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Located at 15122 72 Avenue, Unit 105 in Surrey, BC

Located at 15122 72 Avenue, Unit 105 in Surrey, BC

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Month: March 2015

Can you Really Go Blind from Looking at a Solar Eclipse?

Last week, people in South America, Europe, North Africa, and parts of Asia and the Middle East saw a solar eclipse. As you may have heard, looking directly at a solar eclipse is very dangerous for your eyes and vision. Nevertheless, this rare event is something that many people want to experience when it does happen. While the next time Americans will have a chance to see a total eclipse will be in August 2017, this is what you need to know to be prepared in protecting your eyes when witnessing this rare event.

Dangers of the Sun

First of all, any time that you stare at the sun, the strong rays can kill cells in your retina. The retina is the light-sensitive area at the back of your eye which receives light from the lens of your eye and sends signals to the optic nerve. If the retina is damaged, this will cause you to go blind. The reason that most people don’t make as big of a deal about this on a regular basis as they do with a solar eclipse is that the sun light is so strong, most people don’t and aren’t able to stare at it. Usually your eye will automatically respond with ways to protect your retina by contracting the pupils, squinting or looking away.

A solar eclipse, however, goes through a number of stages and when the sun is partially eclipsed or most of it is covered, the light does not seem as bright, so the protective reactions from your eye don’t occur. Nevertheless, the part of the sun that is visible is just as strong and intense as looking at the full sun, leaving your eyes vulnerable and unprotected. Further, because a solar eclipse is such a unique event, many people are tempted to look – even when they know they shouldn’t, thinking that a few seconds of exposure can’t really do much harm.

This thinking is unfortunately very wrong.  You may be familiar with the science trick where you can light a paper on fire on the sidewalk using the sun and a magnifying glass. Sunlight is so strong, that when you concentrate the light with a lens, you can start a fire.  The lens of your eye similarly acts to concentrate the sun’s light onto your retina – basically burning it just like the paper in that experiment. A brief encounter -even a few seconds- between your eyes and this intense exposure to the sun is enough to do serious damage.

Usually people don’t realize right away that damage has been done since there is no initial pain with a retinal burn. It can often take several hours for symptoms to manifest and at this point it is already too late.

NEVER LOOK DIRECTLY AT AN ECLIPSE! In fact, you should never look directly at the sun.

Solutions for Viewing an Eclipse

There are a few options for safely viewing these rare events. First of all, you can purchase special eclipse glasses which are glasses made with specific lenses that block out dangerous wavelengths of light. Alternatively, you can make a pinhole projector which will project a miniature image of the eclipse onto the ground through a piece of cardboard or paper with a hole in it. You can learn how to make a pinhole camera on the NASA website.

So whether you are experiencing a solar eclipse or are out enjoying the warm sunshine, now you know how powerful the sun’s rays really are.

10 Steps to Prevent Vision Loss

March is Save Your Vision Month, a time to raise public awareness about how to protect your eyes and your vision. Most people aren’t aware that 75% of potential vision loss can be prevented or treated. This largely depends on patients being proactive and educated about their eye health.

Here are 10 important steps to protect and preserve your precious eyesight:

  1. Regularly have your eyes checked: For a number of eye diseases, early detection and treatment is critical to success in saving your vision. Many conditions – such as diabetic eye disease, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and glaucoma – have minimal or no symptoms, particularly in the early stages. A comprehensive dilated eye exam is sometimes the only way to detect eye disease early enough to save your sight and prevent vision loss.
  2. Know your family history: A number of eye diseases involve genetic risk factors, including glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Be aware of the incidence of eye disease in your family and if you do have a family history make sure to be monitored regularly by a trusted eye doctor.
  3. Wear sunglasses: Exposure to UVA and UVB rays from sunlight is associated with a higher risk of AMD and cataracts. Wear sunglasses with 100% UV protection year round, any time you are outdoors. It’s worthwhile to invest in a pair of quality sunglasses which will have UV protection that lasts, as well as better glare protection and optics.
  4. Eat healthy: Diet plays a large role in eye health, especially certain nutrients such as antioxidants, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins and minerals found in leafy green and orange vegetables. Keep your diet low in fat and sugar and high in nutrients and you can reduce your risk of developing AMD or diabetes, two of the leading causes of blindness.  
  5. Stop smoking: Smokers are four times more likely to develop AMD.
  6. Wear eye protection: If you play sports, use power tools or work with dangerous equipment or chemicals, make sure to wear proper safety glasses or goggles to protect your eyes from injury. Never take risks as many permanent eye injuries happen within seconds.
  7. Manage diabetes: If you have diabetes or hyperglycemia, manage your blood sugar levels to reduce the risks of diabetic retinopathy.
  8. Limit alcohol intake: Heavy drinking is associated with higher risks of developing cataracts and AMD.
  9. Exercise: Yet another benefit of regular physical activity is eye health including reduced risk of AMD.
  10. Educate yourself: Below is some basic information about four of the most common vision impairing eye conditions.

