What’s the difference between an optician, optometrist and ophthalmologist?

I remember once while I was still in school and someone asked me what I was studying. I said that I was studying to be an optometrist and without batting an eye they looked at me and said “Oh, what’s it like to work with teeth?” So close but so far.

There is a lot of confusion out there about what we in the industry refer to as ‘The Three O’s’, perhaps better known as opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists. Even for people who are reasonably familiar with the optical industry people often ask me what the difference is. It absolutely can be confusing but let’s think of it in a way most of us are very famliar with.

"Opticians are sort of like pharmacists."

Opticians are sort of like pharmacists. They receive an optical prescription and fill it. They are your lens and frame experts. In Alberta they take a two year course to learn how to fit lenses properly and take all the necessary and extremely important measurements. They learn all about how to adjust frames to fit your face properly as well as what frames will work best on which face shapes. They know all about things like progressives versus bifocals, refractive index, anti glare coatings and a whole bunch of other technical things that are vital to you getting the right lens. They are an integral part of  your vision care team.

In case you weren't sure, this is what an optometrist might look like.

In case you weren't sure, this is what an optometrist might look like.

"You should see an optometrist regularly to pick up any problems that are happening silently, with no symptoms."

Optometrists are like your family doctor. You have  any sort of problem with your eyes and we are the people you need to come and see. It might be a problem seeing, a red gooey eye or maybe you got something in your eye that won’t come out. You come see an optometrist and we’ll fix you up. Of course just like getting a yearly physical you don’t have to have something wrong to see an optometrist. In fact you should see one regularly to pick up any problems that are happening silently, with no symptoms.
Optometrists in Canada take a minimum of a three year undergraduate degree followed by a four year course at the only English speaking Optometry school in Canada at the University of Waterloo or the only Canadian French speaking school at the University of Montreal. They are then required to write national board exams before being licensed to work in Canada.

"Seeing an ophthalmologist requires a referral..."

Ophthalmologists are eye specialists. They are medical doctors who have gone on to do even more schooling to specialize in the eye. Much like other specialists like brain surgeons, heart surgeons, kidney specialists etc you require a referral to see them. It is the job of an optometrist or your family doctor to refer you if there is an eye problem beyond what we are able to treat. For example, if you had a cataract that required surgery, an optometrist would refer you to see an ophthalmologist that specialized in cataract surgeries.

If you have any questions about this or anything else feel free to contact us on TwitterFacebookGoogle +, via our website or phone us at (403) 474-6744.

Why do we roll our eyes?

If you've ever dealt with a teenager, chances are you've been on the receiving end of a lot of eye rolling and maybe rolled your eyes right back. But why do we do it? Is it a cultural thing or does it go deeper? Let's dig into this.

Eye rolling as we know it now really only became common in the 1980s. Prior to that, in western cultures, eye rolling was more associated with lust than disgust. Even so, studies across cultures have found that most cultures have similar movements that involve looking away as a sign of disgust or arrogance.

If you have somehow never been on the receiving end of an eye roll you have somehow never met a teenager.

If you have somehow never been on the receiving end of an eye roll you have somehow never met a teenager.

So, why do we do it? Psychologists have a couple ideas. One is that it's a fairly safe and non-confrontational form of aggression. Chances are your eye roll won't be noticed and even if it is you can always deny or backtrack which you can't do if you just threw a punch.

The other possible reason is even simpler. When we see something that offends or disgusts us we just have an urge to look away. 

Regardless of the underlying reason, humans have a much larger white of the eye than other animals, including other primates, and so we can communicate more easily using only our eye movements. Still, if you're going to roll your eyes and cast some serious shade, make sure the cameras aren't rolling so you can pretend it never happened if things get heated.

If you have any questions about this or anything else feel free to contact us on TwitterFacebookGoogle +, via our website or phone us at (403) 474-6744.

Why should I replace my contacts regularly?

“Dr. Ross, why should I replace my contacts regularly?”
“They feel fine.”
“I just replace them when they start to bug me.”
“I know I should replace them every month but sometimes I just leave them in for a few months and I haven’t had a problem.”
“You guys always tell me to replace my contacts every month. It’s a scam, isn’t it? You just want my money!”

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My eye doctor can detect which disease? - High blood pressure

There is a lot of confusion about what optometrists really do. We are so stereotypically associated with asking people "Which is better, 1 or 2?" and correcting vision problems that people are sometimes surprised to hear that we do a lot more! To help with the confusion I decided to start this new blog series "My eye doctor can detect which disease?". Some might surprise you, some might not. In today's blog I want to go over one that you might not expect: High blood pressure.

High blood pressure is extremely common. Approximately 20% of adults have high blood pressure with another 20% having high normal blood pressure (which puts them at higher risk of developing high blood pressure later on). Of these people another 20% are unaware that they have high blood pressure at all! This is important because as you may have heard high blood pressure is a silent killer. It has no symptoms so people are often not aware there is a problem until something serious happens like a heart attack or a stroke.

So how can your optometrist help? When we look inside of your eyes during a routine eye exam we aren't just looking for things like cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma. We're also looking for signs of systemic (or full body) problems like high blood pressure. The eyes are the only place in the body where we can directly look at your blood vessels without having to cut you open. This means that we can look and see exactly what is happening. In high blood pressure there a few key things that we are looking for.

In this picture you can see the silvering of some blood vessels and also see how some blood vessels are 'nicking' or pinching the ones underneath. This is typically what I see in the average person with uncontrolled, untreated high blood pressure.

  • Silvering of blood vessels - normally your blood vessels are a nice red colour but when someone has high blood pressure the blood vessel walls thicken. Over time this means that the blood vessels reflect more light and look more silver.
  • Wavy blood vessels - normal blood vessels in the eye follow a nice smooth path. If blood vessels are really curvy that can be an indication of high blood pressure.
  • Pressure on the blood vessels - as high blood pressure worsens the blood vessels may actually start to push down on other blood vessels restricting how much blood flows either in or out of your eye.
  • Bleeds - As those blood vessels crush each other blood can back up and eventually burst the blood vessel causing bleeds in your eye. You can also end up with white areas on your retina that aren't getting enough blood. Imagine it like squeezing a hose: no water comes out one end and water starts backing up on the other side of the blockage.
  • So much more - we can have things like leaking from blood vessels, swelling of the optic nerve and other signs.

