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Halloween Eye Safety

October has arrived and that means many people are already starting to plan for upcoming costume parties and trick-or-treating for the Halloween season. This is why now is the time to remind the public about some very important precautions about eye safety since there are some common costume props and accessories out there can be very dangerous to your eyes.

Cosmetic Contact Lenses

One of the biggest costume-related dangers to your eyes and vision is cosmetic or decorative contact lenses. Decorative lenses can be a great addition to your costume, but they must be obtained safely and legally with a prescription, through a professional, authorized vendor.

The bottom line is that contact lenses are a medical device that are manufactured and distributed under very strict regulations. Even non-corrective contact lenses require an eye exam to measure your eye and fit lenses according to a prescription. Costume stores, beauty supply stores and similar websites are not authorized dealers of contact lenses, and over-the-counter contact lenses are not legal under any circumstances. 

Beware of anyone advertising “one-size-fits all” lenses or promoting that you do not need a prescription to purchase. Never buy contact lenses that don’t require a prescription. You could be risking serious damage to the eye and even blindness.

When contact lenses are not fitted to your unique eye measurements by an eye doctor, they can cause dryness and discomfort as well as a corneal abrasion or a scratch on the front surface of the eye. Serious corneal abrasions can leave scars and create permanent vision damage. Further, unregulated contact lenses may not be manufactured with optimal materials that are flexible and breathable and can be applied and removed properly. There are stories of lenses being stuck to people’s eyes and causing serious damage. Even if you aren’t feeling pain, it is best to check with a qualified licensed contact lens fitter to confirm if the contact lens is causing any harm to the eyes.

Non-prescription contacts have also been shown to present a higher risk of eye infection.  Serious infections can lead to vision loss, sometimes on a permanent basis. There are far too many stories these days of people that have used off-the-counter contact lenses that are now blind or suffering serious vision loss and chronic discomfort. 

Don’t worry, you don’t have to forgo your red, devil eyes this year! Just be safe and plan ahead. There are many manufacturers of cosmetic lenses, and these can be obtained safely through an authorized contact lens dealer. Contact your eye doctor or local optician to find out more. 

False Lashes

False eyelashes have become quite the rage in recent years but they carry a number of risks with them as well. First of all, they can damage the natural eyelash hair follicles, causing them to fall out, sometimes permanently. The chances of this increase when people sleep in their lashes or leave them on for extended periods of time. In addition to the aesthetic damage, this can be dangerous to your eyes because eyelashes are essential for protecting your eyes from sweat, debris, and dust. Without your eyelashes your eyes are at greater risk for infection and irritation.  

False eyelashes can also be a trap for dirt, debris and bacteria which can enter your eye causing irritation and infections, along the lids or inside the eye itself. As we said above, severe infections can sometimes lead to vision loss. 

Additionally, the glue that adheres the lashes to your eyelid can sometimes cause an allergic reaction in the skin around the eye or to the eye itself. The eye is one of the most sensitive areas of the body, so you want to keep any potential allergens or irritants far, far away. 

Masks and Props

If your (or your child’s) costume includes a mask, fake face, hood or anything else that goes on your head, make sure that visibility isn’t impaired. Unfortunately, it’s common for children especially to trip and fall because they cannot see well. Also, use caution when using props such as plastic swords, pitchforks, guns, sports equipment which can easily cause a corneal abrasion or contusion to the eye if hit in the face. 

Makeup

Lastly be careful about the makeup you apply around your eyes. Wash your hands before you apply eye makeup and don’t share makeup and brushes with others, as this can lead to the spread of infections such as conjunctivitis (pink eye). Make sure your makeup isn’t expired (mascara for example is recommended to throw away 2-4 months after opening) and try not to apply anything like eyeliner too close to the underside of the eyelid. Lastly, only  use makeup intended for eyes in the area around the eyes.  

When you are planning for this Halloween season, just remember that your vision is too high a price to pay for any great costume. Dress up safely and Happy Halloween!

 

Trouble Seeing the Fine Print? Here are Your Options…

Every good pair of eyes eventually gets old and with age comes a condition called presbyopia. Presbyopia, which usually begins to set in some time around 40, occurs when the lens of the eye begins to stiffen, making near vision (such as reading books, menus, and computer screens) blurry. You may have this age-related farsightedness if you notice yourself holding the newspaper further and further away in order to make out the words, and you may begin to experience headaches or eyestrain as well. 

The good news is, presbyopia is very common. It happens to most of us eventually and these days there are a number of good options to correct it. First of all, let’s take a look at what causes the condition.

What Causes Presbyopia?

