Vision wellness

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Eye health information during COVID-19

At BCBS FEP Vision, our first concern is always the health and wellbeing of our members. During times like these, we find that members are seeking information and turn to trusted organizations like ours for guidance. Here are some answers to questions related to COVID-19 and eye health.

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Close-up of an eyeball

What is retinal imaging?

Retinal imaging is a digital image taken of the retina, blood vessels, and optic nerve located at the back of your eyes. These images can assist in the early detection and management of certain eye diseases, including glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetes, and hypertension. How is Retinal Imaging Done? Retinal imaging is a simple, non-invasive procedure. You will look into a device one eye at a time, and you will see a comfortable flash of light to let you know an image of your retina has been taken. The retinal image appears immediately on a computer screen so the eye care professional can review it with you. With the retinal image on file, your eye care professional can cross-check your images each year to look for any changes. Detecting Disease with Retinal Imaging Retinal images can help eye care professionals spot early signs of a number of diseases: Cancer Melanomas can grow undetected within the retina. If discovered early, these masses can be treated before they cause serious damage. Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) As the body ages, degenerative changes in the retina can result in blurry central vision. Hypertension (High Blood Pressure) Compromised blood vessels can appear in the retina and may be an early sign of increased blood pressure throughout your body. Retinal Detachment (RD) When the retina detaches, it is lifted or pulled from the wall of the eye. If not properly treated, this can cause permanent vision loss. Glaucoma Excess fluids within the eye can increase intraocular pressure and push against the optic nerve. This can cause permanent vision loss. Diabetic Retinopathy (DR) A leading cause of preventable blindness, DR occurs when diabetes damages the tiny blood vessels inside the retina.

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Set Children Up for Success This School Year With Healthy Vision

With children returning to the classroom this fall, many parents, guardians, and caregivers are busy buying school supplies to set them up for a great school year. However, they may not be including one of the most important steps for ensuring children’s long-term success in their back-to-school prep list – an eye exam.

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Female patient trying on new glasses in an optometrist's office

How to avoid surprise bills

Do you have a vision care visit in the near future for yourself or a loved one? If so, you’ll want to get the most out of your Blue Cross and Blue Shield FEP Vision coverage. That means choosing an in-network provider for your care.

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The Dangers of Decorative Contact Lenses

It’s hard to believe that Halloween is just around the corner! Although trick-or-treating and Halloween get-togethers will most likely be paused this year, there’s no harm in still getting dressed up for the occasion. Halloween costumes are always fun, even during a pandemic! If you decide to wear a costume this year, please keep the following tips in mind regarding decorative contact lenses. What are they? Decorative contact lenses are often referred to as: Halloween contact lenses Fashion contact lenses Colored contact lenses Cosmetic contact lenses Even though they’re decorative, you should always have a prescription for contact lenses. More importantly, you should never purchase contact lenses from anyone besides an eye care professional, such as street vendors, beauty supply stores, flea markets, novelty stores, Halloween stores, or unknown online distributors. What can happen if I wear decorative contact lenses? The risks of decorative contact lenses include: A cut or scratch on the top layer of your eyeball, also known as a corneal abrasion Allergic reactions such as itchy, watery red eyes Infection – symptoms of infection can include redness, pain in the eye(s) that persists, or decreased vision Blindness How to safely wear decorative contact lenses To safely wear decorative contact lenses, follow these guidelines from the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO): Get an eye exam from a licensed eye care professional  Obtain a valid prescription  A valid prescription includes the brand name, lens measurements, and expiration date Only purchase decorative contact lenses from a retailer who asks for a prescription Follow the contact lens care directions for cleaning, disinfecting, and wearing the lenses For more in-depth hygiene tips, check out our blog: Know how to properly wear and care for your contact lenses Get follow-up exams as directed with your eye care provider Please note: If you notice redness, swelling, discharge, pain, or discomfort from wearing contact lenses, remove the lenses immediately and seek medical attention from an eye care provider.  It might be a spooky time of year, but that doesn’t mean that staying on top of your eye health has to be frightening. It’s important to take care of your vision all year round. Schedule your annual eye exam, even if you don’t wear glasses or contact lenses.  Sources

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Focusing on blindness

According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 2.2 billion individuals worldwide with vision impairment or blindness. In the U.S. alone, blindness or low vision affects more than 4.2 million Americans.

