Skip to main content

We’re open for appointments! Please review our COVID-19 safety protocols here.

Home »

Uncategorized

How Contact Lenses Can be a Danger to your Eyes

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

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

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.

When 20/20 Vision isn’t Enough For Your Child

Since studies show that learning is 80% visual, children with untreated vision problems can really suffer when it comes to school. Most people think that good “vision” means 20/20 acuity but in reality, vision is much more complex. Your brain is actually what completes the processing of the visual world around you and visual processing disorders can be present even when there is no evidence of a so-called “vision problem”.

The American Optometric Association reports that 2 out of 5 children have a vision condition that affects learning and estimates that 10 million American children have undiagnosed and untreated vision problems. In Canada, it’s reported that one in 4 school age children have undiagnosed vision problems, many with no obvious symptoms.

A major reason for this is that when parents and teachers see issues in school, they often run to learning or behavioral issues first. In reality, difficulty in reading, understanding, focusing, paying attention and even disruptive behavior can all be symptoms of an underlying vision disorder.

There are a number of skills that we need in order to successfully see and process the outside world. These include, eye teaming (being able to use the eyes together as a team), focusing, tracking, recognition and comprehension. When these skills are delayed or insufficient, learning, reading, understanding and motor skills can all be affected. Most of these visual processing issues cannot be treated by corrective glasses or contact lenses alone. Sometimes a regime of vision therapy exercises may be prescribed to teach the brain how to properly process the information that is coming in through the eyes.

Vision Therapy

Vision therapy often involves a combination of glasses, to optimize visual acuity if needed, and therapeutic exercises designed to train eye coordination and comfortable focusing ability. Typically, there is a comprehensive in-office assessment, then half-hour in-office sessions once every 1-3 weeks. The patient is given home eye exercises to be done 15-20 minutes per day, often with help from the parent.

Vision therapy is a process that can take up to several months before improvement or goals are met. In addition, going through vision therapy does not ensure that your child will get better grades, we are simply trying to give them all the proper learning tools so they can achieve to their fullest potential.

Identifying Vision Disorders

One example of a visual processing disorder is Convergence Insufficiency (CI), a common eye coordination disorder in which the eyes have problems viewing near tasks due to convergence problems. This is when the eyes have difficulty working together and focusing as a team, resulting in eyestrain, headaches and double vision. Children with CI often report that words appear to be “moving across the page”, making reading and comprehensive impossibly difficult.

As with many vision problems, children often don’t realize that their experience is abnormal so they often don’t report the difficulties they are having. Here are some indications that your child might have a vision problem:

  • Headaches
  • Avoiding close tasks such as reading or playing certain games
  • Frequent Blinking and Eye Rubbing
  • Difficulty reading – losing place frequently
  • Covering one eye when trying to focus
  • Double vision
  • Poor memory or reading comprehension
  • Short attention span
  • Clumsiness or poor hand-eye coordination

If your child is having difficulty in school, particularly with tasks involving reading, it is worth getting an eye and vision exam. The sooner a visual processing issue is diagnosed and treated, the greater chance your child with have to thrive and enjoy the school years.

Cutting Edge Eye-dentification

We have all seen the futuristic thrillers that use high-tech eye scanning identification systems but nowadays the technology does exist to use them in real life. A greater number of high security establishments have begun to use iris recognition for identification and security systems.

How does it work?

The iris is the colored part of the eye that forms a ring around the black pupil that is responsible for contractions of the pupil to let in more or less light. It is also the only internal organ that is visible from outside the body. Like a fingerprint, the colors and patterns of the iris are completely unique to each individual, and this unique texture usually doesn’t change throughout a person’s lifetime. Because of these characteristics a scan of the iris is a highly reliable source of personal identification.

Iris recognition measures these unique patterns and textures through a specialized camera which captures an image of the iris from about 3-10 inches away. Iris recognition is considered one of the most accurate forms of biometrics (the use of body measurements for identity checks) because it is non-intrusive, fast and accurate. As a comparison, while fingerprint identification uses 40 unique characteristics, the iris has 256 unique markers.

