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Keeping Your Contact Lenses Clean

contact in solution

If you wear contact lenses, you probably know the hygiene routine you should follow when removing your lenses:

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water and dry them on a clean, lint free cloth.
  2. Remove the lens from your eye and clean the lens immediately (if you wear multi-use lenses). Gently rinse it with the solution recommended by your optometrist, and scrub it clean from edge to edge with solution. Do not wait until morning to rub the lenses, as the debris gets stuck on the lens and delayed cleaning will not be as effective.
  3. Place the contact lens in a contact lens storage case that’s filled with fresh, clean disinfecting or multi-purpose solution and close the lid. If you wear daily disposables, throw them away after use.

Even if you know these guidelines, if you're honest with yourself, how many times have you NOT followed this optometrist prescribed routine and taken short cuts in your contact lens hygiene such as:

  • Cleaning your contacts with saliva or water
  • Storing lenses in liquids other than proper multi-purpose or disinfecting solution. (Saline is NOT a disinfectant.)
  • Not following the proper wearing schedule (wearing dailies for more than one day, monthlies longer than a month, sleeping in daytime lenses, etc.)
  • Sleeping or swimming in your lenses

In fact, a vision scientist at the University of Texas surveyed 443 contact lens patients and found that less than one percent cared for their lenses properly. 

Here are some of the most common mistakes made in caring for contact lenses and why it’s important to change your habits now.

The Mistake: Storing or washing contact lenses in tap water.
The Risk: Although this seems harmless, tap water can cause serious damage to your eyes. Since regular tap water is not sterile, it can cause infections, like Acanthomaeoba.  Homemade saline has also been known to lead to certain fungal eye infections.
The Solution: Never wash or store lenses in tap water or any liquid other than contact lens solution. Even more so try to avoid swimming or showering with your lenses in to avoid contact with tap or chlorine filled water.

The Mistake: Using saliva to wash lenses.
The Risk:  Saliva is full of bacteria that belong in your mouth and not in your eyes. If you have a cut in your eye, the bacteria could get trapped under your lens and cause an infection.
The Solution: Always carry a small container of lens solution or artificial tears. If your lenses are bothering you, either use proper solution or remove them until you are able to treat them properly.  

The Mistake: Reuse cleaning solution or topping off your lens storage case.
The Risk: Reusing solution is like begging for an eye infection. This is because all the debris and bacteria that are in your eyes and are on your contact lenses come off into the solution. So if you recycle solution, you are putting all that bacteria right back into your eye. If you have any microscopic breaks in your cornea, the bacteria can then infect your cornea.
The Solution:  Use fresh solution every time you store your contact lenses. Also be sure to empty out ALL the remaining solution from your storage case from the previous day before adding new solution to it. If this is too much to remember or do, try using daily disposable lenses.

The Mistake: Not adhering to the schedule for the prescribed lenses. (Note: Certain extended wear lenses are approved for 30 days wear, but proper fit is essential for success even if the lens allows high oxygen permeability.)
The Risk: After the approved time for contact lens use, today’s thin contact lenses do not retain their shape and structure. If you re-wear lenses that are meant to be used for a specified time period, mucus and bacteria can build up because cleaning solutions do not protect the lenses for longer than the approved wearing time. Between the lens changes and the tendency for contamination, you increase the risk of eye irritation and infection.
The solution: Follow the recommended schedule you are given for wearing your lenses.

The Mistake: Wearing contact lenses when your vision is blurry or your eyes hurt a little
The Risk: When in doubt, take them out! If your lenses cause you any discomfort, or your eyes look a bit red, listen to your body rather than suffering through the discomfort that can potentially develop into an infection.
The Solution: If your eyes are bothering you, first try applying lubricating drops made for contact lens wearers.  If that doesn’t help, take the lenses out and check them to make sure they are not damaged or dirty. If it does not look good to you, do not use it.

Improper contact lens hygiene can lead to, red eyes, blurry vision, irritation, and in the most severe cases serious infections and corneal abrasion, which can lead to blindness. So the bottom line is: listen to your optometrists’ instructions and keep your lenses clean!