This is high blood pressure gone seriously wrong. Uncontrolled high (very high) blood pressure over long periods of time can lead to a very unhealthy retina.

As you can see, there's no shortage of things that can go wrong in the eye with uncontrolled high blood pressure. Some of the more severe problems (Bleeding, leakage, swollen optic nerve etc) are fairly rare and only occur in very extreme untreated cases of high blood pressure. What I frequently see in my clinic are some of the early signs (the silvering, wavy blood vessels or pressure on blood vessels) and that let's me have a conversation about high blood pressure with you. In some cases your family doctor may already be aware and is either monitoring or already treating the issue. Sometimes though people have no idea and are shocked that they have high blood pressure and that it was found during a routine eye exam! It's important to keep blood pressure controlled to reduce your risk of so many very severe problems and early intervention and treatment is always better than trying to recover from something like a heart attack or stroke.

If you have any concerns that you might have high blood pressure I would urge you to book an appointment with your family doctor. While optometrists can detect high blood pressure it isn't our area of expertise to treat and manage high blood pressure effectively. If we detect it in office we always will send you back to your family doctor to both confirm the diagnosis and if needed start treatment. What's most important is remembering to have regular health checks with both your family doctor and your local doctor of optometry!

If you have any questions about this or anything else feel free to contact us on TwitterFacebookGoogle +, via our website or phone us at (403) 474-6744.

Online eye exams - the future of eye care?

Nobody likes going to the doctor. Even doctors don't like going to the doctor! It doesn't matter whether it's the dentist for a cleaning, your MD for a yearly physical or your optometrist for an annual eye exam there's a huge list of things you'd rather do (like, anything else).

Enter the internet.

Health related issues are some of the most googled topics. Websites like WebMD have been around for ages and one of the first things people do when they get sick is google their symptoms. It would obviously be better for us to go and see a professional but it's easier to try and self diagnose. Of course, easier isn't necessarily better. I think we all know someone that's typed their symptoms into an online symptom check website and been told they have cancer, dengue fever or plague when really they have a cold. An online database simply isn't a replacement for the knowledge doctors possess and their ability to know what questions to ask, what problems to look for to understand, diagnose and then treat a problem.

So what about online eye exams? To be fair, we shouldn't call them that. They're really just online refractions (the part where your doctor of optometry asks you which looks clearer, one or two) perhaps better know as sight or vision tests. There's a lot of doubt about whether this is a good idea and the whole concept is illegal already in many US states. The question you might be asking as a consumer is, why?

There are a few reasons. It's important to know that your prescription comes from a lot more than just asking "Which is clearer, choice one or two". There's actually a fair amount of science, technique and skill that goes into that portion of the exam. If we were to take your responses at face value people would often end up with prescriptions that are too strong or otherwise not appropriate. Further to that, our offices are designed to make sure that the distances are accurate, the screens and fonts are high resolution, clear and colour true. By doing your refraction at home on your computer you might end up with inaccurate results because of how things were set up.

Optometrists also assess more than just vision. In fact, vision is only about one third of the eye exam. The other two major areas we look at are how your eye muscles work together (also known as binocularity) and your eye health. You might assume that if you had a problem with your eye muscles or health it would be obvious. Sometimes you're right. Most of the time though that's not the case. When there are symptoms they are often confusing.

Eye muscle problems can present as eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, difficulty reading and more. It would be easy to assume that those problems were caused by poor vision or even something more serious like a stroke or tumour when often it's a misalignment of the eyes that can treated. An eye test online wouldn't be able to check for this. 

Eye health is more concerning. There are many eye diseases that don't have symptoms in their earliest stages when damage is minimal and treatment is easier. Problems like glaucoma, retinal holes, macular degeneration or even eye cancer are all blinding disorders that won't affect your central vision right away and would be missed if someone is only getting a sight test. Further, optometrists are often the first doctors to diagnose problems such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, MS, diabetes and certain brain cancers to name only a few whole body diseases that show up in the eye. Contact lenses pose a problem as well. There are many good reasons we insist on seeing our contact lens patients every year (check out the details here) but the take home message is that there are many contact lens related problems that can impact eye health and even cause vision loss that don't have severe symptoms. Your eyes are precious and irreplaceable. Risking your eye health simply isn't worth it.

Hopefully now you understand the massive difference between a sight test, especially one that's online, versus an actual eye exam from a doctor of optometry. Even if you still decide to use online sight tests I hope that this arms you with the full knowledge of what you are and are not receiving for your time and money.

As always, if you have any questions about this or anything else feel free to contact us on TwitterFacebookGoogle +, via our website or phone us at (403) 474-6744.

Why do my glasses hurt?

We've been there. You've ordered new glasses and you're excited to wear them and finally see clearly again. When you put them on things look amazingly clear and wonderful and you're happy... that is until a few hours later when you have a headache and you have to take them off. What a disappointment!

So how can we avoid this? What can we do to make sure you not only see perfectly with your glasses but that they're comfortable too? There are a few steps and unsurprisingly it starts with your frame.

This is not how you should feel when you're wearing your glasses.

This is not how you should feel when you're wearing your glasses.

Picking the right frame

Frames come in all different shapes, sizes and materials. Partly this is for fashion reasons but also because people come in different shapes and sizes too! A frame that is too narrow will pinch on the sides of your head. A frame that is too wide will slide down. We also want to make sure we pick a frame with long enough arms. If the arms are too short your glasses will constantly slide down your nose. If the arms are too long we have to curl them around your ear! You may also have noticed that some frames are made of metal and have nose pads on them while other frames are made of plastic. Frames with nose pads can be adjusted to fit the bridge of your nose perfectly and also allow us to make the frame sit a little higher or lower. Plastic frames cannot be adjusted to fit your nose. Either they fit you, or they don't. That's part of why it's so important to try on frames before you buy them!

