Ever Want To Know About Eyes
Colored Contact Lens Dangers!
Sep 24, 2019
Countless adults, teens and even children will be wearing colored contact lenses this Halloween, but few are aware of the risks involved. Ever wondered what those cat-eye contacts are doing to your eyes? If you got them without a prescription, beware of health complications. Enjoy a safe and happy Halloween by educating yourself and others about the dangers of wearing colored contact lenses without a prescription.
Why Can Over-The-Counter Colored Contact Lenses Cause Eye Damage?
Contact lenses made to change one’s appearance go by many names: cosmetic, theatrical, Halloween, circle, decorative, colored, or costume contact lenses. While it’s illegal to sell colored contact lenses without a prescription, authorities rarely enforce the law -- which means they’re still accessible in many places.
Many people believe that wearing non-prescription color contact lenses can cause no harm. This unfortunate myth has led to many contact lens complications. For instance, when a person feels that a contact lens is “dry”, it could be because the lens is not a good fit. Ideally, the lens should follow the contour of the eye, and stay centered, with enough lens movement to allow tear exchange beneath the lens.
Furthermore, non-medical colored contact lenses are often produced by unlicensed manufacturers that tend to use inferior plastic and toxic materials, such as lead (often used in lens coloring), which can get absorbed through the eyes into the bloodstream. These illegal lenses may also contain high levels of bacteria from unsanitary packaging, shipping, and storage conditions.
Therefore, purchasing any kind of contact lenses without a prescription or medical oversight can result in a variety of eye complications, such as corneal abrasions, eye sores, conjunctivitis, other eye infections, vision impairment and, in rare cases, even permanent vision loss. Even if you have perfect vision, all contact lenses, including colored contacts, require a prescription and proper fitting by an optometrist. Contact us at Florida Eye Doctors and make an appointment with Dr. Salvatore DeCanio to get properly examined for a contact lens prescription.
The Dos and Don'ts of Colored Contact Lenses
- DO make sure you undergo a comprehensive eye exam by an optometrist who will measure your eyes and properly fit you for contact lenses.
- DO get a valid prescription that includes the measurements, expiration date and the contact lens brand name.
- DO purchase the decorative contact lenses from a reliable retailer (hint: they should demand a prescription.)
- DO follow the contact lens hygiene directives (cleaning, inserting and removing lenses) provided by your eye doctor.
- DO make sure to undergo follow-up eye exams as directed by your eye care professional.
- DON’T ever share contact lenses with anyone else.
So don’t let an eye infection get in the way of your fun this Halloween. Wearing decorative lenses without a valid prescription can result in serious harm to your eyes, which can haunt you long after October 31st. Get your comprehensive eye exam and contact lens fitting by an eye doctor in Naples at Florida Eye Doctors.
Ocular sports trauma is among the leading causes of permanent vision loss in North America. Tens of thousands of people get treated for sports-related eye injuries a year, with the most common injuries occurring during water sports and basketball. Infections, corneal abrasions, eye socket fractures, and detached retinas are just a few of the typical cases eye doctors encounter on a regular basis. Sports Eye Safety Month is sponsored by Prevent Blindness America (PBA) to remind people to protect their eyes when playing sports. Though young children are usually the most vulnerable to eye injuries, it should be noted that professional athletes can also suffer eye injuries while on the job.
Eye accidents can happen in a split second - the effects can last a lifetime...
By wearing protective eyewear, you can safeguard your eyesight without compromising on your favorite sports activities. Athletes who wear contact lenses still need additional eye protection for relevant sports. At Florida Eye Doctors, our eye doctor is experienced and trained to treat sports-induced eye injuries sustained by our active patients. Dr. Salvatore DeCanio and our dedicated staff are committed to providing the most comprehensive eye care to help get you back on the field again. Furthermore, we provide consultations on a wide array of protective eyewear for all your sporting needs.
What Eye Injuries Can Be Caused by Sports?
A corneal abrasion, also known as a scratched cornea, is the most common sports-related eye injury. When someone gets poked in the eye, the eye’s surface can get scratched. Symptoms may include acute pain and a gritty or foreign body sensation in the eyes, as well as redness, tearing, light sensitivity, headaches, blurry or decreased vision. Medical care includes prevention or treatment of infection, and pain management. If you suspect that you have suffered a corneal abrasion, make sure to see an eye doctor right away.
Iritis is an inflammation of the iris, the colored part of the eye. The condition rapidly develops and typically affects only one eye. Symptoms include pain in the eye or brow region, blurred vision, a small or oddly-shaped pupil, and sensitivity to bright lights.
Hyphema is among the more common sports-related eye injuries, with racquet sports, baseball and softball accounting for more than 50% of all hyphema injuries in athletics. A hyphema is a broken blood vessel inside the eye which causes blood to collect in the space between the cornea and iris, also known as the “anterior chamber”. Although the main symptom is blood in the eye, it can be accompanied by blurry or distorted vision, light sensitivity or eye pain. If you recognize the signs and symptoms of hyphema, make sure to seek immediate medical attention in order to avoid secondary complications.
Angle recession can develop from an eye injury or bruising of the eye, caused by getting punched, elbowed, or hit with a ball. The trauma damages the fluid drainage system of the eye, which causes it to back up, increasing the pressure in the eye. In 20% of people with angle recession, this pressure can become so severe that it damages the optic nerve, and causes glaucoma (known as “angle-recession glaucoma”). You may not notice any symptoms at first, and it may take years before you experience any signs of vision loss. Therefore, it’s critical to visit the eye doctor as soon as possible for a complete eye exam and make sure that you follow-up with routine screenings.
Retinal tear or detachment
Retinal detachment is a condition in which the retina gets lifted or pulled away from its normal position at the back of the eye. If not treated immediately, retinal detachment can develop permanent vision loss. Symptoms include seeing flashing lights, floaters or little black spots in your vision. A retinal detachment is a medical emergency and requires an eye doctor’s immediate attention - surgical intervention may be necessary.
This happens when a blood vessel breaks on the white part of the eye. In addition to a sport-related injury, it can be induced by rubbing the eye, heavy lifting, sneezing or coughing. For those with subconjunctival hemorrhage, the eye appears intensely red - though this minor condition will often clear up within a couple weeks on its own without treatment.
This occurs when one or more of the bones around the eyeball break, often caused by a hard blow to the face - such as by a baseball or a fist. This is a major injury and should be assessed by an eye doctor, like Dr. Salvatore DeCanio, along with X-Rays or CT scan imaging to help confirm the diagnosis.
Black Eye or Periorbital Hematoma
A “shiner” can occur when a blunt object such as a fist or ball strikes the eye-area of the face and causes bruising. Typically, this kind of injury affects the face more than the eye. Blurry vision may be a temporary symptom, but it’s a good idea to get a black eye checked out by an optometrist in any case, because sometimes there is accompanying damage to the eye which could impact vision.
How Does One Prevent Sports-Related Eye Injuries?
One of the most important things one can do in order to prevent eye injuries is to wear protective eyewear. In fact, wearing eye protection should be part of any athlete’s routine, and should be prioritized just like wearing shin guards or a helmet.
Below are a few tips to prevent sports-related eye injuries:
- Wear safety goggles (with polycarbonate lenses) for racquet sports or basketball. For the best possible protection, the eye guard or sports protective eyewear should be labeled “ASTM F803 approved” - which means it is performance tested.
- Use batting helmets with polycarbonate face shields for baseball.
- If you wear prescription eyewear, speak with Dr. Salvatore DeCanio about fitting you for prescription protective eyewear.
- Sports eye protection should be comfortably padded along the brow and bridge of the nose, to prevent the eye guards from cutting into the skin.
- Try on protective eyewear to assess whether it’s the right fit and size for you and adjust the straps as needed. For athletic children who are still growing, make sure that last-year’s pair still fits before the new sports season begins. Consult Dr. Salvatore DeCanio to determine whether the comfort and safety levels are adequate.
- Keep in mind that regular glasses don't provide nearly enough eye protection when playing sports.
For athletes, whether amateur or pro, there is so much more at stake than just losing the game. Fortunately, by wearing high-quality protective eyewear, you can prevent 90% of all sports-related eye injuries. Speak with Dr. Salvatore DeCanio at Florida Eye Doctors about getting the right sports-related protective eyewear to ensure healthy eyes and clear vision. Our eye care clinic serves patients from Naples and the surrounding areas.
This summer, heat waves with scorching temperatures have hit communities nationwide, making an already hot summer even hotter. With high temps and heat waves in certain areas, it’s now more important than ever to protect yourself. For best practices and tips for maintaining healthy vision in the summer heat, talk to the Florida Eye Doctors.
How Can Heat Affect Vision?
Staying out in the sun too long can give you a sunburn and make you feel exhausted. Did you know that it can affect your vision, too? If you get dehydrated, lack of moisture can make it hard for your eyes to naturally produce enough tears, which can contribute to seasonal dry eye. If you already have dry eye, extremely dry heat can exacerbate your symptoms of itchy, red, sore, and irritated eyes. Do you sit in front of a fan or air conditioning system? That may feel great, but it can also contribute to dryer and less comfortable eyes. To give your eyes some temporary relief, keep artificial tears on hand. If your eyes still feel dry or uncomfortable, contact Florida Eye Doctors.
If You Love the Sun, Read This
Golden sunshine may sound dreamy, but too much isn’t a good thing. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can be very harmful, and your eyes are no exception. UV radiation, which can gradually contribute to eye conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration. Dr. Salvatore DeCanio recommends that you always wear sunglasses with 100% of UVA and UVB light blocking protection. There’s no shortage of trendy and sunglasses, designed with a flair for fashion, so you won’t have to compromise on style while protecting your eyes from dangerous UV rays. Excessive sun exposure can cause headaches, blurry vision, eye pain, and eyestrain. So while you’re out at the pool, hanging out at the beach, sunbathing, or at a backyard barbeque, pay close attention to how much time you’re outside. If you love the sunshine, you just need to protect yourself. Wear hats, sunscreen, and, of course, 100% UV protective polarized sunglasses. But if you experience discomfort or symptoms that don’t go away on their own, then it’s time to visit your eye doctor.
Computer Vision Syndrome in the Summer
There’s nothing quite like a family road trip or flying to a vacation getaway over the summer. Yet something about being stuck in the backseat of a car or inside of an airplane makes kids feel closed in and restless. It’s then that many kids will play on a smartphone, iPad, or gaming device over many hours to help pass the time. When it comes to kids and computer use, they’re just as susceptible to the effects of digital eye strain, also called Computer Vision Syndrome, as adults are. In fact, studies show that 25% of children spend more than 3 hours each day on digital devices. In the summer, when the heat is sizzling, it’s tempting for kids to spend more time than usual watching TV, using a computer, or playing games on their smartphones. To help ease the effects of digital eyestrain, Dr. Salvatore DeCanio suggests following the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds to look at something at least 20 feet away. It’s a great way to counteract the effects of Computer Vision Syndrome and let the eyes rest. This summer, however you choose to beat the heat, don’t forget to protect your vision and keep your eyes strong and healthy. The Florida Eye Doctors is always here to help if you have any questions. Have a great summer!
July is UV Safety Awareness Month, and no wonder! With the summer sun out in full force, it’s now more important than ever to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. During this month, people who have suffered from UV ray damage and their loved ones are encouraged to share their experiences and advice. Use the hashtag #UVSafetyAwareness on your social media channels to support others in your community.
Did You Know?
Your eyes can get sunburned. It isn’t only your skin that’s at risk, but your eyes, too. When your cornea is exposed to too much UV radiation, a condition known as keratitis can occur. Keratitis can actually cause a temporary loss of vision, often after using a tanning bed or being out in the sun too long. UV radiation can also cause small growths on the white part of your eye, which are called pterygium and pinguecula. They can make your eyes feel dry, irritated, and scratchy. If you experience any of these symptoms, Florida Eye Doctors can help. UV ray exposure is a risk factor for eye conditions and diseases. In 20% of cataract cases, cataract growth has been linked to UV ray damage. Cataracts develop when the normally clear lens of the eye becomes cloudy. UVA rays are a known risk factor for macular degeneration – the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 65. Macular degeneration occurs when the macula of the eye, which is responsible for clear central vision becomes damaged. It’s critical to be aware of UV ray exposure, especially if you or a family member are in this age group.
What Exactly Are UV Rays?
You may have heard about UV rays without knowing what they actually mean. UV stands for ultraviolet light. That’s a potentially harmful type of radiation, which is typically found in fluorescent lights, tanning booths. But its main source is from the sun, and it’s invisible to the naked eye, so you don’t even feel it as it touches your skin or body.
Why Are UV Rays Dangerous?
So why are they considered dangerous? Well, too much of a good thing isn’t really a good thing. Sunlight helps us make vitamin D, which is healthy. Too much sun exposure, though, can cause premature aging in the skin, burns in the eye, and may even change the shape of your cornea and other serious eye damage, leading to vision problems. It’s even more dangerous for younger people, especially children, because children's lenses are more transparent and transmit UV rays more easily. If you or a loved one is experiencing vision problems or eye diseases, we can help. Dr. Salvatore DeCanio sees patients from all over the Naples, Florida area, and can treat your condition with a number of advanced solutions. Regular eye exams and checkups are critical for keeping your vision healthy, especially during the summer.
UV Safety Can Go a Long Way
Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to protect yourself from long-term exposure to UV rays. Check out our top 3 UV safety tips:
- Put on Those Shades. Snag a pair of sunglasses with 100% UVA and UVB blocking power. Anything less than that won’t protect your eyes from harmful rays. Concerned about your look? Don’t worry, There are plenty of awesome sunglass designs, so you’ll protect your eyes without compromising on incredible style. Ask the optometrist which lens is best for you.
- Sunscreen and More Sunscreen. Mothers and doctors say it all the time, and with good reason! Use sunscreen before going outdoors and make sure it has a good SPF (Sun Protection Factor) number. If you’re in the water, reapply it every 2 hours. UV rays can reflect off of water, so if you’re hitting the pool or beach, take extra precautions.
- I tip My Hat to You. Protect your head and the skin on your scalp with a hat. A wide-brimmed hat is best for a good amount of sun-blocking coverage, since it also protects the tops of your eyes which might not be shaded by your sunglasses, and is too sensitive for sunscreen. For the fashion-conscious, there are endless styles to choose from, so go shopping!
During this UV Safety Awareness Month, we encourage you to share your stories and successes. If you have any questions, Dr. Salvatore DeCanio is here to help.
This summer, whether you're headed across state lines on a family road trip, flying off to Europe, grabbing a quick weekend getaway, or taking a vacation in your own backyard, don't forget to protect your eyes!
Summer Eye Care Near You
Check out our top 4 tips for ensuring healthy eyes this summer, and remember, your eye doctor is here to help make the most out of your vision. Dr. Salvatore DeCanio sees patients from all over the Naples, Florida area. Let us give you the top-quality eye care you and your family deserve, not only during the summer, but all year long.
Don't Leave Home Without It
If you have a chronic illness and need to head out of town for a few days, you would never leave home without your medications, right? That's because you know that if something happens and your meds aren't with you, you could suffer discomfort or complications to your health. The same is true for your vision. If you suffer from dry eyes, make sure to take artificial tears or medicated eye drops with you when you travel. Preservative-free eye drops are a traveler's friend. They're also available as individual strips, which are recommended since there's less risk of contamination. Running low on disposable contact lenses? Include an extra pair in your carry-on suitcase and stock up on new lenses ahead of time. If you wear eyeglasses, bring a spare set and a copy of your prescription along with you, just in case they get lost or broken. We recommend speaking to Dr. Salvatore DeCanio before you leave for vacation to make sure your vision needs are all set.
It's Getting Hot Outside
Usually, most people think of protecting their skin from sunburns when they're at the beach, by the pool, or just spending time outdoors. Did you know that your eyes can get sunburned, too? This happens when the cornea is exposed to excessive UV rays. When the sclera (the white part of your eye) looks red, that's a sign that you've got sunburned eyes. You might also notice symptoms like a sudden sensitivity to light, or your eyes may feel like something is stuck in them, or they could feel sore. The best way to prevent sunburned eyes? Always wear sunglasses with 100% of UVA and UVB light blocking protection.
Watch Out for the Pool
Swimming is one of summer's greatest pastimes. There's nothing quite like a dip in a pool or ocean to cool off from the sweltering summer heat. While you're slicing through the water, remember to protect your eyes. Remove contacts before going swimming, wear goggles while underwater, and rinse your eyes with cold water when you get out of the pool (it helps get the chlorine or salt out). If your eyes feel dry or scratchy after a swim, use some moisturizing eye drops to lubricate your eyes.
Back to School is Sooner Than You Think
Your kids will be back in school before you know it. Help them prepare for the upcoming school year by scheduling an eye exam now. If they need new glasses because their prescription has changed or your teen simply wants a new look for the new school year, come in to Florida Eye Doctors for a consultation and take a look at the newest selection of frames and contact lenses. Have you had a sudden eye injury or emergency while on vacation? Don't wait until you’re back home to handle it -- seek immediate care today. Certain eye injuries can damage your vision or lead to ulcers, so if you notice symptoms like redness, eye pain, changes to your vision, or flashing light, contact your eye doctor right away. At Florida Eye Doctors, we put your family's needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision this summer and throughout the year.
June is Cataract Awareness Month. During this important time, people living with cataracts (and their loved ones) are encouraged to talk about their personal experiences by giving each other helpful information and sharing their knowledge and advice. Use the hashtag #CataractAwarenessMonth on your social media channels to encourage and support others. Did you know that over 24 million Americans have cataracts? More than 3.5 million Canadians are blind from cataracts, making it one of the most common – and serious – eye conditions today. Dr. Salvatore DeCanio treats cataract patients from all over Naples, Florida with the newest and most effective methods of eye care. With millions of people living with the condition, it’s now more important than ever to bring awareness to this serious condition.
What Are Cataracts?
The lens of the eye is normally clear, which allows you to see things clearly and in sharp detail. Over time, the lens can become cloudy, causing blurry vision. It’s as if you’re looking through a dirty window and can’t really see what’s outside. This clouding of the lens is called a cataract, and it can affect one or both of your eyes.
What Causes Cataracts?
Aging is the most common cause of cataracts. The lens of your eye contains water and proteins. As you age, these proteins can clump together, and when that happens, the normally clear lens becomes cloudy. Did you know that certain types of major eye surgeries and infections can trigger cataracts? Other issues that can lead to cataracts include congenital birth defects, eye injury, diseases, and even various kinds of medications. If you’re already developing cataracts, be careful when going outside. UV rays from the sun can make cataracts develop faster.
How Can I Lower My Risk of Cataracts?
Certain risk factors increase your chance of developing cataracts. These typically include:
-Excessive alcohol consumption
-Family and medical history
-UV ray exposure
To lower your risk, consider reducing your alcohol intake, quit smoking, start an exercise program, eat foods rich in vitamin A and C, and wear 100% UV blocking sunglasses.
Common Symptoms of Cataracts
If you have cataracts, you may experience some common symptoms like:
- Blurry vision
- Colors that used to be bright now appear dim
- Double vision
- Glare from natural sunlight or from artificial light, like light bulbs and lamps
- Halos around lights
- Night vision problems
- Sensitivity to light
If you or a family member notice any of these signs, talk to Dr. Salvatore DeCanio right away. The sooner you seek treatment, the faster we can help you get back to clear vision.
Coping With Cataracts
If you’re experiencing vision problems from cataracts, there is hope. If you have a mild case, a combination of a different eyeglass prescription and better lighting in your home, office, or other environment can improve your vision. In more advanced cases, your optometrist will likely recommend cataract surgery to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with a clear one.
Do I Need Cataract Surgery?
During the procedure, the doctor will gently remove the cataract from the eye and replace it with an artificial intraocular lens (known as an IOL). Because it’s a common procedure, cataract surgery is usually performed in an outpatient clinic or in your eye doctor’s office. There is no need to stay in a hospital and you can usually resume your normal activities in just a few days. If you’ve exhausted every other solution and still suffer from blurry vision from cataracts, surgery may be an option. Schedule a consultation online or call 239-300-2478 to book an eye doctor's appointment at Florida Eye Doctors and together, we’ll determine if cataract surgery is right for you. During this Cataract Awareness Month, share your stories and successes, and give your loved ones hope for a healthy and high quality of life.
Do your kids need glasses in order to see clearly? Maybe they have a strong case of nearsightedness, perhaps they have astigmatism, or another type of refractive error. Whatever the cause, getting your kids to wear eyeglasses can be a parenting challenge. Dr. Salvatore DeCanio treats patients from all over Naples, Florida with their vision correction needs. The knowledgeable, caring staff at Florida Eye Doctors can help you and your kids if they’re struggling with their glasses or don’t want to wear them.
Why Won’t My Child Wear His or Her Glasses?
To help your children get the best vision possible, you first need to understand why they’re fighting with you over their glasses. It usually stems from something physical, emotional, or social, such as:
- Wrong fit
- Wrong prescription
- Personal style
- Reactions from friends
How do you know which it is? Pay close attention to the signs, from what your kids say, to how they behave, to how they interact with others.
Improper fit is a big reason why glasses could feel uncomfortable. If they slip down, itch behind the ears, or put pressure on the bridge of the nose, it can explain why a child wouldn’t like to wear them. If there’s been a big change to their prescription, they may need time to get used to it. If they were given the wrong prescription, they may be straining their eyes, getting headaches, or having eye fatigue. An incorrect prescription can make wearing glasses painful or awkward. It doesn’t correct their vision, either, so they’ll still see blurry images. When this happens, your eye doctor can check the prescription and make an adjustment.
Your kids at home aren’t the same as your kids in school, on the sports field, or with their friends. They may be afraid of being made fun of in school, or they may not want the sudden attention on their appearance. These feelings can be even stronger among the tween and teen set.
Even young kids can feel different when they put on a pair of glasses, especially if it’s for the first time. Feeling different or weird, in their eyes, translates to a negative experience. When wearing glasses makes them feel like the odd man out, they may not want to wear them. The last thing your child wants is to feel like a social outcast. After all, everyone wants to belong.
How We Can Help
First, bring your child in to the eye doctor for an eye exam. Our optometrist, Dr. Salvatore DeCanio, will check to make sure that your child has the right prescription and that any vision problems are being corrected. Next, we’ll take a look at the glasses and place them on your child’s face to determine if they’ve got the proper fit. Our optician will take care of any adjustments that need to be made.
The Vision They Need, The Style They Want
Fashion isn’t only for adults. Your budding fashionista or trendy young stud wants to look awesome, so don’t forget about style. When your kids look great, they’ll feel great! Give them the top-quality eyewear they need without compromising on style. Your kids are a lot more likely to wear glasses when they like the way they look.
What You Can Do to Help
Encourage, stay positive, and don’t give up. Avoid telling them what you want them to wear. Let them choose for themselves. In the end, they’re the ones wearing the glasses. Making decisions is an important life skill, something they’ll need as they grow up and become more independent. For younger children, use positive words to encourage them. Talk about how glasses are like magic, letting them see beautiful things around them. Show them how a pretty flower or a bright red truck looks with the glasses on, and how different it looks with the glasses off. For older kids, throw in a little pop culture. Tell them how trendy they’ll look by showing them pictures of celebrities who also wear glasses. You’ll also rack up some cool parent points. At Florida Eye Doctors, we have the experience and unique approach to children’s eyewear that will make your kids want to wear their glasses. Schedule an eye exam today – you can book an appointment online right here. If you have any questions or concerns, give us a call and we’ll be glad to help.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the USA; in Canada, Mental Health week is May 6th to 12th. Since 1949, it has been observed throughout the United States as a way of drawing attention to the importance of proper mental health. This year’s theme is #4Mind4Body. The idea is that using elements around us, such as the people in our lives, faith, nature, and even pets, can strengthen wellness and overall mental health. Did you know that your vision can affect your mental health? While things like stress, trauma, and family history are factors that impact mental health, vision can also impact it.
How Does Vision Affect Mental Health?
Certain types of eye diseases and visual impairments can lead to emotional problems like anxiety and depression. This is particularly common in cases of severe vision loss. Patients with glaucoma, macular degeneration, or diabetic retinopathy, for example, can experience mild to acute vision loss. This can make everyday activities like driving, running errands, watching TV, using a computer, or cooking, a difficult and painful experience. When this happens, it can cause a loss of independence, potentially leaving the person mentally and emotionally devastated. Like most surgical procedures, LASIK corrective surgery is permanent and irreversible. Although it has very high success rates, LASIK has been considered the cause of depression and mental health issues in a few instances.
Kids’ Vision and Mental Health
Increased screen time among school-age children and teens has been shown to reduce emotional stability and cause repeated distractions and difficulty completing tasks, while also increasing the likelihood of developing nearsightedness. Kids with visual problems often experience difficulty in school. If they can’t see the board clearly or constantly struggle with homework due to poor vision, they may act out their frustration or have trouble getting along with their peers.
Coping with Vision Problems
One of the most important ways to cope with visual problems is awareness. Simply paying attention to the signs and symptoms — whether the patient is an adult or a child — is a crucial first step. Family members, close friends, colleagues, parents, and teachers can all play an important role in detecting emotional suffering in those with visual difficulties. Pay attention to signs of changes in behavior, such as a loss of appetite, persistent exhaustion, or decreased interest in favorite activities. Thankfully, many common vision problems are treatable. Things like double vision, hyperopia (farsightedness), myopia (nearsightedness), amblyopia (lazy eye), and post-concussion vision difficulties can be managed. Vision correction devices, therapeutic lenses, visual exercises, or special prism glasses may help provide the visual clarity you need. Your primary eye doctor can help and a vision therapist or low vision expert may make a significant impact on your quality of life.
How You Can Help
There are some things you can do on your own to raise awareness about good mental health:
Often, just talking about mental health struggles can be incredibly empowering. Ask for help from family and friends or find a local support group. Be open and honest about what you’re going through and talk with others who are going through the same thing. Remember: you’re not alone. If you experience any type of sudden changes to your vision — even if it’s temporary — talk to your eye doctor. A delay in treatment may have more serious consequences, so speak up and don’t wait.
Developing healthy personal relationships improves mental health. People with strong social connections are less likely to experience severe depression and may even live longer. Go out with friends, join a club, or consider volunteering.
Have an Animal
Having a pet has been shown to boost mental health and help combat feelings of loneliness. Guide dogs can be especially beneficial for people suffering from vision loss.
Use Visual Aids
If you or a loved one is experiencing mental health issues caused by vision loss, visual aids can help. Devices like magnifiers or telescopic lenses can enlarge text, images, and objects, so you can see them more clearly and in greater detail. Kids can benefit from vision correction like glasses, contacts, or specialized lenses for more severe cases of refractive errors. Vision therapy may be an option, too. It is a customized program of exercises that can improve and strengthen visual functions. Always talk to your eye doctor about any concerns, questions, or struggles. Thanks to programs like Mental Health Awareness Month, there is less of a stigma around mental health than just a few decades ago. Advancements in medical technologies and scientific research have led to innovative solutions for better vision care. During this Mental Health Awareness Month, share your share your struggles, stories, and successes with others. Use the hashtag #Mind4Body and give your loved ones hope for a healthy and high quality of life.
April is Parkinson's Awareness Month in the USA and Canada, a time when those living with the disorder, their family members, friends, and community come together to raise awareness and share helpful information. People with Parkinson's Disease (PD) and their loved ones are encouraged to share their stories, struggles, and successes in order to educate and support others. The Parkinson's Foundation has announced this year’s theme: #KeyToPD and Parkinson Canada advocates the same involvement. What is the key to living a high quality of life while living with Parkinson’s? Patients, doctors, caregivers, and families are encouraged to use this hashtag on social media to give of their knowledge and experience. In order to successfully manage the disorder, it’s essential to understand the disease, symptoms, and treatments. After all, knowledge is power.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s Disease is a neurological disorder that affects the brain’s ability to control physical movement. It typically affects middle aged people and the elderly. Parkinson’s causes a decrease in the brain’s natural levels of dopamine, which normally aids nerve cells in passing messages within the brain. According to The Parkinson’s Foundation and Statistics Canada, the disorder affects an estimated 1 million people in the United States, 55 000 Canadians, and 10 million globally.
What Causes Parkinson's Disease?
Although much research has been done on the subject, the exact cause of the disease isn’t really known. What doctors and scientists do know is that certain nerve cells located in the brain somehow break down. This damage interferes with both motor and non-motor functions.
How Does Parkinson's Affect Vision?
Parkinson's can have a significant impact on vision and ocular health. Patients with PD often find themselves unable to control blinking. Blinking is good for the eyes as it moisturizes the surface and clears it from foreign substances. Less blinking can cause Dry Eye Syndrome, resulting in itchy, red, or gritty-feeling eyes. Other people blink too much or can’t keep their eyes open. In more serious cases, Parkinson’s affects the nerves that help us see. Someone with PD may experience blurry vision, double vision, difficulty seeing color and contrast, problems with focus, and other visual symptoms. In addition to the inherent impact of the disease, some of the medications used to treat Parkinson’s symptoms have known side effects including dry eyes, blurred eyesight and even hallucinations in advanced PD.
