Blue Light: How it Effects Our Eyes and How We Can Protect Ourselves

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As the summer winds down and our focus shifts from fun in the sun to getting back to the grind, now is the perfect time to also shift our thinking about how we protect our eyes. In the warmer months, we are all aware that UV rays from sunlight can be harmful to our eyes, so we put on our favourite pair of stylish shades and head out into the world knowing that we’re doing the right thing for our eye health (while also looking great, of course).

But as the seasons change and we head back to school and work, we will be spending far less time outdoors yet more time being exposed to a different sort of light that can also be detrimental to our eye health. The screens on all of the digital devices we commonly use throughout our day (phones, tablets, computers, flat screen TVs, et cetera) emit a type of high-energy light often referred to as blue light.

High-energy blue light is actually all around us, and the largest source of it is sunlight. In fact, because these short-wavelength rays scatter more easily when they travel through air and water, blue light is what makes the sky look blue. Blue light is also essential to our health. Studies have shown that exposure to blue light is important in regulating our circadian rhythm (our wake and sleep cycle). In this way, it boosts alertness, helps cognitive ability and elevates mood.

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However, in recent years, our increased use of computers and digital devices has brought us much closer to artificial sources of blue light. Now, the number of hours we spend exposed to blue light on a daily basis makes it a true concern for our health and wellbeing.

From a visual comfort perspective, blue light is quite disruptive. Because high-energy light scatters more easily than other visible light, it is not as easily focused by our eyes. This can lead to digital eye strain, which can result in fatigue, blurred vision and headaches. The effects of blue light on our overall health can be wide-ranging. The primary concern, as researchers at Harvard University and many other institutions have shown, is that increased exposure to blue light in the evening can disrupt our circadian rhythm, which can lead to poor sleep patterns. Also, it’s been well documented that a lack of sleep can ultimately increase the risk for significant health concerns such as depression, diabetes and cardiovascular problems.

What can we do?

With our work and personal lives progressively becoming more immersed in the digital world, it’s hard to recommend a complete ban on digital devices. However, the simplest thing we can do to improve our visual outcome is to decrease unnecessary screen time. This step is particularly important for the younger generation. The Canadian Association of Optometrists and the Canadian Ophthalmological Society recently released a joint statement recommending no more than two hours of recreational screen time for children aged five to 18. The same statement also strongly recommends limiting screen time at least one hour before bedtime to allow our sleep cycle to activate fully.

For those of us who must spend time in front of screens, there are ways that we can more actively protect our eyes against the harmful effects of blue light. Advances in optical lenses have provided a great new option to help us filter out the high-energy light that would otherwise penetrate the front of our eyes and potentially result in digital eye strain. These lenses, which we generally refer to as blue-blocking or blue-filtering lenses, are a great option for anyone, young or old, who spends time in front of screens.

As we continue to integrate digital devices into various facets of our lives, it’s vital to remember the potential effects that these new technologies can have on our health. Protecting our eyes today can allow us to preserve our vision in the future.

See this article featured on BCBusiness.ca here.

Running Can Help Protect Your Eyesight

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We all know that running can help keep our heart healthy. But did you know that it can also help protect your eyes?
Recent research, which will be published in the journal of Medicine & Science in Sports & Science, reports that the more fit and active a person is, the less likely they are to develop glaucoma!

The study analyzed data from more than 9,500 people between the ages of 40 and 81. The researchers compared each individual's aerobic fitness and their average amount of weekly exercise to how many subjects developed glaucoma during the 6 year follow up period.

The researchers found that those who were most active and fittest had ONLY HALF the risk of developing glaucoma as the least active group.

So, just in case you needed another reason to get active... Now you know that getting regular exercise doesn't just keep your heart health, it can also protect your eyes!

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about your vision or health, please get in touch!

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Protection Young Eyes

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Perhaps the most commonly asked question by parents of young children is, "how much screen time should they be allowed"?

Until recently, there were no specific guidelines on how much time children should be spending on screens. Fortunately, based on research and date collected over the last few years, the Canadian Association of Optometrists and the Canadian Opthalmological Society have released their suggestions for safe screen use among children.

These days, screens of all types (TV, computer, tablet, phone) are everywhere. They are, for the most part, unavoidable. As such, it's not surprising that we have seen a significant increase in nearsightedness in the younger population. A 2016 study by the University of Waterloo stated that the combination of more screen time and less time outdoors was resulting in 29 percent of children between age 11 and 13 to be nearsighted.

Another report, from a survey done in 2014 on 200 American children, found that 80 percent of participants reported burning, itchy, or tired eyes after using digital devices.

