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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.
If you are rubbing your eyes because you are tired, think again. Rubbing your eyes frequently can contribute to bloodshot eyes and dark circles due to the breakage of tiny blood vessels in and around your eyes. If you are already tired, this can add to an even more worn-out appearance.
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 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!
Migraine Awareness Month:
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.
Here is a breakdown of some of the visual skills you rely on for athletic performance:
Visual Acuity: 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.
Peripheral Vision: 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.
Depth Perception: the ability to perceive the relative distance and speed of objects in your field of vision.
Visual Tracking: 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”.
Focusing: allows for the ability change focus quickly and clearly from one distance or object to another.
Eye Teaming: 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.
- Frequent Floaters
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.
- Bleeding Eyes
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.
Here are seven lifestyle tips to protect your eyes and vision and reduce your risks of vision-threatening 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.
Other Eye Conditions Linked to UV Exposure
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.
Here are some 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.
It’s that time of year again. January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, a time set aside each year to create awareness about this potentially devastating disease. The reason awareness about glaucoma is so important is because as its nickname, The Sneak Thief of Sight, describes, the disease often causes permanent damage to your eyes and vision without any noticeable symptoms, until it’s too late. In fact, up to 40% of your vision could be lost without any noticeable symptoms! This is why awareness and early detection are essential for effective treatment.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is the leading cause of permanent blindness worldwide. It is a group of eye diseases that results in damage to the optic nerve, which can lead to vision loss and eventual blindness.
Most cases of glaucoma occur without obvious symptoms. Often people think they will experience headache or eye pain, however this is largely a misconception. There are several types of glaucoma and only one, angle closure glaucoma, typically presents with pain.
Treatment for Glaucoma
While there is still no cure for glaucoma, there are medications and surgical procedures that are able to prevent and slow any further vision loss. However, any vision that is lost is irreversible, usually. Again, this is why early detection is key to stopping and preventing vision loss and blindness. Glaucoma screening includes a number of tests. Many people believe the “air-puff” test used to measure eye pressure is what detects glaucoma, but this is not the whole picture. In fact, many people can develop glaucoma with normal eye pressure. Today newer technologies are available, such as OCT (like an ultrasound), which allow eye doctors to look directly at the optic nerve to assess glaucoma progression. The treatment plan depends on a number of factors including the type of glaucoma and severity of the eye damage.
While anyone can be affected by glaucoma, there are certain risk factors that are known to increase the likelihood of getting the disease. Being aware of the risk factors and knowing whether you are at higher risk puts you in a better position to take steps toward prevention, including regular screenings by an eye doctor. Here are some of the major risk factors:
Glaucoma Risk Factors
- Over 60 years old (over 40 for African Americans)
- Family history of glaucoma
- African or Hispanic descent
- Previous eye injury or surgery – even a childhood eye injury can lead to glaucoma decades later
- High nearsightedness or farsightedness
- Cortisone steroid use (in the form of eye drops, pills, creams etc.)
Now that you know the risk factors, what can you do to prevent glaucoma? Here are some guidelines for an eye healthy lifestyle that can prevent glaucoma, as well as many other eye and not-eye related diseases:
- Don’t smoke
- Exercise daily
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Prevent UV exposure (by wearing sunglasses, protective clothing and sunscreen when outdoors)
- Get regular comprehensive eye exams – and make sure to tell your eye doctor if you have risk factors for glaucoma
- Eat a healthy diet rich in a large variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, vitamins A, C, E and D, zinc and omega 3 fatty acids
Even if you have 20/20 vision, you may still have an asymptomatic eye disease such as glaucoma. Glaucoma Awareness is step one in prevention but there is a lot more to do to keep your eyes and vision safe. During January, make a commitment to take the following additional steps toward glaucoma prevention:
- Assess your risk factors
- Schedule a comprehensive eye exam and discuss glaucoma with your eye doctor. Even if you feel you have clear vision, it is worthwhile to book an eye exam in order to detect eye diseases such as this “Sneak Thief”.
- Adopt the healthy, preventative lifestyle guidelines outlined above
- Spread the word. Talk about glaucoma to friends and family to ensure that they too can become aware and take steps to prevent glaucoma from stealing their sight.
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.
- 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.
- Oily Fish: 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: 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: 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.
- Cruciferous vegetables: 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: 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!
November 14th is World Diabetes Day. This year, the theme of World Diabetes Day is women and diabetes – our right to a healthy future. The goal of this campaign is to promote awareness of the importance of equal and affordable access for all women, whether they are at risk or already living with diabetes, to the treatments, medications, technology, education and information they need to prevent diabetes and to obtain the best possible outcome of the disease.
