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6 Common Eye Myths Debunked

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Over the centuries there have been a lot of old-wives tales circulating about eyes and vision. You know, like the one that if someone hits you on the back while your eyes are crossed they will stay that way. Unlike this example, some of these myths do have roots in truth, yet filtering out those truths isn’t an easy task.

Here are a few of the most common myths and truths about the eyes and vision.

  1. Myth: Eating a lot of carrots will help you see in the dark.Truth: Carrots have a lot of Vitamin A, a vitamin that is essential for good eyesight, but eating a lot of carrots isn’t going to give you 20/20 vision or help you see in the dark. Likely, the basis of this over-exaggeration is that night-blindness and vision loss found in underdeveloped countries can be a sign of malnutrition due to Vitamin A deficiency. However, you only need a relatively small amount of Vitamin A for vision, and it is easily obtainable in a normal balanced diet from a lot of sources, not limited to carrots.Higher-than-normal doses of Vitamin A might be useful in treating certain eye conditions and as part of a combination of vitamins used to slow the progression of early-stage macular degeneration. However, in any of these cases, do not take Vitamin A supplements without instructions from your eye doctor.
  2. Myth: Wearing glasses makes your vision worse.

    Truth
    : People think this is true because often once we start wearing glasses our vision continues to deteriorate and we have to keep going back for a higher prescription. The notion that wearing glasses causes your vision to get worse is simply not true. Distance vision or myopia typically gets worse over time, especially during childhood and adolescence, and does depend on whether the child wears glasses. Additionally, most people begin to experience vision deterioration as they enter their 40’s and 50’s with or without the use of vision correction devices.
  3. Myth: Sitting too close to the TV is bad for your eyes.

    Truth
    : While it may cause your eyes to feel tired, there is no evidence that sitting too close to the TV will harm your eyes or vision. Children in fact have a heightened ability to focus on close objects so often it is natural and relatively comfortable for them to sit close to a screen.
  4. Myth: Reading in dim light can damage your eyes.

    Truth
    : This one also has no good evidence. While yes, your eyes are working harder and may feel tired when reading in dim light, there is no evidence of permanent or long-term damage to your eyes.
  5. Myth: As you get older there is nothing you can do to prevent vision loss.

    Truth
    : While most older adults will eventually develop some degree of presbyopia which is near-vision loss, and eventually cataracts, no sign of vision loss should be ignored. Vision problems like these can be treated, allowing you to see clearly again. Moreover, there are many serious eye diseases such as glaucoma and macular degeneration that can threaten your vision and eyes with permanent and severe vision loss if not diagnosed and treated early. If you are 40 or older, you should have your eyes checked with a comprehensive eye exam on a yearly basis. In many cases, early treatment can save your eyesight.
  6. Myth: Squinting causes vision loss.

    Truth
    : Squinting is a natural reaction of your eyes to let less light into the pupil in order to sharpen your focus. Rather than impairing your vision, squinting is usually a sign that someone can’t see clearly which often suggests that their vision is impaired and that they need glasses to see better in the first place.

Got any other eye myths that you are curious about? Just ask at your next visit to our office. We are happy to help weed out the fact from the fiction.

Enjoying Life During Eye Allergy Season

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Spring is in the air. But along with the beauty of the blooming flowers and budding trees, comes allergy season. The high pollen count and allergens floating in the fresh spring air can certainly wreak havoc on the comfort level of those suffering from allergies, causing an otherwise nature-loving individual to seek respite indoors. Your eyes are often one of the areas affected most by allergens which can leave them red, itchy and watery, making you feel achy and tired.

Tree pollens in April and May, grass pollens in June and July and mold spores and weed pollens in July and August add up to five months of eye-irritating allergens. That is quite a long time to stay indoors!

Don’t hibernate this spring and summer!

Here are some practical tips to keep your eyes happy as the allergy season comes upon us.