Picking the right lenses

Lens selection is very important for having comfortable glasses, especially if you have a higher prescription. You can pick a frame that fits really well and is light as air but if you get the wrong lens material it can end up still being heavy. This doesn't have to be complicated but it's something people sometimes overlook.

Having your frames adjusted

One of the best parts of getting your frame from a professional is making sure they're properly adjusted for you. A frame that is the right size and shape with the right lenses can still be uncomfortable if it's not fitting well! It might pinch behind your ears, slide down your nose, sit crooked on your face or sometimes your vision might even be blurry or distorted if the glasses aren't adjusted properly! Our opticians are experts at making sure that your frames are properly adjusted to avoid having problems.

So what do you do if you know you have the right frame with the right lens and it's been adjusted and it's still bothering you? Come on back in and have the adjustment tweaked! Sometimes what looks and feels great when we adjust them ends up pressing on a pressure point. The area behind our ears can be very sensitive and if your glasses are lightly pressing in just the wrong spot it can cause a lot of discomfort! The problem is it often takes a few hours for that to be something you notice. Obviously we try to anticipate problems like that but sometimes there's no way to know what will work until we try. The good news is that adjustments are always free at our clinic so if your glasses are bothering you stop in and let us help!

Still having issues? Things look distorted, blurred or something else isn't quite right? Come back soon for a new blog post about what to do if your vision is blurry with your new glasses.

Not sure if your glasses need adjusting? Feel free to contact us on TwitterFacebookGoogle +, via our website or phone us at (403) 474-6744. 

Contact lens exams - why do they matter?

Contact lenses and the need for contact lens exams are confusing and also misunderstood.

I know what you're thinking. What is he talking about? Contacts aren't confusing! You stick them in your eye and they make you see.  What could be more simple?

Let's dive into this.

Contact lenses can be great if they're used properly. If they aren't fit properly or cared for in the right way they can be dangerous and cause permanent loss of vision.

Contact lenses can be great if they're used properly. If they aren't fit properly or cared for in the right way they can be dangerous and cause permanent loss of vision.

Contact lenses are a medical device

First and foremost contacts are a medical device. They're classified this way because they can cause serious harm if they aren't fit or worn properly. Contact lenses are actually not allowed to be sold without a contact lens prescription nor can they be sold by just anyone. Since they are a restricted medical device only ophthalmologists, optometrists and contact lens fitting opticians are allowed to legally sell contact lenses. That means all contact lenses in costume shops and from some online vendors are not legally sold.

But can't I just order my contacts online without a contact lens prescription or fitting?

Currently you can, it's true. This is something that is under investigation and review by numerous agencies both governmental and medical. Since there can be serious harm buying contacts without an up to date contact lens prescription it is not recommend. Optometrists, ophthalmologists and contact lens fitting opticians are all held to a higher standard and cannot sell or provide contact lenses without ensuring they are safe!

Contacts need to be fit properly to be safe

Contact lenses can be too tight, too loose, too big or too small. Any of these can increase your risk of an infection. A lens that is too loose is obvious to you as the person wearing contacts because it will be uncomfortable and the vision will change every time you blink. Other problems, like being too tight, is something only your eye care professional can tell since it will feel very comfortable... until you get an infection.

Contacts need to be fit properly to be able to see

This is especially true of astigmatism correcting (or toric) and multifocal contacts. These lenses interact with the shape of your eyes and your eyelids and if they aren't sitting in the right spot your vision will be blurred. This is easily corrected by visiting your doctor of optometry for a proper fitting.

Contacts need to be tried first to make sure they're comfortable

When you have a contact lens fitting you are given trial lenses. In part this is to allow the doctor to make sure your contacts fit you properly and that you're seeing clearly, but it's also to let you feel that lens on your eye. Each contact lens is made with different materials and coatings that are supposed to make them more comfortable. Different people react differently to these materials and what is comfortable for one person may not be comfortable for another. Trialing lenses (at no charge) gives you the chance to make sure that the lens feels comfortable in your eye. A lens that fits great and your vision is perfect isn't any good if you can't wear it because it feels like sandpaper in your eye!

So what is a contact lens prescription?

A proper contact lens prescription is different from a glasses prescription. It will specify the exact lens that the doctor has trialed with you, the base curve and diameter of the lens and the power (sometimes called the prescription) needed in the contacts. The power in your contacts is often different from your glasses either because of differences in what is available in contacts (low powers of astigmatism are not available, for example) or because your prescription is altered when we move from glasses, which sit on your nose, to contacts, which sit directly on your eye. After a proper fitting and trial your doctor of optometry can provide you with a finalized copy of your contact lens prescription. Before that process is completed you actually only have trial contact lens information but not a finalized prescription.

You need to be trained on how to wear your contacts

If you're new to contacts, a contact lens exam will also involve getting you set up with a training. We show you how to put the contact lens in and take it out and make sure you can do it confidently. You might think it's easy to get a contact lens in  and out but without the proper training it can be really hard! We also make sure you know how to take care of your contacts, how to clean them and how often to replace them. This is all vital to making sure your eyes stay healthy.

Choosing the right lens can save you a lot of hassle and money too!

There are a lot of different contact lenses out there. There are monthly contacts, biweekly contacts and daily contacts. Some contacts you can sleep in and some you can't. Some let in more oxygen and some are more moist. Some lenses that sound like a bargain because they're cheap may be really old technology that could cause damage to your eyes. How do you know which one to choose? Talking with your optometrist is the best place to start. We're familiar with all the different contact lenses available and can find one that works for you based on how you want to wear them and what your budget is.

What solution to use?

One thing that isn't talked about enough is solution. Many contact lens wearers think that any old solution will work fine and that they can switch from one to solution to another without issue (just buying whatever is on sale). Your optometrist will discuss which contact lens solution is the best for the type of lenses you wear. Switching back and forth from one solution mixes up all sorts of chemicals and can make your contacts uncomfortable and really hard to wear. Using the right solution makes a big difference when it comes to comfort and cleanliness!