In order for iris recognition to work, your iris first needs to be scanned and enrolled into the system so it can recognize your identity. Enrollment requires your eyes to be photographed using both ordinary and infrared light which helps to highlight the unique patterns present in the iris. These digital photographs then go through a specialized analysis that identifies the unique features (the 256 markers mentioned above) and then stores the information as a 512-digit number (your IrisCode®) along with your name and personal details into a database. This all happens within a few minutes.

Once you are in the system, you simply need to stand in front of the iris scanner and within minutes your iris can be verified.

Limitations of Iris Scanning

The markers on your iris usually remain unchanged throughout your lifetime except in cases of extreme injury to the eye, inflammation (such as iritis) or changes due to cancers. Additionally, certain surgeries for glaucoma involve removing part of the iris (iridectomy) or using lasers to put holes in the iris (iridotomy) which would also change the iris pattern. Lastly, certain tinted contact lenses could be a complication with iris scans because some of them have an artificial iris pattern imprinted on them. Nevertheless, iris scanning is still considered to be the most accurate and effective form of biometric identification.

 

Iris scanning is already being used in airports, military and prison institutions, high security government and corporate institutions and even at ATM and bank tellers. Looking into the future, it is likely we will see much more of this technology in common use.

Innovations in Color Blindness

There have been a lot of videos going viral lately of color blind people “seeing color” for the first time using specialized glasses. The emotional reactions of amazement, shock and joy even lead some to break down into tears. The glasses provide these individuals a way to view the world in vibrant, living color, as everyone else around them is able to.

One in every 12 men and one in every 200 women have some degree of color blindness or color vision deficiency (CVD). The condition is not actual blindness, but an inability or a decreased ability to see color and perceive differences in color. CVD can be a partial or total deficiency, although total color blindness is not as common. There are two main types of color blindness:

  • red-green – which is most often inherited from the mother’s side on the x chromosome, and

  • blue-yellow – which is much more rare and usually occurs from damage to the nerve. CVD can sometimes be acquired through disease, brain injury or certain drugs or chemical reactions

The World of the Color Blind

Contrary to common misconceptions, a person who is color blind does not see only grey. He still usually sees color to some extent, but often the colors appear dull or washed out and can be easily confused with other colors. People often have trouble identifying or naming certain colors or distinguishing colors, for example, red and green, as well as orange, yellow and brown may appear similar, particular in low light situations. In fact, while people with normal color vision typically see about one million unique shades of color, individuals with color deficiency are only able to perceive 5-10% of that.

People with color deficiency often do not know they are color blind until they are tested. They assume everyone else perceives colors the same way. Often individuals are tested when they are seeking out certain career paths in which it is essential to distinguish colors such as pilots, electricians or police officers among others.

Innovations in Color Vision

Color blindness can impair certain aspects of daily life and limit certain activities or job options and therefore there are a number of companies out there working on technology to overcome these difficulties. While there is no cure for CVD, there are aids available that can sometimes assist with increased color perception.

Eyeglasses/Sunglasses

There are a couple of brands of color enhancing glasses available that help some individuals with red-green colorblindness.

Both EnChroma and o2Amp Oxy-Iso Color Correction Glasses work for about 80% of people with red-green colorblindness – which means that not everyone will have the same experience as those that appear in the videos. The lenses enhance color perception by filtering out the light into different spectral components. EnChroma has two versions – indoor, designed for looking at computer screens and outdoor, sunglasses.

Another solution is a custom designed ColorCorrection System in which contact lenses and glasses are customized for the individual and are available with or without a prescription. These lenses work by changing the wavelength of the colors as they enter the eye to enhance color discrimination and perception.

Apps for CVD

There are a growing number of apps available for smartphones and tablets that serve as color vision aids for those with CVD. One example is the Colorblind Avenger which is a color identification program will allows the person to use their mobile device as a visual aid. The user takes a photo or selects an existing photo and when he touches an area on the image the app displays the color of the selected area.

Huevue is another app of colorblind tools that help people with CVD identify, match and coordinate colors. There are many other apps available out there to help aid those with CVD and educate others about living with the condition.

There are even video games and software design tools that are now created with colorblind modes to allow use by people with CVD. While none of these tools and aids are able to restore color vision permanently, they do allow those with the condition to live a more vibrant life.

