Friday, September 15, 2017

More kids show eye strain from digital devices, optometrist warns parents

A Calgary optometrist says she's seeing more cases of digital eye strain among kids and, as they head back to school, now is the best time to get that problem sorted out.

"We're seeing it more for them than we have in the past," said Andrea Lasby.

"So where it used to be primarily a millennial — 20-, 30-, 40-year-old problem — we're kind of seeing it intergenerational at this point, including children."

The root cause could be parents who don't understand the effects on children.

Not taking breaks

An online survey commissioned by the Alberta Association of Optometrists (AAO) revealed that 59 per cent of parents in the province "are not aware of or do not encourage their children to take steps during or after using digital devices to reduce the impact on their eyes."

"Digital eye strain is the discomfort experienced after screen use for more than two hours at a time," Dr. Jim Asuchak, practicing optometrist and president of the AAO, said in a news release on the study.

"Alberta children are, on average, spending at least double that amount of time on digital devices, and we are seeing the results in our exam chairs."

Kavan Shergill, 8, sitting for an exam with Lasby, said his eyes have been dry and itchy lately and that he gets headaches, especially after spending time on his iPad.

"I'm trying to not go on it, but like, I can't," he said. "It's hard." 

Eye irritation and blurriness can impair learning

According to Lasby, Shergill's symptoms are all early signs of digital eye strain.

She says the long-term impacts are not yet known because it's such a new phenomenon, but the irritation and blurriness can impact learning in the classroom.

"Children oftentimes don't know what they're feeling is inappropriate or that it's not normal, so they don't complain. They just think blurriness, that's normal," said Lasby.

"Or perhaps they say 'I'm reading, it's blurry, I don't feel like doing this anymore,' and now they're hyperactive and they move around a lot, so sometimes that hyperactivity is a misdiagnosis and it can be an eye problem."

How to avoid eye strain

Parents can also encourage children to take preventative measures at home and at school to reduce the risk of digital eye strain, including:
  • Take regular breaks.
  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule by looking 20 feet away every 20 minutes for 20 seconds.
  • Don't hold screens too close, especially for long periods of time.
  • Eliminate screen glare by reducing overhead lighting.
  • Position computers slightly below eye level and at arm's length.
  • Increase text size on digital devices.
  • Adjust screen brightness.
Teens spend almost 8 hours daily on digital devices

According to the AAO survey, Alberta parents said elementary school-age children spend more than four hours each day using digital devices at home and at school. For teenagers, that number increases to nearly eight hours each day.

Lasby says symptoms can be treated with eye drops, special eye glasses and blinking exercises. She said there are also apps that can adjust the colour temperature of screens to reduce the impact.

The AAO's survey was conducted online through the polling firm Angus Reid from July 13 to July 18 among 506 Albertans with children under the age of 18.

For comparison purposes only, a random sample of this size would yield a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

If you have any questions, concerns, or would like to book an appointment, please visit us at

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Myopia Connected to Sleep Hormone

An Ulster University study has found higher levels of the sleep-regulating hormone, melatonin, in individuals with myopia than in those who are not short-sighted.

Scientists assessed melatonin levels in a group of 54 young adults over an 18-month period before publishing their findings in Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics.

Melatonin levels were measured between 8.30am and 10am in the morning, with study participants fasting from 10pm the previous evening.

Researchers discovered that those with myopia had three times the levels of melatonin than those without the condition.

The long-term aim of the research is to determine whether sleep patterns are linked to short-sightedness, and to explore whether sleep pattern management could be used as a low-cost way of managing myopia.

Ulster University lead researcher, Professor Kathryn Saunders, emphasised that while having a myopic parent plays a role in whether a child is short-sighted, the rate at which children are becoming myopic suggests that there are more factors involved than genetics alone.

“Our modern lifestyles are also having a significant impact. Even mildly short-sighted eyes are at future risk of a number of serious, sight-threatening conditions such as glaucoma, retinal detachment, macular degeneration and cataracts,” she emphasised.

“Our research suggests that the body clocks’ of the short-sighted adults in our study were different, which is exciting because if these differences are also found in children, they may help us better understand which aspects of modern lifestyles are causing more children to become short-sighted than ever before,” Professor Saunders outlined.

