorite winter activities.

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Diabetes & Vision: Recognizing World Diabetes Day

diabetes glucose meter Diabetes & Vision: Recognizing World Diabetes Day

November 14 is World Diabetes Day. If you have diabetes, today serves as an important reminder to schedule a comprehensive eye examination, especially if it’s been a while since your last exam.

More than 346 million people worldwide have diabetes, which is a leading cause of blindness. Most people with diabetes are at an increased risk for other eye complications as well. All diabetics should have regular eye exams and be aware of these symptoms that could indicate a serious condition:

-Blurred or double vision
-Sudden trouble reading
-Straight lines no longer appearing straight
-Seeing floaters or spots
-Pressure in your eyes

Diabetes is a major epidemic in many countries, including the United States. As diabetes becomes more common, so does a condition known as diabetic retinopathy, which is a serious complication that can cause vision loss with little or no warning. It occurs when uncontrolled blood sugar levels cause blood vessels in the retina to swell and leak, leading to retinal damage and blindness. During the early stages, this condition can attack with no symptoms or noticeable pain. And by the time vision loss is experienced, it is usually permanent.

Cases of diabetic retinopathy are estimated to rise significantly in the future. Although diabetic retinopathy is one of the most serious eye diseases, it’s also one of the most avoidable. People with diabetes can take steps to avoid vision loss from diabetic retinopathy by controlling their blood pressure, exercising, eating healthy, keeping their blood sugar in check and getting regular eye examinations. The importance of regular eye exams cannot be stressed enough. If caught early, diabetic retinopathy can be treated and further vision loss prevented.

The sooner problems are diagnosed, the more successful treatment can be. Prevention is often your most powerful protection against vision loss caused by diabetes, so make it a priority to schedule an appointment with your eye care professional today.

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Tips For Keeping Your Eyes Safe At Work

computer person working Tips For Keeping Your Eyes Safe At Work

Regardless of what you do for work, your eyes play a major role in your daily performance. Vision problems can greatly affect they way we live our lives, both at home and on the job. Many people spend most of their working hours looking at a computer screen, while others work mainly outside. Regardless of where you spend your time working, there are eye hazards that you should be aware of. The good news is most eye-related injuries are preventable. Using these tips will help keep your eyes safe at work.

The increased use of technology like computers, smart phones, and tablets at work can all put extra strain on our eyes. Digital eye strain is caused by the overuse of these digital devices, which are designed for close range use. Our eyes must constantly refocus to process content like graphics and text that are displayed close to our eyes. Over time, digital eye strain can lead to eye fatigue, irritation and other vision problems.

If you work on a computer or use mobile technology on a regular basis at work, it’s a good idea to give your eyes a break from time to time. To keep your eyes from getting fatigued, look away from your screen for a couple of minutes at least once or twice per hour. Try to look out a window or at distant objects to help your eyes relax before going back to work.

If your eyes start to hurt while working, you can even give them break by closing them for a few minutes to help them recover. If your eyes are experiencing dryness or redness from long-term computer use, over-the-counter eye drops can provide relief by lubricating and refreshing your tired, dry eyes. Also, making sure your work environment has good lighting can help prevent eye strain.

Outdoor eye injuries occur most often when operating heavy machinery, power tools, or machines with moving parts. These types of injuries can affect indoor factory workers and outdoor construction workers alike. Some other professions that see a high rate of eye injuries include landscapers, tree workers, masons and carpenters. It’s very important to use proper eye protection whenever you are using power tools or harmful chemicals. The simple use of protective eyewear can help eliminate most job-related eye injuries.

So whether you have a desk job or you’re on your feet at a construction site all day, remember to take the proper precautions to keep our eyes safe and healthy. After all, without our eyes many other tasks would become much more difficult. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention can save a pound of cure. When it comes to your vision, this could not be more true.

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The Future Of Computers Is Right In Front Of Our Eyes

eye computer The Future Of Computers Is Right In Front Of Our Eyes

People have been wearing contact lenses for decades to help correct vision problems. But some scientists have bigger plans for these simple lenses. What if I told you that someday your contact lenses could act as a computer monitor capable of projecting images and text messages right in front of your eyes? Is this just a bunch of science fiction, or could we be closer to this reality than you think?

According to researchers at Washington University, the idea of computerized contact lenses is actually very close to reality. The futuristic technology has taken a step closer with the development of a prototype lens that could potentially provide the wearer with hands-free information and messages. In theory, such a device could enable the wearer to read emails and text messages, view images and maybe even watch videos using a computer display on the surface of your eye.

The computerized contact lens is currently being tested, and so far, no signs of adverse reactions or side effects have been reported. That being said, there are still many issues that need to be resolved before such a device can be brought to market. How the lenses will be powered is one of the biggest obstacles to the technology currently. Right now, they need a remote battery to be located very close to the wearer, which is not a very practical long-term solution. But now that the lenses have shown serious potential, figuring out how to keep them charged effectively is probably just a matter of time.

Another problem is the fact that the human eye only has a minimum focal distance of a few centimeters. Any information projected onto the lens would most likely appear blurry right now. To overcome this obstacle, a set of Fresnel lenses has been incorporated into the device that focus the projected image onto the retina. Fresnel lenses are thinner and flatter than conventional contact lenses.

This technology is also going into eyeglasses. Once the technology is perfected, the possibilities of what could be projected onto these high-tech lenses are truly endless. Just imagine being able to read text messages, view photos and videos, scan email, or access GPS powered maps all on a hands-free, wearable device. The future of mobile computing may very well be right in front of our eyes.

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