January/February 2018 Newsletter
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LEARNING TO SEE
The visual system is the most complex sensory system in the human body, but is the least mature at birth, constantly changing and developing as the baby grows. Although babies are born with the structures needed for sight, they need to learn to use them over a period of time. As well as learning to focus the eyes, move them accurately, and use them together, babies need to learn how to use the information the eyes send to the brain in order to make sense of the world around them. Babies develop according to their own individual schedules but being aware of the milestones of visual development can guide parents in how to stimulate their babies and to alert them to possible problems.
Birth to three months
Just after birth, the baby sees in black and white, but gradually begins to look intently at a target in bold contrasting colours. By two to three months, he will begin to show a preference for bright colours. At birth, his field of vision is only about 20cm, and he will focus for a few seconds on a face within his field of vision. Over the next few weeks as his peripheral vision develops and his attention span increases, he is able to make eye contact and hold his gaze on a familiar face for a little longer. He can recognise a smile, and by 6 to 8 weeks will respond with a smile of his own. He may start to look at things to either side as they move back and forth, and will do so by moving his head rather than his eyes. The eyes begin to move independently from the head at about three months of age. The eyes are not well-coordinated yet, and until about two months of age, it is normal for the eyes to appear to wander or be crossed.
Three to six months
By six months the baby will be moving his eyes with more speed and accuracy, seeing at further distances and focusing well. He will keenly watch the activity around him, and if something changes position in his field of vision, will move his eyes to look at it. His visual sphere of attention begins to widen. Now when he sits in front of the window, he sees through the glass pane rather than focusing on the glass. As eye-hand coordination and depth perception improve, the baby will begin to understand the three-dimensional world around him. He is beginning to grasp the concept of object permanence, and will know that even if a toy is hidden it still exists. He immediately recognises familiar faces, and enjoys looking at his own reflection in a mirror.
Six to twelve months
During this period development takes place rapidly in all areas, and the baby will be coordinating vision with body movements, as he learns to sit, crawl, pull himself up to stand and explore his world. Vision becomes more refined. He notices small objects and is able to manipulate them more easily, grasping them between his thumb and forefinger rather than with his whole hand. He can judge distances reasonably well, enjoys throwing objects, and throws them with precision. By the end of his first year the baby has good colour vision, differentiates between near and far, and can recognise an object at a distance. His eye colour will be established.
Twelve to twenty-four months
By the time he is a toddler, a child's eye-hand coordination and depth perception should be well developed. He is learning about his world by exploring and experimenting, looking and listening. Encourage him to express what he is experiencing. The child is able to recognise familiar objects and can find pictures that interest him in books. He is refining his ability to discriminate shapes and colours. He enjoys scribbling with a crayon. Provide opportunities for him to enhance his visual memory and discrimination skills. Roll a ball back and forth to help the child strengthen his visual tracking ability.
Healthy eyes play a critical role in how infants and children learn to see. Most babies begin life with healthy eyes and start to develop the visual abilities they need throughout life without difficulty. Occasionally, vision problems can occur, and it is important to detect and treat these early to ensure that babies have the opportunity to develop the visual abilities they need to grow and learn. Parents need to be aware of the signs that may indicate eye or vision problems, and may require medical intervention.
Are we "darkness deprived"?
With the widespread and ever-increasing use of electronic devices, there is a growing cause for concern regarding the impact of blue light on our eyes. Screen use is subjecting our eyes to temporary eye fatigue and could lead to permanent eye damage, particularly amongst children, whose eyes are not yet fully developed. Many questions still exist on the subject of blue light, and a great deal of research is being conducted. One researcher in this field is quoted as saying: "As opposed to the many other kinds of harmful environmental pollutants out there, we are rapidly figuring out exactly what to do about this one, and it is really not that hard".
WHAT IS BLUE LIGHT?
