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Progressive Myopia: When Your Child’s Vision Keeps Getting Worse

What Is Progressive Myopia?

Nearsightedness or myopia is one of the most prevalent eye disorders worldwide and its incidence is increasing. In fact by 2050, myopia is projected to affect half of the world’s population!

Many children diagnosed with nearsightedness (myopia) experience a consistent worsening of their vision as they grow into adolescence. This condition can be so aggressive that for some, each time they take their child to the eye doctor for a vision checkup, their prescription gets higher.

This is called progressive myopia and can be a serious condition for many children now and in the future. Not only is there a financial burden and inconvenience associated with having to replace eyeglasses on a regular basis, but high myopia is a risk factor for many eye diseases later in life such as retinal detachment, early onset cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration.

What Causes Progressive Myopia?

Myopia is a refractive error that happens when the eye focuses incoming light in front of the retina, rather than directly on it, resulting in blurred distance vision. While an exact cause of progressive myopia is not known, most research indicates that a combination of environmental and genetic factors trigger the condition.

First of all, there is evidence that a family history of nearsightedness is a contributing factor. Additionally, spending a lot of time indoors may play a role in myopia development, as studies show that children who spend more time outside have less incidence of myopia. Lastly, near point stress, which can be caused from looking at a near object for an extended period of time, can prompt the eye to grow longer and result in myopia. Several eye doctors recommend following the 20-20-20 rule when using digital devices (stopping every 20 minutes to look 20 feet away for 20 seconds) to reduce near point stress caused by computer use.

What Can Be Done To Prevent or Treat Myopia?

There are several treatments that have been shown to slow the progression of myopia.

Orthokeratology (ortho-k):

Also known as corneal reshaping, this treatment uses rigid gas permeable contact lenses that are worn while the patient sleeps to reshape the cornea, which is the clear, front part of the eye. During the day, the patient is usually able to see clearly, glasses-free. In addition to allowing glasses-free vision during the day, this treatment has been shown to reduce the progression of myopia in many children.

Distance Center Multifocal Contact Lenses:

This treatment uses distance center (which means the area for seeing at a distance is in the center of the lens) multifocal soft contact lenses to provide clear vision and slow the progression of myopia. The lenses are worn as normal contact lenses during the day.

Prescription Eye Drops:

Prescription eye drops are a daily-use prescription eye drop that has been shown to reduce myopia progression. It can be used alone or in combination with ortho-k or multifocal contact lenses.

Additional Myopia Treatments:

While these treatments are available in all of North America, some countries offer additional options that are approved for myopia control. For example, in Canada, ZeissTM MyoVision glasses that have an innovative lens curvature design are available to help reduce the rate of myopia progression. Additionally some doctors in Canada offer Coopervision MiSight® lenses, which are 1-day contact lenses that are worn during the daytime. These contacts have a multifocal lens design with distance centre and near surround that is specifically designed for children.

Myopia & Your Child

If your child’s vision keeps getting worse, it’s more than an annoyance – it can be a serious risk factor for their eye health and vision in the future. The best strategy for myopia control depends on the child and the severity of the case, and requires consultation with an experienced eye doctor in order to determine the best solution. If your child wears glasses, make his or her vision a priority; schedule an eye exam to ensure stable vision and healthy eyes.

 

Inside a Life With Color Vision Deficiency

While we do not offer these services, we are presenting the following information for your knowledge.

What’s it like to be color blind? Contrary to what the name implies, color blindness usually does not actually mean that you don’t see any color, but rather that you have difficulty perceiving or distinguishing between certain colors. This is why many prefer the term color vision deficiency or CVD to describe the condition. CVD affects men more than women, appearing in approximately 8% of men (1 in 12) and .5% of women (1 in 200) worldwide.

Having color vision deficiency means that you perceive color in a more limited way than those with normal color vision. This ranges from mild, in which you may not even be aware that you are experiencing color differently, to severe, which is perhaps the more appropriate from to be called “color blind” and involves the inability to see certain colors.

CVD can be inherited; it is caused by abnormalities in the genes that produce photopigments located in the cone cells in your eyes. The eyes contain different cone cells that fire in response to a specific color, blue, green or red and together allow you to see the depth and range of colors that the normal eye can see. The type of color blindness and therefore the type of color vision that is impaired, is based on which photopigments are abnormal. The most common form of CVD is red-green, followed by blue-yellow. Total color blindness or the complete inability to perceive color is quite rare. About 7% of males have congenital color blindness that they inherit from the mother’s X-chromosome.

