Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of vision loss amongst aging populations. This condition, which is caused by the deterioration of the macula, makes it so that fine details become difficult to see. There are two kinds of macular degeneration, wet and dry; most cases of macular degeneration start with dry and then one in ten cases end up progressing to wet. Here is a comprehensive overview of macular degeneration, what it is, and what to look out for if you have concerns that it is affecting your vision.

The macula is a very small area near the centre of the retina (light-sensitive tissue where nerves impulses are triggered and pass information through the optic nerve into the brain). The macula is oval in shape and yellow in colour and is the part of the eye that allows us to see images with sharpness. For instance, it is essential for reading and driving. When the macula is damaged or begins to deteriorate daily tasks can become difficult, and it may even become difficult to recognize faces due to the inability to see things sharply. The main field of vision that macular degeneration effects are the central field of vision, where blind spots can occur.

Dry macular degeneration is more common than wet macular degeneration. Around 85% – 95% of patients with the disease having the dry version. Dry macular degeneration is considered non-neovascular. It is often the result of aging when the macular tissue thins and pigment is deposited into the macula. Yellowish spots, called drusen, appearing around the macula is how dry macular degeneration is diagnosed. These spots are deposits from the debris of the deteriorating tissue. The best way to stave off dry macular degeneration is to eat right, exercise, and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV and HEV rays.

Wet macular degeneration is rarer than dry macular degeneration, and is the progression of that disease. Wet macular degeneration is when new blood vessels grow underneath the retina. These blood vessels then leak which permanently damages the light-sensitive retinal cells. As these cells are damaged and die off blind spots are created. There are two distinct types of wet macular degeneration: occult and classic. Occult is not as severe, and leakage is less evident. Classic is the more severe of the two and is the type of wet macular degeneration that results in significant vision loss.

A vast majority of the time age-related macular degeneration is a slow process. It takes time, and you will slowly begin to see spots grow in your vision. On rare occasions though, it can be sudden. There are vision tests that can test to see if you have the disease, such as the Amsler grid, but most cases of macular degeneration are caught before symptoms occur by an optometrist with a retinal exam.

Macular degeneration is found predominately in white and female populations, though risk factors include age, heredity, obesity, inactivity, high blood pressure, smoking, and light eye colours. You can protect yourself though, by eating right, exercising, protecting your vision, and taking supplements with lutein and zeaxanthin. If you have any questions about macular degeneration or are concerned that you may be suffering from the disease, then contact the team at St. Lawrence Eye Care, your Toronto eye care experts.

What are polarized lenses?

Polarized lenses are lenses that help reduce glare due to the coating of a special chemical film. They are typically used by people who spend a lot of time outdoors to help counteract the glare produced when the sun hits a solid surface like a road or the snow on a ski hill. Fishermen also benefit greatly from polarized lenses because they can deflect UV rays that reflect off of the water.

How polarized lenses work

Even though the sun’s rays reflect in all directions, when the rays hit a flat surface, they are reflected up and become polarized. The rays then travel in a more uniform path which is called glare. Glare can affect our vision because it can distort our view and reduce our colour and depth perception. Polarized lenses are created to block out the reflected light by using a special filter making it easier for you to see and not feel blinded by the light.

Benefits of polarized lenses

With polarized lenses, images will appear sharper and clearer. You will also feel more comfortable with improved visual clarity. Most polarized lenses will feature UV protection which is a key component in protecting your eyes from the sun. You can also customize your polarized lenses to enhance your vision with progressive lenses, bifocal sunglasses, and many other protective coatings.

Who should use polarized lenses

People who spend their time outside doing physical activities benefit the most from polarized lenses. Skiers, bikers, golfers, joggers, and boaters etc. all benefit while using polarized lenses because they can focus on their activity and stay safe from glare that could affect their vision. Drivers are also starting to wear polarized lenses since it allows them to see the road without squinting or using the sun visor.

People who are sensitive to light due to post-cataract surgery are also recommended to use polarized lenses to help ease the intensity of bright lights.

Can you use polarized lenses at all times

You can use your polarized lenses for pretty much everything that you do, but there are times where it’s not advisable to wear them. For example, if you are downhill skiing and wear polarized lenses, you may not see icy patches up ahead since you won’t see the light reflecting off it. Images displayed by LCD or LED lighting may be negatively affected by polarized lenses. This type of light can be present in ATMs, gas pumps, and street lights. If you are looking at these lights, you should take off your polarized lenses to help you see the display better.

Difference between tinted and polarized lenses

Tinted lenses are great at reducing brightness, but they won’t protect your eyes from glare as well as polarized lenses will. With polarized lenses you will get a more overall protection from glare and the sun’s rays.

If you are looking to get polarized lenses for your glasses, come on down to St. Lawrence Eye Care in Toronto! Our optometrists will be able to recommend what kind of polarized lenses will fit your prescription.

Combatting Dry Eyes during the Winter

Winter is a wonderful time for many Canadians. The ski slopes are finally open, kids are out making snowmen, and nothing beats ice skating on a lake while it’s snowing, finishing the day with a nice cup of hot chocolate to make it the perfect day.

There are a few downsides that come with the cold weather; the roads get icy, your lips get chapped, and your eyes become irritated and dry. The glands in your eyes produce less tears during winter months due cold temperatures outside and going into heated buildings to warm up. This contrast in temperatures can cause your eyes to feel itchy or stingy while giving you a burning sensation. This isn’t fun to deal with, especially when you are trying to focus on working or driving.

This winter, if you start to feel your eyes becoming drier every day, try some of these techniques to get the moisture you need back into your eyes.

