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Protect Your Eyes From Harmful Wildfire Smoke

wildefireWildfires, including those still devastating parts of the western United States and Canada, can harm your health, including your eyes. The hot smoke, ash, and soot billowing into the air contain a mixture of noxious gases and fine particles of burned vegetation that spread with the winds, sometimes hundreds of miles from the fire.

Wildfire smoke is made up of thousands of compounds, including those used in plastic, dry-cleaning solutions, and solvents. Asbestos, a toxic air contaminant, is also released into the air when buildings burn.

These pollutants can harm your eye’s surface, causing blurred vision and redness, and may also cause y a burning sensation leading eyes to become watery, dry, or itchy. Wildfire smoke also aggravates pre-existing health conditions like dry-eyes and ocular allergies and may make wearing contact lenses uncomfortable—even impossible—to wear.

In extreme cases, wildfire smoke may even lead to scarring of the conjunctiva, the thin membrane covering the white of the eye and the eyelids’ underside. Scarring damages the conjunctiva and its protective mucous layer.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests the following steps to keep your eyes healthy when smoke is in the air:

  • Double the quantity of over-the-counter artificial tears you use to address eye conditions and cool the artificial tears’ vials or bottles in a refrigerator before using
  • Apply cool compresses to your eyelids
  • Stay indoors and close the windows to reduce smoke’s effects
  • Use an air purifier or air filter in your home or office
  • Refrain from drawing outside air into your air conditioner
  • Refrain from wearing contact lenses, which attract wildfires’ dust particles
  • Wear eyeglasses, sunglasses, or specialty goggles if you are outdoors

Continue observing these precautions even after the smoke has cleared as particles can linger in the air for up to two weeks.

If smoke-related symptoms or discomfort persist, please contact Spectrum Family Eyecare. We will examine your eyes and prescribe the appropriate treatment. We treat patients with wildfire-related vision challenges from Saskatoon, Prince Albert, Lloydminster, Regina, and throughout Saskatchewan.

References:

Learn to Love Your Glasses

It can be a difficult decision, choosing new eyeglasses, but it shouldn’t have to feel like a chore. A lot goes into selecting a pair that’s perfect for you. Are you into the retro style? How about sleek and modern? There’s something out there for everyone. We’re here to make sure that choosing a new set is a fun, exciting, and memorable experience.


I get a lot of questions about what frames are “in these days”. While style is completely subjective, there are some ways to tell what is going to remain current while also complementing your personal taste. With that being said, the two things I’ve noticed patients are paying particular attention to are the colour and/or pattern of the frames, and the shape of the lenses.

Portrait of a smiling business woman with an afro in bright glass office

Colour is Your Friend

This is an important aspect that can make or break a set of frames for anyone. I can’t stress this enough, don’t be afraid to rock a bold colour! Like I mentioned, your glasses should be an outward representation of your personality and style. Yes, they help you see the newspaper, but they can be so much more than that. If you’re the kind of person who wears a wardrobe on the more neutral side, maybe kick your look up a little by giving a bold red frame a try. Are you already a very colourful person? Run with it! Glasses are an awesome way to stand out in the crowd, and lots of people are hopping on board. Wearing a fun colour or bold pattern will have heads turning.

Show Stopping Shapes

Lens shape is also a huge deciding factor that people look at when choosing a new set of eyeglasses. Here at Spectrum Family Eyecare, we’ve noticed that rounds are back (and I, personally, couldn’t be more excited!). The classic cat eyes have made an appearance in the past few years as well. Patients have told me how exciting it is to see the styles that they enjoyed as a child or young adult making another rotation in fashion.

love your glasses

Make it Yours

I love the idea of playing with the shape. It gives your glasses a little something extra without being too “in your face”. So, completely hopping on the round eyeglasses frame band wagon, I decided to upcycle by dad’s old frames from 1988. They’re round, silver with tortoise shell details. To some, they might be a little too out there or old fashioned, but at the end of the day, I had to remember that I was the one wearing them.

loving my glasses

Even though the retro look is all the rage, it doesn’t mean that you should feel pressured into following the trend. Your glasses should represent YOU.

