Are Your Child's Eyes Are Ready for School?

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Are Your Child's Eyes Are Ready for School?

Did you know that 80% of a child’s learning is through vision? In Ontario, although 25% of school-aged children have vision problems, only 14% have an eye exam before entering Grade 1. Often, children do not realize they have blurry vision or difficulty crossing their eyes - both of which may lead to challenges in reading and poorer school performance. Only an eye doctor can examine this thoroughly.

According to the Canadian Association of Optometrists, a person’s first eye exam should be at 6-9 months of age. Children should also have an eye exam before entering JK, and then annually afterwards. Although most kids will not show any signs even if they have visual issues, here are some things to look out for:

  • Squinting or rubbing of eyes

  • Headaches, eyestrain

  • Moves text closer to read, or moves closer to the TV to see

  • Not meeting grade-level in reading or math

  • Skips lines/words when reading, mixes up letters, or reads backwards

  • Poor handwriting

  • Has difficulty with concentration, and is easily distracted

  • General fatigue

The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) covers for standard eye exams annually for children aged 0-19. Our clinic also offers advanced retinal imaging to ensure the back of the eye (retina) is healthy, which is especially important for a growing child. So if you notice any of the above (or even if everything seems completely normal), we would be happy to see your child for an eye exam to make sure they are seeing well for school!

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Written by: Dr. Natalia Fong

Image Credit: Santi Vedrí

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What Do My Eyebrows Have to Do With My Vision?

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What Do My Eyebrows Have to Do With My Vision?

Eyebrows serve a lot of functions in our culture today from beauty to nonverbal communication. You can tell a lot about how a person is feeling based on their eyebrows. Different facial expressions show emotions, feelings and meanings while our eyebrows exaggerate that expression. Take cartoons for example, furrowed eyebrows express anger and high arched eyebrow express surprise. But what else do our eyebrows do for us?

We as humans rely on our sight more than any other sense. Eyebrows help keep sweat, rain and other moisture out of our eyes. With no eyebrows, water can get in and seriously blur our vision. In addition, our eyebrows may also deflect debris and protect our eyes from the sun. As a species, we slowly evolved to lose most of our body hair yet our eyebrows remained. Some scientists believe that if we didn’t have eyebrows, something else would have evolved to help this situation; perhaps incredibly thick eyelashes or an overly thick skull that forms a ledge above our eyes.

Eye protection is vital! Before you decide to pluck some extra hairs to form the perfect thin eyebrow shape or even consider eyebrow tattoos (shaving off your eyebrows and tattooing the arch – ouch!), remember the importance of that hair above your eyes and how it’s helping you see clearly and comfortably  each and every day.

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Written by: Stephanie Teixeira

Photo Credit: Rune Enstad

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Can I Sleep With My Eyes Open?

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Can I Sleep With My Eyes Open?

As unusual as sleeping with your eyes open may sound, it is something that 20% of people are affected by.  Most individuals are not even aware of it themselves until someone brings it to their attention. Nocturnal lagophthalmus is the medical term used for someone who sleeps with their eyes open. Sleeping with your eyes open does not mean that your eyes are wide open, but rather that the eyelids don’t close all the way. Over time, sleeping with your eyes open can cause someone to experience chronic dryness and discomfort leading to a lack of lubrication that can put one at risk for eye damage and scratches. 

Additional side effects to nocturnal lagophthalmus are:

  • Redness and irritation

  • Light sensitivity

  • Reduced quality of sleep

Luckily there are a number of treatments that are available that can help individuals with nocturnal lagophthalmus, such as:

  • Prescribing medications, such as eye drops, ointments and artificial tears to reduce dryness and scratches

  • Wearing moisture goggles when sleeping

  • Placing a humidifier at night to moisten the air to reduce dryness

  • Inserting an external eyelid weight or surgical tape to the upper eyelids to keep them closed

  • Performing surgery (generally for severe cases)

If you experience times when you wake up the next morning with dryness, discharge, or discomfort in your eyes, think about looking into whether you have nocturnal lagophthalmus. Your optometrist can perform a thorough assessment to find signs of this condition, and will recommend the best treatment for it.

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Written by: Stephanie Teixeira and Sandra Mazur

Photo Credit: Vlad Tchompalov

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Help! How Do I Get Rid Of This Floater?!

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Help! How Do I Get Rid Of This Floater?!

Do you ever notice small specks or threadlike shapes moving in your field of vision? You might think it’s dirt on your eye or glasses, but these pesky annoyances are most likely floaters.

