Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Why do parents take better care of their own eyes than the eyes of their children?

I went to the Puyallup, Washington state fair last week.  It was a hot, sunny day and the fair was jam packed with kids and their parents.  Out of the hundreds, perhaps thousands of kids I saw that day, my kids where the only ones in sunglasses.  But at least half the parents I saw were in sunglasses.

Why do parents take better care of their own eyes than the eyes of their children?

Kids are not being protected from  UV radiation

My own observations at the state fair are confirmed by a report that was issued by The Vision Council in May 2012, that shows that while 73% of adults do wear sunglasses, only 58% of them make their children wear sunglasses.

UV exposure over time can cause eye disease and permanent vision loss

The report suggests that too many people still do not understand the serious damage that UV exposure can have on your eyes. Even fewer realize that it is cumulative exposure over time – which happens on both sunny and cloudy days – that leads to vision threatening diseases. One such disease, macular degeneration, leads to permanent vision loss and their is no cure..

The solution is to wear sunglasses and regular eye glasses with proper UV protection. Kids need this more than adults because the lens of a child’s eye is not as good as blocking UV rays as the lens of an adult eye.  Other diseases that you can protect against by wearing sunglasses are cataracts and skin cancer around the eye

Wearing sunglasses should be seen as a serious preventative health measure. Here is what macular degeneration can do to your vision:

UV damage also causes cataracts. Here is what cataracts can do to your vision:

Skin cancer around the eyes

Optometrists are always mindful of the possible development of skin cancer in the skin surrounding the eyes.

In fact, the eyelid region is one of the most common sites for nonmelanoma skin cancers. Skin cancers of the eyelid, including basal cell carcinomasquamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma, account for five to 10 percent of all skin cancers.  The best way to prevent this type is skin cancer is to reduce your exposure to UV radiation which comes with sunlight. The best way to do that is to wear sunglasses and eye glasses with advanced and more effective UV technology built into the lenses.

To learn more about skin cancer around the eyes, read the following studies:

  • Abraham J, Jabaley M, Hoopes JE. Basal cell carcinoma of the medial canthal region. Am J Surg1973; Oct; 126(4):492-5.

The right UV lens technology makes the difference

It is also important to realize that not all lenses are the same at blocking UV rays. Even lenses that claim 100% UV protection actually don't deliver on that promise. However, newer lens technologies are tackling that problem and provide much better UV protection.  These lenses, such as Crizal Forte UV lenses come with an ESPF 25 rating which denotes far superior UV protection than ordinary lenses. To learn more read our previous post on new UV lens technologies.  Another important thing to realize is that you can get advanced UV protection in non-sun eyewear.

Sunglasses now or botox later

Sunglasses and eyewear with advanced UV protection also have cosmetic benefits. They prevent wrinkles from developing around the eyes.  That will save you thousands of dollars in botox later in life!

Image od boy in sunglasses courtesy of chrisroll /

Friday, September 21, 2012

Back to school eye care sweepstake from the BC Doctors of Optometry

The BC Doctors of Optometry have launched another Sweepstake to encourage back-to-school eye exams! The point is that good vision and eye health are critical to a child's development. 

More than 80 per cent of a child's learning is based on vision. That makes back to school the best time to have a doctor's examine your child's eyes and visual system to ensure that his or her visual acuity is where it needs to be to perform well in school, to ensure that there are not eye diseases developing and to make sure that there are no developmental vision problems that could adversely affect learning and academic performance.
Enter between now and next Friday for your chance to win $350 towards products and services from a BC Doctor of Optometry!

Go to the Ask a Doctor of Optometry Facebook page to enter.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

What to do about a scratched cornea in Vancouver

My daughter scratched my eye (it hurts like hell!) and I was reminded of a tip that lots of people don't konw about.

If your cat or baby (or anything else) scratches your eye, go to the optometrist to get a bandage contact lens. It stops the pain, promotes healing, protects the cornea and gives structural stength to the eye.

Some people spend days in pain and then spend hours in the emrgency room when they can just walk into my office and get treatment.

Photo: My daughter scratched my eye (it hurts like hell!) and I was reminded of a tip that lots of people don't konw about.

If your cat or baby (or anything else) scratches your eye, go to the optometrist to get a bandage contact lens.  It stops the pain, promotes healing, protects the cornea and gives structural stength to the eye. 

Some people spend days in pain and then spend hours in the emrgency room when they can just walk into my office and get treatment.