Common Visual Symptoms of Parkinson's
Although the most recognized physical symptom is uncontrollable tremors, patients can experience other symptoms that affect their vision. These typically include:
- Apraxia (inability to open the eyelids)
- Blurry or double vision
- Difficulty with balance
- Dry eyes
- Eye twitching
- Focusing problems
Parkinson's Patients and Eye Exams
Eye exams can be particularly challenging for a PD patient, so choosing the right doctor is essential. Make sure your eye doctor regularly treats patients with PD. They’ll understand your or your loved ones’ unique needs and will take the time needed.
Common Non-Visual Symptoms of Parkinson's
PD affects other areas of the body that may or may not – depending on each patient – be related to their eye health and visual needs.
Some of the most common non-visual symptoms are:
- Excessive saliva
- Loss of smell
- Muscle cramps
- Sleep disturbance
Slow movement (bradykinesia)
Coping With Vision Problems From Parkinson's
Despite the struggles caused by this degenerative disease, there is hope. Talk to your eye doctor. He or she may recommend medicated ointments or drops, injections, therapeutic lenses, visual aids, vision therapy, or a combination thereof. Additionally, a Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation doctor can provide comprehensive eye care specifically designed for neurological disorders like PD.
Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease
There is currently no cure for the disease itself, but there are options to treat the symptoms of PD. A combination of medications, physical and/or occupational therapy, support groups, and of course, top-quality vision care can give a PD patient relief for some of their symptoms and tools to help cope with the condition. Research and clinical trials are continuing as doctors and others in the medical community work towards the goal of finding a cure for PD. No two patients are alike, and each can experience PD differently from the other, so finding what works for you or your loved one is key. During this Parkinson's Awareness Month, share your #KeyToPD and give your loved ones hope for a healthy and high quality of life.
Spring is a season of new beginnings, when the cold harsh winter months are behind us, flowers bloom, and people begin spending more time outdoors. For people with allergies, spring means one more thing: suffering. Spring may be in the air, but for allergy sufferers, so is pollen, pet dander, mold, and dust. These airborne allergens can trigger uncomfortable reactions such as watery eyes, coughing, sneezing, congestion, and sinus pain. There are some things you can do to minimize the discomfort throughout the spring season.
Check out Our Top 5 Tips for Getting Through Eye Allergy Season:
- Pollen tends to have a higher count in the mornings and early evenings. During these times, stay inside and keep windows closed. If you enjoy an early morning exercise run, consider an alternative indoor workout during peak allergy season.
- Take a shower before going to sleep. Doing this at night can rinse away any lingering allergens and leave you with a clearer eye and nasal area, as well as a more restful night’s sleep.
- Keep artificial tears close by. They can temporarily alleviate ocular allergy symptoms by lubricating your eyes when they feel dry and itchy, and they’re usually small enough to fit inside a purse or pocket. If you don’t have any good eye drops, use a cool compress as an alternative method of relief.
- If your allergies are caused by dust or pet dander, vacuum. A lot. Dust collects quickly and can be difficult to spot until there’s a high amount of it. Pets can shed fast and often, and just when you think you’ve removed all the fur from your sofa, carpet, or bed, you suddenly find more, so vacuum a few times each week.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water and change your linens more often during the spring season. Remnants of airborne allergens can stay on your hands, towels, and bed sheets. Washing them more frequently can minimize some of your allergic reactions.
Though it may be tempting, don’t rub your eyes. This can actually aggravate the allergy response. If you find yourself using artificial tears more than 4 times a day, or other short-term solutions aren’t enough, speak with your eye doctor. You may be able to receive antihistamine eye drops or other prescription medications to ease your discomfort.
When It's More Than Allergies
Certain eye allergy symptoms can also be signs of eye conditions or diseases, so pay close attention to any reactions that don’t dissipate after allergy season ends.
These Eye Symptoms can include:
- Excessive tearing
- Persistent eye pain
These Symptoms Can Indicate Eye conditions, Such As:
- Blepharitis (inflamed eyelids)
- Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
- Corneal Abrasions
- Dry Eye Disease
- Styes (an oil gland infection that causes a bump or pimple-like shape in the eyelid)
Eye Allergies and Contact Lenses
If you wear contact lenses, speak to your doctor about daily disposable contacts. These can be a great option for allergy sufferers. Since dailies are thrown away at the end of the day, there’s no heavy allergen buildup on the lenses to worry about. Consider switching to eyeglasses for a while. Even the most comfortable soft lenses can feel irritable during allergy season. Use the springtime to get yourself a new look. With a wide range of incredible styles to choose from, including exclusive eyewear collections from today’s hottest designers, there’s something for everyone. Not sure what the choose? Talk to your optician to help you find a style that’s right for you.
An Ocular Allergy Optometrist Near You
We're here for you, and we want to help. Contact your eye doctor for any specific questions or concerns about your eye allergies.
March 8th is International Women's Day, a day when women are honored and their accomplishments celebrated worldwide. From medicine to law, entrepreneurship to corporate leadership, education to the military, women are achieving great strides in areas of business like never before. In addition to professional achievements, International Women's Day is a time for women to focus inwards on their personal goals, relationships, and health. From the adolescent years to pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause, women’s bodies go through some major changes that can affect many areas of their health, especially their vision.
Age Is Just a Number, But Not For Your Vision
They say that ‘age is just a number’, but when it comes to women’s health, it’s essential to pay close attention to any signs of changing vision as we get older. Women over 40 have a higher risk of developing eye disease, impaired vision, and blindness than men. They are more likely to develop eye conditions such as Cataracts, Diabetic Retinopathy, and Dry Eye Syndrome. In fact, 61% of Glaucoma patients and 65% of Age-Related Macular Degeneration patients are female, so it's crucial that women know the risk factors and signs of developing these conditions.
Put Your Needs First
Women are typically the family caretakers, running a spouse, children, or elderly parents to the doctor, putting their own healthcare needs last. It's time to put your eye care needs first. Don’t ignore symptoms or push them off for another day. Take care of yourself, and you’ll be able to continue being there for others.
Signs and Risk Factors of Vision Problems
Knowing what to look out for is a crucial step in keeping your eyes healthy and enjoying great vision. Genetics often play a key role in many health issues. Just like people inherit eye color and shape, hair color and texture, and facial features from parents, vision difficulties or diseases can also be hereditary. If something runs in the family, you may be more susceptible to developing it and passing it on to your children, as well. Pregnancy can temporarily affect a woman’s vision. This is due to the hormonal changes in the body, which typically stabilize after breastfeeding has stopped. A pregnant woman with diabetes must be closely monitored, since diabetic retinopathy (swelling or leaking of blood vessels in the retina) can progress more quickly during the pregnancy. Climate and environment are also important factors when it comes to eye health. Extremely cold or hot climates can cause dry eye symptoms. A healthy amount of sun exposure is good for the skin, but an excessive amount can harm your eyes and even lead to vision loss. Smoking dehydrates the skin and can lead to eye bags and dark circles, not to mention a whole slew of serious eye diseases like cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic eye disease.
Symptoms of Declining Vision and Eye Conditions
Some of the most common signs of declining vision or eye disease include:
- Blind spots
- Blurry or distorted vision
- Burning sensation
- Gritty feeling
- Itchy eyes
- Shadows or dark spots on an image
- Swelling or soreness in the eye
- Watery eyes
If you or a loved one experiences any of these symptoms, or if you feel like something just isn’t right with your eyes, speak with your eye doctor right away. Mention any other conditions or medications you may be taking, including birth control pills (a known contributor to Dry Eye Syndrome), and even natural supplements or vitamins. Other factors such as an irregular menstrual cycle, fertility treatments, or cosmetic procedures may impact your vision in ways you may be unaware of, so disclosing this to your doctor is important.
What Can You Do to Improve Your Eye Health?
There are some preventative measures that women can take to ensure their eye health and overall vision are at their best.
- Keep that body hydrated! Mothers always say it, doctors remind us too, and they’re right. Drinking 8 glasses of water daily is great for your skin and can prevent dry eye symptoms from forming.
- Quit smoking. Not only is it bad for your lungs, but it can cause eye problems, like dryness, itchiness, and swelling, as well as more serious eye diseases associated with vision loss.
- Love the outdoors? Wear UV-blocking sunglasses when you’re at the beach or even hanging out in your backyard, to protect against harmful sun rays. Polarized lenses are a great way to shield your eyes from strong glare.
- Eat healthy. A balanced diet including a variety of vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables may help protect you from several eye conditions including dry eyes, macular degeneration, and even diabetic retinopathy.
- Try to get more shut-eye. A healthy amount of sleep ensures your eyes are rested and clear the next day.
On this International Women's Day, let’s work together to keep the women in our lives healthy for many years to come.
Most of us have the basics: bleach, oven cleaner, air freshener, furniture polish, and window spray. Did you know that chemicals found in these kinds of cleaning products can be toxic and harmful to your health? In small amounts, they generally don’t cause much damage. But when used on a regular basis or in a poorly ventilated area, the level of toxicity rises. If you’ve ever gotten a headache or developed watery eyes after scrubbing down your kitchen counters, you may have a sensitivity to the chemicals in your household products.
Volatile Organic Compounds
Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, are gases that are released into the atmosphere, usually from burning fuel sources like wood or gasoline. They can also be found in many household products such as degreasers, aerosol sprays, and disinfectants. These gases are released not only during use, but also when kept in storage or transported between locations. VOCs are generally less harmful when released outdoors, as the gases are absorbed into the atmosphere. However, in an indoor environment, the gases have 10 times the concentration! People may come into contact with these compounds by breathing them in or through direct contact with their skin, which can lead to any of the following symptoms:
- Respiratory problems
- Impaired coordination (ie. difficulty walking straight, buttoning a shirt, or holding a pen)
- Eye problems (ie. itching, burning, redness, or soreness in the eyes)
Other Chemical Irritants
Chemicals like sodium hydroxide can be found in oven and drain cleaners. Air fresheners and leather cleaners may contain formaldehyde, which in high amounts, has been linked to certain types of cancer. Even laundry detergents and stain removers can contain irritants. If you’ve been exposed to these types of chemicals, you may experience trouble breathing, irritation in the eyes, nose or throat, or develop a skin rash. So, use extra caution when handling these kinds of cleaning supplies. If your job exposes you to higher levels of chemicals from cleaning products, such as janitorial staff or sanitation workers, artificial tears and protective eyewear can help. Use them daily to give you relief from chemical agents that irritate the eyes. Ask your optometrist about which types are best for you.
Immediate Eye Care
Should your eyes come into contact with chemical substances or VOCs, immediately irrigate your eyes with plenty of cold water. Tilt your head so that the exposed eye is down, to avoid flushing the chemical into the good eye, and avoid rubbing your eyes. Rinse your eyes for 15 minutes - this will flush acidic or alkaline chemicals out of the affected areas. This should be your first line of defense, even before calling a doctor. If you have saline solution or contact lens solution readily on hand (non-peroxide only), administer several drops of solution to the affected eyes. Contact your eye doctor or, if need be, visit an emergency room. Chemical burns can cause serious damage to the cornea, so schedule a checkup with your eye doctor as soon as possible.
5 Ways to Lower Your Risk of Chemical Exposure
Despite the potential harm to your health, there are some things you can do to minimize over exposure to these dangerous chemicals.
Wash Your Hands
Our mothers always said it, and with good reason. The #1 way to lower your risk of health issues from chemicals is to wash your hands after handling cleaning products. Use warm water and soap and be sure to wash the hands thoroughly, even if you used gloves. Consider washing to your upper arms in case of a splash or splatter, such as from paint or aerosol sprays.
Don’t Rub Your Eyes
Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes until your hands have been completely washed and are clear of any lingering chemical substances. Even a little foreign substance in the eye can be incredibly painful. If you’ve ever had an eyelash stuck in your eye, you know what we mean. So just imagine how severe the pain could be if you accidentally touched your eye after contact with bleach or glass cleaner.
Get some fresh air. If you feel dizzy or nauseous, if your eyes burn or you have trouble breathing after using cleaning supplies, go outside. A short walk in the fresh air can quickly open the nasal passages and clear your eyes from strong chemical vapors.
Open Some Windows
Make sure there is plenty of ventilation when cleaning or using any chemicals like paint. Open windows or turn some fans on to circulate the air more effectively.
Read labels and warnings so you know what’s in the cleaners you’re buying and how to use them safely. Consider trying out some natural cleaning supplies that don't contain VOCs.
About “Green” Cleaning Products
In recent years, so-called “green” products have made their way onto store shelves, but just how green are they, and are they safer than standard ones? While baking soda and vinegar have long been touted and praised for their cleaning abilities, there is a seeming plethora of new natural disinfectants and general cleaners on the market.
Buzzwords to Look out For
There are some buzzwords you can look out for, which are clues that certain products may not be as natural or as safe as you think. Consumer product manufacturers aren’t required by law to disclose the ingredients in artificial fragrances, so labels may simply list “fragrance” on their ingredient list. Items labeled “natural” are also vague; they don't have to be specified, and not all natural items are necessarily safe. However, if something is listed as “flammable”, that’s a pretty sure sign of a chemical ingredient.
Chemicals & You
Simply being aware of your body’s reaction to the everyday cleaning supplies in your home is the first step. Use these items safely and with caution. For any severe eye pain – especially if you notice any vision changes – talk to your eye doctor right away.
It’s February and that means we’re smack in the middle of winter, which is also the middle of the school year. It’s the season when kids fervently hope for snow days and parents hope they don’t happen. As we head towards the second half of the school year, you’ve probably attended a few parent-teacher conferences and discussed your child’s education. Like peanut butter and jelly, school and vision go hand-in-hand. Both are important partners in ensuring that children excel in their learning, extracurricular activities, and relationships with their peers.
ADD/ADHD and Vision Problems
Did you know that certain vision problems can mask themselves as behavioral or learning difficulties? In fact, education experts often say that 80% of learning is visual. A 3rd grader may be misdiagnosed with ADD or ADHD if they display behaviors like being fidgety, having difficulty focusing or concentrating, or having a short attention span. These symptoms may not always be purely behavioral; they could be vision-related. A child who experiences blurry vision, suffers from headaches or eyestrain, or itches their eyes excessively may, in fact, have a refractive error such as myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) or astigmatism, or another condition such as convergence insufficiency. Undiagnosed myopia, for example can cause these same types of behaviors that are commonly attributed to attention disorders. That’s because if your child has to squint his eyes to see the board clearly, eyestrain and headaches are bound to follow. Struggling with reading or writing is common too. Other vision disorders can cause similar behavior patterns. An additional challenge is that kids don’t always express their symptoms verbally, and often they don’t even realize that other people see differently than do. This can also impact kids emotionally. When they feel like they’re not keeping up with their peers or their learning is inferior in some way, this may lead the child to act out verbally or even physically. Distinguishing between colors is an important skill for early childhood development. While color vision deficiency affects both children and adults, kids, in particular, can experience difficulty in school with this condition. Simply reading a chalkboard can be an intense struggle when white or yellow chalk is used. When a teacher uses colored markers on a whiteboard to draw a pie chart, graph, or play a game, this can be a difficult experience for a young student with color blindness. A child, his or her parents, and teachers may even be unaware that the child is color blind.
What School Vision Screenings Miss
Many parents believe that an in-school vision screening is good enough. However, an eye chart test only checks for basic visual acuity, so kids with blurry or double vision, for example, may be able to pass a vision screening while still struggling to read, write, or focus on the board. Children who have problems with their binocular vision, which means using both eyes together to focus on something, can pass the screening when they use just one eye to read the chart. Studies show that a whopping 43% of children who have vision problems can successfully pass a school vision screening. This means that the vision test may fail to detect the more subtle but significant and treatable vision problems. Early detection and diagnosis is critical to maintaining healthy eyes. That’s why it’s so important to make eye care a part of your child’s healthcare routine.
The Importance of Yearly Eye Exams
The #1 way to do this is to schedule annual eye exams. Your eye doctor can perform a comprehensive pediatric eye exam to check visual acuity, visual clarity, binocular vision, and screen for any eye diseases or vision problems. Because children develop so rapidly at different ages, it’s essential that eye exams are done at specific stages of their young lives. In fact, The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends regular eye exams at age 6 months, 3 years, before school starts, and every 2 years thereafter. Simply being aware of the tendency to associate a child’s learning issues with a learning disability or attention disorder instead of an underlying vision problem is critical for parents and educators. Both are partners in a child’s education and they must work together to ensure that each child gets the health care and attention he or she needs. If you notice changes in your child’s schoolwork, behavior with friends or in sports or other after-school activities, it may be time to schedule an eye exam. You’ll want to be sure that your kids have all the tools they need to succeed in school and beyond.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma, a silent eye disease, is the most common form of irreversible blindness in the world. It is actually a group of diseases that causes progressive damage to the optic nerve.
- Glaucoma is a progressive eye disease that can lead to permanent vision loss if not controlled.
- There is currently no cure for glaucoma, but there are many treatments available for stopping and slowing the progressive damage to the eye. Treatment, however, can’t reverse damage that is already done.
- Glaucoma affects the optic nerve which sends visual information from your eye to your brain.
- Glaucoma is called the “Thief Sneak of Sight” because there are often no symptoms in the early stages such as pain or "pressure sensation" as one may expect, and by the time it is diagnosed there may already be permanent vision loss.
- When vision loss occurs, peripheral vision is typically affected before central vision. As a result, glaucoma is a major public health issue because individuals usually do not notice any problem with vision until end stages of the disease when there is severe and irreversible vision loss.
- Awareness and regular eye exams are key to early detection and preventing vision loss.
What Causes Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is caused by a buildup of natural fluid that doesn’t drain properly from the eye. The buildup of fluid can result in high pressure in the eye which is the most common cause of the condition. There are many types of glaucoma, which include: Chronic (open angle) glaucoma occurs when pressure builds up over time, usually as a result of aging. This is the most common type of glaucoma. Acute (angle closure) glaucoma is an acute condition where pressure builds up suddenly and demands immediate medical attention. Symptoms include blurred vision, eye pain, headaches, seeing halos around lights, nausea and vomiting. Secondary glaucoma results from another eye disease, condition or a trauma to the eye. Normal tension glaucoma is when there is no build up of pressure but the optic nerve is still damaged. We are still not yet sure what causes this type of glaucoma.
Who is at Risk for Glaucoma?
Everyone is at risk of glaucoma however there are certain factors which increase the likelihood of developing the condition. Vision loss from glaucoma can be greatly reduced when detected and treated early which is why knowing your risk factors can play a tremendous role in prevention.
Age is one of the biggest risk factors, as your chances of developing glaucoma increase significantly after the age of 40. In fact people over 60 years old are six times more likely to get the condition.
Ancestry and Family History
Individuals from African American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American or Aboriginal Canadian descent are at increased risk. Family history is a very strong factor as the condition occurs twice as much in people with close relatives who have had glaucoma.
Previous Eye Injury, Traumas or Surgery
Eye injuries, traumas or surgeries have been known to sometimes cause secondary glaucoma which can happen immediately after the injury or procedure, or even years later. Even childhood injuries can result in secondary glaucoma later in life.
Use of Steroids
Studies show that prolonged steroid use is linked to increased elevated intraocular pressure which increases the risk of open-angle glaucoma. Certain medical and eye conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and high myopia (nearsightedness) also increase a person’s risk of developing glaucoma.
While there is no cure for glaucoma, there are treatments to slow down the progression of the disease including eye drop medications, iridotomies, iridectomies, laser procedures and surgeries.
Other than taking care of any underlying conditions that may increase the risk of developing glaucoma, there is little one can do in the way of prevention. You can however reduce your chances of suffering vision loss. The first step is knowing the risk factors and signs of the condition (even though as mentioned most cases have no symptoms in the early stages, until vision is already lost). The best possible way to prevent vision loss is to have regular comprehensive eye exams to check the health of your eyes and if your eye doctors prescribes medication for glaucoma, make sure to diligently take them as directed. Your eye doctor will be able to conduct certain tests to detect eye diseases such as glaucoma before you even begin to notice symptoms. If you have any of the risk factors above, mention it to your eye doctor, and always be sure to schedule a yearly eye exam, or as often as your eye doctor recommends, to check the health of your eyes and rule out any underlying or developing eye conditions like glaucoma.
Each year during the month of January we recognize World Braille Day which gives us the opportunity to take a moment and appreciate the incredible gift that Braille has given to those who are blind or suffer from vision loss.
What is Braille?
Braille is a tactile representation of letters and numbers that can be utilized by people with vision loss to read using their fingers. The system uses combinations of six raised dots - three rows of two - that serve to represent the numbers, letters and even symbols such as music notes.
Braille was developed by a young Frenchman named Louis Braille and was first published in 1829. Braille invented the system at the age of 15 after he became blind as the result of an accident. The idea was originally based on night writing, a touch-based military code developed for Napoleon’s army by Charles Barbier as a strategy for soldiers to be able to communicate silently in the dark. Barbier’s code was ultimately rejected because it was too difficult to be used effectively by the soldiers. Barbier and Braille later met at the Royal Institute for the Blind in Paris and Braille was able to adapt the idea into a more functional system. In braille, the characters, or letters, are each represented by a cell or block with a particular arrangement of raised dots.
Not Just the ABC's
While first developed for the French alphabet, braille has since been expanded for many languages including all the European-based languages, as well as Arabic and Asian languages. Even within those languages there are different forms of the system. For example, in English, there is Grade 1 braille which is composed of the representation of the 26 letters of the Roman alphabet and is primarily used for those learning to read and write the language. Grade 2 on the other hand is the type of braille you are likely to see written in public places such as menus or signs as it is more complex. Grade 2 includes higher level punctuation, abbreviations and contractions. Lastly, Grade 3 is a form of shorthand designed for personal use such as taking notes or writing letters. In addition to the cells which represent the letters, braille may also include illustrations, graphs and symbols such as bullets or arrows. Further, a cell can also represent a number, a word or a punctuation mark. Because braille takes up more space than standard print there are many abbreviations or contractions that represent words or word sequences to save space. This also helps to improve the speed at which one can read and write using the system.
How To Write Braille
Writing braille requires some tools. To do it by hand you need a stylus, which is a metal tool that is used to create the dots, a slate, which is a type of stencil used to align the dots into neat cells and card-stock paper which is heavy enough to emboss. You can also write braille with a special braille typewriter or an electronic brailler as well as certain computer programs with a braille embosser printer. Being able to read and write braille allows those with vision impairment to learn and express themselves in a way that they would otherwise not be able to. While newer technologies such as screen readers and other computer based programs have become more common in recent years, braille is the foundation of innovation in improving the lives of the blind and vision impaired.
Nerf Guns: Popular, Projectile... Safe?
With the newest Nerf guns and blasters reigning at the top of lists for the most popular toys this holiday season, many parents are excited to surprise their kids (or their spouses) with these coveted toy weapons. There is, in fact a whole culture behind these guns including a variety of themes, weaponry and ammunition, making finding the right Nerf gun for your loved one an additional part of the fun. Most don’t even bat an eye…(pun intended) about the possible dangers of these guns, specifically to the eyes and vision. The truth is, Nerf guns have been reported to cause eye injuries including corneal abrasion (or scratch on the eye), internal bleeding in and around the eye, pain, blurred vision, and temporary loss of vision. Blurry vision is sometimes due to swelling in the retina after a traumatic injury. Experts warn that they can cause irreversible damage to the eye such as a torn or detached retina and vision loss. So this, of course, begs the question: Are these a dangerous toy to buy for my loved ones? Well despite these troublesome facts, Hasbro, the company who manufactures the guns, claims that they go to extensive lengths to ensure the toys are safe. Based on years of research, consumer insights and rigorous testing, Hasbro assures that the toys “meet or exceed global standards and regulations” for safety. That is of course, when the toys are used properly and according to the recommended guidelines. So if, when used according to the guidelines, Nerf guns are not inherently dangerous, it is up to the parent’s discretion to assess whether they are a good choice for their family. Parents (or users of any age) need to establish proper rules and ensure that those using the guns are responsible enough to follow those rules. They should also do their part to be informed and understand the dangers and precautions necessary for safe use.
Be Informed About Nerf Gun Safety
If you do chose to purchase a Nerf gun, make sure that you do the research to ensure that you are selecting the best and safest model and accessories for your desired use. While most models are designed for children ages 8 and up, there are a few models that are specified for older children, so pay attention to the age recommendations. Do not allow children under the age limitations to play with the guns. Further, it is recommended that all children are supervised by adults during play. Nerf brand darts, blasters and foam rounds are made to meet strict safety regulations, while other brands that claim to be Nerf compatible may not be. Only Nerf brand bullets, designed for the specific product purchased should be used. In addition to other safety hazards, it has been seen that some bullets manufactured by other brands have a harder end which pose a greater threat for injury. Think about eye safety. Rule number one should always be: Never aim at anyone’s face or eyes. A direct hit to the eye can cause serious damage and pain. Ideally, the guns should be used with eye protection such as sports or protective goggles to prevent accidental eye injury, so think about adding a couple of pairs into the gift package. Never modify the guns, darts or blasters. There are many videos online that demonstrate how to modify the guns to shoot further, harder and faster. Tampering with the guns and ammunition in this way can undermine the safety measures built into the design of the toys and could result in more serious injury. Make sure to warn children against this as well.
So, what’s the verdict? Whether or not Nerf guns are the right choice for your family depends on how responsible your family members can be with their use. Like many other toys and machinery, they can pose a danger when not used properly so anyone that is gifted or using this toy should be aware of those possible dangers, as well as the rules that are in place for eye safety. If you or a loved one does get injured by such a toy, get a medical evaluation immediately, especially if the injured person is experiencing blurred vision.
Whether you live in a climate with cold winter weather or you are planning a ski trip up north, winter can be a challenge if you suffer from dry eyes. Dry, cool air, cold winds and even drier indoor heating can cause eye irritation, burning, itchiness and redness, and sometimes even excessively watery eyes as more tears are produced to compensate for the dryness. Many people have a chronic feeling that they have something in their eye and some even experience blurred vision. These symptoms can be debilitating! Dry eyes is one of the most common complaints eye doctors get from patients during the winter season, especially in the cooler climates. That’s why we’d like to share some tips on how to relieve dry eye discomfort, and how to know when your condition is serious enough to come in for an evaluation.
Tips to Relieve Winter Dry Eyes:
- Keep eyes moist using artificial tears or eye drops. You can apply these a few times each day when the eyes are feeling dry or irritated. If over-the-counter drops don’t help or if you have chronic dry eyes, speak to your eye doctor about finding the best drops for you. Since not all artificial tears are the same, knowing the cause of your dry eye will help your eye doctor determine which brand is best suited for your eyes.
- Use a humidifier to counteract the drying effects of indoor heaters or generally dry air.
- Point car vents or indoor heaters away from your face when the heat is on. Try to keep your distance from direct sources of heating, especially if they blow out the heat.
- Drink a lot! Hydrating your body will also hydrate your eyes.
- Protect your eyes outdoors with sunglasses or goggles - the bigger the better! Larger, even wrap-around glasses as well as a hat with a wide brim will keep the wind and other elements out of your eyes. If you wear goggles for winter sports, make sure they fit well and cover a large surface area.
- Soothe dry eyes using a warm compress and never rub them! Rubbing your eyes will increase irritation and may lead to infection if the hands are not clean.
- Give your eyes a digital break. People blink less during screen time which is why extensive computer use can lead to dry eyes. Follow the 20/20/20 rule by taking a break every 20 minutes to look 20 feet away for 20 seconds and make sure you blink!
- For contact lens wearers: If you wear contact lenses, dry eyes can be particularly debilitating as the contact lenses can cause even further dryness and irritation. Contact lens rewetting drops can help your eyes feel better and may also allow you to see more clearly. Not all eyedrops are appropriate for use with contact lenses, so ask your optometrist which eyedrop is compatible with your contacts and cleaning solution. If rewetting drops don’t help, consider opting for glasses when your dry eyes are bad, and speak to your optometrist about which brands of contact lenses are better for dry eyes. Many people find dry eye improvement when they switch to daily single use contact lenses.
Chronic Dry Eyes or Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry eye syndrome is a chronic condition in which the eyes do not produce enough tear film, or do not produce the quality of tear film needed to properly keep the eyes moist. While winter weather can make this condition worse, it is often present all year round. If you find that the tips above do not alleviate your discomfort or symptoms, it may be time to see a optometrist to see if your condition requires more effective medical treatment.
Diabetes is becoming much more prevalent around the globe. According to the International Diabetes Federation, approximately 425 million adults were living with diabetes in the year 2017 and 352 million more people were at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. By 2045 the number of people diagnosed is expected to rise to 629 million. Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness as well as heart attacks, stroke, kidney failure, neuropathy (nerve damage) and lower limb amputation. In fact, in 2017, diabetes was implicated in 4 million deaths worldwide. Nevertheless preventing these complications from diabetes is possible with proper treatment, medication and regular medical screenings as well as improving your diet, physical activity and adopting a healthy lifestyle.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the hormone insulin is either underproduced or ineffective in its ability to regulate blood sugar. Uncontrolled diabetes leads to hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, which damages many systems in the body such as the blood vessels and the nervous system.
How Does Diabetes Affect The Eyes?
