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All Posts in Category: Eye Health

Contact lens tips and mistakes

6 Contact Lens Tips & Mistakes

When starting out wearing contact lenses, users are usually very diligent in following instructions to take care of their contacts. We are careful about washing our hands before putting them in or throwing them away at the right time. But as time goes on, these rules can start to get lax – we get lazy, tired, and distracted.

  • But what happens when you fall asleep with your contact lenses still in?
  • Or are you really doing harm if you don’t wash your hands before taking them out?
  • And, really, what’s the big deal if you keep wearing contact lenses for weeks past their recommended time?

These common contact lens mistakes may seem relatively harmless, but each one has much more serious consequences than you might realize. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that there are 930,000 visits to the doctor and 58,000 ER visits each year for keratitis (corneal inflammation) or other contact lens related issues. That’s a lot of avoidable visits to the doctor!

Wearing contact lenses is not the risky part, it’s the care and habits that are involved. Most contact wearers do not follow proper contact lens hygiene and care, which puts them at an increased risk for things like bacterial infections, decreased oxygen supply to the cornea and scariest of all, permanent damage to the corneal surface.

Contact Lens Tips

1. Hand-Washing

First and foremost, not washing your hands properly before putting them in or taking them out is a major problem. Think about everything you’ve touched during the day – doorknobs, subway poles, handshakes, money… Then picture the different types of bacteria or viruses on each surface that has been transferred to your hands. Without proper handwashing, you welcome the bacteria and viruses to your lenses where they fester and multiply.

2. Solution and Cases

The same principle of not re-using potentially contaminated materials applies to your contact solution – it’s a no go. Use fresh solution each time!

We also recommend rinsing off your case with solution and letting it air dry during the day.

3. Don’t Sleep in Your Contacts

This is terrible – and painful. When you’re awake, your eyes receive oxygen from the air and your tears that lubricate the cornea. But when you’re asleep, there is much less oxygen, lubrication, and nourishment because your eyelids are shut. Think about it – you don’t blink when you sleep, so your tears can’t lubricate the cornea.

There are only a few types of contact lenses approved by the FDA to sleep in, so unless your doctor specifically has given you the green light to do so, don’t sleep in them.

4. Change up your Case

This is an instance where “reduce, reuse, and recycle” should be avoided. Using the same contact lens case for years increases the chance of eye infection. As a rule of thumb, you should swap out your contact lens case when you get a new bottle of solution (which is why they’re often included in the packaging). Nifty! Use your case for up to 3 months, and then throw it away. In the trash. Far, far away.

5. Say No to H20

While we would think it natural to wash our contact lenses or cases with water, you should never do this. Contact lenses tend to absorb water, making them swell. This swollen contact lens changes shape, often fitting your cornea much more snugly than it should (and causing small breaks in the corneal surface). Plus, water carries a ton of microorganisms that are now absorbed into your contact and transferrable into your cornea’s surface. This is why you may get nagged by your doctor about not swimming or showering with your contact lenses on!

6. Penny Pinching Problems

You open a package of two-week contacts, but only wear them once a week for hockey or going out. So, that means you can wear them once a week for 14 weeks, right?

Wrong.

The two-week mark is strictly for when you crack open the packaging (not individual uses). After the two-week mark, the lens material starts to break down and absorb the bacteria, protein, and mucous that exists on your corneal surface and eyelids. This, in turn, can lead to an eye infection. Put plainly, it’s not worth the health risk to try and extend the use of your lenses like this, just stick to the recommended use and take the precautions noted above to stay healthy.

 

Overall, our mantra is: When in doubt, take them out!

Or even better: when in doubt, throw them out!

 

For more information, check out this article.

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Sunshine and UV Protection Myths

Whenever you’re out enjoying the sunshine, it’s crucial you wear sunglasses. Many people are aware of the harmful effects of UV radiation on the skin, however, very few realize the dangerous effects it can have on our eyes.

There are different types of UV radiation; the 2 types that predominantly affect our eyes are UV-A and UV-B, both of which can have short term, as well as long term effects.

Being exposed to large quantities of UV radiation in a short period of time can cause a condition called photokeratitis, sometimes referred to as a “sunburn” of the eye. This condition is extremely painful and can cause symptoms such as redness of the eyes, excessive tearing, light sensitivity, and a burning/gritty sensation. More often than not it is caused by artificial exposure to UV light, such as during welding, when the eyes are not properly protected, but it can also occur with direct exposure to intense sunlight.