Color blindness can also be the result of eye damage, specifically to the optic nerve, or to the area in the brain that processes color. Sometimes an eye disease, such as cataracts, can also impact one’s ability to perceive color. Systemic diseases such as diabetes or multiple sclerosis can also cause acquired CVD.

Living with CVD

Red-green color blindness does not mean only that you can’t tell the difference between red and green, but rather that any color that has some red or green (such as purple, orange, brown, pink, some shades of gray, etc) in it is affected.

You many not realize all of the ways you use even subtle distinctions in color in your daily life. Here are some examples of ways that CVD can impact your life and make seemingly everyday tasks challenging:

  • You may not be able to cook meat to the desired temperature based on color.
  • Most of the colors in a box of crayons will be indistinguishable.
  • You may not be able to distinguish between red and green LED displays on electronic devices that indicate power on and off.
  • You may not be able to tell between a ripe and unripe fruit or vegetable such as bananas (green vs. yellow) or tomatoes (red vs green).
  • Chocolate sauce, barbecue sauce and ketchup may all look the same.
  • Bright green vegetables can look unappealing as they appear greenish, brown or grey.
  • You may not be able to distinguish color coded pie charts or graphs (which can cause difficulty in school or work).
  • Selecting an outfit that matches can be difficult.

Knowing that one is color blind is important for some occupations that require good color discrimination such as the police officers, railway workers, pilots, electricians etc. These are just a few of the ways that CVD can impact one’s daily life. So is there a cure? Not yet.

While there is no cure for CVD, there is research being done into gene therapies and in the meantime there are corrective devices available including color vision glasses (such as the Enchroma brand) and color filtering contacts that for some can help to enhance color for some people. If you think you might have CVD, your optometrist can perform some tests to diagnose it or rule it out. If you have CVD, you can speak to your eye doctor about options that might be able to help you experience your world in full color.

Innovations in Color Blindness

While we do not offer these services, we are presenting the following information for your knowledge.

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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.

How to Find the Right Pair of Glasses for your Child

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Whether you are looking for regular prescription glasses, sunwear or protective sports eyewear, it can be tough choosing the best eyewear for children and teens. On the one hand, they need to be comfortable and provide the optimal fit for improved vision and protection. At the same time, they also need to be durable, especially if your child is active, plays contact sports or tends to drop or lose things. Not to mention, particularly once you get into tween and teenage years, they have to be stylish and look good. When you add in a budget and your child’s opinion, the decision can be truly overwhelming.

Before you begin looking, it is best to narrow down your options by answering the following questions (and consulting your eye doctor when necessary):

  1. Does my child need to wear his or her glasses all the time or are they for part time wear?
  2. Does my child’s prescription call for a thicker or wide lens requiring a certain type of frame?
  3. Does my child have any allergies to frame materials?
  4. What type of sports protection does my child need?
  5. Would cable (wrap around) temples or a strap be necessary for my child (particularly in toddlers)?
  6. Do I have a preference in material or features (such as flexible hinges or adjustable nose pads)?
  7. Are there particular colors or shapes that my child prefers or that will look most attractive?

Armed with the answers to those questions and a qualified optician, you can begin your search. Keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Including your children in the selection process will greatly enhance the chances of them actually being excited about wearing and caring for their glasses. So make it fun and exciting for them!
  2. Polycarbonate or Trivex lenses are impact-resistant lenses that are recommended for children’s eyewear to protect their eyes. Also consider adding a scratch resistant coating.
  3. When trying on options, consult with the optician to ensure proper fit. Make sure the frames don’t slide off the bridge of the nose, cover the eyes, squeeze at the temples or extend too far behind the ears. Proper frame fit is especially important for kids with specialty prescriptions like bifocals or Myovision, and for kids with lazy eye (amblyopia) and high spectacle Rx.
  4. If shopping for protective sports eyewear, consider the conditions of the sport your child plays to ensure proper eye protection. They now have much more selection in children’s safety eyewear with cool designs and some glasses even have convertible temples (arms) and straps to become interchangeable dress wear and safety wear.
  5. Keep in mind that it may be more cost effective to spend a little more on strong and durable eyewear now than to have to replace a flimsy pair later. Each office differs in the warranties they offer and the length and terms of coverage. Ask your optician about what is and is not covered under their frame and lens coverage policy.
  6. If your child is put into bifocal lenses for reading issues or poor focusing issues (commonly used in pediatric vision therapy) they will generally require a deeper frame in order to have enough room for the bifocal, which is often difficult when dealing with smaller frames.
  7. Consider a blue light protecting anti-reflective coating. Children are especially prone to damage from blue wavelengths of light because their human lenses are so clear. Blue light is emitted from many of the devices we use such as cell phone screens, tablets, laptops, TVs, and the sun as well.