Sunlight is made up of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet light. Each of these has a different wavelength and energy. When combined, this spectrum of coloured light rays creates the white light that is visible to the human eye. Rays on the red end have longer wavelengths and less energy. On the other end, blue rays have shorter wavelengths and more energy. While blue light is naturally present in sunlight, a major source of blue light exposure is found in emissions from artificial lighting and the electronic devices we use every day. Blue light exposure received from screens is small compared to the amount of exposure from the sun but concerns over the long-term effect on the eyes stem from the close proximity of the screens and the length of time spent looking at them.
HOW BLUE LIGHT AFFECTS THE EYES
Almost all visible blue light passes through the cornea and the lens of the eye, without being filtered out, and reaches the retina at the back of the eye. At the very least, this can lead to temporary eye fatigue and strain, the symptoms of which include blurry vision, red, tired eyes, dry eyes and headaches. Studies indicate that it may lead to long-term damage of the retinal cells, resulting in problems such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, a major cause of irreversible vision loss.
PROTECTING THE EYES FROM BLUE LIGHT
To protect against eye strain, disrupted sleep and eye damage, it is important to take precautions. While we all need to take responsibility for our own eye health, your optometrist will advise you on the most appropriate protection against blue light based on your lifestyle, work environment and personal comfort. There are a number of simple common-sense strategies that can be implemented.
Humans are a highly visual species, and our eyes are one of the most fascinating and complex organs of the body. Most of the information captured in our brain is through our eyes, which are also a means of expressing our emotions and feelings, and detecting the emotions in others. Here are some interesting facts related to the eyes of humans and animals.
EAT A RAINBOW
Don't want to wear glasses? Eat your carrots!
Carrots have long been touted for their efficacy in improving eyesight, and generations of kids have been admonished not to leave them on their plates lest they end up needing glasses. Where did this belief begin? The purported link between carrots and markedly acute vision is a matter of lore, not of science. The story goes back to World War II, and was deliberately manufactured by Britain's Air Ministry.
While not the total picture, there is some truth to the claims that eating carrots contributes to eye health. Research indicates that beta-carotene, which is found in carrots, may help reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration as well as helping those who suffer from night blindness. The body uses beta-carotene to make vitamin A, an essential nutrient for vision, but there is conflicting evidence as to how much beta-carotene is needed for efficient conversion to vitamin A. There is general agreement that vitamin A is not the only contributor to good eyesight, and that including a range of nutrient-rich foods in the diet can help preserve vision.
The A vitamins, which include beta-carotene, help the retina, cornea, and other eye tissues to function effectively. As well as carrots, foods that supply vitamin A to the body include liver, fish, eggs, spinach, sweet potatoes and dairy products.
Lutein & Zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin are important nutrients found in green leafy vegetables, such as kale and spinach, brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, such as kiwi, red peppers and pumpkin, as well as other foods, such as eggs. These antioxidants protect the eyes against the damaging effects of sunlight, cigarette smoke and air pollution, and help to filter out harmful blue light and reduce hazardous free radicals in the macula. They may lower the risk of cataracts. Zeaxanthin appears to be the most active antioxidant in the macula specifically, and may delay the onset or reduce the severity of age-related macular degeneration.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is an antioxidant, which contributes to the health of the blood vessels in the eyes. It is thought to lower the risk of developing cataracts and slow the progression of macular degeneration, particularly when taken in combination with other essential nutrients. Foods rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits, berries, red and green peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, papaya, and Brussels sprouts.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant which seems to protect cells in the eyes from the damage caused by free radicals which break down healthy tissue. It is found in nuts, fortified cereals, sweet potatoes, vegetable oils, sunflower seeds and peanut butter.
Essential Fatty Acids
Fats are a necessary part of the human diet. They maintain the integrity of the nervous system, fuel cells and boost the immune system. There needs to be a balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the diet, with an increased intake of omega-3 and decreased intake of omega-6. Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in visual development, retinal function and the prevention of dry eyes. They decrease inflammation and promote general eye health.
