Man undergoing an eye exam

Approximately 37 million adults in America have age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, or glaucoma, all of which can cause visual impairment or blindness. However, recent studies show that making healthy choices and getting regular eye exams can help reduce a person’s risk of vision loss. In support of Healthy Vision Month in May, the American Academy of Ophthalmology is encouraging everyone to take charge of their eye health and preserve their sight by following some simple tips.

  1. Wear sunglasses (even on cloudy days!). It can help prevent the formation of early cataracts by filtering ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. Look for sunglasses that block out at least 99% of both UVA and UVB radiation. Bonus: Add a wide-brimmed hat when you’re out and about for extra protection!
  2. Eating healthy is good for your eyes! In fact, a diet rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables—especially dark leafy greens, like spinach or kale—is important for keeping your eyes healthy. Research also shows that fish high in omega-3 fatty acids—like salmon, tuna, and halibut—can help protect your vision.
  3. Regular physical activity can boost your mood, reduce stress, help you stay at a healthy weight—and protect you from serious eye diseases! Anything that gets your heart beating faster can help keep your eyes healthy—try going for a quick walk after work.
  4. Blinking keeps your eyes lubricated. If you spend a lot of time at the computer or staring at your phone, you may forget to blink—and that can tire out your eyes. Try using the 20-20-20 rule throughout the day: Every 20 minutes, look away from the screens and focus about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds. This reduces eyestrain and helps your eyes (and you!) feel better at the end of the day.
  5. Are you at risk for eye injuries? About 2,000 people in the United States get a serious work-related eye injury every day and people with sports-related eye injuries end up in the ER every 13 minutes! The good news is that you can help protect your eyes from injury by wearing protective eyewear like safety glasses, goggles, and safety shields. To make sure you have the right kind of protective eyewear and you’re using it correctly, talk with your eye doctor.

Get more tips to keep your eyes healthy and safe. And don’t forget to ask your doctor if you need to schedule an eye exam!

Each year, an estimated 100,000 people are hurt by sports-related eye injuries. About 13,500 of these injuries result in permanent vision loss. In support of Sports Eye Safety Month, this April, the American Academy of Ophthalmology reminds athletes everywhere that a great majority of sports-related eye injuries can be avoided by simply wearing the proper protection.

Sports-Related Eye Injuries by Age

Activity Estimated Injuries Ages 0-14 Ages 15+
Water and pool activities 6,605 3,573 3,032
Basketball 5,141 1,434 3,707
Guns, darts, arrows and slingshots 2,798 951 1,847
Baseball and softball 2,488 971 1,517
Health clubs (exercise and weight-lifting) 2,253 465 1,788
Bicycling 1,864 648 1,216
Football 1,448 821 627
Other sports and recreational activities 1,445 337 1,108
Soccer 1,390 594 796
Playground equipment 1,180 1,113 67
Table source: Prevent Blindness. Based on statistics provided by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Directorate for Epidemiology; National Injury Information Clearinghouse; National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS). Product Summary Report—Eye Injuries Only—Calendar Year 2017.

These sports-related injuries included infections, corneal abrasions, eye socket fractures, swollen or detached retinas, and traumatic cataracts. The source, Prevent Blindness, also offers tips on sports eye protection. Here are some below:

  • Always consult an eye care professional to get the best eye protection for your sport and lifestyle.
  • If you wear prescription glasses, ask your eye doctor to fit you for prescription eye protection.
  • Sports eye protection should be padded or cushioned along the brow and bridge of the nose. Padding will prevent the eye guards from cutting the skin.
  • Try on eye protection to determine if it is the right size. Adjust the strap and make sure it is not too tight or too loose. Consult your eye care professional to ensure it has a comfortable, safe fit.

“Wearing eye protection should be part of any athlete’s routine, just as putting on equipment like shin guards, gloves or a helmet are,” says Dr. Michael Vrabec. “Eye accidents happen so quickly, but the effects can be painful and last a lifetime. Making sure you have the right safety eyewear can reduce serious vision impairment.”

