The Top 7 Things to Know Right Now About Eye Health

Set your sights on better vision with the latest health news from Pasadena’s best eye doctors.

New Nasal Spray Treats Dry Eyes

Extra screen time translates to dry, irritated eyes. “When we look at something with a lot of visual stimulation, we do not blink as much, so our eyes gradually dry out,” says Benjamin Bert, MD, health sciences assistant professor at UCLA’s Doheny and Stein Eye Institutes. He recommends looking away from the screen every 10 minutes and closing the eyes for 2–3 seconds. “That allows the body to sense if the surface of the eye is getting dry,” he explains. For the eye-drop averse, the recently FDA-approved Tyrvaya (varenicline solution), a nasal spray that increases tear production, can soothe dry, sandpapery eyes.

Prescription Eye Drops Could Replace Reading Glasses

Presbyopia is defined as a gradual, age-related inability to focus at close range. FDA approved in fall 2021, Vuity eye drops offer an alternative to reading glasses. “Pilocarpine, the active ingredient in the eye drop, constricts the pupil, giving a pinhole effect that allows people to read more easily without affecting distance vision,” says Bert.

Stem Cells Are the Future for Reversing Blindness

Developed in Italy and approved for use in the European Union, Holoclar uses stem cells to treat corneal damage. Scientists at the National Eye Institute in Bethesda, Md., are studying the use of stem cells to treat macular degeneration as well.

Blue Light–Blocking Glasses May Be a Bust

“They’re becoming increasingly popular, however there is no scientific evidence that these glasses improve symptoms of digital eye strain,” says Annie Nguyen, MD, an ophthalmologist at the USC Roski Eye Institute. But Bert notes that “limiting blue light may be helpful to maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle, especially in the later hours of the day.”

Ease Eye Strain with Prescription Computer Glasses

Computer screens are closer to our eyes than are cars on the road, so the same prescription you use for driving won’t work for extended computer use. “Correcting the prescription specifically for the intermediate distance can relax the eyes’ need to focus, which can reduce some symptoms of eye strain,” says Bert.

Sunglasses Work Like Sunscreen on the Eyes

Sun damage doesn’t just occur on your skin. In the eyes it appears as macular degeneration, cataracts, and corneal changes, which all impact vision. “Sunglasses with UV 400 protection will block out much of the sun’s damaging UVA and UVB light rays,” says John Irvine, MD, of UCLA’s Doheny Eye Center in Pasadena. Perks like polarized lenses “improve vision by blocking out light rays that cause glare,” he adds.

If You’re Over 50, Get Your Eyes Checked Annually

Prevention is the only effective method to reduce permanent vision loss from glaucoma, says Benjamin Xu, MD, PhD, an ophthalmologist at the USC Roski Eye Institute. “It is common for patients to develop glaucoma—a serious disease of the optic nerve—and not know until permanent vision loss has occurred,” warns Xu, who recommends yearly eye exams for anyone over 50 to screen for symptoms.