Increase your Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Fluid-Rich Foods

Omega-3 fatty acids are commonly found in fish oil supplements, eggs and most meats. If you increase your daily intake of omega-3 fatty acids, they will help improve the quality of your eye glands to help produce more tears.

You can also help combatting dry eyes by increasing your intake of fluid-rich foods like soup, fruits and vegetables. These types of foods hydrate your body and can help aid the water development in your eyes.

Try a Humidifier

During winter months, the air in your home can get very dry which can further cause you to suffer from dry eyes. Using a humidifier in your house is a great way to keep the air at a healthy level which will allow your eyes to remain hydrated.

Use Eye Drops

Finding the proper eye drops and using them daily is also a great way in keeping your eyes hydrated during the winter season. Most eye drops can be purchased over the counter, but if you need more information on which will work best for you, visit your optometrist for a second opinion.

What to Avoid

There are a few things you should to do to avoid dehydrating your eyes. When heating up your car, aim your vents away from your face. The hot air from your heating system can cause your eyes to dry out faster. Try to aim your vents towards your feet and windows to avoid direct contact with your eyes.

If your eyes continue to be dry, try cutting out coffee, tea and soda. These drinks are a silent culprit in drying your eyes out. If you partake in these drinks throughout the day, they could be the main reason as to why your eyes remain dry, irritated and itchy.

If you are suffering from dry eyes and these tips aren’t helping, set up an appointment with your optometrist as dry eyes can sometimes lead to a more serious eye condition? Are you located in Toronto? Visit us at 12 Church Street, or call us at (416) 504-7532 to set up your appointment today!

What is Blue Filter Lens Technology?

What is Blue Filter Lens Technology?

In a world ever-dependant on the use of technology, there is serious concern about the impact so much artificial light can have on the human eye. Negative symptoms of too much “screen time” have been reported for decades. Recent studies have finally linked these harmful effects to a certain type of light used in some of the most common gadgets people use every day. This has lead the vision care industry to develop specialized lenses to protect eyes from the damaging effect of blue light.

Illumination on the Night Light

For thousands of years humans depended on the light of the sun to regulate the natural rhythm of life. While we would use fire and candles to illuminate the darkness of night, the luminal output of these light sources was far less than the intensity of sunlight. When true artificial light was created with the help of electricity it enabled people everywhere to work and play well into the night. Thus began the disruption of our internal “body clock”, known as the circadian rhythm.

Light exposure decreases the production of melatonin in the brain. Melatonin is the hormone responsible for regulating the natural sleep cycle, meaning those exposed to more artificial light are more likely to have trouble sleeping. Sleeping less is linked to dangerous diseases such as obesity and even some types of cancer.

Additionally, overexposure to light during nighttime strains the eyes and may be linked to increased macular degeneration. Some research has shown that digital eye strain from blue light exposure could be linked to cataracts and overall vision loss later in life.

Big, Bad, Blue

Of all the types of light that are considered damaging to human beings, blue light is considered to be the worst. Researchers at Harvard were able to determine that blue light suppresses the most melatonin, an average of twice as much as green light. Furthermore, a study conducted by the University of Toronto discovered goggles designed to specifically block blue light significantly lessened melatonin suppression. This has lead experts in the vision industry to develop special blue light filter lens glasses.

Blue Light Filter Technology

Glasses made with blue filter lens technology are designed to block blue light emitted from common devices such as smartphones and computer screens. When used at night, blue filter lenses can alleviate symptoms of eye strain, decrease instances of headache, and help users achieve better sleep.

How Nutrition Affects the Eyes

Implementing a healthier diet has been proven to help manage body weight and is beneficial for lowering risk factors of many systemic conditions . A healthy diet has also been proven to help maintain healthy vision by reducing risk of cataracts, macular degeneration and other ocular problems. Adding some powerful antioxidants to your diet can help improve your eye health.

Here are some common vision problems that can benefit from vitamins and micronutrients:

Macular Degeneration

Macular Degeneration occurs when the small central part of the retina, known as the macula deteriorates. This condition can cause severe and irreversible vision loss that typically affects people over the age of 60.  Research shows antioxidants such as Vitamin C, E and beta-carotene can help reduce the progression of age related macular degeneration. Vitamin C is found in many fruits and vegetables. Vitamin E is found in nuts, fortified cereals and sweet potatoes. Beta-carotene containing foods include carrots, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes.

Individuals who have been diagnosed with moderate macular degeneration can benefit from supplementation of lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants are commonly found in dark, green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, and collard greens. Scientific research shows it may help slow down progression from moderate to advanced macular degeneration.

Dry Eye

Dry eye is a multifactorial condition that can benefit from some supplementation. Studies show omega-3 fatty acids can help with symptoms of dry eye.  Food sources include:

  • Oily fish such as anchovies, herring, salmon, sardines
  • Flaxseed or rapeseed oils.
  • Tofu, eggs and walnuts.
  • Taking Omega 3 supplements.

What can negatively impact my eyes?

Smoking: this can increase the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration, while also inducing diabetes related sight problems.

Alcohol: consuming excessive amounts of alcohol can lead to an eye condition called toxic amblyopia which can lead to reduced vision (and blindness, if the case is severe enough).

Medication: many prescribed medications can have ocular side effects. Discuss with your optometrist if you are experiencing vision changes or other eye related adverse effects.

Maintaining a consistent healthy diet will improve your overall general health as well as other bodily conditions, while also maintaining healthier vision. Taking the steps to prevent any vision deterioration and impairment by changing your diet will help prevent and/or slow the progress of any eye diseases.

For more information on the correlation between nutrition and vision, as well as any information on the vision conditions mentioned above, don’t hesitate to ask at your next local eye exam in Toronto at St. Lawrence Eye Care.