The great news is that the options in children’s eyewear in terms of style, quality and innovation is progressing rapidly. Rather than dreading the eyewear shopping experience, have a positive attitude. This will have a positive influence on your child’s relationship to eyewear and good vision that can last a lifetime.

Preventing Age-related Macular Degeneration

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February is AMD and Low Vision Awareness Month in the United States, and it’s White Cane Week in Canada. Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in adults aged 50 and older. Awareness about the disease, the risk factors and prevention are critical, even for younger generations because taking care of your eyes while you are young will help to reduce the risks later on in life.

Understanding AMD

AMD is a disease that damages the macula, which is the center of the retina responsible for sharp visual acuity in the central field of vision.  The breakdown of the macula eventually results in the loss of central vision and can occur in one eye or both eyes simultaneously. While AMD doesn’t result in complete blindness, the quality of vision is severely compromised leading to what we refer to as “low vision”.

The loss of central vision can interfere with the performance of everyday tasks such as driving, reading, writing, cooking, or even recognizing faces of friends and family.  The good news is, there are many low vision aides on the market now that can assist in helping you to perform these tasks. 

There are two types of AMD, wet and dry.

Dry AMD is the most common form of the disease. It is characterized by blurred central vision or blind spots, as the macula begins to deteriorate. Dry AMD is less severe than the wet form, but can progress to wet AMD rapidly.

Wet AMD is when abnormal blood vessels begin to grow under the retina and leak fluid and blood into the macula, causing distortions in vision. Wet AMD can cause permanent scarring if not treated quickly, so any sudden blur in vision should be assessed immediately, especially if one is aware that they have AMD.

Are You at Risk?

The biggest risk factor for AMD is age. Individuals over 60 are most likely to develop the disease however it can occur earlier.  Additional risk factors include:

  • Smoking: According to research smoking can double the risk of AMD.
  • Genetics and Family History: If AMD runs in your family you are at a higher risk. Scientists have also identified a number of particular genes that are associated with the disease.
  • Race: Caucasians are more likely to have AMD than those from Hispanic or African-American descent.
  • Lifestyle: Obesity, high cholesterol or blood pressure, poor nutrition and inactivity all contribute to the likelihood of getting AMD. 

Prevention of AMD:

If you have risk factors, here is what you can do to prevent or slow the progression of AMD:

  • Regular eye exams; once a year especially if you are 50 or over.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Know your family history and inform your eye doctor.
  • Proper nutrition and regular exercise: Research indicates that a healthy diet rich in “Eyefoods” with key nutrients for the eyes such as orange peppers, kale and spinach as well as regular exercise may reduce your risks or slow the progression of AMD.
  • Maintain healthy cholesterol levels and blood pressure. 
  • Dietary supplements: Studies by the National Eye Institute called AREDs and ARED2 indicated that a high dosage of supplements of zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E and lutein may slow the progression of advanced dry AMD (it is not recommended for those without AMD or early AMD).  Speak to a doctor before taking these supplements because there may be associated risks involved. 
  • Wear 99% -100% UV-blocking sunglasses.

The first step to eye health is awareness. Help us to spread the word about this debilitating disease and the importance of choosing a healthy lifestyle.

Resolve to Prevent Glaucoma in 2016

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This year, make healthy eyes and vision your resolution. Find out if you or a loved one is at risk for glaucoma, and take steps for prevention.

Glaucoma is a leading cause of preventable vision loss and blindness in adults in the United States and Canada and the second leading cause of blindness in the World. Projections show that the number of people with the disease will increase by 58% by 2030. These facts however could change with proper awareness.

When detected in the early stages, glaucoma can often be controlled, preventing severe vision loss and blindness. However, symptoms of noticeable vision loss often only occur once the disease has progressed. This is why glaucoma is called “the sneak thief of sight”. Unfortunately, once vision is lost from the disease, it usually can’t be restored.