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Eye Safety at Home

Imagine losing your vision due to an accident that could have been prevented. Your quality of life can be changed in an instant. Roughly 2.4 million eye injuries occur in the United States annually. These accidents can happen at work, in the home, or during sports causing vision damage and even blindness. The good news is that 90% of eye injuries can be prevented just by using protective safety eyewear. The bad news is that most Americans do not take this simple precaution. Common Eye Injury Facts According to research conducted by the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Ocular Trauma: Nearly half all eye injuries occurred in the home. In fact, home repairs, yard work, cleaning, and cooking caused more than 40 percent of eye injuries. Home Improvement- injuries can often occur when undertaking home improvement projects.  Power or handheld tools can cause wood, screws, nails, or other substances to fly into the air and into your eyes. Cleaning- Chemicals such as bleach in household cleaning products cause 125,000 eye injuries each year. Yard Work- Lawnmowers and other lawn care tools can launch dirt, rocks, twigs, into the air, that can fly into the eyes. Over 40 percent of eye injuries are related to sports or recreational activities. More than 2,000 individuals injure their eyes at work each day. 10-20% of work-related eye injuries cause temporary or permanent vision loss. More than 78 percent of individuals did not wear protective eyewear during the time of injury. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, only 35 percent of individuals wear protective eyewear when performing home repairs or maintenance, and even fewer do so while playing sports. Safety tips for preventing eye injuries               Outdoors: Wear protective eyewear while doing yard work and when operating lawnmowers, trimmers, and blowers. Wear safety glasses when undertaking outdoor projects, if there is a potential of being exposed to flying particles, objects, or dust. Ensure children are safe and away from the area while any yard work or outdoor projects are being completed. Wear protective eyewear for any sports that include a ball, puck, stick, bat, racket, or flying object as there is a potential of eye injury. Leave fireworks to trained professionals. Keep small children safe around dogs. Eye injuries frequently occur when children are bitten by dogs. Indoors: When exposed to chemicals and household cleaning products, wear safety goggles. Store all hazardous substances away from children at all times. Use caution with chemicals and cleaners. Never mix products, and always read the labels of chemicals and household cleaning supplies, before using them. Ensure all sharp kitchen objects and utensils are kept away and out of the reach of small children. Supervise children when they are using tools such as scissors, pencils, paper clips, rubber bands, wire coat hangers, fishhooks, forks, or knives. Use caution when cooking or using hot pans. Grease shields can help prevent the splattering of hot grease or oil. Use caution when opening a Champagne bottle. Keep the bottle pointed away from yourself and others. Reduce the risk of falls by securing all rugs and railings. Avoid the use of certain projectile toys such as pellet guns, BB guns, darts, bows and arrows, and missile-firing toys. Don’t allow children to use laser pointers. Laser pointers can permanently damage the retina and cause vision loss. Protecting your eyes from injury is one of the simplest things you can do to keep your vision healthy throughout your life. Wearing the proper protective eyewear reduces the risk of eye injury and vision loss. The American Academy of Ophthalmology urges every household to have at least one pair of ANSI-approved protective eyewear.  (“ANSI-approved” means the protective eyewear is made to meet safety standards of the American National Standards Institute.) Sources

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Children and digital eye strain

For a majority of parents, the 2020-2021 school year will begin virtually. According to Education Week, 39 of the 50 largest school districts are choosing remote learning as their back-to-school instructional model, affecting over 6.1 million students in the United States.

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National Eye Exam Month

Routine Eye Exams Are Important at All Ages

Routine eye exams are an important and effective form of preventative medicine for all age groups. Whether someone is eight or 80, eye exams are critical for vision and eye health, as well as offering a way to identify myriad other health conditions.