For more information, watch this video on contact lens care:

10 Tips to Protect Your Vision

eyes female blue

Did you forget to put on your sunglasses today? Are you constantly sitting in front of a computer screen without taking breaks to look away? Maybe you also skipped your yearly eye exam, again. These are just some of the things we tend to overlook when it comes to our eye health. But these seemingly innocent oversights, along with small decisions that we make on a daily basis can eventually take a toll on our eyes and our vision.

Now is the time to make changes to safeguard your vision – it's never too late to change a routine or break a habit. Here are a few tips that will help you get your eye health and vision on track in the blink of an eye.

1.     Keep Screens at a Distance.
Screens and monitors are part of our everyday lives. We encounter them everywhere, from our personal smartphones, desktop computers, tablets and MP3's to movie theatres, sports games, airports, train stations and subways. Throughout the day, we tend to look at screens for long periods of time and we may work from handheld devices at much closer distances than we would read printed pages. Glare from screens can lead to eyestrain and computer vision syndrome. It’s recommended to position your computer screen at least an arm's length away and hold handheld devices 16 inches away from your eyes.

2.     Blink, Blink, Blink. Another result of extensive device use is that your blink rate tends to drop when you stare at text on a screen. Not blinking often enough can lead to dry, irritated eyes.  Apply the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds and don’t forget to blink!

3.     Always wear your sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays when you are outside or driving during daylight. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays during any time of year can lead to cataracts or age-related macular degeneration (AMD) as well as sunburns on your eyes in extreme cases. Make sure that your sunglasses block 99 percent of UVA and UVB rays.

4.     Eat seafood with Omega -3’s. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in cold-water fish such as tuna, salmon, mackerel and sardines, may help lower the risk of dry eyes and eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts. If you don’t like seafood, consider taking fish oil supplements or other supplements that contain omega 3’s such as black current seed or flaxseed oils.

5.     Go for Greens. Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli, zucchini, peas, avocado and Brussels sprouts contain lutein and zeaxanthin. The AREDS 2 – Age Related Eye Disease Study – research conducted by the National Eye Institute (NEI) demonstrated that certain dietary supplements including these important pigments help prevent the progression of some eye diseases.

6.     Drink green tea. Green tea is another great source of antioxidants which keep eyes healthy and defends them from cataracts and AMD development.

7.     Care for your contact lenses. Always wash your hands before inserting or removing contacts and store them properly in cleansing solution. Never use any substances other than proper contact lens solution and make sure you follow your eye doctor’s instructions for proper use, because some eye drops contain ingredients which can react badly with your contact lenses. Keep a backup pair of glasses for days when the contacts “don’t feel right” or if you develop an eye infection. Do not wear contacts for longer than they’re supposed to be worn. If you keep waiting until your eyes begin to feel irritated before you change to a new pair of lenses, the eyes can gradually get desensitized, and damage may occur before the lenses feel dry.

8.     Throw away old eye makeup such as mascara that is over four months old. Sharpen eyeliner pencils regularly and don’t put liner on the inside of your eye lid. If your eyes become irritated, stop using eye makeup until they heal.

9.      Protect your eyes from danger. Always wear protective eyewear or safety goggles if your work requires eye protection and when working in the garden, doing home repairs or when dealing with strong cleaning substances such as bleach or oven cleaners.

10.      Visit your eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam at least once a year. Yearly eye exams are not only helpful in detecting early signs of eye disease, they are also an important indicator of your overall health. An eye exam can detect signs of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, brain tumors, aneurysms, and multiple sclerosis. Proper attention to vision problems can also enhance your safety and quality of life.

Knowing what you have to do is the first step in keeping your eyes and vision safe. Thinking about your eyes and vision and forming the right habits will lead to a lifetime of good vision.

This Halloween Be Wary of Costume Contact Lenses

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As Halloween approaches and costume planning gets more serious, many consider the use of novelty or costume contact lenses as a way to add that extra flair. Whether you are dressing up as a cat, a vampire, or looking for something fun that glows in the dark, dressing up your eyes can certainly add the finishing touch to your outfit. However, most people are unaware that costume contact lenses can pose a serious danger to your sight. If used improperly and bought without a medical prescription from an eye care professional, costume contact lenses can cause serious infection, corneal abrasions and in some cases lead to permanent vision loss. 

