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World Sight Day Challenge – No More Avoidable Blindness

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The World Sight Day Challenge, slated to take place on October 9, 2014 is an annual awareness day that aims to focus global attention on blindness and vision impairment worldwide.

The day aims to create awareness that blindness can be avoided if there is universal access to quality vision and eye care services for all those in need.  Worldwide, many cases of vision impairment are simply due to the lack of a pair of eye glasses that would help correct a refractive error. The underlying vision of the campaign is to ensure that the quality-of-life and future livelihood of children and adults is not impacted because they do not have sufficient eye care.

According to Optometry Giving Sight, the organization overseeing the campaign, over 600 million people around the globe do not have access to the eye care and eyewear they need. As the ability to see well impacts every aspect of life and empowers adults and children alike to succeed at school or work, eye care from trained eye care professionals not only allows for the detection of vision problems, but can also help to identify early signs of serious health conditions such as diabetes, which can also lead to blindness.

What Can You Do?

Getting involved in the event is easy and involves making a donation on or before October 9.  The funds raised from the World Sight Day Challenge are used to sponsor projects that enable training, establishing vision centers and delivering eye care services to people who are vision impaired and could benefit from an eye exam and a pair of glasses.

The call to action for World Sight Day 2014 is "No More Avoidable Blindness". Help make your contribution for better eye health worldwide. Donate Here

http://www.givingsight.org/wsdc-donate

$25 could provide 5 people with vision through eye exams and glasses

$100 can help provide vision screenings for school aged children in developing communities

The Day is coordinated by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness under the VISION 2020 Global Initiative. It is supported by eye health organizations around the world, such as Optometry Giving Sight, and is included on the official World Health Organization (WHO) calendar.

Protect Children’s Eyes During Sports

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The new school year has kicked off and you can tick off purchasing all that back to school equipment. Now, it's time to think about what your child will need for after school sports and hobby activities.

Making sure they have the right protective eyewear for their sporting or athletic activities should be one of the top priorities on your list. Here's why: according to new data from Prevent Blindness America, approximately 25,000 people sought treatment for sports-related eye injuries in 2013, and around 10,000 were children under the age of 14.

Wearing protective eyewear when playing sports can help prevent serious eye injuries. Here are some tips on how to go about choosing the most apt protective eyewear for your child:

  1. Consult with your eye doctor and the child’s coach to find out what type of protective eyewear is best for the athletic activity your child is involved in. The kind of eyewear your child will need depends on the sport they are playing.
  2. Know the sports and its dangers: Across all age groups, sports-related eye injuries occur most frequently in water sports, basketball, and baseball or softball. Safety standards are met using shatter-resistant polycarbonate or trivex lenses.
  3. Protect and correct: If your child already wears glasses, find out what options are available for adding their prescription to protective eyewear they will need. Or consider contact lenses.
  4. Ensure sufficient UV protection: If your child’s activity takes place outside, make sure that the protective eyewear you choose includes sufficient protection from harmful UV rays.
  5. Set an example: Wear protective eyewear yourself. This will help to show your child it is possible to protect your vision and enjoy a sporting activity at the same time.

The majority of eye injuries can be prevented. Newer safety eyewear models often have wraparound styles to improve peripheral vision and style appeal. Kids can have fashion and function in today’s safety eyewear. Make sure that your child's eyes are protected while they strive to reach the top of their game!

Cutting Edge Glaucoma Technology

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Some 2.5 million North Americans struggle with glaucoma, a progressive eye disease that robs its sufferers of their vision, if unmanaged. Associated with high eye pressure and damage to the optic nerve, the main method of preventing blindness and low vision from glaucoma is by maintaining low levels of IOP (intraocular pressure). Unstable glaucoma may require frequent visits to an eye doctor for glaucoma monitoring to keep it under control.

In recent years a parallel disorder, high blood pressure, has become widely known for producing results that vary significantly, even from hour to hour. Both blood pressure and eye pressure can be affected by such a wide range of environmental and other factors – from the way you stand to the weather – that taking a single reading on a given day may not provide a good indication of patient health.

