There are a number of environmental and systemic conditions that can affect your eye health and vision in ways that may not always be obvious to you. Diabetes, hypertension, and prolonged computer usage are just a few examples of conditions that may be affecting your vision and eye health. To ensure your eyes are healthy, we recommend that you visit your eye doctor for regular checkups and examinations. Adults should see an optometrist every one to two years, while children and seniors should be seen annually. Check out the links below to learn more!
Health Canada: It's Your Health - Contact Lenses
National Coalition for Vision Health
World Council of Optometry
Optometry Giving Sight
Vision 2020: The Right to Sight
Alberta Association of Optometrists
Alberta College of Optometrists
Alberta College of Optometrists Youtube channel
Ask a Doctor of Optometry Facebook
Optometric Services Inc.
COMMON VISION PROBLEMS
AMBLYOPIA (LAZY EYE)
Amblyopia or lazy eye describes weak vision or vision loss in one eye that cannot be fully corrected with lenses.
It usually develops in children before age eight. This is also the key time to treat amblyopia, since results are better the earlier they are implemented. It becomes extremely difficult to treat amblyopia after age eight. Untreated, amblyopia can lead to total blindness in the affected eye.
Amblyopia is more than simply an eye health problem. It involves the wiring of the nerve impulses from the eyes to the brain. Treatment typically may include: vision therapy, eyeglasses, contact lenses, eye drops, an eye patch or surgery. Surgery alone cannot treat amblyopia.
Astigmatism is an irregular curvature of the front surface of the eye that results in blurred vision at all distances. It is a common refractive error, just like nearsightedness and farsightedness. It is usually a condition from birth that progresses over time.
Eyeglasses, contact lenses and refractive surgery are all effective treatments for astigmatism.
Astigmatism frequently occurs with other vision conditions like myopia (nearsightedness) and hyperopia (farsightedness). Together these vision conditions are referred to as refractive errors because they affect how the eyes bend or "refract" light.
Hyperopia, or farsightedness, is a common refractive error. Approximately 25 per cent of the general population may be affected. Farsighted individuals see better in the distance than up close because less focus power is required for distance vision. Farsightedness is very common among elementary school-age children and a frequent cause of reading and learning difficulties.
Refractive errors such as hyperopia are commonly corrected by eyeglasses or contact lenses. Refractive surgery is another possibility.
Myopia, more popularly known as nearsightedness, is a common refractive error. Approximately a quarter of the general population may be affected. Myopic individuals see better up close than in the distance. This is because the eye over focuses light from the distance, causing blurred vision in the distance.
Refractive errors such as myopia are commonly corrected by eyeglasses or contact lenses. Refractive surgery is another possibility.
Presbyopia is an inevitable condition in which the ability to focus on close objects decreases over time. Since it is a natural effect of aging, it will eventually affect everyone. Today's baby boomer generation is the most rapidly growing population segment requiring vision correction. Symptoms may include; headaches, blurred near vision, tearing, stinging, or a need for more light. People with presbyopia often hold reading material at arm's length.
Eyeglasses and contact lenses can be effective treatments for presbyopia.
STRABISMUS (CROSSED EYES)
Strabismus or "crossed eyes" is a misalignment of the eyes. One or both eyes may turn in (esotropia), out (exotropia), up (hypertropia) or down (hypotropia). Treatment may include the use of eyeglasses, contact lenses, prisms and/or vision therapy. In extreme cases, surgery may be needed.
Cataracts are a clouding of the eye's crystalline lens that usually develops slowly over time. (In the case of post-traumatic cataracts, however, they can also occur very quickly.) It is the leading cause of poor vision in adults.
Symptoms: Dimmed or blurred vision, double vision, halos or glare around lights, dull colors, sensation of a film over the eyes, frequent cleaning of the eyes, difficulty driving or reading, and frequent changing or cleaning of glasses.
Treatment: If a cataract grows larger or denser, it can be surgically removed. It is a safe procedure with a near 100 per cent success rate. Following surgery, it is normal to require a change in spectacle correction.
Prevention: Wearing UV protection when outdoors is very helpful. There is also some evidence to suggest that a diet high in beta carotene (vitamin A), may also help. selenium and vitamins C and E have preventative benefits. Avoiding cigarette smoke, air pollution and alcohol consumption.