To sum up, it's important to have a contact lens exam to ensure good comfort and vision, proper fit to reduce the risk of infection and get advice on which lenses to use, how to use them, how to take care of them and which solution to use.

If you have any questions about this or anything else feel free to contact us on TwitterFacebookGoogle +, via our website or phone us at (403) 474-6744.

I should see an eye doctor for that? - Grandma had glaucoma

 

"...THEIR HEALTH HISTORY COULD BE YOUR HEALTH FUTURE."

There is a lot of confusion about what optometrists really do. We are so stereotypically associated with asking people "Which is better, 1 or 2?" and correcting vision problems that people are sometimes surprised to hear that we do a lot more! To help with the confusion I decided to start this blog series "I should see an eye doctor for that?". Some might surprise you, some might not. In today's blog we're going to talk about your why if grandma had eye problems, like glaucoma, you need to have regular eye exams.

Alright, we don't really mean JUST if grandma had eye problems. Grandma shouldn't take all the blame. If someone in your family has an eye disease it's important for you to know what it is and who has it! Why should it matter to you, a healthy person with perfect vision, that someone in your family has an eye disease? Unsurprisingly since you share at least some of their genes their health history could be your health future. 

It's all in your genes.

Many eye diseases are genetic which means that if someone in your family had them, you could too. Much like if someone in your family has diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease you're at a higher risk of developing those same problems if someone in your family has glaucoma, macular degeneration or a host of other diseases you too are at a higher risk.

 

"80% OF EYE DISEASE HAS NO SYMPTOMS IN ITS EARLY STAGES"

A couple important points. When I say someone in your family I mean 'blood relatives'. For example if your step mother has glaucoma or your sister-in-law has macular degeneration you don't share their risk because you don't share their genes. It's also important to point out that an increased risk does not mean certainty. Simply because your mother has diabetes or glaucoma does not mean you are doomed to have the same problems but it does mean you need to be careful and get your health, including your eye health, checked regularly.

So what has a genetic link? Almost everything unfortunately. The big three eye diseases, glaucoma, macular degeneration and cataract all have a genetic component. Diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke to name a few all directly impact the eye as well and often signs of those diseases will show up in the eye before they show up anywhere else!

This is one of the main reasons (though not the only one) why I recommend yearly eye exams. 80% of eye disease has no symptoms in its early stages and the only way to detect the problem and prevent it from getting worse is to have an eye doctor check the health of your eyes. Even if your vision is perfect there may be something going on that hasn't made itself obvious just yet.

As always, if you have any questions about this or anything else feel free to contact us on TwitterFacebookGoogle +, via our website or phone us at (403) 474-6744.

So if I come in for an eye exam, what are you going to do to me?

If you’ve been reading my blog you know there are a lot of reasons to come in for an eye exam even if you feel that your vision is perfect and that you don’t need glasses. You already understand that there’s the health and muscle function side of an eye exam that is just as important as how well you see. For many people who have never had an eye exam though they wonder what is involved. Anything new can be uncomfortable and if you feel like everything is fine people hesitate to come in. So let’s go over what an eye exam is all about.

When you first come for a visit we’re going to have you fill in a nice form with a lot of your personal medical information. We need this to rule in  or out certain eye problems and to know a bit more about your health. All of this information is kept strictly private and cannot be released to anyone or any group without your consent (this is true of ALL medical and personal information we obtain).

Once you’re all checked in there are some preliminary tests done by our optician. At Eye Spy Optometry we first get an estimate of how well your eyes are focusing using a machine called an auto-refractor. These results are what I use as a starting point to narrow down an exact prescription. Next, we take pictures of the back of your eye as well as scans of both your optic nerves and your maculae. The optic nerve is what sends the information back to your brain and is affected in many disorders including glaucoma. The macula is the part of your eye used for fine central detail. There are many things that could go wrong here too but one of the most common is macular degeneration. These scans give us the ability to detect changes that may be related to an eye condition much earlier than just looking inside of the eye.

Next you get to see me. I’ll review your medication and health information with you and then we jump right in. I check to see how you’re seeing with glasses if you have them, without if you don’t. I also check to see how well the eyes are working together and check pupils for signs of any neurological concerns. What comes next is the stereotypical part of the exam. I put a machine called a phoropter in front of your face and show you a variety of lenses, asking you which makes the image at the end of the room better. This is the part of the exam that causes people the most stress. Don’t worry though! My job is to help you through it and make sure we don’t come out with the wrong prescription. You can’t fail the test, I promise, because it isn’t a pass/fail sort of test! I will also have a look at the health of your eyes, inside and out, and finally I’ll check the pressure in your eyes, but not with that puff of air test!

This is a traditional phoropter (used in the 'Which is better, one or two?' test). At Eye Spy Optometry we have a more modern, digital phoropter.

This is a traditional phoropter (used in the 'Which is better, one or two?' test). At Eye Spy Optometry we have a more modern, digital phoropter.

The final step to your eye exam is to review everything. I’ll show you the photos and scans and explain what they mean, discuss any health concerns and review your prescription, if there is one. I’ll make any recommendations about how to help keep your eyes healthy or improve your vision that make sense based off of your results. Most importantly though, I’ll answer your questions. I do my very best to make sure everything we review together is clear but sometimes jargon slips in. Always feel comfortable asking questions and I’ll do my best to make sure it all makes sense.

If you do happen to need glasses there is ONE more thing that happens. You get to pick out frames! That’s the fun part of the exam. There are so many different colours, shapes and styles to pick from and wide range of prices to suit every budget that finding something that works for you is fun and stress free.

So book an appointment today! You know you should get everything checked out even if your vision is great. Now that you know what we do when you come to see us there’s no excuse not to give us a call at (403) 474-6744 or book online here.

As always, any questions feel free to contact us on Twitter, Facebook, Google + or via our website.

Hyperopia - A frustrating lack of focus

Much like myopia (or nearsightedness), hyperopia isn't a word you hear very often. If you've heard the term if was likely in your optometrists' office and you probably have it. Your doctor of optometry might have taken the easier route though and called it by it's common, though misleading, name 'farsightedness'.