Longer term effects of unprotected UV exposure are the increased risk of developing macular degeneration and cataracts or their occurrence at an earlier age.

There are many way to ensure protection of our eyes from harmful UV rays.  Wearing sunglasses that block out 99- 100% UVA and UVB is a good way to start. Many eye care specialists recommend wearing wrap-around styles that block rays from getting around the frame.

Another good idea would be to wear a hat with a wide brim if you know that you’re going to be in the sun for a long time. Additionally, certain contact lenses also provide some UV protection as well.

Kids need UV protection more than adults do! Children are actually more susceptible to retinal damage caused by UV radiation, because the lens inside their eye is clearer than an adults’ lens, making it easier for more UV to penetrate deep into the eyes and cause damage to it’s internal parts.

Common Misconceptions:

The amount of UV protection is related to how dark sunglasses are.
This is not true. A very light colored lens can have 100% UV protection and vice versa, a dark lens can have little to no UV protection.

There is less UV radiation emitted on an overcast, cloudy day.
this is also not true. UV rays are invisible and can easily penetrate clouds, so it’s extremely important to wear sunglasses outdoors on these days as well!

Sunglasses are not necessary in the winter.
The exact opposite is true. Fresh snow can reflect 80% of UV rays, nearly doubling your exposure to solar UV radiation, especially if you enjoy skiing or snowboarding. Choosing proper ski goggles is very important!

If I wear UV protected contact lenses I don’t need to wear sunglasses.
This is not true. A contact lens only covers the cornea. It does not cover the conjunctiva or any other portion of the eye and the surrounding eyelids. Wearing sunglasses is always important to wear when you’re using your contact lenses outdoors.

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Why Does My Eye Twitch?

Why is my eye twitching and how do I make it stop?!

If I had a dollar for every time I was asked this question….

Eyelid twitching is a very common issue that many of our patients ask us about. It usually happens on the lower eyelid of one eye but occasionally the upper eyelid can be affected as well. Twitching often comes and goes, and unfortunately can last a few weeks, or even a few months. The good news is that this condition is most often completely benign, meaning it is not a serious medical problem. The bad news is that it is annoying as $#!@!.

The medical term for an eyelid twitch is “myokymia” and it can be caused by many different factors, but I’ll review the three most common causes:

Stress: It’s almost impossible to live a completely stress- free life. Daily stressors are not only common, but are usually the norm in today’s fast pace lifestyle. Many patients tend to experience myokymia during periods of intense stress- an unusually long exam period, a tense divorce, or the passing of a loved one are a few examples. In these situations things like breathing exercises, yoga, meditation or spending time with friends and family can help alleviate the stress that may be causing the myokymia.

Fatigue: Lack of sleep, regardless of the cause, is associated with myokymia. Sometimes not sleeping enough is tied to stress and anxiety, and you can attempt some of the options suggested in the last paragraph to help alleviate the situation. Lack of sleep can also be associated with a cold, insomnia, or even too much excitement. Regardless of the reason, catching up on rest and sleep will help!

Caffeine: Too much caffeine can cause myokymia. If this is the case, try cutting down on your caffeine intake (including coffee, tea, chocolate and soda) for a few weeks to see if the eye twitch gets better.

As frustrating as an eyelid twitch can be, there is no quick solution to this common problem. Addressing the root of the problem, whether that be stress, lack of sleep or fatigue will help solve the problem!

Note:  Common eyelid twitching, as described above, should not be confused with blepherospasm (involuntary increased blinking that leads to spasming in both eyes) or hemifacial spasm (involuntary muscle twitches on one side of the face), which are both less common neurological conditions that would need to be assessed and diagnosed by an eye care professional. If you are concerned about these, please make an appointment to see your eye doctor. 

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Back to School

With kids already back in school, it’s easy to get lost in the excitement. We’re buying new clothes, backpacks, books and school supplies to make sure our kids are completely prepared for school. However what often slips the minds of many parents is the importance of an annual eye exam!

Did you know that 80% of a child’s learning in school is done visually? Eye and vision health affect every child’s learning. In fact, many perceived learning disabilities, attention issues and behavioural problems are often vision problems in disguise. Undiagnosed vision problems can affect a child’s performance not only in the classroom, but also in sports and can cause your child to struggle both academically and socially.

But aren’t vision screenings at school good enough?