As contact lenses are considered a medical device they need to be prescribed and fitted by a licensed eye care professional, according to the FDA and Health Canada. Most of the lenses sold in novelty and retail stores are not approved by the FDA or Health Canada. This is because the material they are made from can scratch your cornea, distort your vision or cause an infection. In fact it is illegal for retailers to sell any kind of contact lenses without a prescription. That’s why contact lenses for costumes are often purchased at discounted rates online, where regulations are negligible.

Here are a few tips to take into consideration if you decide to use costume contact lenses on Halloween or at any other time during the year.

1.     Visit your eye doctor for a thorough eye exam. Your doctor will also measure your eyes for the correct contact lens fit and explain the correct way to use and care for your lenses. This rule applies even if you have perfect vision.

2.     Purchase costume contacts only from a retailer that requests a prescription and sells FDA approved colored lenses.

3.     Be sure to follow the instructions for contact lens usage, care and cleaning.

4.     If you experience redness, swelling or discharge, remove your lenses and seek medical attention from your eye doctor.

5.     Do not share your contact lenses with anyone else.

6.     Schedule a follow up eye exam with your eye care professional.

Don't let an impulsive buy from a costume store ruin your vision.

For more information, watch the FDA's video on improper use of decorative lenses below:

How to Prevent Dry Eyes During Air Travel

backpack 20man

Many travelers experience dry eyes after extended travel by air. The dry environment of a temperature- and pressure-controlled air plane cabin can take its toll on your eyes.

The good news is there are a number of steps you can take to reduce the uncomfortable symptoms associated with travelers’ dry eye. Here are some tips to keep in mind when traveling to help prevent dry eye:

  1. Since dehydration makes dry eye symptoms worse, drink consistently before, during and after the flight. If you enjoy an on-flight alcoholic drink or caffeinated tea or coffee, be sure to drink extra fluids to rehydrate.
  2. Make sure to pack a bottle of artificial tears to apply as needed. If you suffer from dry eyes on a regular basis, consult with your eye care professional before you fly as you might need a more effective lubricant to keep with you on the flight.
  3. Use an eye mask to protect your eyes while sleeping.
  4. If you wear contact lenses, switch to a pair of glasses for the duration of the flight to avoid additional dryness that often accompanies contact lens use.
  5. Turn off the air conditioning vent above your seat to prevent dry air from blowing directly into your face.​

Some airlines add moisture to the cabin atmosphere to reduce the dryness on the flight. You may want to consider seeking out airlines that do this before booking your tickets.

Don’t forget to check if your airline has any regulations regarding the types of liquids you are allowed to carry with you on the flight so you will be able to pack your eye drops with you in your hand baggage. That way, you will be able to lubricate your eyes during the flight, and if your baggage gets lost or does not arrive when you do at your destination, you will be able to give your eyes the relief they need upon arrival.

There is no need to suffer from dry eyes when you travel; just drink plenty and treat your eyes well during the flight.

Does Chlorine Hurt your Eyes?

little girls swimming

Just because the summer is coming to an end, doesn’t mean that we have to say goodbye to the swimming pool. Whether it means a nice refreshing dip on a warm fall afternoon or a winter swim in an indoor pool, swimming is a great activity for both fun and exercise. Nevertheless, have you ever wondered if all of this splashing around in chlorine-filled water can affect your eyes and vision?

Swimming pool water is chlorinated to keep it sanitized. The chlorine helps reduce water-borne bacteria and viruses to prevent pathogens and disease from spreading. While chlorine is a successful water sanitizer, its efficacy depends on a number of factors including how recently it was added to the water, the concentration of the chemical and how much the pool is used.