I don't know about you but when I see the word farsighted it implies that you can see far away but not up close. That simply isn't true. A farsighted person may see clearly at all distances, may have trouble at near or may have trouble seeing at all distances! To understand why we need to understand what hyperopia really is.

Hyperopia occurs when the eye is 'too weak' and light focuses behind the retina. This generally is because either the cornea (the front of the eye) is too flat OR the eye is too short (it may be a combination of both). We are all born somewhat farsighted and as we age our eyes get bigger and the farsightedness decreases. In some people the farsightedness never fully goes away. Depending on how much farsightedness there is it can cause problems like amblyopia, only cause headaches and strain while reading or even go completely unnoticed for many years. How is this possible!?

Being able to see clearly without glasses while being farsighted is all thanks to the lens inside of the eye. Its job is to flex and change shape so we can see all distances clearly without needing reading glasses. One way of thinking is that when we are reading our eyes, without the lens, would be 'too weak'. The lens changing shape gives us more focusing power so we can see. People with hyperopia have eyes that are 'too weak' at all distances, not just looking up close. The natural lens in the eye compensates for the eye being too weak both far away and up close. If they have a mild amount of farsightedness this usually doesn't cause problems but as the prescription goes up the eye and lens have a harder and harder time compensating for the uncorrected hyperopia! This can lead headaches, eyestrain or blurred vision which in children can cause amblyopia.

Light focuses behind the retina in hyperopia

One of the very frustrating things about hyperopia is that in many people it doesn't become an issue until they are in their 40's. Hyperopia is different from presbyopia (the need for reading glasses) but the same thing that causes us to need reading glasses also causes distance vision to become blurrier in farsighted people. Remember how I mentioned that the lens in the eye compensates for the eye being too weak? Eventually, in all of us, that lens doesn't work as well as it once did. That will usually start with trouble reading but in farsighted people they also eventually have blurred distance vision as well. Going from never needing glasses to needing them to see at all distances is immensely frustrating to my farsighted patients and is sometimes difficult to adapt to.

So how do we deal with farsightedness? Glasses and contact lenses are the most common and easiest forms of treatment. Both glasses and contacts refocus the light coming into the eye allowing it to focus on the back of the eye clearly. You can also consider surgery, like LASIK or PRK though they don't work as well for hyperopia as they do myopia. I'll talk about surgical options more in another blog.

If you have any questions about this or anything else feel free to contact us on TwitterFacebookGoogle +, via our website or phone us at (403) 474-6744.

Floaters - Those annoying spots moving around in your vision

One of the most commonly asked questions I get asked  is "What are those things I see floating around in my vision." Most people don't think my answer of 'annoying' is nearly as funny as I do and usually would like a real answer about what is happening. So let's address a problem almost everyone experiences at some point in their life, the visual phenomenon known as floaters.

First of all, what are they? To understand that you need to know a bit about the vitreous jelly, which fills most of the eye and is where floaters form. The vitreous jelly is almost entirely water but it does have a matrix of 'stuff' (collagen and hyaluronic acid to be exact) that gives it a jelly like consistency. Don't think of it as jello though, it's more like an egg white. When we're really young the vitreous is really clear and everything is pretty much perfect. Over time though the jelly starts to break down and water leaks away. The collagen and hyaluronic acid are left behind and they clump forming the black or clear jelly blobs that we see moving around in our vision. What we are seeing is really just a shadow caused by these clumps. Floaters are easiest to see when the lighting is bright and the background is a light colour (so a bright sunny day with a blue sky or a brightly lit, white computer screen).

Floaters sort of look like this... but not really.

So, what can be done about a floater? Honestly, not much. The most effective therapy is something called a vitrectomy where they literally remove the entire jelly from your eye and replace it with a silicone oil or a saline solution. This is an extremely risky solution and I don't know a single retinal specialist that is willing to do this surgery on someone for floaters. There is a laser procedure as well that blasts the floaters.  This is a better solution than a vitrectomy but doesn't work as well. Many patients report that instead of having a few large floaters they now have a lot of small ones.

Why should we care about floaters? Often we don't. The odd floater moving around in your vision is certainly annoying but it isn't harmful. There are situations though where floaters are a huge concern:

  • You get a large number of new floaters all at once,
  • With those new floaters you also experience a flashing light in your peripheral (side) vision like a camera or lightning flash AND/OR
  • With those new floaters you notice a curtain waving in and out of your vision.

Any of those could mean that your retina has a tear or has detached. Retinal detachments are medical emergencies and can lead to complete loss of vision in hours. Retinal tears aren't quite as urgent but usually lead to a retinal detachment so you don't really want to mess around with them either.

Really, it's best to play it safe. If you have floaters and aren't sure if they were there before or you aren't sure if they're normal floaters come in for a dilated eye exam. We'll put drops in your eyes for this type of exam (which is fully covered by Alberta Health Care) to have the best possible look at the very far outer edges of your retina to make sure there aren't any problems. If something is wrong we will get you to a retinal specialist as quickly as possible and keep your vision safe.

If you have any questions about this or anything else feel free to contact us on TwitterFacebookGoogle +, via our website or phone us at (403) 474-6744.

For more information check out these links:

All About Vision - Floaters

Ask a Doctor of Optometry - Floaters

Back to school - Time for an eye exam?

It's mid August. Summer is slowly leaving us and our thoughts turn to back to school (at least in part because the ads on TV and in stores are everywhere)! In the run up to going back to school parents typically think about shopping for new clothes, school supplies and worrying about schedules.

Have you thought about an eye exam for your kids?

You definitely should. One in four children has a visually related learning difficulty. I've lost count of the number of children I've seen who have been told they have a learning disability when in reality the problem was their vision. It can be hard to catch up if for the first several years of school you struggled to see and fell behind in the basics of reading, writing and math.