Risk Factors

Prevention is possible only with early detection and treatment. Since symptoms are often absent regular eye exams which include a glaucoma screening are essential, particularly for individuals at risk for the disease. While anyone can get glaucoma, the following traits put you at a higher risk:

  • Age over 60
  • Hispanic or Latino descent, Asian descent
  • African Americans over the age of 40 (glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in African Americans, 6-8 times more common than in Caucasians.)
  • Family history of glaucoma
  • Diabetics
  • People with severe nearsightedness
  • Certain medications (e.g. steroids)
  • Significant eye injury (even if it occurred in childhood)

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is actually a group of eye diseases that cause damage to the optic nerve due to an increase in pressure inside the eye or intraocular pressure (IOP). Treatments include medication or surgery that can regulate IOP and slow down the progression of the disease to prevent further vision loss if detected early. The type of treatment depends on the type and the cause of the glaucoma.

What are the Symptoms?

Most times glaucoma does not have symptoms. There is no pain unless there is a certain type of glaucoma called angle closure glaucoma. In this case, the channel of outflow gets crowded then blocked, causing foggy, blurred vision, halos around lights, headache and even nausea. This is a medical emergency and should be assessed immediately as the intraocular pressure can become extremely high and cause permanent damage within hours.

Most forms of glaucoma have an “open angle”, which is not so urgent, but does need compliance with the treatment plan (which is sometimes difficult as some of the glaucoma drops have uncomfortable side effects). Once vision loss develops it typically begins with a loss of peripheral or side vision and then progresses inward.

What Can You Do To Prevent Glaucoma?

Because there are no symptoms, regular eye exams are vital to early detection. If you have any of the above risk factors or you are over 60, make a yearly comprehensive eye exam part of your routine. Make sure that your eye doctor knows your family history and any risk factors that are present.

A comprehensive eye exam can determine your risk of developing glaucoma; if you have been diagnosed with glaucoma and have concerns about your treatment, it is best to speak openly with your doctor. Remember, a simple eye doctor’s appointment on a regular basis could save your vision for a lifetime.

Why Do We Need Glasses?

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The most well-known part of a comprehensive eye exam is the basic vision test. When you have a general vision test, one of the main conditions the eye care practitioner is checking for is a refractive error. A refractive error means there is an abnormality in the shape of the eye, changing the eye’s ability to focus light directly onto the retina.This causes blurred vision and can usually be corrected by wearing prescription eyeglasses, contact lenses and possibly, alternate treatments such as vision therapy, ortho-k, LASIK or refractive surgery such as LASIK.

 

The term, “refractive error” refers to a problem with the process of refraction that is responsible for sight. Normally, light rays that enter your eye are refracted or bent through the cornea and the lens, and ultimately converge or are focused onto a single point on the retina. From the retina, messages are sent through the optic nerve to the brain which then interprets these signals into the image that we are seeing.   

 

In order for this process to work effectively, the anatomy of the eye including the length of the eye and the curvature of the cornea and the lens must be just right to be able to focus the light onto the retina. When this is not the case, a refractive error will occur.

 

There are several different types of refractive errors, depending on which part of the eye is affected, and it is possible to have multiple refractive errors at the same time:  

 

Myopia or nearsightedness:

In myopia the length of the eyeball is too long which results in light coming to a focus in front of the retina, rather than on the retina. This allows the individual to see well when objects are close but not clearly when looking at objects at a distance.

 

Hyperopia or farsightedness:

Hyperopia is when the eyeball is shorter than normal and can result in near objects being blurry. However, people experience hyperopia differently. Sometimes distant objects are clear while other times people may experience overall blurred vision near and far or no problems at all. In children particularly, the lens may accommodate for the error allowing for clear vision but may cause fatigue and sometimes crossed eyes or strabismus. Hyperopia causes eyestrain or fatigue especially when looking at near objects for a period of time. Often people with 20/20 vision may still need glasses at their desk to relax their eyes and improve concentration.

 

Astigmatism:

Astigmatism is usually the result of an irregularly shaped cornea (although it can sometimes also be due to a misshapen lens). The cornea, which is normally round, is more football-shaped in an eye with astigmatism, resulting in multiple focus points either in front of the retina or behind it (or both). People with astigmatism usually have blurred or distorted vision to some degree at all distances, near and far.

 

Presbyopia:

Presbyopia is an age-related condition which usually begins to appear sometime after 40.  As the eye begins to age, the lens stiffens and can no longer focus clearly on objects that are close.  

