Accurate Eye Care Answers From Your Trusted Optometrists

Discover important information relating to a wide range of common eye care inquiries, which will allow you to better understand eye care subject matter. Naturally, the information contained herein does not replace the in-person advice of a qualified optometrist. For any follow-up questions, or to book your next visit, give us a call and we will happily schedule your appointment.

Eye Exams

How often do I need an eye exam?

Preventative eye care is regular eye care! Having an annual eye exam will help ensure that eye diseases are detected early. From age 0-18 and after 65 years old, people should have their eyes examined annually. Alberta Health Care covers a basic, thorough exam at these ages. Although, annual examinations are encouraged, healthy 19-64 year-olds should have an eye exam at least every two years. For contact lens wearers an annual exam is recommended. More frequent check-ups may be needed if the individual has, or is at risk of, certain conditions such as amblyopia, macular degeneration, or diabetes. Of course, if you notice a change in your vision, or if your eyes start bothering you, you should schedule an examination right away, even if it has been less than a year.

What if I have an eye problem such as an eye infection, sudden vision loss, glaucoma or diabetes?

Alberta health care does cover medically necessary exams by an optometrist for all Alberta residents, no matter what age you are. So, if you are diabetic and need to have diabetic eye care, or if you have an eye injury, or if you suddenly lose your vision, or if you have another problem, feel free to call our nearest location for the necessary care. Our optometrists are trained and licensed to treat eye disease with topical and oral medications.

If I see well why do I need an eye exam?

Optometrists test for more than 20/20 visual acuity. The eyes are a biomarker for many diseases - there are over 100 systemic diseases that can manifest in the eye.

At what age should I bring my child in for their first eye exam?

It is recommended that babies have their first eye exam between six and nine months. We check eye muscle movements, alignment, ability to fixate and track objects, and ocular health. For kids, the 3-year-old exam and the 5-year-old exam is important as well. These early exams are important in order to catch amblyopia (lazy eye) at a young age when intervention is most successful. We check to see if the child is farsighted, nearsighted, or has astigmatism. Children should have an eye examination each school year.

Are vision screenings performed at school or by a pediatrician enough?

Vision screenings can be very valuable as they can help to catch eye problems such as amblyopia. However, the testing done at a vision screening is very basic and is not designed to catch more subtle eye problems. An eye exam includes vision measurements, refractive error measurements, binocularity and accommodation tests, eye movement and colour vision tests, and a thorough examination of the eyes, inside and out.

Eyeglasses

Can you buff out the scratches on my lenses?

We have never come across a successful way to do this. The internet is full of techniques you can try but likely won’t work. Most lenses have special coatings that would be damaged by buffing. Also, the prescription in your lenses is dependent upon the curvature of your lens surfaces. Buffing a lens would alter this curvature and would cause eyestrain. When you buy new lenses, coatings can be applied to the surface of the lens which will protect the lens surface. Protective lens coatings are scratch resistant and are not scratch proof. So, it is important that you clean your glasses the proper way and not with Windex, paper towels, or your shirt tail. Pre-rinsing with water, using a mild dish detergent or special antireflective lens cleaners usually work well. Also, use a soft cotton cloth or a special lens cleaning cloth.

How do I know when I need reading glasses or bifocals?

After a certain age we lose our natural ability to focus up close. This usually starts at around the age of 40. People may find that they need to hold reading material further away, they need more lighting for reading the small print in their reading material, they feel eye strain after long periods of near work, or if they are nearsighted, they may prefer taking their glasses off for reading. If these symptoms occur you may need reading glasses or bifocal or progressive lenses.

What is the difference between bifocals and progressive lenses?

Bifocals and progressive lenses are a convenience because they can correct vision at multiple distances. Bifocals include a distance prescription on the top of the lens and near magnification on the bottom separated by a visible line. Progressive lenses, or “no-line bifocals”, are lenses where the magnifying power gradually changes.

Why should I get anti-reflective or anti-glare coatings on my glasses?

Anti-reflective coating or anti-glare coatings allow you to see more easily through your glasses and allows others to see your eyes better by eliminating reflections and white glare spots. For some people it can reduce glare while driving at night-time. These coatings can also make it more comfortable to work on digital screens.