Diabetic eye disease is a group of conditions which are caused, or worsened, by diabetes; including: diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, glaucoma and cataracts. Diabetes increases the risk of cataracts by four times, and can increase dryness and reduce cornea sensation. In diabetic retinopathy, over time, the tiny blood vessels within the eyes become damaged, causing leakage, poor oxygen circulation, then scarring of the sensitive tissue within the retina, which can result in further cell damage and scarring. The longer you have diabetes, and the longer your blood sugar levels remain uncontrolled, the higher the chances of developing diabetic eye disease. Unlike many other vision-threatening conditions which are more prevalent in older individuals, diabetic eye disease is one of the main causes of vision loss in the younger, working-age population. Unfortunately, these eye conditions can lead to blindness if not caught early and treated. In fact, 2.6% of blindness worldwide is due to diabetes.
As mentioned above, diabetes can result in cumulative damage to the blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue located at the back of the eye. This is called diabetic retinopathy. The retina is responsible for converting the light it receives into visual signals to the optic nerve in the brain. High blood sugar levels can cause the blood vessels in the retina to leak or hemorrhage, causing bleeding and distorting vision. In advanced stages, new blood vessels may begin to grow on the retinal surface causing scarring and further damaging cells in the retina. Diabetic retinopathy can eventually lead to blindness.
Signs and Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy
The early stages of diabetic retinopathy often have no symptoms, which is why it’s vitally important to have frequent diabetic eye exams. As it progresses you may start to notice the following symptoms:
- Blurred or fluctuating vision or vision loss
- Floaters (dark spots or strings that appear to float in your visual field)
- Blind spots
- Color vision loss
There is no pain associated with diabetic retinopathy to signal any issues. If not controlled, as retinopathy continues it can cause retinal detachment and macular edema, two other serious conditions that threaten vision. Again, there are often NO signs or symptoms until more advanced stages. A person with diabetes can do their part to control their blood sugar level. Following the physician’s medication plan, as well as diet and exercise recommendations can help slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy.
Scar tissues caused by the breaking and forming of blood vessels in advanced retinopathy can lead to a retinal detachment in which the retina pulls away from the underlying tissue. This condition is a medical emergency and must be treated immediately as it can lead to permanent vision loss. Signs of a retinal detachment include a sudden onset of floaters or flashes in the vision.
Diabetic Macular Edema (DME)
Diabetic macular edema occurs when the macula, a part of the retina responsible for clear central vision, becomes full of fluid (edema). It is a complication of diabetic retinopathy that occurs in about half of patients, and causes vision loss.
Treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy and Diabetic Macular Edema
While vision loss from diabetic retinopathy and DME often can’t be restored, with early detection there are some preventative treatments available. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (when the blood vessels begin to grow abnormally) can be treated by laser surgery, injections or a procedure called vitrectomy in which the vitreous gel in the center of the eye is removed and replaced. This will treat bleeding caused by ruptured blood vessels. DME can be treated with injection therapy, laser surgery or corticosteroids.
Prevent Vision Loss from Diabetes
The best way to prevent vision loss from diabetic eye disease is early detection and treatment. Since there may be no symptoms in the early stages, regular diabetic eye exams are critical for early diagnosis. In fact diabetics are now sometimes monitored by their health insurance to see if they are getting regular eye exams and premium rates can be affected by how regularly the patients get their eyes checked. Keeping diabetes under control through exercise, diet, medication and regular screenings will help to reduce the chances of vision loss and blindness from diabetes.
Halloween is one of the most fun times of the year for children and adults alike. When else do you get to dress up as anyone (or anything) you want, socialize with friends and eat lots of treats? Nevertheless, lurking behind those costumes and all that fun are some hidden dangers that you need to be aware of and many of them could affect your eyes and vision. Brush up on these preventative measures to help you and your children to stay safe and enjoy the holiday.
Masks can really make or break a costume but they can also increase danger, especially for children. Masks that block visibility or the ability to breathe can be extremely dangerous. You want to make sure that you and your children have a complete, unobstructed visual field, especially if they will be crossing streets.
Facepaint can be a great alternative to a mask, but it comes with its own set of precautions. Buy face paint that is hypoallergenic and do a spot test to make sure there is no allergic reaction anyway. Make sure to keep the paint out of the eyes and be careful during application especially with sharp, pointed brushes that can scratch the eye. If face paint or any other substances get into the eyes, immediately flush the eyes thoroughly with saline or water as chemical splashes can cause significant eye damage within minutes. This should be done before consulting your eye doctor. If irritation persists however, it should be looked at by an eye doctor.
Try to avoid costumes with sharp or pointed props such as spears, swords or guns that shoot. Warn children at play to never point an object at a person’s head or eyes. That goes for spray cans of silly-string, as well. The chemicals in these products can be very dangerous to the eyes, risking chemical conjunctivitis and serious eye irritation. The pressure at which the string is sprayed can also cause eye damage including a corneal abrasion (a scratch to the surface of the eye) if sprayed into the eye at a close range. These popular Halloween products should be avoided or, if necessary, children should be seriously cautioned not to spray anyone near the neck or face.
Speaking of sight, you want to make sure that you and your children are visible to motorists on the streets. Chose brightly colored costumes and carry a flashlight to increase visibility. Consider adding some reflective tape to the costume or props as well.
Decorative Contact Lenses
Decorative contact lenses can look great, but they can cause serious damage. That’s why even non-corrective contact lenses are considered a medical device, which must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration or Health Canada, and require a prescription from an eye doctor. Never buy fashion, decorative, cosmetic, colored or theater contact lenses (or any other name that they go by) from a beauty or costume supply store or any unauthorized vendor. You should purchase them only with a prescription from an eye doctor after an eye exam to measure your eye and assess your eye health.
Contacts obtained through an unauthorized source may not be safe to wear. They might cause a corneal abrasion, allergic reactions, infections and decreased vision which can even lead to blindness. Plus, your optician or eye doctor will give you instructions for proper use and hygiene such as washing your hands, storing and cleaning the lenses properly and removing them as prescribed. If you are wearing any type of contact lenses and you notice redness, pain or blurred vision, take them out immediately. If symptoms persist, see your eye doctor as soon as possible.
Don’t make Halloween into a truly scary holiday. Take heed of these potential dangers and take the necessary precautions to stay safe. Happy Halloween!
Regular exercise is an essential component of overall health and wellness. It is proven that exercise reduces sickness and disease; it increases strength, immunity, and mental health; and it also helps regulate bodily functions and maintain a healthy weight. Research shows that exercise can lower our risk of chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema, as well as other eye diseases such as glaucoma, cataracts and wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Whereas, a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of these diseases and of vision loss, studies show that even moderate exercise at least three times a week can improve the prognosis of the above-mentioned chronic illnesses and reduce the risks of developing vision threatening eye diseases. Inactivity is an even higher risk factor if you have other co-factors for developing eye diseases, including: a family history, previous eye injury or surgery, diabetes, high blood pressure or very high myopia. A combination of healthy lifestyle habits which include regular exercise and a nutritious diet and tending to your mental and emotional well-being can reduce these risks significantly.
Tips for Incorporating Physical Activity Into Your Day
- Make it a priority. Schedule your exercise time into your day as if it is a non-negotiable appointment. Find the time of day that works best - for some that is early morning and for others late at night. Work your way up to a half hour at least three times a week.
- Be realistic. You don’t need to become a fitness expert to experience the benefits of exercise. Walking, yoga, swimming, even dancing around the house are all options for staying fit. Find a type of exercise that you love so you will enjoy working this habit into your life.
- Just move. Find ways to move your body throughout your day. Park your car a little further away from the mall entrance, take the stairs instead of the elevator or walk or bike to work. Remember, every little bit of movement helps.
- Find something you enjoy. Often finding the right exercise is a good stress reliever, and reducing stress will also reduce risk of many chronic diseases.
- It’s never too late. Exercise for the elderly can be a challenge especially during the cold winter months, when many seniors can’t get out of the house due to the weather. Even walking up and down the stairs in the house or following an exercise video can be helpful to keep from being sedentary.
Protection & Prevention
If you are exercising outdoors or playing contact sports, make sure to protect your eyes with sunglasses or sports safety glasses to ensure your eye health and safety. Regular exercise can significantly decrease your risks of certain eye conditions but you still have to ensure that you visit your eye doctor for regular exams. Schedule a comprehensive eye exam every year to ensure your vision and your eyes are healthy and to catch any possible problems as early as possible. Eye health and disease prevention are just two of the many health and wellness benefits you gift yourself when you make exercise a regular part of your lifestyle. Speak to your doctor if you have any health issues that need to be considered. At any age or level of physical fitness, you can find some form of exercise that works for you.
Screen Time Pros and Cons
Whether it is homework, email, gaming, chatting with friends, searching the web or watching Youtube, kids these days seem to have an endless number of reasons to be glued to a screen. Many parents out there are wondering how bad this can be for their kids and whether they should be limiting screen time. There are certainly benefits to allowing your kids to use digital devices, whether it is educational, social or providing a needed break. However, studies show that excessive screen time can have behavioral consequences such as irritability, moodiness, inability to concentrate, poor behavior, and other issues as well. Too much screen time is also linked to dry eyes and meibomian gland disorders (likely due to a decreased blink rate when using devices), as well as eye strain and irritation, headaches, back or neck and shoulder pain, and sleep disturbances. Some of these computer vision syndrome symptoms are attributed to blue light that is emitted from the screens of digital devices. Blue light is a short wavelength, high-energy visible light that is emitted by digital screens, LED lights and the sun. Studies suggest that exposure to some waves of blue light over extended periods of time may be harmful to the light-sensitive cells of the retina at the back of the eye. When these cells are damaged, vision loss can occur. Research indicates that extreme blue light exposure could lead to macular degeneration or other serious eye diseases that can cause vision loss and blindness. Studies show that blue light also interferes with the regulation of the the body’s circadian rhythm which can have a disruptive impact on the body’s sleep cycle. Lack of quality sleep can lead to serious health consequences as well. Beyond these studies, the long term effects of blue light exposure from digital devices are not yet known since this is really the first generation in which people are using digital devices to such an extent. While it may take years to fully understand the impact of excessive screen time on our eyes and overall health, it is probably worth limiting it due to these preliminary findings and the risks it may pose. This is especially true for young children and the elderly, who are particularly susceptible to blue light exposure.
How to Protect the Eyes From Blue Light
The first step in proper eye protection is abstaining from excessive exposure by limiting the amount of time spent using a computer, smart phone or tablet - especially at night, to avoid interfering with sleep. Many pediatricians even recommend zero screen time for children under two. The next step would be to reduce the amount of blue light entering the eyes by using blue light blocking glasses or coatings that deflect the light away from the eyes. There are also apps and screen filters that you can add to your devices to reduce the amount of blue light being projected from the screen. Speak to your eye doctor about steps you can take to reduce blue light exposure from digital devices. As a side note, the sun is an even greater source of blue light so it is essential to protect your child’s eyes with UV and blue light blocking sunglasses any time your child goes outside - even on overcast days. The eyes of children under 18 are particularly susceptible to damage from environmental exposure as they have transparent crystalline lenses that are more susceptible to both UV and blue light rays. While the effects (such as increased risk of age-related macular degeneration) may not be seen for decades later, it’s worth it to do what you can now to prevent future damage and risk for vision loss.
Getting old doesn’t have to be synonymous with vision loss. There is a lot you can do to keep your eyes and vision healthy and prevent age related eye disease and vision loss, especially if you start early. Keeping your eyes healthy and strong may require some lifestyle changes, but the good news is that these improvements will contribute to your overall health and wellness, not just your eyes. There are a number of ocular diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy that primarily affect older adults, which can cause impaired vision and even blindness. Sometimes, they are caused by an accumulation of a lifetime of unhealthy habits; changing these poor habits may be the best form of prevention.
A few of the most critical lifestyle risk factors for eye disease,
and what you can do to reduce your risks.
Eating healthy is about much more than weight loss. Nutritious foods give your body the ability to fight disease and function optimally. On the other hand, what you put in your body can also cause disease, inflammation, and upset your body’s homeostasis. Choose a healthy, balanced diet: it’s never too late. Sugar, processed foods and unhealthy fats can increase your risk for eye disease and many other diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. In contrast, colorful fruits and vegetables, particularly greens, can help to fight and prevent these same diseases. In fact, studies show that people who eat a healthy diet full of greens, healthy fats (such as Omega-3s) and proteins, and a variety of foods full of vitamins and minerals (such as antioxidants like lutein, zeaxanthin, and vitamins A and C) have reduced occurrence of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cataracts and macular degeneration. Try to eat a diet of at least 5-9 servings a day of fruits and vegetables rich and varied in natural color to get the most nutrients. Reduce your intake of sugar, refined grains (such as white bread and pasta) and processed foods and drinks. Eat mostly whole grains and real, natural foods as much as possible and drink plenty of water.
Ultraviolet (UV) and Blue Light Exposure
More and more studies are showing that extended exposure to UV and blue light emissions correlate to increased incidences of eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration. To avoid this, all you need is some proper eye protection. 100% UV blocking sunglasses should be worn each time you go outside (rain or shine) and, if you work on a computer or use an electronic device for at a couple of hours a day or more, it’s worthwhile investing in blue-light blocking computer glasses. There are also some filters and apps available to reduce blue-light exposure from digital devices and screens.
We all know that smoking is bad for you, and eye disease is just another way it can have a negative impact on your health. Studies show that smoking increases the risk of dry eye syndrome, cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration as well as diabetic retinopathy.
Once again, what is healthy for your body, is healthy for your eyes. Studies correlate regular exercise with lower risk of age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic eye disease. Working a regular exercise routine into your schedule is important for your health and longevity. Being more active in your daily life can help too - walking up and down the steps in your house a few times, taking the stairs instead of an elevator or parking farther away from your destination are easy and free ways to incorporate physical activity into your everyday life. Additionally, individuals with diabetes who exercise regularly show less development of diabetic retinopathy. The recommended guidelines for diabetics (and most individuals) are a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise per week such as 30 minutes five times a week or three sessions of 50 minutes each.
Preventative Care (Regular Eye Exam)
Vision threatening eye diseases can often be caught and treated early, preventing further vision loss and sometimes even reversing damage. This is where annual comprehensive eye exams are key. You don’t want to wait until you have symptoms to get checked by your eye doctor because many eye diseases don’t present any signs until vision is lost and it is too late to fully recover. A yearly comprehensive eye exam can detect slight changes in your eye that could indicate a developing problem. Early detection can dramatically improve your chances for restored eye health and vision preservation. When it comes to eye health, awareness and actions for prevention can have a huge impact on reducing your risks. Don’t wait until it is too late. Even small steps toward a healthier lifestyle can make a difference to your future eye health.
What Is Progressive Myopia?
Nearsightedness or myopia is one of the most prevalent eye disorders worldwide and its incidence is increasing. In fact by 2050, myopia is projected to affect half of the world’s population! Many children diagnosed with nearsightedness (myopia) experience a consistent worsening of their vision as they grow into adolescence. This condition can be so aggressive that for some, each time they take their child to the eye doctor for a vision checkup, their prescription gets higher. This is called progressive myopia and can be a serious condition for many children now and in the future. Not only is there a financial burden and inconvenience associated with having to replace eyeglasses on a regular basis, but high myopia is a risk factor for many eye diseases later in life such as retinal detachment, early onset cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration.
What Causes Progressive Myopia?
Myopia is a refractive error that happens when the eye focuses incoming light in front of the retina, rather than directly on it, resulting in blurred distance vision. While an exact cause of progressive myopia is not known, most research indicates that a combination of environmental and genetic factors trigger the condition. First of all, there is evidence that a family history of nearsightedness is a contributing factor. Additionally, spending a lot of time indoors may play a role in myopia development, as studies show that children who spend more time outside have less incidence of myopia. Lastly, near point stress, which can be caused from looking at a near object for an extended period of time, can prompt the eye to grow longer and result in myopia. Several eye doctors recommend following the 20-20-20 rule when using digital devices (stopping every 20 minutes to look 20 feet away for 20 seconds) to reduce near point stress caused by computer use.
What Can Be Done To Prevent or Treat Myopia?
There are several treatments that have been shown to slow the progression of myopia.
Also known as corneal reshaping, this treatment uses rigid gas permeable contact lenses that are worn while the patient sleeps to reshape the cornea, which is the clear, front part of the eye. During the day, the patient is usually able to see clearly, glasses-free. In addition to allowing glasses-free vision during the day, this treatment has been shown to reduce the progression of myopia in many children.
Distance Center Multifocal Contact Lenses:
This treatment uses distance center (which means the area for seeing at a distance is in the center of the lens) multifocal soft contact lenses to provide clear vision and slow the progression of myopia. The lenses are worn as normal contact lenses during the day.
Atropine drops are a daily-use prescription eye drop that has been shown to reduce myopia progression. It can be used alone or in combination with ortho-k or multifocal contact lenses.
Additional Myopia Treatments:
While these treatments are available in all of North America, some countries offer additional options that are approved for myopia control. For example, in Canada, ZeissTM MyoVision glasses that have an innovative lens curvature design are available to help reduce the rate of myopia progression. Additionally some doctors in Canada offer Coopervision MiSight® lenses, which are 1-day contact lenses that are worn during the daytime. These contacts have a multifocal lens design with distance centre and near surround that is specifically designed for children.
Myopia & Your Child
If your child’s vision keeps getting worse, it's more than an annoyance - it can be a serious risk factor for their eye health and vision in the future. The best strategy for myopia control depends on the child and the severity of the case, and requires consultation with an experienced eye doctor in order to determine the best solution. If your child wears glasses, make his or her vision a priority; schedule an eye exam to ensure stable vision and healthy eyes.
An online eye test may seem like a convenient way to check your vision or get an eyeglass prescription but beware, these tests aren’t all they are chocked up to be. In fact, they may even be dangerous.
What is an online eye test really testing?
An online eye test is actually not an eye test at all but just a vision or sight test - and a partial test at that. It is designed to measure your visual acuity and refractive error (nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism) and to determine an eyeglass prescription - which is the lens power needed to correct the refractive error in your vision. Given that there is no one with medical training actually performing or checking the accuracy of the test, it is questionable how well the exam does even this. In fact, when an eye doctor does a refraction for glasses or contact lenses it also involves some judgement on the doctor’s part. The eye doctor will often adjust the prescription slightly based on the patient’s age, occupation or hobbies. The doctor may prescribe a prism in the lenses to help with binocularity and to prevent double vision in those who have deviations of the eye. There is no way an online exam can do any of this. Further, a refraction is only one very small part of an eye exam and if it takes the place of a regular comprehensive eye exam by an eye doctor, you put your eyes and vision at serious risk.
A Comprehensive Eye Exam - Where Online Tests Fail
Even if the eyes see clearly and you have 20/20 vision, there may still be vision problems or eye disease present even without pain, blurred vision or other symptoms. What the online eye test fails to measure is your complete visual health and capacity (beyond just visual acuity), the curvature of the eye (which is needed for accurate lens prescriptions- especially for contact lenses) and an assessment of the health of the eye itself. Just as we need regular medical and dental checkups as a part of preventative health care to prevent disease and maintain our health, we also need regular eye exams. A vision test does not suffice. A comprehensive eye exam will examine much more than just how well you see. It will also check for visual processing, color vision, depth perception and proper eye movement. It will measure your eye pressure, examine the back of your eye and look for early signs of eye disease or conditions such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetes, tumors and high blood pressure - many of which threaten your eyes and vision if not caught early. If you do have some vision loss, the doctor will be able to determine if there is any serious underlying problem that is causing the disturbance in your vision. If you don’t have symptoms that doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. Many serious eye conditions develop gradually without any symptoms. Some eye diseases do not affect the macula, and therefore you may still have good vision even though there is a problem (such as glaucoma, early dry macular degeneration, early cataract, diabetes, blood pressure and even tumors). Many of these conditions threaten the eyes and even general health if not caught early and when undetected they can cause permanent and irreversible damage to your vision. Eye exams are the best way to detect these early and treat them before they develop into serious eye problems. Whether online vision tests are inaccurate, misleading or simply insufficient, they can fail to provide essential information and can delay or prevent vision saving treatments. Additionally, you could be walking around with the wrong vision prescription which can cause unnecessary eye strain, headaches and difficulty.
Will an Online Eye Test Really Save you Money?
No. Besides the fact that most eye exams are covered by insurance, the eye exam you are getting from an eye doctor is much more thorough and comprehensive than an online eye test, so you are not comparing apples to apples. The eye doctor’s exam uses real equipment and performs a complete and professional evaluation of your vision and eye health. There is simply no comparing this to a self administered test on a computer screen. An online eye test may be touted as a time and money saving convenience however, that is hardly the case. An eye exam is a medical procedure that requires training, precision, and proper equipment. Anything less can put your eyes and vision at serious risk.
Healthy eyes and good vision are essential for your child’s growth and development. In fact, learning is 80% visual, which means a child’s success in school, athletics and many other aspects of life can be impacted by poor vision. Good vision goes beyond how far you can see, and also includes a number of other skills such as visual processing and eye movement abilities. Often times vision deficiencies are at the root of learning problems and behavioral issues and may unfortunately go unchecked and misdiagnosed. Remember, if your child is having trouble in school, an eye exam and a pair of prescription glasses is a much easier solution than treating a learning disorder or ADHD; yet many people fail to check that first. It is common for children to think that their vision deficiency is normal and therefore they often won’t report it to parents or teachers. That is why it is even more important to know what to look for. Here are some signs that your child may have a vision problem:
- Squinting or blinking often
- Eye rubbing
- Tilting the head to the side
- Covering one eye
- One eye that turns out or in
- Reporting double vision
- Holding books or reading materials very close to the face
- Complaining of headaches or eye fatigue
- Short attention span
- Difficulty reading
- Losing their place frequently when reading
- Avoiding reading or any activity that requires close work
- Problems with reading comprehension or recall
- Behavioral issues that stem from frustration and/or boredom
- Poor performance and achievement in school or athletics
- Working twice as hard to achieve minimal performance in school
Another issue is that many parents and teachers think that a school vision screening is sufficient to assess a child’s vision, so if that test comes back okay, they believe there is no vision problem. This however, is far from the case. A school vision test usually only assesses visual acuity for distance vision or how far a child can see. Even a child with 20/20 vision can have significant vision problems that prevent them from seeing, reading and processing visual information. Every child of school age should have comprehensive eye and vision exams on a regular, yearly basis to assess their eye and vision health, and ensure that any issues are addressed as soon as possible. It’s also important to have an exam prior to entering kindergarten, as undetected lazy eye may be more complicated to treat past seven years of age. Some of the issues the eye doctor may look for, in addition to good visual acuity, are the ability to focus, eye teaming and tracking, visual perception, hand-eye coordination, depth perception and peripheral vision. They will also assess the health of the eye and look for any underlying conditions that may be impairing vision. Depending on the problem the eye doctor may prescribe eyeglasses, contact lenses or vision therapy to correct the issue. During the school years a child’s eyes and vision continue to develop and change so it is important to continually check in on your child’s vision. If you have a family history of vision problems, follow-ups are even more important. Progressive conditions like progressive myopia, strabismus (crossed eyes), amblyopia (lazy eye) or astigmatism can be treated and monitored for changes with early treatment so it’s important to seek a doctor’s diagnosis as soon as signs or symptoms are present. Make sure that your child has the best possible chances for success in school and add a comprehensive eye exam to your back to school to-do list.
It’s almost back to school time for college students and whether this is your first time away from home or you are already a pro, you want to be prepared with as much knowledge as possible to live safely on your own. This knowledge includes eye and vision safety, as failing to take care of your eyes today could cause damage to your eyes and vision now and in the future. So put down your text books for a second and learn these four simple lessons about protecting your precious eyes:
Blue Light Protection
College students spend a LOT of time in front of screens. From each class, homework assignment, and research project, to texting, tinder, netflix and gaming - life is largely digital. This comes with a slew of potential side effects known as computer vision syndrome, including sore and tired eyes, headaches, neck, shoulder and back pain, dry eyes and blurred vision, largely due to the effect of the blue light emitted from the screens. Research shows that blue light can also impact your sleep quality and may possibly be connected to the development of retinal damage and macular degeneration later in life.
There are a few ways to protect your eyes and vision from blue light and computer vision syndrome:
- Use computer glasses or blue-light blocking coated lenses or contact lenses when working on a screen for long periods of time. These lenses are made to allow optimal visual comfort for the distance and unique pixelation of working on a computer or mobile screen, by reducing glare and eye strain. They also block potentially harmful blue-light radiation from entering your eyes.
- Prescription glasses may be considered as well. Many students who never needed glasses previously experience eyestrain with extensive hours studying in university. A minor prescription can make a big difference in reducing eye fatigue and helping to improve concentration.
- Implement the 20-20-20 rule by taking a break every 20 minutes to look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This allows your eyes to pause from the intensity of the computer screen.
- Depending on your environment, eye drops prescribed from the eye doctor may be helpful. Your blink rate often goes down substantially when you are concentrating on reading or computer work, which can cause dry eyes. Using eye drops and remembering to blink frequently can help reduce these uncomfortable symptoms.
- Install bluelight filters on your digital devices to reduce the amount of blue light exposure. There are a number of free apps available to download on your phone or computer.
Proper Contact Lens Use
Many college students opt for contact lenses as they are convenient and great for the appearance, but they come along with responsibility. The busy days and late nights can sometimes make contact lens care difficult so make sure to plan ahead. If you wear contact lenses you need to make sure that you always get them from an authorized lens distributor and that you follow your eye doctor’s instructions for proper care. Always follow the wearing schedule and never sleep in lenses that are not designed for extended wear. Clean and disinfect as needed, and don’t rinse them with anything other than contact lens solution. Failing to follow the proper use and hygiene for contact lenses can result in irritation, infections and even corneal scarring which can result in vision loss. One-day disposable lenses can be a great option especially for college students as they offer ultimate convenience (no cleaning and storing) and optimal eye health. Further, if you enjoy wearing contact lenses, then remember to get a proper fit from your eye doctor. Many "exclusive" contact lenses available online may actually be poorly fit and made from inferior materials. One size does not fit all.
Ultraviolet rays from the sun are known to cause long term eye damage and lead to vision threatening eye conditions such as macular degeneration and cataracts. Additionally in extreme cases of unprotected UV exposure you can get sunburned eyes, known as photokeratitis, which can cause a gritty, dry feeling, burning, swelling, light sensitivity, vision changes and sometimes serious pain. These symptoms typically go away within a day or two. Wearing 100% UV reflective sunglasses whenever you are outside - rain or shine - is a first step to eye protection. A large brimmed hat to protect the eyes from exposure from the top and sides is also a recommended addition for sunny days.
Get a regular eye exam
To start off college with the right foot forward, it’s recommended to get a comprehensive eye exam prior to the start of the the school year, especially if you haven’t had one recently. This way you can ensure that your eyes and vision are in top shape and, if you wear glasses, that your prescription is still accurate. The last thing you want to worry about when getting adjusted to college is problems with your eyes and vision. It’s also recommended for students that are going away to another city to get a recommendation for a local eye doctor in case of an emergency. Most eye doctors know of colleagues located in other cities who they could recommend. Just remember to think about your eyes because the better you take care of them now, the healthier eyes and vision you will have down the line.
While it may seem like a harmless action, rubbing your eyes can actually cause a lot of damage. There are a number of different reasons that people rub their eyes and for the most part, it does more harm than good. While rubbing your eyes might feel really good in the short term, it's best to find other ways to get relief from your symptoms.
Why People Rub Their Eyes
Rubbing your eyes can feel good for a number of reasons. First of all, it can be therapeutic as the pressure can be soothing and can stimulate the vagus nerve, alleviating stress. It can also lubricate your eyes by stimulating the tear ducts and can flush out or remove dirt and particles. However, you don’t want to make eye rubbing a habit because there are a number of ways it can cause damage. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons people rub their eyes and some ways to avoid it.
Itchy eyes can be caused by a number of reasons including allergies, inflammation or infections. In any case, rubbing them can often make things worse. For allergies, rubbing the eyes can actually make your eyes more itchy because it can spread more allergens around. Further, there is an inflammatory cascade response that is aggravated by eye rubbing, which can cause the intense fluid swelling and redness often associated with allergies. If you have an infection, rubbing your eye can cause more irritation, and often spreads the infection to your other eye, and potentially to the people around you. In fact, that may be how you got that infection to begin with. The hands carry a good amount of germs and bacteria, and your eyes are an easy access point for these germs to enter. Touching something, even as common as a doorknob or towel, which someone else with an eye infection also touched, is a common cause of conjunctivitis and other contagious eye infections.
Something In Your Eye
If you have something in your eyes, rubbing may seem like the natural response to get it out. However, this can cause the object to scratch your eye and damage the cornea. Rubbing may occasionally push a foreign body deeper into the cornea making it more painful and difficult to remove.
Dry eyes can be temporary, resulting from environmental or physical circumstances, or chronic, due to a condition like blepharitis in which the eye produces a poor quality tear film. If you rub your eyes when they feel dry, it can exacerbate your discomfort and even sometimes cause infection if you don’t wash your hands first. When your eyes don’t have enough tears, they may not flush dirt and germs out as readily as well-lubricated eyes might.
Other Eye Conditions
Eye rubbing can be especially risky for people with existing eye conditions such as glaucoma, thin cornea and progressive myopia, as it can worsen eyesight. In glaucoma the eye rubbing can lead to an increase in eye pressure which can lead to nerve damage and eventual vision loss. In individuals with a thin cornea, eye rubbing can exacerbate the problem sometimes resulting in a condition called keratoconus which seriously distorts vision.