Poolside Eye Safety

Whether it is the sea, the sand, the sun or the softball field, summer brings people outside and this creates exposure to a multitude of potential dangers to the eyes.

One risk that is possibly the least obvious is the swimming pool. Swimming pools are the culprit for multitudes of eye infections, irritations and sunburns each year.

Here are 3 tips for keeping your eyes safe in and around the swimming pool.

  1. Cover Your Eyes Poolside

    Sunlight reflects off water, sand and even cement, increasing exposure. Any time you are in the vicinity of a water source keep your eyes covered with 100% UV blocking sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat. Start this habit early. UV radiation builds up over your lifetime and has been linked to eye diseases such as cataracts and macular-degeneration in adults. Additionally, even short amounts of exposure to intense sunlight can lead to a sunburn of the eye or photokeratitis (see below for treatment), which can be painful and affect vision temporarily.

  2. Remove or Protect Contact Lenses

    Contact lenses can trap bacteria and microscopic organisms found in water inside your eye resulting in eye infections and irritation. Further, if contacts are worn underwater, they might fall off if you open your eyes. Lastly, there is risk that chlorine or other contaminants will bind onto the contact lens, and certain chemicals cannot be cleaned off or disinfected properly. The best solution is to wear non-prescription swimming goggles over your lenses to keep water and harmful organisms out of your eyes. Prescription goggles are also available for those who prefer to remove their contacts. If you must swim with contact lenses, remove them immediately after you leave the pool and discard or disinfect them thoroughly. It’s preferable to use 1-day disposable contact lenses during water activities, to reduce risk of water contaminating the contacts. Daily disposable lenses allow you to discard the lenses immediately after leaving the water and to start with a fresh lens.

  3. Wear Goggles

    Swimming goggles are a good idea even for those who have no vision problems. They protect your eyes from the organisms in the water and from chemical irritants such as chlorine and yes, even urine, which are often found in pools. Your eyes will feel much better after swimming if they haven’t been exposed to the water.

How to Treat Sunburned Eyes:

The cornea at the front of the eye can develop a sunburn from extensive exposure to UV radiation. You can tell you have sunburned eyes when the white of the eye becomes bloodshot and your eyes are sensitive to light and have a gritty feeling (like there is sand in your eye). They may also become sore and sometimes you may experience blurred vision.

If you are experiencing discomfort it may help to soothe your eyes with lubricating eye drops, to rest and to stay out of sunlight as much as possible. Sometimes anti-inflammatory eye drops may be required. Usually the symptoms will resolve themselves within a couple of days. If your symptoms persist longer than two days or worsen, visit your eye doctor immediately.

Avoid eye sunburns and the cumulative effects of the sun on your precious eyes by always wearing 100% UV blocking sunglasses – rain or shine!

Cataract Awareness Month: What to Expect from Cataract Surgery

After the age of 50 most people will eventually be diagnosed with cataracts. Cataracts are when the natural crystalline lens of the eyes become clouded, causing vision impairment that can not be corrected by glasses or contact lenses. While commonly an age-related condition, occasionally there are infants born with a congenital cataract, and it’s possible for young people to develop a cataract related to trauma, injury or infection.

Cataracts are one of the leading causes of visual impairment and the leading cause of blindness worldwide. As of 2010 they were responsible for 51% of world blindness and as life expectancy continues to grow, so does the incidence of cataracts. The condition can be cured by surgical removal of the cataract, which is one of the most common surgeries performed in the United States and Canada.

Cataract surgery involves removing the clouded natural crystalline lens of the eye and replacing it with a clear intraocular lens (IOL). It is typically an outpatient procedure which does not require an overnight stay. Cataract surgery is one of the safest and most effective surgeries performed in North America today, having a 90% success rate (patient has improved vision, between 20/20 and 20/40 following the procedure).