DIABETES AND THE EYES
Diabetes, a disease that prevents your body from making or using insulin to break down sugar in your bloodstream, can affect your eyes and your vision.
Fluctuating or blurring of vision, intermittent double vision, loss of peripheral vision and flashes and floaters within the eyes may be symptoms related to diabetes. Sometimes the early signs of diabetes are detected during a thorough eye examination.
Diabetes can cause changes in nearsightedness and farsightedness and lead to premature presbyopia (the inability to focus on close objects). It can result in cataracts, glaucoma, a lack of eye muscle coordination (strabismus) and decreased corneal sensitivity. The most serious eye problem associated with diabetes is diabetic retinopathy, which, if not controlled, can lead to blindness.
What is retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy occurs when there is a weakening or swelling of the tiny blood vessels in the retina of your eye, resulting in blood leakage, the growth of new blood vessels and other changes.
Can vision loss from diabetes be prevented?
Yes, in a routine eye examination, your eye care practitioner can diagnose potential vision-threatening changes in your eyes that may be treated to prevent blindness. However, once damage has occurred, the effects are usually permanent. It is important to
control your diabetes as much as possible to minimize the risk of developing retinopathy.
How is diabetic retinopathy treated?
In the early stages, diabetic retinopathy can be treated with laser therapy. A bright beam of light is focused on the retina, causing a burn that seals off leaking blood vessels. In other cases, surgery inside the eye may be necessary. Early detection of diabetic retinopathy is crucial. It is routinely screened for in an eye examination.
Are there risk factors for developing retinopathy?
Several factors that increase the risk of developing retinopathy include: smoking, high blood pressure or poor cardiovascular health, excessive alcohol intake, pregnancy, poor blood sugar control, and the number of years one has been diabetic.
How can diabetes-related eye problems be prevented?
Diabetes-related eye problems can be prevented by monitoring and maintaining control of your diabetes. See your physician regularly and follow instructions about diet, exercise and medication. A thorough eye examination when first diagnosed as a diabetic, and at least annually thereafter, is recommended.
Dry eyes are a problem that arises from inadequate or poor lubrication and moisture in one or both eyes. Unable to produce enough tears, afflicted eyes suffer irritation, burning, general discomfort and at times, excessive tearing.
Dry eyes may be caused by a number of factors: the natural effects of aging, side effects from medication, or significant time spent in a dry climate. Although there is no cure as such, your Optometrist is able to offer effective treatment to manage dry eyes. Artificial lubricating eye drops enhance tear production, and warm moist compresses as well as lid massages can help treat dry eyes. In some cases small plugs are inserted into the corner of the eyes to slow the drainage of tears.
Glaucoma is a condition in which elevated pressure in the eye, damages the optic nerve, causing peripheral and then total blindness. It is widely noted as the second-leading cause of blindness in adults.
Symptoms: in most cases there are no early warning signs, so routine optometric exams are critical. In some less common types of glaucoma, pain, blurred vision, and or sudden vision lost may be apparent.
Treatment: Once diagnosed, glaucoma treatments are highly effective. Prescription eye drops, oral medications, laser treatment or even surgery may be involved. If untreated, glaucoma can cause blindness, which has no cure.
Prevention: Because there may be few symptoms, and vision lost to glaucoma cannot be restored (the condition can only be halted), frequent monitoring by your optometrist for glaucoma is essential. The risk for glaucoma increases dramatically after age 35 and is often hereditary.
Macular degeneration is a condition in which the macula (the part of the retina responsible for sharp reading vision) fails to function efficiently. It is a common cause of impaired reading or detailed vision and the leading cause of blindness worldwide. Macular degeneration is generally age-related.
Symptoms: Initial signs include blurred reading vision, a weakening of colour vision, distortion or loss of central vision (e.g., a dark spot in the middle of your field of vision), and distortion in straight lines.
Treatment: Although there is no cure, laser treatment can be effective in slowing the disease's progression. As usual, early detection is key.
Prevention: Lifelong UV protection is very important. General nutrition is also believed to play a significant preventative role. Lutein may be especially helpful in this regard, particularly for lutein-deficient people like seniors. There is also some evidence to suggest that a diet high in beta carotene (vitamin A) and vitamins C and E can protect the macula. However, an over-abundance of any vitamin may affect your body's ability to absorb important nutrients. This remains a matter of some debate among health care professionals.