This is all very preventable. Make sure your child comes in for their first exam at age 6 months  and then is seen every year after. If they're older than 6 months and haven't had an eye exam yet be sure to get them checked soon! You might be thinking, 'Why? My child sees just fine and passed a vision screening at school." Well, we can't rely on vision screenings. They really should be called sight screenings since they're only checking sight (as in 20/20 or not) and not vision. Optometrists don't just check sight. We check how well the eyes work together and how sight is processed. Children don't have a solid understanding of how the world should look and children often assume what they see is what everyone else sees too. Many times vision screenings also only check sight with both eyes open. If one eye has a high prescription it will be missed and can lead to amblyopia.

Seeing 20/20 is important but it isn't everything. Book an eye exam to make sure your child isn't suffering from an undiagnosed vision problem.

So what should you watch for? Often there are no obvious symptoms of a vision problem (especially if it's a problem with only one eye). When a child is having vision related learning problems though they may reverse words when writing or copying, confuse the same word in the same sentence, skip lines while reading or read the same line twice to name only a few possible problems.

The best way to prevent and avoid problems is to have your child's eye examined yearly. Children's eye exams are fully covered by Alberta Health Care every year (or more frequently if required). The Alberta Association of Optometrists also has the Eye See, Eye Learn program for children age 5 to receive a free pair of glasses if required!

There's no excuse! Book your child's eye exam today.

If you have any questions about this or anything else or if you want to book an eye exam feel free to contact us on TwitterFacebookGoogle +, via our website or phone us at (403) 474-6744.

I should see an eye doctor for that? - Eye injuries

There is a lot of confusion about what optometrists really do. We are so stereotypically associated with asking people "Which is better, 1 or 2?" and correcting vision problems that people are sometimes surprised to hear that we do a lot more! To help with the confusion I decided to start this new blog series "I should see an eye doctor for that?". Some might surprise you, some might not. In today's blog I want to go review a situation where people assume they should go to an ER: Eye injuries

This is a topic that can be a bit tricky because optometrists deal with some eye injuries but not all of them.  A good rule of thumb is that if it's bleeding heavily or the eye is actually punctured (as in you have a nail stuck in your eye) please go to the ER. If you come to me I'll be sending you out the door to the ER as quickly as possible!

So where do doctors of optometry fit in? For pretty much everything else! I both love and hate lists but sometimes they're the best way to get an idea across. So, below find a list of some of the different eye injuries optometrists address that you might not expect!

Eye injuries are no fun at all.
 Top left: Black eye; Top right: Metallic object in eye; Bottom left: Chemical burn; Bottom right: Scratched eye

  • Chemicals in the eye - If you have gotten a chemical in your eye (household cleaner, hydrogen peroxide based contact lens solution, etc) your first stop should be your sink or shower to rinse out as much as humanly possible. Your next stop should be your optometrist. We can fully assess the damage and get you started on the right medications to get you healing and prevent an infection.
  • Objects in your eye - Like I mentioned above if something has punctured your eye (like a nail) or there's extreme bleeding you need to go to the ER for emergency treatment. If you have a piece of metal, small piece of wood or even an unknown object in your eye you can come and see me and I can remove it quickly and easily.
  • Scratches on your eye - If you scratch your eye somehow (paper cuts and sharp baby fingernails are common) come in and get it looked at. Usually these heal up well but we can check to make sure the damage isn't too serious, prescribe medications to prevent an infection and help with pain. Regardless of how you scratch your eye get it checked!
  • Impact to the eye - Did you get punched? Did your dog jump up and give you a black eye? Did you get hit in the face with a ball? These are all good reasons to come in and have your eye looked at. Usually there's just swelling and bruising from something like this but it's important to look at your retina. An impact to the eye that is hard enough to bruise can be enough to cause a retinal detachment and permanent vision loss.

If you're ever concerned about something related to your eyes and you aren't sure if your doctor of optometry is equipped to deal with your problem it's important that you call them and ask. Even if your optometrist isn't able to deal with something he or she can often  put you in touch with the right people, such as the on call ophthalmologist, and get you seen and treated sooner.

These types of issues are covered completely by Alberta Health Care. There is generally no charge to you for this type of visit (this can be up to the doctor's discretion. At Eye Spy Optometry we never charge for this type of visit).

If you have any questions about this or anything else feel free to contact us on TwitterFacebookGoogle +, via our website or phone us at (403) 474-6744.

Myopia? What's myopia?

Myopia is one of the most common eye conditions out there. I bet many of you reading this blog have myopia! So what is it? Myopia is the official, technical term for nearsightedness. Myopia affects approximately 40% of the North American population making it one of the most common vision problems. Despite that, many people don't really understand what myopia is! Let's shed some light on this important topic.

Myopia occurs when the eye is 'too strong' and light focuses too soon. This generally is because either the cornea (the front of the eye) is too steep OR the eye is too long (more commonly it's a combination of both). Most of us, including me, start becoming nearsighted in childhood and our vision gets progressively worse until early adulthood (around 25) at which point it stabilizes. In some cases myopia still gets worse even once we're in adulthood. It's important to remember that 'stable' vision really just means it isn't changing as much or as quickly. There are always some small changes year to year so the term stable is a bit misleading.

Luckily, myopia is very easy to treat. Glasses and contact lenses are the most common and easiest forms of treatment. Both glasses and contacts refocus the light coming into the eye allowing it to focus on the back of the eye clearly. You can also consider surgery, like LASIK or PRK which I'll talk about more in another blog.

The most common question I get from people about nearsightedness is how they can prevent it from getting worse. There are a few techniques that may help reduce how quickly a person becomes nearsighted or reduce how nearsighted they become and I'll discuss them all in more detail in a future blog. Current options to control myopia include multifocal contact lenses, Ortho-K lenses, progressives/bifocal glasses and atropine drops. The two that have shown the most success have been multifocal contacts and Ortho-K lenses and are believed to work by reducing defocus in the peripheral retina (meaning the outer edge of your eye isn't as out of focus as it might be with traditional lenses).

The biggest challenge facing us with myopia is that we still do not fully understand it. Your genetics play a role in whether you end up nearsighted or not but it isn't the whole story. Some recent research has found that people who spend more time outside have lower nearsighted prescriptions than those that spend more time indoors. The jury is still out on whether this is related to lower vitamin D levels, due to things just being further away or something else we haven't thought of yet.