The 20/20 Myth – Your Saskatoon Eye Doctor Explains

Have you been told that you see 20/20 and because of this you’ve been postponing your regular eye doctor visits? If so, you should keep reading.

Here is why the 20/20 myth is costing people their sight:

You may even have told someone that you have “20/20” vision thinking this means your eyes are in tip-top shape.

Seeing 20/20 has been the vision standard set for good or normal vision. But, this simply means you can see an object 20 feet away.

FACT:​20/20 vision doesn’t mean your eyes are healthy.​Every 12 minutes, someone in Canada loses their eyesight.​Over the next 25 years, we expect to double the number of Canadians suffering from severe vision loss.​27% of people wait over 5 years between eye exams.

Make Eye Exams Part Of Your Healthcare RoutineThere is nothing more essential to your life than your vision. Eye disease can be present even though vision is 20/20 and is often painless without symptoms until the end stages of the disease. Seeing your eye doctor regularly can help spot a number of potentially serious conditions that could help save your sight and possibly your life.

diabetic retinopathy

 

Think of your eye exam as a physical for your eyes. Many people are surprised when I tell them that they should see their family doctor regarding a particular health problem that was noted during their eye exam. The tests and procedures that are done help your eye doctor look at the overall health of your eyes and visual system and can help detect certain conditions and diseases before other physical effects can be noticed. The importance of this cannot be overstated! Diagnosing a degenerative disease before the symptoms have become noticeable is of paramount importance when your overall health and functioning of our eyes is on the line.

See A Saskatoon Optometrist For An Eye ExamVision is at the core of our human experience. Seeing an optometrist regularly is more than seeing 20/20 or getting glasses. It is essential to protecting the quality of our daily lives and our family memories.

The Canadian Association of Optometrists recommend an eye exam:

​CHILDREN – First one at 6-9 months & again at 2-5 yrs, annually thereafter​ADULTS – Every 2 years​Over 65 – Annually​Diabetics – Annually​Contact Lens Wearers – Annually

Put an eye exam on your to-do-list. Keep seeing!

 

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Protect Your Eyes

Despite the fact that more Canadians have age-related macular degeneration (AMD) than breast cancer, prostate cancer, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s combined, 70% of people have never heard of it.

  • AMD is the leading cause of severe irreversible vision loss in adults over 50, affecting one million Canadians.
  • Even though people over 50 years of age are encouraged to have an eye examination at least every 2 years, 40% of people fail to follow this advice and 11% never have their vision checked.1
  • The number of people with AMD is expected to double in the next 25 years.
  • Nearly 80% of AMD patients have substantial, irreversible vision loss at first diagnosis, leading to greatly reduced quality of life.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Knowledge is power. It may help you in the long run.

Reference

1. AMD Alliance International 1999

8 Common Eye Myths Debunked By A Saskatoon Optometrist

We all grew up hearing nuggets of well intended information to keep us healthier and free from harm. Below are myths I heard growing up and those I regularly answer as an eye doctor.

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Myth #1: Eating Carrots Will Make You See Better

Fact: Carrots are an excellent source of Vitamin A, an essential vitamin for a healthy retina. However, eating more of them will not give you super-human visual abilities. Sorry, Mom!

Myth #2: Wearing Eyeglasses Makes Your Eyes Worse

Fact: This is simply not true. Vision changes will happen naturally throughout our lives regardless if you wear glasses or not. If you need them, eyeglasses or contact lenses will simply help your eyes be more comfortable, keep your vision clear and make your life more enjoyable.

Myth #3: You Need To Wear Sunglasses During the Summer

Fact: Your eye’s total exposure to UV light is the same regardless of the season. Sunglasses should be worn by your entire family all year long to protect you from the long-term irreversible effects of UV damage.

Myth #4 : If You Cross Your Eyes They Will Stay Like That

Fact: Yes, we all will get a few laughs, but your eyes are meant to move in (converge) and out (diverge). Sorry again, Mom!

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Myth #5: There’s Nothing You Can Do About Preventing Sight Loss

Fact: 75% of vision loss is treatable or preventable. Life is worth seeing. Don’t gamble with your eyesight. Schedule regular eye exams with your eye doctor.

