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8 Tips to Relieve Winter Dry Eyes

Dr. Barry C. Nolt Prof. Corp - Local Vision Center in Edmonton, AlbertaWhether you live in a climate with cold winter weather or you are planning a ski trip up north, winter can be a challenge if you suffer from dry eyes. Dry, cool air, cold winds and even drier indoor heating can cause eye irritation, burning, itchiness and redness, and sometimes even excessively watery eyes as more tears are produced to compensate for the dryness. Many people have a chronic feeling that they have something in their eye and some even experience blurred vision. These symptoms can be debilitating!

Dry eyes is one of the most common complaints eye doctors get from patients during the winter season, especially in the cooler climates. That’s why we’d like to share some tips on how to relieve dry eye discomfort, and how to know when your condition is serious enough to come in for an evaluation.

“Dry, cool air, cold winds and even drier indoor heating can cause eye irritation, burning, itchiness and redness”

Tips to Relieve Winter Dry Eyes

  1. Keep eyes moist using artificial tears or eye drops. You can apply these a few times each day when the eyes are feeling dry or irritated. If over-the-counter drops don’t help or if you have chronic dry eyes, speak to your eye doctor about finding the best drops for you. Since not all artificial tears are the same, knowing the cause of your dry eye will help your eye doctor determine which brand is best suited for your eyes.
  2. Use a humidifier to counteract the drying effects of indoor heaters or generally dry air.
  3. Point car vents or indoor heaters away from your face when the heat is on. Try to keep your distance from direct sources of heating, especially if they blow out the heat.
  4. Drink a lot! Hydrating your body will also hydrate your eyes.
  5. Protect your eyes outdoors with sunglasses or goggles – the bigger the better! Larger, even wrap-around glasses as well as a hat with a wide brim will keep the wind and other elements out of your eyes. If you wear goggles for winter sports, make sure they fit well and cover a large surface area.”
  6. Soothe dry eyes using a warm compress and never rub them! Rubbing your eyes will increase irritation and may lead to infection if the hands are not clean.
  7. Give your eyes a digital break. People blink less during screen time which is why extensive computer use can lead to dry eyes. Follow the 20/20/20 rule by taking a break every 20 minutes to look 20 feet away for 20 seconds and make sure you blink!
  8. For contact lens wearers: If you wear contact lenses, dry eyes can be particularly debilitating as the contact lenses can cause even further dryness and irritation. Contact lens rewetting drops can help your eyes feel better and may also allow you to see more clearly. Not all eyedrops are appropriate for use with contact lenses, so ask your optometrist which eyedrop is compatible with your contacts and cleaning solution. If rewetting drops don’t help, consider opting for glasses when your dry eyes are bad, and speak to your optometrist about which brands of contact lenses are better for dry eyes. Many people find dry eye improvement when they switch to daily single use contact lenses.”

Chronic Dry Eyes or Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome is a chronic condition in which the eyes do not produce enough tear film, or do not produce the quality of tear film needed to properly keep the eyes moist. While winter weather can make this condition worse, it is often present all year round. If you find that the tips above do not alleviate your discomfort or symptoms, it may be time to see a optometrist to see if your condition requires more effective medical treatment. ”

Call Dr. Barry C. Nolt Prof. Corp on 780-423-2177 in Edmonton, AB to schedule an eye exam with our optometrist.

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Local Dry Eye Treatment in Edmonton, Alberta

Just in case you missed them, here are some of our previous blog posts :

6 Crazy Holiday Eye Injuries to Avoid

Diet + Exercise + Eye Exams = Good Vision

How UV Damages Your Eyes

Is Too Much Screen Time Dangerous For Your Kids?

Exercise and Your Eye Health

Dr. Barry C. Nolt Prof. Corp - Local Vision Center in Edmonton, AlbertaRegular exercise is an essential component of overall health and wellness. It is proven that exercise reduces sickness and disease; it increases strength, immunity, and mental health; and it also helps regulate bodily functions and maintain a healthy weight. Research shows that exercise can lower our risk of chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema, as well as other eye diseases such as glaucoma, cataracts and wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Whereas, a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of these diseases and of vision loss, studies show that even moderate exercise at least three times a week can improve the prognosis of the above-mentioned chronic illnesses and reduce the risks of developing vision threatening eye diseases.