The eye is filled with a gel that helps keep its round shape. Sometimes, it can clump up in areas and cast shadows on the retina (the neural tissue of the eye). Not to worry though, floaters for the most part are harmless. In general, they subside over time, but if they don’t, there are potential laser treatments. (and no, unfortunately there are no vitamins or exercises that will get rid of them). Your optometrist can guide you through your options to discuss what is best for your eye health.

Flashes and floaters, however, can also be a tell-tale sign that there may be damage in the eye that needs to be treated urgently. Sometimes the gel can pull and tug on the retina, which becomes more common with age. This can seem quite alarming as it might create a sudden increase of floaters and flashes. Symptoms such as this could be related to a retinal detachment or tear, which is vision-threatening if not treated in a timely manner. Only a dilated eye exam, along with the help of digital imaging, can help rule out a retinal detachment or tear.

If there is one take-away from this, please remember: If you experience an increase of floaters or flashes, or a curtain/veil across your vision, see your optometrist as soon as possible. Here at our office, we will do our best to fit you in immediately, as your vision and well-being are our top priority.

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Written by: Sandy Aziz & Dr. Natalia Fong

Image Credit: Dmytro Soroka

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Your Eyes Are What You Eat

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Your Eyes Are What You Eat

Ever wondered what foods keep your eyes in great shape? Although many of us are taught that carrots are the key to perfect vision, they actually are not the most healthy vegetables for your eyes, believe it or not! Let’s look at what foods are best (and those that are not) for your health that will help you see a clear future.

Our Top 5 Picks

1.  Green leafy vegetables. Spinach, kale, broccoli, and collard greens are a great source of vitamin C. Most importantly, they are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin - these are the most important nutrients for the retina and are found in high concentrations at the macula (the part of the eye that allows you to see detail). These antioxidants work to protect the eye from harmful free radicals and blue light; they also lower the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.

2. Fish. Tuna, salmon, sardines, and trout are high in omega-3 fatty acids that are key to a healthy gut and body. Fish oil reduces dry eye symptoms and reduces inflammation, which is good news to those that spend time staring at their phones without blinking.

3. Nuts and Legumes. These too are high in omega-3 and vitamin E. Vitamin E can protect your eyes from age-related damage. Examples are walnuts, cashews, peanuts, and lentils.

4. Citrus fruits. When we eat an orange, or drink lemon, we know we are getting our intake of vitamin C. Citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C, a fantastic antioxidant that aids in preventing age-related eye damage such as macular degeneration and cataract.

5. Carrots and sweet potatoes. Carrots are widely believed to give us hawk-eye vision, and though that is not true, they do provide other benefits for our eyes. Carrots and sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A and beta-carotene, an antioxidant that converts to vitamin A and gives them their orange color. Vitamin A is crucial as it stimulates a key protein called rhodopsin that helps the retina absorb light so that it can signal information to the brain; it also preserves the cornea and allows us to see in low light conditions.

Worst foods:

1. Sugar. It’s not surprising that sauces, salad dressings, sweetened drinks and sweets contain a lot of, well, sugar! These foods can trigger a spike in blood sugar levels that can be damaging to your health. In diabetes especially, the blood vessels in the eye can get leaky, leading to potential vision loss.

2. Fried food. We are all tempted by cravings of fried chicken and fries. Unfortunately, this type of eating in the long run is detrimental to your overall health as they are high in saturated fats and cholesterol. This can clog your arteries, increasing your risk for stroke, heart attack, and vision loss.

It’s important to realize that absolutely everything we eat or do has an effect on our overall health, whether good or bad. Enjoy and indulge here and there, but be considerate of what you are consuming so that you can see better and be healthier.

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Written by: Sandy Aziz & Dr. Natalia Fong

Image Credit: Becca Tapert

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What You Need To Know Before Buying Sunglasses

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What You Need To Know Before Buying Sunglasses

Imagine yourself out on the water at a beach on a hot summer’s day. As you’re enjoying the view, a wave sweeps in behind you. Next thing you know, the stylish sunglasses you were wearing are lying at the bottom of the lake! It’s after times like these when my patients ask whether it’s worth investing in sunglasses, or if a cheap pair will work the same. To that, I say that there is absolutely a difference!

UV protection is #1 priority. UV blocking sunglasses are just as important as slathering on sunscreen. UV damage is linked to numerous eye diseases including cataract, macular degeneration, and skin cancer. Skin is thinnest on your eyelid, and so it is very susceptible to UV damage. Make sure your sunglasses are truly UV blocking by purchasing from a reputable retailer. In Canada, most sunglasses – even inexpensive department store pairs - block UV. It should say 100% UVA and UVB protection, or UV400 protection. They should fit well enough to provide coverage around your eyes too. No matter how dark your sunglasses are, however, never look directly at the sun – it can cause permanent vision loss.