This is a question we hear a lot. Unfortunately vision screenings performed by a school nurse or by your child’s pediatrician is not equivalent to a comprehensive eye exam. These vision screenings are designed to alert parents to the possibility of a potential vision problem. However they should not replace a proper visit to an eye doctor. Vision screenings are helpful, but they can, and often do, miss serious vision-related problems that an eye doctor would catch.

Because eye exams for children are so important, OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) covers a yearly comprehensive eye exam for every child in Ontario. Experts recommend having an infant’s first eye exam between 6 and 9 months of age and then yearly afterwards in order to ensure proper development and optimal learning. There are many objective measurements that allow us to check the vision and health of your child’s eyes. They do not need to be able to communicate with us during the exam.

So this year when you’re checking off all the things you need to get your kids while they’re back in school, make sure you have them visit the eye doctor!

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2020 Vision

What Does 20/20 Vision Mean?

Have you ever wondered what it means when someone says you have “20/20 vision”? You’re definitely not alone! This is one of the most common questions we get asked on a daily basis, so I’ll explain what it means.

20/20 vision is  a common term used to describe normal visual acuity or clarity of vision. It is determined by testing a person’s vision at a distance of 20 feet away from a visual target of a specific size. So if someone has 20/20 vision, it means that they are able to see a specific target 20 feet away in the distance.

 

How does your eye doctor determine if you have 20/20 vision?

Ever notice those strange mirrors and projectors in the eye exam room? They’re not for wacky decoration! These mirrors are used to “extend” the length of the room to simulate a distance of 20 feet for this type of vision testing. The instruments project the eye chart onto a wall and then the image is bounced off mirrors to be visible directly in front of you. This makes things seem 20 feet away, rather than the actual length of the exam room (which is usually only ten feet long).

 

Objects Closer than they Appear

It is important to have regular eye check ups even if you feel your vision is good or if you think you are not having difficulty seeing. Most eye diseases begin with little or no visual symptoms at all, so waiting until something feels wrong can have consequences on your vision health. The earlier your eye doctor is able to detect these problems, the better the outcome will be – and the better the chances of your eyes remaining healthy. A regular eye exam can also give your eye doctor insight into your overall systemic health, and a comprehensive eye exam can pick up health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, anemia, stroke, and brain lesions. So while it may feel like no big deal to skip that annual eye exam, make sure to keep your appointment and get checked out. Don’t neglect your eyes – they can be the first line of defense for disease detection!

Focus Chart 20/20 Vision

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Close up of an eye - dilate my eyes

Why Do Doctors Dilate My Eyes? A Retinal Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words

There’s an age-old saying that the eyes are the windows to a person’s soul. While it may not be a literal window into the soul itself, the pupil (the opening in the centre of your eye) does allow an eye doctor a glimpse into the internal structures of your body. So how come your doctor always wants to dilate your eyes?

 

Open Wide!

When dilated, the pupil widens and allows your eye doctor to see more than is possible in a normal eye exam, like a better view of the optic nerve, retina, arteries, veins and the macula.

A dilated eye exam allows your eye doctor to diagnose common systemic conditions and eye diseases. Many systemic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and elevated intracranial pressure are often first diagnosed at an eye exam because of signs visible inside the eye. This is why eye doctors often want to dilate your eyes so that they can make sure there is no early evidence of these conditions.

As annoying as the effects of dilated eyes can be, this only lasts a few hours and is worth the results that a truly comprehensive eye exam can provide.

A chart explaining diabetic retinopathy - visible with a comprehensive eye exam.

A chart explaining diabetic retinopathy – visible with a comprehensive eye exam.

 

What are the Benefits of a Retinal Photo?

Just like any photograph, a retinal photo captures a moment in time. The reason this is so helpful is because a photo can be used as a point of comparison for future examinations. Photos can be used in a side-by-side comparison every year to detect and monitor subtle (early) changes that may be occurring in your eyes.

Retinal photographs are also an invaluable educational tool that can help your eye doctor to better explain the state of your health and wellbeing. By reviewing your images with your doctor, they can point out changes or areas to observe and also explain treatment options. Another age-old saying is that knowledge is power, so the more educated you are about eye health, the better you’ll understand what is being recommended to you and why it’s important.

w inside of an eye - you can see the retina, optic nerve and macula in this retinal photo.

The view inside of an eye – you can see the retina, optic nerve and macula in this retinal photo.

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