Summer has come to an end, so it’s time to put the sunglasses away-right? Actually, there is a higher risk of uv exposure in the winter. Not only do the rays come from overhead, but the snow also reflects them back upwards. This gives us a double whammy, and puts the eyes at risk for uv burns, which we call snowblindness. Symptoms for this include sore, watery eyes, blurred vision and the feeling of having grit in the eye. This can last for several days before the eye heals itself. Lubracating drops and cold compresses can help with the irritation. Sometimes, your eye doctor can prescribe medicated drops (such as steroids) to reduce the inflammation. However, prevention is the best solution. So keep those sunglasses handy. A material that provides 100% protection from UVA and UVB rays (UV400) is ideal. Also, a polarized lens will help cut the glare from the multi-faceted reflections. If you’re skiing, a good set of goggles will be just as useful; just make sure you’re getting the proper protection. Also, a quality set will allow you to have unrestricted peripheral vision to avoid obstacles (and other skiiers) on the course. Enjoy the outdoors this winter, there’s lots that we can do. Just make sure that your eyes are protected to avoid any unwanted outcomes.

The Many Colours of Pink Eye.

“Pink eye” is a generalized term that is used to describe and eye that is irritated and red. There are many causes that can lead to this condition, and the treatments are just as varied. Infections are usually the standard designation for pink eye. A viral infection (the most infections) will usually cause the eye to be red, sore, with some tearing. Like a cold, these are self-limiting, and will usually resolve within a couple of weeks. Treatement is usually limited to lubricating drops, as other avenues will be ineffective. When the cause is from bacteria, then the eyes will produce a yellow-green mucus, and tend to be stuck shut in the morning. Here an antibiotic is prescribed to clear the eye. This usually clears up within a week with the treatment. Allergies will also cause some changes. Tearing and itchiness are the main symptoms, and usually tag along with stuffy noses and sneezing. They also tend to be seasonal. Anti-allergy drops will help to keep things in check until the offending plants quiet down. Another cause of red eye is iritis. This is an internal inflammation of the eye, which comes on as an aching eye, and light sensitivity. Steroid drops are necessary to quiet the eye back to its normal state. As you can see, “pink eye” is an umbrella term that can be used in many situations. The trick is to identify what is the source, so as to apply the appropriate therapy to get things back to normal.

Why get my eyes checked if my vision is fine?

Assessing someone’s vision is just a small part of a full eye exam. True, things may seem like they’re functionning well, but sometimes an underlying issue is waiting to take over. On top of visual assessment, we verify that the muscles and the nerves that control the eye are not limited in any way. This may help alleviate some headaches and fatigue if there’s an imbalance. We also make sure that the pupils react properly and equally to light stimulation. Any changes at this level may indicate a problem in the brain itself. Let’s not forget the eye health. Several diabetics and people with high blood pressure are asymptomatic, and only find out there’s an issue when we spot changes in the retina (the inside of the eye). They are immediately sent to their family doctor for prompt treatment, as things are headed in a bad direction. There are plenty of other diseases (eye tumour…) and structural abnormalities (retinal tear, anyone?) that can be found and taken care of before the eyesight is compromised. So, yes, even though the vision is still fine, it is to your advantage to have your eyes checked on a regular basis. This way, you can avoid heading from disaster to complete catastrophe. After all, you can’t go to the eyeball store to get a new set…

What exactly are cataracts?

Inside the eye there is a lens that aids in maintaing focus at different distances.  Over time, it will gradually become cloudy, like a window getting dirty.  This will cause some blur as the light is now being diffracted and scattered, like in a salty windshield.  In most cases, the changes are a gradual process that occur over years.  However, some medications, like steroids, can induce cataracts that will grow at a faster rate.  Fortunately, the fix is quite simple.  When they get “ripe” enough, your optometrist will send you to an ophthalmologist (eye surgeon) to get them removed.  They will take out the cloudy lens, and replace it with a new clear one.  This will not only sharpen up the vision, but improve contrast and colour vision as well.  It has gotten to the point where, in some cases, they are able to integrate a patient’s distance glasses prescription, so that they only require glasses for reading post-surgery.  Even though cataracts are very common, they are very easily dealt with, and the risk factors are very minimal.  If you had to pick something to go wrong with your body, this would be it, as it generally provides instant gratification with minimum effort!

We need to discuss your medication list…

As part of your eye exam, your optometrist should include your medical history, as well as your medication list.  “Why?”, you ask.  Well, last time we checked, your eyes are part of your body, and what affects your body will affect your eyes.  And believe it or not, some medications will have adverse ocular effects.  The birth control pill may cause dry eye, and therefore make wearing your contact lenses much more uncomfortable.  Another example is Plaquenil.  This guy can actually wreck some retinal tissue and damage your vision-so we need to check these people with more in-depth testing, and more frequently.

Now, a list is always a handy thing to bring.  For one, the lab people who invent the names like to use every letter in the alphabet, and make up words that we can’t pronounce.  Second, changing the type of med (even if it’s in the same family) can have different side-effects.  Third, a visual description is not helpful.  We are not pharmacists, and have no clue what your pills should look like.  For instance, my daughter was on the medication Oxybutinin for a spastic bladder.  It was a blue pill.  I can think of another blue pill that would be totally inappropriate for a young girl to take (it starts with a v…).

So, bring your medication list to your eye exam.  It will help us determine if they are contributing, or outright causing some of your ocular symptoms.  Then we can better manage what is going on.  Trust me, we love getting to the root of a problem.

What to look for in a laser centre.

At this time of year, we like to spend more time outdoors to enjoy the summer weather.  Glasses and contact lenses can become a hindrance for the activities that we want to do.  This is where some people consider laser surgery to be able to function without any visual aids.  When looking into having the surgery done, you must ensure that you’re going to a reputable centre.  These will offer the latest techniques with custom laser and bladeless surgery (intralase).  The cost should include your pre-op exam, the surgery itself, and all follow-ups.  Also, a lifetime guarantee will ensure that you don’t incur extra costs if the eyes don’t heal to where the vision should be.  Be careful of centres that advertise that they have done “over 60 000 surgeries”.  You want to know how many the actual surgeon has done, not the sum total of every surgeon that has ever worked there.  Look into places that have been around for an extended period-they’ll have the experience, and they won’t be closing shop due to bankruptcy, leaving you out in the cold.  All in all, lasik is a wonderful surgery.  However, you must ensure that you have a proper surgeon with the latest technology to do it.  After all, it’s not like you can go to the eyeball store to get a new pair…

What to look for in sunglasses.

Summer is here, and the sun is shining bright.  This is the time of year that sunglasses shift from fashion accessory to a necessity.  But did you know that sunglasses, like sunscreen, have a protective role to play?  By blocking the UV rays that can penetrate the eyes, they can reduce the risk for certain eye diseases, such as cataracts and macular degeneration.  Not all sunglasses are created equal, though.  The best ones will offer protection from all UV’s.  Here, you need to look for UV400, or 100% UVA and 100% UVB on the label.  Tints are a matter of preference, so pick the shade that seems to give you the most relief from the glare.  And if you want more glare reduction, a polarized lens will help to reduce eye fatigue caused by excess light scattering.  The best sunglasses offer full UV protection, with lenses that offer minimum distortion.  These are more expensive, however the reduced eyestrain is worth the investment.  So, summer is here.  Get your shades on!  Your eyes will thank you.