Implants (IOLs)

In this day and age, there are several types of implants available. Traditionally, implants have been single vision where the patient’s new lenses are optimally focused for distance vision in both eyes. This usually necessitates the use of reading glasses after the surgery. Implants can also be done in what is called monovision, in which one eye is focused for distance and the other focused for reading. People that have previously used monovision contact lenses are usually able to tolerate this with surgery as well. Recently, there have been many advances in the use of bifocal and multifocal implants. Like glasses, these implants try to give a patient vision at all distances without having to use glasses. Your eye doctor can counsel you on the best option based on your history and prescription. No matter which correction type is chosen for cataract surgery, since presbyopia continues to worsen with age, eventually most patients do require reading glasses again.

Before the Surgery

Cataract surgery is not for everyone. Your eye doctor may advise that your cataracts (and therefore vision) are not bad enough yet to necessitate treatment. Additionally there may be other risk factors or issues with the health of your eyes that could contraindicate the option of surgery.

A comprehensive eye exam will be performed to check your overall eye health and your vision. During the pre-surgery exam, measurements will be taken of your cornea and your eye as well, to help fit the right intraocular lens for your eye and vision needs. You will also be asked to go over a brief medical history including any medications (including over the counter medications) and supplements that you take to ensure the success of the surgery. For example, some medications, such as Flomax, can can affect the iris causing floppy iris syndrome, which creates a challenge for the cataract surgeon.

During the Surgery

The entire procedure from start (pupil dilation and administration of local anesthetics and sometimes a sedative to relax) to finish (post-operative evaluation and discharge) will probably take about an hour to an hour and a half. Nevertheless the actual surgery – removing the clouded lens and replacing it with the IOL – typically takes only about 15 minutes. You will not feel or see the IOL after the implant.

There are lasers that are sometimes used to assist with cataract surgery, creating precise incisions. However a skilled cataract surgeon is still required for the procedure.

Post-surgery

You will not be able to drive home from the procedure and shouldn’t drive until you have been given approval by your eye doctor after a follow-up exam the next day. You will be required to take medicated eye drops for a number of weeks following the surgery to prevent infection, control eye pressure and reduce inflammation. It is important to take the eye drops as directed by your doctor to avoid complications.

You will also need to protect your eyes from bright light with sunglasses and to wear a protective shield at certain times, such as when you are sleeping. It is advised to avoid strenuous activity, swimming or any other activities that would put your eyes at risk of getting dirty or infected for at least a week following the procedure.

Vision will usually begin to improve within a few days of the procedure. You may however experience some blurred vision or redness for a number of days or weeks during the healing process. It is normal to feel some initial discomfort or itchiness in the days following the surgery. If you have cataracts in both eyes, your doctor will probably schedule a second surgery a month or two after the first to allow your eye to heal properly before undergoing the second procedure.

If you experience any serious symptoms such as loss of vision, persistent pain or redness, flashes or floaters or nausea contact your doctor immediately.

The majority of patients will still need eyeglasses at least sometimes following the surgery so once your eyes have healed your doctor will fit you for a prescription. Secondary cataract can occur months or years after the initial cataract surgery. This is when an opacity develops behind the IOL and can mimic cataract symptoms. Regular checkups with your optometrist can detect this, and arrangements for a simpler laser treatment instead of surgery can resolve this problem.

Sunwear for a Bright Future

According to the Vision Council’s 2016 UV (Ultraviolet Radiation) Protection report, parents are more likely to wear sunglasses (56%) than their children (only 29%!). Yet children, who spend much more time outside, are typically exposed to three times the amount of sunlight and UV radiation that adults get. This early exposure can lead to serious eye damage and complications later in life.

Children’s Eyes are More Sensitive

Particularly when it comes to children under 10 years of age, a child’s eye is more vulnerable than an adult’s. This is because, in children, the human lens lets about 70% more UV into the eye than in an adult. Further, once the cells of the lens are damaged they cannot repair themselves so the damage continues to accumulate throughout life. While immediate danger may be minimal, early efforts toward eye protection can prevent problems in adulthood.

Children Have Greater Exposure to UV

At 20 years of age, the average person has received 80% of their life’s UV exposure. Children spend more time outdoors playing, participating in sports and even during recess at school. Since children have more transparent lenses in their eyes and more sensitive skin on their bodies, they are at great risk of experiencing adverse effects of overexposure 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.