Woman looking at computer at work

Most workplaces today involve daily computer screen time that can cause continued and persistent eye strain. Individuals using computers for long stretches of time tend to complain about symptoms like dry eyes, blurry vision and eye strain. When using multiple devices, such as computers, tablets and smartphones, there are a number of ways to maintain good eye care and health while you work.

First of all, regular eye exams are important and you should tell your doctor how much online work you do each day. When using your devices, make sure you stop for breaks at regular intervals. It’s a good idea to get up, walk to a window, and focus on various distances. Allowing the eyes to look away from the screen, particularly at something soothing can be very resting for the eyes.

Additionally, computer users find that they don’t blink as frequently as they should, creating dry eyes. When staring continuously at your monitor, you will blink a lot less than normal. While you are working at your computer, make a conscious effort to blink as often as possible. In fact, closing your eyes for a few seconds can help as well. Air conditioning can also add to the problem. If you find your eyes are still dry, applying artificial tears can help to keep your eyes moist. If possible, install a humidifier in your work area.

The distance to your computer or device also plays a big role in the health of your eyes. Make sure the monitor is about 20 inches away from your eyes. The top of the monitor should be tilted a little below your eye level. Keep your monitor free of dust and fingerprints, as these can greatly reduce clarity.

Your eyewear is important too. Consider an anti-reflective coating to reduce glare and ease eye strain. Talk with your doctor about the best options for the way you use your eyes.

A healthy lifestyle and eating well can improve the health of your eyes. Eating plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits as well as getting a good night’s sleep are all important ways to preserve the health of your eyes. During this Workplace Eye Wellness Month, it’s important to take the necessary steps toward better eye care.

The National Eye Institute projects by the year 2050, 5.4 million people in the United States will suffer from Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), more than double the number in 2010.

What is AMD?

Diagram showing 2.1 million people affected by AMD in 2010 and 5.4 million in 2050

Each eye represents a total of 80 million people, the estimated number of Americans who will be 65 and older in 2050, the population most affected by eye disease.

AMD is a common eye disease affecting people over the age of 60. It damages the macula, a small spot near the center of the retina that focuses images and translates them to the brain. In some people, AMD advances so slowly that vision loss does not occur for a long time. In others, the disease progresses faster. When the macula is damaged, the center of your field of view may appear blurry, distorted, or dark. AMD by itself does not lead to complete blindness, with no ability to see. However, the loss of central vision in AMD can interfere with simple everyday activities, such as the ability to see faces, drive, read, write, or do close work, such as cooking or fixing things around the house.

Who is at risk?

Age is a major risk factor for AMD. The disease is most likely to occur after age 60, but it can occur earlier. Other risk factors for AMD include:

  • Smoking: Research shows that smoking doubles the risk of AMD
  • Race: AMD is more common among Caucasians than among African-Americans or Hispanics/Latinos
  • Family history and genetics: People with a family history of AMD are at higher risk. At last count, researchers had identified nearly 20 genes that can affect the risk of developing AMD. Many more genetic risk factors are suspected.

Researchers have found links between AMD and some lifestyle choices, such as smoking. You might be able to reduce your risk of AMD or slow its progression by making these healthy choices:

  • Avoiding smoking
  • Exercising regularly
  • Maintaining normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Eating a healthy diet rich in green, leafy vegetables and fish

The early and intermediate stages of AMD usually start without symptoms. Only a comprehensive dilated eye exam can detect AMD.

What are the stages of AMD?

Early AMD

People with early AMD typically do not have vision loss.

Intermediate AMD

Intermediate AMD may cause some vision loss, but most people will not experience any symptoms.