What are photochromic lenses?

Photochromic lenses are a great comfort lens. These lenses turn dark when exposed to direct sunlight. When you go indoors, or when the sun goes down, they become clear again. When you are driving, windshields will block ultraviolet rays from the sun, which are needed to darken photochromic lenses. So a photochromic lens will only tint lightly when you are driving on a bright day. Thus many individuals who have photochromic lenses will also have a pair of prescription sunglasses to use when they are driving. Most photochromic lenses provide 100% UV protection. They are a great option if you wear glasses all day, frequently go outside, are light-sensitive, and don’t want to be bothered by prescription sunglasses.

What is blue light and what are blue blocking lenses?

Blue light comes from the sun and is also emitted from digital screens and fluorescent lights. Blue light has the shortest wavelength and the most energy-causing reduced contrast and eye strain. As technologies develop, special lenses can reduce glare and reflect and filter artificial blue light from digital devices. This can reduce exposure to harmful blue light emitted from our digital devices and minimize eye strain.

Why are there differences in lens tint colours and darkness?

There are a variety of tint colors and density of tints available. Tinted lenses can be made lighter or darker depending on the individual’s preference. Lighter densities will not offer as much protection, for example, a lens tinted at 75% grey will have more protection than a lens tinted at 25% grey. Ideally, you will want sunglasses with 100% UV absorption for maximum protection. Grey tints will allow you to see colors more normally. Brown, yellow, or orange tints will block blue light wavelengths, allowing you to see crisper, but you may notice that some blue objects like road signs can appear blacker. Some tints might also be recommended for migraine relief, epilepsy relief, sports performance, or indoor comfort.

Contact lenses

Can I sleep in my contact lenses?

This depends on the brand of contacts you wear. You should not sleep in your daily contacts; and, even if you are using extended wear contact lenses, it is best to remove them before sleeping to lower your risk of eye infections.

Can I swim or shower with contacts on?

You should not wear contact lenses when you are swimming or showering. This can lead to the bacteria in the water getting stuck to the contact lenses putting you at greater risk for infection and vision loss.

Can children wear contact lenses?

The average age to start wearing contact is about 13 years. Occasionally, younger kids (even infants) with eye problems such as strabismus (cross-eyes) can wear special contact lenses that are used for treatment purposes.

Is my glasses prescription different than my contact lens prescription?

Yes. Contact lens prescriptions need to be adjusted because they sit directly on the cornea.

What is the difference between daily disposable and frequently replacement lenses?

Daily disposable contact lenses are used for the day and then thrown away and typically do not involve the use of lens solutions. Frequent replacement lenses can be used for two weeks or one month (depending on the brand) and require cleaning and disinfection daily.

Is it OK to wear contact lenses for longer periods than is recommended by my eye doctor?

Some people will try to make a monthly lens last several months or a daily lens last several days. When you wear contact lenses, they start to deposit proteins and lipids. These deposits happen much quicker on a daily contact lens material than on a monthly contact lens material. Some people try to wear their contacts until they feel uncomfortable or until they feel dirty. By the time your eyes feel these lens deposits, the level of deposits is significant enough that your eye doctor can see signs of irritation on your eyes. Deposits on contact lenses can cause an eye allergy known as contact lens-induced papillary conjunctivitis, resulting in redness and poor comfort. If contact lens-induced papillary conjunctivitis isn't treated in time, then a more chronic problem known as giant papillary conjunctivitis results. When these allergies occur, you will need to stop wearing contacts, sometimes for months while the optometrist treats the problem. Deposit problems are usually eliminated with 1-day contact lenses, which is one of the reasons why 1-day contact lenses are quickly increasing in popularity.

How often should I see my eye doctor if I wear contacts?

You should see your optometrist once a year at least if you wear contacts. Any sudden changes in vision, the onset of redness or eye pain with a contact lens wearer is an emergency and is covered by Alberta health care.

If I wear bifocals or progressive lenses can I still be fit in contacts?

Yes. There are a number of contact lens options for patients who wear bifocals or progressive glasses. Depending on the needs of the individual there are daily disposable or monthly multifocal contact lenses and the goal is to provide a balance between distance and near vision.