Here are some facts about women and diabetes around the World:
- 199 million – the number of women living with diabetes to date.
- 313 million – the projected statistic for the year 2040.
- 2.1 million – the number of female deaths due to diabetes per year.
- 9 – diabetes is the ninth leading cause of death in women on a global scale.
- 60 million – which is 2 out of 5 diabetic women, are of reproductive age, which increases the risk of early miscarriage, vision loss and having malformed babies.
- 10 – women with type 2 diabetes are ten times more likely to develop coronary heart disease.
Much of these incidences of diabetes occur in women lacking access to proper medical care, education, physical activity and information they need to prevent and manage the disease. If more efforts and monies were put toward improving this situation, these numbers could drop significantly.
Pregnant women with hyperglycemia and gestational diabetes are also a major cause of concern. Limited access to screening tests, pre-pregnancy planning services, education and medical care could also improve the outcome of both the mother and the baby in these cases. The majority of instances of gestational diabetes occur in women from low and middle-income countries or households with limited access to maternal care.
Here are some additional facts about diabetes and pregnancy:
- 1 out of 7 – the number of births worldwide affected by gestational diabetes.
- 1 out of 2 – the number of women with gestational diabetes that develop type 2 diabetes within 5-10 years after giving birth.
- 1 out of 2 – the number of cases of gestational diabetes that are found in women under 30 years of age.
Diabetes and Your Eyes
Diabetes damages many systems in your body including your eyes and vision. Most individuals with diabetes will eventually develop some extent of retinopathy or eye disease due to the consistently high levels of glucose in the blood which damage the blood vessels in the eye. Diabetic retinopathy can be a devastating disease that can leave you with permanent vision loss or blindness. It is a leading cause of blindness worldwide. Diabetes also speeds up the formation of cataracts and other ocular diseases which can lead to further vision loss and complications.
Women who have been diagnosed with diabetes prior to becoming pregnant have to be especially careful during pregnancy. It is much more difficult to regulate blood sugars during pregnancy, and more rapid progression of diabetic retinopathy can occur if one is not careful. Keeping track of diet and exercise, and taking medications as directed, can prevent or delay the impact of diabetes on the eyes.
In addition to poorly managed blood sugar levels, additional factors that contribute to developing diabetic retinopathy are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Hispanic or Native American descent, smoking, pregnancy, and the length of time you have the disease. The condition can be managed with regular eye exams in combination with steps to control blood sugar levels.
It’s important to note that diabetes sometimes causes symptoms of vision fluctuation (good days and bad days with vision or focusing) but many times the damage is asymptomatic in its early stages. This is why it is essential to have regular checkups even when you have no pain or vision symptoms.
If you or someone you know has diabetes, regular eye exams are essential to monitor and prevent vision loss. Stay informed and spread awareness about this challenging condition. You can help be part of the change to improve the lives of women and people all over the world that suffer from diabetes and the serious complications that come with it.
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
- Sightsavers: www.sightsavers.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!
October has arrived and that means many people are already starting to plan for upcoming costume parties and trick-or-treating for the Halloween season. This is why now is the time to remind the public about some very important precautions about eye safety since there are some common costume props and accessories out there can be very dangerous to your eyes.
Cosmetic Contact Lenses
One of the biggest costume-related dangers to your eyes and vision is cosmetic or decorative contact lenses. Decorative lenses can be a great addition to your costume, but they must be obtained safely and legally with a prescription, through a professional, authorized vendor.
The bottom line is that contact lenses are a medical device that are manufactured and distributed under very strict regulations. Even non-corrective contact lenses require an eye exam to measure your eye and fit lenses according to a prescription. Costume stores, beauty supply stores and similar websites are not authorized dealers of contact lenses, and over-the-counter contact lenses are not legal under any circumstances.
Beware of anyone advertising “one-size-fits all” lenses or promoting that you do not need a prescription to purchase. Never buy contact lenses that don’t require a prescription. You could be risking serious damage to the eye and even blindness.
When contact lenses are not fitted to your unique eye measurements by an eye doctor, they can cause dryness and discomfort as well as a corneal abrasion or a scratch on the front surface of the eye. Serious corneal abrasions can leave scars and create permanent vision damage. Further, unregulated contact lenses may not be manufactured with optimal materials that are flexible and breathable and can be applied and removed properly. There are stories of lenses being stuck to people’s eyes and causing serious damage. Even if you aren’t feeling pain, it is best to check with a qualified licensed contact lens fitter to confirm if the contact lens is causing any harm to the eyes.