Alternatives to Eye Rubbing
Your eyes actually have built-in mechanisms to flush out particles and irritants, but when these don’t work, eye flushing, eye drops or artificial tears might bring relief or remove foreign bodies. If you think you have a foreign body in the eye, first flush the eye with saline, eye wash or water. If you have something stuck in your eye that you can’t flush out, go immediately to an eye doctor.
Eye Drops or Cool Down
For chronic itching or allergies, speak to your eye doctor as there are remedies such as antihistamines, mast cell stabilizers or even steroid eye drops that can be prescribed to alleviate symptoms. If no prescription eye drops are available when needed, try cooling down by going to a cool area and putting cold water on a paper towel over the eyes for a few minutes. Cooling the eye area will the reduce symptoms as the blood vessels constrict, while heat tends to make the itch worse. If you have dry eyes there are a number of options available for treatment which include drops or procedures to clear out tear ducts to improve eye moisture. Remember, no matter how good it may feel to rub your eyes, there are potential consequences, some of them serious, so next time, think twice!
An ocular migraine is any migraine headache that involves a visual disturbance such as flashes of light, seeing stars or zigzags or the appearance of blind spots in the visual field. Ocular migraines can interfere with your ability to go about your daily tasks such as driving, reading or writing, however, the visual symptoms don’t last long and do go away completely once the migraine has passed.
What is an Ocular Migraine?
The term ocular migraine may refer to a couple of different conditions. Firstly, migraines with auras often have eye-related symptoms that precede the actual headache. An aura is a physical symptom that is experienced usually within 5 minutes to an hour before a migraine comes on, and can include:
- Blind spots (scotomas) or partial vision loss
- Flashes of light, spots or zigzag patterns
- Visual, auditory (hearing) or olfactory (smell) hallucinations or disruptions
- Tingling or numbness
- Mental fog, trouble finding words and speaking
These types of ocular migraines commonly appear by obstructing a small area of vision which spreads gradually over 5 minutes. A second type of ocular migraine is when you actually experience temporary vision loss or disruptions (flashes, blind spots, zigzag lines etc.) during or immediately following the migraine headache. Ocular migraines can also sometimes appear without any head pain at all. They may also be called eye, ophthalmic, or retinal migraines.
What Causes Ocular Migraines?
Similar to classic migraines, the exact cause of an ocular migraine is unknown. Genetic predisposition seems to be a factor to some extent, and having a family history of migraines does put you at greater risk. While they don’t know the cause, experts have seen that spasms in the blood vessels and nerve cells in the retinal lining at the back of the eye are associated with ocular migraine symptoms. For some, there are certain environmental triggers, or a combination of factors, that cause migraines. These differ on an individual basis but can include:
- Bright lights or loud sounds
- Strong smells
- A sudden or drastic change in weather conditions
- Eating, or exposure to, certain food substances such as, alcohol, caffeine, nitrates, MSG (monosodium glutamate), artificial sweeteners and tyramine.
Since triggers are different for everyone it’s advised to try to identify yours by keeping a journal to track your environment, diet and lifestyle habits, when you experience a headache.
Treatment for Ocular Migraines
Treatment for ocular migraines is usually not necessary as the symptoms typically resolve themselves within 30 minutes. It is advised to rest and avoid doing things that require vision and concentration until the headache goes away and the vision symptoms cease. If you are experiencing an ocular headache:
- Lie down in a quiet, dark room when possible
- Massage or apply pressure to the temples and scalp
- Apply a damp towel to the forehead
If you experience auras, taking a migraine medication when the aura occurs, can often reduce the intensity of the headache that follows. In other words, you can use the aura as a warning sign that a headache is coming on and treat it preventatively. Your doctor may prescribe a pain reliever for associated head pain and, if migraines are chronic, a preventative medication may be given. It’s important to note that if you are experiencing any unusual visual symptoms or an increase in frequency or duration of symptoms, you should see an eye doctor right away to rule out any serious, vision threatening conditions. Symptoms such as floaters or flashing lights can also be a sign of a retinal tear or hole. If you get migraines, among the best ways to prevent them are to keep your mind and body healthy by eating nutritious foods, getting enough rest and managing stress effectively.
Sure, sunglasses might add the final touches to your chic ensemble, but the real reason to purchase your shades is to protect your eyes from the sun. Not only does glare from the sun make it difficult to see, but the UV rays it reflects can cause permanent damage to your eyes and vision. You want to make sure your sunglasses offer optimal protection, fit, comfort and of course, the best possible vision. Here are some things to consider when purchasing your next pair.
There are two types of UV radiation, UVA and UVB. UVA rays are less intense yet more prevalent than UVB rays, making up 95% of the UV radiation that reaches the surface of the Earth. They have been linked to skin cancer, aging and the development of cataracts. UVB rays are very dangerous to the eyes and are the primary cause of sunburns and cancer. While they are dangerous year round, these rays are more intense during the summer months, especially mid-day between around ten in the morning and four in the afternoon. UVB rays also reflect off of snow, water, sand and concrete. The damage caused by UV rays is irreversible and cumulative, building up over a long period of time. This is why it is important to start wearing sunglasses when you are young (also because your eyes are more sensitive at a younger age). You want to make sure your sunglasses block out 100% of UV rays. This is the most important factor to consider when purchasing your sunglasses. Additionally, in certain circumstances of intense UV exposure, a condition called keratitis can occur, which is essentially a sunburn on the eye. Symptoms often occur hours after sun exposure and can include temporary vision loss and severe pain.
Sunglass Lens Options
Once you are certain your sunglass lenses have the requisite UV protection, you can begin to consider other lens possibilities. Here are some other lens options to consider:
Reduce glare from light reflecting off glass, water, snow, sand or pavement. You should consider polarized lenses if you participate in water or snow sports such as fishing, boating or skiing as the water and snow can create a strong glare. They are also great for comfort while driving by reducing glare and to enhance vision when on the road.
Certain lens tints enable you to see better or more comfortably under certain circumstances but you have to be careful. Lens tints can distort or reduce vision and some can even harm your vision by increasing your pupil size which leads to an increase of UV radiation penetrating the eye. Look for lenses with a medium tint that keep your eyes comfortable and do not have a negative impact on your vision. Your optometrists’ office can often make specific tint recommendations depending on your lifestyle or particularly activities (ex. golfing vs fishing) and the health of your eyes (for example, cataracts tend to cause more glare).
Automatically darken when exposed to UV light. Photochromic lenses are a great option for individuals that wear prescription eyeglasses: one pair can serve you both indoors and outdoors. As soon as you step outside, the lenses will darken, and they’ll reverse when you go back indoors.
There are also a few options when it comes to lens materials, such as plastics - including polycarbonate or acetate; trivex - which is a polymer material; or glass. The type of lens will determine the durability, clarity of vision and price of your lenses, so you should consider the factors that are most important for you and try out a few options to see how they feel.
The size of your sunglass frame is important for both comfort and protection. Your frames should fit according to your face size and provide ample coverage for your eyes. When you try on your frames, make sure they cover your eyes and feel comfortable around the bridge and temples. Also check that they don’t slip off when you move your head down toward the floor.
Frames can be manufactured from a number of materials and, these days, frame companies are constantly innovating to come up with new and improved options. These materials vary in strength, flexibility, weight, comfort and price. You need to choose a frame material that is comfortable, safe, and functional and that suits your lifestyle and your fashion style.
Making the Purchase
When purchasing sunglasses, keep in mind that your vision insurance may help to cover the costs when purchased at an optometry office rather than at a sports or recreation store. Check with your insurance and your local optical to find out about any discounts or coverage. Another advantage of purchasing from an optometrist’s optical is that the optician can help you to find the perfect pair to suit your eye and vision needs, as well as your lifestyle and fashion preferences. The good news about choosing the right pair of sunglasses is that there are ample brands, colors, styles and materials to choose from. So when it comes to your shades, don’t settle for less than optimal protection, fit and comfort for your eyes.
Vision is a critical component to succeed as an athlete and this doesn’t just mean having 20/20 vision. There are a number of visual processes that are involved in optimal sports performance, whether you are playing a weekly little league game or competing in professional sports. The eyes and the brain work together to receive, process and respond to visual and sensory information and this amazing ability is what allows us to engage with the world around us. However, when one or more of these processes is disrupted, whether it be the eye itself or in the processing of the information that the eye brings in, it can cause difficulty in a number of areas, particularly movement and sports.
A breakdown of some of the visual skills
you rely on for athletic performance:
the ability to see clearly is one of the most important aspects of vision. To improve visual acuity your eye doctor can prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses, as well as prescription sunglasses, swimming goggles and sports goggles. LASIK or refractive eye surgery or orthokeratology may also be options for improving visual acuity without having to wear vision correction during play.
Dynamic Visual Acuity:
the ability to see moving objects clearly.
your side vision or the ability to see out of the corner or sides of your eyes when you are looking straight ahead.
Peripheral Awareness/Visual Concentration:
The ability to be engaged in a task while having awareness of peripheral and other visual stimuli without being distracted by them.
the ability to perceive the relative distance and speed of objects in your field of vision.
the movement of the eye that allows for the ability to follow a moving object, switch visual attention from one object to another or to track a line of text. This allows an athlete to “keep an eye on the ball”.
allows for the ability change focus quickly and clearly from one distance or object to another.
the ability for the two eyes to work together in coordination.
Hand-Eye, Body-Eye Coordination:
the ability of your eyes to guide your hands and body to carry out movements accurately and effectively.
Visual Reaction Time:
how quickly your brain is able to interpret visual information and respond with the appropriate motor action.
Often we take the wonder of our eyes and brain for granted, not realizing all of the systems that must be in place in order for us to perform optimally in our daily lives... all the more so for top notch sports performance (and these are just the functions that are related to your eyes!) Typically, visual processes occur automatically, without us paying much attention to them, but they are skills which can be improved. If you feel that you or your child might have some difficulty with one or more of these visual skills, speak to your eye doctor. Through proper eyewear, exercises, nutrition and sometimes vision therapy, it can be possible to improve upon these skills and as a result, enhance your performance on the field. In fact, professional athletes often utilize a combination of vision therapy and nutritional supplements (such as lutein and zeaxathin) to enhance their vision and reaction time for better performance on the field. Additionally, you want to make sure - whether you have visual processing issues or not - that you protect your eyes properly. Unfortunately, many injuries occur from an over-confidence that the eyes are safe during sports. Speak to your eye doctor about the right sports safety eyewear to protect your or your child’s eyes during your favorite sports.
While we all know that regular eye exams can help detect warning signs of disease and prevent vision loss, many people fail to seek medical attention when there is an acute problem with the eye. In fact, only about half of Americans that are at risk for serious vision loss have been examined by an eye doctor within the last year, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While it's true that some eye symptoms resolve on their own, it's better not to take the chance when your eyesight is at risk. Here are seven eye symptoms that should be checked out by an eye doctor immediately, as they could indicate a serious underlying condition that could threaten your vision. Remember, even if you think the issue is minor, getting proper medical attention could be vital to saving your vision.
Floaters are shadows or spots that appear to float through your field of vision, particularly when you are looking at a solid colored or bright background such as the blue sky or a white wall. They can appear in a variety of shapes such as a shower of dots or mosquito shaped for example. It is common to see floaters on occasion, however if you experience a sudden increase, especially in combination with pain, flashes or loss of peripheral vision, you should see a doctor immediately. Flashes of light may appear as a quick spark or jagged streaks of light or arcs among other shapes. This could be a sign of a very serious problem such as detached or torn retina, a hemorrhage or bleeding inside the eye, an inflammation of the vitreous or retina caused by an infection or injury or an eye tumor. In the case of a retinal detachment, the different pattern of floaters or flashes depend on how the retina tears, so if you suddenly notice a distinct pattern of floaters or light in your vision, don't delay: seek medical attention within 24 hours.
Persistent Redness or Irritation
While minor redness can simply be a result of allergies, exhaustion or extended contact lens wear, there are some more serious causes of eye redness, especially if it persists or is accompanied by pain, swelling, discharge, vision disturbance or severe itchiness. Along with conjunctivitis (or pink eye) which can be a very contagious eye infection, redness can indicate a corneal scratch, uveitis or glaucoma.
Excessive Watery Eyes
Whether you have a foreign object in your eye or are experiencing dryness due to allergies or environmental factors, eye watering is a natural response to keep your eyes healthy, comfortable and safe. When it is constant and disruptive, however, this is no longer normal. Excessive eye watering could indicate a chronic condition such as dry eye syndrome, tear duct problems or problems with the cornea such as a scratch or an ulcer.
Foreign Body in the Eye
If you experience a foreign object in your eye, the first thing to do it try to flush it out. Never rub the eye as it could cause even greater damage. If your efforts to flush the object out are not successful it is time to see a doctor. Additionally, if you are experiencing vision disturbances, pain or redness while the object is there or after you think you have removed it, see an eye doctor immediately.
Ptosis (Droopy Eyelid)
Ptosis or drooping eyelids is seen in one or both eyelids and can be caused by benign conditions such as allergies or merely part of the aging process. Nevertheless, it can also be a sign of a serious condition such as nerve damage, a stroke, brain tumor or a condition called myasthenia gravis, which is a neurological condition that affects the muscles of the eye. It is also sometimes a result of eye surgery or injury. Often ptosis will resolve gradually on its own, however it is something that should be checked out, especially if it occurs suddenly, to ensure there is no serious underlying cause.
A subconjunctival hemorrhage in the eye is when a blood vessel right under the surface of the eye breaks. You will see that the white part or sclera of the eye has turned red. Usually, this common occurrence is nothing to be concerned about as this can happen from something as simple as straining, a sneeze or cough. In this case there is nothing to do and it will resolve on its own. If however, the redness comes after an injury to your eye or head it could indicate that there is bleeding in the brain and should be examined immediately.
Moderate to Severe Eye Pain
There are several causes of eye pain, the most serious of which is acute angle closure glaucoma or uveitis. Other causes of pain can include corneal abrasions and ulcers, scleritis, orbital cellulitis and sinusitis.
When it comes to problems with the eye, it's always best to err on the side of caution and get them checked out. Doing otherwise, could cost you your eyesight. Your eye doctor can help.
April is Women’s Eye Health Month in the USA and May is Healthy Vision month in Canada too, so let’s take the opportunity to look at some tips for maintaining eye and vision health, with a special focus on women. Statistically, women are more at risk than men for eye disease, visual impairment and blindness, especially after age 40. In fact, when it comes to serious age-related eye diseases, women represent well over half of the cases, with 61% of glaucoma cases and 65% of age-related macular degeneration cases being female. Women are also more prone to cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, dry eye syndrome and untreated refractive errors. One of the reasons for women’s increased risk of age-related eye disease is that they statistically live longer than men. In fact, a recent study showed that there are twice as many women than men over the age of 85 in America. Additionally, not only are they living longer but they are sometimes they’re working longer as well, which often involves added computer and device use, so they tend to suffer more from conditions exacerbated by blue light and ultraviolet exposure such as dry eyes and eyestrain. The good news is there are certain lifestyle changes that women can make to reduce that increased risk of developing age-related eye diseases. In many cases, blindness and visual impairment are preventable or treatable with proper awareness and precautions.
7 lifestyle tips to protect your eyes,
vision, and reduce your risks of eye diseases:
Protect your eyes from UV exposure.
UV radiation has been implicated as a risk factor for a number of eye diseases including macular degeneration and cataracts. Sunglasses should be more than a fashion statement, they should have high quality lenses that fully block UVA and UVB rays. Further, sunglasses shouldn’t be reserved for the summer. UV rays can penetrate clouds and bounce off snow and water, so rock your shades year round, any time you go outside.
Exercise regularly and eat a proper diet.
Studies show that regular exercise and a diet rich in a variety of colorful fruits, vegetables, healthy proteins and fats promotes eye health. Reduce sugar, processed foods, and white flour and of course refrain from smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. This is the recipe not only for improved eye health, but for the health of your whole body and mind as well.
Take care of chronic conditions.
If you have diabetes, high blood pressure or chronic stress, managing these conditions will reduce your chances of developing eye diseases. Make sure you take care of your overall health, as it is all related to the health of your eyes.
Throw away expired makeup and skincare products, and replace brushes periodically.
Many women habitually use makeup and skincare products beyond their expiration dates. This can be problematic, especially with liquid products and those that you apply close to the eyes, as they can carry harmful bacteria which can cause infections and irritation. Check your products regularly and toss any that are past their prime.
Clean eyes from makeup daily.
Eye cosmetics are a frequent cause of dry eye, as they can block glands within the lids. Beyond eye irritation, styes or other eye infections can result, so do yourself a favor and clean your eyelids are carefully at the end of the day.
Steer clear of over-the-counter contact lenses!
Colored contact lenses in particular are frequently worn by women. It is important to be fitted by a trained eye care professional for any pair of contact lenses, even if you don’t need vision correction. Contact lenses bought without a prescription and proper fitting can seriously damage the eyes.
Schedule regular eye exams.
Many of the serious eye diseases mentioned above require early diagnosis and treatment to prevent vision loss. When caught early, vision can be saved or restored; otherwise permanent damage can occur. That’s why it’s critical to schedule comprehensive eye exams on a regular basis to check in on your eye health and identify any early signs of disease. Your eye doctor should also know about your family history and any other relevant lifestyle concerns that may put you at a higher risk of certain conditions.
Vision loss can be a devastating blow to one’s quality of life and independence, but so much of it can be prevented. Education and lifestyle changes can be key to helping women to live a long life with clear vision and healthy eyes.
If you want strong, healthy eyes and clear vision for life, a major step you can take is to protect your eyes from UV radiation. Wearing proper eye protection from the sun reduces the risk of a number of eye diseases and other conditions that are caused or worsened by UV exposure.
Eye Diseases Linked to UV Exposure
UV exposure has been linked to a number of serious eye diseases including macular degeneration and cataracts.
Macular degeneration is a condition in which the macula of the eye breaks down, leading to a loss of central vision and is a leading cause of age-related vision loss. Macular degeneration develops over time so a lifetime of exposure to UV can contribute it’s likelihood.
Cataracts occur when the natural lens of the eye becomes clouded, resulting in blurred vision and eventually blindness. The len is responsible for focusing the light that comes into the eye, allowing clear vision. Cataracts can be treated by a simple surgery to replace the clouded lens with an artificial lens. UV light contributes to certain types of cataracts, which account for about 10% of all cases.
Another serious disease that can affect the eyes is skin cancer which can appear on the eyelids or the area around the eyes. Skin cancer is known to be linked to extended exposure to UV and your eyes can be a difficult area to protect with sun block as you don’t want it to get too close to the eyes.
Photokeratitis or Corneal Sunburn
Photokeratitis or a corneal sunburn in layman’s terms can occur with intense exposure to the sun without proper eye protection. It is commonly experienced after a day skiing or snowboarding at a high altitude or at the beach. Corneal sunburns can be extremely painful and can sometimes cause a temporary loss of vision.
Pterygium, also known as “surfer’s eye” is a growth that forms on the conjunctiva which is a layer over the sclera or the white part of your eye. Sometimes they grow onto the cornea as well. Often pterygia are harmless but if they grow too large they may begin to impact your vision. In this case, surgery may be necessary. Pterygia are commonly found in individuals who spend a significant amount of time outside in the sun or wind.
How to Properly Protect Your Eyes From UV
The more time you spend outside, the greater the risk for your eyes, however you can easily minimize this risk with proper protection. Here are a few tips to ensure you are doing what you can to safeguard your eyes:
Fully protective sunglasses should block out 99-100% of UV-A and UV-B rays. You can achieve this through purchasing a pair of sunglasses, applying a UV blocking coating to your glasses or opting for photochromic lenses which are eyeglass lenses which turn dark when exposed to sunlight. Most contact lenses will also have UV protection but this is just for the area of the eye covered by the lens. Since UV exposure can enter from the air, the ground or from the sides, wrap-around and large lensed frames can provide added protection.
Add a Wide Brimmed Hat
A wide brimmed hat or visor will stop about half of the UV rays from even reaching your eyes as well as reduce the exposure coming in from the top or sides of your sunglass frames.
Know Your Environmental Risk Factors
UV exposure is largely dependent upon your location and your surroundings. If you are located at a high altitude you will likely be exposed to more UV than at lower altitudes. UV also reflects off of snow, sand, water and even asphalt so be aware that you are getting increased exposure under these conditions.
Know Your Additional Risk Factors
There are a number of other factors that can increase your exposure or risk of eye damage from UV. For example, certain medications increase the sensitivity of your eyes and skin to sunlight (speak to your doctor about any medications you are on). Previous eye surgery or eye diseases can also increase your risk factors for UV eye damage. Additionally if you work in certain fields such as welding or medical scans or radiation or use tanning beds, you can be exposed to additional UV radiation. If there is nothing you can do to change your exposure, make sure you are properly protecting your eyes with goggles or glasses and a hat.
Regular Eye Exams
Make sure you schedule a comprehensive eye exam on a regular basis to ensure your eyes are healthy. If you are over 50 or have increased risk factors for eye disease, you should schedule exams at least on a yearly basis or according to your eye doctor’s recommendations.
We all experience the occasional eyelid twitch, which is when the muscle of the eyelid spasms involuntarily. Usually, it comes and goes without intervention and while sure, it can be irritating, is a twitching eyelid ever something to be concerned about? An eyelid twitch, also known as a myokymia, can affect the upper or lower lid and usually lasts for at least a few seconds and then may continue off and on for a few minutes. Usually unpredictable, twitching episodes can last several days and sometimes they may go away and then return weeks or months later.
Causes of Eyelid Twitching
Although they may be bothersome, most eyelid twitches are nothing to cause concern and usually resolve on their own. However, in some rare cases, they may be a sign of a more serious problem, especially if they are accompanied by other symptoms - we will discuss this further below. Some known causes of eyelid twitches include:
- Fatigue or lack of sleep
- Eye irritation or dry eyes
- Alcohol or caffeine
- Physical exertion
- Eye strain (such as with extended digital device use)
- Poor nutrition
Preventing and Treating Eyelid Twitching
Usually eyelid twitching will resolve itself within a couple of days or weeks but if it persists try to determine the cause in order to speed up the process. Consider going to bed a little earlier, cutting out caffeine or alcohol or finding ways to reduce or manage your stress. You can also try lubricating eye drops to add moisture to your eyes. If you take notice of when the spasms are happening and what else is going on in your life at that time (time of day, food intake, stress level, exhaustion) you can make some changes that will stop or prevent eye twitching from occuring. If you notice eye twitching in addition to vision disturbances or eye strain, contact your doctor for a vision assessment as it could be a sign of a refractive change.
When is Eyelid Twitching a Concern?
If the eyelid spasms don’t pass and become chronic it may be a sign that you have a condition called benign essential blepharospasm. This condition is when the eye muscles blink uncontrollably and it usually affects both eyes. While the cause of blepharospasm is not known, it is more common in middle age women and there are a number of conditions that can exacerbate symptoms including:
- Eye inflammation (blepharitis) or infection (pink eye)
- Dry eyes
- Alcohol, caffeine or tobacco
- Irritants or allergens in the environment
Blepharospasm is usually a progressive condition that can eventually lead to spasms in other muscles in the face, blurred vision and light sensitivity. The condition is sometimes treated with medication or Botox (botulinum toxin) to temporarily reduce the spasms and in severe cases, surgery may be performed to remove some of the muscles that are affected. On very rare occasions eye twitching can be a symptom of a more serious disorder affecting the brain or nervous system, however, usually it will be accompanied by other symptoms. Examples of such conditions include: glaucoma, hemifacial spasms, Parkinson’s disease, Bell’s palsy, multiple sclerosis, dystonia, and Tourette’s. A corneal scratch or abrasion can also be a cause of the eyelid muscle spasm. If you experience any of the following symptoms along with your eye twitching, see your doctor as soon as possible:
- Twitching that continues for more than a few weeks
- Twitching that spreads to other areas of the face
- A drooping upper eyelid
- Red, irritated or swollen eyes
- Discharge coming from the eye
- Spasms that cause the eyelid to close completely or difficulty opening the eyelid.
In most cases, eye twitching is not something to worry about, but when you do experience a spasm it is worthwhile to take note of the circumstances so you know when your body is trying to tell you that something is out of balance.
Despite nine months of growth in utero, babies are not born with fully developed eyes and vision - just like they can't walk or talk yet. Over the first few months of life, their visual systems continue to progress, stimulated by their surroundings. Babies will develop the ability to track objects, focus their eyes, and move them like a team. Their visual acuity will improve and they will gradually be able to see more colors. They will also form the neural connections that will allow them to process what they see, to understand and interact with the world around them. Healthy eyes and good vision are necessary for proper and timely progress; ocular or visual problems can lead to developmental delays. So how do you know if your infant is developing normally? What can you do to ensure your baby's eye health and vision are on track? While infant eye problems are not common here are some steps you can take to ensure your child's eyes are healthy.
#1 Schedule a six month check-up.
It is recommended to get the first professional comprehensive eye and vision exam for your child between six and 12 months of age.
Your optometrist should check for the following skills at the 6-month checkup:
- Visual acuity (nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism)
- Eye muscle and movement capabilities
- Eye health
If you have any concerns prior to six months, don't hesitate to take your baby for an exam earlier.
#2 Engage in visually stimulating play.
Incorporating visually stimulating play for your child will help develop visual processes like eye tracking and eye teaming. A baby's initial focusing distance is 20-30 cm, so to nurture healthy vision skills, keep high contrast "reach and touch" toys within this distance. Alternate right and left sides with each feeding, and provide toys that encourage tracking of moving objects to foster eye-hand coordination and depth perception. Pediatricians in North America recommend that NO screen time be allowed under the age of 2, as many forms of development may be delayed from premature use of digital devices.
#3 Be alert to eye and vision problems.
Keep an eye out for indications of an eye health problem, and contact an eye doctor to discuss any concerns you may have. Some symptoms to pay attention to include:
- Red eyes or eyelids, which may or may not be accompanied by discharge and crusty lids. This may indicate an eye infection that can be very contagious and may require medication.
- Excessive eye watering or tearing. This may be caused by a problem with the tear ducts, such as a blockage.
- Extreme light sensitivity. While some light sensitivity is normal, significant sensitivity to light can be a sign of disease or elevated eye pressure.
- Eye “jiggling” or bouncing. This suggests a problem with the muscle control of the eyes.
- Eye turn. Whether it is an eye that seems to cross in or a “lazy eye” that turns out, this is often associated with a refractive error or eye muscle issues that could require treatment such as eyeglasses, vision therapy, patching or surgery.
- White pupil. This can be a sign of a number of diseases, including cancer. If you see this have it checked out immediately.
Since your infant's eyes are still maturing, any issues that are found can likely be corrected with proper care and treatment. The important thing is to find a pediatric eye care provider that you trust because you will want to regularly check the health of your child's eyes to ensure proper learning and development throughout infancy and beyond.
It’s that time of the year again. Each February, the optometric community bands together to create awareness about age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is a leading cause of vision loss for people 50 years and older; early detection plays a key role in the outcome of the disease. That’s why bringing awareness to the disease and its risk factors is so important. Macular degeneration is a disease that damages the macula, which is a small area in the center of the retina responsible for sharp, clear central vision. The disease comes in two forms, wet AMD and dry AMD. The most common form, dry AMD, which affects around 80% of AMD patients, is when the macula gradually thins, and small clusters of protein called drusen begin to grow. Drusen result from cells in the macula that cannot rid themselves of metabolic waste called lipofuscin. The lipofuscin accumulates as drusen which causes a gradual vision decline. Dry AMD can turn into wet AMD when abnormal new blood vessels grow through breaks in a membrane layer of the thinning macula. The fragile blood vessels leak fluid into the macula, causing rapid decrease in central vision.The wet form is less common, yet it can cause a faster and more drastic vision loss. If a person has dry AMD which turns into wet AMD, this should be treated as soon as possible, as within days this can cause permanent scarring. Fortunately, there is effective treatment for wet AMD if detected before scarring arises. Both forms of AMD result in a loss of central vision, while peripheral vision stays intact. Symptoms can present as difficulty focusing on objects in front of you, or a blurred or dulled area in the central visual field which leads to having trouble reading, doing close work, driving or even recognizing faces. With time, the size of the blurred area can grow and eventually develop into black spots in central vision. Oftentimes patients don’t even notice symptoms until a significant amount of damage has been done. This is why regular eye exams are critical, especially if you are at risk. While AMD alone won’t cause complete blindness, it can cause a permanent, total loss of central vision if not treated. Vision loss can lead to a condition called low vision which can have a very serious impact on daily living and require a lot of assistance both by vision devices and the help of others.
Are You at Risk?
As it is an age-related disease, age is a significant risk factor for AMD, specifically once you reach 60. However, age is not the only risk factor. While some risk factors for AMD cannot be controlled there are lifestyle factors that you can change to prevent AMD.
Other than age, risk factors include:
- Family history: If you have a family history of AMD, you are more at risk. Research has identified at least 20 genes that are associated with AMD, showing there is a genetic factor.
- Race: Caucasian descent is a higher risk factor for AMD, and in fact, Caucasians with light irises have an increased risk from age 50.
- Smoking: Smoking doubles your risk of developing AMD.
- Overweight/Obesity: Research shows that being overweight is a risk factor for AMD.
- Having heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol increase your risks.