The need for more accurate diagnostic tools has prompted researchers at Stanford University and Bar Ilan University to collaborate in the development of a 24-hour a day IOP monitor for glaucoma patients. The device, which eye doctors hope will be available within a few years, is actually an eye implant!

It is so tiny, it’s designed to fit inside a standard intraocular lens – the kind used in cataract surgery – and, according to tests conducted by the U.S. Air Force, it will not distort vision.

The implanted glaucoma monitor is based on simple physics, using fluid levels in a tiny tube to precisely measure IOP. When available to the public, it may be paired with a custom smartphone app or wearable technology like Google glass to record eye pressure all the time, and the data can be shared with the patient’s ophthalmologist or optometrist.

Recent studies indicated that round-the-clock IOP monitoring would result in modified treatment for up to 80% of patients. Prevention of intraocular pressure spikes by measuring IOP throughout a 24 hour cycle would enable eye doctors to optimize a treatment plan. Since peripheral vision loss from optic nerve damage is not reversible, treatment is aimed at preventing vision loss from glaucoma. 

Comfortable Vision for Back-to-school Reading

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School is starting: Do you know how to set up your child’s homework and reading spot? Reading and writing are some of the most fundamental skills that your child to facilitate learning in school, so it is important to make sure that your child's eyes are comfortable when they are working at near distances.  How they sit, the length at which they hold a book or even a digital device, and their posture all play an integral part in ensuring that the visual system is at ease, enabling the mind to absorb and integrate what they are reading.  Here are some tips to help your child feel comfortable while reading.

  1. Make sure your child is working at the appropriate distance for near work – the Harmon Distance

When you read or do near work, there is a specific distance that enables your visual system to work most efficiently without experiencing any stress. This distance is known as the Harmon distance and it can be determined by holding your fist to your cheek. The location of your elbow from your fist is now at the Harmon distance, the most comfortable distance for your visual system to read and absorb information.

Looking out for whether your child is working at the Harmon distance when he/she reads will allow you as a parent to understand a number of things about how their eyes are functioning:

  • When your child holds reading material too close to their eyes, their eyes will converge or turn inwards. This can cause unnecessary eye strain which will impact their reading ability.
  • Holding reading material too close also means your eyes need to focus more than usual as the print is too close. This also causes you to strain your eyes which in turn can lead to tiredness, headaches and even myopia (nearsightedness).

Note: A child with healthy eyesight will naturally hold reading material at the correct distance. If a child is holding books too close or too far away, it may be an indication of a vision problem, or it may be because the child is sitting in a way that is not optimal. Read on to find out how to arrange your child’s reading space.

  1. Your child's body and posture is involved in the whole process of vision.
    Ensure that your child sits at a desk with a proper desk and chair height, so that his feet are flat on the floor and the table is the correct distance from his face. This will enable your child to sit upright. If you notice your child slouching or standing to get a glimpse of the words on the page, it might be an indication that he is experiencing difficulty seeing the text.
  2. Make sure there is good lighting.
     Too much glare or not enough light in a room will force your child's eyes to work harder to see.  Make sure that lighting in the room is sufficient for the task whether it is reading or writing.
  3. Concerned? You can call us.
    If you have questions about your child’s reading habits, are concerned about your child’s vision, or if it has been over a year or two since his or her last eye exam, speak to the eye doctor.

Follow the tips above and set your child up for success. Wishing everyone happy reading and writing during the school year ahead!

Be on the Lookout for Vision Problems this Summer Break

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Summer vacation is well under way, but did you know that even when your child is out of the classroom, vision problems can have an impact on his/her daily activities? Look out for these 4 warning signs during the summer months – they could be a sign of vision difficulties that require follow up with an eye care professional.