Non-prescription contacts have also been shown to present a higher risk of eye infection. Serious infections can lead to vision loss, sometimes on a permanent basis. There are far too many stories these days of people that have used off-the-counter contact lenses that are now blind or suffering serious vision loss and chronic discomfort.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to forgo your red, devil eyes this year! Just be safe and plan ahead. There are many manufacturers of cosmetic lenses, and these can be obtained safely through an authorized contact lens dealer. Contact your eye doctor or local optician to find out more.
False eyelashes have become quite the rage in recent years but they carry a number of risks with them as well. First of all, they can damage the natural eyelash hair follicles, causing them to fall out, sometimes permanently. The chances of this increase when people sleep in their lashes or leave them on for extended periods of time. In addition to the aesthetic damage, this can be dangerous to your eyes because eyelashes are essential for protecting your eyes from sweat, debris, and dust. Without your eyelashes your eyes are at greater risk for infection and irritation.
False eyelashes can also be a trap for dirt, debris and bacteria which can enter your eye causing irritation and infections, along the lids or inside the eye itself. As we said above, severe infections can sometimes lead to vision loss.
Additionally, the glue that adheres the lashes to your eyelid can sometimes cause an allergic reaction in the skin around the eye or to the eye itself. The eye is one of the most sensitive areas of the body, so you want to keep any potential allergens or irritants far, far away.
Masks and Props
If your (or your child’s) costume includes a mask, fake face, hood or anything else that goes on your head, make sure that visibility isn’t impaired. Unfortunately, it’s common for children especially to trip and fall because they cannot see well. Also, use caution when using props such as plastic swords, pitchforks, guns, sports equipment which can easily cause a corneal abrasion or contusion to the eye if hit in the face.
Lastly be careful about the makeup you apply around your eyes. Wash your hands before you apply eye makeup and don’t share makeup and brushes with others, as this can lead to the spread of infections such as conjunctivitis (pink eye). Make sure your makeup isn’t expired (mascara for example is recommended to throw away 2-4 months after opening) and try not to apply anything like eyeliner too close to the underside of the eyelid. Lastly, only use makeup intended for eyes in the area around the eyes.
When you are planning for this Halloween season, just remember that your vision is too high a price to pay for any great costume. Dress up safely and Happy Halloween!
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.
What Exactly Is a Black Eye?
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.
Treatment for a Black Eye
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.
It’s National Cataract Awareness Month
According to the World Health Organization, cataracts are responsible for 51% of cases of blindness worldwide – although this blindness is preventable with treatment. In fact, research shows that in industrialized countries about 50% of individuals over the age of 70 have had a cataract in at least one eye. This is partially because cataracts are a natural part of the aging process of the eye, so as people in general live longer, the incidence of cataracts continue to increase.
What are Cataracts?
Cataracts occur when the natural lens in the eye begins to cloud, causing blurred vision that progressively gets worse. In addition to age, cataracts can be caused or accelerated by a number of factors including physical trauma or injury to the eye, poor nutrition, smoking, diabetes, certain medications (such as corticosteroids), long-term exposure to radiation and certain eye conditions such as uveitis. Cataracts can also be congenital (present at birth).
The eye’s lens is responsible for the passage of light into the eye and focusing that light onto the retina. It is responsible for the eye’s ability to focus and see clearly. That’s why when the lens is not working effectively, the eye loses it’s clear focus and objects appear blurred. In addition to increasingly blurred vision, symptoms of cataracts include:
“Washed Out” Vision or Double Vision:
People and objects appear hazy, blurred or “washed out” with less definition, depth and color. Many describe this as being similar to looking out of a dirty window. This makes many activities of daily living a challenge including reading, watching television, driving or doing basic chores.
Increased Glare Sensitivity:
This can happen both from outdoor sunlight or light reflected off of shiny objects indoors. Glare sensitivity causes problems with driving, particularly at night and generally seeing our surroundings clearly and comfortably.
Often colors won’t appear as vibrant as they once did, often having a brown undertone. Color distinction may become difficult as well.
Compromised Contrast and Depth Perception:
These eye skills are greatly affected by the damage to the lens.
Often individuals with cataracts find that they require more light than they used to, to be able to see clearly and perform basic activities.
Early stage cataracts may be able to be treated with glasses or lifestyle changes, such as using brighter lights, but if they are hindering the ability to function in daily life, it might mean it is time for cataract surgery.