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Healthy eating tips that support eye health

Did you know that adding certain nutrients to your diet can help preserve your vision and improve eye health? Research conducted by the National Eye Institute (NEI) confirmed that certain variations of nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, Omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, and zeaxanthin, and zinc may help preserve vision and reduce the risk of certain eye diseases.

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Common eye problems in children

Healthy eyes and vision are an essential part of a child’s development. There are many different eye conditions and diseases that can affect a child’s vision, which is why regular eye checks and vision screenings should be a part of your child’s medical care.

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Digital eye strain

With the increasing use of digital devices, many individuals suffer from eye discomfort after prolonged screen use (more than two hours). This is known as digital eye strain.

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Pet allergies can make your eyes miserable

Our pets are often our best friends – unless we are allergic to them. Approximately 62 percent of Americans have pets, and 15 to 30 percent of Americans suffer from pet allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation. That’s a lot of red, itchy eyes!

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What is conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis, also known as “pink eye,” is a common eye disease. It is called “pink eye” because it can cause the white of the eye to become pink or red. It occurs when there is an irritation or inflammation of the conjunctiva.

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Protect your eyes when using cleaning agents and hair dyes

During these challenging times, many of us are focused on keeping our homes clean and free from germs, including the COVID-19 virus. We may be using certain cleaning agents for the first time. It’s important to remember that these contain chemicals that can cause irritation and injury to your eyes, especially when used in areas that are not well ventilated. Exposure to chemical fumes is just as dangerous as splatter into the eye.

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4 helpful ways to prevent your face mask from fogging your glasses

During these unprecedented times, most of us are following the CDC guidelines for wearing face masks in public to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. However, for the 64 percent of Americans who wear glasses – and countless others who wear sunglasses – this new public health mandate comes with an unexpected consequence: foggy lenses.

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The value of vision care

75% of Americans need some form of vision correction1. Get a better understanding of the widespread need of vision care, the impact it has on the economy and how routine vision plays a critical role in the early detection of many chronic health conditions.

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Women’s eye health and safety

There are many healthcare issues specific to women, and eye health is no exception. Women have higher rates of eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. They also have a higher prevalence of dry eye and may experience changes in vision related to pregnancy and menopause.

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Why are more consumers purchasing eyewear online

Technology has had a profound impact on nearly every aspect of our daily lives, especially how we shop. Over the past decade, the percentage of eCommerce sales has grown by double digits each year, and it’s not slowing down, according to eMarketer.

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A fishy solution to dry eye

It’s painful, frustrating, and affects nearly five million Americans age 50 and older, 60 percent of whom are women—particularly menopausal women. We are talking about dry eye.

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Safe toys and celebrations

According to Prevent Blindness America, children sustain approximately 11,000 toy-related eye injuries each year. Most toy-related eye injuries are treated, have no long-term effects, and are easily preventable.

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Diabetic eye disease

Regular eye exams can lead to early prevention, detection, or treatment of several health concerns. Below are three health issues that can be detected by an eye exam.

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Costume contacts safety

In order to safely wear decorative contacts during Halloween or when dressing up throughout the year, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends following these guidelines.

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Fireworks eye safety

Each year, thousands of Americans visit emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries. Thirty-five percent of those injured are under the age of 15. Regulations have helped make fireworks safer, though inherently they remain potentially hazardous.

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Sports eye safety

Each sport has its own unique risks of eye injury and requires its own type of protective eyewear, which is why the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) sets the standard for sports eye protection.