Previous Ulster University studies have shown that children who spend less time outdoors are at an increased risk of becoming myopic and highlighted that there are now twice as many post-primary school-aged children in the UK diagnosed as short-sighted than there were 60 years ago.

If you have any questions or concerns about your eye health, please contact us at

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Healthy Foods For Healthy Eyes

We’ve all heard that eating carrots will improve our vision. They may not give us super night vision, but eating them can help keep our eyes healthy.

What we choose to eat is one of the most important variables to our health. It affects our weight, our energy levels, our risk of many types of disease—the list goes on and on. Today, the item on that list we’re most interested in is how diet affects eye health.

Important Building Blocks Of Eye Health

Our eyes need certain nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to maintain peak functionality, so the foods we eat can make a big difference to our vision, especially in the long term.
Lutein & Zeaxanthin
Studies have linked these two nutrients to a reduced risk of chronic eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. The best sources of them in our diet are eggs and leafy greens.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for brain function and a strong immune system, and research has shown that they play an important role in visual development and retinal function. The top source of omega-3 fatty acids is fish, although they are also present in many other foods.

Vitamins C and E
Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is an antioxidant that may lower the risk of developing cataracts and slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration and loss of visual acuity. Citrus fruits are great sources of vitamin C, but most other fruits and vegetables also contain it. Vitamin E is another antioxidant. It protects our eyes from dangerous molecules called “free radicals” that disrupt healthy tissue. Nuts and sweet potatoes are great sources.

Vitamin A and Zinc
The mineral zinc is an important “helper molecule” for all kinds of healthy processes in our bodies, including transporting vitamin A from the liver to the retina. No matter how many carrots we eat, the vitamin A is useless without zinc. Oysters have by far the most zinc per serving of any food, but it’s also present in other meats, beans, and nuts.

Vitamin A helps our eyes convert light into brainwaves and is integral to the structure of the cornea (the clear structure at the front of the eye). Vitamin A deficiency leads to blindness in between a quarter and half a million children every year.

So how do we get vitamin A? By eating foods with beta-carotene, vitamin A’s key ingredient. That’s where carrots come in, but it’s present in other yellow, orange, and leafy green fruits and vegetables. It’s actually what gives them their color!

To learn a bit more about Vitamin A and how carrots affect our vision, watch the video below:
Eye-Healthy Recipes
Knowing what foods are healthy for your eyes is one thing, but finding great recipes is another! Try this baby carrot soup for a delicious way to get that much needed Vitamin A, or this roasted wild salmon and dill for your daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids. Do you have any additional eye-healthy recipes to share? Let us know in the comments below!

Diet Is Only One Piece Of The Puzzle
Eating all the right foods to promote healthy eyes is certainly a great step, but it’s not a replacement for regular eye exams. Problems unrelated to nutrition can still occur, and early detection is crucial for dealing with those problems. If it’s been a while since your last eye exam, one of our Doctors of Optometry would love to see you!

Friday, August 18, 2017

A Back-to-School Primer on Contact Lens Care for Teens

Another summer behind us, another school year just ahead. So much to do to get ready.

As you rush around getting new school clothes and school supplies, don’t forget to schedule your student’s back-to-school eye exam. This is an essential step for school readiness because poor vision can be a barrier to learning. Which might be why August is Back to School Eye Health Month.

What if my child wants contact lenses?

Wearing contact lenses can help teenagers feel more confident in their appearance. Contact lenses are also a great option for sports. These are advantages during this self-conscious age.

How do I know when my child is ready for contact lenses?

There’s no “right age” to begin wearing contact lenses — almost anyone of any age can wear them. But it involves a level of responsibility and ability to follow a wear-and-care routine. If you feel your child can responsibly care for lenses, then talk to their eye care professional to discuss options.

What’s a good lens for a first-time teen wearer?