Myth #6: Reading In Dim Light Damages Your Eyes

Fact: Other than eye fatigue, reading in dim light will not cause any harm to your eyes. Plus, how else can we get all that extra comic book reading in?

Myth #7: When It’s Cloudy Outside, Don’t Worry About UV Rays

Fact: 90% of UV radiation penetrates through clouds on overcast days. UV rays are also reflected off of the road, snow, concrete, glass and water. Wearing your super-cool sunglasses all year round will protect those peepers from longterm harm.

Myth #8: I Don’t Need An Eye Exam, I See Perfectly!

Fact: It’s great that you see well. As an eye doctor, I want everyone to continue to see great forever. But seeing well does not mean your eyes are healthy. Make a commitment to include regular visits to an eye doctor as an essential part of your health routine. It’s just as important as seeing your family doctor or dentist. We will always welcome you with a smile!

Top 5 Tips To Save Your Eyesight

Imagine a life without sight. Life-changing? Vision is our most important sense, but regular visits to an eye doctor are often overlooked. A common misconception is “If can I see, then my eyes are healthy. Right?” No!

  • Often, eye disease is symptomless until damage is permanent.
  • 75% of vision loss can be prevented or treated.5
  • Protect your eyesight with an exam every 1 to 2 years.
  • Currently, 5.5 million Canadians live with a major eye disease that could cause vision loss.

1. Schedule Regular Eye Exams

This is the most important step in preserving your vision. Just like visits to your dentist and doctor, your eye health should be monitored every 1 to 2 years.

  • 82% of people fear losing their vision; yet only 16% get annual eye exams.1
  • Lack of regular vision care needlessly costs hundreds of thousands their sight.
  • Make the time to protect your eyesight.
  • Learn about The 20/20 Myth

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2. Stop Smoking

Shocked? Smoking causes lung cancer and premature death. Despite this, few people realize its’ link to blindness. Quiting smoking is the hardest but best thing you can do for yourself, your loved ones and your eyes.

  • Smokers are up to 4 times more likely to go blind in old age.
  • Living with a smoker doubles the risk of age-related macular degeneration(AMD)
  • Doubles the risk of developing cataracts
  • Increases the risks of glaucoma.

3. Eat A Balanced Diet

We have all heard it before “we are what we eat” but it continues to make good sense. Despite this, most Canadians don’t realize the incredible impact this has on preventing eye diseases like AMD and cataracts. We need a diet balanced with omega 3’s fatty acids and anti-oxidants.

saskatoon optometrists healthy eating

4. Eliminate Excess Weight

My own personal struggle. We all know that exercise is good for you. It helps your heart, back, bones, brain, the eyes and many other organs. However, obesity is also an important risk factor in vision loss. Just like smoking and eating right, eliminating the excess weight is a risk factor we control. It may even slow the progression of retinal degeneration according to a paper published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Excess weight increases our risks of:

  • Age-related AMD
  • Glaucoma
  • Cataracts
  • Diabetes
  • Vascular eye disease

sunglasses saskatoon optometrists

5. Wear Quality Sunglasses!

Easiest thing ever! We are exposed to far more sun’s UV rays that than one would think (in our kitchen, living room, etc..). UV rays are known to contribute to the development of eyelid cancer, cataracts, and AMD. Despite this, less than 20% of prescription eyeglass wearers have sunglasses.

Sunglasses are:

  • Essential eye protection
  • Provide UV protection. 80% of your lifetime UV exposure occurs when you’re under 18, but 40% occurs when you’re not in full sunlight.
  • Polarized lenses provide blue-light protection (HEV; high-energy visible radiation). The short wavelengths of blue light have been associated with AMD. I will talk about this important topic in another blog post.
  • Skin cancer protection. Skin cancer around the eyes is surprisingly common, accounting for 5 to 10% of all skin cancers.3
  • Improved night driving. Even short bursts intense light can delay your night driving.
  • Increased comfort driving and outside. Glare can be debilitating and accounts for 25% of accidents. Polarized lenses eliminate glare, and provide 100% of UVA/UVB protection.