When your eyes are submerged in chlorinated pool water, the tear film that usually acts as a defensive shield for your cornea is washed away. This means that your eyes are no longer protected from dirt or bacteria that are not entirely eliminated by the treated pool water. So, swimmers can be prone to eye infections. One of the most common eye infections from swimming is conjunctivitis or pink eye, which can either be viral or bacterial.

Another eye issue that often develops from contact with chlorinated water is red, irritated eyes. When your cornea dehydrates as a result of exposure to chlorine, the irritation is often accompanied by blurriness, which can result in distorted vision temporarily. Although these symptoms usually disappear within a few minutes, the recovery time tends to increase with age. Using lubricating eye drops can help alleviate symptoms by restoring the hydrating, protective tear shield in your eye.

If you wear contact lenses, be sure to remove them before jumping in the pool. Contact lens patients are prone to an eye infection called acanthamoebic keratitis, which develops when a type of amoeba gets trapped in the space between the cornea and the contact lens and begins to live there. This infection can result in permanent visual impairment or lead to ulcers on the cornea. If you have taken a dip with contacts on, be sure to remove your lenses, rinse them with lens solution and refrain from sleeping in them after you've had a swim.            

There is no way to be one hundred percent sure of what is floating around in a swimming pool, so the best way to protect your eyes is to use water-tight goggles that fit you well. This way you can enjoy your swim without risking your eyes or your vision.

Technology in the Classroom and the Eyes

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The use of technology has become commonplace in the classroom. So much so that today’s generation of students, from kindergarten to university, navigates computers, smartphones and tablets all the time.  Many schools have even implemented the use of smart boards and bring your own device (BOYD) programs.

However, as amazing as this educational technology can be, it is important to be aware of the potential visual challenges that can arise from prolonged use of digital technology.

According to a recent study by the American Optometric Association's (AOA), 85 percent of parents surveyed said their children use an electronic device for up to four hours every day. The survey also found that 41 percent of children have their own smartphone or tablet while 32 percent use both e-books and textbooks at school. Additionally, 66 percent of children use a computer or tablet to do homework or study.

Staring at a screen for a few hours a day can cause visual discomfort and interfere with your child's ability to focus. Although regular use of digital devices won't damage vision, extended use of technology at school or for homework can lead to a temporary vision condition called computer vision syndrome (CVS). Symptoms of CVS include eye strain, fatigue, burning or tired eyes, the inability to focus, headaches, blurred vision, double vision or head and neck pain. To alleviate and prevent CVS, teach your child the 20-20-20 rule when using technology or doing near work: take a 20-second break, every 20 minutes to look at an object 20 feet away.

There are also a number of physical indicators that parents should be aware of that point to vision problems. These include squinting or covering an eye to see a screen, repeated eye rubbing and excessive blinking. If your child complains of headaches or swimming words on a screen, consistently performs below his or her potential and has challenges completing homework, it is important to schedule a comprehensive eye exam to assess whether there may be any vision problems.

In addition, your child should hold any digital device a half to a full arm's length away from the eyes and slightly below eye level. Parents should encourage children to take breaks regularly while at the computer. Kids should also use ergonomic desk areas or gaming chairs to ensure comfort and proper posture. You can prevent glare on screens by using low-wattage light bulbs, dimmers, or curtains in the room. Avoid staring at screens in a completely dark room, and adjust the brightness and background color settings on the device.

Usage of digital devices will likely increase as technology advances. Teach your children good habits to keep their eyes comfortable and to protect their vision. 

The Great Glasses Play Day 2013

The first weekend of August (August 3rd and 4th) has been marked as the 2nd annual Great Glasses Play Day. The event, which first launched in 2012 was created for parents, eye care professionals, educators and children who wear glasses or have other vision challenges to celebrate and create awareness about the positive aspects of children wearing glasses. The event also aims to bring to light the importance of early vision health. The day will include parent organized meet ups that will take place online, as well as at parks and other locations around the United States and internationally.

The Great Glasses Play Day is a day to let children who have glasses enjoy all the amazing things their glasses allow them to do. It was initially conceived when Peeps Eyewear founder, Kristin Ellsworth, teamed up with Great Glasses Play Day co-sponsor Ann Zawistoski, the creator of Little Four Eyes, an online support community for parents of young children who wear glasses. Both women were inspired to create an event to show how proud they were of their children who adjusted to life with glasses.