4 Most Common Eye Conditions:

  • Cataracts

Typically an age-related disease, cataracts cause a clouding of the lens of the eye which impairs vision.  You can’t completely prevent this condition as more than half of individuals will develop a cataract by the time they are 70-80 years old. Cataract treatment involves a common surgical procedure that is one of the safest and most commonly performed medical procedures with a 98% success rate.

  • AMD (age-related macular degeneration)

A progressive condition that attacks central vision, AMD usually affects individuals 50 and older. Disease progression may be slow and early symptoms minimal, making an eye exam critical in early detection. Risk factors include race (more common in Caucasians), family history, age, UV exposure, lack of exercise, smoking and poor diet and nutrition. AMD can cause irreversible vision loss. While there is no cure, the progression of the vision loss can be slowed or halted when caught early. Individuals often develop a condition called low-vision which is not complete blindness but does require a change in lifestyle to deal with limited eye sight.

  • Glaucoma

Glaucoma is the 2nd leading cause of blindness worldwide, resulting from damage to the optic nerve most often caused by pressure build up in the eye. Vision loss is progressive and irreversible. Studies show that 50% of people with the disease don’t know they have it. While there is no cure, early detection and treatment can protect your eyes against serious vision loss and if caught early enough vision impairment could be close to zero. Risk factors include old age, diabetes, family history, ethnic groups (African Americans and Mexican Americans have higher risk factors), and previous eye injury.

  • Diabetic retinopathy

The most common diabetic eye disease, this is a leading cause of blindness in adults which is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina. All people with diabetes both type 1 and type 2 are at risk, and the disease can often progress without symptoms, so regular eye exams are essential to prevent permanent vision loss. Regular eye exams and maintaining normal blood sugar levels are the best ways to protect vision.

The best way to protect your vision is to be informed, develop healthy habits and to get your eyes checked regularly. See you soon!

Refocus on the Digital Age with Computer Glasses

Digital devices have impacted our world in so many positive ways, allowing us to connect, work, play and get information at the speed of light. But all of this good brings with it a measure of concern: Digital Eye Strain or Computer Vision Syndrome.

Focusing on your vision on digital devices for long periods can cause eye fatigue and eyestrain. In fact, up to 70% of North American adults suffer from symptoms of Digital Eye Strain which include:

  • Headaches
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Sore eyes
  • Dry or watery eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Neck, shoulder or back pain

In addition to these symptoms, emerging research shows that blue light from digital devices causes sleep disturbances by interfering with the REM cycle of sleep.

As people move from their computer to their tablet to their phone, more and more of these symptoms are being seen, and in younger and younger people.

How They Work

Computer glasses reduce eye strain by adjusting the focus slightly so your eyes feel like they are focusing on something further away. They also have a tint to remove the glare and block blue light from entering into your eyes.

Finding the Right Pair

There are a number of companies that make computer glasses, some that are designed for device users without a prescription or that would wear the glasses with contact lenses. Other manufacturers provide options to incorporate vision prescriptions into the lens.

When shopping for computer glasses you want to make sure you find the right pair. The eyewear should sit nicely on your face and provide a comfortable tint.

Children and Computer Glasses

Children are using digital devices more than ever and this trend will only continue as smartphones take over and tablet and computer-based learning increases. Their use extends well beyond the school day as well, as they use computers for homework and gaming and smartphones to text with their friends.

Computer glasses should be used for kids preventatively before eye strain begins to keep their eyes healthy longer and prevent nearsightedness.

Don’t wait for eye strain to affect you and your family members. Take computer vision syndrome seriously and ask your eye doctor about how computer glasses can help.