Inactivity is an even higher risk factor if you have other co-factors for developing eye diseases, including: a family history, previous eye injury or surgery, diabetes, high blood pressure or very high myopia. A combination of healthy lifestyle habits which include regular exercise and a nutritious diet and tending to your mental and emotional well-being can reduce these risks significantly.”

“Regular exercise is an essential component of overall health and wellness.”

Tips for Incorporating Physical Activity Into Your Day

Make it a priority. Schedule your exercise time into your day as if it is a non-negotiable appointment. Find the time of day that works best – for some that is early morning and for others late at night. Work your way up to a half hour at least three times a week.
Be realistic. You don’t need to become a fitness expert to experience the benefits of exercise. Walking, yoga, swimming, even dancing around the house are all options for staying fit. Find a type of exercise that you love so you will enjoy working this habit into your life.
Just move. Find ways to move your body throughout your day. Park your car a little further away from the mall entrance, take the stairs instead of the elevator or walk or bike to work. Remember, every little bit of movement helps.
Find something you enjoy. Often finding the right exercise is a good stress reliever, and reducing stress will also reduce risk of many chronic diseases.
It’s never too late. Exercise for the elderly can be a challenge especially during the cold winter months, when many seniors can’t get out of the house due to the weather. Even walking up and down the stairs in the house or following an exercise video can be helpful to keep from being sedentary.”

Protection & Prevention of Eye Conditions

If you are exercising outdoors or playing contact sports, make sure to protect your eyes with sunglasses or sports safety glasses to ensure your eye health and safety.

Regular exercise can significantly decrease your risks of certain eye conditions but you still have to ensure that you visit your eye doctor for regular exams. Schedule a comprehensive eye exam every year to ensure your vision and your eyes are healthy and to catch any possible problems as early as possible.”

Eye health and disease prevention are just two of the many health and wellness benefits you gift yourself when you make exercise a regular part of your lifestyle. Speak to your doctor if you have any health issues that need to be considered. At any age or level of physical fitness, you can find some form of exercise that works for you.

Call Dr. Barry C. Nolt Prof. Corp on 780-423-2177 in Edmonton, AB to schedule an eye exam with our optometrist.

FOLLOW US

Alternatively book an appointment online here CLICK FOR AN APPOINTMENT

Just in case you missed them, here are some of our previous blog posts :

6 Crazy Holiday Eye Injuries to Avoid

How to Disinfect Glasses to Help Prevent COVID-19

Can Lasik Correct Astigmatism?

Why Does Your Eye Doctor Dilate Your Pupils for an Eye Exam?

Women and Diabetes – World Diabetes Day

November 14th is World Diabetes Day. This year, the theme of World Diabetes Day is women and diabetes – our right to a healthy future. The goal of this campaign is to promote awareness of the importance of equal and affordable access for all women, whether they are at risk or already living with diabetes, to the treatments, medications, technology, education and information they need to prevent diabetes and to obtain the best possible outcome of the disease.

Here are some facts about women and diabetes around the World:

  • 199 million – the number of women living with diabetes to date.
  • 313 million – the projected statistic for the year 2040.
  • 2.1 million – the number of female deaths due to diabetes per year.
  • 9 – diabetes is the ninth leading cause of death in women on a global scale.
  • 60 million – which is 2 out of 5 diabetic women, are of reproductive age, which increases the risk of early miscarriage, vision loss and having malformed babies.
  • 10 – women with type 2 diabetes are ten times more likely to develop coronary heart disease.

Much of these incidences of diabetes occur in women lacking access to proper medical care, education, physical activity and information they need to prevent and manage the disease. If more efforts and monies were put toward improving this situation, these numbers could drop significantly.

Pregnant women with hyperglycemia and gestational diabetes are also a major cause of concern. Limited access to screening tests, pre-pregnancy planning services, education and medical care could also improve the outcome of both the mother and the baby in these cases. The majority of instances of gestational diabetes occur in women from low and middle-income countries or households with limited access to maternal care.