The day also serves to celebrate the unique style of children with glasses and how advances in eyewear allow them to see more clearly. Additionally, it is an opportunity to raise awareness of children’s vision challenges and highlight how vital it is to give your child an eye exam at an early age, as well as follow up treatment of any issue identified.

Here are a few ways you can celebrate Great Glasses Play Day:

  • Spread the word about the event, particularly to anyone you know who has children with glasses
  • Wear your own glasses or pick up a fun non-prescription frame to show your support and encourage your child as to how fun wearing glasses can be.
  • Read your child a positive book about children who wear glasses or make glasses for their toys and dolls.
  • Discuss or participate in an activity that was difficult for the child before she began wearing glasses and how that is now improved due to enhanced, clear and comfortable vision and the ability to concentrate, such as puzzles, word games and baseball.
  • Throw a glasses party on the day or make a glasses party when your child starts wearing glasses.
  • If you have a child with a vision problem, this is your chance to reach out to other parents and tell your story. Explain how you had your child’s eyes examined and how correcting your child’s vision made a significant, positive change in his life. This is the best way to help other parents understand how vital it is to take visual health seriously and to follow up on any referrals or instincts that something isn’t right.

The Great Glasses Play day is supported by the American Optometric Association, the Children’s Eye Foundation and Prevent Blindness Wisconsin. Take part and help spread the word about children’s eye health.

Learn more about how you can participate by checking out the Great Glasses Playday website.

First Aid for Eye Injuries

To ensure that your eyes remain healthy, it is essential to protect them from injury and to take proper care measures if an injury has occurred. As July is Eye Injury Prevention Month, here are a number of practical first aid tips to remember if you or anyone you know suffers an eye injury.

The very first step with any eye injury is of course to consult with your eye doctor or get a medical doctor to examine your eye as soon as possible. This is true even if the injury does not seem to be extensive, as often signs of a serious eye injury are not apparent immediately. When it comes to eye injury it is important not to rub, touch, or apply pressure, ointment or medication to the eye. Try to leave the eye alone as much as possible until you are in proper care of a doctor.

Common eye injuries include foreign particles that scratch the eye, foreign bodies that penetrate the eye, a blow to the eye and chemical burns. Here are some tips for each of these common injuries:

Foreign Particles

  • If you have a foreign particle in your eye, refrain from rubbing it.
  • Blink and apply artificial tears to attempt to loosen and flush out the particle. If blinking this way is unsuccessful in providing relief, keep your eye closed and see your eye doctor right away.

Chemical Burns

  • Flush your eye for 20-30 minutes, preferably with sterile saline, but tap water is acceptable. Copious but gentle irrigation is needed right away to avoid acid or alkali burn penetrating into the deeper tissues of the eye.
  • Contact your eye doctor or the emergency room to find out the next step to take.
  • Be sure to identify the substance that entered your eye and tell your doctor.
  • If your vision is extremely blurry or your eye very red, place a cool compress or icepack on it until you receive medical attention.

Blow to the eye

  • A minor blow can cause significant damage to the eye. Apply a small cold compress to reduce swelling and pain but be sure not to apply any pressure.
  • If you develop blur, floaters or flashes of light, pain or a black eye seek immediate assessment from your eye doctor or the emergency room.

Cuts, Penetrating or Foreign Objects

  • If possible, protect your eye with an eye shield such as a paper cup taped around the area.
  • Seek medical help immediately.
  • Do not rub, attempt to remove the object or apply pressure to the eye.
  • Even small cuts can pose a risk for infection so it is important to consult with a doctor for any penetration injury.

Most eye injures occur at work, at home, in the garage or the garden. The best way to prevent one is to ensure that your eyes are protected during any potentially dangerous activity. Wear protective eyewear if your job requires it and when you play sports that involve flying objects of any kind. Preventing damage to your eyes can be as simple as wearing a pair of ANSI (American National Standards Institute) approved protective eyewear. Don’t take any risk with your eyesight. Treat all eye injuries as emergencies and seek medical care as soon as possible.