- Diet: An unhealthy diet rich in saturated fats is a significant risk factor.
- Early exposure to UV light and blue hazard light (especially with the younger generation having increased exposure to digital devices) can cause early onset AMD.
lifestyle steps you can
take to reduce your risk of AMD:
- Stop smoking
- Eat a healthy diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids, (from fatty fish or flax seeds), leafy greens and colorful fruits and vegetables.
- Know your family history.
- Exercise regularly.
- Protect your eyes using UV protection and blue blocker coatings on eyeglasses.
- Get regular eye exams.
In addition to a comprehensive eye exam, your doctor may be able to test for certain risk factors. For example, there is now technology available that can test for lutein levels via technology such as QuantifEye and Macuscope, (low lutein can indicate increased risk). In addition, genetic testing is also now available through a simple cheek swab to determine an individual’s risk for developing AMD.
There is no known cure for AMD, however there are treatments available that may slow the progression of the disease. For dry AMD, studies (AREDS and AREDS2) have concluded that a particular high-dose combination of nutritional supplements taken daily can slow the disease. The combo includes vitamins C and E, Lutein, Zeaxanthin, Zinc and Copper. For wet AMD, the goal is to reduce the growth of abnormal blood vessels and the leakage that takes place and this is done through certain medications called anti-VEGFs which are injected into the eye or with laser surgery. Untreated macular degeneration can have devastating effects on your independence and quality of life. If you are 50 or over, speak to your eye doctor about your risk factors and what you can do to prevent AMD.
At this time of year when the sun sets early, many people are affected by night blindness. Night blindness or nyctalopia refers to difficulty seeing at night or in poor or dim lighting situations. It can be caused by a number of underlying conditions, sometimes completely benign and sometimes as a symptom of a more serious eye disease. So, if you are experiencing trouble seeing in low light, especially if it is a sudden onset of the condition, it is worth having it checked out by your eye doctor.
Signs of Night Blindness
The main indication of night blindness is difficulty seeing well in dark or dim lighting, especially when transitioning from a brighter to a lower light environment, like walking from outside into a dimly lit room. Many experience difficulty driving at night, particularly with the glare of the streetlights or the headlights from oncoming traffic.
Causes of Night Blindness
Night blindness is a condition that can be present from birth, or caused by a disease, injury or even a vitamin deficiency. In order to treat the condition, your eye doctor will need to determine the cause. Here are some of the common causes:
- Nearsightedness (myopia) - many people with nearsightedness (or difficulty seeing objects in the distance) experience some degree of night blindness, especially when driving.
- Retinitis Pigmentosa - a genetic condition in which the pigmented cells in the retina break down causing a loss of peripheral vision and night blindness.
- Cataracts - a clouding of the natural lens of the eye causing vision loss.
- Glaucoma - a group of diseases that involve damage to the optic nerve and subsequent vision loss.
- Vitamin A Deficiency - vitamin A or retinol is found in greens (kale, spinach, collards, broccoli etc.), eggs, liver, orange vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, mango etc.), eggs and butter. Your doctor may also prescribe Vitamin A supplements if you have a serious deficiency.
- Eye Surgery - refractive surgery such as LASIK sometimes results in reduced night vision as either a temporary or sometimes a permanent side effect.
- Injury - an injury to the eye or the part of the brain that processes vision can result in reduced night vision.
- Uncorrected Visual Error - many people experience better daytime vision as the pupils are smaller and provide greater depth of field to compensate for any vision problems. At night, the pupils dilate, so blur is increased from uncorrected nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism or distortions/aberrations on the cornea from refractive surgery. Even a slight prescription for someone who may not need glasses during the day can make a significant improvement in night vision.
- Eyewear Problems - even if your vision correction is accurate, badly scratched glasses or poor/defective lens coatings can also cause trouble seeing at night. Special lens coatings are now available on glasses for night time and foggy conditions.
Treatment for Night Blindness
Some causes for night blindness are treatable, while others are not, so the first step is a comprehensive eye exam to determine what the root of the problem is. Treatments range from simply purchasing a special pair of glasses, lens coatings or contact lenses to wear at night (for optical issues such as myopia) to surgery (to correct the underlying problem such as cataracts), to medication (for diseases like glaucoma). In some cases, your doctor may recommend that you avoid driving at night. During the day, it may help to wear sunglasses or a brimmed hat to ease the transition indoors. As with any change in vision, it is critical to get your eyes checked as soon as you begin to experience symptoms, and on a routine basis even if you’re symptom-free. Not only will this improve your chances of detecting and treating a vision-threatening disease if you have one brewing, but treatment will also keep you more comfortable seeing in low-light, and keep you and your loved ones safe at night or in poor light conditions.
While most people have sunglasses high on their packing list for a tropical vacation, many people don’t consider it as much of a priority for colder climate getaways. But they should, and here’s why: Wintertime vacations often include activities that involve snow and ice and in general, conditions that can lead to overexposure to UV rays from the sun. Without proper eye protection, this can lead to photokeratitis or snow blindness, a condition that results in pain and temporary vision loss. Photokeratitis is essentially a sunburn on the eye which occurs when the eye is exposed to invisible ultraviolet or UV rays, from the sun or other sources such as sun lamps or tanning beds. It mainly affects the cornea, the curved outermost surface of the eye that plays a role in your ability to focus, and the conjunctiva, the membrane that covers the front of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelid. It causes inflammation, pain and sometimes a temporary loss of vision. Despite its name, snow blindness doesn’t occur exclusively in the snow. It can happen in any environment in which UV rays are strongly reflected including water, sand or ice as well. It is also more common in high altitudes where the sun’s ultraviolet rays are stronger and the air is thinner, which is why skiing and mountain climbing can even be more risky than summertime activities on a lower altitude. Snow and ice reflect more UV light than almost any other surface, but you don’t always feel or notice the strong glare, making snow blindness a silent winter hazard that can only be prevented by awareness.
Symptoms of Snow Blindness
Unfortunately, just like any sunburn, you usually don’t notice the symptoms of snow blindness until the damage has already been done. Symptoms usually occur several hours after the activity, so one may not realize that they were caused from snow blindness. Symptoms include:
- Light Sensitivity
- Glare or Halos
- Blurry Vision
- Watery Eyes
- Swollen Eyes or Eyelids
- Temporary Vision Loss
Any vision loss that does occur will usually return with in a day or two, but the greater the exposure to the UV rays, the worse the damage that is done.
How Is Snow Blindness Treated?
There is little to do to treat photokeratitis. Just like a sunburn elsewhere on the body, it eventually heals on its own. There are however, some steps you can take to find relief from the symptoms which include:
- Stay indoors, in a dark area until the eyes become less sensitive.
- Wear sunglasses if it helps.
- Avoid rubbing your eyes.
- Remove contact lenses.
- Apply preservative-free artificial tears to add moisture.
- Use a cold compress to soothe your eyes.
- Try over-the-counter pain relief or antibiotic eye drops according to your eye doctor’s advice.
If your symptoms worsen or don’t improve within 24 -48 hours, contact your eye doctor immediately.
Tips to Prevent Snow Blindness
Snow blindness is actually very preventable and all it takes is a good pair of sunglasses or sports goggles. Any time you are outside, rain or shine, you should wear 100% UV blocking sunglasses. That’s right, the sun’s powerful UV rays can even penetrate clouds on an overcast day. If you are involved in sports such as skiing, snowboarding, mountain climbing or water activities consider a pair of wrap-around sunglasses or sports goggles with shields to prevent the rays from entering from above and through the sides. Wearing a hat or helmet with a brim will also help to increase protection. Whether you are going North, South or somewhere in between, make sure to pack your shades and protect your eyes so you have an eye-safe, fun and enjoyable vacation.
As the season to deck the halls arrives, make sure that you aren’t one of the many people who find themselves celebrating in the urgent care clinic due to an eye injury. The holidays present many opportunities for potential eye injury so it’s important to be aware and proceed with caution. Here are some common eye accidents waiting to happen and tips to avoid them so you can be prepared and enjoy your holidays to the fullest!
An eye-full of pine
Many accidents occur when proper care is not taken in putting up and decorating the Christmas tree. First of all, if you are cutting down your own tree, make sure you are wearing proper eye protection both when cutting and when loading your tree onto your car. If you are buying a tree, be extra careful when untying it as branches can pop out rather fast - a definite danger to your eyes! It’s best to wear glasses or goggles during the entire process of handling the tree. And don’t forget to be careful when you are decorating! All you need is a wobbly ladder or an unsteady tree stand to cause a tumble into the sharp, prickly pine needles. Not to mention, sharp ornaments can pose a danger to the eyes as well.
The spray snow slip-up
Spray snow can be a beautiful and festive addition to your tree decorations but be careful that you are always pointing it in the right direction. Make sure the spray you purchase is nontoxic and wear safety goggles when spraying to avoid an accidental spray to the eye. Be wary of those aerosol string cans as well.
Champagne cork projectile
Watch out for that bubbly! When opening a champagne bottle always point it away from anyone or anything breakable just in case it shoots off. That flying cork can cause a serious bruise or an eye injury if you aren’t careful.
You’ll shoot an eye out!
Just like the famous movie quote predicted, toy guns and projectiles can be a tremendous danger to the eye, causing almost 20% of eye injuries during the holiday season. Nerf guns, darts (even foam darts), slingshots, water guns and any kind of shooting device, no matter how soft the ammunition, can cause serious eye damage when shot directly into the eye. Be wary of lasers as well and make sure that any laser products comply with the national regulations. Lasers and very bright lights can cause retinal damage if pointed directly at the eye. If you do decide to purchase such a toy for a child that is old enough and mature enough to be responsible, consider buying proper eye protection to go along with the gift. Avoid purchasing any toys or gifts that have sharp, protruding parts and make sure that any potentially hazardous toys are played with under adult supervision. When purchasing gifts, if you are uncertain about the safety of a certain toy, check out W.A.T.C.H. (World Against Toys Causing Harm) or other organizations that give advice about specific toy safety.
Dangerous dress up
Got a holiday party on the horizon? While you may be tempted to add a pair of cosmetic contact lenses to your ensemble, make sure they are fit properly and purchased by a licensed eye doctor. Improperly fit lenses or lenses made of sub par materials can cause serious complications such as a corneal abrasion or infection.
If your holiday time includes a chance to play in the snow or ice, make sure you have your sunglasses ready. UV light reflects off snow and ice increasing the risk of sunburned eyes and potential long term damage. Winter sunwear is just as important as it is during summer fun in the sun.
If you approach the holidays with the eyes on your mind, you can stay safe and avoid potential injury that could put a damper on your festivities.
The New Year is coming and many people include healthier eating and exercise in their resolutions for the year ahead. Well other than weight loss and overall health and disease-prevention, a healthy diet and regular exercise can protect your eyes and your vision. In particular, there are certain vitamins and minerals that are known to prevent eye disease and act to strengthen and safeguard your eyes. Here are 10 foods that you should make sure to include in your healthy diet regimen this coming year and for the rest of your life.
Dark, leafy green vegetables:
Greens like kale, spinach or collards are rich in vitamin C which strengthens the blood vessels in your eyes and may prevent cataracts, and vitamin E, lutein and zeaxanthin which are known to prevent cataracts and reduce the risk and slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Orange vegetables and fruits:
Orange foods such as sweet potatoes, butternut squash, carrots, cantaloupe, mangoes, orange peppers and apricots are rich in beta-carotene which improves night vision and may slow the progression of AMD, specifically when taken in combination with zinc and vitamins C and E.
Fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna or trout are a complete source of Omega-3 fatty acids which boost the immune system and protect the cells and nervous system. They are essential for retinal function and the development of the eye and vision. Omega-3s can alleviate dry eye symptoms and guard against AMD and glaucoma. They are also rich in vitamin D which may also reduce the risk of AMD.
Beans and legumes:
Beans and legumes such as chickpeas, black-eyes peas, kidney beans and lentils are high in zinc. Zinc is a trace mineral that assists in the production of melanin, a pigment that protects the eye. Zinc is found in a high concentration in the eye in general, specifically in the retina and the surrounding tissues. Zinc can reduce night blindness and may help in reducing the risk and progression of AMD.
Eggs pack a big punch in terms of valuable vitamins and minerals. They are rich in zinc, lutein and zeaxanthin, and vitamins D and A. In addition to the eye benefits already discussed, vitamin A protects against night blindness and may prevent dry eyes. Some eggs are also a source of Omega 3.
Squash is also a great source of lutein and zeaxanthin and vitamin C. Winter squash also has vitamin A and Omega 3 fatty acids, while summer squash is a good source of zinc.
These vegetables which include broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts have a power combination of nutrients including vitamins, A, C and E, lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene. These antioxidant compounds protect the cells in your body and your eyes from free radicals that can break down healthy tissue and cause disease.
Nuts and seeds:
Nuts and seeds such as sunflower seeds, peanuts, hazelnuts and almonds are rich in vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant. Flax and chia seeds also good sources of omega 3, vitamins and antioxidants. These boost your body’s natural protection against AMD, dry eye, and other diseases.
Lean meat, poultry, oysters and crab meat:
These animal products are all good sources of zinc.
Berries such as strawberries, cherries and blueberries are rich in bioflavonoids which may protect the eyes against AMD and cataracts.
Many patients ask about taking vitamins or supplements for eye health nutrients and the answer depends on the individual. While some of the eye nutrients may be better absorbed in the correct proportions when ingested as food rather than supplements, some patients have sensitivities or conditions (such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease or allergies) that prevent them from eating certain foods such as fish or leafy greens. In these cases there are a number of good lutein and Omega 3 supplements that they might be able to tolerate better than ingesting the actual food. Seek the advice of your eye doctor to determine what is right for you. While studies have indicated that higher levels of certain vitamins are required to slow the progression of certain eye diseases like AMD, these supplements should only be taken under the guidance of your eye doctor. This list may seem overwhelming but if you focus on filling your plate with a variety of fruits and vegetables of all types and colors, eating whole foods and limiting processed foods and sugar, you are on your way to preventing disease and improving your eye health and your overall health for years to come. To health!
October is World Blindness Awareness Month, an initiative started to help the public to understand the realities of visual impairment and how it affects the world population. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of millions of individuals around the world who are unnecessarily blind or visually impaired due to causes that are preventable and treatable. Much of this is due to lack of access to proper healthcare and education. Today’s research shows that the leading causes of blindness and moderate and severe vision impairment (MSVI) are uncorrected refractive error, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma and other retinal diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa. While steps are being taken to increase education and access to eye care in populations that are known to be lacking, vision impairment is expected to increase threefold by 2050 due to aging and an increase in myopia and diabetic retinopathy.
Here are some facts about blindness and MSVI:
- 36 million people worldwide are blind
- 217 million are categorized as MSVI
- 253 million are visually impaired
- 1.1 million people have near vision impairment that could be fixed with eyeglasses
- 55% of visually impaired people are women
- 89% of visually impaired people live in low or middle-income countries
- 75% of vision impairment is avoidable
- 81% of people who are blind or have MSVI are aged 50 years or over
- Almost half of all students in Africa’s schools for the blind would be able to see if they had a pair of glasses.
What can we do?
To help combat global blindness and vision impairment, we first have to be educated. Learn about proper eye health and eye care and educate your children, family and friends. Implement that knowledge into your life with preventative eye care and regular eye doctor visits. Fighting blindness starts at home. Next, consider donating your old eyewear. Eyewear donations can be extremely valuable to underdeveloped countries. Most eye doctors accept donations of old eyewear and give them to organizations like the Lions Club or VOSH that do humanitarian missions to other countries and provide eyecare and eyewear. Old glasses that we take for granted here or that are gathering dust in a drawer somewhere can be life changing for someone in a poor or underdeveloped country. In addition, there are a number of organizations that assist the world population in preventing blindness and providing education and eye care to underprivileged societies. You can help fight blindness and MSVI by supporting these causes and the many others out there doing humanitarian work in this field. Here are a few examples:
Optometry Giving Sight: www.givingsight.org
Eye Care 4 Kids: eyecare4kids.org
See International: www.seeintl.org
Through support, research, education and outreach, we hope to stop the rapid pace of increasing unnecessary blindness around the world. So spread the word. When we all come together, we can accomplish our goals!
Every good pair of eyes eventually gets old and with age comes a condition called presbyopia. Presbyopia, which usually begins to set in some time around 40, occurs when the lens of the eye begins to stiffen, making near vision (such as reading books, menus, and computer screens) blurry. You may have this age-related farsightedness if you notice yourself holding the newspaper further and further away in order to make out the words, and you may begin to experience headaches or eyestrain as well. The good news is, presbyopia is very common. It happens to most of us eventually and these days there are a number of good options to correct it. First of all, let’s take a look at what causes the condition.
What Causes Presbyopia?
As the eye ages, the natural lens begins to lose its elasticity as the focusing muscles (the ciliary muscles) surrounding the lens have difficulty changing the shape of the lens. The lens is responsible for focusing light that comes into the eye onto the retina for clear vision. The hardened or less flexible lens causes the light which used to focus on the retina to shift its focal point behind the retina when looking at close objects. This causes blurred vision. Presbyopia is a progressive condition that gets worse with time. It is a refractive error just like myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism.
Signs of presbyopia include:
- Blurred near vision
- Difficulty focusing on small print or close objects
- Eyestrain, headaches or fatigue, especially when reading or doing close work
- Holding reading material at a distance to see properly
- Needing brighter light to see close objects
Presbyopia can be diagnosed through an eye exam.
Treatments for Presbyopia
There are a number of options for presbyopia treatment which include glasses, contact lenses or surgery.
The most common form of correction is eyeglasses. Reading glasses adjust the focal point of the target to reduce the focusing demand on the eyes. A side effect of the convex lenses is that they also magnify the target. For some, reading glasses are sufficient to improve close vision. Others, especially those with another refractive error, require more complex lenses. Bifocal or multifocal lenses, including progressive addition lenses (PALs), offer a solution for those with nearsightedness or farsightedness. These lenses have two or more prescriptions within the same lens, usually in different areas, to allow correction for distance vision and near vision within the same lens. While bifocals and standard multifocals typically divide the lenses into two hemispheres (or more), requiring the patient to look in the proper hemisphere depending on where they are focusing, with an unattractive contour calling attention to the presbyopia portion of the lens, progressive lenses provide a progressive transition of lens power creating a smooth, gradual change. Some people prefer progressive lenses for aesthetic reasons as they don’t have a visible line dividing the hemispheres.
Like glasses, contact lenses are also available in bifocal and multifocal lenses. Alternatively, some eye doctors will prescribe monovision contact lens wear, which divides the vision between your eyes. Typically it fits your dominant eye with a single vision lens for distance vision and your weaker eye with a single vision lens for near vision. Sometimes your eye doctor will prescribe modified monovision which uses a multifocal lens in the weaker eye to cover intermediate and near vision. Newer contact lens technology is making both lenses multifocal, and therefore doctors are becoming less dependent on monovision. Sometimes monovision takes a while to adjust to. Based on your prescription, your eye doctor will help you decide which option is best for you and assist you through the adjustment period to determine whether this is a feasible option. Since there are so many baby boomers with presbyopia nowadays, the contact lens choices have expanded a lot within recent years.
There are a few surgical treatments available for presbyopia. These include monovision LASIK surgery (which is a refractive surgery that works similar to monovision glasses or contact lenses), corneal inlays or onlays (implants placed on the cornea), refractive lens exchange (similar to cataract surgery, this replaces the old, rigid lens with a manufactured intraocular lens), and conductive keratoplasty (which uses radio waves to reshape the cornea in a noninvasive procedure).
Medication - On the Horizon
There are currently clinical trials with promising early results that are testing eye drops that restore the flexibility of the human lens. It could be possible that in the near future eye drop prescriptions could be used to reduce the amount of time that people have to use reading glasses or contact lenses. These procedures vary in cost, recovery and outcome. If you are interested in surgery, schedule a consultation with a knowledgeable doctor to learn all of the details of the different options. As people are living longer, presbyopia is affecting a greater percentage of the population and more research is being done into treatments for the condition. So if your arm is getting tired from holding books so far away, see your eye doctor to discuss the best option for you.
Even if you don’t have any eye or vision problems, the natural process of aging affects your ability to see and react to visual stimuli. It’s important to know the impact the aging can have on your eyes and vision so you can take the necessary precautions to stay safe and protect your eyes. Driving is one activity that can pose a high risk as safe driving requires not only good vision, but also intact cognition and motor response. As we age, reflexes, reaction time and vision begin to deteriorate, which can impair one’s ability to drive safely, particularly under conditions such as bad weather, twilight glare, or nighttime darkness. Here are some ways that your ability to drive can be impaired as you age and some safety tips to help you to stay safe on the roads.
The Aging Eye
As we age, the eye and vision naturally begin to experience a decline. The pupils in the eye, which allow light to enter, begin to shrink and dilate less, allowing less light to enter the retina. This causes reduced night vision. Additionally, some of our peripheral vision diminishes along with our ability to see moving objects. Due to deterioration of the cornea and clouding of the lens of the eye, glare becomes more disruptive and contrast sensitivity is reduced, making it harder to perceive images clearly. General imperfections in vision called higher-order aberrations cause a general decline in vision that can’t be corrected with glasses or contact lenses. Additionally, our reaction times slow, adding motor complications to the visual ones. Dry eyes also becomes a bigger problem with age as the lacrimal glands don’t produce as many tears to keep the eyes moist. Many of these symptoms may be present without the individual even noticing a decline and can all contribute to increased risk - for the driver, and others on the road. If you add in any other vision problems such as cataracts, glaucoma or macular degeneration which are age-related diseases that gradually reduce vision, you can have a serious danger on your hands.
The biggest driving distraction in our day and age is cell phone usage. While many states and provinces have created laws which forbid driving and texting or holding a phone, it is not universal, and this still causes countless accidents and deaths that could be easily avoided. Even hands-free options distract you from the road and put you at risk. If you must use your phone to speak, dial or text, pull over first.
If you can avoid driving at night or on hazardous roads with sharp turns, inadequate lighting or that are unfamiliar to you, you will be better off. Plan to make first time trips during the day when you can clearly see street signs and landmarks or take a practice trip with a loved one.
Purchase Night Vision Glasses
There are glasses available that can help to reduce the glare at night and enable better night time vision. Speak to your optometrist about whether this is a good option for you.
Turn Vents Down
Car vents can also cause discomfort, eye irritation and create greater vision hazard, as the air blowing at the eyes can impair vision or cause watering, especially when the eye are already dry.
Maintain Good Eye Health
Make sure that you get your eyes checked on a regular basis and that any eye conditions you have are being treated and monitored. Good nutrition, exercise and overall healthy habits will help to protect and heal your eyes as well. Further, listen to your instincts, if you feel unsafe driving or if your doctor (or family members) tell you it’s time to hand in the keys, think about utilizing other means of transportation to get around. Many times people are able to pass their vision test at the driver’s license bureau which gives them a false sense of security, but in reality they are not seeing well, especially at night or in bad weather. In many areas there are courses available for senior citizens to test out driving skills with instructors who do an evaluation and give feedback on their real abilities. It’s critical for seniors to speak to their eye doctors about their true vision level and any restrictions that they recommend. The key to eye health and safety is awareness. You can’t stop your eyes from aging but you can take the necessary precautions to ensure that you are protecting your eyes, yourself and those around you by knowing how your eyes and vision are affected.
Many teens who wear glasses are eager to try out contact lenses for convenience, fashion or to just provide another option for vision correction. For teens who feel self-conscious in their glasses, contact lenses can be a way to improve self-esteem. Young athletes and swimmers find that contacts are an excellent option for sports, especially as younger kids are becoming involved in travel sports and club teams outside of school. While contacts might appear to be the perfect solution for teens that need corrective eyewear, they are a convenience that comes with a lot of responsibility so it’s not a decision to take lightly. Improper use of contact lenses can cause severe discomfort, infections, irritation and, in the worst cases, eye damage or even permanent vision loss.
"With Privilege Comes Responsibility"
Contact lenses are a medical device and should always be treated as such. They should never be obtained without a valid contact lens prescription from an eye doctor, and always purchased from an authorized seller. Among other issues, poor fitting contact lenses bought from illegitimate sources have been known to cause micro-abrasions to the eyes that can increase the risk of eye infection and corneal ulcers in worst case scenarios. Particularly when it comes to kids and teens, it is best to purchase contact lenses from an eye doctor as they possess the expertise to properly fit contact lenses based on the shape of the eye, the prescription, the lifestyle of the child and other factors that may influence the comfort, health and convenience of contact lens use. There is some debate over the recommended age for kids to start considering contact lenses. While some experts will say the ideal age is between 11 and 14, there are many responsible children as young as 8 or even younger who have begun to successfully use them. When children are motivated and responsible, and parents are able to ensure follow-up to the daily regimen, earlier contact lens use can be a success. A good measure of whether your child is responsible enough to use contacts is whether they are able to keep their room clean, or maintain basic hygiene like brushing teeth regularly and effectively. When you think your child might be ready, you should schedule an appointment with your eye doctor for a contact lens exam and fitting. The process will take a few visits to perform the exam, complete a training session on how to insert, remove and care for lenses, then to try out the lenses at home and finally reassess the comfort and fit of the contacts. You may try out a few varieties before you find the best fit.
What Kind of Contact Lens Is Best for My Teen?
The good news is that contact lens use has become easier than ever, with safety, health and convenience being more accessible as technology improves. There are a number of options including the material used to make the lenses (soft or rigid gas permeable), the replacement schedule (if disposable, how often you replace the pair - daily, weekly, biweekly or monthly) and the wear schedule (daily or extended overnight wear). Single use, daily disposable lenses have become very popular, particularly with younger users, because they are easy to use, requiring no cleaning or storing, and therefore they reduce the risk of infection and misuse. You simply throw out the lenses at night and open a new one in the morning. Your eye doctor will be able to help you and your teen determine the best option.
Tips for Contact Lens Wearers
Following are some basic contact lens safety tips. If your teen is responsible enough to follow these guidelines, he or she may be ready for contact lens use:
- Always follow the wearing schedule prescribed by your doctor.
- Always wash your hands with soap before applying or removing contact lenses.
- Never use any substance other than contact lens rinse or solution to clean contacts (even tap water is a no-no).
- Never reuse contact lens solution
- Follow the eye doctor's advice about swimming or showering in your lenses
- Always remove your lenses if they are bothering you or causing irritation.
- Never sleep in your lenses unless they are extended wear.
- Never use any contact lenses that were not acquired with a prescription at an authorized source. Never purchase cosmetic lenses without a prescription!
Contact lens use is an ongoing process. As a child grows, the lens fit may change as well, so it is important to have annual contact lens assessments. Plus, new technology is always being developed to improve comfort and quality of contact lenses. Contact lenses are a wonderful invention but they must be used with proper care. Before you let your teen take the plunge into contact lens use, make sure you review the dangers and safety guidelines.
What’s it like to be color blind? Contrary to what the name implies, color blindness usually does not actually mean that you don’t see any color, but rather that you have difficulty perceiving or distinguishing between certain colors. This is why many prefer the term color vision deficiency or CVD to describe the condition. CVD affects men more than women, appearing in approximately 8% of men (1 in 12) and .5% of women (1 in 200) worldwide. Having color vision deficiency means that you perceive color in a more limited way than those with normal color vision. This ranges from mild, in which you may not even be aware that you are experiencing color differently, to severe, which is perhaps the more appropriate from to be called "color blind" and involves the inability to see certain colors. CVD can be inherited; it is caused by abnormalities in the genes that produce photopigments located in the cone cells in your eyes. The eyes contain different cone cells that fire in response to a specific color, blue, green or red and together allow you to see the depth and range of colors that the normal eye can see. The type of color blindness and therefore the type of color vision that is impaired, is based on which photopigments are abnormal. The most common form of CVD is red-green, followed by blue-yellow. Total color blindness or the complete inability to perceive color is quite rare. About 7% of males have congenital color blindness that they inherit from the mother's X-chromosome. Color blindness can also be the result of eye damage, specifically to the optic nerve, or to the area in the brain that processes color. Sometimes an eye disease, such as cataracts, can also impact one’s ability to perceive color. Systemic diseases such as diabetes or multiple sclerosis can also cause acquired CVD.
Living with CVD
Red-green color blindness does not mean only that you can’t tell the difference between red and green, but rather that any color that has some red or green (such as purple, orange, brown, pink, some shades of gray, etc) in it is affected. You many not realize all of the ways you use even subtle distinctions in color in your daily life. Here are some examples of ways that CVD can impact your life and make seemingly everyday tasks challenging:
- You may not be able to cook meat to the desired temperature based on color.
- Most of the colors in a box of crayons will be indistinguishable.
- You may not be able to distinguish between red and green LED displays on electronic devices that indicate power on and off.
- You may not be able to tell between a ripe and unripe fruit or vegetable such as bananas (green vs. yellow) or tomatoes (red vs green).
- Chocolate sauce, barbecue sauce and ketchup may all look the same.
- Bright green vegetables can look unappealing as they appear greenish, brown or grey.
- You may not be able to distinguish color coded pie charts or graphs (which can cause difficulty in school or work).
- Selecting an outfit that matches can be difficult.