In case you were wondering, Wolverine wears Ray Bans!
Photo: By the way, in case you are wondering, Wolverine wears Ray Bans!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sarah's story - How life threatening diseases can lurk in a child's eyes - take them to the optometrist - its free for goodness sake!

Sarah Slingsby of Missisauga, Ontario can't enjoy a 3D movie like other kids. She can't see 3D because her eyes can't focus together because of retinoblastoma - an eye cancer - and other complications with her sight.

Sarah, now eleven, and her mother Leslie have teamed up with the Eye See…Eye Learn® program and the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO) to help raise awareness of the importance of children having comprehensive eye exams before they begin school. The OAO is running a one minute commercial on selected Cineplex screens in Ontario to share Sarah's story. Sarah was diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening retinoblastoma by her Mississauga optometrist.

Sarah's mom took her for a routine eye exam at age eight after her optometrist recommended she have one. Leslie had no warning signs that anything was wrong. Sarah thought she was seeing "normal".

"I was in shock when Dr. Chan told me the news. I didn't even think she had a vision problem, let alone cancer," says Leslie. "Her optometrist probably saved her life. Fortunately in Sarah's case she has a slow growing tumour. Retinoblastoma is rare but is normally found in infants and toddlers.

"We want parents to make a comprehensive eye exam by an optometrist an automatic part of a child's overall readiness for school, just like dental check ups and immunizations," says Dr Chan. "Though the likelihood of cancer is rare, optometrists diagnose thousands of cases of undetected vision problems and other sight threatening conditions such as ambloypia or 'lazy eye' every day."

Despite the dangers of ignoring your child's eye health, 75 per cent of children between the ages of five and nine have not had their eyes examined by a Doctor of Optometry and a staggering 93 per cent of all children under the age of five have never been tested. This tragedy persists despite the fact that annual eye examinations are covered by government health insurance in Canada. How many children will have their lives ruined by undiagnosed and untreated vision problems? To learn about who childhood vision disorders lead to real adult problems, click here.

To encourage more families to have their children's eyes examined, the OAO has partnered with the Ontario Government on the Eye See…Eye Learn® program. Currently Junior Kindergarten children in nine Ontario school regions are eligible to participate in the free program that encourages parents to book a comprehensive eye exam with a participating Doctor of Optometry for their JK child. If the child requires glasses, they will receive a pair of high quality, impact resistant and UV protected glasses free of charge courtesy of ESEL partners Jungle Eyewear® and Hoya Vision Care. The program is expanding across the province over the next four years.

Kudos to Sarah, the OAO and the government of Ontario. It seems like they have come up with what could be an effective education campaign backed up with solid treatment to keep the children of that province healthy. Is it time for other jurisdictions to follow Ontario's lead?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Yoga fights computer vision syndrome and keeps your eyes healthy

It turns out that that the ancient Indian practice of yoga can help fight a 21st century health issue: computer vision syndrome. Yoga is an ancient Indian science which includes the practice of specific postures, cleansing practices, regulated breathing and meditation. Readers of this blog know that dry eyes are one of the symptoms of computer vision syndrome and arise, in part, because we blink less when using the computer. Other symptoms include eyestrain, irritation, tired eyes, a burning sensation, redness, blurred vision, headaches, neck pain and double vision 

Common ways to fight computer vision syndrome include the use of specially prescribed and designed computer eye wear that reduces eye strain and also keeps the eyes hydrated by increasing the humidity between your eyes and the lens of the eye wear.

In addition to computer eye wear, a study published in the journal Head and Face that examined visual discomfort in professional computer users in Bangalore shows that a combination of yoga practices  may help alleviate the symptoms of computer vision syndrome.

The study researchers, some of whom are affiliated with the Swami Vivekananda Yoga Research Foundation in Bangalore, India, took two hundred and ninety one professional computer users and divided them into two groups.  One group practiced yoga for one hour a day, five days a week for sixty days while the other group did no yoga but did their regular recreational activities for the hour.  Both groups were assessed at baseline and after sixty days for self-rated visual discomfort using a standard questionnaire. 

The researchers employed general whole body yoga postures as well as a subset eye-specific yoga movements, called Trataka.  Interestingly, trataka resembles some exercises employed during optometric vision therapy to treat eye movement disorders.  Here is how the authors of the study described the yoga that they prescribed: 

The 60 minute yoga program included yoga postures (asanas, 15 minutes), regulated breathing (pranayamas, 10 minutes), exercises for the joints (sithilikarana vyayama, 10 minutes), visual cleansing exercises (trataka, 10 minutes), and guided relaxation (15 minutes).