Based on the literature review, the Canadian Association of Optometrists and Canadian Ophthalmological Society say the safe use of electronic screens should encompass the following:

Screen time limits – no screen time (with the possible exception of live video chatting with parental support) for children aged two and under, no more than one hour of screen time per day for kids aged two to five and ideally no more than two hours per day of recreational screen time for children aged five to 18;

Breaks, which include whole-body physical activity, no later than after 60 minutes of use (after 30 minutes is encouraged);

Workstation ergonomics – set chair heights so the child’s feet can lay flat on the floor or on a stool underneath the feet to allow for support, chairs should not have arm rests unless they fit the child perfectly, desks should be set at the child’s elbow height or slightly lower, there should be enough depth on the desk to allow for forearm support, displays should be set in front of the child, the top of computer monitors should be at the child’s eye level and then allow them to move the screen down into a comfortable viewing position as needed and workstation lighting should be equal throughout the visual field;

Screens should not be used within an hour of bedtime or in the bedroom;

Outdoor activity over screen time should be encouraged; and

Regular eye exams, which assess a child’s visual ability to cope with their visual demands and offer treatments for deficiencies.

As always, we are very happy to see children for their routine eye exams as well as any time other concerns may arise with the vision or eye health.

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Urgent Care

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Did you know...

In addition to helping detect, treat and prevent eye diseases, most doctors of optometry provide care for urgent eye health issues like infections (ie. pink eye), inflammation (ie. blepharitis), allergies and eye injuries, including removing foreign bodies from the eye. As trained specialists, optometrists can assess unusual or sudden vision changes and various conditions causing eye pain and, when necessary, provide referrals to other specialists.

Do you need a referral?

No, you do not need a referral, and in most cases we see you on the same day.

What are the most common urgent eye care issues?

The most common issues are pink eye, redness, allergies, eye infections and inflammation, abrasions, and foreign objects stuck in the eye.

What are some common symptoms of eye infections?

Common symptoms include:

  • Redness
  • Pain
  • Discharge
  • Itching
  • Blurry Vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Swelling

Where do most eye injuries occur?

  • 44% occur at home
  • 16% occur at work
  • 14% at school or other
  • 15% during sports and recreation
  • 11% on the road

If you or anyone in your family has an urgent issue or is experiencing some of the symptoms listed above, you can call usbook an appointment online, or walk in.

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Vision Health Month

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May is Vision Health Month so we thought we'd take a minute to chat about eye health and the amazing things that can be seen during the eye health portion of your eye exam.

We've all heard the saying that "the eyes are the windows to the soul". But, the truth is that they are actually the windows to our health!
During a routine, comprehensive eye exam, it is not unusual for your Doctor of Optometry to notice signs related to systemic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol.

Aside from testing your vision and determining your glasses/contact lens prescriptions, we are always sure to take a very close look at the internal health of your eyes as well.

Did you know, the optic nerve in the back of the eye is actually an extension of the brain? 

This means that in some cases, we are able to detect serious issues such as brain tumours, multiple sclerosis, and others by evaluating this part of the eye closely.

Did you know, the retinal blood vessels in the back of the eye are directly related to the blood vessels in the brain and are only a few branches away from the heart? 

The eye is the only place in the body that we can see our blood vessels in their natural environment. This is how, by looking into the eye, we can detect conditions that are associated with the heart such as blood pressure and cholesterol.

So, don't forget to get your eyes checked regularly so we can make sure you have clear vision and health eyes!

Eye See... Eye Learn

At Highstreet Eyecare, we are proud to be part of the BC Doctors of Optometry initiative called Eye See... Eye Learn (ESEL).

ESEL is a program geared specifically toward children in Kindergarten. The goal is to ensure that as many kids as possible receive a full eye exam to help them see their best to as the embark on their educational journey.

Children who are eligible for ESEL receive:

  • A free comprehensive eye exam
  • If prescribed, a free pair of glasses

To learn more, click here for the ESEL brochure or feel free to contact us anytime.

Surviving Allergy Season

Spring has officially arrived which means allergy season is here – or quickly approaching. If you’re amongst the 8 million Canadians (one-quarter of the country) that has seasonal allergies, you’ve probably experienced some form of itchy, red, dry, or watery eyes.

Seasonal allergies are caused by the high pollen released by trees, grass, outdoor moulds, and ragweed. They begin in the spring, peak in the summer, and can last as late as fall.

Most of us know when seasonal allergies strike because we start to experience mild to extreme discomfort in our eyes, but have you ever wondered what’s actually causing our eyes to react? Dr. Harleen Takhar explains:

"Allergens in the air bind to receptors (called mast cells). We have approximately 50 million of these receptors on the surface of our eyes.

When the mast cells come in contact with the allergens, they release a chemical called histamine, which is what ultimately causes our eyes to feel itchy and watery. It also causes the blood vessels on the surface of our eyes dilate, which makes our eyes look red."

Most allergens are seasonal, which in most cases last between four to six weeks.

Here are the best -and safest- ways to manage your eyes this allergy season:

  • Get in the habit of checking your local pollen forecast, which provides you with a daily outlook on the types and severity of pollen in the air.
  • Speak with us about over-the-counter or prescription eye drops if discomfort persists.
  • Place cold compresses on your eyes, this can help relieve the itching sensation.
  • Despite temptation, DO NOT RUB YOUR EYES, as this will only make your eyes worse and can potentially cause long-term damage.

