Eye Care


Nutrition

Overview

It is common knowledge that a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables promotes good health. It is not as commonly known that the variety of colours in fruit and vegetables reflects the different health benefits we receive from them.

We know that we need to eat a balanced sensible diet for general physical health and well-being, but there are specific foods that contain vitamins which promote eye health and may even help to prevent certain eye diseases.

Vitamin A

Does a carrot a day keep the optometrist away? The short and simple answer is yes, to an extent. The orange colour in carrots comes from beta carotene, and carrots also contain large amounts of vitamin A, both of which contribute to eye health and help prevent macular degeneration and cataracts.

The idea that carrots contribute to good vision goes back to World War II. At that time, most foods were in short supply, but carrots were not. The British Royal Air Force credited eating carrots with their pilots' increased ability to see the enemy in the dark. A rumour was set in motion to motivate more people to eat carrots.

Today, that view still exists, and there is some truth, as well as some exaggeration, to it.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for over-all wellness and for the health of the eyes. In addition to providing antioxidants which fight disease, it can help slow down the development of cataracts and reduce the risk of macular degeneration.

Vitamin C and bioflavanoids work hand in hand in the body, and are thought to be most effective when taken together rather than separately. Bioflavanoids help the body to defend against seasonal allergies, which usually affect the eyes. Because they are the natural pigments that give fruit and vegetables their colour, they are found in almost any foods containing vitamin C, including citrus fruits, tomatoes, berries, tropical fruits and green leafy vegetables.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is found in certain nuts and seeds, such as almonds, peanuts, pine nuts and sunflower seeds, and in dried apricots. It is believed to be an excellent antioxidant and to help against macular degeneration and cataracts.

Purple

Rhodopsin is a purple pigment that helps us to see in situations where the light is low. This nutrient is abundant in carrots as well as in certain berries.

Green

As well as being found in spinach and turnip greens, lutein is found in the retina of the eye, making it an important role-player in healthy vision. Lutein is an antioxidant, and may help prevent age-related vision problems such as cataracts and macular degeneration.

Eating the right foods, particularly fruit and vegetables, can provide an excellent defence against vision problems that often occur later in life.

Ocular First Aid

Overview

When eye injuries occur, knowing how to deal with them can mean the difference between minor eye damage and permanent injury, or even blindness. Here are some first aid suggestions for eye injuries. But, please remember, these suggestions are only first aid. It is important for you to contact your eye-care practitioner as soon as possible for any eye injuries.

If you have a foreign object in your eye, don't rub it. Lift your upper eyelid outward and gently pull it down over the lower lash. This causes tears to flow which may wash the object out of your eye. You may have to repeat this several times. If the object does not wash out, contact your optometrist. Do not try to remove a particle that is embedded. You can cause more damage. If you are wearing contact lenses, remove the lens and clean it thoroughly before putting it back in your eye. If discomfort persists, remove, clean again and reapply. If discomfort continues, remove the lens and call your optometrist.

For chemicals splashed in your eyes, immediately flush your eyes with cool water for at least 15 minutes. If possible, hold your head under a slowly running tap, or pour water slowly from a glass or clear container. Seek professional attention immediately. If you are wearing contact lenses, remove them immediately. Then flush your eyes and seek professional help as described.

A blow to your face resulting in a black eye can be treated with cold compresses for about 15 minutes every hour. Your eye should be checked by your eye-care practitioner for internal damage. If the blow breaks your contact lenses, try to remove pieces of the lens immediately. Rinsing with water will help. Then call your optometrist.

Do not try to treat a cut, laceration or penetrating eye injury. Do not flush the eye with water or put any medicine in the eye. If you are wearing a contact lens, don't try to remove it. Gently cover the eye with a bandage or gauze pad and go directly to your doctor or a nearby hospital.

Remember, the best way to treat eye injuries is to prevent them from happening in the first place. Don't forget to be aware of potential eye hazards and wear appropriate eye protection.

Pre-School Vision

Overview

During the infant and toddler years, your child has been developing many vision skills and has been learning how to see. In the preschool years, this process continues, as your child develops visually guided eye-hand-body coordination, fine motor skills and the visual motor skills necessary to learn to read.