Knowing that one is color blind is important for some occupations that require good color discrimination such as the police officers, railway workers, pilots, electricians etc. These are just a few of the ways that CVD can impact one’s daily life. So is there a cure? Not yet. While there is no cure for CVD, there is research being done into gene therapies and in the meantime there are corrective devices available including color vision glasses (such as the Enchroma brand) and color filtering contacts that for some can help to enhance color for some people. If you think you might have CVD, your optometrist can perform some tests to diagnose it or rule it out. If you have CVD, you can speak to your eye doctor about options that might be able to help you experience your world in full color.
On August 21st, for the first time since 1979, a solar eclipse will be visible across North America. What's even more historic is that it will also be the first time an eclipse will be visible across the continent, from coast to coast, since 1918. If you want to bear witness to this historic event, it is important to do so safely which means being knowledgeable about the event and prepared to protect your eyes from potential serious damage and vision loss. First of all, here are the facts about the upcoming eclipse. A total solar eclipse is when the moon completely blocks the face of the sun (called the photosphere) leaving only the sun's outer ring, called the corona, in view. This event happens briefly, and will only be visible for certain parts of the United States for up to two minutes and forty seconds during the upcoming celestial event. All of North America, including mainland US and Canada, however, will be able to view a partial eclipse for the duration of about two to three hours. You can search online to see which part of the eclipse will be visible from your location and what time you will be able to see it. With 500 million people in the viewing range of the eclipse, thousands are excitedly preparing for what could be for many a once-in-a-lifetime experience, however, it's crucial to make sure that this is done safely to protect your eyes and vision from serious damage that can occur from viewing an eclipse without proper eye protection.
Looking at a Solar Eclipse
Viewing a solar eclipse without proper eye protection is extremely dangerous and can cause permanent vision loss. Looking directly at the sun can cause a condition called Solar Retinopathy or retinal burns which can cause damage to and destroy cells in the retina, which communicates visual cues with the brain. It can also burn the macula which is responsible for central vision. While we usually have a hard time looking directly at the sun which helps to protect us from this condition, during an eclipse because the sun is partially covered by the moon, looking directly at the sun becomes less difficult. Nevertheless, the exposure to the damaging rays of the sun is just as strong and therefore the risk just as great. It's important to note that solar burns to the retina do not cause symptoms during that time that you are looking at the eclipse. There is no pain or discomfort. However, the longer you look at it, the deeper the hole that burns through the retina and you would not notice the vision loss until hours later. There is no treatment for solar retinopathy. Many will notice recovery in vision, but depending on the severity of damage there may be only partial recovery which may take up to 6 months after viewing the eclipse.
Eclipse Glasses: Solar Eclipse Eye Protection
Do not view the eclipse without proper eye protection. Protecting your eyes during an eclipse with specially designed eyewear or solar viewers is a must. The American Optometric Association and NASA have released the following statement regarding eye protection: “There is only one safe way to look directly at the sun, whether during an eclipse or not: through special-purpose solar filters. These solar filters are used in “eclipse glasses” or in hand-held solar viewers. They must meet a very specific worldwide standard known as ISO 12312-2.”
It’s important to note that regular sunglasses are not sufficient in protecting your eyes. Here are some additional safety tips issued by NASA for viewing the eclipse:
- Stand still and cover the eyes with eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the bright sun. After glancing at the sun, turn away and remove the filter—do not remove it while looking at the sun.
- Do not look at the un-eclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars or other optical device. Similarly, do not look at the sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewer—the concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eye(s), causing serious injury.
- If you are within the path of totality, remove your solar filter only when the moon completely covers the sun's bright face and it gets quite dark.
If you plan to view the eclipse, make sure that you plan ahead and obtain eclipse glasses or solar viewers for every person that plans to enjoy the experience. Keep this once in a lifetime experience a safe and enjoyable one. To obtain eclipse glasses, contact your local optometrist, or visit the American Optometry Association website for more information.
Light sensitivity, also known as photophobia, is a condition in which bright light - either natural sunlight or artificial light - can cause significant discomfort, pain and intolerance. People that experience light sensitivity will find themselves needing to close their eyes or squint when exposed to light and often experience headaches and nausea as well. In mild cases, the discomfort accompanies exposure to bright lights or harsh sunlight, but in severe cases even a small amount of light can cause pain and discomfort. Photophobia is more common in individuals with light eyes. This is because the greater amounts of pigment in darker eyes help to protect the eye from the harsh rays of light. The darker pigment of the iris and choroid absorbs the light, rather than reflecting the light and causing internal reflection or glare experienced by those with lighter eyes. People with albinism, which is a total lack of eye pigment, also experience significant light sensitivity for this reason. Acute photophobia is usually a symptom that accompanies a condition such as an eye infection or irritation (such as conjunctivitis or dry eyes), a virus, or a migraine (light sensitivity is one of the most common symptoms of migraines). It could also be caused by something more serious such as an eye condition like a corneal abrasion, a detached retina, uveitis or iritis or a systemic disease like meningitis or encephalitis. Light sensitivity is also a side effect of refractive surgery (such as LASIK) and some medications (such as tetracycline and doxycycline).
How to Deal with Photophobia
The most effective way to reduce the discomfort caused by photophobia is to stay out of sunlight and dim indoor lights as much as possible while you are experiencing symptoms. Wearing dark sunglasses and keeping your eyes closed may also provide some relief. In the summer it is more common for UV to trigger corneal inflammation (keratitis) and cause photosensitivity as well. Wind and eye dryness can also set off photosensitivity, which are more good reasons to wear sunglasses. If the sensitivity is new and the cause is unknown, you should seek medical attention immediately, especially if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Blurry vision
- Burning or pain in the eye
- Fever and chills
- Confusion and irritability
- Severe headache
- Stiff neck
- Nausea and vomiting
- Foreign body sensation
In cases where the photophobia is a symptom of an underlying issue, treating the issue will likely cause relief in your sensitivity. This will vary depending on the ailment but could include pain medications, eye drops or antibiotics, or anti-inflammatory medications. If the sensitivity is mild due to your genetic predisposition or a result of surgery, make sure you take your sunglasses every time you leave the house. People who wear prescription eyeglasses may consider photochromic lenses which automatically darken when exposed to light. If you are uncomfortable, speak to your eye doctor about the best options for your condition.
A black eye, also known as a periorbital hematoma, is usually not an injury of the actual eye (which is why it is called “periorbital”- around the eye). It typically occurs when there is an injury to the face or the eye socket which causes bleeding beneath the skin and bruising. The term, “black eye” comes from the dark coloring of the bruising that occurs underneath the skin around the eye. When a blunt force hits the eye socket, this can cause capillaries in the area to burst, causing hemorrhaging, also known as a hematoma. This blood can accumulate in the eye socket and as it begins to be reabsorbed into the surrounding tissues, the colors of the bruising begin to change. That’s why you will often notice the coloring of the black eye to go from a dark purplish-red color to brownish and then yellow. Sometimes along with the external bruising, you might also notice a small amount of bleeding on the white surface of the eye, which is called a subconjunctival hemorrhage. This is when the tiny blood vessels on the white sclera are broken and leak blood. It’s generally harmless but sometimes looks scarier to the patient than the black eye does. This condition will also reabsorb on its own and is nothing to be concerned about. While most black eyes can look pretty serious due to the dramatic color, an uncomplicated black eye will typically heal within a week to ten days. If it doesn’t, there could be a more serious issue such as a bone fracture or an orbital blowout fracture.This could present with restricted eye movement, especially if looking up or down, and numbness of the cheek and/or upper lip on the same side as the black eye. The eye may even appear sunken in. Further, if there is bleeding within the actual eye (called a hyphema) or floaters or flashes in the vision, then it is definitely advisable to see your eye doctor as soon as possible. These could be signs of more serious damage such a corneal or retinal damage and can lead to vision loss.
Usually, the best treatment for a black eye is to apply a cold compress (or even better, a bag of frozen vegetables, which is more flexible and can conform to the contours of the face) directly on the area. The cold will reduce swelling and constrict capillaries to reduce internal bleeding as well. Apply the cold for about 15-20 minutes every hour. If there is pain, over the counter pain medications can help. If however, you experience any of the following symptoms, you should seek medical attention:
- Blood on the surface of the eye or a visible incision on the eye
- Vision changes such as double vision, blurred vision, loss of vision or the appearance of floaters
- Loss of consciousness, dizziness or fainting
- Loss of eye movement
- Persistent headaches
- Blood or fluids coming from the ears or nose
- Signs of infection such as excessive swelling, pus, redness or a fever
- Severe pain
In addition to blunt trauma, black eyes can be caused by sinus infections, nasal or eye surgery or other infections in the area such as the teeth infections or cellulitis (a serious infection that can occur around the eyes). A skull fracture can also cause both eyes to turn black, sometimes known as raccoon eyes. Unless you notice any severe symptoms you can rest assured that your black eye is a bruise just like anywhere else on the body and with a little care, rest and patience, it will clear up in no time.
Have you noticed that your eyes feel chronically dry, itchy, scratchy or even sometimes watery? Many people that have these symptoms just go on with their lives until the symptoms become unbearable. What they don’t realize is that these are signs that they might be suffering from dry eye syndrome, a condition in which the eyes are not able to produce enough tears to effectively lubricate the eyes. This is a problem that won’t just go away on its own.
What causes Dry Eye?
Dry Eye Syndrome, also known as Tear Film Dysfunction is characterized by a reduction in the amount or quality of tears that are produced. Tears are essential for optimal eye health, vision and comfort. Ideally, tear film covers the eyes at all times to prevent the eyes from drying out and to ensure clear vision. If the glands that produce tears start to produce fewer tears or tears that don’t have the proper balance of water, oils, proteins and electrolytes, the tear film with become unstable, allowing dry spots to form on the surface of the eye, and cause disruptions in outer barrier of the eye’s epithelial surface. This disruption in the outer barrier allows microbes to invade the eye, leading to irritation and infection. The condition can be caused by many factors, including tear gland dysfunction, eyelid problems, medications or environmental factors.
Symptoms of Dry Eye
As mentioned above, many of the symptoms of dry eye involve varying sensations of dryness including, burning, stinging, itching, grittiness, soreness or a feeling that there is something in the eye. The eyes may also be red and sensitive to light, wind or smoke. Vision may be blurred or doubled and the eyes may fatigue easily. Another common symptom is that vision seems blurry but clears when you blink (especially common when reading or using a computer). This is because the tear film does not form a smooth coat over the eye surface or it evaporates too quickly causing a blur. You may also notice pain, some discharge from the eye (especially upon waking in the morning) and experience discomfort when wearing contact lenses. One of the most confusing symptoms of dry eye is actually excessive tearing, which occurs because the eyes are trying to compensate for the lack of moisture - however the tears produced are low quality and don’t properly hydrate the surface of the eye.
The first thing to look at when you have dry eyes is whether you are taking any medications, engaging in certain behaviors or being exposed to environmental factors that may be causing the condition. Medications that may cause dry eye as a side effect include:
- Antihistamines and Decongestants
- Sleeping pills
- Birth Control pills
- Acne medications
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
- Opiate-based painkillers such as morphine
Important! Never stop medication without the approval of your doctor! If you are taking a medication that may be causing dry eye, don’t stop taking the medication without speaking to your healthcare provider first. Treating dry eye symptoms may be a simpler solution than stopping or switching medications.
You may be able to alter your environment to reduce symptoms of dry eye as well. Environmental factors that can exacerbate dry eye include:
- Wearing contact lenses
- Extended use of computers or other electronic devices
- Exposure to dry, windy climates or blowing air (such as an air conditioner or heater).
- Exposure to smoke
- High altitudes
Treatment for Dry Eye
If you are experiencing dry eye symptoms, make an appointment with your optometrist. The diagnosis and treatment will be based on a complete examination of your eyes, your medical history and your personal circumstances around the condition. The doctor may decide to perform a tear film test that can determine the quantity and quality of the tears and whether your tear glands and tear film are functioning properly. The type of treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the problem. Treatment may include behavioral or environmental changes such as using a humidifier, wearing sunglasses in windy weather, reducing computer time or changing to a different type of contact lens, as well as medical treatments that may include:
- Artificial tears, eye drops or ointments to lubricate eyes
- Steroid or antibiotic drops or pills may be used for certain conditions such as blepharitis
- Reducing the drainage of tears by blocking tear ducts with silicone plugs
- Medications such as Restasis which reduce inflammation and trigger tear production
- In some situations a surgical procedure might be recommended
- Scleral lenses that hold moisture on the surface of the eyeball
The most important thing you should know about dry eyes is that you do not have to suffer. Treatments are available to increase moisture on your eye and reduce the uncomfortable and sometime debilitating symptoms. If you are suffering, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor and get the relief you deserve.
We all know that smoking is bad for you, especially the risks that it poses to your heart and lungs. What many people do not know is that cigarette smoke negatively affects your eyes and vision too. Smoking has been directly linked to an increase in the risks of both cataracts and macular degeneration, two leading causes of vision loss, and it is believed to be a factor in a number of other eye and vision issues.
Smoking and Cataracts
Studies show that smoking doubles the risk of cataracts and with heavy smoking, the risk triples. In fact, there seems to be a direct correlation between the amount of smoking and the likelihood of cataracts. Cataracts are characterised by the clouding of the lens of the eye and it is believed that smoking affects the cells of the lens, accelerating this process. Cataracts are a leading cause of vision loss worldwide, however they can be treated surgically by removing the clouded lens and replacing it with an artificial one. Symptoms include:
- Blurred, cloudy or dim vision
- Sensitivity to light and glare
- Presence of halos around lights
- Increasingly poor night vision
- Fading color vision
- Double vision
- and frequent prescription changes with minimal improvement in vision
Smoking and Age-Related Macular Degeneration
According to medical research, smoking increases the likelihood of developing age-related macular degeneration between two and four times the normal risk - the more you smoke, the greater the risk. Unfortunately, there is also an increased risk for those exposed to cigarette smoke for extended periods of time. Age-related macular degeneration or AMD is a condition in which the macula, which is the center of the retina, begins to to deteriorate, reducing central vision and the eye’s ability to see fine details. The disease is characterized by blurred and distorted eyesight and blind spots in the central vision. With time, the disease can progress to leave the person with low vision, which is significant vision loss that cannot be corrected by eyeglasses, contact lenses or refractive surgery.
Other Eye and Vision Risks of Smoking
Smoking has also been linked to dry eyes, optic nerve damage and diabetic retinopathy (for those with diabetes). "Eye Vitamins" are often used without doctor's recommendations. Smokers are cautioned not to take beta-carotene supplements, specifically, (or multi-vitamins containing this ingredient) as studies indicate there is increased risk of cancer even in people who quit smoking.
What to Do?
Even if you have been smoking for years, quitting will reduce the risks of developing these conditions, for yourself and those around you. If you do smoke, make sure to schedule a comprehensive eye exam every year to catch any developing disease early. Early diagnosis and treatment can be the key to saving your vision and preventing permanent vision loss.
Understanding The Invisible Disease
In an effort to spread the word to increase awareness about Sjogren’s Disease, eye care providers are speaking out about this hard-to-diagnose condition. Sjogren’s is a systemic autoimmune disorder that can affect the whole body. One of the primary symptoms is excessive dryness particularly in the eyes and mouth. Other serious symptoms include chronic fatigue and pain, specifically in the joints, as well as major organ dysfunction. The syndrome also increases chances of neuropathies and lymphomas. The severity of the disease varies greatly, ranging from mild discomfort to debilitating symptoms that can seriously impair normal functioning in everyday life. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent serious complications and improve quality of life. There is currently no cure for Sjogren’s, yet there are treatments for many of the individual symptoms. On average patients are prescribed upwards of 8 medications to treat the wide range of symptoms. Women are nine times more likely to develop Sjogren’s than men and diagnosis usually occurs around the age of 40. Unfortunately, because the symptoms vary from person to person, and the disease often occurs in the presence of or mimics other diseases (such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, menopause, allergies or multiple sclerosis) the disease is often misdiagnosed or overlooked. Further, because the symptoms can affect different parts of the body system such as the teeth, eyes or musculoskeletal system, various health professionals are sought to diagnose or treat specific symptoms (such as rheumatologists, dentists or eye doctors) while the big picture is often missed. On average it takes almost three years to obtain a Sjogren’s diagnosis once symptoms are noticed. Since dry eye is one of the most common early symptoms of the disease, there has been an effort to educate eye care providers to recognize and to be aware to look for symptoms of the disease. Patients also need to be aware and proactive about speaking to their health care providers about potential diagnosis and treatment. Knowing the risk factors and symptoms can be imperative to a faster diagnosis. Your eye doctor may be able to detect and diagnose Sjogren's syndrome from dry eye symptoms as well as other diagnostic tests and review of symptoms. With this diagnosis the treatment will be different from typical dry eye disease. Since it is an autoimmune disease, lubricating eye drops may provide temporary relief but will not address the source of the problem. Your doctor may prescribe newer cyclosporine drops as well to treat the inflammatory response. If you have dry eyes and typical treatments aren’t working, it may be worthwhile to ask about Sjogren’s. Sjogren’s patients often feel misunderstood because most of the debilitating symptoms are not visible to others and the disease is often not recognized largely due to a lack of awareness. By increasing both public and professional awareness, the goal is to reduce diagnosis time and to advance research on the cure for this disorder.
There is nothing worse than a dirty spot on your glasses - well except perhaps many dirty spots or smudges. When that happens, most of us are tempted to grab the corner of our shirt and wipe it off, but resist the temptation - this is actually not a good idea. There is a right way and a wrong way to clean your glasses. Cleaning your glasses properly will not only remove irritating dirt and smudges, but will also prevent your lenses from getting scratched allowing you to see your best. You want to make sure that the materials you use to clean your lenses are clean and soft. The reason your shirt corner is not the best option is because it likely contains dust or particles that can scratch your lens. However, you don’t need fancy, lens cleaners either. In truth the best cleaner for your glasses may be more simple than you expect
Gentle Dish Soap
That’s right, a gentle dish soap, warm water and a clean, dry soft cotton towel are the best tools you can have for cleaning your lenses. Simply rinse your glasses in warm water and apply a small drop of soap (make sure to use a brand of soap that is lotion and moisturizer free). Rub the soap into the lens with your fingers and rinse thoroughly until all of the soap has been removed. Gently shake the glasses to remove excess water and then dry with a clean, dry, lint-free towel. You may be wondering about the microfiber lens cloths and spray cleaner you get from your optician. These lens cleaning packs are great for when you are on the go and don’t have access to a sink and dish soap. The microfiber cloths are also great for polishing dry lenses after any dust or particles are blown away- just make sure they are cleaned regularly. For a real, thorough clean however, we advise that you use the technique above.
Don’t use vinegar, glass or window cleaner, bleach, ammonia or spit/saliva for cleaning your lenses. The chemicals could strip off the coatings on your lenses, and saliva - well, it just doesn’t work. In particular, many lenses these days have anti-glare treatments that are especially prone to damage if not cleaned properly and are particularly vulnerable to window cleaners and alcohol. Remember once your glasses are scratched, there is little to do to repair them. If you see something on your lens try to blow or brush it away carefully before you use a cloth to clean your lenses.
Keeping Your Lenses Clean
To avoid dirt and smudges, always take your glasses off with two hands using the arms of the frame and avoid touching the lenses. Further, the best way to preserve your glasses and keep them clean is to keep them in a case when they are not in use. It’s worthwhile to get an extra case or two to have on hand in the car or in your purse for times that you need to take your glasses off. If you notice swirled or circular scratches on your lenses, those are almost always from improper cleaning so make sure to take the time to clean them properly the next time.
Blue light. Do you know what it is? Do you know where it comes from, or how it can be harmful to your eyes? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you are not alone, yet it is important that you become aware to protect your eyes for now and the years to come.
The reason blue light is suddenly becoming a big issue is because other than the sun, which is the biggest source of blue light, a significant source of blue light emission comes from digital devices and artificial lighting. As our world becomes increasingly digital - think: HD televisions, LED lights, computers, smartphones, tablets - we are all exposing our eyes to more and more amounts of blue light than ever before. And we are only beginning to understand the long term effects this has on our bodies and our eyes.
One of the biggest issues with blue light is that whether it is through work or leisure, people are exposed to screens at a close range for a large portion of the day. A survey from the Vision Council entitled, “Blue Light Exposure and Digital Eye Strain” recently showed that 87% of respondents used digital devices for more than two hours a day and over 52% regularly used two digital devices as the same time. This shift has drastically increased exposure and the number of symptoms that are reported. To date, research has shown that there are a number of ways blue light can impact your eyes including digital eye strain, sleep disturbances and retina damage that can lead to long term problems including serious eye diseases.
Digital eye strain is a condition that is characterized by dry, sore, tired or burning eyes, eye fatigue and sensitivity to light. It can also cause blurred or double vision, headaches, back, neck and shoulder aches and difficulty focusing or concentrating. These symptoms are most common in individuals that sit in front of the computer for two or more hours a day.
Studies show that exposure to blue light right before bedtime can cause disruptions in sleep and wakefulness because it causes a shift in the levels of melatonin, a hormone which affects your circadian rhythm and therefore your sleep patterns. So if you are using your smartphone to wind down in bed, put it down and dust off an old hardcover book!
Retina damage has been found to be a possible result of long term blue light exposure causing damage to the retinal cells in the eye which are responsible for clear vision. There has been evidence that this type of damage can lead to age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts later in life. In certain cases, your doctor might recommend Lutein and Zeaxanthin nutritional supplements to protect the macula from blue light damage.
Despite these risks, few people are taking action to protect their eyes from blue light. A recent study from Transitions Optical, The 2017 Employee Perceptions of Vision Benefits Survey, showed that there is also a significant generational difference in knowledge, habits, and attitude regarding blue light with millennials being more aware and concerned about the health effects it has on their eyes. Millennials are more likely to request prescription eyewear that has blue light protection and to know whether their current pair has that extra coverage. However, even the millennial generation is significantly lacking in awareness and prevention.
The best way to gain awareness of and protection against blue light is to speak to your eye doctor. There are a number of ways you can protect your eyes which include computer glasses, blue light lens filters, or even blue light filter screen protectors or apps that reverse screen colours for those that don’t use prescription eyewear. Each individual can find the best solution based on lifestyle, work environment and personal comfort. The most important takeaway is that you understand that blue light is an issue, take responsibility for your eye health and speak to your eye doctor about the best blue light solutions for you and your family.
Eye color is a hereditary trait that depends on the genes of both parents, as well as a little bit of mystery. The color of the eye is based on the pigments in the iris, which is a colored ring of muscle located at the center of the eye (around the pupil) that helps to control the amount of light that comes into your eye. Eye color falls on a spectrum of color that can range from dark brown, to gray, to green, to blue, with a whole lot of variation in between.
The genetics of eye color are anything but straightforward. In fact children are often born with a different eye color than either of their parents. For some time the belief was that two blue-eyed parents could not have a brown-eyed child, however, while it’s not common, this combination can and does occur. Genetic research in regards to eye color is an ongoing pursuit and while they have identified certain genes that play a role, researchers still do not know exactly how many genes are involved and to what extent each gene affects the final eye color.
Looking at it simply, the color of the eye is based on the amount of the pigment melanin located in the iris. Large amounts of melanin result in brown eyes, while blue eyes result from smaller amounts of the pigment. This is why babies that are born with blue eyes (who often have smaller amounts of melanin until they are about a year old) often experience a darkening of their eye color as they grow and develop more melanin in the iris. In adults across the globe, the most common eye color worldwide is brown, while lighter colors such as blue, green and hazel are found predominantly in the Caucasian population.
Abnormal Eye Color
Sometimes the color of a person’s eyes are not normal. Here are some interesting causes of this phenomenon.
Heterochromia, for example, is a condition in which the two eyes are different colors, or part of one eye is a different color. This can be caused by genetic inconsistencies, issues that occur during the development of the eye, or acquired later in life due to an injury or disease.
Ocular albinism is a condition in which the eye is a very light color due to low levels of pigmentation in the iris, which is the result of a genetic mutation. It is usually accompanied by serious vision problems. Oculocutaneous albinism is a similar mutation in the body’s ability to produce and store melanin that affects skin and hair color in addition to the eyes.
Eye color can also be affected by certain medications. For example, a certain glaucoma eye drop is known to darken light irises to brown, as well as lengthen and darken eyelashes.
Eye Color - It's More Than Meets the Eye
It is known that light eyes are more sensitive to light, which is why it might be hard for someone with blue or green eyes to go out into the sun without sunglasses. Light eyes have also shown to be a risk factor for certain conditions including age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Color Contact Lenses
While we can’t pick our eye color, we can always play around with different looks using colored contact lenses. Just be sure that you get a proper prescription for any contact lenses, including cosmetic colored lenses, from an eye doctor! Wearing contact lenses that were obtained without a prescription could be dangerous to your eyes and your vision.
Your toddler may show every sign of good eyesight including the ability to see objects in the distance, however that doesn't necessarily mean that he or she doesn't have a vision problem. Amblyopia is one common eye condition that is often hidden behind the appearance of good eyesight. Also known as "lazy eye" it usually occurs when the brain begins to ignore the signals sent by one eye, often because that eye is weaker and doesn't focus properly. Sometimes it can occur in both eyes, in which case it's called bilateral amblyopia. This eye condition is especially common in preemies, and tends to run in families as well, so it's important to provide your eye doctor with a complete medical and family history. There are several factors that can cause amblyopia to develop. These include:
- high nearsightedness or farsightedness
- uneven eye development as an infant
- congenital cataract (clouding of the lens of the eye)
- strabismus (where the eyes are misaligned or "cross-eyed")
However in many cases of amblyopia there may be no obvious visible structural differences in the eye. In addition to the fact that the eyes may look normal, vision often appears fine as the brain is able to compensate for the weaker eye by favoring the stronger one. Because of this, many children live with their eye condition for years before it is diagnosed. Unfortunately, as a person ages, the brain loses some of its plasticity (how easy it is to train the brain to develop new skills), making it much harder - if not impossible - to treat amblyopia in older children and adults. That's why it's so important for infants and young children to have a thorough eye exam.
Are There Any Signs of Amblyopia?
If you notice your child appears cross-eyed, that would be an indication that it's time for a comprehensive eye exam to screen for strabismus and amblyopia development. Preschoolers with amblyopia sometimes show signs of unusual posture when playing, such as head tilting, clumsiness or viewing things abnormally close. However, often there are no signs or symptoms. The child typically does not complain, as he or she does not know what normal vision should look like. Sometimes the condition is picked up once children begin reading if have difficulty focusing on the close text. The school nurse may suggest an eye exam to confirm or rule out amblyopia following a standard vision test on each eye, though it might be possible to pass a vision screening test and still have amblyopia. Only an eye doctor can make a definitive diagnosis of the eye condition.
When To Book a Pediatric Eye Exam?
Comprehensive eye and vision exams should be performed on children at an early age. That way, hidden eye conditions would be diagnosed while they're still more easily treatable. An eye exam is recommended at 6 months of age and then again at 3 years old and before entering first grade. The eye doctor may need to use eye drops to dilate the pupils to confirm a child's true refractive error and diagnose an eye condition such as amblyopia.
Treatment for Amblyopia
Glasses alone will not completely correct vision with amblyopia in most cases, because the brain has learned to process images from the weak eye or eyes as blurred images, and ignore them. There are several non-surgical treatment options for amblyopia. While your child may never achieve 20/20 vision as an outcome of the treatment and may need some prescription glasses or contact lenses, there are options that can significantly improve visual acuity.
Patch or Drops
In order to improve vision, one needs to retrain the brain to receive a clear image from the weak eye or eyes. In the case of unilateral amblyopia (one eye is weaker than the other), this usually involves treating the normal eye with a patch or drops to force the brain to depend on the weak eye. This re-establishes the eye-brain connection with the weaker one and strengthens vision in that eye. If a child has bilateral amblyopia, treatment involves a regimen of constantly wearing glasses and/or contact lenses with continual observation over time. Your eye doctor will prescribe the number of waking hours that patching is needed based on the visual acuity in your child's weak eye; however, the periods of time that you chose to enforce wearing the patch may be flexible. During patching the child typically does a fun activity requiring hand eye coordination to stimulate visual development (such as a favorite video game, puzzle, maze etc) as passive activity is not as effective. The earlier treatment starts, the better the chances are of stopping or reversing the negative patterns formed in the brain that harm vision. Amblyopia treatment with patches or drops may be minimally effective in improving vision as late as the early teen years (up to age 14) but better results are seen in younger patients.
Many optometrists recommend vision therapy to train the eyes using exercises that strengthen the eye-brain connection. While success rates tend to be better in children, optometrists have also seen improvements using this occupational therapy type program to treat amblyopia in adults. The key to improvement through any non-surgical treatment for amblyopia is compliance. Vision therapy exercises must be practiced on a regular basis. Children that are using glasses or contact lenses for treatment, must wear them consistently. Your eye doctor will recommend the schedule of the patching, drops, or vision therapy eye exercise and the best course of treatment.
Amblyopia: Take-home Message
Even if your child is not showing any signs of vision problems, and especially if they are, it is important to have an eye examination with an eye doctor as soon as possible, and on a regular basis. While the eyes are still young and developing, diagnosis and treatment of eye conditions such as amblyopia are greatly improved.
Most people wouldn’t consider contact lenses dangerous. In fact, they are a great alternative to glasses, offering convenience and great vision for those who wear them. However, when not obtained and used according to an eye doctor’s instructions, the consequences can be devastating.