Late AMD

There are two types of late AMD:

  • Dry AMD: There is a gradual breakdown of the light-sensitive cells in the macula that convey visual information to the brain, and of the supporting tissue beneath the macula. These changes cause vision loss.
  • Wet AMD: Abnormal blood vessels grow underneath the retina. These vessels can leak fluid and blood, which may lead to swelling and damage of the macula. The damage may be rapid and severe.

AMD has few symptoms in the early stages, so it is important to have your eyes examined regularly. If you are at risk for AMD because of age, family history, lifestyle, or some combination of these factors, you should not wait to experience changes in vision before getting checked for AMD.

Source: National Eye Institute

Close-up of an elder woman and younger girl's eyes

Have you made a resolution to stay healthy this year? Don’t forget about your eye health!

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world. Glaucoma is often called the “silent thief of sight” because there are often no symptoms until there is visible, permanent damage. Routine eye exams can diagnose this condition and allow for early treatment so blindness can be prevented. Here are some facts about glaucoma:

  • Nearly three million Americans have glaucoma. Half of them don’t know it.

    Glaucoma can cause vision loss and blindness, which can’t be reversed. Glaucoma causes fluid to build up in your eye, causing pressure that can damage the optic nerve, which transfers visual images to your brain. But, you can save your vision with early detection and treatment.

  • There are no early symptoms. Glaucoma often has no early warning signs. No pain. No discomfort. No blurry vision. Only advanced glaucoma will affect your vision. Don’t wait for symptoms to visit your eye doctor!
  • In the United States, half of the people who have glaucoma don’t know they do. Nearly three million Americans have glaucoma. Half of them don’t know it. Lack of awareness and the absence of symptoms are preventing people from detecting the disease early. You can change that! Find out if you have glaucoma.
  • Some people are at higher risk than others. African Americans over 40, adults over 60—especially Hispanics/Latinos—and people with a family history of glaucoma are at higher risk, making early detection especially important. Are you at higher risk? Talk to your family about glaucoma.
  • There is only one way to know if you have glaucoma—by getting a comprehensive dilated eye exam. During the exam, an eye care professional places drops in your eyes to widen the pupils and looks for signs of the disease in the optic nerve.

Now that you’ve got the facts about glaucoma, make a resolution for healthier vision. Call (800) 344‑4443 to schedule a comprehensive dilated eye exam today and encourage your friends and loved ones to do the same.

Sources: National Eye Institute, National Eye Health Education Program

Man using FSA card to pay for LASIK

In addition to patient financing options, you may also consider using a flexible spending account (FSA) or a health savings account (HSA) to pay for your vision correction procedure.

Did you know that up to 22% of employees are unaware of their FSA and HSA benefits? FSAs are a great way to pay for elective and non-elective procedures pre-tax. So, depending on your tax bracket, that could end up being major savings! However, you must use your FSA balance by the end of the year or risk losing it.

HSA accounts allow you to set aside pre-tax dollars from your payroll for medical expenses. The main difference from an FSA is that an HSA is a savings account that goes with you and funds stay in the account as long as it is open.

The good news is that you can contribute up to $2,650 per person in an FSA and even more in an HSA (depending on your plan) to pay for procedures you want. Think of this as an opportunity to access the procedures you need by using flex spending account dollars.

Why Is This Important?

Elective procedures—like LASIK, PRK, Implantable Contact Lenses, and Refractive Lensectomies—are discretionary medical expenses. FSAs and HSAs can be just the ticket to a future of better vision without glasses or contact lenses.

Doctors and staff members at Valley Eye Associates are getting into the holiday spirit! For the past 8+ years, Valley Eye Associates has been partnering with the Home Builders Association of the Fox Cities to collect new, unwrapped toys for the U.S. Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots program. These toys are then donated to local children in need.

The Toys for Tots program began in 1947. Marine Corps Reserve Major Bill Hendricks’ wife, Diane, asked him to deliver handcrafted dolls she had made to an organization that supports children in need. When Major Hendricks could not find such an organization, Diane advised him to start one. He and the Marines in his reserve unit collected and delivered 5,000 toys in 1947. In 1948, all Marine reserve sites were directed to implement Toys for Tots campaigns.