Understanding the Eye Chart

Eye charts of different variations have become a standard in vision screenings and eye exams. One of the most familiar charts associated with vision is the Snellen eye chart, designed by Dutch ophthalmologist Hermann Snellen in 1862 to measure visual acuity- how well you can see at various distances.

Although there are variations of the Snellen chart used today, a traditional Snellen chart has eleven lines of block letters. The first line has one very large letter, which is one of several letters, for example E, H, or N. The following rows have increasing numbers of letters that become smaller in size as you read from the top to the bottom of the chart. The letters used on the chart are C, D, E, F, L, N, O, P, T, and Z.

When taking a vision exam, one eye is covered and you are asked to read the letters of each row aloud beginning at the top of the chart. The smallest row that you can read correctly indicates the visual acuity in the eye being tested.

The chart is positioned at a distance of 20 feet in the United States or 6 meters in the rest of the world. The term 20/20 vision is used to indicate the clarity and sharpness of your vision measured at a distance of 20 feet. If you have 20/20 vision, you can see clearly at 20 feet objects that can normally be seen at that distance. If you have 20/40 vision, it means that you need to be as close as 20 feet to see what a person with normal vision can see at 40 feet. The largest letter on an eye chart often represents an acuity of 20/200 which is associated with the term “legally blind.”

You will be asked to read the letters one eye at a time. Some people can see well at a distance, but are unable to bring nearer objects into focus, while others can see items that are close, but cannot see them far away. By having you read the chart, your eye doctor is able to ascertain whether you have difficulty with distance vision and can determine which corrective lenses can be used to improve it. Near vision problems or other vision and eye health issues may not be detected with the Snellen eye chart alone, so a comprehensive eye exam is always recommended.

The next time you hop into the chair at your optometrists’ office, you’ll be able to understand why you have to read the letters on the chart in front of you and what the results mean for your vision.

June is Cataract Awareness Month

Cataracts, one of the most common causes of blindness, develop when the lens of the eye, located behind the iris and pupil, becomes opaque or cloudy. A cataract can result in loss of vision as it prevents light from passing into your eye and focusing on the retina.

While cataracts most frequently result from the natural aging process, other risk factors include exposure to UV radiation, medical disease or a family history of the condition, trauma to the eye and smoking.

Cataracts occur when over time, pigment or protein is deposited in the lens and this, together with disruption of the normal structure of the lens fibers, can lead to reduced transmission of light, which causes visual problems. The condition can affect one's ability to see colors, drive, read, and recognize faces. Although cataracts aren't painful, the following signs could indicate cataract development:

  • Blurry vision or distorted vision, or the sensation that there is a film over your eye. You may also notice that colors appear to be dull.
  • Sensitivity to light. Sunlight or light from a lamp seems to be too strong and glare while driving may be worsened, especially at night.
  • Worsened vision that does not improve with a new glasses prescription or a new pair of glasses.

Cataract surgery can be avoided in the early stages as you may be able to improve your vision on a short term basis by using new glasses, strong magnification, appropriate lighting or other visual aids. Once the cataract progresses to a stage where it interferes with your vision and daily functioning, the best option is to have it treated surgically. Cataract surgery is a simple, relatively painless procedure that is usually very successful in restoring vision. The surgery, which is actually one of the most common surgeries in America, involves removing the clouded lens and in most cases replacing it with a plastic lens called an intraocular lens (IOL). Nine out of 10 patients recover near perfect vision after cataract surgery.

While there is nothing proven to prevent cataracts, there are number of steps you can take to reduce your risk.

  • Ensure you use adequate UV protection from the sun such as sunglasses and a hat.
  • Studies show that eating a diet rich in antioxidant foods, may prevent the formation of cataracts. Vitamin E, vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids are known to have significant benefits to your eye health.
  • Have a comprehensive eye exam including a dilated eye exam every year.

Pay attention to your eyes and your vision and make your eyesight a priority. If you notice any changes in your vision, make an appointment with your eye doctor immediately.

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