UV exposure doesn’t just come from the sun. Sunlight reflected off of water, snow, sand and even pavement increases UV exposure and therefore wearing a wide-brimmed hat is often not enough to protect the eyes. Additionally, children are often looking upwards directly toward the sun at adults and objects that are taller than they are.

Children Need to Learn Good Habits

The immediate effects of sun damage, such as sunburns to the eye, often go unnoticed, especially by children. Therefore, unlike a serious and painful sunburn to the skin which can serve as a learned deterrent, the risks and results of eye damage are less obvious. Children need to be taught about the importance of wearing sunglasses. This starts with a good example set by parents who should wear sunglasses every time they go outside. Purchasing a good pair of properly protective sunglasses that are comfortable and fit your child, and encouraging their use and care are also essential.

Selecting Sunglasses for Kids

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 can wear off with cleaning and give you a false sense of security. Also lens distortion and poor frame quality of discount sunwear may cause eyestrain. Ophthalmic quality lenses that provide UV protection and crisp optics should be made to last with good warranties to back up problems that can occur.

There is a plethora of options for children’s sunglasses and a good pair doesn’t need to break the bank. The first and most important criterion is that the lenses block 100% of UVA and UVB rays. You may want to also consider impact resistant polycarbonate lenses for more durability. For smaller children, look for adjustable sunglasses or a pair that includes a strap to keep the glasses in place. Inviting your child to shop with you will help ensure that the glasses are comfortable, fit right and that the child will like them, which can definitely increase the likelihood of the child agreeing to wear them as needed.

How UV Damages Your Eyes

UV Awareness Month:

This article might scare you, and we hope it does – just enough to motivate you to wear proper eye protection against the sun.

Most people are aware of the dangers ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun pose to your skin, while the long-term effects of sun exposure on your eyes are less well-known. UV radiation can damage the internal structures of your eye, causing eye damage and vision loss, as well as threaten the delicate skin surrounding the eye and the lids.

Before you head out into the sun without full eye protection consider the following risks:

Cataracts:

Cataracts or a clouding of the natural clear lens of the eye which is responsible for the eye’s ability to focus for clear vision, is strongly linked to UV exposure. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) up to an estimated 20% of cataracts may be directly linked to UV exposure. Cataracts are the most common cause of treatable blindness around the world.

Macular Degeneration:

Macular Degeneration or Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in adults aged 50 and older. The vision loss occurs gradually and often unnoticeably as the macula – which is the center of the retina responsible for clear central vision – breaks down. While total blindness usually does not result, central vision is often lost resulting in a condition called low vision, which seriously impairs independent living and quality of life. UVA exposure has been shown to be a cause of macular degeneration.

Eyelid Cancer:

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, cancers of the eyelid account for 5 -10% of all skin cancers. Skin cancers of the eyelid which include basal cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas and melanoma, can all spread to the eye and surrounding areas, causing eye and vision damage as well as facial disfigurement. If left untreated, they can eventually spread to the brain. When diagnosed and treated early on these cancers have a positive response rate to surgery and follow-up care.

Early warning signs of eyelid cancer include:

  • Chronic infection, red eye, swelling or inflammation that doesn’t respond to medication
  • A change in the appearance of the skin on the eyelid
  • A lesion that does not heal
  • A lump or thickening on the eyelid that may bleed and doesn’t heal
  • A sudden loss of eyelashes

If you have any of these symptoms, they may have other causes but it is best to consult with a doctor as soon as possible.

Keratitis

Keratitis or corneal sunburn occurs when excessive exposure to UV causes burns to the cornea. The cornea is the part of the eye that reflect light onto the retina allowing vision. A corneal sunburn can result in temporary vision loss. Keratitis is known to occur from use of tanning beds and while skiing or snowboarding at high altitudes in snowy conditions where the sun rays reflect off of the white snow into the eyes. Proper eye protection is essential for these environments.

The best step you can take to keep your eyes and vision safe from UV exposure is to ensure that you wear 100% UV blocking sunglasses any time your eyes are exposed to the sun. Larger framed sunglasses and or wide brimmed sunhats that prevent light from entering on the top and sides are even more effective. Take the time to ensure you have regular comprehensive eye exams as well to help catch any problems early on to prevent deterioration and save your eyes and vision.