The practice of trataka involves two sets of eye exercises. (i) Shifting the gaze (by moving the eyes alone) in eight directions. During this exercise, practitioners are asked to use their right thumb (and when gazing to the left, their left thumb) as a cue to direct their gaze. The directions are up, down, up to the left, down to the left, up to the right, down to the right and rotation of the eyes clock-wise and anti clock-wise. (ii) During the second exercise, practitioners gaze at a flame placed at eye level without blinking. While gazing at the flame, practitioners are instructed to focus their gaze on the flame and subsequently defocus while keeping their gaze on the flame.

Throughout the practice practitioners should sit upright and should avoid moving their head to shift their gaze.

These techniques were selected either because previous research showed that they reduced physiological arousal  or based on our unpublished clinical observations

While the scores for visual discomfort of both groups were comparable at baseline, after 60 days there was a significantly decreased score in the yoga group, whereas the no-yoga group showed significantly increased scores.  This means that the yoga group had less discomfort whereas the no-yoga group had more discomfort after 60 days.

The study's results suggest that yoga can alleviate the self-reported symptoms of visual discomfort associated with computer vision syndrome.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The former First Lady of the United States on vision therapy

Lyndon B. Johnson was the 36th president of the United States and was married to First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson. Many of  Lady Bird's interviews are collected at the LBJ Presidential Library at the University of Texas.  In one interview she talks about her daughter's "eye problem" and how an optometrist who prescribed a program of eye exercises (vision therapy) cured her and allowed her to function to the limits of her intellectual abilities.

Here is an except of the interview (thanks to the Vision Help Blog for finding this gem) where "J:" stands for Lady Bird Johnson and "M" stands for the interviewer, Harry Middleton.  Janet Travail, who is mentioned a couple of times in the excerpt below, was the White House physician at the time.  Lady Bird begins this excerpt and we have reproduced it starting in mid-paragraph:

     "It was a great thing that happened in her life.  She had long had an eye condition, now the well-known name for it is dyslexia.  But there are many, many forms of that, where what you see doesn't get translated to the brain in quite the way it should.  It used to be a puzzle to her teachers and to us, that this child that we thought was so bright would not make good grades.  And the teachers would talk to me about it and I would take her to the best eye doctors that I could, according to what my peers, the wives of other congressmen and senators, told me was the best eye doctor they'd found.  And they'd say, "Nothing the matter."  Finally--no, this was even after this time--she fell into the hands of the doctor who finally discovered her ailment, was maybe after Lyndon became vice president.  So it may have been still a year in the future.  But it's something that I want to tell a little bit about, because that lady doctor who took care of Kennedy--
M:   Travail.  Was it Janet Travail, or something like that.
J:   Janet Travail directed her, I think, as I recall, to a doctor, and his name I will too remember in a few minutes, because he has remained our lifelong friend.  [He] figured out what it was, gave her a series of eye exercises that changed her whole life and personality, because she became an achiever up to her mental capacity, her very remarkable mental capacity, whereas before, because of this eye problem, she had just kind of been stunted, and frustrated, and angry.  It changed her personality, her rate of performance; it was a wonderful blessing. 
M:   Was it eye exercises only that changed it?
J:   Dr. [Robert] Kraskin.  I do not know what.  It was treatments; a large part of it were eye exercises, I think.  And whatever he did, it was a boon, principally to Luci, but just as much, almost, to her mother and the rest of the family.  And that is a digression.  But--
M:   Well, it's a good one. 
J:   --in our life it was an important one."  
Here is a link to what seems to be a piece written by President Johnson's daughter, Luci, on her treatment by Dr. Kraskin and how it impacted her life:

The interview above and Luci's comments at the previous link resonate with what so many patients with developmental vision problems and eye coordination problems (as well as their families) experience every day.  Vision therapy's positive impact on the patient also has not changed since Lady Bird's time.

The sad thing is that the run around that some patients receive before they find the right doctor and the right treatment is the same today as it was in the 1960's when Lady Bird and her daughter experienced the frustration of a treatable condition that the "best doctors" could not figure out.

To learn more about vision therapy visit and to learn about children's vision development visit

The photographs in this post come from Wikipedia and are Lady Bird Johnson and President Lyndon B. Johnson.