As a parent, you should watch for signs that may indicate a vision development problem, including a short attention span for the child's age; difficulty with eye-hand-body coordination in ball play and bike riding; avoidance of colouring and puzzles and other detailed activities.

There are everyday things that you can do at home to help your preschooler's vision develop as it should.

These activities include reading aloud to your child and letting him or her see what you are reading; providing a chalkboard, finger paints and different shaped blocks and showing your child how to use them in imaginative play; providing safe opportunities to use playground equipment like a jungle gym and balance beam; and allowing time for interacting with other children and for playing independently.

By age three, your child should have a thorough optometric eye examination to make sure your preschooler's vision is developing properly and there is no evidence of eye disease. If needed, your doctor can prescribe treatment including glasses and/or vision therapy to correct a vision development problem.

Here are several tips to make your child's optometric examination a positive experience: 

  1. Make an appointment early in the day. Allow about one hour.

  2. Talk about the examination in advance and encourage your child's questions.

  3. Explain the examination in your child's terms, comparing the E chart to a puzzle and the instruments to tiny flashlights and a kaleidoscope.

Unless your optometrist advises otherwise, your child's next eye examination should be at age five. By comparing test results of the two examinations, your optometrist can tell how well your child's vision is developing for the next major step...into the school years.


Regular Optometric Care

Overview

Periodic optometric examinations are an important part of routine preventive health care. Many eye and vision conditions present no obvious symptoms. Therefore, individuals are often unaware that a problem exists. Early diagnosis and treatment are important for maintaining good vision and when possible preventing permanent vision loss.

The need for and frequency of optometric examinations varies with age, race, medical history, family history, occupation and other factors. Individuals with ocular signs or symptoms require prompt examination. In addition, the presence of certain risk factors may necessitate more frequent evaluations based on professional judgment. 


 

Infants and Children


Newborns are typically screened at birth for congenital eye disorders and disease. In addition, all infants should receive an evaluation for vision problems and eye disease by an optometrist by six months of age or sooner if abnormalities or risk factors are present. Early diagnosis and treatment are important to assure proper visual development, to prevent vision loss due to eye disease and to manage hereditary or congenital eye disorders such as lazy eye or crossed eyes.

In the absence of specific problems or symptoms, re-examinations at age three and prior to entry into school are recommended. These examinations provide the opportunity to evaluate the level of a child's visual development and can provide early diagnosis and intervention to prevent visual impairment due to various conditions.

At Risk: Infants born prematurely, with low birth weight, or whose mother had rubella, venereal disease, AIDS related infection or a history of substance abuse or other medical problems during pregnancy are at a particularly high risk for the development of eye and vision problems. Also, the presence of high refractive error or a family history of eye disease, crossed eyes or congenital eye disorders places infants and children at risk.


 

School-aged Children

 

Vision may change frequently during the school years. The most common problems are due to the development and progression of nearsightedness. In addition, the existence of eye focusing and/or eye coordination problems may affect school performance. Periodic examinations are recommended.

At Risk: Children failing to progress educationally or exhibiting reading and/or learning disabilities should receive an optometric examination as part of a multidisciplinary evaluation.


 

Adults

During the adult years, the increased visual demands of our technological society bring about the need for regular optometric care. While the incidence of ocular disease is low for young adults, vocational and recreational visual demands are significant. To maintain visual efficiency, productivity, and optimum eye health, periodic examinations are recommended.

Adults, beginning in their early to mid-forties, can experience changes in their ability to see clearly at close distances. This normal aging change in the eye's focusing ability will continue during the forties and fifties. In addition, increases in the incidence of eye health problems occur during these years. Therefore, periodic eye examinations are recommended.

At Risk: Individuals diagnosed with diabetes or hypertension, or who have a family history of glaucoma,  those who work in highly visually demanding or eye hazardous occupations, those taking certain systemic medications with ocular side effects or those with other health concerns or conditions.

 


 

Older Adults

Individuals age 61 or older have an increasing risk for the development of cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration and other sight threatening or visually disabling eye conditions as well as systemic health conditions. Therefore, annual eye examinations are recommended.

At Risk: Individuals diagnosed with diabetes or hypertension, or who have a family history of glaucoma or cataracts, and those taking systemic medications with ocular side effects or those with other health concerns or conditions.