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Trees and leaves during fall

Fall Allergies Can Leave You Seeing Red

Autumn can be a wonderful time of year for many. But for those with allergies, fall also means the misery of red, itchy, watery eyes, dark circles, swollen eyelids, and even pink eye and other eye infections. If you suffer from fall eye allergies, there are several things you can do to get relief safely and effectively. Fall allergy triggers In the fall, people also are exposed to factors they’re not exposed to during the rest of the year. Leaves on the ground can harbor mold spores, triggering allergies. Additionally, when the furnace is first turned on during the cooler days and nights of fall, it can stir up the waste products from dust mites, which proliferate in the warmth and humidity of summer. The result is red, itchy eyes that can be alternately watery AND dry, not to mention the dark circles and sinus pressure. Worse yet, research shows that fall allergies can also have a significant impact on verbal learning and decision-making speed and psychomotor speed, as well as a reduced ability to concentrate.1-2 Easing fall eye allergies While there’s no cure-all for easing the ocular irritation that comes from fall allergies, there are several things you can do to help reduce the severity of the symptoms. First and foremost, avoid the allergy triggers in the first place. If you cannot get around mowing the lawn or raking leaves, wear a face mask and shower immediately after to avoid build up and prolonged exposure to pollen and mold. Also be sure to wear wraparound sunglasses to help keep pollen out of your eyes, particularly when gardening or doing lawn work. Speaking of glasses, during allergy season, consider trading your contact lenses for eyeglasses. Contact lenses can attract airborne allergens. To avoid buildup, either opt for eyeglasses in the fall or try disposable contacts. Next, eye drops can provide much needed relief to dry, red, itchy eyes. Over-the-counter drops can usually do the trick, but if you need a bit more help, your eye care professional can prescribe medications such as corticosteroids, antihistamines, and decongestants to reduce your body’s response to allergens. If you do choose to use corticosteroid eye drops, be sure to use for short-term relief, as long-term usage can increase the risk for glaucoma and cataracts. Lastly, if you want to do the natural route, give baking soda and/or quercetin a try. Baking soda has been shown to not only relieve allergy symptoms, but also stop the allergic response in its tracks.3-4 Mix ½-1 teaspoon of baking soda in 4 ounces of filtered water and drink every 1-2 hours until symptoms subside. Similarly, quercetin—a flavonoid known to have antiallergenic effects—has been found to be highly effective in inhibiting the release of histamine.5-7 Aim for 300–600 mg of quercetin once or twice a day. References: Marshall PS and Colon EA. Effects of allergy season on mood and cognitive function. Ann Allergy. 1993 Sep;71(3):251-8. Meltzer EO. The prevalence and medical and economic impact of allergic rhinitis in the United States. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1997 Jun;99(6 Pt 2):S805-28. Buysse CM, et al. Life-threatening asthma in children: treatment with sodium bicarbonate reduces PCO2. Chest. 2005 Mar;127(3):866-70. Mansmann HC Jr, et al. Treatment of severe respiratory failure during status asthmaticus in children and adolescents using high flow oxygen and sodium bicarbonate. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 1997 Jan;78(1):69-73. Chirumbolo S. Quercetin as a potential anti-allergic drug: which perspectives? Iran J Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2011 Jun;10(2):139-40. Shaik YB. Role of quercetin (a natural herbal compound) in allergy and inflammation. J Biol Regul Homeost Agents. 2006 Jul-Dec;20(3-4):47-52. Park HH, et al. Flavonoids inhibit histamine release and expression of proinflammatory cytokines in mast cells. Arch Pharm Res. 2008 Oct;31(10):1303-11.

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Yoga for the eyes

Yoga is a wonderful exercise for both flexibility and stress reduction. But did you know it can also benefit your eyes and vision? Our newest infographic shows you three yoga exercises for your eyes that can relieve eyestrain and support overall eye health.