Toys for Tots Logo

Major Hendricks’ civilian job was Director of Public Relations at Warner Brothers Studios. Many friends and celebrities, including Walt Disney, helped support the new program. In fact, Walt Disney designed the first Toys for Tots poster, which included a miniature three-car train that was later adopted as the Toys for Tots logo. Today, the U.S. Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots program delivers an average of 18 million toys to 7 million children each year. The goal of Toys for Tots is, “through the gift of a new toy, to help bring the joy of Christmas and send a message of hope to America’s less fortunate children.”

Surgery Manager Faith Lambie, has been in charge of the Valley Eye Associates partnership since its beginning: “Valley Eye Associates is a company that likes to pay to forward. Children are very important to us and we want to make sure they have something to look forward to during the holiday season.”

“Valley Eye Associates is a company that likes to pay to forward. Children are very important to us and we want to make sure they have something to look forward to during the holiday season.”

Donations may be dropped off at our West, East, Encircle Health, and Oshkosh offices now through Tuesday, December 11. Thank you in advance for helping us spread holiday cheer to local children in need!

The team at Valley Eye Associates has conceived a new way to help make money for local charities and keep “cool” over the summer months. On these special “Casual Charity Days,” VEA staff members dressed in casual attire and contributed $5 each to support local charities. These three charities were chosen by VEA doctors. Through the generous donation of Dr. Michael Vrabec, who matched the staff’s contributions, the team delivered over $3,700 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Feeding America , and the Children’s Cancer Research Fund. Dr. Douglas Salm, Dr. Jennifer Unger, and Dr. Sara Schalk provided additional donations.

Surgery Coder, Ivy Blue, explains why she thinks giving back is important: “I think it’s so important to give back to the community in any way that you can, by volunteering your time, participating in fundraisers, sponsoring others that are participating in events, or even paying for a casual day at work. I am very fortunate to have a healthy family and the means to provide for our daily needs. I like to do what I can to help others. I love the sense of community when we come together for a positive cause. Positive actions cause positive reactions and this world needs all the positivity it can get.”

”I love the sense of community when we come together for a positive cause. Positive actions cause positive reactions and this world needs all the positivity it can get.”

Ivy was one of the staff members who helped deliver the first donation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. “Make-A-Wish is so close to my heart. My husband Bob and I have been involved with Make-A-Wish for many years. When I heard [Make-A-Wish] was a charity we were donating to, I jumped at the chance to go with to present the donation. I love the fact that it grants the wishes of local children. Kris and her staff work so hard for these children and their families. When we presented the donation, Kris took the time to give us a tour and explain what the donation was going to be used for. She also shared stories of past recipients. I had happy tears and sad tears when we left. It was heartwarming to know how hard this organization works for the wishes of the children!”

Valley Eye Associates staff members deliver a check to the the Make-A-Wish Foundation

Dr. Jennifer Unger made the recommendation of Feeding America. “Casual days are a fun way to serve our community. The VEA staff is so generous. Our Feeding America donation provided nearly 10,000 meals for Fox Valley residents. Every dollar counts and they add up faster together!”

Valley Eye Associates staff members deliver a check to Feeding America

At Valley Eye Associates, we believe in giving back to the community we live in. You’ll also find VEA doctors and staff members participating in youth sports programs, sponsoring local golf outings, and volunteering their time at community events. We’re incredibly grateful to this wonderful community for supporting our practice over the last 37 years, and we’re dedicated to supporting it right back.

Brianne Scanlon, OD

Brianne Scanlon, OD

Get to know Dr. Brianne Scanlon, the latest member of the Valley Eye Associates team!

Where did you grow up?

Park Falls, WI

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I was always torn between being an astronaut or a famous singer… those two things are so similar, I know ;-)

Where did you go to optometry school?