As the eye ages, the natural lens begins to lose its elasticity as the focusing muscles (the ciliary muscles) surrounding the lens have difficulty changing the shape of the lens. The lens is responsible for focusing light that comes into the eye onto the retina for clear vision. The hardened or less flexible lens causes the light which used to focus on the retina to shift its focal point behind the retina when looking at close objects. This causes blurred vision. 

Presbyopia is a progressive condition that gets worse with time. It is a refractive error just like myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism. 

Signs of presbyopia include:

  • Blurred near vision
  • Difficulty focusing on small print or close objects
  • Eyestrain, headaches or fatigue, especially when reading or doing close work
  • Holding reading material at a distance to see properly
  • Needing brighter light to see close objects

Presbyopia can be diagnosed through an eye exam. 

Treatments for Presbyopia

There are a number of options for presbyopia treatment which include glasses, contact lenses or surgery. 

Glasses

The most common form of correction is eyeglasses. Reading glasses adjust the focal point of the target to reduce the focusing demand on the eyes. A side effect of the convex lenses is that they also magnify the target. For some, reading glasses are sufficient to improve close vision. Others, especially those with another refractive error, require more complex lenses. 

Bifocal or multifocal lenses, including progressive addition lenses (PALs), offer a solution for those with nearsightedness or farsightedness. These lenses have two or more prescriptions within the same lens, usually in different areas, to allow correction for distance vision and near vision within the same lens. While bifocals and standard multifocals typically divide the lenses into two hemispheres (or more), requiring the patient to look in the proper hemisphere depending on where they are focusing, with an unattractive contour calling attention to the presbyopia portion of the lens, progressive lenses provide a progressive transition of lens power creating a smooth, gradual change. Some people prefer progressive lenses for aesthetic reasons as they don’t have a visible line dividing the hemispheres.

Contact Lenses

Like glasses, contact lenses are also available in bifocal and multifocal lenses. Alternatively, some eye doctors will prescribe monovision contact lens wear, which divides the vision between your eyes. Typically it fits your dominant eye with a single vision lens for distance vision and your weaker eye with a single vision lens for near vision. Sometimes your eye doctor will prescribe modified monovision which uses a multifocal lens in the weaker eye to cover intermediate and near vision. Newer contact lens technology is making both lenses multifocal, and therefore doctors are becoming less dependent on monovision. Sometimes monovision takes a while to adjust to.

Based on your prescription, your eye doctor will help you decide which option is best for you and assist you through the adjustment period to determine whether this is a feasible option. Since there are so many baby boomers with presbyopia nowadays, the contact lens choices have expanded a lot within recent years.

Surgery

There are a few surgical treatments available for presbyopia. These include monovision LASIK surgery (which is a refractive surgery that works similar to monovision glasses or contact lenses), corneal inlays or onlays (implants placed on the cornea), refractive lens exchange (similar to cataract surgery, this replaces the old, rigid lens with a manufactured intraocular lens), and conductive keratoplasty (which uses radio waves to reshape the cornea in a noninvasive procedure). 

Medication – On the Horizon

There are currently clinical trials with promising early results that are testing eye drops that restore the flexibility of the human lens. It could be possible that in the near future eye drop prescriptions could be used to reduce the amount of time that people have to use reading glasses or contact lenses. 

These procedures vary in cost, recovery and outcome. If you are interested in surgery, schedule a consultation with a knowledgeable doctor to learn all of the details of the different options. 

As people are living longer, presbyopia is affecting a greater percentage of the population and more research is being done into treatments for the condition. So if your arm is getting tired from holding books so far away, see your eye doctor to discuss the best option for you. 

Aging Eyes and Driving Safety 

Even if you don’t have any eye or vision problems, the natural process of aging affects your ability to see and react to visual stimuli. It’s important to know the impact the aging can have on your eyes and vision so you can take the necessary precautions to stay safe and protect your eyes.

Driving is one activity that can pose a high risk as safe driving requires not only good vision, but also intact cognition and motor response. As we age, reflexes, reaction time and vision begin to deteriorate, which can impair one’s ability to drive safely, particularly under conditions such as bad weather, twilight glare, or nighttime darkness. Here are some ways that your ability to drive can be impaired as you age and some safety tips to help you to stay safe on the roads. 

The Aging Eye

As we age, the eye and vision naturally begin to experience a decline. The pupils in the eye, which allow light to enter, begin to shrink and dilate less, allowing less light to enter the retina. This causes reduced night vision. Additionally, some of our peripheral vision diminishes along with our ability to see moving objects. 