Prevention and lifestyle changes are critical to protecting your sight. Start with regular eye examinations by Saskatoon optometrists, and act on the advice given to you by your eye doctor. Catching sight threatening changes early is the most important step in protecting your eyesight.

Enjoy great vision for life!

Your Best Vision Comes From More Than Eyeglasses: Ask Your Optometrist

Let’s make a deal… Let’s help you be amazing in 2018! Let’s learn new things about ourselves (hint: eyes), have amazing new adventures, while enjoying old friends and making new ones. You with me?

You’re probably thinking, “Come on now, how can my eye doctor help me be amazing? Isn’t it the job of an optometrist to just test my eyes and prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses?” Well…not quite.

Vision is fundamental to our human experience.

As an optometrist, protecting your vision and eye health is, without a doubt, our primary responsibility. However, eye doctors want to optimize all aspects of your eye health and eyesight allowing you to perform your best work, drive comfortably at night, and be eyestrain-less in front of computers. Most importantly, we want your time at the lake, or out on the slopes, even on that winter getaway to be filled with all the brilliant colours and clarity that are the basis of our priceless memories.

So that is the purpose of my blog: practical how-to information from this Saskatoon optometrist to you. Below is only a few things you will learn:

  • How new technology can benefit your vision, your night driving, and be more productive at work. Just to name a few.
  • How your eyes can be more comfortable and less irritated.
  • Learn the dangers of not taking off your makeup.

Interested?

Challenge accepted!

8 Tips to Relieve Winter Dry Eyes

Whether 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.

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.

Diabetes and Your Eyes

Diabetes is becoming much more prevalent around the globe. According to the International Diabetes Federation, approximately 425 million adults were living with diabetes in the year 2017 and 352 million more people were at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. By 2045 the number of people diagnosed is expected to rise to 629 million.

Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness as well as heart attacks, stroke, kidney failure, neuropathy (nerve damage) and lower limb amputation. In fact, in 2017, diabetes was implicated in 4 million deaths worldwide. Nevertheless preventing these complications from diabetes is possible with proper treatment, medication and regular medical screenings as well as improving your diet, physical activity and adopting a healthy lifestyle.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the hormone insulin is either underproduced or ineffective in its ability to regulate blood sugar. Uncontrolled diabetes leads to hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, which damages many systems in the body such as the blood vessels and the nervous system.

How Does Diabetes Affect The Eyes?

Diabetic eye disease is a group of conditions which are caused, or worsened, by diabetes; including: diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, glaucoma and cataracts. Diabetes increases the risk of cataracts by four times, and can increase dryness and reduce cornea sensation.

In diabetic retinopathy, over time, the tiny blood vessels within the eyes become damaged, causing leakage, poor oxygen circulation, then scarring of the sensitive tissue within the retina, which can result in further cell damage and scarring.

The longer you have diabetes, and the longer your blood sugar levels remain uncontrolled, the higher the chances of developing diabetic eye disease. Unlike many other vision-threatening conditions which are more prevalent in older individuals, diabetic eye disease is one of the main causes of vision loss in the younger, working-age population. Unfortunately, these eye conditions can lead to blindness if not caught early and treated. In fact, 2.6% of blindness worldwide is due to diabetes.

Diabetic Retinopathy

As mentioned above, diabetes can result in cumulative damage to the blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue located at the back of the eye. This is called diabetic retinopathy.

The retina is responsible for converting the light it receives into visual signals to the optic nerve in the brain. High blood sugar levels can cause the blood vessels in the retina to leak or hemorrhage, causing bleeding and distorting vision. In advanced stages, new blood vessels may begin to grow on the retinal surface causing scarring and further damaging cells in the retina. Diabetic retinopathy can eventually lead to blindness.

Signs and Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

The early stages of diabetic retinopathy often have no symptoms, which is why it’s vitally important to have frequent diabetic eye exams. As it progresses you may start to notice the following symptoms:

  • Blurred or fluctuating vision or vision loss
  • Floaters (dark spots or strings that appear to float in your visual field)
  • Blind spots
  • Color vision loss

There is no pain associated with diabetic retinopathy to signal any issues. If not controlled, as retinopathy continues it can cause retinal detachment and macular edema, two other serious conditions that threaten vision. Again, there are often NO signs or symptoms until more advanced stages.