Optical quality. Summer is beautiful with its green trees, sandy beaches, crystal blue water, and gorgeous sunsets! Why wouldn’t you want to see clearly and enjoy all the natural beauty around you? Unfortunately, lenses made of cheaper plastics are not as clear, and have quite a bit of distortion, glare, and colour disruption.

Polarization. Have you ever noticed reflections off the water, making it impossible to see beneath the surface? Have you ever been bothered by glare off other cars on a sunny day? Polarized lenses, such as those made by Maui Jim®, use special technology to cut out glare, making everything appear much more crisp. Everyone can benefit from polarization – whether you drive a car, spend time on the water, walk around outdoors, or play sports. Once you try polarization, you’ll never want to go back! It’s like the difference between watching a movie in HD on Blu-Ray, as opposed to DVD.

It’s About Safety. We all have experienced times when we’re driving with the sun directly ahead, with our visor down in order to see the road while squinting. There is no doubt that wearing a clear, polarized pair of sunglasses improves visibility, reduces distractions, and increases safety on the road.

What About Kids? Sunglasses are just as important, if not more, for children! The WHO estimates that 80% of a person’s lifetime UV exposure has already occurred by age 18. Protect those young eyes, it will pay off in the future!

The Verdict. My advice is to own at least one pair of high-quality polarized sunglasses, and to wear them year-round when outdoors or driving in daylight. If you are concerned about losing sunglasses out on the water, you can always have an inexpensive basic UV-blocking pair for those riskier situations.

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Written by: Dr. Natalia Fong

Image Credit: Richard Pouncy Jr. 

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What Will It Take for the Raptors To Win?

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What Will It Take for the Raptors To Win?

What will it take for the Raptors to win? A lot of people would say it’s playing tough defense, making the 3-point shots, a great coach and a little bit of luck. But is it luck or the best hidden secret to the game? What’s the secret you may ask? Strong visual skills. Take Steph Curry, for example. He didn’t win three NBA championships for no reason. To be as good as he is, Steph Curry works hard to enhance every aspect of his game and that includes vision training. Here are 5 key skills that the Raptors need in order to be on their A-game and clutch their first ever championship title.   

  1. Court Vision – Being able to multitask visually is crucial to being a successful basketball player. They always say to keep your eye on the ball, but does anyone ever talk about your peripheral vision? 90% of vision is peripheral and 10% is central. Your central vision is key for shooting, but having better peripheral vision is much more important.  Peripheral vision is about knowing where you and everyone else are on the court to give you better perspective.

  2. Visual Endurance – Ever wonder why some players get off to a great start but miss every shot in the last quarter? It takes a lot of energy to focus, track and judge distances all the while making split-second decisions during a game.  Your visual stamina is important, just like keeping in good shape to be able keep up throughout the game (especially when you head into double overtime).

  3. Visual Reaction Time – What does an athlete’s reaction time have to do with their vision? If you’re able to quickly process what you’re seeing, then you can react faster! Think of your vision as your high-speed internet, the faster the download speed the faster you’ll find your Google search! On the court this translates to having a quick offense, defense, creating turnovers, blocking a shot or rebounding a ball.

  4. 3-D Vision – Being able to judge distances requires our two eyes to work together as a team. This is how Kawhi Leonard sunk that epic three point shot in game 7 against Philly. He knew exactly how far to shoot the ball in mid-air to win the game and take us to the next round!

  5. Figure-Ground Vision – To be a successful player you must be able to easily differentiate between objects from background clutter. An example of this is the player’s ability to successfully score a free throw with the distraction of the rest of the crowd in the background waving, clapping and distracting the player.  Or making that critical pass to your teammate rather than having the other team steal it, leading to an easy basket.

Let’s hope that our Raptors team have been focusing on their vision along with their basketball drills to cap off a historic playoff run to bring home our first championship trophy!

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Written by: Stephanie Teixeira & Dr. Fabian Tai

Image Credit: Christian Mendoza

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Eyelash Extensions: Are They Safe?

Eyelash Extensions: Are They Safe?

Eyelash extensions have quickly become a rising trend to no surprise; many love having beautiful, long, luscious lashes. To achieve this, single eyelash extension strands are applied to the base of one’s natural lashes using an adhesive glue. During this process, tape is used on the lower eyelid to hold the lower lashes in place.