Contact Lenses Need to Fit
Like shoes, one size of contact lens does not fit all. Even daily disposable contact lenses need a proper lens fitting, as lens materials and curvatures vary from one brand to the next. Often patients that complain of contact lenses that feel dry within a couple hours of applying them are actually wearing contact lenses that are not an ideal fit. Many factors can affect a lens fit, including growth, allergies, medications, hormone changes, and others. Sensitivities to eye drops and cleaning solutions may also affect comfortable contact lens wear.
The Dangers of Contact Lens Use
We all know how uncomfortable it is when there is a foreign object in our eye. The tearing and watering that occurs as the eye’s natural attempt to remove foreign matter displays the eye’s sensitivity compared to other parts of the body. Any time a foreign object comes into contact with the eye (even your finger), there is a risk to the eye - and that risk includes contact lenses. Improper hygiene and useage of contact lenses can scratch the surface or bring bacteria into the eye which can lead to serious infections and permanent damage to the eye and vision. According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 20% of patients that reported infections of the cornea related to contact lenses had a corneal scar, a decrease in visual acuity or needed a corneal transplant as a result of the infection. Further, 25% of infections involved poor contact lens hygiene, which means they likely could have been prevented.
Dangerous Behaviors that Put Contact Lens Users At Risk
Here are some of the most dangerous contact lens habits that should be avoided to eliminate your risk of eye damage or a potentially blinding eye infection.
- Failing to wash your hands with soap and dry them before applying or removing lenses.
- Rinsing contacts or your lens case with tap water, sterile water or other substances.
- Re-using solution or topping off the solution in your lens case rather than emptying it, cleaning it and refilling it.
- Failing to remove lenses before swimming or entering a hot tub.
- Leaving in contact lenses too long or sleeping in contacts that are not meant to sleep in.
- Failing to follow the wearing schedule prescribed by your eye doctor.
- Using the same lens case for too long (it should be cleaned regularly and replaced around every three months).
- Wearing lenses that are not obtained with a prescription through an eye doctor or legally authorized contact lens distributor.
- Ironically, as you can see, water is one of the biggest dangers for contact lens wearers at it can harbor dangerous bacteria under the lens or in a contaminated lens case. These dangers can be easily avoided by following your eye doctor’s instructions in handling and wearing your contact lenses.
Cosmetic/Decorative Contact Lenses
With Halloween on the way it’s important to stress that you should ONLY purchase contact lenses from an eye doctor or legally authorized contact lens seller with a prescription. Even if you are purchasing purely decorative contact lenses with no vision correction, you need a doctor to measure your eye to ensure they fit properly. Contact lenses are a medical device and it is illegal to sell them without proper authorization. Therefore you should never purchase them from a costume or party store - they are unregulated and could cause serious harm to your eyes and vision. If you notice any unusual redness, discharge, crusting, light sensitivity or pain, immediately remove your contact lenses and go see your eye doctor as soon as possible. Some serious eye infections can cause permanent vision damage or loss even within a day or two. While you should not approach contact lens use as a dangerous activity, it is important to understand the importance of proper hygiene and use. As long as you obtain contact lenses safely and follow the instructions of your eye doctor, contact lenses are a safe, convenient and effective option for vision correction.
90%! That’s the number of sports eye injuries that studies show can be prevented using proper eye protection. Yet most sports leagues don’t require protective eyewear as part of their uniform or safety requirements. This leaves it up to athletes, parents and coaches to ensure that proper measures are taken to keep eyes safe during athletic play. Protective sports eyewear can come in a number of forms depending on the sport, and includes sports glasses or goggles, eye shields and eye guards. Regular prescription eyeglasses or sunglasses do not protect the eyes and can sometimes cause greater injury if impact is made and lenses or frames are shattered or broken. If you do wear prescription eyewear, there are a number of options including wearing contact lenses with safety eyewear, purchasing prescription safety eyewear or wearing safety goggles over your regular prescription glasses.
What Makes Safety Eyewear Safer?
Protective eyewear is made of impact resistant lenses from materials such as polycarbonate or trivex, which are much stronger than other types of plastic used to make typical eyewear lenses. Polycarbonate has a long history of safety eyewear use in adults and children and Trivex is a newer optical material that is lighter than polycarbonate and offers better optical quality. Both materials have built in ultraviolet protection to protect your eyes from damage from the sun. Sports frames are also made from strong, impact-resistant materials such as strong plastics or polycarbonates. They tend to cover larger areas than traditional glasses to protect more of the area around the eye and block dust, sunlight and other elements from entering from the sides or top of the frame. Sports glasses and goggles usually incorporate impact resistant padding to create a cushion between the frame and the face or nose for increased comfort, impact absorption and to prevent slipping. Some goggles do not fit well under helmets, such as those used in football and lacrosse, so it is wise for athletes to bring in their helmets when shopping for sports eyewear to ensure they fit under the helmet properly. Although athletes often shy away from wearing sports eyewear due to concerns of reduced performance, in reality they often can improve performance with new innovations in sportswear that offer improved peripheral vision.
Common Sports Eye Injuries
Eye injuries commonly occur in baseball, basketball, racquetball, tennis, badminton, and other sports. Here are some of the common types of injuries.
Scratched eye or corneal abrasion
This is when damage occurs to the external surface of the eye and commonly occur from being poked, scratched or rubbed when there is a foreign body present on the surface such as sand or dust. Corneal abrasions can be very painful, cause redness and sensitivity, particularly to light. Scratched eyes should be treated immediately by a doctor because bacteria can enter through the eye causing serious infections, that can even lead to blindness.
is when an object, such as a ball or an elbow impact the eye causing swelling or bleeding such as a black eye (in which the eyelids bruise and swell) or a subconjunctival hemorrhage (bleeding from a blood vessel between the white of the eye and the clear conjunctiva). Black eyes may not appear serious but they should be checked out by a doctor to make sure there is no internal damage.
an inflammation that occurs following an eye injury such as a blunt trauma that affects the color part of the eye that surrounds the pupil. The inflammation should be treated to ensure there is no permanent vision loss.
injuries that occur when a foreign object enters the eye, causing the eye to rupture, can cause severe damage, swelling and bleeding. These should be considered a medical emergency and treated immediately.
As you can see, most of these injuries can be prevented simply by wearing proper protection over the eye. Your vision is essential for playing the sports you love, so don’t put it as risk by failing to protect your eyes properly. With the increasing selection of frames and lenses for safety and sports eyewear at affordable pricing, an active lifestyle can also be safe.
It is important to teach your children about eye health and safety from a young age. This includes awareness about how your overall health habits affect your eyes and vision as well as how to keep your eyes safe from injury and infection. Starting off with good eye habits at a young age will help to create a lifestyle that will promote eye and vision health for a lifetime.
10 Eye Health Tips for All:
- Eat right. Eating a balanced diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables (especially green leafies such as kale, spinach and broccoli) as well as omega-3s found in fish, such as salmon, tuna and halibut, help your eyes get the proper nutrients they need to function at their best.
- Exercise. An active lifestyle has been shown to reduce the risk of developing a number of eye diseases as well as diabetes - a disease which which can result in blindness.
- Don’t Smoke. Smoking has been linked to increased risk of a number of vision threatening eye diseases.
- Use Eye Protection. Protect your eyes when engaging in activities such as sports (especially those that are high impact or involve flying objects), using chemicals or power tools or gardening. Speak to your eye doctor about the best protection for your hobbies to prevent serious eye injuries.
- Wear Shades. Protect your eyes from the sun by wearing 100% UV blocking sunglasses and a hat with a brim when you go outside. Never look directly at the sun.
- Be Aware: If you notice any changes in your vision, always get it checked out. Tell a parent or teacher if your eyes hurt or if your vision is blurry, jumping, double or if you see spots or anything out of the ordinary. Parents, keep an eye on your child. Children don’t always complain about problems seeing because they don't know when their vision is not normal vision. Signs of excessive linking, rubbing, unusual head tilt, or excessively close viewing distance are worth a visit to the eye doctor.
- Don’t Rub! If you feel something in your eye, don’t rub it - it could make it worse or scratch your eyeball. Ask an adult to help you wash the object out of your eye.
- Give Your Eyes a Break. With the digital age, a new concern is kids' posture when looking at screens such as tablets or mobile phones. Prevent your child from holding these digital devices too close to their eyes. The Harmon distance is a comfortable viewing distance and posture - it is the distance from your chin to your elbow. There is concern that poor postural habits may warp a child's growing body. Also, when looking at a tv, mobile or computer screen for long periods of time, follow the 20-20-20 rule; take a break every 20 minutes, for 20 seconds, by looking at something 20 feet away.
- Create Eye Safe Habits. Always carry pointed objects such as scissors, knives or pencils with the sharp end pointing down. Never shoot objects (including toys) or spray things at others, especially in the direction of the head. Be careful when using sprays that they are pointed away from the eyes.
- Keep Them Clean. Always wash your hands before you touch your eyes and follow your eye doctors instructions carefully for proper contact lens hygiene. If you wear makeup, make sure to throw away any old makeup and don’t share with others.
By teaching your children basic eye care and safety habits you are instilling in them the importance of taking care of their precious eye sight. As a parent, always encourage and remind your children to follow these tips and set a good example by doing them yourself. Of course don’t forget the most important tip of all - get each member of your family's eyes checked regularly by a qualified eye doctor! Remember, school eye screenings and screenings at a pediatrician’s office are NOT eye exams. They are only checking visual acuity but could miss health problems, focusing issues and binocularity issues that are causing health and vision problems.
Since studies show that learning is 80% visual, children with untreated vision problems can really suffer when it comes to school. Most people think that good “vision” means 20/20 acuity but in reality, vision is much more complex. Your brain is actually what completes the processing of the visual world around you and visual processing disorders can be present even when there is no evidence of a so-called “vision problem”. The American Optometric Association reports that 2 out of 5 children have a vision condition that affects learning and estimates that 10 million American children have undiagnosed and untreated vision problems. In Canada, it’s reported that one in 4 school age children have undiagnosed vision problems, many with no obvious symptoms.
A major reason for this is that when parents and teachers see issues in school, they often run to learning or behavioral issues first. In reality, difficulty in reading, understanding, focusing, paying attention and even disruptive behavior can all be symptoms of an underlying vision disorder. There are a number of skills that we need in order to successfully see and process the outside world. These include, eye teaming (being able to use the eyes together as a team), focusing, tracking, recognition and comprehension. When these skills are delayed or insufficient, learning, reading, understanding and motor skills can all be affected. Most of these visual processing issues cannot be treated by corrective glasses or contact lenses alone. Sometimes a regime of vision therapy exercises may be prescribed to teach the brain how to properly process the information that is coming in through the eyes.
Vision therapy often involves a combination of glasses, to optimize visual acuity if needed, and therapeutic exercises designed to train eye coordination and comfortable focusing ability. Typically, there is a comprehensive in-office assessment, then half-hour in-office sessions once every 1-3 weeks. The patient is given home eye exercises to be done 15-20 minutes per day, often with help from the parent. Vision therapy is a process that can take up to several months before improvement or goals are met. In addition, going through vision therapy does not ensure that your child will get better grades, we are simply trying to give them all the proper learning tools so they can achieve to their fullest potential.
Identifying Vision Disorders
One example of a visual processing disorder is Convergence Insufficiency (CI), a common eye coordination disorder in which the eyes have problems viewing near tasks due to convergence problems. This is when the eyes have difficulty working together and focusing as a team, resulting in eyestrain, headaches and double vision. Children with CI often report that words appear to be “moving across the page”, making reading and comprehensive impossibly difficult. As with many vision problems, children often don’t realize that their experience is abnormal so they often don’t report the difficulties they are having. Here are some indications that your child might have a vision problem:
- Avoiding close tasks such as reading or playing certain games
- Frequent Blinking and Eye Rubbing
- Difficulty reading - losing place frequently
- Covering one eye when trying to focus
- Double vision
- Poor memory or reading comprehension
- Short attention span
- Clumsiness or poor hand-eye coordination
If your child is having difficulty in school, particularly with tasks involving reading, it is worth getting an eye and vision exam. The sooner a visual processing issue is diagnosed and treated, the greater chance your child with have to thrive and enjoy the school years.
We have all seen the futuristic thrillers that use high-tech eye scanning identification systems but nowadays the technology does exist to use them in real life. A greater number of high security establishments have begun to use iris recognition for identification and security systems.
How does it work?
The iris is the colored part of the eye that forms a ring around the black pupil that is responsible for contractions of the pupil to let in more or less light. It is also the only internal organ that is visible from outside the body. Like a fingerprint, the colors and patterns of the iris are completely unique to each individual, and this unique texture usually doesn’t change throughout a person’s lifetime. Because of these characteristics a scan of the iris is a highly reliable source of personal identification.
Iris recognition measures these unique patterns and textures through a specialized camera which captures an image of the iris from about 3-10 inches away. Iris recognition is considered one of the most accurate forms of biometrics (the use of body measurements for identity checks) because it is non-intrusive, fast and accurate. As a comparison, while fingerprint identification uses 40 unique characteristics, the iris has 256 unique markers.
In order for iris recognition to work, your iris first needs to be scanned and enrolled into the system so it can recognize your identity. Enrollment requires your eyes to be photographed using both ordinary and infrared light which helps to highlight the unique patterns present in the iris. These digital photographs then go through a specialized analysis that identifies the unique features (the 256 markers mentioned above) and then stores the information as a 512-digit number (your IrisCode®) along with your name and personal details into a database. This all happens within a few minutes. Once you are in the system, you simply need to stand in front of the iris scanner and within minutes your iris can be verified.
Limitations of Iris Scanning
The markers on your iris usually remain unchanged throughout your lifetime except in cases of extreme injury to the eye, inflammation (such as iritis) or changes due to cancers. Additionally, certain surgeries for glaucoma involve removing part of the iris (iridectomy) or using lasers to put holes in the iris (iridotomy) which would also change the iris pattern. Lastly, certain tinted contact lenses could be a complication with iris scans because some of them have an artificial iris pattern imprinted on them. Nevertheless, iris scanning is still considered to be the most accurate and effective form of biometric identification. Iris scanning is already being used in airports, military and prison institutions, high security government and corporate institutions and even at ATM and bank tellers. Looking into the future, it is likely we will see much more of this technology in common use.
There have been a lot of videos going viral lately of color blind people “seeing color” for the first time using specialized glasses. The emotional reactions of amazement, shock and joy even lead some to break down into tears. The glasses provide these individuals a way to view the world in vibrant, living color, as everyone else around them is able to. One in every 12 men and one in every 200 women have some degree of color blindness or color vision deficiency (CVD). The condition is not actual blindness, but an inability or a decreased ability to see color and perceive differences in color. CVD can be a partial or total deficiency, although total color blindness is not as common. There are two main types of color blindness:
Red-green - which is most often inherited from the mother’s side on the x chromosome, and blue-yellow - which is much more rare and usually occurs from damage to the nerve. CVD can sometimes be acquired through disease, brain injury or certain drugs or chemical reactions
The World of the Color Blind
Contrary to common misconceptions, a person who is color blind does not see only grey. He still usually sees color to some extent, but often the colors appear dull or washed out and can be easily confused with other colors. People often have trouble identifying or naming certain colors or distinguishing colors, for example, red and green, as well as orange, yellow and brown may appear similar, particular in low light situations. In fact, while people with normal color vision typically see about one million unique shades of color, individuals with color deficiency are only able to perceive 5-10% of that. People with color deficiency often do not know they are color blind until they are tested. They assume everyone else perceives colors the same way. Often individuals are tested when they are seeking out certain career paths in which it is essential to distinguish colors such as pilots, electricians or police officers among others.
Innovations in Color Vision
Color blindness can impair certain aspects of daily life and limit certain activities or job options and therefore there are a number of companies out there working on technology to overcome these difficulties. While there is no cure for CVD, there are aids available that can sometimes assist with increased color perception.
There are a couple of brands of color enhancing glasses available that help some individuals with red-green colorblindness. Both EnChroma and o2Amp Oxy-Iso Color Correction Glasses work for about 80% of people with red-green colorblindness - which means that not everyone will have the same experience as those that appear in the videos. The lenses enhance color perception by filtering out the light into different spectral components. EnChroma has two versions - indoor, designed for looking at computer screens and outdoor, sunglasses. Another solution is a custom designed ColorCorrection System in which contact lenses and glasses are customized for the individual and are available with or without a prescription. These lenses work by changing the wavelength of the colors as they enter the eye to enhance color discrimination and perception.
Apps for CVD
There are a growing number of apps available for smartphones and tablets that serve as color vision aids for those with CVD. One example is the Colorblind Avenger which is a color identification program will allows the person to use their mobile device as a visual aid. The user takes a photo or selects an existing photo and when he touches an area on the image the app displays the color of the selected area. Huevue is another app of colorblind tools that help people with CVD identify, match and coordinate colors. There are many other apps available out there to help aid those with CVD and educate others about living with the condition. There are even video games and software design tools that are now created with colorblind modes to allow use by people with CVD. While none of these tools and aids are able to restore color vision permanently, they do allow those with the condition to live a more vibrant life.
Whether it is the sea, the sand, the sun or the softball field, summer brings people outside and this creates exposure to a multitude of potential dangers to the eyes. One risk that is possibly the least obvious is the swimming pool. Swimming pools are the culprit for multitudes of eye infections, irritations and sunburns each year.
3 tips for keeping your eyes safe
Cover Your Eyes Poolside
Sunlight reflects off water, sand and even cement, increasing exposure. Any time you are in the vicinity of a water source keep your eyes covered with 100% UV blocking sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat. Start this habit early. UV radiation builds up over your lifetime and has been linked to eye diseases such as cataracts and macular-degeneration in adults. Additionally, even short amounts of exposure to intense sunlight can lead to a sunburn of the eye or photokeratitis (see below for treatment), which can be painful and affect vision temporarily.
Remove or Protect Contact Lenses
Contact lenses can trap bacteria and microscopic organisms found in water inside your eye resulting in eye infections and irritation. Further, if contacts are worn underwater, they might fall off if you open your eyes. Lastly, there is risk that chlorine or other contaminants will bind onto the contact lens, and certain chemicals cannot be cleaned off or disinfected properly. The best solution is to wear non-prescription swimming goggles over your lenses to keep water and harmful organisms out of your eyes. Prescription goggles are also available for those who prefer to remove their contacts. If you must swim with contact lenses, remove them immediately after you leave the pool and discard or disinfect them thoroughly. It’s preferable to use 1-day disposable contact lenses during water activities, to reduce risk of water contaminating the contacts. Daily disposable lenses allow you to discard the lenses immediately after leaving the water and to start with a fresh lens.
Swimming goggles are a good idea even for those who have no vision problems. They protect your eyes from the organisms in the water and from chemical irritants such as chlorine and yes, even urine, which are often found in pools. Your eyes will feel much better after swimming if they haven’t been exposed to the water.
How to Treat Sunburned Eyes:
The cornea at the front of the eye can develop a sunburn from extensive exposure to UV radiation. You can tell you have sunburned eyes when the white of the eye becomes bloodshot and your eyes are sensitive to light and have a gritty feeling (like there is sand in your eye). They may also become sore and sometimes you may experience blurred vision. If you are experiencing discomfort it may help to soothe your eyes with lubricating eye drops, to rest and to stay out of sunlight as much as possible. Sometimes anti-inflammatory eye drops may be required. Usually the symptoms will resolve themselves within a couple of days. If your symptoms persist longer than two days or worsen, visit your eye doctor immediately. Avoid eye sunburns and the cumulative effects of the sun on your precious eyes by always wearing 100% UV blocking sunglasses - rain or shine!
This article might scare you, and we hope it does - just enough to motivate you to wear proper eye protection against the sun. Most people are aware of the dangers ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun pose to your skin, while the long-term effects of sun exposure on your eyes are less well-known. UV radiation can damage the internal structures of your eye, causing eye damage and vision loss, as well as threaten the delicate skin surrounding the eye and the lids. Before you head out into the sun without full eye protection consider the following risks:
Cataracts or a clouding of the natural clear lens of the eye which is responsible for the eye’s ability to focus for clear vision, is strongly linked to UV exposure. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) up to an estimated 20% of cataracts may be directly linked to UV exposure. Cataracts are the most common cause of treatable blindness around the world.
Macular Degeneration or Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in adults aged 50 and older. The vision loss occurs gradually and often unnoticeably as the macula - which is the center of the retina responsible for clear central vision - breaks down. While total blindness usually does not result, central vision is often lost resulting in a condition called low vision, which seriously impairs independent living and quality of life. UVA exposure has been shown to be a cause of macular degeneration.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, cancers of the eyelid account for 5 -10% of all skin cancers. Skin cancers of the eyelid which include basal cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas and melanoma, can all spread to the eye and surrounding areas, causing eye and vision damage as well as facial disfigurement. If left untreated, they can eventually spread to the brain. When diagnosed and treated early on these cancers have a positive response rate to surgery and follow-up care.
Early warning signs of eyelid cancer include:
- Chronic infection, red eye, swelling or inflammation that doesn’t respond to medication
- A change in the appearance of the skin on the eyelid
- A lesion that does not heal
- A lump or thickening on the eyelid that may bleed and doesn’t heal
- A sudden loss of eyelashes
If you have any of these symptoms, they may have other causes but it is best to consult with a doctor as soon as possible.
Keratitis or corneal sunburn occurs when excessive exposure to UV causes burns to the cornea. The cornea is the part of the eye that reflect light onto the retina allowing vision. A corneal sunburn can result in temporary vision loss. Keratitis is known to occur from use of tanning beds and while skiing or snowboarding at high altitudes in snowy conditions where the sun rays reflect off of the white snow into the eyes. Proper eye protection is essential for these environments.
The best step you can take to keep your eyes and vision safe from UV exposure is to ensure that you wear 100% UV blocking sunglasses any time your eyes are exposed to the sun. Larger framed sunglasses and or wide brimmed sunhats that prevent light from entering on the top and sides are even more effective. Take the time to ensure you have regular comprehensive eye exams as well to help catch any problems early on to prevent deterioration and save your eyes and vision.
A stye (known by eye doctors as a hordeolum) is an infection of an oil gland which forms a pimple-like bump on the base of the eyelid or within the eyelid itself. Styes can be uncomfortable, causing swelling, pain, redness, discomfort and sometimes excessive tearing or blurred vision if it is large enough to distort the front surface of the eyes.
What causes a stye?
The oil glands on the eyelid sometimes become blocked with dirt, dead skin or a buildup of oil and when this happens, bacteria can grow inside. Blockage is also commonly from eye cosmetics that block the orifices within the lid. This blockage causes the gland to become infected and inflamed, resulting in a stye. A stye can form on the inside or the outside of the eyelid and can cause swelling around the eye, sometimes affecting the entire eyelid.
Treating a stye
Styes are treated with antibiotics, often in severe cases with a prescription for oral antibiotics, to reduce the bacteria responsible for the infection. Treatment for a stye is recommended otherwise there is a likelihood of recurrence. Applying a hot compress to the eye for 10-15 minutes a few times throughout the day will bring some relief and speed up the healing process. Similar to a pimple, the stye will likely rupture, drain and heal on its own. Occasionally a stye, especially one on the inside of the eye will not resolve itself and may require the assistance of an eye doctor for additional treatment. In such a case the stye is surgically opened and drained to reduce the swelling and cosmetic issues associated with the style. You should never pop a stye! This can cause the bacteria to spread and worsen the infection. If a stye is getting worse, more painful or irritated, contact your eye doctor for treatment. In cases where styes occur frequently, your eye doctor may decide to prescribe topical antibiotic ointment or a cleansing regimen to prevent recurrence.
Chalazia: Another type of bump on the eyelid
Similar to a stye, a chalazion is a blocked oil gland on the eyelid that becomes enlarged. The main difference between a chalazion and stye is that the chalazion is non-infectious. Treatment involves lid hygiene, warm compresses and lid massage. If it is persistent, then surgical removal (incision and curettage) would be performed.
If you are over 40 and have difficulty seeing close up, you probably have a common age-related condition called presbyopia which is when the eye’s natural lens loses the ability to focus on close objects. Presbyopia is a natural process that occurs as the eye ages and affects the majority of people from age 40 and upward. Individuals with presbyopia are often familiar with the need to hold reading materials such as newspapers an arm’s length away from their eyes in order to see clearly, yet reading glasses with bifocal or multifocal (such as progressive) lenses can help. Fortunately for those who don’t like the look, feel or inconvenience of reading glasses, there is another option. Bifocal and multifocal lenses are also available in contact lenses in both soft and Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP) varieties. Multifocal contact lenses give you added freedom over glasses and they allow you to be able to view any direction - up, down and to the sides - with similar vision. People wearing progressive lenses in glasses on the other hand have to look over their glasses if they want to view upwards or into the distance. Multifocal contact lenses are generally designed in one of two ways, as either simultaneous vision lenses or alternating vision lenses.
Simultaneous Vision Lenses
The most popular version of multifocal contact lenses, simultaneous vision lenses present the distance and near vision zones of the lens at the same time. Typically after a short adjustment period your eyes learn to utilize the segment of the lens that they need to focus on the desired object and essentially ignore the other.
Translating or Alternating Vision lenses
Similar to bifocal eyeglass lenses, these contacts are divided into distinct areas or zones and your pupil will move to the desired zone depending on your vision needs. Typically the top of the lens, which is what you look through when looking straight ahead is for distance vision and the bottom area (what you look through when you look down) is for near vision. However, this can be reversed according to unique vision needs.
An Alternative Option to Multifocal Contact Lenses: Monovision
Monovision is another contact lens alternative for presbyopia particularly if you are having difficulty adapting to multifocal lenses. Monovision splits your distance and near vision between your eyes, using your dominant eye for distance vision and your non-dominant eye for near vision. Typically you will use single vision lenses in each eye however sometimes the dominant eye will use a single vision lens while a multifocal lens will be used in the other eye for intermediate and near vision. This is called modified monovision. Your eye doctor will perform a test to determine which type of lens is best suited for each eye and optimal vision.
Are Contact Lenses Right for You?
If you have presbyopia, contact lenses may be a great option for you. Many people prefer the look and convenience of contact lenses over traditional reading glasses. Speak to your eye doctor about the options available to you.
‘Tis the season for giving, and parents, grandparents, family and friends need to know which toys and games to leave off the list because they can pose a risk to children’s health and eyesight. Last year nearly 252,000 emergency visits were due to toy-related injuries, almost half of which were to the head or face. Further, about 1 in 10 children’s eye injuries treated in the emergency room can be traced back to toys, most of which occur in children under 15 years of age. The most common types of eye injuries that occur from toys can be anything from a scratch on the cornea (the front surface of the eye) to very serious injuries that can threaten vision such as traumatic cataracts, corneal ulcers, bleeding inside the eye and retinal detachment. Most of these injuries can be prevented by taking the proper measures to evaluate the safety of gifts before they are purchased and to supervise children during any play with toys that could have the potential to cause damage or harm.
Select safe toys for children this holiday season:
- Check age recommendations on all toys to make sure they are age appropriate and suitable for the child’s maturity level. If younger siblings are present, ensure that any toys made for older children are kept out of reach.
- When possible, check toys for a seal of approval that the product meets national safety standards from a toy safety testing organization such as the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).
- Do not purchase toys that have a projectile or sharp, protruding parts. Toys such as darts, guns, arrows or sharp propelling toys can cause serious eye injuries that can lead to permanent eye damage and even vision loss. Even high-powered water guns such as super soakers or soft foam dart guns can cause significant damage when shot at close range.
- Purchase safety eyewear with polycarbonate lenses to accompany sports equipment, chemistry sets or woodworking tools. Speak to your optometrist to learn more about the best option for your child’s hobby of choice.
- Check that toys with sticks or handles such as swords, fishing rods, pogo sticks, brooms or pony sticks have rounded edges or handles and avoid or supervise use with little children.
- Any toys or devices that have a laser or bright light (such as laser pointers or flashlights which are sometimes used by kids to play laser tag) can be dangerous. Bright lights such as those produced by high-powered flashlights can cause temporary vision loss that can lead to a risk of a fall or accident. Further, laser pointers are not safe for use by children as the light intensity can cause permanent vision loss if shined in someone’s eyes.
When purchasing a toy for a child that is important to you, make sure you are considering what is most important - their safety. Ask us if you have any questions about the eye safety of a toy or gift you are considering.
It's true. Diabetics have a higher risk of blindness than those without the disease. That fact coupled with the superior prognosis of early intervention, makes it easy to understand why optometrists and doctors say routine eye care is absolutely essential. Below, we'll discuss what your eye doctor is looking for during a diabetic eye exam. As the incidence of diabetes increases, it is important to spread awareness about the risks and proper preventative care for diabetes patients. November is Diabetes Awareness month, so read on! Diabetics are at greater risk of for a number of eye problems.
Diabetic retinopathy is the term used for the disorders associated with diabetes that cause progressive damage to the retina. The longer a patient has had diabetes, the more likely it is that he will develop these conditions which can be very serious, vision-threatening complications.
There are two types of retinopathy: nonproliferative and proliferative.