Cataract surgery is one of the most common surgeries performed today and it involves removing the natural lens and replacing it with an artificial lens, called an implant or an intraocular lens. Typically the standard implants correct the patient’s distance vision but reading glasses are still needed. However as technology has gotten more sophisticated you can now get multifocal implants that can reduce or eliminate the need for glasses altogether. Usually the procedure is an outpatient procedure (you will go home the same day) and 95% of patients experience improved vision almost immediately.
While doctors still don’t know exactly how much each risk factor leads to cataracts there are a few ways you can keep your eyes healthy and reduce your risks:
- Refrain from smoking and high alcohol consumption
- Exercise and eat well, including lots of fruits and vegetables that contain antioxidants
- Protect your eyes from UV radiation like from sunlight
- Control diabetes and hypertension
Most importantly, see your eye doctor regularly for a comprehensive eye exam. If you are over 40 or at risk, make sure to schedule a yearly eye exam.
You Don’t Have to Live With Dry Eyes
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.
Eye Doctors Weigh In: How Smoking Can Harm Your Vision & Eye Health
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.
In honor of Sjogren’s Awareness month, eye care providers are helping to spread the word to increase awareness about this hard-to-diagnose disease.
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.
Hey women! Did you know that women are more likely to suffer from vision problems and are at higher risk of permanent vision loss than men? Well 91% of the women surveyed recently didn’t know that, which means that many of them aren’t taking the necessary precautions to prevent eye damage and vision loss.
According to a recent study, the statistics for many of the major vision problems show that women have a higher percentage of incidence than men. These include:
- Age-related Macular Degeneration 65%
- Cataracts 61%
- Glaucoma 61%
- Refractive Error 56%
- Vision Impairment 63%
Women are also more susceptible to develop chronic dry eye, partially because it is often associated with other health issues that are more common in women such as ocular rosacea which is three times more prevalent in women. Hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause can also contribute to dry eye.
It’s important for women to know the risks for eye-related diseases and vision impairment and the steps they can take to prevent eventual vision loss. Here are some ways that you can help to protect your eyes and save your eyesight:
- Find out about family history of eye diseases and conditions.
- Protect your eyes from the sun by wearing 100% UV blocking sunglasses when outdoors.
- Don’t smoke.
- Consume a healthy diet with proper nutrition and special eye health supplements as prescribed by an eye doctor.
- Adhere to contact lens hygiene and safety.
- Adhere to cosmetic hygiene and safety precautions.
- Protect your eyes against extended exposure to blue light from computers, smartphones and LED lamps.
- If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant and have diabetes, see an eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam. In women who have diabetes, diabetic retinopathy can accelerate quickly during pregnancy and can present a risk for the baby as well.
Mothers are often charged with caring for the eye health of the entire family, but too often their own eye health needs fall to the wayside. It is critical that mothers take care of their eyes and overall health so that they can be in the best condition to care for their families.
Speak to your eye care professional about your personal eye health and vision risks and the precautions and measures you should take to protect your eyes. Encourage the other women in your life to do so as well. Once vision is lost, it often can’t be regained and there are many steps you can take to prevent it with proper knowledge and awareness.
The most important way to prevent vision loss is to ensure you schedule regular eye exams. Don’t wait for symptoms to appear as many eye issues are painless and symptomless, and sometimes by the time you notice symptoms, vision loss is untreatable.
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.
Workplace Eye Safety Month
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 colors 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.
Age-related macular degeneration is a serious condition that can threaten your vision and general well-being. Characterized by the deterioration of the central area of the retina called the macula which is responsible for focused vision, the disease gradually reduces your central vision. This affects the ability to see fine details, recognize faces, read, drive, watch television and even use a computer. The disease often leaves some vision resulting in a condition called low vision, which is considered a form of legal blindness.
AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in the older population and the numbers are expected to increase as Americans and Canadians continue to live longer.
What causes AMD and how can it be prevented?
As you can see by the name, the primary risk factor of AMD is age, particularly over age 50. Caucasian women are the most common demographic to be hit with this ocular disease; family medical history and having lighter colored hair, skin and eyes play a large role as well. However, several lifestyle factors have been shown to cause an increase in AMD development; so there may be ways to reduce your risk, even if you have a genetic predisposition.
In fact, most of the controllable risk factors pose general health risks that cause a plethora of health issues, so addressing them will boost your overall health and wellness, in addition to protecting your eyes and vision from AMD. Here are 6 ways to prevent AMD and the vision loss that accompanies it:
1. Stop Smoking
Smoking, and even living with a smoker, have been shown to significantly increase your risks of developing AMD to between 2-5 times the risk of non-smokers! If you also have a hereditary risk, smoking compounds that risk tremendously.