  1. Headaches / eyestrain. Is your child complaining about headaches? Perhaps accompanied with watery eyes, particularly during periods of concentration such as reading, computer use or during a movie? This can indicate eyestrain, which can develop as your child tries to keep up with the words or images on the screen, causing visual overload.  Keep an eye out also when your child is watching 3D since an inability to see 3D pictures can point to a lack of depth perception. A child may not know that he or she does not see the 3D effects the same way other people do, but might say after the movie that his or her eyes are tired or sore.
  2. Clumsiness on the playground. Does your child seem clumsy and uncoordinated when playing on the playground? This could be due to a lazy eye, otherwise known as amblyopia. Amblyopia is when one eye is favored over the other, resulting in impaired binocular vision. This in turn impacts depth perception, which makes it difficult for a child to assess objects in space and can cause difficulties with coordination.
  3. Lack of interest in reading: Does your child show a lack of interest in reading books? It is possible that he or she is having difficulty seeing the text as a result of a vision problem. It's worth asking the child if the text seems blurry, if he/she has a headache or simply has difficulty distinguishing the words or letters on the page to determine if there may be an underlying vision problem. Also watch for unusual signs such as eye rubbing, excessive blinking, head tilt and unusual reading distance.
  4. Difficulty hitting or catching a ball. Hand eye coordination, which helps track an object as it moves through space, is one of the key components to playing ball. If your child is consistently missing catches, fumbling kicks or missing hits while playing sports, it is worth following up with an eye exam.

Although all of the above issues can present themselves in school, the summer vacation is an ideal time to check out any possible vision issues ahead of the new school year. Dealing with vision problems during the summer will help your child start off the year right. 

Should You Be Worried About Eye Floaters?

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Eye floaters are actually more common that you may think. Many people notice specks or cobweb-like images moving around in their line of vision, at some point. Some even report experiencing a "snow globe effect" as if they are swatting at many imaginary bugs. Floaters may be an annoyance, but in most cases, they are harmless and merely a part of aging.  Here are some answers to questions you may have about eye floaters including warning signs that something may be seriously wrong and requires immediate treatment by an eye care professional.

What are eye floaters?

Eye floaters are collagen deposits inside the vitreous humor that fills the space between the lens and retina of your eye. As you age, the vitreous, which is made up of this gel-like protein substance, begins to dissolve and liquefy, creating a more watery consistency. Floaters appear when the collagen fibrils and vitreous membrane become disturbed and go into your line of sight.  A posterior vitreous detachment is a common age related change that causes a sudden large floater to occur.   Floaters can range in size, shape and consistency and are often more visible when looking at a white screen or clear blue sky.

What is the vitreous?

The vitreous functions to maintain the round shape of your eyeball. It assists with light refraction and acts as a shock absorber for the retina.

How do floaters develop?

As mentioned above, aging of the vitreous can cause it to liquefy, shrink and become stringy or strand-like. As the vitreous is normally transparent, when strands develop they cast a shadow on your retina, which in turn causes floaters to appear in your vision.

What will I see if I have floaters?

Eye floaters can appear in your vision as threads, fragments of cobwebs or spots which float slowly in front of your eyes. You'll also notice that these specks never seem to stay still when you try to focus on them. Floaters and spots create the impression that they are drifting and they seem to move when your eye moves.

Who is at risk for developing floaters?

Floaters are quite common particularly in individuals that are elderly, diabetic, near-sighted or anyone who has had cataract surgery.

Are floaters dangerous and do they need treatment?

In many cases, floaters are simply an annoyance and can be left alone. Sometimes they will improve over time. In some cases though, floaters can be so distracting that they can block vision and consequently interfere with daily activities and functioning. If you experience a sudden onset of floaters, if they are accompanied by flashes of light or vision loss, if you have pain or you have just experienced eye surgery or trauma, floaters could indicate a serious eye problem that requires immediate medical attention.  There are a number of eye disorders associated with eye floaters including retinal detachment, retinal tear, vitreous bleeding, vitreous and retinal inflammation or eye tumors, all of which require medical treatment to avoid vision loss.  If you have sudden onset of new floaters, do not wait to book an appointment with your eye doctor to confirm if the floaters are benign or need immediate surgical treatment.

Keeping an Eye on Cataracts

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Cataracts affect millions of people nationwide and as the population continues to age, the numbers keep increasing. The good news is, cataracts are often manageable and treatable.

As June is Cataract Awareness Month, here are some facts you should know to help you recognize cataracts and prevent permanent vision loss. 