Illinois College of Optometry

What is your favorite food?

Any type of pasta!

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I love to just get outside and go for a walk or spend time with my family. Lately I’ve been trying to get a little crafty with some DIY projects, but I’m not very good at that yet.

What is your favorite sports team?

Green Bay Packers!

What are your optometric areas of interest?

I love taking care of all patients and provide comprehensive optometry, but I have a special interest in contact lens and ocular disease.

Why do you love being an optometrist?

I love being an optometrist for those moments when I can tell I’ve truly made a difference in someone’s life by bringing back a little happiness with improving vision. It’s one of the most rewarding feelings to witness a change in someone’s expression when they see something new.

The team at Valley Eye is just as excited as you to leave your contacts behind and so that you‘re able to do the things you want to do without your daily contact grind or glasses getting in the way of everything.

The day of your Free VIP iLASIK Consultation, you will be greeted by our front desk staff, who will confirm your appointment and get you checked in. After this, our surgery coordinator will call you back into one of our testing rooms.

First and foremost, we will chat about your vision. The more information you can give us about your ocular history and your vision, the better. Once we establish what your vision struggles are, we will begin to take some quick measurements. First, we will take a brief reading of your prescription. We will need to make sure that your eyes fall into the parameters that we are able to treat with iLASIK or if there are any other treatments we would recommend based on your eyes. Remember that no two eyes are the same, so just because you may not be a good candidate for iLASIK, it does not mean that you are stuck with glasses and contacts forever. This is one of the reasons why coming in for your free consultation is so important.

Once we determine your prescription, we will head over to another machine called the Pentacam. This is a super cool machine that reads your cornea. The cornea is the front part of the eye, sort of the “window” to your eye. The machine will let us know what your corneal thickness is. This is a very technologically advanced piece of equipment. Dr. Vrabec is going to want to make sure that your eye is healthy enough for iLASIK. During iLASIK, we remove tissue from the cornea and we want to make sure that the cornea has enough tissue to be removed in the first place. If we were to proceed with iLASIK when you don’t have enough tissue or healthy tissue on your cornea, we could risk the long-term health and vision of your eye. This measurement is one of Dr. Vrabec’s favorites when it comes to our vision correction patients.

Once we determine which surgical procedure is the right one for you, we will head back to our conference room to discuss the procedures in-depth. We will show you a short video and we also have eye models to help us explain just how iLASIK treatment is done. If you’re squeamish, don’t worry—all videos are animated! You and your surgery coordinator will discuss your options and talk a little more about what you are looking to get out of your vision following iLASIK. Whether you are a hunter and you want to be able to head on into the woods without contacts bothering you, or you are a parent and your little ones keep breaking your glasses, we want to know what you are looking forward to doing without your corrective lenses.

We will continue to inform you of what to expect the day of your procedure, as well as the next few days following. We will also explain your basic restrictions for after your surgery. Within reason, you are able to proceed with everything you normally do after your iLASIK procedure. After you have been informed about price, restrictions, and what to expect before, after, and during your surgery, we will set up your next step in the vision correction journey, which is a full eye exam.

Even if you recently had a full eye exam, it is still required prior to your iLASIK procedure to make sure that you have the best ocular health. We take our time in measuring before to ensure that you are going to have the best outcome after.

Once this is set, we can pick a date for your surgery—the date you will officially be rid of corrective lenses and be able to wake up and continue your day without dealing with your contacts, solution, glasses, etc. This is the date you’ve been waiting for. With this appointment made and all of your questions answered by your surgery coordinator, you are on your way to better vision, naturally.

If this blog post left you wanting more information about iLASIK or if you would like to set up your Free VIP iLASIK Consultation and begin your own journey to ditch glasses and contacts, feel free to give us a call at (800) 344-4443 or fill out our appointment form. You are only one phone call away from beginning the process of leaving your glasses behind!

Bailey Woolgar, Surgery Counselor