- Nonproliferative retinopathy, which is the most common form, is when capillaries at the back of the eye become weakened and may start to leak blood and fluids. Nonproliferative retinopathy, which often has no symptoms, can be characterized as mild, moderate or severe, depending on how many blood vessels are affected and becoming blocked. This type of retinopathy usually doesn't require treatment and doesn't cause vision loss, unless the leaking fluid ends up in the macula where the eye focuses - a condition called macular edema. If this happens, vision can be blurred and even lost so preventative treatment is essential.
- Proliferative retinopathy is much more severe. This is when so much damage is done to the blood vessels that they begin to close off. New blood vessels begin to grow in the retina as a response to this deterioration. The new and weak vessels can leak blood, impairing vision, or can form scar tissue which can distort the retina or cause a retinal detachment.
- Proliferative retinopathy requires urgent referral to an ophthalmologist for treatment. While it usually takes years to develop, some instances of proliferative retinopathy can occur within weeks or months if blood sugars are not well-controlled. Pregnancy can also accelerate proliferative retinopathy in known diabetics. Yet if detected early, treatment can be done successfully.
- Like high blood pressure, there are often no warning symptoms until advanced stages of diabetes. It is best to get checked each year by an optometrist. If you experience any changes in your vision such as spots in vision, flashes of light, blurred or double vision (rarely pain), make an appointment with your eye doctor immediately. Treatments do exists for retinopathy and many of them are successful in repairing damage and sometimes even restoring vision.
Cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye which blocks light from entering and impairs vision. While cataracts are a fairly common and treatable condition, people with diabetes are 60% more likely to develop the condition and often get them at a younger age. Those with the condition also may experience vision fluctuation which occurs from sugar levels affecting the lens of the eye. Cataracts often progress faster in diabetics as well. In serious cases of cataracts, a surgical procedure is done to remove the natural lens of the eye which can sometimes cause complications in diabetic patients that may already have symptoms of other conditions such as diabetic retinopathy.
Glaucoma is a serious condition where pressure builds up in the eye causing damage to the retina and optic nerve and eventually if left untreated, blindness. Diabetics are 40% more likely to develop glaucoma and the risk increases with age and the amount of time the individual has had diabetes. There are treatments for glaucoma including medications and surgery but early detection and treatment are essential to prevent permanent vision loss. Glaucoma is often called the "silent thief of sight" because vision loss often doesn't occur until significant damage is done. Therefore, yearly eye exams are essential.
Diabetics may experience reduced sensitivity in their cornea. This means that contact lens wearers that are diabetics should be more cautious, as they develop higher tolerance if the lens irritates the eyes and may be at greater risk of infection.
Eye Muscle Disturbance:
More advanced diabetes cases can show restriction of eye muscle movement due to nerve palsy.
For diabetics, the key to early detection and treatment - and therefore preserving your vision - is to have your eye health monitored on a regular basis. Get your eyes examined every year by an optometrist and if you experience any changes in your vision such as spots, floaters, blurred vision or pain, make an appointment with your eye doctor immediately.
Over the centuries there have been a lot of old-wives tales circulating about eyes and vision. You know, like the one that if someone hits you on the back while your eyes are crossed they will stay that way. Unlike this example, some of these myths do have roots in truth, yet filtering out those truths isn’t an easy task. Here are a few of the most common myths and truths about the eyes and vision.
Myth: Eating a lot of carrots will help you see in the dark.
Truth: Carrots have a lot of Vitamin A, a vitamin that is essential for good eyesight, but eating a lot of carrots isn’t going to give you 20/20 vision or help you see in the dark. Likely, the basis of this over-exaggeration is that night-blindness and vision loss found in underdeveloped countries can be a sign of malnutrition due to Vitamin A deficiency. However, you only need a relatively small amount of Vitamin A for vision, and it is easily obtainable in a normal balanced diet from a lot of sources, not limited to carrots. Higher-than-normal doses of Vitamin A might be useful in treating certain eye conditions and as part of a combination of vitamins used to slow the progression of early-stage macular degeneration. However, in any of these cases, do not take Vitamin A supplements without instructions from your eye doctor.
Myth: Wearing glasses makes your vision worse.
Truth: People think this is true because often once we start wearing glasses our vision continues to deteriorate and we have to keep going back for a higher prescription. The notion that wearing glasses causes your vision to get worse is simply not true. Distance vision or myopia typically gets worse over time, especially during childhood and adolescence, and does depend on whether the child wears glasses. Additionally, most people begin to experience vision deterioration as they enter their 40’s and 50’s with or without the use of vision correction devices.
Myth: Sitting too close to the TV is bad for your eyes.
Truth: While it may cause your eyes to feel tired, there is no evidence that sitting too close to the TV will harm your eyes or vision. Children in fact have a heightened ability to focus on close objects so often it is natural and relatively comfortable for them to sit close to a screen.
Myth: Reading in dim light can damage your eyes.
Truth: This one also has no good evidence. While yes, your eyes are working harder and may feel tired when reading in dim light, there is no evidence of permanent or long-term damage to your eyes.
Myth: As you get older there is nothing you can do to prevent vision loss.
Truth: While most older adults will eventually develop some degree of presbyopia which is near-vision loss, and eventually cataracts, no sign of vision loss should be ignored. Vision problems like these can be treated, allowing you to see clearly again. Moreover, there are many serious eye diseases such as glaucoma and macular degeneration that can threaten your vision and eyes with permanent and severe vision loss if not diagnosed and treated early. If you are 40 or older, you should have your eyes checked with a comprehensive eye exam on a yearly basis. In many cases, early treatment can save your eyesight.
Myth: Squinting causes vision loss.
Truth: Squinting is a natural reaction of your eyes to let less light into the pupil in order to sharpen your focus. Rather than impairing your vision, squinting is usually a sign that someone can’t see clearly which often suggests that their vision is impaired and that they need glasses to see better in the first place.
Got any other eye myths that you are curious about? Just ask at your next visit to our office. We are happy to help weed out the fact from the fiction.
Conjunctivitis, also called pink eye, is one of the most frequently seen eye diseases, especially in kids. It can be caused by viruses, bacteria or even allergies to pollen, chlorine in swimming pools, and ingredients in cosmetics, or other irritants, which touch the eyes. Some forms of conjunctivitis might be quite transmittable and quickly spread in school and at the office.
Conjunctivitis is seen when the conjunctiva, or thin transparent layer of tissue covering the white part of the eye, becomes inflamed. You can identify conjunctivitis if you notice eye redness, discharge, itching or swollen eyelids and a crusty discharge surrounding the eyes early in the day. Pink eye infections can be divided into three main types: viral, allergic and bacterial conjunctivitis.
The viral type is usually a result of a similar virus to that which produces the recognizable red, watery eyes, sore throat and runny nose of the common cold. The red, itchy, watery eyes caused by viral pink eye are likely to last from a week to two and then will clear up on their own. You may however, be able to reduce some of the discomfort by using soothing drops or compresses. Viral pink eye is transmittable until it is completely cleared up, so in the meantime maintain excellent hygiene, remove eye discharge and try to avoid using communal pillowcases or towels. If your son or daughter has viral conjunctivitis, he or she will have to be kept home from school for three days to a week until symptoms disappear.
A bacterial infection such as Staphylococcus or Streptococcus is usually treated with antibiotic eye drops or cream. One should notice an improvement within just a few days of antibiotic drops, but be sure to adhere to the full prescription dosage to prevent pink eye from recurring.
Allergic pink eye is not contagious. It is usually a result of a known allergy such as hay fever or pet allergies that sets off an allergic reaction in their eyes. First of all, to treat allergic pink eye, you should eliminate the irritant. Use cool compresses and artificial tears to relieve discomfort in mild cases. When the infection is more severe, your eye doctor might prescribe a medication such as an anti-inflammatory or antihistamine. In cases of chronic allergic pink eye, topical steroid eye drops could be used.
Pink eye should always be diagnosed by a qualified eye doctor in order to identify the type and best course of treatment. Never treat yourself! Keep in mind the sooner you begin treatment, the lower chance you have of giving pink eye to loved ones or prolonging your discomfort.
The hormonal fluctuations experienced during pregnancy can cause many unexpected changes in your body, including your eyes and vision. Most of these changes are temporary and will return to normal once you give birth. It’s important to know which vision changes are normal for an expecting mother and which could indicate a problem that requires medical attention.
Normal Vision Changes
Visual Acuity/Blurred vision
During pregnancy, you may notice a change in your vision due to hormone levels. If you find that your vision has gotten blurry or that your current prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses are not helping as much as they usually do, speak to your eye doctor. Often the change in your vision is due to fluid retention which can temporarily change the shape of your cornea. Since your hormones will continue to fluctuate and will return to normal shortly after you give birth or after you finish nursing, your doctor may advise waiting until after you deliver to assess whether you need to change your prescription. However, you may need a temporary pair of glasses with your current prescription if you need lenses for driving or other tasks that are dangerous or difficult without perfect eyesight.
Dry eyes is a common and usually temporary condition that is experienced during pregnancy. Dry eyes can lead to irritation and discomfort in general and especially when wearing contact lenses. To relieve dry eyes, over-the-counter lubricating or rewetting eye drops are completely safe to use during pregnancy and nursing. It’s a good idea to consult with your optometrist to make sure you’re using a good dry eye solution, and definitely see the eye doctor if symptoms persist or if you wear contact lenses.
Along with many other areas in the body, eyelids may swell during pregnancy. To reduce water retention, make sure you drink a lot of water and limit your intake of sodium and caffeine.
Vision Changes that Require Medical Attention
Some serious vision changes could be signs of preeclampsia, a potentially serious issue that occurs in 5-8% of pregnancies. Vision symptoms associated with the condition include temporary vision loss, light sensitivity, blurry vision, auras and the appearance of flashing lights, along with high blood pressure. If you experience these symptoms seek medical attention immediately.
Both women that are regularly diabetic and those that have gestational (pregnancy) diabetes need to keep an eye on their vision as blurred vision can indicate elevated blood sugar levels. The risks of vision loss associated with diabetes is heightened during pregnancy so it is critical to monitor blood sugar levels at all times. Women with gestational diabetes should get a diabetic eye exam, which includes dilating the eye and examining the retina for signs of retinopathy. While minor changes in your eyes and vision are a normal part of pregnancy, if at any time you notice persistent eye pain, vision loss or discomfort, visit your doctor. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
A baby’s visual system develops gradually over the first few months of life. They have to learn to focus and move their eyes, and use them together as a team. The brain also needs to learn how to process the visual information from the eyes to understand and interact with the world. With the development of eyesight comes also the foundation for motor development such as crawling, walking and hand-eye coordination. You can ensure that your baby is reaching milestones by keeping an eye on what is happening with your infant’s development and by ensuring that you schedule a comprehensive infant eye exam at 6 months. The AOA recommends that all babies have an eye exam by 6 months of age in order to be sure that the child is seeing properly, developing on track and to check for conditions that could impair vision (such as strabismus/misalignment of the eyes, farsightedness, nearsightedness, or astigmatism) or cause other health problems.
Here is the general progression of vision development in the first year of life. It is important to know that many babies fall outside of the normal progression and that reaching these milestones does not mean that an infant eye exam should be skipped.
Babies are just beginning to be able to focus on objects that are close - between 8-10 inches away. You may notice that your baby’s eyes don’t always work together and that one may drift inward or outward from time to time. If this is happening on occasion, there is no need for concern, however if you notice that the eyes are largely misaligned the majority of the time, consult with an eye care professional.
Babies will begin to follow objects and to reach for things they see in front of them. They will also learn to shift their gaze from one object to another without having to move their head.
By six months, babies are starting to be able to see more accurately and follow moving objects better. Their depth and color perception, eye teaming and alignment should be developing at this point. This is when you should schedule an eye exam to evaluate for visual acuity and eye coordination. The doctor will also check for the health of the eyes and look for anything that could interfere with normal development.
The last half of the first year is when infants start to really develop depth perception and hand-eye coordination. This is when you also need to be more vigilant about eye injuries as babies are starting to move around and explore their environment. Also keep a lookout for Strabismus or misalignment of the eyes. It is important that this is detected and treated early, otherwise it could lead to amblyopia or lazy eye, in which one eye does not develop properly. Lazy eye can lead to permanent vision problems if not corrected. Since the early development of vision is critical for future eyesight, learning and motor skills, if you have any concerns or questions about your baby’s eyes, contact your eye care professional immediately. Early treatment of vision and eye problems is often able to prevent developmental delays and permanent vision problems for the future.
Independence Day may have passed but fireworks season is still in full swing and fireworks-related injury and death is a real and serious danger. According to the 2014 Annual Fireworks Report, compiled by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission there were at least 11 deaths and 10,500 injuries due to fireworks last While the most common injuries occurred to the hands and fingers (approximately 36%), about 1 in every 5 of the injuries (19%) were to the eyes, where contusions, lacerations and foreign bodies in the eyes were the most common injuries. The danger to the eyes is serious and can result in permanent eye damage and loss of vision. Fireworks can rupture the globe of the eye or cause chemical and thermal burns, corneal abrasions and retinal detachment. Sadly, children from 5-9 years of age had the highest estimated rate of emergency department-treated fireworks-related injuries (5.2 injuries per 100,000 people) and children under 15 years old accounted for 35% of the total injuries. Nearly half of those injured were bystanders and not actually handling the fireworks themselves.
Here are Five Fireworks Safety Tips to enjoy fireworks safely:
- The safest way to view fireworks is at a professional public display rather than at home use.
- When viewing fireworks, carefully adhere to the safety barriers and view them from at least 500 feet away.
- Never touch unexploded fireworks. Contact local fire or police departments immediately to deal with them.
- Never let young children play with any type of fireworks even sparklers.
- In cases where consumer fireworks are legal, use them safely. Anyone that handles fireworks or is a bystander should wear proper protective gear and eyewear that meet national safety standards.
- Professional grade fireworks should only be handled by trained pyrotechnicians.
If a firework-related eye injury does occur, seek medical attention immediately. Try to leave the eye alone as much as possible; do not rub or rinse the eyes, apply pressure or try to remove an object that has entered the eye. In addition to knowing the dangers and safety precautions yourself, it’s important to teach your children about firework safety. Always remember that while they are fun to enjoy in the right setting, fireworks are explosive devices and should be treated as such.
Digital devices have impacted our world in so many positive ways, allowing us to connect, work, play and get information at the speed of light. But all of this good brings with it a measure of concern: Digital Eye Strain or Computer Vision Syndrome. Focusing on your vision on digital devices for long periods can cause eye fatigue and eyestrain. In fact, up to 70% of North American adults suffer from symptoms of Digital Eye Strain which include:
- Blurred or double vision
- Sore eyes
- Dry or watery eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Neck, shoulder or back pain
In addition to these symptoms, emerging research shows that blue light from digital devices causes sleep disturbances by interfering with the REM cycle of sleep. As people move from their computer to their tablet to their phone, more and more of these symptoms are being seen, and in younger and younger people.
How They Work
Computer glasses reduce eye strain by adjusting the focus slightly so your eyes feel like they are focusing on something further away. They also have a tint to remove the glare and block blue light from entering into your eyes.
Finding the Right Pair
There are a number of companies that make computer glasses, some that are designed for device users without a prescription or that would wear the glasses with contact lenses. Other manufacturers provide options to incorporate vision prescriptions into the lens. When shopping for computer glasses you want to make sure you find the right pair. The eyewear should sit nicely on your face and provide a comfortable tint.
Children and Computer Glasses
Children are using digital devices more than ever and this trend will only continue as smartphones take over and tablet and computer-based learning increases. Their use extends well beyond the school day as well, as they use computers for homework and gaming and smartphones to text with their friends. Computer glasses should be used for kids preventatively before eye strain begins to keep their eyes healthy longer and prevent nearsightedness. Don’t wait for eye strain to affect you and your family members. Take computer vision syndrome seriously and ask your eye doctor about how computer glasses can help.
It’s that time of year again…coughs, sneezing, running noses and itchy, red eyes. How do you know when an eye irritation is something that needs medical attention? First of all, any time an eye infection is accompanied by fever, excessive discharge or pain, you should see your eye doctor immediately. The eyes are sensitive and there could be a number of factors that contribute to discomfort and irritation, some of which require medication. There are also some types of eye infections that are very contagious, which you want to treat as soon as possible.
Pinkeye, also known as conjunctivitis, occurs when the conjunctiva, the thin membrane lining the eyelids and the whites of the eyes, becomes inflamed or swollen. The white part of the eye often also becomes red, thus the name, “Pink Eye”. Pinkeye is common among school-aged children because infectious pink-eye can be very contagious and spread quickly in classrooms, but it can occur at any age. The most common cause of pinkeye is a virus, although it can also be due to a bacterial infection or a non-infectious source such as allergies. One or both eyes may be affected. The symptoms and treatment for pink eye depend upon the type of pink eye you have. Typically, bacterial pink eye, which can be treated by an antibiotic eye drops or ointment, is associated with burning, itchy eyes accompanied by a thick, yellow pus-like discharge that makes the eyes difficult to open upon awakening. This must be treated by antibiotic according to the eye doctor's instructions for a minimum of 5 days, to prevent bacterial resistance. On occasion if the infection is not responding to topical medications, oral antibiotics may be used. Viral pink eye, which can’t be treated by antibiotics, usually runs its course between 1 and 3 weeks. It typically causes teary eyes, swollen lymph nodes and a lighter more translucent mucus discharge. Sometimes the eye symptoms come in conjunction with an upper respiratory infection or a cold. Viral pink eye is extremely contagious. Allergic pink eye is often characterized by redness, intense itching, and tears in both eyes and will usually respond to antihistamines, topical vasoconstrictors, or steroid eye drops (which should only be used with a doctor’s prescription). Eye rubbing can aggravate the itching and swelling, so try to use cool compresses and allergy medication as prescribed. Preservative-free artificial tears may also provide some relief. Any time pink eye symptoms do not improve after a few days, particularly if there is significant discharge, see your eye doctor. Make sure to clean the hands thoroughly after every encounter with the infected eye.
Styes are inflamed oil glands or hair follicles on the eyelid (usually along the lash line or under the lid). The inflammation is caused by bacteria and results in a swollen, red and painful bump. Often styes will eventually go away on their own, but if they occur often, a doctor might prescribe topical or oral antibiotics or sometimes even drain it though a minor surgical procedure. Warm compresses can be used not only to ease the pressure and discomfort but also to open up the stye to facilitate healing. Styes are typically not contagious. Most eye infections are not dangerous but they can be quite uncomfortable. If you have an eye infection make sure you take the proper steps to stay comfortable and prevent the infection from spreading to your loved ones.
Have you ever wondered what your eyes do when you finally close them after a long day of visual processing and stimulation? Let's take a closer look at what happens behind your closed lids when your head hits the pillow. Firstly, once your eyes are closed, they do continue to function in a limited fashion with the ability to sense light. This explains why a bright light being switched on or the sun rising in the morning can wake you up, while lying in a dark room will help you sleep. During sleep your eyes don't send visual data or information about images to your brain. In fact, it takes almost 30 seconds for the connection between your eyes and your brain to reboot when you wake up. This is why it's often difficult to see complete and clear images when you first wake up.
Our bodies pass through five phases of sleep known as stages 1, 2, 3, 4, (which together are called Non-REM) and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. During a typical sleep cycle, you progress from stage 1 to 4 then REM and then start over. Almost 50 percent of our total sleep time is spent in stage 2 sleep, while 20 percent is spent in REM sleep, and the remaining 30 percent in the other stages. During stage 1, your eyes roll slowly, opening and closing slightly; however the eyes are then still from stages 2-4 when sleep is deeper.
During REM sleep, your eyes move around rapidly in a range of directions, but don’t send any visual information to your brain. Scientists have discovered that during REM sleep the visual cortex of the brain, which is responsible for processing visual data, is active. However, this activity serves part of a memory forming or reinforcing function which aims to consolidate your memory with experiences from the day, as opposed to processing visual information that you see. This is also the time when most people dream.
As for your eyelids, they cover your eyes and function as a shield protecting them from light. They also help preserve moisture on the cornea and prevent your eyes from drying out while your body is resting. In short, while your eyes do move around during sleep, they are not actively processing visual imagery. Closing your eyelids and sleeping essentially gives your eyes a break. Shut-eye helps recharge your eyes, preparing them to help you see the next day.
Your eyes communicate much more than you may realize, in fact they play a huge role in your non-verbal communication. Consciously or not, the way you move your eyes, look at someone, blink or make eye contact can say a lot about what you are thinking and feeling. Here's a look at how your eyes speak volumes and how you can learn to read other's emotions through their eyes. Although it is considered unreliable or controversial by some, eye movement analysis might have some truth to it. With these tips you may be able to tell if someone is happy, sad, excited, stressed or not telling the truth.
According to body language expert and former FBI counterintelligence officer, Joe Navarro, if a person's eyes move up and to the right when you ask him a question he is more than likely lying. If the person looks up and to the left he is probably telling the truth. However, it's important to realize that when someone looks around it doesn’t always mean he is lying. People sometimes look around when they are trying to process information too.
When someone blinks fast it is often a sign that they are under stress. At rest, the normal blink rate ranges between 8 and 21 blinks per minute. If a person blinks more frequently, such as when asked a challenging question, it is usually because he is stressed. But this isn’t always the case. Blink rates can also increase as result of dry air, dry eyes and allergens in the air that irritate the eyes.
Disgust / Distaste
If you see someone narrow his eyes when you are speaking to him, this is usually a negative response showing you that he finds what you are saying to be offensive. When it comes to showing distaste with the eyes, the narrower the eyes are, the more unpleasant you find what is being said. However, the best way to decipher a person's true emotions is by looking at the rest of his face. For example, narrow eyes and tight lips indicate anger.
If someone is uncomfortable with something you have said, he will often use a body language tactic called eye blocking. For example if you see someone cover his eyes or lower his eyelids following a request you make or something you say, it is sign that he is not comfortable or disagrees with what you have said.
Happiness is conveyed through the eyes in a number of ways. Arched eyebrows accompanied with a smile indicate you are happy to see someone. Mothers do this naturally with their babies across all cultures. Another way that happiness can be detected through the eyes is through the size of the pupils, which is of course an involuntary reflex. Large pupils let others know that you like what you see. Studies have shown that when you look at an object or person you love, your pupil size increases.
Fear or Surprise
Fear is usually indicated by wide open eyes not accompanied with a smile but often an “O” shaped mouth. Surprise on the other hand is also usually shown by wide open eyes along with a fleeting look. Additionally, the pupils will dilate if a person is frightened or excited due to the natural adrenalin response of the body.
When someone is focused on something, particularly a near object, the pupils will constrict. Alternatively, they will dilate when someone is looking at a far distance.
These are only some of the non verbal emotions we express with our eyes. Next time you have a conversation, look out for these cues. They can help you really understand your friends, family, and colleagues and improve empathy and communication.
It's been said that your eyes are the window to your soul. Well, research is showing that your eyes are a window to a lot more than your thoughts and emotions; it can be an indicator of your overall health. A study by UnitedHealthcare entitled, “Impact of Eye Exams in Identifying Chronic Conditions” showed that through comprehensive eye exams, eye care practitioners can identify some chronic diseases and conditions to help with early diagnosis, an earlier start of treatment and better disease management and prognosis.
What makes the eye so special in this regard is that it is the only organ through which you can see nerves and blood vessels without an invasive procedure or surgery. Aside from known eye diseases, many other conditions have symptoms that manifest in your eyes. Sometimes an eye exam can reveal damage caused by chronic conditions and disease in other parts of your body, before you even begin to notice symptoms. For many chronic conditions and diseases, early diagnosis and treatment are essential for a successful outcome, and these discoveries through an eye exam can often detect the early stages of disease.
According to the study, eye doctors identified 15% of participants with diabetes and multiple sclerosis, in addition to a number of other chronic conditions including high cholesterol, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and Graves disease. An eye exam can also detect neurological, thyroid and autoimmune diseases. Let’s have a look at some of these conditions individually and how an eye exam by an experienced eye doctor can detect a problem from the window of the eye:
Diabetes can cause an eye disease called diabetic retinopathy, where blood vessels inside the eyes become prone to leaking fluid and small amounts of blood onto the retina. Retinal vascular changes and blood vessel hemorrhaging areindicators that diabetes is present and may be affecting other sensitive organs and tissues like the kidney.
Hypertension / high blood pressure:
High intraocular pressure readings obtained from measuring the pressure inside your eye are usually associated with glaucoma, but they can also indicate high blood pressure.
High cholesterol puts you at risk for cardiovascular disease and strokes. Rarely, it can present in the eye by a white painless ring around the outer edge of the cornea, called an arcus, which is a buildup of fat particles (not to be confused with an arcus senilis , which affects the elderly and is not necessarily associated with cholesterol). Occasionally, a dilated eye exam can detect signs of high cholesterol. In severe cases, retinal vein occlusion can develop which means the blood flowing to and from your eye is blocked, which may be related to a clot that leads to sudden vision loss.
Although your eye can twitch form time to time, a persistent eye twitch combined with a twitch on the side of your mouth and/or other symptoms might indicate that a neurological disease such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's is developing. Most eye twitches have benign causes like fatigue, stress, or caffeine.
Your thyroid gland regulates your body's metabolism. A classic sign of thyroid disease is a bulging eyeball, because an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can cause swelling of the soft tissues within the eye socket. Since thyroid hormones are involved in hair production, an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can lead to hair loss in the outer part of the eyebrow.
Certain autoimmune diseases can affect the eyes, including HIV, Graves Disease, Sjogren’s syndrome, systemic lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and uveitis. These are only some of the diseases that present symptoms which manifest in your eyes, but this sample does illustrate how enlightening a simple eye exam can be. Eye exams are not only to make sure your vision is up to par. Have your eyes checked regularly to ensure you are keeping your eye health and overall health in check.
Just because the summer is coming to an end, doesn’t mean that we have to say goodbye to the swimming pool. Whether it means a nice refreshing dip on a warm fall afternoon or a winter swim in an indoor pool, swimming is a great activity for both fun and exercise. Nevertheless, have you ever wondered if all of this splashing around in chlorine-filled water can affect your eyes and vision? Swimming pool water is chlorinated to keep it sanitized. The chlorine helps reduce water-borne bacteria and viruses to prevent pathogens and disease from spreading. While chlorine is a successful water sanitizer, its efficacy depends on a number of factors including how recently it was added to the water, the concentration of the chemical and how much the pool is used.
When your eyes are submerged in chlorinated pool water, the tear film that usually acts as a defensive shield for your cornea is washed away. This means that your eyes are no longer protected from dirt or bacteria that are not entirely eliminated by the treated pool water. So, swimmers can be prone to eye infections. One of the most common eye infections from swimming is conjunctivitis or pink eye, which can either be viral or bacterial. Another eye issue that often develops from contact with chlorinated water is red, irritated eyes. When your cornea dehydrates as a result of exposure to chlorine, the irritation is often accompanied by blurriness, which can result in distorted vision temporarily. Although these symptoms usually disappear within a few minutes, the recovery time tends to increase with age. Using lubricating eye drops can help alleviate symptoms by restoring the hydrating, protective tear shield in your eye.
If you wear contact lenses, be sure to remove them before jumping in the pool. Contact lens patients are prone to an eye infection called acanthamoebic keratitis, which develops when a type of amoeba gets trapped in the space between the cornea and the contact lens and begins to live there. This infection can result in permanent visual impairment or lead to ulcers on the cornea. If you have taken a dip with contacts on, be sure to remove your lenses, rinse them with lens solution and refrain from sleeping in them after you've had a swim. There is no way to be one hundred percent sure of what is floating around in a swimming pool, so the best way to protect your eyes is to use water-tight goggles that fit you well. This way you can enjoy your swim without risking your eyes or your vision.
Eye charts of different variations have become a standard in vision screenings and eye exams. One of the most familiar charts associated with vision is the Snellen eye chart, designed by Dutch ophthalmologist Hermann Snellen in 1862 to measure visual acuity- how well you can see at various distances. Although there are variations of the Snellen chart used today, a traditional Snellen chart has eleven lines of block letters. The first line has one very large letter, which is one of several letters, for example E, H, or N. The following rows have increasing numbers of letters that become smaller in size as you read from the top to the bottom of the chart. The letters used on the chart are C, D, E, F, L, N, O, P, T, and Z. When taking a vision exam, one eye is covered and you are asked to read the letters of each row aloud beginning at the top of the chart. The smallest row that you can read correctly indicates the visual acuity in the eye being tested.
The chart is positioned at a distance of 20 feet in the United States or 6 meters in the rest of the world. The term 20/20 vision is used to indicate the clarity and sharpness of your vision measured at a distance of 20 feet. If you have 20/20 vision, you can see clearly at 20 feet objects that can normally be seen at that distance. If you have 20/40 vision, it means that you need to be as close as 20 feet to see what a person with normal vision can see at 40 feet. The largest letter on an eye chart often represents an acuity of 20/200 which is associated with the term "legally blind." You will be asked to read the letters one eye at a time. Some people can see well at a distance, but are unable to bring nearer objects into focus, while others can see items that are close, but cannot see them far away. By having you read the chart, your eye doctor is able to ascertain whether you have difficulty with distance vision and can determine which corrective lenses can be used to improve it. Near vision problems or other vision and eye health issues may not be detected with the Snellen eye chart alone, so a comprehensive eye exam is always recommended. The next time you hop into the chair at your optometrists' office, you'll be able to understand why you have to read the letters on the chart in front of you and what the results mean for your vision.