2. Get Active
Studies show that obesity and a sedentary lifestyle increase the risk of advanced macular degeneration that leads to significant vision loss. Maintaining a healthy weight and being active can reduce your risk. That could be as easy as regular walking, at least 3 times a week for 30 minutes.
3. Control Blood Pressure
Since the eye contains many tiny blood vessels, high blood pressure can have a serious impact on the health of your eyes. Have your blood pressure checked by your doctor and follow any medical advice you are given to reduce high blood pressure, whether that includes diet, exercise or medication.
4. Choose a Healthy Diet
A diet rich in antioxidants has been shown to protect against AMD. Antioxidants can be found in abundance in dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, kale and collard greens, as well as orange fruits and vegetables such as peppers, oranges, mango and cantaloupe. Eating a wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables, 5-9 servings a day, as well as fish, which contain Omega-3, and avoiding sugar and processed foods will help to keep your body healthy in many ways, including reducing your risk of AMD.
5. Use UV and Blue Light Protection
Long-term exposure to UV rays from the sun and blue light (from digital devices among other things) have been linked to AMD. Make sure you wear sunglasses every time you are exposed to sunlight and wear blue light blocking glasses when you are viewing a digital device or computer for extended periods of time.
6. Take Supplements*
Certain nutritional supplements have been shown to slow the progression of AMD and the vision loss that accompanies it. This formula of supplements was developed from a 10 year study of 3,500 people with AMD called the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) and its successor AREDS2. It is not recommended to take supplementation as a preventative measure but rather only if you are diagnosed with intermediate or advanced AMD.
*Speak to your eye doctor before you make a decision about this option.
During your yearly comprehensive eye exam, your eye doctor will screen for early signs of AMD and recommend treatment if it’s detected. If you’re at greater risk – because of your age or a family history of AMD / blindness of unknown cause, for example – additional testing may be necessary.
AMD can be a devastating disease. If you are aware that you are at risk, it is worthwhile to do everything you can to prevent it and the vision loss that it can bring. Take the time to understand AMD and do what it takes to lower your chances of knowing its effects first-hand.
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.
So How Do You Know If or 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.
January is Glaucoma Awareness Month
Make your resolution for healthy vision this year by knowing the risks and signs of glaucoma.
As the leading cause of blindness worldwide, glaucoma has earned the nickname “The Sneak Thief of Sight”. This is because often there are either no symptoms or a sudden onset of serious symptoms that can quickly lead to vision loss if not treated.
Glaucoma-related vision loss is usually caused by optic nerve damage due to elevated pressure within the eye (intraocular pressure). The damage cannot be reversed however there is treatment for glaucoma, particularly when it is caught early before nerve damage has occurred.
While anyone can develop glaucoma (children are sometimes even born with it) there are risk factors that increase the chances of developing the disease. These include:
- Age over 60 (over 40 for African Americans)
- Family history of the disease
- High eye or blood pressure
- African American, Japanese, or Hispanic descent
- Previous eye injury or surgery
- History of corticosteroid treatment
- Severe myopia (nearsightedness) or hyperopia (farsightedness)
Known measures to help prevent glaucoma or reduce the risks include maintaining a healthy diet and weight, regular exercise, refraining from smoking and protecting your eyes from UV exposure. Controlling blood pressure is also beneficial.
Types of Glaucoma
There are two main types of glaucoma, open-angle and angle-closure, with open-angle being the most common and accounting for approximately 70-90% of cases. Open-angle refers to chronic cases of the disease that progress slowly over time, and are usually caused by high intraocular pressure. Angle-closure glaucoma can be chronic or acute and is often caused by an inherited condition or the result of an injury to the eye.
While each of these types of glaucoma has subtypes the major differences between them have to do with the way the disease affects the eye and the symptoms. While open-angle often has no early symptoms yet may eventually cause loss of peripheral vision, angle-closure glaucoma is often characterized by more obvious signs such as blurred vision, pain, headaches, tunnel vision, halos that appear around lights and even nausea and dizziness. These symptoms can be a medical emergency and must be treated immediately.
Since there are often no symptoms as glaucoma develops, regular glaucoma screenings are key to early diagnosis and treatment. Such screenings should include an exam of the optic nerve, measuring the inner eye pressure and visual field screenings. Some cases of glaucoma occur with normal or even low eye pressure (low tension glaucoma) and therefore people should not rely on any vision screenings where all they do is an “airpuff” test.
Newer technologies such as OCT, can painlessly scan the optic nerve and determine if there is glaucomatous damage even earlier than visual field tests or other exams might show.
