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



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.



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.

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.

Part 2: So, eye doctors do exams on babies? How does that even work? Why bother?

In this continuation from Part 1 of our two part blog about children's eye exams we talk more about how our eye work together, eye health and how we check these areas out on young children.

We often don’t think about it, but it’s pretty amazing that we don’t see double all the time. Our eyes have to line up perfectly all the time and work together well to allow us to see properly. It’s perhaps not surprising to hear that sometimes the system breaks down. It’s very obvious when someone has a big eye turn in or out and most parents would notice that. What is trickier is when the eye only turns sometimes, only turns when reading or there’s a muscle problem that doesn’t result in any eye turns at all! Many people have a muscle alignment problem that causes a lot of symptoms  but the eyes themselves don’t actually visibly turn in or out when both eyes are open. For a child trying to learn how to read this is a big deal! Kids may skip words, confuse letters, say letters are moving or have any other number of problems that people think is a learning problem but is actually an eye problem. A simple test to confirm the alignment of the eyes, standard on all eye exams, can help to prevent or solve a whole host of problems.

The thing about eyes is we only get two. It’s important to take care of them right from the start. We encourage our kids to take care of their first set of teeth even though they’re going to get more! We want a dentist to make sure they have healthy mouths. If something goes wrong with our eyes we don’t get to have a replacement! The majority of kids are, again, very healthy. Unfortunately though eye health problems in kids are either extremely serious and require early detection and treatment or are very minor like pink eye that just require drops. Most eye cancer, for example, strikes young kids under the age of five. It’s very rare but very serious.  There are many eye diseases that can affect children and by looking inside the eye and out optometrists can detect them early.

80% of learning is visual. I see so many kids that are being treated for attention problems or are getting special tutoring because they’re falling behind in school but their only problem is that they can’t see or their eyes aren’t working together. I don’t know about you, but I would probably act out too if I couldn’t see what was going on all day! Kids 18 and under are 100% covered by Alberta Health Care so you don’t have to pay a dime! You really don’t have an excuse not to bring your kids in and get them checked!

If you have more questions about this, or any other topic, always feel welcome to contact us on Twitter, Facebook, Google + or via our website.

For more information about children's eye exams check out the links below:

Eye Exams for Infants

Eye Exams for Preschoolers

Eye Exams for School Age Children

Part 1: So, eye doctors do exams on babies? How does that even work? Why bother?

People love their kids, that’s pretty much a given fact. Everyone wants to make sure they do the best they can to help their kids be everything they want to be! You take them in for their shots and check ups, make sure their teeth are healthy with the dentist and keep them busy with sports or music or any number of things! What many parents forget is to have their child’s eyes checked by an Optometrist.

I completely understand how this happens: People don’t think we can do eye exams on young kids; they think that little Timmy sees just fine thank you very much; they just don’t think it’s necessary!  The thing is the consequences of assuming everything is fine can be quite serious. It's much better to check and know everything is fine than to not check and hope for the best.

Optometrists are fully trained to do eye exams on just about anyone including small children. We actually start seeing kids as young as 6 months (and we really only wait that long because the eyes are still learning how to work together properly before then). I know you’re thinking “But, what on earth are you going to do with my 6 month old!” Don’t worry. We don’t require that our patients answer all those questions to get the information we need. Without any questions we can still assess the three major areas all optometrists check: how well the eyes focus, how well the eyes work together and how healthy the eyes are inside and out.

To check how well the eyes focus, especially on kids or people who are non-verbal, optometrists use a tool called a retinoscope. When we shine it back and forth at someone’s eyes we see a light reflex. Depending on how that reflex moves we can tell if someone is near-sighted, far-sighted or has astigmatism. We use lenses to ‘neutralize’ that reflex and that tells us  what the prescription is. We can do this on anyone of any age but it only gives us an estimate of the prescription so we still ask adults all those darn questions. Most kids don’t have a significant prescription, even if they may develop one later in life. Some children though have very extreme prescriptions. If the prescription isn’t corrected it can lead to amblyopia, a condition that prevents someone from having  clear vision even with glasses on.  

A lot of parents assume that if their child hasn’t complained they must not have a problem. This isn’t accurate for a couple reasons. If only one eye is affected your little guy can see just fine… it’s just only out of one eye. Since most kids don’t walk around with one eye closed they don’t usually notice the problem! The other issue is that kids don’t really know what they should be seeing, especially when they’re very young. If both eyes are affected he or she may not realize there’s a problem and assume that this is just how everyone sees. It’s not until they’re much older, 7 or 8, that they start to realize something isn’t quite right at which point it’s almost too late to treat.

Our next blog will continue to explore kids eye exams and talk a bit more about how our eyes work together, eye health and how we check those out on young kids.

If you have more questions about this, or any other topic, always feel welcome to contact us on Twitter, Facebook, Google + or via our website.

For more information about children's eye exams check out the links below:

Eye Exams for Infants

Eye Exams for Preschoolers

Eye Exams for School Age Children