Due to deterioration of the cornea and clouding of the lens of the eye, glare becomes more disruptive and contrast sensitivity is reduced, making it harder to perceive images clearly. General imperfections in vision called higher-order aberrations cause a general decline in vision that can’t be corrected with glasses or contact lenses. Additionally, our reaction times slow, adding motor complications to the visual ones. Dry eyes also becomes a bigger problem with age as the lacrimal glands don’t produce as many tears to keep the eyes moist. Many of these symptoms may be present without the individual even noticing a decline and can all contribute to increased risk – for the driver, and others on the road.

If you add in any other vision problems such as cataracts, glaucoma or macular degeneration which are age-related diseases that gradually reduce vision, you can have a serious danger on your hands. 

Avoid Distractions

The biggest driving distraction in our day and age is cell phone usage. While many states and provinces have created laws which forbid driving and texting or holding a phone, it is not universal, and this still causes countless accidents and deaths that could be easily avoided. Even hands-free options distract you from the road and put you at risk. If you must use your phone to speak, dial or text, pull over first.

Plan Ahead

If you can avoid driving at night or on hazardous roads with sharp turns, inadequate lighting or that are unfamiliar to you, you will be better off. Plan to make first time trips during the day when you can clearly see street signs and landmarks or take a practice trip with a loved one. 

Purchase Night Vision Glasses

There are glasses available that can help to reduce the glare at night and enable better night time vision. Speak to your optometrist about whether this is a good option for you.

Turn Vents Down

Car vents can also cause discomfort, eye irritation and create greater vision hazard, as the air blowing at the eyes can impair vision or cause watering, especially when the eye are already dry. 

Maintain Good Eye Health

Make sure that you get your eyes checked on a regular basis and that any eye conditions you have are being treated and monitored. Good nutrition, exercise and overall healthy habits will help to protect and heal your eyes as well. Further, listen to your instincts, if you feel unsafe driving or if your doctor (or family members) tell you it’s time to hand in the keys, think about utilizing other means of transportation to get around. 

Many times people are able to pass their vision test at the driver’s license bureau which gives them a false sense of security, but in reality they are not seeing well, especially at night or in bad weather. In many areas there are courses available for senior citizens to test out driving skills with instructors who do an evaluation and give feedback on their real abilities. It’s critical for seniors to speak to their eye doctors about their true vision level and any restrictions that they recommend. 

The key to eye health and safety is awareness. You can’t stop your eyes from aging but you can take the necessary precautions to ensure that you are protecting your eyes, yourself and those around you by knowing how your eyes and vision are affected.

Is Your Teen Ready for Contacts?

Many teens who wear glasses are eager to try out contact lenses for convenience, fashion or to just provide another option for vision correction. For teens who feel self-conscious in their glasses, contact lenses can be a way to improve self-esteem. Young athletes and swimmers find that contacts are an excellent option for sports, especially as younger kids are becoming involved in travel sports and club teams outside of school. 

While contacts might appear to be the perfect solution for teens that need corrective eyewear, they are a convenience that comes with a lot of responsibility so it’s not a decision to take lightly. Improper use of contact lenses can cause severe discomfort, infections, irritation and, in the worst cases, eye damage or even permanent vision loss. 

“With Privilege Comes Responsibility”

Contact lenses are a medical device and should always be treated as such. They should never be obtained without a valid contact lens prescription from an eye doctor, and always purchased from an authorized seller. Among other issues, poor fitting contact lenses bought from illegitimate sources have been known to cause micro-abrasions to the eyes that can increase the risk of eye infection and corneal ulcers in worst case scenarios.   

Particularly when it comes to kids and teens, it is best to purchase contact lenses from an eye doctor as they possess the expertise to properly fit contact lenses based on the shape of the eye, the prescription, the lifestyle of the child and other factors that may influence the comfort, health and convenience of contact lens use. 

There is some debate over the recommended age for kids to start considering contact lenses. While some experts will say the ideal age is between 11 and 14, there are many responsible children as young as 8 or even younger who have begun to successfully use them. When children are motivated and responsible, and parents are able to ensure follow-up to the daily regimen, earlier contact lens use can be a success. A good measure of whether your child is responsible enough to use contacts is whether they are able to keep their room clean, or maintain basic hygiene like brushing teeth regularly and effectively. 

When you think your child might be ready, you should schedule an appointment with your eye doctor for a contact lens exam and fitting. The process will take a few visits to perform the exam, complete a training session on how to insert, remove and care for lenses, then to try out the lenses at home and finally reassess the comfort and fit of the contacts. You may try out a few varieties before you find the best fit. 

What Kind of Contact Lens Is Best for My Teen?