 

It’s important to note that presbyopia is often confused with hyperopia, as both cause problems focusing at near distances.  However, high hyperopia can also cause blur at far distances as well, especially in dim lighting, and depth perception problems can result in motor vehicle accidents.  In these instances people with hyperopia could use glasses at any distance.

If you are having trouble seeing, it is important to have an eye exam to determine the cause of the problem and to effectively correct your vision. Even if your vision is fine, you should schedule a routine eye exam on a regular basis to ensure that your eyes are healthy and that any potential problems are caught early.

 

Eye Safe Toys and Gifts for This Holiday Season

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‘Tis the season for giving, and parents, grandparents, family and friends need to know which toys and games to leave off the list because they can pose a risk to children’s health and eyesight. Last year nearly 252,000 emergency visits were due to toy-related injuries, almost half of which were to the head or face. Further, about 1 in 10 children’s eye injuries treated in the emergency room can be traced back to toys, most of which occur in children under 15 years of age.

The most common types of eye injuries that occur from toys can be anything from a scratch on the cornea (the front surface of the eye) to very serious injuries that can threaten vision such as traumatic cataracts, corneal ulcers, bleeding inside the eye and retinal detachment.

Most of these injuries can be prevented by taking the proper measures to evaluate the safety of gifts before they are purchased and to supervise children during any play with toys that could have the potential to cause damage or harm.

Here are some tips on how to select safe toys for children this holiday season:

  1. Check age recommendations on all toys to make sure they are age appropriate and suitable for the child’s maturity level. If younger siblings are present, ensure that any toys made for older children are kept out of reach.
  2. When possible, check toys for a seal of approval that the product meets national safety standards from a toy safety testing organization such as the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) or the Canadian Toy Testing Council.
  3. Do not purchase toys that have a projectile or sharp, protruding parts. Toys such as darts, guns, arrows or sharp propelling toys can cause serious eye injuries that can lead to permanent eye damage and even vision loss. Even high-powered water guns such as super soakers or soft foam dart guns can cause significant damage when shot at close range.
  4. Purchase safety eyewear with polycarbonate lenses to accompany sports equipment, chemistry sets or woodworking tools. Speak to your optometrist to learn more about the best option for your child’s hobby of choice.
  5. Check that toys with sticks or handles such as swords, fishing rods, pogo sticks, brooms or pony sticks have rounded edges or handles and avoid or supervise use with little children.
  6. Any toys or devices that have a laser or bright light (such as laser pointers or flashlights which are sometimes used by kids to play laser tag) can be dangerous. Bright lights such as those produced by high-powered flashlights can cause temporary vision loss that can lead to a risk of a fall or accident. Further, laser pointers are not safe for use by children as the light intensity can cause permanent vision loss if shined in someone’s eyes.

When purchasing a toy for a child that is important to you, make sure you are considering what is most important – their safety. Ask us if you have any questions about the eye safety of a toy or gift you are considering.

How Do We See?

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Have you ever thought about how vision works? Seeing is an incredible gift made possible by a system in which the eye and the brain process visual information from the outside world. If any step of that process does not function properly, vision will be impaired.

Similar to a camera, the eye transmits light from the world around us into an image that we can perceive. Certain parts of the eye even function like the different parts of a camera such as the shutter, the lens and film (if we can hearken back to the days when we used film in cameras). Here is a quick breakdown of the fascinating way our eyes and brain enable us to see and experience the world around us:

The Vision Process

Light reflected from an object in our field of view is gathered by the cornea which is essentially the clear “window” to our eye. The cornea then refracts the light rays through the pupil (the center of the iris where light enters the eye). The iris, which like the shutter of a camera will enlarge and shrink based on how much light is coming in, then passes the image onto the crystalline lens. Just like a camera lens, the lens in the eye focuses the light rays, projecting them to a point at the back of the eye called the retina, where the image will appear upside down. The retina contains a thin layer of color-sensitive cells called rods and cones that perceive color.

From the retina, the visual signals travel to the brain via the optic nerve. The brain receives information from both eyes and must then converge the images (and flip them right side up) to get a complete picture.

Vision Problems

A breakdown in vision can happen at any point in this process. From the muscles that control the eyes, to the parts within the eye, to the pathway to the brain. Sometimes vision impairment is due to technical problems with the eye receiving the information and passing the signal on, such as convergence insufficiency (inability to coordinate the eyes to converge on one point), myopia (nearsightedness) or cataracts (clouding of the lens).