If you have any questions about this or anything else feel free to contact us on Twitter, Facebook, Google +, via our website or phone us at (403) 474-6744.

 

My eye doctor can detect which disease? - Chlamydia

There is a lot of confusion about what optometrists really do. We are so stereotypically associated with asking people "Which is better, 1 or 2?" and correcting vision problems that people are sometimes surprised to hear that we do a lot more! To help with the confusion I decided to start this new blog series "My eye doctor can detect which disease?". Some might surprise you, some might not. In honour of stampede we thought we would bring you the first in this blog series: Chlamydia.

Yes, seriously.

Please do not misunderstand, you will keep ALL of your clothes on during your eye exam. What allows us to detect chlamydia is not what you might think. Chlamydia actually can show up in your eyes.

I know it's a little gross but it's true. To you, as a patient, you would think that you just had pink eye. Much like a normal pink eye there will be a lot of gooey discharge from your eyes and your eye will be red and uncomfortable. The trouble with chlamydial pink eye is that you can use antibiotic drops constantly and it just won't go away! A normal pink eye will usually go away on its own in about a week even without treatment. People usually come in frustrated because they've been on medication for weeks and their pink eye isn't improving.

This is chlamydia. You don't really want to see what this looks like in the eye, do you?

So if antibiotic drops don't help how do you fix it? The good news is that chlamydia is easily treated with a single, strong dose of azithromycin in pill form. Once the bacteria is destroyed the eye infection (and other symptoms) will go away.

Remember that even if you can treat chlamydia quickly and easily it's always better to just not get it in the first place. You'll save yourself from an embarrassing discussion with your partner(s) if you protect yourself. Have a fun stampede but remember to stay safe!

As always if you would like more information you can contact us on TwitterFacebookGoogle +, via our website or phone us at (403) 474-6744.

Save 40% on Prada and Rayban Frames June 13th!

It's finally summer and the weather is getting nicer so we've decided it's time for our first frame show! We've invited Rayban and Prada to bring their entire line of frames to our office on June 13th from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Literally every frame in the current Rayban and Prada lines will be in our office for you to see and try. Now is your chance to explore every shape, colour and style. Does this sound overwhelming to some of you? Don't worry. Our staff are experts at helping find the right frame for you. We're giving you 40% off* every single Rayban and Prada frame (including sunglasses)! To make things even better if you buy a second pair you get 25% off** the second set of lenses.

We're also going to repeat our check in for charity that we did at the Lilac Festival. Come by and check in to Eye Spy Optometry on Facebook with the hashtag #CheckIn4Charity or Tweet us @yyc_eyespy @brownbaggingit with the hashtag #CheckIn4Charity. For each Facebook check in or Tweet we will donate $1 to Brown Bagging for Calgary's Kids up to $500 (that's 500 meals)! Not a social media fan? You can donate directly to them yourself in our office and we will match your donation.*** For more information about BB4CK check out their website at:  http://bb4ck.org/

We will also have live music and delicious snacks and punch. Don't miss out!

Been a while since your last eye exam and you need an updated prescription? Book here. Have questions? Feel free to contact us on TwitterFacebookGoogle +, via our website or phone us at (403) 474-6744.

 

Save 40%* on the entire Prada and Rayban line of frames at Eye Spy Optometry June 13th

10:00am to 4:00pm

 

Buy more than one pair and get 25% off the second, third or even fourth pair of lenses!**


Fine Print:

*Discount applies on frames only with purchase of prescription lenses. This exclusion only applies to ophthalmic frames. Sunglasses can still be purchased at 40% off with or without purchase of prescription lenses.

**Discount on additional lenses only applicable on June 13th 2015 during the frame show. Discount on additional lenses applicable on any frame purchased June 13th, 2015, not limited to sale frames.

***Check in for charity and individual donations will be matched by Eye Spy Optometry up to $500 total for the day.

Bionic Lens? Maybe...

By now you may have seen the article talking about a new implantable lens that would let people see 3x better than 20/20, have clear vision at all distances and prevent cataracts. This article has been making the rounds this past week. It sounds too good to be true but it sure would be amazing if it works.

If you haven't had a chance to read the article you can by clicking here though there are several different sources including the CBC. I encourage you to take a look and read the articles. Certainly what they are proposing is very exciting, but before you throw away your glasses there are a few things to think about.

The most important thing to know is that we already have this technology (or something very similar)! There are a few multifocal lens implants out there right now, today, that can be implanted in your eye surgically. One of the most commonly used lenses is called the Restor IOL. This nifty little lens implant uses diffraction (which is a complicated optical/physics concept. Essentially it means that light is bent instead of focusing in a straight line. Fore a more detailed explanation click here.) to allow people to see far, near and everything in between. You won't get a cataract because they remove your natural lens (which turns into a cataract eventually) when they implant the Restor IOL. Sounds great, right (and similar to this new bionic lens)? It is, but (you knew there was a but coming didn't you) it comes with a few drawbacks. Diffraction allows you to see all distances but often at a cost. Vision at all distances, while excellent, is often not as clear as it was previously. The lens works very well for reading but sometimes low powered reading glasses are still needed for extended reading or very small print. That's why this lens isn't recommend for younger people; your natural vision is likely better than it would be after having this lens implanted. It is also quite expensive which rules the surgery out for some people.

This is a Restor IOL implant. Those rings diffract light and allow someone to see all distances relatively clearly

It's entirely possible this new lens design will be different and solve these problems. There's another design called an 'accommodating' lens implant. It works more like the natural lens in your eye and works to focus light clearly at all distances. There's one of those on the market right now as well. It's known as a Crystalens. The Crystalens, when it was being developed, was going to be the next big thing. Everyone hoped that it would revolutionize lens implants and given people high quality vision at all distances without the drawbacks of a diffractive lens implant. Once it got through clinical trials though and was available for popular use they discovered that while it worked it didn't work as well as they had hoped. People still needed reading glasses after their surgery and the lens is not used much anymore.