High doses of zinc in the eye, in combination with other antioxidants have been found to significantly reduce the risk of developing advanced macular degeneration. While it does not repair the damage caused by macular degeneration, it does help to slow the progression of the condition. It is found in high concentrations in the retina and the vascular layer underneath the retina. Foods rich in zinc include egg yolk, red meat, whole grains, seafood, nuts and beans.
Eat a Rainbow
With some nutrients, more is not necessarily better. A balanced diet with a variety of protein, fats, vegetables, fruit and dairy products will help towards promoting eye health and preserving vision. It has the added protective benefits against physical conditions that can lead to vision problems, such as diabetes, stroke, and vascular diseases that affect blood vessels throughout the body including the delicate vessels of the eyes. Try to eat a rainbow during your day, incorporating many types of foods in many different colours. Limit consumption of unhealthy foods that are processed, contain saturated fats, or are high in sugar.
RIDE FOR SIGHT 2018
The Dis-Chem Ride for Sight takes place in Ekurhuleni in Gauteng in February annually. This popular race is among the top five road cycling events in South Africa, and is a seeding event for both the Cape Town Cycle Tour and the Momentum 94.7 Challenge. It has been staged since 1987 and has contributed more than R4 Million to 'A Cure in Sight for Blindness' research projects. The ride attracts more than 5000 keen and enthusiastic cyclists every year and is now an official City of Ekurhuleni event.
RETINA SOUTH AFRICA – "A CURE IN SIGHT FOR BLINDNESS"
Retina South Africa was established in 1980 as the South African Retinitis Pigmentosa Society. It is a patient-driven action group that has branches in all the major centres in South Africa.
Membership is open to all patients, family members and persons who wish to support our quest to find treatments for Retinal blinding conditions. All proceeds go directly to research to find treatments for genetic retinal conditions. Ride for Sight is one of our main annual fund-raising projects.
So we come out of the year's longest month. And yes, you know it's the year's longest month if you've ever tried to stretch a paycheck from December 20th until January 25th. I mean, they don't call it Januworry for nothing.
Anyway... we come out of the longest month and jump straight into the shortest month. Feels like it doesn't make much sense. What's more, it's never made sense why February only has 28 days. I always knew it had something to do with the Romans, but I figured it was a way of saying nobody knew. You know... when you need an explanation for anything, just say it dates back to Roman times.
Thing is, this story actually does date back to Roman times. It really was the Romans who gave February 28 days. My trusty search engine tells me that the first king of Rome made up a calendar with just ten months. Word is he didn't put anything between December and March because winter wasn't a big time for the harvest.
Then the second king of Rome took power and wanted to make some changes. (Trust a politician to change the very calendar itself, just to show everyone that he's the boss man now.) He wanted the calendar to line up to the lunar calendar which has 354 days. And that meant he needed to add two extra months.
And now things get super sketchy in the history books. I'm totally confused, but I think it has something to do with the fact that each new month had 28 days, and even numbers were considered unlucky so 28 was a no-go. So he added a bunch of days but they all went into January. And somehow February got stuck with its 28 days, and nothing more.
Then Julius Caesar did something, something. For some reason he added some more days to get to a total of 365. But somehow February still got landed with just 28 days. And then stuff happened and centuries went by... and now our February as we know it still has 28. (Hey, I never said I was a historian, and I told you it gets complicated...)
And there you kinda have it. Romans. Caesar. Responsible for so much. Made our calendar. Just like I said, a politician is a politician. My theory is they did it because they were typical politicians – determined to confuse the life out of us.
So happy February. Make the most of these days because you've only got 28 of them. And hey, if you wanna know where leap years come from, please go ahead and ask someone else.
January/February 2018 Issue
LEARNING TO SEE
EAT A RAINBOW
RIDE FOR SIGHT 2018
Visit our new website www.paigeoneoptical.co.za
|This newsletter is published by EyeMark, a division of SB Media. www.eyemark.co.za|