Dry eye

What is dry eye?

Dry eye is a relatively common condition that occurs when your eyes don’t produce enough tears to keep your eyes moist, or you have adequate production but the tears evaporate off the surface of your eye too quickly.

Why do my eyes water all the time?

Sometimes watery eyes can be due to a clogged tear duct, however the majority of the time watery eyes occur due to dryness. Although this seems counter-intuitive, the eyes produce reflex tears when they are dry. If you have frequent episodes of watery eyes throughout the day (i.e. not constant watering), the most likely cause is dry eye.

What are risk factors for dry eye?

There are several causes of dry eye including environmental factors (wind, dry climate, fans in the bedroom), specific activities including long periods of reading or computer work, medication side effects, certain systemic diseases, age, and hormonal changes in women.

What are the best foods for dry eye?

The best foods for dry eyes are those rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which include fish, seafood, vegetables, grains, and nuts.

How can dry eye affect my vision?

In order to have a clear visual experience, you need a stable and healthy tear film layer on you eye surface. Dry eyes can cause intermittent blurry vision – people find they need to constantly blink to find clear vision. A severe dry eye that is not treated can lead to corneal scarring and vision loss.

What are treatment options of dry eye?

In mild cases, artificial tears should be used to provide moisture to the eyes. This coupled with warm compresses daily to get the oils from the eyelids flowing to prevent tears from evaporating quickly. Other treatments include artificial tears with hyaluronic acid, punctal plugs to prevent tears draining, anti-inflammatory drops, and omega-3 supplements with EPA and DHA. The optometrist can also prescribe topical medications like steroids, Restasis, or Xiidra if the dry eye is more severe.

Glaucoma

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of conditions where the pressure in your eye is too high and is causing damage to the optic nerve.

What are the symptoms of glaucoma?

Glaucoma usually has no symptoms because vision loss occurs in the periphery until the severe stages where central vision is then affected. It normally develops in both eyes but one eye may be worse than the other. Peripheral vision loss with glaucoma occurs gradually. Very rarely, some people can develop a sudden onset painful form of glaucoma that can cause severe headaches, light sensitivity, nausea, and rapid vision loss. This is an emergency.

How can glaucoma be prevented?

The only way to determine your risk for glaucoma is to have your eyes examined by your optometrist, especially if glaucoma runs in your family. Glaucoma exams include checking your intraocular pressure, optic nerve head imaging, visual field testing, and a special examination called gonioscopy. Early detection and treatment can prevent or delay vision loss caused by glaucoma.

What is the treatment for glaucoma?

The main course of treatment is to lower the pressure in your eye through eye drops. Other treatments include laser procedures, tube shunts, or other surgeries aimed at lowering eye pressure.

Cataracts

What is a cataract?

A cataract is any clouding of the natural lens inside the eye.

What causes cataracts?

Cataracts occur from aging. Chances are that, if you are over 60, you are familiar with, and may even have the first signs of a cataract. Other factors that can cause cataracts to occur earlier are systemic diseases such as diabetes, certain medications, including steroids, trauma, or eye injuries, spending long periods outdoors without wearing sunglasses, and smoking. Most, but not all people, who live into their 70s or 80s will, at some point, need cataract surgery. Cataracts, occasionally, can even develop in younger adults.

What are symptoms of cataracts?

As light enters the cloudy lens it scatters and can cause blurry vision, glare and haloes, night vision difficulty, and difficulty seeing colours.

How will I know when I need cataract surgery?

Mild cataracts often cause little or no vision problems and don’t need treatment. These cases should be monitored yearly. If your cataracts worsen and you begin to have trouble seeing clearly enough to do certain things such as driving or other everyday tasks it may be time to consider cataract surgery.

Diabetic retinopathy

How does diabetes affect my eyesight?

Diabetes affects the integrity of the blood vessels in your eyes as it does the rest of your body. High blood sugar levels cause the walls of the tiny blood vessels to become blocked, fragile, swell, and leak. Over-time uncontrolled diabetes can lead to vision loss.

What are the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy?