  1. A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye, which inhibits the passage of light into the eye and results in blurred or dimmed vision.  The lens is what helps to focus an image onto the retina, which transmits the images to the brain.
  2. Cataracts usually develop as a natural result of the aging process and can occur in one or both eyes.
  3. Aside from aging, other risk factors for developing cataracts include:  long-term exposure to UV rays from the sun, certain health conditions (e.g. diabetes), genetic predisposition, eye injuries, eye inflammation, long-term steroid use and other medications, and smoking.
  4. Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss among adults 55 and older.  Over half the population above the age 65 has some degree of cataract development.
  5. By the age of 80, it is likely that most people will have developed a cataract or had surgery to remove it.
  6. During the early stages of cataract development, you can use stronger lighting and glasses.  Special lens coatings can also reduce glare.  At a certain point, however, cataract surgery is required to improve your vision.  
  7. Cataract surgery is very common and involves the removal of the clouded lens and in most cases replaces it with a clear lens made from plastic, called an intraocular lens (IOL). New developments in IOLs are constantly being researched to make the surgery even less complicated and more successful in helping to restore vision in patients.
  8. Over 90 percent of people who have cataract surgery regain useful vision. Consult with your eye doctor to get information about the pros and cons, alternatives and expected results of cataract surgery.
  9. The key to preventing permanent vision loss is regular eye exams. If you are 65 or over, you should have a yearly eye exam, even if you feel your vision is unchanged.

While cataracts are a natural part of aging, it is vital to ensure that you care for your eyes your entire life. Again, make sure that you have a dilated exam at least once a year. This will ensure you are examined for cataract development and for other eye and vision problems and will also help to maintain your overall eye health. 

A Look Behind Sleeping Eyes

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Have you ever wondered what your eyes do when you finally close them after a long day of visual processing and stimulation? Let's take a closer look at what happens behind your closed lids when your head hits the pillow.

Firstly, once your eyes are closed, they do continue to function in a limited fashion with the ability to sense light. This explains why a bright light being switched on or the sun rising in the morning can wake you up, while lying in a dark room will help you sleep.

During sleep your eyes don't send visual data or information about images to your brain. In fact, it takes almost 30 seconds for the connection between your eyes and your brain to reboot when you wake up. This is why it's often difficult to see complete and clear images when you first wake up.

Our bodies pass through five phases of sleep known as stages 1, 2, 3, 4, (which together are called Non-REM) and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. During a typical sleep cycle, you progress from stage 1 to 4 then REM and then start over.  Almost 50 percent of our total sleep time is spent in stage 2 sleep, while 20 percent is spent in REM sleep, and the remaining 30 percent in the other stages. During stage 1, your eyes roll slowly, opening and closing slightly; however the eyes are then still from stages 2-4 when sleep is deeper.

During REM sleep, your eyes move around rapidly in a range of directions, but don’t send any visual information to your brain. Scientists have discovered that during REM sleep the visual cortex of the brain, which is responsible for processing visual data, is active. However, this activity serves part of a memory forming or reinforcing function which aims to consolidate your memory with experiences from the day, as opposed to processing visual information that you see. This is also the time when most people dream.

As for your eyelids, they cover your eyes and function as a shield protecting them from light. They also help preserve moisture on the cornea and prevent your eyes from drying out while your body is resting.

In short, while your eyes do move around during sleep, they are not actively processing visual imagery. Closing your eyelids and sleeping essentially gives your eyes a break. Shut-eye helps recharge your eyes, preparing them to help you see the next day. 

6 Things You Should Know about UV Radiation and Your Eyes

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The heat of long summer days is nearly upon us. As the sun's rays intensify and people spend more time outdoors in the sunshine it is very important to be aware of the potential damage exposure to the sun can have on your eyes. May is UV Awareness month. Here are 6 things you should know about ultraviolet rays and how important it is to protect your eyes from the sun year round.