Treatment for Glaucoma
While vision that is lost from glaucoma’s damage to the optic nerve can’t be restored, the eye can be repaired (and intraocular pressure returned to normal) to prevent further damage and loss. Treatments include eye drops and surgery, depending on the type of glaucoma, the cause and the severity of the disease.
If you have been diagnosed with glaucoma and prescribed eye drops, it is important to keep using the eye drops as directed even if the drops irritate your eyes or you do not notice improvement in vision. The eye drops prevent eye pressure spikes that can damage the optic nerve. Since the vision loss from glaucoma is not reversible, if you have concerns with the eye drops, ask your eye doctor to try out a different brand instead.
Childhood eye injuries, such as a ball hit or puncture, particularly one which altered the internal structures of the eye or allowed fluid to flow out of the eye can cause problems later in life. Glaucoma that results from such long-forgotten injuries may not be detected until years after the injury, so it is important to have routine eye checkups if you have ever sustained an eye injury.
The best way to protect your eyes and vision from this devastating disease, especially if you have heightened risk factors, is to ensure you have regular comprehensive eye exams to look for signs of glaucoma inside the eye. Since symptoms often don’t appear until damage is done, the best course of action is preventative.
If you have any of the risk factors listed above, when you come in for your yearly comprehensive eye exam, speak to your eye doctor about glaucoma and what you can do to prevent it.
Nerf guns or blasters come in a remarkable number of shapes and sizes and have become incredibly popular for use in the home and even in large scale “Nerf Wars”. However publicity surrounding the toy has not been all positive. Many parents out there are questioning the safety of the toy foam guns, particularly to the eyes, before making the purchase.
The question of safety ultimately comes down to the user. Nerf darts are relatively soft, foamy and not inherently dangerous, but if shot in the wrong way, they could cause pain or even serious injury. This is particularly true of the eyes because they are a vulnerable organ that can be damaged easily upon impact. Injuries from even a soft projectile could include corneal abrasions (surface scratches), bleeding, cataracts and even retinal detachment which can lead to permanent vision loss.
Nevertheless, Nerf guns are fun and can even be used to help motor development and other skills, so with the right guidelines, children can learn to use them safely and benefit from the enjoyment they provide.
Want surefire eye safety? Wear safety glasses!
The best defense for your eyes is safety glasses. This is the one way you can be sure that you or your child’s eyes are truly safe during Nerf shooting. We strongly recommend safety glasses be worn during any play that involves projectile objects, particularly for small children or during serious games such as Nerf Wars.
General rules of Nerf Gun play:
- Never shoot at the face.
- Never look into the barrel of the nerf gun, even if you think it isn’t loaded.
- Avoid walking around with your finger on the trigger until you are ready to point and aim at the proper target.
- Only shoot others that are “playing” and are aware that you are aiming at them.
- Don’t shoot from a moving vehicle (including a bicycle, skateboard, rollerblades, etc.).
- Don’t shoot at a moving vehicle.
- Never shoot at a close range.
- Never leave loaded gun in reach of a child or individual that is not able to use the toy properly and safely.
To be safe, all toy guns that shoot projectiles should be treated as a dangerous toy in order to ensure proper usage and precautions. Yes, Nerf guns can cause serious eye damage and even vision loss, but these type of injuries can be caused by many “harmless” objects as well. Before you purchase a toy like this for your child, ask yourself whether the child is old enough and mature enough to understand the safety issues involved and to be able to use it responsibly.
Why Are My Eyes So Dry?
Do you experience dry, scratchy, burning eyes, redness or pain, a gritty feeling like something is in your eye? Or perhaps, excessive tearing, blurred vision, eye fatigue or discomfort wearing contact lenses? There could be a number of causes for your symptoms including allergies, reactions to an irritant or medication or an infection. You could also have a chronic condition called Dry Eye Syndrome.
It’s estimated that one out of every eight adults suffers to some extent from dry eye syndrome, which can range from mild to severe. Despite the fact that it is one of the most common eye problems, a surprisingly large percentage of patients are not aware of it.
What is Dry Eye Syndrome?