The Issue. Eyelash extension application is an unregulated procedure that has no standardization of materials. The most common complication we see is an allergic reaction towards the materials used (eyelash extensions, glue, tape). As a result, irritation, redness, and swelling of the eye can occur. The eyelids can also become puffy, and the skin can become dry and flaky – a type of contact dermatitis. Especially in cases of poor hygiene, the lid itself can be infected, resulting in red painful bumps called styes. While all of these are treatable, it’s best to prevent it from occurring in the first place by ensuring that you are going to a trained aesthetician who sources high quality products.

Maintenance is Key. I cannot stress enough how important this is! Artificial lashes provide an extra home for bacteria and debris to build. We’ve seen everything from make-up residue to flaked skin to eyelash mites. These can all lead to itching, irritation, dry eye, and infection. Daily use of lid wipes to remove makeup and debris is crucial to keeping your eyes clean. If you have an overgrowth of bacteria or mites in your lashes, your doctor may recommend tea-tree oil, a naturally occurring essential oil that has antiseptic properties.

What About Makeup and Contacts? Avoid using excessive makeup, and try to use water-based products. Waterproof cosmetics are difficult to remove without using an oil-based make-up remover, which can dissolve the glue and cause the extension to fall out prematurely. Contact lenses are safe to wear.   

Final Verdict: Are Eyelash Extensions Safe? Yes, if done right! And remember, you do get what you pay for. Go to a licensed technician, know what materials they use, and ensure the environment and instruments are sanitary. Check that the adhesive does not contain formaldehyde, ammonia, or latex. Cyanoacrylate compounds can also release formaldehyde, and so it is best to avoid this too. Let them know ahead of time if you have any allergies or sensitivities. If you experience any redness, irritation, or swelling, have the eyelash extensions removed.

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Written by: Dr. Natalia Fong & Dr. Fabian Tai

Image Credit: Photo by Mihai Stefan

Top 5 Tips: Are You Using Your Contacts Properly?

Top 5 Tips: Are You Using Your Contacts Properly?

As days get longer, sunlight gets warmer, and excitement for summer vacation grows, many of us like to trade in our glasses for the convenience and look of contact lenses. Review our top 5 tips on how to use and care for your contact lenses properly!

  1. Invest in quality contact lenses that are safe for your eyes. There are countless brands of lenses, each with different sizes, shapes, moisture, breathability, stiffness, and ability to protect against UV. Did you know the power in your contact lens is rarely the same as your glasses? Only your optometrist can fit you with the best lenses that are crisp, comfortable, and healthy for your eyes’ unique features. Dry eyes with lens wear is not normal, and your doctor can explain different ways to prevent this.

  2. Clean and replace them as your doctor directs. Your eye needs to breathe! An old or dirty lens can starve your eye of oxygen, causing inflammation and discomfort. Worse, it can become a breeding ground for bacteria. Would you re-wear used socks or underwear? Well, same goes for your contacts! Depending on the brand, your doctor may recommend that you replace them daily, bi-weekly, or monthly. Some lenses must be rubbed and stored with a specific cleaning solution. If you use a storage case, wash it daily and swap it out for a new one every 3 months to prevent a build-up of bacteria.

  3. Never over-wear or sleep in your lenses. Contacts should not be worn for more than 12-14 hours per day, and it is always a good idea to take a break from them at least two days of the week. Sleeping – even napping – in your lenses significantly increases your risk of infection, which can lead to permanent vision loss in severe cases. For days when your eyes are red, feeling irritated, or when you are sick, you should not wear your contacts as it puts you at greater risk of infection and inflammation.  

  4. Always wear sunglasses over your lenses. You wouldn’t apply sunscreen just on your arms while leaving your back exposed, would you? While some (not all) contact lenses have UV protection, contact lenses only cover a small portion of the eye. This still leaves the rest exposed to UV damage. A stylish pair of high definition polarized sunglasses, such as Maui Jim®, cuts glare and ensures your eyes are fully protected.

  5. Avoid exposing your lenses to water. Water can be full of chemicals and bacteria that can adhere to the contact lens. Ideally, swimming with prescription goggles is best for your eyes. However, if you must, wear disposable contacts with goggles, then replace the lenses with a fresh pair immediately after swimming.

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Written by: Dr. Natalia Fong & Dr. Fabian Tai

Image Credit: Artem Bali

Are Our Eyes a Window Into Detecting Early Dementia?