In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy there are usually no symptoms. As the condition progresses, there may be swelling in the macula, or new blood vessel growth in the retina, causing symptoms of blurry/distorted vision, or dark spots and other floaters in your vision.

What can be done to lower the risk of diabetic retinopathy?

Keep blood sugar levels controlled and avoid large fluctuations, take your medications as prescribed, get regular physical activity, do not smoke, monitor your blood sugar levels daily, and visit your optometrist for dilated eye exams annually. It is also important for diabetics to keep their blood pressure controlled.

Age related macular degeneration

What is macular degeneration?

Macular degeneration is a common eye disease that causes deterioration of the macula and affects central vision.

What are the types of macular degeneration?

There are two forms of age-related macular degeneration or AMD: the wet and dry form. The dry form is the most common type of AMD and is diagnosed in about 85-90% of cases. Lipid/waste deposits form under the retina and cause deterioration and death of the photoreceptor cells resulting in blurry or loss of vision. In the advanced stage of the dry form, scarring and vision loss may occur without turning into the wet form.

 

In many patients, the dry form can worsen to become the wet form. The wet form accounts for 10% of cases but is the leading cause of permanent blindness over the age of 60 years of age. Wet macular degeneration occurs when underlying blood vessels break through and cause active bleeding in the retina. This results in the patient’s central vision being distorted or lost completely in a short period of time.

What can I do to prevent AMD?

You can lower your risk by exercising regularly, quitting smoking, wearing UV protection, and eating nutritious foods (and avoiding processed foods) including leafy green vegetables and fish.

How is AMD treated?

Early stage: currently there are no treatments for the early stage. Yearly eye exams are recommended

 

Intermediate and late stage: the AREDS and AREDS2 trials show that certain high-dose vitamins and minerals can slow the progression of the disease in the intermediate and late stage for some people. Taking the following supplements may help some people lower their risk: vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, copper, lutein, mesozeaxanthin, and zeaxanthin.

 

Advanced wet AMD: treatments are aimed at slowing the progression of blood vessel growth and bleeding. These treatments include anti-VEGF injections such as Lucentis and laser surgery.

Retinal Detachments

What is a retinal detachment?

The retina is like the wallpaper that lines the back of the inside of the eye. A retinal detachment is the separation of the retina from its underlying layer of support tissue causing loss of peripheral vision or central vision depending on where the detachment has occurred.

What are the symptoms of a retinal detachment?

Symptoms of a retinal detachment are usually flashing lights, floating spots in the vision, or an overall decrease in vision. Sometimes it may appear like a "curtain is coming down" over the vision. People may routinely notice a few floaters in their vision but any new large floaters, or a sudden shower of floaters, may indicate a retinal issue.

Who is at risk of developing a retinal detachment?

Anyone is prone to having a retinal detachment, but your risk increases if you have a family history of retinal detachments, have high amounts of myopia or nearsightedness, have diabetes, or have had trauma to the eye or head.

What is the treatment for a retinal detachment?

Optometrists will refer a patient with a retinal detachment to an Ophthalmologist. Treatment involves surgery or laser to re-attach the retina and prevent further vision loss.

What are floaters?

The gel in the back of the eye is called the vitreous and it makes up about 80% of the eye. Over time the vitreous liquefies and forms strands of proteins, which we see as floaters in our vision. People describe them as cobwebs or as little bugs in their line of sight. Floaters can be more noticeable when looking at a bright background: the blue sky, a computer screen, or a white wall. These floaters are normal to see, however, if you notice a sudden increase in floaters, possibly accompanied by flashes, this could indicate a retinal detachment and you should see your optometrist.

Cannabis Effect

Can Cannabis use affect the eyes?  

One of the most noticeable effects of cannabis on your eyes is right after smoking the drug: red eyes. The THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in marijuana lowers blood pressure which results in the dilation of the blood vessels and increased blood flow throughout the body – causing the blood vessels in the eyes to expand and lead to redness or bloodshot eyes.

 

The potential negative impact of marijuana on peripheral vision, changing eye pressure, and visual processing is still being researched. It is also not a recommended treatment for glaucoma as it impact’s people’s ability to concentrate, make decisions, drive, operate heavy machinery, etc.

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