Your eyes need a layer of tears to lubricate the surface and keep the eyes comfortable, clean and clear. These tears also wash away particles, dust and bacteria that can lead to infection and eye damage. Dry eye syndrome occurs when there is a chronic lack of lubrication on the surface of the eye either because not enough tears are being produced, the quality of the tears is weak or they evaporate too quickly. This causes the common uncomfortable symptoms including:
- Soreness or pain
- Dryness (and sometimes even excessive tearing because the eyes are trying to compensate)
- Light sensitivity
- Eye fatigue
- Blurred vision
- Grittiness or a feeling like there is something in your eye
- Vision seems to change when blinking
Factors that Contribute to Dry Eye Syndrome
There are a number of factors that can increase your risk of suffering from Dry Eye Syndrome. While some of them are inherent, there are some environmental factors that can be changed to reduce your risk or symptoms. Risk factors include:
- Aging: While it can occur at any age, dry eye is more common in individuals over age 50.
- Women: Likely related to hormonal fluctuations, women are more likely to develop dry eyes than men, especially during pregnancy, menopause or when using birth control pills.
- Digital screen use: Whether it is a computer, a smartphone or a tablet, when our eyes are focused on a digital screen we tend to blink less, increasing tear evaporation and increasing dryness, blurriness and discomfort. Remember to regularly take a break, look away from the screen and blink several times.
- Medications: A number of medications – both prescription and nonprescription – have been found to cause dry eye symptoms including certain blood pressure regulators, antihistamines, nasal decongestants, tranquilizers and antidepressants.
- Contact lenses: Dry eyes is a common problem in contact lens wear. Several manufacturers have started offering lenses that hold more moisture to combat this common issue.
- Dry air: Whether it is the air conditioning or forced-air heating inside or the dry, windy climate outside, the environment of the air around you can contribute to dry eyes by causing your tears to evaporate too quickly.
- LASIK: One side effect of LASIK and other corneal refractive surgery is dry eyes, which usually lasts about 3-6 months and eventually resolves itself.
- Eyelid conditions: Certain conditions which prevent the eyelid from closing completely when sleeping or even blinking can cause the eye to try out.
- Allergies or infections: Chronic inflammation of the conjunctiva which is often caused by allergies or infections such as Blepharitis can result in dry eyes.
- Systemic diseases: People with autoimmune diseases or systemic conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disease, Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are also more prone to Dry Eye.
How do you treat dry eye symptoms?
If you have dry eyes, you don’t need to suffer. There are a number of treatment options that can help, depending on the severity and cause of your condition, which can reduce symptoms and enhance your comfort.
Treatments for dry eyes can include non-prescription or prescription eye drops, omega 3 supplements, special lid therapies, punctal plugs, ointments, different contact lenses, goggles or ergonomic changes to your work station. Speak to your eye doctor to discuss the cause of your dry eye and the best remedy for you. Even when it comes to the seemingly straightforward treatments like over-the-counter eye drops, they aren’t all the same. Different ingredients are tailored towards different causes of dry eye.
Get Help for Dry Eyes Today!
If you are experiencing the symptoms above, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor to find out the best solution for you.
Diabetes is a growing health crisis in North America as an estimated 29 million Americans and 3.4 million Canadians are currently living with the disease. Chances are it affects you or someone you know. November has been dedicated as a time to spread awareness about the disease, its risk factors and the effects it has on your body, your daily life and the lives of your loved ones.
Diabetes and Your Eyes
Diabetes is a systemic disease that causes fluctuations in glucose (blood sugar) levels which can affect blood vessels throughout the body including those in your eyes and visual system. People with diabetes are at higher risk for blindness than the general population, however with regular eye exams and proper care, most of the complications are minor and treatable.
Minor changes in glucose levels could result in complications such as blurred or double vision, floaters or even visual field loss. These conditions are usually quite treatable. Diabetics are also at greater risk for developing eye diseases such as glaucoma (40% increase risk) and cataracts (60% increased risk). With early detection, both of these conditions can be treated and the majority of vision restored.
Diabetic eye disease often has NO noticeable symptoms or pain, so comprehensive eye exams that include dilating the pupils are essential to detect signs of diabetes. Online vision assessments will not detect diabetic eye disease.
The condition that is the most concerning risk of diabetes is called diabetic retinopathy which can lead to blindness if not diagnosed and treated.
What You Need to Know About Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the tiny blood vessels or capillaries in the back of the eye develop weakened vessel walls. If not treated, the vessels leak fluid and become blocked. This can progress to hemorrhages in the retina, and over time the eye does not receive enough oxygen and nutrients. As a result, new fine blood vessels start to grow. These proliferating vessels leak and can cause further bleeding, scarring and potentially lead to blindness. A special zone in the central retina called the macula is especially susceptible to diabetes. Diabetic macular edema (when fluid seeps into the macula) can cause permanent vision loss if not promptly detected.
There are treatments for stopping the progression of the disease such as laser therapy or intraocular injections, although once damage to vision has occurred, it is often permanent. This is why the condition must be diagnosed and treated early on.