Are Our Eyes a Window Into Detecting Early Dementia?

Did you know that over 170 systemic diseases can manifest in the eye? Just by looking into your eyes, your doctor can help detect things such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, thyroid conditions, autoimmune disease, anemia, multiple sclerosis, stroke, and cancer. With today’s rapidly growing technology, scientists may soon be adding Alzheimer’s Disease to that list.

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia, and 1 in 5 will suffer from it by age 85. Researchers have found that in AD, plaques of an extracellular deposit called amyloid-beta accumulate in the brain. Since the eye is an extension of the brain’s neural tissue, these plaques are also found to build up inside the eye’s retinal neurons.

A special type of low-cost and non-invasive retinal imaging called scanning laser ophthalmoscopy can be used to detect amyloid-beta in the eye. One study showed that this method detected 4.7x more amyloid-beta in retinas of patients with AD. It’s a promising prospect for early detection of AD before clinical signs, such as memory loss, begin to appear. This would open doors for early, preventative treatment.

Research still has a long way to go, however, since studies are still ongoing to determine how accurate this scan would be in diagnosing AD. We wonder how many other neurological conditions might also show up in the eye; perhaps this discovery is only the beginning!

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Written by: Dr. Natalia Fong & Dr. Fabian Tai

Image Credit: Victor Freitas

5 Tips For Taking Care Of Your Baby’s Eyes

5 Tips For Taking Care Of Your Baby’s Eyes

We always recommend a baby’s first eye exam to be at 6 months old. At this age, their visual skills are rapidly developing, and it is important to ensure they are seeing well so that they can learn and explore the world around them. A great question we always get is how we can do eye tests on someone who doesn’t know their 123s or ABCs. Of course, we modify our infant exams to incorporate fun lights, sounds, and toys to check eye alignment and their ability to follow moving objects. We also use patterns to check their ability to see detail, as babies will naturally pay attention to new and interesting patterns. Lastly, we use lights to look at their eye health in a very non-invasive way.

Here are my five tips for taking care of your baby’s eyes:

  1. Baby sunglasses are a must! Up to 80% of a person’s lifetime exposure to damaging UV radiation occurs before age 18. Protect your kid’s eyes as soon as possible, whenever they are outdoors at all times of the year.

  2. To aid visual development, keep reach-and-touch toys within your baby’s focus of about 8 to 12 inches, and help them explore different shapes and textures with their fingers. Remember daily tummy time as it is crucial for developing posture, vision, and motor coordination. Once mobile, give them the freedom to crawl and explore. Stay tuned for our next blog on primitive reflexes, which newborns have that set the stage for proper motor development!

  3. Watch your baby’s eyes carefully, checking to see if they recognize and follow objects or faces. If you ever see an eye turn in or out (i.e. crossed eyes), bring them to see an optometrist.

  4. Make eyelid hygiene a part of their daily routine. Removing debris and crusting will make their eyes more comfortable and reduce the risk of infection. Start with a soft washcloth dampened with warm water. With their eyes closed, gently wipe from the inner to outside corner of the eye.

  5. Did you know a baby’s brain doubles in size by their first birthday? DHA is an Omega-3 fat that is abundant in our brains and retina, and is important for neural, cognitive, and visual development. Ensure your baby gets enough by including enough DHA in your diet during breastfeeding, or by choosing a DHA-enriched baby formula.

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Written by Dr. Natalia Fong & Dr. Fabian Tai

Image Credit: Valeria Zoncoll

Top 5 Causes of a Twitchy Eye

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Top 5 Causes of a Twitchy Eye

Ever wonder why that pesky eyelid will randomly begin twitching for days to even weeks on end? Although eyelid twitches are fairly common and harmless, it is bothersome and is a sign that something has changed in your body which you should pay attention to. Here are the most frequent causes:

1. STRESS
Eyelid twitches will usually subside with stress relief. Make time for rest and relaxation, and consider reducing stress with exercise or meditation.

2. FATIGUE
Ensure that you are getting adequate amounts of uninterrupted sleep, and that you are taking breaks through out the day away from your phone or computer screen.

3. CAFFEINE
Try to cut back on drinking caffeinated tea or coffee.

4. EYE STRAIN
Consult your optometrist to check if blurry vision or fluctuating focus might be causing your eyelid to twitch.

5. DRY EYE
Make sure you are blinking regularly when looking at screens. Your optometrist can discuss options to help with irritation caused by dry eye

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Written by Dr. Natalia Fong & Dr. Fabian Tai
Image Credit: Priscilla Du Preez

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