FREQUENCY OF EXAMINATION*
Age Asymptomatic / Risk Free At Risk
Infants and toddlers
(birth to 24 months)
By 6 months of age By 6 months of age
or as recommended
Preschool
(2 to 5 years)
At 3 years of age At 3 years of age
or as recommended
School age
(6 to 18 years)
Before first grade and every two years thereafter Annually
or as recommended
Adults
(19 to 40 years)
Every two to three years Every one to two years
or as recommended
Adults
(41 to 60 years)
Every two years Every one to two years
or as recommended
Older adult
(61 years and older)
Annually Annually
or as recommended

* Guidelines in this table may be insufficient for contact lens wearers.

Avoiding Fireworks Injuries

Overview

Thousands of eye injuries, which often result in permanent vision loss, occur each year from accidents with fireworks. Be safe this year and enjoy the public fireworks displays that many communities sponsor. They are presented by highly skilled professionals and they are bigger, brighter and more beautiful than home displays, as well as much less dangerous.

If fireworks are legal where you live and you decide to set them off on your own, be sure to follow these important safety tips:

  • Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks, even sparklers.

  • Read and follow all warnings and instructions carefully.

  • Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.

  • Only light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from the house, dry leaves and flammable materials.

  • Never try to relight fireworks that have not fully functioned.

  • Keep a bucket of water handy in case of a malfunction or a fire.

  • Always wear safety goggles when lighting fireworks to protect your eyes from flying sparks and particles of debris (inexpensive goggles are available at most hardware stores).

In case of an eye injury from a fireworks accident, you should:

  • Seek professional attention from your eye care practitioner immediately (even for seemingly mild injuries).

  • Do not rub the injured eye. This will often cause more damage.

  • Protect the eye from pressure. In an emergency, you may tape the bottom of a foam cup or milk carton over the injured area until you can get professional attention.

  • Do not apply any ointment or medication without your practitioner's instructions.

Contact Lenses and Cosmetics

Overview

Here are some tips to help you wear your contact lenses and your cosmetics safely and comfortably together:

  • Put on soft contact lenses before applying makeup.

  • Put on rigid gas-permeable (RGP) lenses after makeup is applied.

  • Avoid lash-extending mascara, which has fibres that can irritate the eyes, and waterproof mascara, which cannot be easily removed with water and may stain soft contact lenses.

  • Remove lenses before removing makeup.

  • Choose an oil-free moisturizer.

  • Don't use hand creams or lotions before handling your lenses. They can leave a film on your lenses.

  • Use hairspray before putting on your contact lenses. If you use hairspray while you are wearing your lenses, close your eyes during spraying and for a few seconds afterwards.

  • Blink your eyes frequently while under a hair drier or blower to keep your eyes from getting too dry.

  • Keep false eyelash cement, nail polish and remover, perfume and cologne away from the lenses. They can damage the plastic.

  • Choose water-based, hypo-allergenic liquid foundations. Cream makeup may leave a film on your lenses.

Dangers of Laser Pointers

Overview

Parents and school teachers should be aware of the possibility of eye damage to children from hand-held laser pointers.

The light energy that laser pointers can aim into the eye can be more damaging than staring directly into the sun.

They are not toys, but are useful tools for adults that should be used by children only with adequate supervision.

Momentary exposure from a laser pointer, such as might occur from an inadvertent sweep of the light across a person's eyes, causes only temporary flash blindness. However, even this can be dangerous if the exposed person is engaged in a vision-critical activity such as driving.

Eyes and Ageing

Overview

As one of today's "older adults" you probably enjoy a more active lifestyle than people of your age ever have before and your eyes and vision play a major role in your lifestyle. You use your eyes while driving; enjoying recreational activities; reading; watching television; and performing many tasks that keep you living independently and productively.

But, as you mature, you may begin noticing subtle changes in your vision. Although they may cause some concern, some vision changes are normal and only a few conditions are sight threatening.

Here are some suggestions to help you understand your age-related vision limitations and compensate for them:

  • You will probably need more light for reading and other close tasks. Move a lamp closer to you or use a stronger wattage bulb.

  • When taking medication, be sure to read the label carefully and follow directions. Take your medication in a well-lit room to avoid confusing or mixing up medications.

  • Side vision and reaction time may reduce with age, so keep this in mind while you are driving or walking near traffic.