  1. Avoid rubbing your eyes. This makes the symptoms worse because it actually sets off an allergy cascade response which causes more inflammation and itch. Plus, rubbing might lead to a scratch which will cause greater, long term discomfort.
  2. Plan your outdoor time wisely. One of the seasonal allergens that disturbs eyes is pollen, so it is a good idea to stay indoors when pollen counts are high, especially in the mid-morning and early evening.
  3. Wear sunglasses outside to protect your eyes, not only from UV rays, but also from allergens floating in the air.
  4. Check and clean your air conditioning filters to make sure they are working properly to filter out irritants.
  5. Use a humidifier or set out bowls of fresh water inside when using your air conditioning to help moisten the air and ensure that your eyes don’t dry out.
  6. Taking a shower or bath helps wash off allergens from the hair and skin. Cool down with some cool compresses over your eyes. This reduces the inflammatory response and the itchiness.
  7. Allergy proof your home:
    • use dust-mite-proof covers on bedding and pillows
    • clean surfaces with a damp cloth rather than dusting or dry sweeping which can just move dust to other areas or into the air
    • remove any mold in your home
    • keep pets outdoors if you have pet allergies
  8. Remove contact lenses as soon as any symptoms appear. Some contacts can prevent oxygen from getting to your eyes and tend to dry them out or blur vision due to oil or discharge build up under the lens. This will just worsen symptoms and cause greater irritation. Further because allergies can swell the eyes, contacts might not fit the way they usually do, causing discomfort.
  9. Speak to your optometrist about allergy medications or eye drops that can relieve symptoms. Certain allergy eye drops are not compatible with contact lens wear and in fact can bind onto the lens and cause further irritation. If your allergies are severe and you don’t want to stop contact lens wear, then ask your OD for a prescription allergy drop that can be applied before inserting your contacts. This may help prevent the allergic response and provide more comfortable lens wear.

These are only a few steps you can take to make your eyes more comfortable during allergy season. Remember to seek medical help from your eye care professional if symptoms persist or worsen.

Protective Sports Eyewear is a Serious Matter

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There are thousands of eye injuries a year related to sports. According to the National Eye Institute eye injuries are the leading cause of blindness in children in North America and most injuries occurring in school-aged children are sports-related. Further 99% of sports-related eye injuries can be prevented simply by wearing protective eyewear.

Sports injuries aren’t just a result of contact sports. Any sport can pose a danger especially those that involve balls, bats rackets or even elbows. It’s up to parents, teachers, coaches and league administrators to make protective eyewear a mandatory part of any sports uniform. This includes safety glasses or goggles, helmets with built in eye shields, or eye guards, depending on the sport.

Prescription Sports Eyewear

For athletes that wear prescription eyewear or contact lenses, sports eyewear plays an additional role. Many athletes choose to forego eyewear during play because of the inconvenience it causes, however this impairs their vision and ultimately affects their performance ability. Wearing prescription sports eyewear or wearing non-prescription goggles over their glasses or contacts not only serves to protect the eyes, but it allows them to see better and increases performance. It’s very important to note that standard prescription glasses or sunglasses do not protect the eyes from an impact and could possibly cause greater harm if the lenses or frames are damaged during play.

How to Select The Right Protective Sports Eyewear

Protective eyewear is made of special materials that are impact resistant such as polycarbonate or Trivex. Polycarbonate and Trivex lenses for outdoor use also have UV protection to protect the eyes from the sun, and can be made with added tints just like built-in sunglasses. It is a good idea to make sure that your lenses include a scratch resistant coating so that natural wear and tear don’t cause reduced visibility. Athletic eyewear frames are usually made from polycarbonate also, or from strong plastic, and often have padding on the forehead or nose to enhance comfort and fit.

Especially in children who are growing, it is critical for protective eyewear to fit well, for optimal safety and vision. To check that the glasses fit properly make sure that the internal padding rests comfortably on the face and that the eyes are centered in the lens area. If the child complains that they are too tight or you can visibly see that they are too loose, it may be time for a new pair. Also take into consideration whether the child will be wearing a hat or helmet to make sure that the goggles or glasses fit comfortably inside the gear.

Depending on the sport, the type and design of the eye protection varies, so be sure to tell your eye care professional what sport you play so he or she can find the best type of eyewear to keep your eyes safe.

 

5 Ways to Ensure Healthy Vision

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Your eyes are constantly at work for you, playing a vital role as you navigate through each day. As May is healthy vision month, here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Know your genesWhile your eyes may be the same color as your father’s eyes, you may have inherited glaucoma from your mother’s side of the family. Your genes are an important factor in your eye health as many eye diseases are known to be hereditary. It’s vital that you know your family’s eye health history. Sharing this information with your eye care practitioner at your next eye exam will help us determine which diseases you’re at risk for so that we can help put you on the right path for prevention or treatment.
  2. Protect your eyesWhether it’s strong UV rays from the outdoor sun or hazards in the workplace, there is protective eyewear available suited to the environment you’re in. You should wear sunglasses when you’re outside, sports goggles or glasses during active play and protective goggles to keep dangerous substances found at home or in the workplace from harming your eyes.
  3. Maintain your eye health by eating rightEating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale have proven to be beneficial for your eye health. Flax seeds, fish and fortified eggs that are high in omega 3 fatty acids are also known to aid in maintaining healthy eyes. Having an overall healthy lifestyle by not smoking, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight has been proven to reduce risk for many eye diseases.
  4. Give them a breakYour eyes work really hard every day, especially if you are in front of a computer screen. Remember to apply the 20-20-20 rule to prevent eye strain: every 20 minutes look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
  5. Get a dilated eye exam every yearBe sure to have a dilated eye exam at least once a year. A thorough check is the only way to spot any problems that exist or are developing. Some eye diseases, which cause vision loss if not treated early, have no warning signs at all and can only be detected in this way.