Many eye care professionals recommend starting with a lens that’s worn for one day. They are worn once, then thrown away. This makes them great for teens and other first-time wearers, and for your peace of mind.
But it really depends on what’s best for your child’s eye care needs. Be sure to ask your eye care professional for a prescription that is best for your child, whether it be a lens that is worn for one day, for two weeks of daily wear, or one that’s designed for one month of daily wear. As long as your child follows a proper wear and care regimen, they will likely have success.

What, exactly, is a proper wear and care regimen?

A proper wear and care regimen is critical for contact lens success. The wear and care instructions are based on the lens and wearing cycle your doctor recommends. So follow your doctor’s recommendations for proper lens disinfection, and how often to replace them.
Regardless of what kind of lens your doctor recommends, everyone wearing contact lenses should always wash their hands before touching them, or their eyes.

Four tips every parent should share.

  1. New quarter, new case. It’s important contact lens cases be replaced at least every three months.
  2. Just say no to H20. Water from the tap might be clean enough to drink or bathe in, but it’s a major bacteria-carrying no-no when it comes to rinsing and soaking contact lenses or cases. Never swim, shower or go in a hot tub wearing contact lenses either.
  3. Think twice before snoozing. Unless the contact lenses are prescribed by your doctor for 24-hour wear, it is not a good idea to sleep in them.
  4. It’s too late if you wait. If you see any symptoms of eye infection, such as redness, pain or light sensitivity, see your eye doctor as soon as possible. Don’t take chances with vision.
We hope this answered all your questions regarding your teenager wearing contact lenses. If you still need help determining whether your child is ready for contact lenses, contact us!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Solar Eclipse Eye Safety: Be Prepared!

Are you ready for the total solar eclipse on August 21?

What Is A Solar Eclipse?
The sun is about 400 times larger than the moon, but it’s also 400 times farther away from the earth, which is why they look the same size in the sky. When they line up with the earth just right, the moon can block out the sun, resulting in a solar eclipse. Anywhere the moon’s shadow falls, we see the eclipse, but it’s only a partial eclipse unless we’re in what’s called the “path of totality.”
What makes this year’s eclipse particularly rare and special is that it is a total eclipse. The moon’s orbit isn’t 100 percent consistent. Sometimes it’s closer to the earth and appears larger, and sometimes it’s farther away and appears smaller. When it lines up with the sun while farther away, the result is an annular eclipse, where you can still see a “ring of fire” around the silhouette of the moon because it isn’t big enough to completely block the sun.
A total eclipse only happens if the moon is closer to the earth when it lines up with the sun, and the only way we can see the diamond ring effect, the sun’s corona, stars during the day, and other amazing effects is during a total eclipse.
To learn a bit more about solar eclipses, check out the video below:

Shield Your Eyes!

It’s never a good idea to look at the sun, and that includes during a solar eclipse. It’s already important to wear UV-blocking sunglasses outside during the brightest hours of the day even when we aren’t looking directly at the sun. The light-sensitive cells that allow us to see are like delicate instruments, and looking at the sun overloads them. You can actually burn your retinas—a condition called solar retinopathy—by looking at the sun, and it doesn’t take long.
So how can we enjoy a solar eclipse if it’s never safe to look at the sun? We just need eclipse glasses! These are special glasses designed to block out all of the harmful UV rays and the excess light so that you can look at the solar eclipse without fear of damage to your eyes.

Eclipse Glasses Differ From Normal Sunglasses

Eclipse glasses are not the same as ordinary sunglasses, and even the very best polarized UV-blocking sunglasses are not sufficient protection for looking at the sun. In order to be approved by NASA, eclipse glasses can’t let more than 0.00032 percent of the sun’s light through them, they can’t have any bubbles or scratches, and they should include safety instructions printed on the earpieces. Do not risk your vision health by wearing eclipse glasses or using a solar viewer that doesn't meet ISO 12312-2 international safety standards.
Please feel free to contact us at 604.984.2020 if you have any questions.

Friday, August 11, 2017

How Does Our Night Vision Compare?

Our eyes are easily the most complex sensory organs we have.

Our ability to see the world around us in clear, precise images is frankly incredible. But since we are a diurnal (awake during the daytime) species, our night vision is nowhere near as powerful as that of many animals.