A person with diabetes can do their part to control their blood sugar level. Following the physician’s medication plan, as well as diet and exercise recommendations can help slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy.

Retinal Detachment

Scar tissues caused by the breaking and forming of blood vessels in advanced retinopathy can lead to a retinal detachment in which the retina pulls away from the underlying tissue. This condition is a medical emergency and must be treated immediately as it can lead to permanent vision loss. Signs of a retinal detachment include a sudden onset of floaters or flashes in the vision.

Diabetic Macular Edema (DME)

Diabetic macular edema occurs when the macula, a part of the retina responsible for clear central vision, becomes full of fluid (edema). It is a complication of diabetic retinopathy that occurs in about half of patients, and causes vision loss.

Treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy and Diabetic Macular Edema

While vision loss from diabetic retinopathy and DME often can’t be restored, with early detection there are some preventative treatments available. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (when the blood vessels begin to grow abnormally) can be treated by laser surgery, injections or a procedure called vitrectomy in which the vitreous gel in the center of the eye is removed and replaced. This will treat bleeding caused by ruptured blood vessels. DME can be treated with injection therapy, laser surgery or corticosteroids.

Prevent Vision Loss from Diabetes

The best way to prevent vision loss from diabetic eye disease is early detection and treatment. Since there may be no symptoms in the early stages, regular diabetic eye exams are critical for early diagnosis. In fact diabetics are now sometimes monitored by their health insurance to see if they are getting regular eye exams and premium rates can be affected by how regularly the patients get their eyes checked. Keeping diabetes under control through exercise, diet, medication and regular screenings will help to reduce the chances of vision loss and blindness from diabetes.

April is Women's Eye Health and Safety Month

Hey women! Did you know that women are more likely to suffer from vision problems and are at higher risk of permanent vision loss than men? Well 91% of the women surveyed recently didn’t know that, which means that many of them aren’t taking the necessary precautions to prevent eye damage and vision loss.  

According to a recent study, the statistics for many of the major vision problems show that women have a higher percentage of incidence than men. These include:

  • Age-related Macular Degeneration 65%
  • Cataracts 61%
  • Glaucoma 61%
  • Refractive Error 56%
  • Vision Impairment 63%

Women are also more susceptible to develop chronic dry eye, partially because it is often associated with other health issues that are more common in women such as ocular rosacea which is three times more prevalent in women.  Hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause can also contribute to dry eye.  

It’s important for women to know the risks for eye-related diseases and vision impairment and the steps they can take to prevent eventual vision loss.  Here are some ways that you can help to protect your eyes and save your eyesight:

  • Find out about family history of eye diseases and conditions.
  • Protect your eyes from the sun by wearing 100% UV blocking sunglasses when outdoors.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Consume a healthy diet with proper nutrition and special eye health supplements as prescribed by an eye doctor.
  • Adhere to contact lens hygiene and safety.  
  • Adhere to cosmetic hygiene and safety precautions. 
  • Protect your eyes against extended exposure to blue light from computers, smartphones and LED lamps. 
  • If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant and have diabetes, see an eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam. In women who have diabetes, diabetic retinopathy can accelerate quickly during pregnancy and can present a risk for the baby as well. 

Mothers are often charged with caring for the eye health of the entire family, but too often their own eye health needs fall to the wayside. It is critical that mothers take care of their eyes and overall health so that they can be in the best condition to care for their families. 

Speak to your eye care professional about your personal eye health and vision risks and the precautions and measures you should take to protect your eyes.  Encourage the other women in your life to do so as well.  Once vision is lost, it often can’t be regained and there are many steps you can take to prevent it with proper knowledge and awareness.  

The most important way to prevent vision loss is to ensure you schedule regular eye exams. Don’t wait for symptoms to appear as many eye issues are painless and symptomless, and sometimes by the time you notice symptoms, vision loss is untreatable.