All of these tips will help you keep your sight in check and go a long way in ensuring that you maintain healthy sight your whole life through.

Decorative Lenses Could Cost You Your Vision

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Beware this Halloween and think before you blink (in decorative contact lenses that is)! Sure, decorative contact lenses can enhance any Halloween costume, but if not taken seriously, they can also cost you your vision. Whether they are sold as cosmetic lenses, colored lenses or fashion lenses, they are anything but cosmetics – they are medical devices that must be properly fit and handled. 

All contact lenses should be properly fitted by an eye doctor that has measured your eye and given you proper handling and care instructions.  A poor fit can result in serious eye damage, corneal scratches, infections, vision loss and even blindness. 

When purchased and handled properly, decorative lenses can be a fun (or spooky) addition to your costume, so go ahead and purchase them, but do it safely. 

Here is the right way to buy decorative lenses:

  • Get a contact lens eye exam and fitting from a licensed eye doctor and a valid prescription for contact lenses that includes the lens measurements, brand, base curve, diameter, power and color as well as an examination date and an expiration date. When the lens is coming from a legitimate source, the lens supplier ensures it has not expired and that manufacturer takes care of the material and tracking bar codes. 
  • Optimally, have your optometrist order the lenses or if that is not possible, purchase lenses from a registered store or online shop that requires you to provide this prescription to ensure that it is properly fit.
  • Follow the directions for cleaning, storing and wearing lenses.
  • See your eye doctor immediately if you experience persistent redness, pain or vision disturbances.
  • Important note: Many patients believe that a routine eye exam and eye glasses prescription is the same as a contact lens prescription but this is not the case! Many online companies do not advise people of the difference or do not adhere to the one year prescription expiry. This is a big concern for eye doctors because eye health changes can detrimentally affect contact lens wear. All contact lenses should be checked yearly by an eye doctor or registered contact lens fitter. 

Contact us today to book a contact lens exam.

It’s Time to Be Serious About Home Eye Safety

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The home can be a dangerous place if you aren’t aware of the risks that surround you. This is specifically true for your eyes and vision. Nearly half of all serious eye injuries take place in or around the home and the majority of these can be prevented with proper awareness and precaution. Whether you are cooking, cleaning, tending to yard work or doing home repairs, it is important to be aware of the possible dangers to your eyes and to take preventative measures to protect them.

It is recommended that every household have at least one pair of protective eyewear on hand to use during activities, projects or tasks that could pose a danger to your eyes. While protective eyewear can reduce your risk of an eye injury by 90%, in fact, only 35% of North Americans wear protective eyewear during tasks that could be dangerous to their eyes. Such activities could include the following:

Use of dangerous or hazardous chemicals: Many substances, such as cleaning chemicals, are hazardous and can be the cause of serious eye injuries and burns upon contact. In fact, household cleaning products like bleach cause 125,000 eye injuries a year.

Proximity to flying debris: Particularly when working in the yard mowing, trimming, shoveling and clipping, debris and particles can be thrown into the air that can enter your eye. This goes for those actually doing the gardening as well as bystanders.

Using sharp tools: Whether you are dealing with shovels and clippers, or hammers, nails and screws, it is important to protect your eyes. Many eye injuries are caused by the actual tools which are mishandled, dropped or used carelessly.

Projectiles: Flying objects pose a serious danger to the eyes, particularly with power tools, nails and screws. Never use power tools without protective eyewear. 

When it comes to selecting protective eyewear there are certain requirements that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established to ensure your safety. Our eyewear experts are happy to help you find the best eye protection for you and your family.

Bottom line: use common sense and be EyeSmart, especially if there are children around for whom you’re setting an example.

How Pregnancy Affects Vision

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The hormonal fluctuations experienced during pregnancy can cause many unexpected changes in your body, including your eyes and vision. Most of these changes are temporary and will return to normal once you give birth.  It’s important to know which vision changes are normal for an expecting mother and which could indicate a problem that requires medical attention.