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Hormonal Impact on Women’s Vision

Hormones are chemical messengers that travel throughout the body, from cell to cell, telling your body what to do and when and how to do it. There are hormones that dictate everything from thyroid health and stress reactions to hunger and sleepiness. Of all the hormones in the body, the sex hormones (namely estrogen) are the ones most likely to affect vision. During puberty, the flood of hormones can impact a growing child’s vision. In the same way that the pre-teen’s arms and legs are lengthening, so too are their eyeballs. This can result in blurry vision and myopia, or nearsightedness. While both of these conditions may be temporary, only regular eye exams will let you know for certain if vision correction is needed or not. Adult women and hormone-related vision Estrogen can have a big impact on vision in women. In addition to puberty in girls, women experience a rush of hormones during pregnancy and a depletion of hormones during menopause, both of which can have a noticeable impact on vision. In the case of pregnancy, women may experience blurry vision, light sensitivity, and even headaches and migraines due to fluctuating hormone levels and fluid retention. Once they deliver (and stop breastfeeding), most women see their vision return to normal. One note to keep in mind: blurry vision combined with seeing spots or haloes during pregnancy could be a symptom of preeclampsia. In all cases, pregnant women should be sure to discuss vision changes with their ob/gyn. Menopause can also affect a woman’s vision. As estrogen levels decline, female tissues can become dry and undergo structural changes. This can affect vision by way of dry eye and blurry vision. While lubricating eye drops can help, working with your doctor to adjust hormone levels while also paying particular attention to your vision can mean the difference between eye discomfort and irritation and normal vision.

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Navigating the Insurance Lexicon

Insurance can be tricky place to navigate. Much like any field or discipline, it has its own set of terminology. The following list will help you to navigate the insurance lexicon so you can better understand your vision and eye care benefits.

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How diabetes affects your vision

Diabetes is a disease affecting your pancreas, which also affects the blood sugar and insulin levels in your body. Not only does diabetes affect your pancreas, but it also systemically affects your entire body.

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How to read your eyeglass prescription

If you suffer from certain eye problems, your doctor may prescribe eyeglasses to help with your eyesight. However, your prescription for eyeglasses contains numbers and abbreviated words that you may not be able to understand.

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What to expect in a checkup eye exam

An eye exam consists of an array of tests carried out by an eye care professional or specialist who examines your vision and ability to focus on distinguishing objects. It is inclusive of all check-ups and analysis pertaining to the eye.

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Fireworks Safety Tips

Each year, thousands of Americans visit emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries. 35% of those injured are under the age of 15. Regulations have helped make fireworks safer, though inherently they remain potentially hazardous.

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Back-to-School Vision Tips

With school just around the corner, your child’s annual eye exam should be a priority. Vision is one of the most important factors in learning and development.

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Kids and Computer Eye Strain

There has been a marked increase in the number of children diagnosed with myopia in the past 10 years, and it is suspected that Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is the cause.

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Handling Eye Injuries

The simplest scratch can cause serious and permanent vision loss, even blindness. In the United States alone, it is estimated that 2.4 million eye injuries occur each year resulting in nearly one million people suffering from loss of sight.

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Popular lens options

Eyeglass wearers have many lens options available to them that will enhance their comfort and provide added vision benefits. The listing below details some of the most popular options and explains how they can help you experience the best results from your new eyeglasses. Talk to your eye care professional today to find out more!

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Polarized sunglasses

You already know that when you buy prescription sunglasses to protect your eyes and to improve your vision at the same time, you want lenses that block 100 percent of the sun’s harmful UV rays.

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The ABC’s on Ultraviolet Radiation (UV)

With the arrival of summer come all the outdoor activities many of us look forward to. This in return equates to more exposure to the sun. We are all very aware of the damaging effects sunlight has our skin, but what about our eyes?

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Common Childhood Vision Problems

It’s important to understand what common vision problems are with children so that they can see their best. Below is a list of questions and answers surrounding the most popular vision concerns for kids.

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Eyeglass Basics

We’ve created this simple guide to educate and help you better understand the types of lenses and wide assortment of lens options that are available.

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Sun worshipers, beware!

When skin is left unprotected, we may develop painful sunburn; when eyes go unprotected, however, we remain largely unaware of the harm being done. Eye damage from long-term exposure to the sun’s UV rays is so gradual that it is not felt. This underscores the importance of protecting our eyes when outdoors.

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