Human Vision Tag-Team: Rods and Cones

Two of the most important types of cells involved in making vision possible are rods and cones. Cones, in human eyes, come in three varieties: red, green, and blue light sensitive. These cells are what allow us to see sharp, detailed images full of color. The reason some people are colorblind is that they’re missing one of the types of cones, which limits the range of colors they can perceive.
The biggest weakness of cones is that they only work with a lot of light. Any darker than about the brightness of the night of a half moon and the cones can’t function. That’s where the rods come in. Rods can function in much dimmer light, but they can’t detect the different wavelengths (or colors), and the overall picture they generate is far less sharp or detailed.
You may have noticed that you can see objects better in the dark when you aren’t looking directly at them. That’s because we have more rods around the edges of our retinas, while the center (the macula) is densely packed with cones.

The Animals With The Best Night Vision

Which animals would you think have the best night vision in the animal kingdom? Owls? Cats? While both do have exceptionally good night vision, the answer is actually frogs. Based on current research, frogs (and toads) are the only animals that can see in color in almost total darkness. This is because their rods come in two different sensitivities, like the way our cones come in three.

Good Night Vision Comes At A Price

Seeing in the dark isn’t everything, however, so don’t get jealous of frogs just yet. Some of the other tools they use to see in the dark compromise their sight in better lighting. The cells that process visual information essentially work like long-exposure photography, which means moving objects appear as blurs.
They also, like many other animals (including cats and owls), have a special mirror-like layer called the tapetum lucidum behind their retinas that bounces light back out. This layer is the reason these animals’ eyes appear to glow in the dark. It gives them a second chance to see something in low light if they missed it at first, but it also means that everything they see is a little blurry.

How Is Your Vision Doing?

At the end of the day, we’ll take sharp, clear vision that doesn’t need things to move before we see them over a frog’s ability to see color in the dark, but it’s still fascinating to learn how the eyes of different species work. And if your vision isn’t working the way it should, it could be time to schedule your next appointment with on of our Doctors of Optometry.

We hope to see you soon!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

20/20 In Hindsight: The Snellen Eye Chart

Have you ever wondered where that chart with the big E in every eye doctor’s office came from?

The famous eye chart is actually called the Snellen Chart. It was named for the 19th-century Dutch ophthalmologist who first developed it.

Glasses Before Eye Charts

Glasses were invented in Italy around 1286, though they were fairly crude. It wasn’t until two centuries later that concave and convex lenses were being crafted and sold to customers. From there, it would still be four more centuries before the field of optometry was advanced enough for vendors and eye doctors to realize that not everyone experiences vision problems the same way.

The History Of The Big E Chart

In the mid-19th century, various eye doctors began developing charts to gauge their patients’ visual acuity more precisely, and in 1862, Hermann Snellen came up with the chart optometrists everywhere still use today. The chart, called the Snellen Eye Chart, determines how well a patient can see objects twenty feet away compared to the average human eye.
For small children and people who can’t read the letters of our alphabet, a similar chart known as the “Tumbling E” chart (because it depicts rows of capital E’s pointing in different directions) is used instead.

The Origin Of 20/20 Vision

Snellen is also the mind behind the concept of “20/20 vision,” or the Snellen Ratio eye doctors use to describe how well patients read the chart. Depending on how successfully you can read the lines of letters, you could have unusually good vision like 20/10 (meaning that you can see at twenty feet what most people have to be ten feet away to see), or you could need glasses to correct poor vision.

If you can’t even read the big E on top, that means your vision is 20/200 or worse. In other words, you have to be twenty feet away to see what most people can see from 200 feet, which is the point where you’d be considered legally blind.

Limitations Of The Chart

As useful as they are, Snellen’s eye chart and ratio are no longer the only factors in determining the right prescription for your glasses. Even though we still use the chart, optometry has evolved in many other ways. Your eyes might need to be tested for how well they perceive contrast, color, depth, and peripheral sight. The Snellen chart also can’t test the overall health of your eyes, like pressure, glaucoma risk, and retina shape.

How Many Lines Can You Read?

If it’s been a while since your last appointment, it might be a good time to schedule one and have another look at that eye chart—especially now that you know its history.

Thank you for being our loyal patients and friends!