Normal Vision Changes

Visual Acuity/Blurred vision

During pregnancy, you may notice a change in your vision due to hormone levels. If you find that your vision has gotten blurry or that your current prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses are not helping as much as they usually do, speak to your eye doctor. Often the change in your vision is due to fluid retention which can temporarily change the shape of your cornea. Since your hormones will continue to fluctuate and will return to normal shortly after you give birth or after you finish nursing, your doctor may advise waiting until after you deliver to assess whether you need to change your prescription. However, you may need a temporary pair of glasses with your current prescription if you need lenses for driving or other tasks that are dangerous or difficult without perfect eyesight.

Dry Eyes

Dry eyes is a common and usually temporary condition that is experienced during pregnancy. Dry eyes can lead to irritation and discomfort in general and especially when wearing contact lenses. To relieve dry eyes, over-the-counter lubricating or rewetting eye drops are completely safe to use during pregnancy and nursing. It’s a good idea to consult with your optometrist to make sure you’re using a good dry eye solution, and definitely see the eye doctor if symptoms persist or if you wear contact lenses.

Puffy Eyelids

Along with many other areas in the body, eyelids may swell during pregnancy. To reduce water retention, make sure you drink a lot of water and limit your intake of sodium and caffeine.

Vision Changes that Require Medical Attention

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Some serious vision changes could be signs of preeclampsia, a potentially serious issue that occurs in 5-8% of pregnancies. Vision symptoms associated with the condition include temporary vision loss, light sensitivity, blurry vision, auras and the appearance of flashing lights, along with high blood pressure.  If you experience these symptoms seek medical attention immediately.

Diabetes

Both women that are regularly diabetic and those that have gestational (pregnancy) diabetes need to keep an eye on their vision as blurred vision can indicate elevated blood sugar levels. The risks of vision loss associated with diabetes is heightened during pregnancy so it is critical to monitor blood sugar levels at all times. Women with gestational diabetes should get a diabetic eye exam, which includes dilating the eye and examining the retina for signs of retinopathy.

While minor changes in your eyes and vision are a normal part of pregnancy, if at any time you notice persistent eye pain, vision loss or discomfort, visit your doctor.  It is always better to be safe than sorry.

Is Your Baby’s EyeSight Developing Normally?

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A baby’s visual system develops gradually over the first few months of life. They have to learn to focus and move their eyes, and use them together as a team.  The brain also needs to learn how to process the visual information from the eyes to understand and interact with the world. With the development of eyesight comes also the foundation for motor development such as crawling, walking and hand-eye coordination. 

You can ensure that your baby is reaching milestones by keeping an eye on what is happening with your infant’s development and by ensuring that you schedule a comprehensive infant eye exam at 6 months.  

The AOA recommends that all babies have an eye exam by 6 months of age in order to be sure that the child is seeing properly, developing on track and to check for conditions that could impair vision (such as strabismus/misalignment of the eyes, farsightedness, nearsightedness, or astigmatism) or cause other health problems. 

Here is the general progression of vision development in the first year of life. It is important to know that many babies fall outside of the normal progression and that reaching these milestones does not mean that an infant eye exam should be skipped. 

1 month: Babies are just beginning to be able to focus on objects that are close – between 8-10 inches away. You may notice that your baby’s eyes don’t always work together and that one may drift inward or outward from time to time. If this is happening on occasion, there is no need for concern, however if you notice that the eyes are largely misaligned the majority of the time, consult with an eye care professional. 

2-3 months: Babies will begin to follow objects and to reach for things they see in front of them. They will also learn to shift their gaze from one object to another without having to move their head. 

4-6 months: By six months, babies are starting to be able to see more accurately and follow moving objects better. Their depth and color perception, eye teaming and alignment should be developing at this point.  This is when you should schedule an eye exam to evaluate for visual acuity and eye coordination. The doctor will also check for the health of the eyes and look for anything that could interfere with normal development. 

7-12 months: The last half of the first year is when infants start to really develop depth perception and hand-eye coordination. This is when you also need to be more vigilant about eye injuries as babies are starting to move around and explore their environment. Also keep a lookout for Strabismus or misalignment of the eyes. It is important that this is detected and treated early, otherwise it could lead to amblyopia or lazy eye, in which one eye does not develop properly. Lazy eye can lead to permanent vision problems if not corrected. 

Since the early development of vision is critical for future eyesight, learning and motor skills, if you have any concerns or questions about your baby’s eyes, contact your eye care professional immediately.  Early treatment of vision and eye problems is often able to prevent developmental delays and permanent vision problems for the future. 

Guidelines For Picking the Right Pair of Shades

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There is a lot more that goes into finding the right pair of sunglasses than just fit and fashion.  While it’s important to look and feel great in your shades, sunglasses also have the very important job of properly protecting your eyes from the sun. 