The good news is that contact lens use has become easier than ever, with safety, health and convenience being more accessible as technology improves. There are a number of options including the material used to make the lenses (soft or rigid gas permeable), the replacement schedule (if disposable, how often you replace the pair – daily, weekly, biweekly or monthly) and the wear schedule (daily or extended overnight wear). 

Single use, daily disposable lenses have become very popular, particularly with younger users, because they are easy to use, requiring no cleaning or storing, and therefore they reduce the risk of infection and misuse. You simply throw out the lenses at night and open a new one in the morning. Your eye doctor will be able to help you and your teen determine the best option.

Tips for Contact Lens Wearers

Following are some basic contact lens safety tips. If your teen is responsible enough to follow these guidelines, he or she may be ready for contact lens use:

  1. Always follow the wearing schedule prescribed by your doctor.
  2. Always wash your hands with soap before applying or removing contact lenses. 
  3. Never use any substance other than contact lens rinse or solution to clean contacts (even tap water is a no-no). 
  4. Never reuse contact lens solution
  5. Follow the eye doctor’s advice about swimming or showering in your lenses
  6. Always remove your lenses if they are bothering you or causing irritation. 
  7. Never sleep in your lenses unless they are extended wear.
  8. Never use any contact lenses that were not acquired with a prescription at an authorized source. Never purchase cosmetic lenses without a prescription! 

Contact lens use is an ongoing process. As a child grows, the lens fit may change as well, so it is important to have annual contact lens assessments. Plus, new technology is always being developed to improve comfort and quality of contact lenses. 

Contact lenses are a wonderful invention but they must be used with proper care. Before you let your teen take the plunge into contact lens use, make sure you review the dangers and safety guidelines. 

Inside a Life With Color Vision Deficiency

What’s it like to be color blind? Contrary to what the name implies, color blindness usually does not actually mean that you don’t see any color, but rather that you have difficulty perceiving or distinguishing between certain colors. This is why many prefer the term color vision deficiency or CVD to describe the condition. CVD affects men more than women, appearing in approximately 8% of men (1 in 12) and .5% of women (1 in 200) worldwide. 

Having color vision deficiency means that you perceive color in a more limited way than those with normal color vision. This ranges from mild, in which you may not even be aware that you are experiencing color differently, to severe, which is perhaps the more appropriate from to be called “color blind” and involves the inability to see certain colors. 

CVD can be inherited; it is caused by abnormalities in the genes that produce photopigments located in the cone cells in your eyes. The eyes contain different cone cells that fire in response to a specific color, blue, green or red and together allow you to see the depth and range of colors that the normal eye can see. The type of color blindness and therefore the type of color vision that is impaired, is based on which photopigments are abnormal. The most common form of CVD is red-green, followed by blue-yellow. Total color blindness or the complete inability to perceive color is quite rare. About 7% of males have congenital color blindness that they inherit from the mother’s X-chromosome. 

Color blindness can also be the result of eye damage, specifically to the optic nerve, or to the area in the brain that processes color. Sometimes an eye disease, such as cataracts, can also impact one’s ability to perceive color. Systemic diseases such as diabetes or multiple sclerosis can also cause acquired CVD. 

Living with CVD

Red-green color blindness does not mean only that you can’t tell the difference between red and green, but rather that any color that has some red or green (such as purple, orange, brown, pink, some shades of gray, etc) in it is affected. 

You many not realize all of the ways you use even subtle distinctions in color in your daily life. Here are some examples of ways that CVD can impact your life and make seemingly everyday tasks challenging:

  • You may not be able to cook meat to the desired temperature based on color. 
  • Most of the colors in a box of crayons will be indistinguishable.
  • You may not be able to distinguish between red and green LED displays on electronic devices that indicate power on and off. 
  • You may not be able to tell between a ripe and unripe fruit or vegetable such as bananas (green vs. yellow) or tomatoes (red vs green). 
  • Chocolate sauce, barbecue sauce and ketchup may all look the same. 
  • Bright green vegetables can look unappealing as they appear greenish, brown or grey. 
  • You may not be able to distinguish color coded pie charts or graphs (which can cause difficulty in school or work). 
  • Selecting an outfit that matches can be difficult. 

Knowing that one is color blind is important for some occupations that require good color discrimination such as the police officers, railway workers, pilots, electricians etc.  These are just a few of the ways that CVD can impact one’s daily life. So is there a cure? Not yet. 

While there is no cure for CVD, there is research being done into gene therapies and in the meantime there are corrective devices available including color vision glasses (such as the Enchroma brand) and color filtering contacts that for some can help to enhance color for some people. If you think you might have CVD, your optometrist can perform some tests to diagnose it or rule it out. If you have CVD, you can speak to your eye doctor about options that might be able to help you experience your world in full color. 

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