  1. Exposing your eyes to UV rays can harm your vision and cause a number of eye issues such as cataracts, corneal sunburn, macular degeneration, pterygium and skin cancer around the eyelids.
  2. Everyone, including children, is at risk for eye damage from UV radiation. Those who work or play in the sun, or are exposed to the sun for extended amounts of time are at the highest risk for damage to their eyes or vision from UV rays. At 20 years of age, the average person has received 80% of their life’s UV exposure. Children have more transparent lenses in their eyes and more sensitive skin on their bodies. As a result, they are at great risk of experiencing adverse effects of over-exposure to UV light. The effects of overexposure to UV light at a younger age may not show up until later in life with higher risk of cataracts and age related macular degeneration. This is why it is critical to effectively protect our eyes from the sun.
  3. UV rays come from the sun but also reflect off other surfaces such as water, snow, sand and the ground. They are generally at their highest and most dangerous levels during peak sun hours, usually between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
  4. There are 2 types of UV rays that can harm your sight:
    • UV-A rays can cause damage to your central vision.
    • UV-B rays can damage the cornea and lens on the front of your eye.
  5. The best way to protect your eyes from the sun is by wearing sunglasses or eyewear that absorbs UV rays, together with a wide brimmed hat.
  6. UV protection is the most important factor when purchasing sunglasses. Here's what you should look for: 
    • Eyewear that filters 100% UV-A and UV-B rays, providing you with maximum protection.
    • Eyewear that reduces glare and does not distort color.
    • Important to know: UV protection is available in some clear lenses as well as sunglasses. The choice can be confusing if you do not have some background information. Not all lenses are equal in terms of UV protection. For example, cheaply made UV400 sunglasses have a spray-on coating that will wear off with cleaning and give you a false sense of security. 

 

Don't take any shortcuts when it comes to protecting your eyes from the sun. Stay indoors during peak sun hours and if you have to go out, be sure that your eyewear blocks UV rays so that you can protect your eyes and your vision.  

Dealing with Your Tween’s and Teen’s Eyesight

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It can be devastating for a tween or teen to be told he or she needs to wear glasses, especially if it is sudden. Many tweens and teenagers are concerned about how glasses will affect their appearance, whether they will be made fun of (which unfortunately is a legitimate concern – kids can be mean!), how they will manage with a new responsibility and what the implications will be for sports and other activities. Many tend to overlook the miracle of clear vision for the perceived negative impact the glasses may have.

If your child would rather suffer with blurred vision, headaches and even trouble with schoolwork than wear glasses, the good news is that there are options that even the “coolest” preteen or teen might find acceptable.

  1. Fashion eyewear: It has never been more fashionable to wear glasses than it is today – just take a look at Hollywood's red carpet.  Encourage your child to seek out a look or a celebrity style they like and have your optician help to find that.  The optician and optometrist can recommend what shapes and materials are available for the lens Rx, while your teen can have fun with the color and style.  Or just browse around at the plethora of fun styles available for teens these days.   "Make it fun and encourage your preteen to be excited about their new purchase. If it is within your budget you may even want to consider purchasing two pairs so he or she can have a choice depending on mood and wardrobe.
  2. Consider contacts: If your child feels self conscious or inhibited, particularly in sports, by wearing glasses, look into contact lenses. Contact lenses are a great solution particularly for athletes because they provide safety and a full field of view as opposed to glasses or sports goggles. Before you can take the plunge into contacts you need to consider the following:

    • Is his or her prescription and eye health suitable for contact lenses? There are a number of conditions which prohibit contact lens use or require special lenses. Check with your optometrist to find out what options exist for your teen or tween.
    • Is he or she responsible enough to care properly for contact lenses? Improper care of contact lenses can cause irritation, infection and damage to the eyes. Your teen must understand the risks and be responsible enough to follow the optometrists instructions when it comes to use and care. How do you know if your teen or tween is ready for contacts?  Look at his or her bedroom.  How clean and tidy is it usually?  This is a good indicator if he or she is ready to wear contacts on a daily basis
    • Does he or she have any preexisting conditions that would make contact lens wear uncomfortable? Individuals that have chronic eye conditions such as dry eyes, allergies or frequent infections may find contact use uncomfortable or irritating.

    If your teen or tween would like to consider contacts, you should schedule a consultation with your eye doctor and try a pair for a few days to see how it goes.

  3. Alternative options: In some situations there may be other options such as vision therapy or Ortho-K (where you are prescribed special contacts to wear at night that shape the cornea for clear vision during the day) which could result in improvements in vision. Speak to your optometrist about what alternatives might exist for your teen or tween.