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6 Ways to Prevent Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

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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.

Are You Missing Your Child’s Hidden Vision Problem?

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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:

  • astigmatism,
  • 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.

Vision Therapy

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.

“The Sneak Thief of Sight” Is On Our Minds This January

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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
  • Diabetes
  • 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.

Detecting Glaucoma

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.

Holiday Season Shopping: Are Nerf Guns Safe for the Eyes?

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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:

  1. Never shoot at the face.
  2. Never look into the barrel of the nerf gun, even if you think it isn’t loaded. 
  3. Avoid walking around with your finger on the trigger until you are ready to point and aim at the proper target. 
  4. Only shoot others that are “playing” and are aware that you are aiming at them.
  5. Don’t shoot from a moving vehicle (including a bicycle, skateboard, rollerblades, etc.).
  6. Don’t shoot at a moving vehicle.
  7. Never shoot at a close range.   
  8. 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.  

Dry Eye Syndrome Causes and Cures

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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:

  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Redness
  • 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.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month

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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
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Pregnancy
  • Genetics

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.

Don’t Let Fall Eye Allergies Get You Down

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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. 

How Contact Lenses Can be a Danger to your Eyes

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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.

An Active and Eye Safe Lifestyle

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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.   

10 Tips to Teach Children About Eye Safety

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Don’t Smoke. Smoking has been linked to increased risk of a number of vision threatening eye diseases.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

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