All diabetics should have a regular comprehensive eye exam to catch any early signs of diabetic retinopathy or other vision threatening conditions. Because risk factors vary, speak to your eye doctor about how often you should have an exam. Risk factors for diabetic retinopathy include:
- Length of time living with diabetes
- Uncontrolled blood sugar levels
- High blood pressure
- Alcohol consumption
Although blindness from diabetes is preventable it is still a leading cause of blindness among working-age adults. If you or someone you know has the disease, make sure that proper eye care is a priority.
Red, itchy, watery eyes and swollen eyelids (along with sneezing, congestion or a runny nose)… these symptoms are a clear indication that allergy season has arrived. These allergic symptoms are caused by a reaction to allergens, which are substances in the environment that are usually harmless. If, however, you are one of the unlucky that is predisposed to allergies, these substances can illicit a serious and sometimes even debilitating allergic response.
As opposed to food, medicine, or insect allergies which don’t often affect the eyes, eye allergies are a common symptom of airborne allergens including mold, pollen (from trees and flowers), dust and pet dander. The summer fall and spring are often the worst times for a high pollen count and many individuals suffer during these seasons.
An allergic eye reaction occurs when your eye releases histamines in an effort to protect itself from a perceived threat (an allergen such as dust, pollen, animal dander, mold spores, eye drops or airborne chemicals). The release of the histamines causes the symptoms of redness, itchiness, burning and tearing. This response is also sometimes known as allergic conjunctivitis.
The most common type of eye allergies are perennial and seasonal allergic conjunctivitis. Perennial eye allergies are a response to household allergens that exist all year round such as pet dander, mold, or dust mites. Seasonal allergies usually result from pollen from plants, grass and trees that are found in the air and depend on the season and the types of pollens in the environment. Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis is often more severe than perennial and can cause puffy eyelids and itching which can make symptoms worse.
The best way to reduce discomfort and prevent an allergic reaction is to stay away from allergens as much as possible. Here are some tips on how to reduce exposure:
- Minimize outdoor exposure during pollen season:
- Stay inside when pollen counts are particularly high or during a windy day.
- Keep windows closed and use air conditioner with a clean filter.
- Wear sunglasses outside to keep irritants from entering the eyes.
- Reduce indoor allergens:
- Wash bedding frequently in hot water and use mite-proof covers on pillows, blankets and mattresses.
- Prevent household mold by reducing humidity and keeping areas that are subject to humidity or dampness (such as bathrooms, kitchens or basements) clean. Use a dehumidifier when necessary and clean any mold you see with bleach.
- To reduce dust, clean floors and surfaces with a damp rag or mop rather than sweeping or dry dusting.
- Wash your hands and clothes after coming into contact with animals.
- DO NOT rub your eyes as this can worsen symptoms, greatly aggravating swelling and itchiness, and can sometimes even cause an infection.
If you have severe allergies, avoid contact lens wear or reduce wear time when allergies flare up, as contact lenses can worsen symptoms and do not fit as they normally would when the eyes are swollen. This is why having back up glasses is so important. Changing to one day single use disposable contacts can also sometimes reduce allergy symptoms.
There are some steps you can take to alleviate symptoms of eye allergies. Over-the-counter solutions include artificial tears, decongestant eye drops (which shouldn’t be used for longer than a week) or oral antihistamines (which can sometimes worsen symptoms). If no eye drops are available, cool compresses (avoid heat) will also help to reduce the itch. If these treatments don’t work, you can get a prescription for stronger eye drops (antihistamine or short term steroid drops to reduce symptoms), oral antihistamines or possibly immunotherapy (such as allergy shots).
If you are experiencing symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis, don’t just assume they are allergies. See your eye doctor to determine the cause to ensure that it is not a more serious eye condition.
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.
- Blunt trauma/swelling – 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.
- Traumatic iritis – 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.
- Penetrating injury – 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 invite you to take a look around our new site to get to know our practice and learn about eye and vision health. You will find a wealth of information about our optometrists, our staff and our services, as well as facts and advice about how to take care of your eyes and protect your vision.
Learn about our Practice specialties including comprehensive eye exams, contact lens fittings and the treatment of eye diseases. Our website also offers you a convenient way to find our hours, address and map, schedule an appointment online, order contact lenses or contact us to ask us any questions you have about eye care and our Practice.
Have a look around our online office and schedule a visit to meet us in person. We are here to partner with you and your family for a lifetime of healthy eyes and vision. We look forward to seeing you!
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.
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