This is the Crystalens. It was hoped that it would allow clear vision at all distances are mimic your natural lens. It didn't quite work out.

This is the Crystalens. It was hoped that it would allow clear vision at all distances are mimic your natural lens. It didn't quite work out.

This new lens may be better. It might be an improvement on these designs or a totally new design (their website is vague on how this new lens will work). Certainly I expect that someday there will be a great design that will be an improvement over anything we have yet. This lens still needs to be tested though and a lot can happen between having a prototype and having something that can be used and works as well as hoped.

As always if you would like more information you can contact us on TwitterFacebookGoogle +, via our website or phone us at (403) 474-6744.

See us at the Lilac Festival, help a charity, save some money and win a TV!

As most Calgarians know, the Lilac Festival occurs every spring on 4th Street SW from the river all the way up to Central Memorial Park. There's music, food, shopping and just so much to do! If you want more information about the Lilac Festival itself I'd definitely recommend you check out their website: http://www.lilacfestival.net/

Last year was our first time having a booth in the Lilac Festival and it was an exciting and overwhelming experience. This year, with more time to prepare and more experience under our belts we're ready to have an amazing booth this year. So why should you come visit us this year?

You could win a TV!

That's right, we're giving away a brand new TV. No purchase required, no hidden fees, no strings attached. Come to our booth, fill in a ballot and enter to win a brand new TV. It's seriously that easy. Once we've drawn a name we'll contact our lucky winner and they have 30 days to collect their prize.

You can help a local charity!

This year we thought we'd help out an amazing local charity at the Lilac Festival. Brown Bagging for Calgary's Kids (also known as BB4CK) provides meals to children across our city that otherwise might have to skip a meal. They're an amazing and inspiring group of people. They someone manage to make every dollar donated turn into a meal for a child. We want to help and so we're doing something we call "Check in for Charity". Come visit our booth during the Lilac Festival and check in to Eye Spy Optometry on Facebook or Tweet us @yyc_eyespy @brownbaggingit with the hashtag #CheckIn4Charity. For each Facebook check in or Tweet we will donate $1 to Brown Bagging for Calgary's Kids up to $500 (that's 500 meals)! For more information about BB4CK check out their website at:  http://bb4ck.org/

You can save money!

On June 13th we're having a huge frame show with the full line of Rayban and Prada on site! Frames will be 40% off (including sunglasses) and if you buy multiple pairs you get 25% off your second, third and/or even fourth pair of lenses! There will be live music, food and drinks and so many amazing frames for you to choose from!
To make our frame show even more special we decided that we would donate even more to Brown Bagging for Calgary's Kids. If you attend our frame show and once again "Check in for Charity" we'll again donate $1 for each Facebook check in or tweet up to $500. Not a big social media fan but you still want to give? At our frame show we will also be matching donations to BB4CK so if you give $20 (But feel free to give as much as you like!) to charity we will too (up to $500).

We can't wait to see you on May 31st and June 13th! See you all there!

The fine print: Discount applies on frames only with purchase of prescription lenses. This exclusion only applies to ophthalmic frames. Sunglasses can still be purchased at 40% off with or without purchase of prescription lenses. Discount on additional lenses applicable on any frame purchased June 13th, 2015, not limited to sale frames.

First year anniversary!

Happy Anniversary to us!

It's been one year since we opened our doors and began working for the fine people of Calgary. We've loved being a part of the Beltline, Mt. Royal and Mission-Cliff Bungalow communities this past year. We look forward to spending many more years helping you see your world clearly and keeping your eyes safe and healthy.

Come see us during the Lilac Festival this May 31st! We'll be located just outside of our office at 1518 4th Street SW! If you stop by our booth you can enter to win a brand new, free TV and help a chairity too! (Details to come)!

To celebrate our first year of service to our community we're having a huge sale on June 13th! Come by and check it out for some amazing savings. (Details to come shortly for this too)!

Thank you for letting us be a part of your community and your health this past year and many years to come.

Dr. Mark Ross and the team at Eye Spy Optometry

I should see an eye doctor for that? - Eye Infections

There is a lot of confusion about what optometrists really do. We are so stereotypically associated with asking people "Which is better, 1 or 2?" and correcting vision problems that people are sometimes surprised to hear that we do a lot more! To help with the confusion I decided to start this new blog series "I should see an eye doctor for that?". Some might surprise you, some might not. In today's blog I want to go over one that should be obvious: eye infections.

Eye infections, often known as pink eye, are really common. Your eye might be red, gooey, watery, itchy, sore and your vision may be blurred. They aren't pleasant. So if you wake up with a nasty red eye who are you going to call? If you said Ghostbusters congratulations for being born in the 80's. Assuming your eye isn't haunted though you're going to need a doctor. So, do you go see your medical doctor or your doctor of optometry?

Medical doctors are of course fully trained to deal with eye infections and can prescribe you what you need. So, why would you see an optometrist instead? 

1. Optometrists have specialized equipment. This equipment is designed to look closely at the eye to determine what type of infection you have, how serious it is and if it is actually an infection or something else. Most MDs do not. Having this information means we can target the infection directly leading to faster healing times and a lower chance of a misdiagnosis (which could make the problem worse depending on what is prescribed).

2. There's no wait! You can generally get in to see an optometrist within a few minutes. My MD is great but I almost always have to wait to get in even when I have an appointment. The wait times at an ER for something like this will be brutal because it's not an emergency and you'll be waiting for ages.

3. It's fully covered by Alberta Health Care. So long as you provide us with your Alberta Health Care number a visit for an eye infection is considered medically required.

So, it's faster, it's free and we have all the specialized equipment and training to make a good diagnosis and fix your infection. There's no reason not to come see an optometrist! After all, if you had a toothache would you go see your medical doctor or would you see your dentist?

If you want to read more feel free to check out the following links or as always you can contact us on Twitter, Facebook, Google +, via our website or phone us at (403) 474-6744.

Canadian Association of Optometrists - Conjunctivitis

American Optometric Association - Conjunctivitis

All About Vision - Pink Eye