Other times, the eyes might work perfectly, but there is a problem with the brain interpreting the signals it receives. In these cases we can’t “see” in the traditional sense, because our brains aren’t able to properly “read’ the signals or we don’t know what we are looking at. This is the case for some learning disorders that are caused by the visual processes in the brain such as dyslexia.

As you can see, vision is quite a complicated process. A simple vision exam isn’t always able to determine vision problems, especially in children which is why it is so important to have regular comprehensive eye exams, to measure the health of the eye and all of its parts.

How to Prevent Diabetic Vision Loss

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Eye Complications of Diabetes

It’s true. Diabetics have a higher risk of blindness than those without the disease. That fact coupled with the superior prognosis of early intervention, makes it easy to understand why optometrists and doctors say routine eye care is absolutely essential. Below, we’ll discuss what your eye doctor is looking for during a diabetic eye exam.

As the incidence of diabetes increases, it is important to spread awareness about the risks and proper preventative care for diabetes patients. November is Diabetes Awareness month, so read on!

Diabetics are at greater risk of for a number of eye problems.

Diabetic Retinopathy:

Diabetic retinopathy is the term used for the disorders associated with diabetes that cause progressive damage to the retina. The longer a patient has had diabetes, the more likely it is that he will develop these conditions which can be very serious, vision-threatening complications.

There are two types of retinopathy: nonproliferative and proliferative.

Nonproliferative retinopathy, which is the most common form, is when capillaries at the back of the eye become weakened and may start to leak blood and fluids. Nonproliferative retinopathy, which often has no symptoms, can be characterized as mild, moderate or severe, depending on how many blood vessels are affected and becoming blocked. This type of retinopathy usually doesn’t require treatment and doesn’t cause vision loss, unless the leaking fluid ends up in the macula where the eye focuses – a condition called macular edema. If this happens, vision can be blurred and even lost so preventative treatment is essential.

Proliferative retinopathy is much more severe. This is when so much damage is done to the blood vessels that they begin to close off. New blood vessels begin to grow in the retina as a response to this deterioration. The new and weak vessels can leak blood, impairing vision, or can form scar tissue which can distort the retina or cause a retinal detachment.

Proliferative retinopathy requires urgent referral to an ophthalmologist for treatment. While it usually takes years to develop, some instances of proliferative retinopathy can occur within weeks or months if blood sugars are not well-controlled. Pregnancy can also accelerate proliferative retinopathy in known diabetics. Yet if detected early, treatment can be done successfully.

Like high blood pressure, there are often no warning symptoms until advanced stages of diabetes. It is best to get checked each year by an optometrist. If you experience any changes in your vision such as spots in vision, flashes of light, blurred or double vision (rarely pain), make an appointment with your eye doctor immediately. Treatments do exists for retinopathy and many of them are successful in repairing damage and sometimes even restoring vision.

Cataracts:

Cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye which blocks light from entering and impairs vision. While cataracts are a fairly common and treatable condition, people with diabetes are 60% more likely to develop the condition and often get them at a younger age. Those with the condition also may experience vision fluctuation which occurs from sugar levels affecting the lens of the eye. Cataracts often progress faster in diabetics as well. In serious cases of cataracts, a surgical procedure is done to remove the natural lens of the eye which can sometimes cause complications in diabetic patients that may already have symptoms of other conditions such as diabetic retinopathy.

Glaucoma:

Glaucoma is a serious condition where pressure builds up in the eye causing damage to the retina and optic nerve and eventually if left untreated, blindness. Diabetics are 40% more likely to develop glaucoma and the risk increases with age and the amount of time the individual has had diabetes. There are treatments for glaucoma including medications and surgery but early detection and treatment are essential to prevent permanent vision loss. Glaucoma is often called the “silent thief of sight” because vision loss often doesn’t occur until significant damage is done. Therefore, yearly eye exams are essential.

Cornea Alterations:

Diabetics may experience reduced sensitivity in their cornea. This means that contact lens wearers that are diabetics should be more cautious, as they develop higher tolerance if the lens irritates the eyes and may be at greater risk of infection.

Eye Muscle Disturbance:

More advanced diabetes cases can show restriction of eye muscle movement due to nerve palsy.

 

For diabetics, the key to early detection and treatment – and therefore preserving your vision – is to have your eye health monitored on a regular basis. Get your eyes examined every year by an optometrist and if you experience any changes in your vision such as spots, floaters, blurred vision or pain, make an appointment with your eye doctor immediately.

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