If you’re experiencing persistent eye discomfort as a result of seasonal allergies, be sure to book an appointment with us to discuss your options.

 

SOURCE: http://blog.doctorsofoptometry.ca/surviving-allergy-season/

2016 Young Optometrist of the Year!

Congratulations to our very own, Dr. Harbir Sian for being named the BC Doctors of Optometry 2016 Young Optometrist of the Year!
The award recognizes Optometrists who have been in practice for 10 years or less and have shown dedication to their profession and their desire to help their community.

Dr. Sian has been an active member of the BC Association of Optometrists from the time he graduated from Optometry school in 2010. He also volunteers his time to mentorship via the Association of South Asian Professionals. In 2015, Dr. Sian journeyed to South America to help set up a temporary eye clinic in an underdeveloped part of Colombia. The group managed to perform eye exams for over 2000 people of all ages during their week long campaign.

You may also find Dr. Sian on YouTube where he posts short, entertaining videos about eyes and certain eye conditions in his video blog series called FOR YOUR EYES ONLY.

 

10 Fascinating Facts About Your Eyes

They've been called the window to the soul. But your eyes are also one of the most unique parts of your body, with over 2 million individual components, making them the second most complex organ... after the human brain.

Here are 10 other strange-but-true facts about your eyes.

1. You See the World Upside Down & Split in Half
When you first view an object, the image is actually processed by your eyes upside down (not unlike how the mirror in an old fashioned camera works). What's more, the image is split in half and distorted. Your retina flips the image, matches the two pieces together and clears up the distortion before sending the visual signal to your brain—with all of this occurring in nano seconds.

2. You Blink 9 Million Times a Year
On average you blink 17 times each minute. That works out to nearly 25,000 blinks a day and over 9 million blinks a year. Your eye also happens to be the fastest muscle in your body, which is how a single blink can happen in less than four-tenthsof a second—all of which may explain the old saying "in the blink of an eye."

3. Your Retinas Can't See Red
The receptors in your retina that process colours are actually only capable of detecting yellow-green and blue-green combinations. Your brain combines these different signals and identifies colours that are missing as being red. 

4. Different Things Produce Different Tears
While the main purpose of tears is to remove dirt and harmful bacteria from the eyes, research has found that our tears are actually chemically different depending on the situation. Scientists have found that "reflex tears" (such as those caused by allergies or getting something in your eye) were dramatically different than "emotional tears" (such as those caused by pain or feelings of sadness and joy). In fact, scientists don't really know why we produce tears when we're upset.

5. Your Eyes Are the Same Size Now as When You Were Born
Unlike other parts of your body (such as your nose and ears) your eyes stay basically the same size throughout your life. Scientists speculate that this is because your eyes are so complex that even subtle changes in growth could affect your overall vision. In fact, babies' eyes start to develop in the womb just two weeks after conception takes place.

6. "Red Eye" is Caused by Blood Vessels
Red eye may be the bane of photographers everywhere, but there's actually a fairly simple explanation behind this well-known phenomenon. Red eye occurs because light from the flash of the camera bounces off the back of your eye, hitting the choroid, a layer of tissue located directly behind the retina. The choroid also happens to contain a lot of blood vessels that are captured by the camera and why your eyes end up appearing red on film.

7. Your Eyes Are More Unique Than Your Fingerprints
We often assume that our eyes are similar to other people because we have the same prescription or the same eye colour. In fact, your eyes are incredibly unique. To put this into perspective, your fingerprints have only 40 unique identifying characteristics. Your eyes, on the other hand, have over 256 identifiable characteristics just in your irises alone. This may explain why governments and banks around the world are now looking towards biometric eye scans as a new form of identification. 

8. Only 1/6 of Your Eyeball is Exposed
It turns out that only a small portion of your eyeball is exposed at any given time. That's because a lot of what happens with your vision occurs inside your eyeball and involves millions of sensitive nerves and blood vessels. In fact, human skulls have evolved over the years to offer a maximum amount of protection to the part of your eyes that are unexposed.

9. Your Eyes Process 36,000 Bits of Information Per Hour
It turns out that your eyes are constantly taking in information that's then analyzed by your brain. In fact, researchers estimate that your eye will focus on about 50 objects per second. That's roughly comparable to the amount of data that's processed by a powerful computer.

10. Shark Corneas Are Used in Eye Surgery
It turns out that some of the most successful corneal transplants haven't come from human donors, but rather from sharks. That's because scientists have discovered that shark corneas have thick reinforcing fibres that function much like rebar does in concrete buildings. These fibres strengthen the cornea and prevent it from swelling and turning cloudy, like human corneas can do. In addition to transplanting shark corneas into human patients, scientists have continued to research sharks to understand human eye diseases.

To learn more about your eyes, check out our blog!.

For more information please call us at 604.852.0164 or book an appointment online at www.highstreeteyecare.ca

 

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