Here are some additional facts about diabetes and pregnancy:

  • 1 out of 7 – the number of births worldwide affected by gestational diabetes.
  • 1 out of 2 – the number of women with gestational diabetes that develop type 2 diabetes within 5-10 years after giving birth.
  • 1 out of 2 – the number of cases of gestational diabetes that are found in women under 30 years of age.

Diabetes and Your Eyes

Diabetes damages many systems in your body including your eyes and vision. Most individuals with diabetes will eventually develop some extent of retinopathy or eye disease due to the consistently high levels of glucose in the blood which damage the blood vessels in the eye. Diabetic retinopathy can be a devastating disease that can leave you with permanent vision loss or blindness. It is a leading cause of blindness worldwide. Diabetes also speeds up the formation of cataracts and other ocular diseases which can lead to further vision loss and complications.

Women who have been diagnosed with diabetes prior to becoming pregnant have to be especially careful during pregnancy. It is much more difficult to regulate blood sugars during pregnancy, and more rapid progression of diabetic retinopathy can occur if one is not careful. Keeping track of diet and exercise, and taking medications as directed, can prevent or delay the impact of diabetes on the eyes.

In addition to poorly managed blood sugar levels, additional factors that contribute to developing diabetic retinopathy are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Hispanic or Native American descent, smoking, pregnancy, and the length of time you have the disease. The condition can be managed with regular eye exams in combination with steps to control blood sugar levels.

It’s important to note that diabetes sometimes causes symptoms of vision fluctuation (good days and bad days with vision or focusing) but many times the damage is asymptomatic in its early stages. This is why it is essential to have regular checkups even when you have no pain or vision symptoms.

If you or someone you know has diabetes, regular eye exams are essential to monitor and prevent vision loss. Stay informed and spread awareness about this challenging condition. You can help be part of the change to improve the lives of women and people all over the world that suffer from diabetes and the serious complications that come with it.

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

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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

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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.

Poolside Eye Safety

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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

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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

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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

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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.

What is a stye anyway?

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A stye (known by eye doctors as a hordeolum) is an infection of an oil gland which forms a pimple-like bump on the base of the eyelid or within the eyelid itself. Styes can be uncomfortable, causing swelling, pain, redness, discomfort and sometimes excessive tearing or blurred vision if it is large enough to distort the front surface of the eyes.

What causes a stye?

The oil glands on the eyelid sometimes become blocked with dirt, dead skin or a buildup of oil and when this happens, bacteria can grow inside. Blockage is also commonly from eye cosmetics that block the orifices within the lid. This blockage causes the gland to become infected and inflamed, resulting in a stye. A stye can form on the inside or the outside of the eyelid and can cause swelling around the eye, sometimes affecting the entire eyelid.

Treating a stye

Styes are treated with antibiotics, often in severe cases with a prescription for oral antibiotics, to reduce the bacteria responsible for the infection. Treatment for a stye is recommended otherwise there is a likelihood of recurrence. Applying a hot compress to the eye for 10-15 minutes a few times throughout the day will bring some relief and speed up the healing process.

Similar to a pimple, the stye will likely rupture, drain and heal on its own. Occasionally a stye, especially one on the inside of the eye will not resolve itself and may require the assistance of an eye doctor for additional treatment. In such a case the stye is surgically opened and drained to reduce the swelling and cosmetic issues associated with the style.

You should never pop a stye! This can cause the bacteria to spread and worsen the infection. If a stye is getting worse, more painful or irritated, contact your eye doctor for treatment.

In cases where styes occur frequently, your eye doctor may decide to prescribe topical antibiotic ointment or a cleansing regimen to prevent recurrence.

Chalazia: Another type of bump on the eyelid

Similar to a stye, a chalazion is a blocked oil gland on the eyelid that becomes enlarged. The main difference between a chalazion and stye is that the chalazion is non-infectious. Treatment involves lid hygiene, warm compresses and lid massage. If it is persistent, then surgical removal (incision and curettage) would be performed.