Here are a few facts about the dangers of UV exposure:

  • Chronic UV exposure is linked to cataracts and macular degeneration in the long term.
  • Intense UV exposure can cause symptoms of eye pain and irritation within 6-12 hours.
  • Some medications such as birth control and certain antibiotics can increase sensitivity to UV so take extra precaution.
  • The most common source of UV is the sun especially with depletion of the earth’s ozone layer.  
  • Outdoor UV exposure is common in construction workers, landscapers and fisherman.
  • Some indoor occupations also get high exposure such as dentists, medical and research technician, electric welding.

Here is what you need to consider to make sure you select a pair of sunglasses that look and feel great and offer full sun protection. 

  • 100% UV protection: The number one most important feature of your sunglasses must be proper UV protection. Look for a pair that blocks 99-100% of UVB and UVA rays. Lenses labeled as “UV 400,” block all light rays with wavelengths up to 400 nanometers, which includes all UVA and UVB rays. 
  • Frame size: Pay attention to the size of the frame – the bigger (meaning the more surface area they cover and the less light they let in from the top and sides) the better. Wraparound styles are the best frames at keeping UV rays from entering in through the sides of the glasses. 
  • Lens materials, coatings and tints: There are many options for lenses designed to help you see better and more comfortably in certain conditions. Polarized lenses, photochromic lenses, anti-glare coatings, mirror-coatings and gradient tints are just a few. Your best bet is to speak to a professional optician to determine which options are best suited for your needs. 
  • Frame shape: The general rule for selecting a pair of eyewear that looks great is to contrast the shape of your face with the shape of the frame. For example if you have a round face, try out an angular frame, and for a square-shaped face, a rounder, softer frame will look great. Along with shape, the size of the frames should be considered. Frames should not be too large, small, narrow or wide for your face. 
  • Proper fit: Your sunglasses should feel comfortable; they shouldn’t squeeze at your temples but they also shouldn’t be so loose that they will fall off.  Your eyelashes shouldn’t touch the lenses and the frames should rest comfortably on your nose and ears. 
  • Lifestyle fit: Your eyewear should be the proper fit for your lifestyle. For example, if you are active in sports or outdoor activities, polarized lenses in a durable frame are a must. There are many sunglass manufacturers out there that make eyewear to match certain lifestyles and activities so speak to your optician about your interests and hobbies to make sure you find the best pair to match your needs.
  • Frame color: The same wardrobe colors that match your skin tone, will look good in your eyewear. Generally speaking, if you have cool-toned skin (pink or rosy undertones) you will look best in blue-based hues such as blues, pinks, purples or greys. Alternatively, if you have warm-toned skin (golden or apricot undertones), you will want to try out yellow-based colors such as golds, oranges, reds, browns or tans. 

Remember, sunglasses aren’t just for fun in the sun. Dangerous UV rays can penetrate clouds and reflect off of water and snow. So even when the sun isn’t shining, a good pair of sunglasses should be worn every day to keep your eyes safe and to help you see your best. 

6 Things You Need To Know About Cataracts

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Cataracts are a leading cause of vision loss in the United States and Canada. Here are 6 things you need to know.

1. Chances are you will develop a cataract! 

Cataracts are considered part of the natural aging process so if you live long enough, you will likely eventually develop one. 

2. A cataract is a clouding of the usually transparent lens in your eye.

The lens in your eye focuses light onto the retina at the back of your eye, allowing you to see. When your lens starts to clouds up, the images projected onto your retina become blurry and unfocused. You can compare this to looking through a dirty or cloudy window. If the window is not clear, you can’t see!

3. Age is not the only risk factor for cataract development.

While the risk of developing a cataract does increase as you age, it is not the only factor. Other risk factors include eye injury, certain medications (eg: steroids), diseases such as diabetes and macular degeneration, lifestyle choices such as alcohol consumption, smoking and prolonged exposure to the sun. 

4. Your treatment options are not limited to surgery.

If cataracts are detected in the early stages of development, non-surgical options including stronger glasses or even better lighting go a long way to help alleviate the condition’s detrimental impact on your vision at first. However, most people do need cataract surgery eventually. Fortunately, the procedure is very low risk and has an excellent success rate. It is relatively non-invasive, often requiring no more than a tiny laser-assisted incision, performed in an outpatient clinic.

5. Cataracts have warning signs

Cataracts don’t suddenly develop overnight. If you notice you have cloudy vision or see halos around lights, have trouble with night vision or see double in one eye, make a visit to your eye doctor a priority so you can get it checked out.

6. What you eat can reduce your risks.

Don’t let cataracts interfere with your quality of life. Be sure to schedule regular eye exams so that you stay on top of your overall eye health.