  • Limit night driving to well lighted roads; keep headlights and windshields clean; and be sure to keep your spectacles clean.

Age-related vision changes can't be prevented, but they need not mean you must give up activities like driving or reading. By practicing good general health habits and having regular optometric eye examinations, you should be able to continue enjoying an active, productive and independent life.

Learning to See

INFANT'S VISION

Your baby has a whole lifetime to see and learn. But, did you know that your baby also has to learn to see? As a parent, there are many things that you can do to help your baby's vision develop.  First, proper prenatal care and nutrition can help your baby's eyes develop even before birth. At birth, your baby's eyes should be examined for signs of congenital eye problems. These are rare, but early diagnosis and treatment are important to your child's development.

At about age six months, you should take your baby to your optometrist for his or her first thorough eye examination. Things that the optometrist will test for include excessive or unequal amounts of nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism and eye movement ability as well as eye health problems. These problems are not common, but it is important to identify children who have them at this stage. Vision development and eye health problems can be more easily corrected if treatment is begun early.

Unless you notice a need, or your optometrist advises you otherwise, your child's next examination should be around age three, and then again before he or she enters school.

Between birth and age three, when many of your baby's vision skills will develop, there are ways that you can help.

During the first four months of life, your baby should begin to follow moving objects with the eyes and reach for things, first by chance and later more accurately, as hand-eye coordination and depth perception begin to develop.

To help, use a nightlight or other dim lamp in your baby's room; change the crib's position frequently and your child's position in it; keep reach-and-touch toys within your baby's focus, about eight to twelve inches; talk to your baby as you walk around the room; alternate right and left sides with each feeding; and hang a mobile above and outside the crib.

Between four and eight months, your baby should begin to turn from side to side and use his or her arms and legs. Eye movement and eye/body coordination skills should develop further and both eyes should focus equally.

You should enable your baby to explore different shapes and textures with his or her fingers; give your baby the freedom to crawl and explore; hang objects across the crib; and play "patty cake"and "peek-a-boo" with your baby.

From eight to twelve months, your baby should be mobile now, crawling and pulling himself or herself up. He or she will begin to use both eyes together and judge distances and grasp and throw objects with greater precision. To support development don't encourage early walking - crawling is important in developing eye-hand-foot-body coordination; give your baby stacking and take-apart toys; and provide objects your baby can touch, hold and see at the same time.

From one to two years, your child's eye-hand coordination and depth perception will continue to develop and he or she will begin to understand abstract terms. Things you can do are: encourage walking; provide building blocks, simple puzzles and balls; and provide opportunities to climb and explore indoors and out.

There are many other affectionate and loving ways in which you can aid your baby's vision development. Use your creativity and imagination. Ask your optometrist to suggest other specific activities.

Low Vision

Overview

What is Low Vision? Few people are totally without sight. Most classified as blind today actually have some sight remaining and, thanks to developments in the field of low vision, can be helped to make good use of it.

Anyone with reduced vision is visually impaired, and can have problems functioning, ranging from minor to severe difficulty. There are two general classifications of low vision in use today:

  • partially sighted - visual acuity, that with best correction is still between 20/70 and 20/200 (a person with 20/70 eyesight must be 20 feet away to see clearly an object that a person with 20/20 eyesight can see clearly from 70 feet away);

  • legal blindness - visual acuity that cannot be corrected to better than 20/200 with conventional lenses and/or the patient has a restricted field of vision less than 20 degrees wide. 

Low vision impairments take many forms and exist in varying degrees. It is important to understand that the visual acuity alone is not a good predictor of the degree of the problem.

What Causes Low Vision?

Several eye diseases may be responsible for low vision, including:

    • Macular Degeneration - A disorder that affects the retina, the light sensitive lining at the back of the eye where images are focused. The macula -the area on the retina responsible for sharp central vision- deteriorates, gradually causing blurred vision, difficulty reading, and finally, a blind spot in the central area of vision. This is known as the "dry" form of macular degeneration, is age-related, and the leading cause of blindness in people over 50. The exact cause is unknown, but may be related to smoking, and possibly long-term exposure to high levels of the sun's ultraviolet radiation and blue light. More rapid and severe vision loss comes from the "wet" form, when abnormal blood vessels develop under the macula and leak fluid and blood. There are also juvenile forms which are hereditary.
    • Diabetic Retinopathy - Diabetes can cause blood vessels that nourish the retina to leak, develop brush-like branches or enlarge. This can interfere with vision and, over time, may destroy the retina. Laser procedures and surgical treatments are used to reduce its progression.
    • Retinitis Pigmentosa - Gradually destroys night vision, severely reduces side vision, and may result in total blindness. An inherited disease, it usually produces its first symptom - night blindness - in childhood or adolescence.
    • Retrolental Fibroplasia (retinopathy of prematurity) - Occurs in infants born prematurely and, in some cases, is caused by high oxygen levels in incubators during the first 10 days of life.
    • Retinal Detachment - Can result in total blindness in the detached area of the affected eye. It involves the retina separating from its underlying layer. Causes are holes in the retina, eye trauma, infection, blood vessel disturbance or a tumour. Through early diagnosis, most detached retinas can be surgically re-attached with partial restoration of vision.
    • Cataracts - A clouding of part or all of the lens inside the eye. This prevents light from reaching the retina at the back of the eye, resulting in a generalized loss of vision. Causes are aging, long-term exposure to the sun's ultraviolet radiation, injury, disease and inherited disorders. If the eye is healthy, the cataract can be surgically removed and vision restored, usually with intraocular lens implants. Cataract surgery has a high success rate but a small number of those for whom it is not successful will require low vision care.
  • Glaucoma - The internal pressure in the eye builds up because of problems with the flow or drainage of fluid within the eye, damaging the optic nerve and causing partial or total loss of sight. There are no early symptoms in the most common form, but the first signs of damage are side vision defects. Early diagnosis and treatment with drugs or sometimes surgery can minimize vision loss.

Vision can also be lost or damaged as a result of head injuries, brain damage and strokes.

What are the Most Common Types of Low Vision?

    • Loss of Central Vision - the centre of the person's view is blurred or blocked, but side (peripheral) vision remains intact. This makes it difficult to read or recognize faces and most details in the distance. Mobility, however, is usually unaffected because side vision remains intact.
    • Loss of Side Vision - typified by an inability to distinguish anything to one side or both sides, or anything directly above and/or below eye level. Central vision remains, however, making it possible to see what is directly ahead. Typically, loss of side vision affects mobility and slows reading speed because the person sees only a few words at a time. Sometimes referred to as "tunnel vision."
    • Blurred Vision - objects both near and far appear out of focus, even with the best conventional spectacle correction possible and even when the target is very large.
    • Generalized Haze - the sensation of a film or glare that may extend over the entire viewing field and may produce various patterns or areas of relatively severe vision loss.
    • Extreme Light Sensitivity - exists when standard levels of illumination overwhelm the visual system, producing a washed out image and glare disability. People with extreme light sensitivity may actually suffer pain or discomfort from relatively normal levels of illumination.
  • Night Blindness - inability to see outside at night under starlight or moonlight, or in dimly lighted interior areas such as movie theaters or restaurants.
Protective Eyewear

Overview

Human eyes have a certain degree of natural protection, but every year, thousands of people suffer accidental eye injuries. Many injuries could be prevented if people would wear proper eye protection. Here are some types of safety eyewear that can protect your eyes from hazardous situations. Remember to wear the proper protection at work and when working around the house or yard.

Impact resistant spectacles provide limited protection from the front. Prescription eyewear should be impact-resistant, but this does not mean they are shatterproof.

Industrial strength safety glasses provide much more frontal protection against flying objects. They contain specially treated glass, plastic or polycarbonate lenses that meet industrial safety lens standards. Of all the materials, polycarbonate is the most impact resistant. These lenses should be mounted in special safety frames designed to hold the lenses securely in place under heavy impact. Studies show that lenses of more than 2mm thick are less likely to fall out of the frames under heavy impact. For additional protection, various types of side shields can be attached to the sides of the frames. Use with side shields for machining, light grinding or woodworking.

Safety goggles offer significant frontal and side protection against the danger of flying objects. If you wear glasses, you can wear most goggles over your regular glasses for protection and good vision. Use for heavy grinding and chipping.

Face shields protect your eyes from chemical splashes and from some flying particles, but they are not made for heavy impact. If you are working with highly toxic or unstable chemicals, you should wear goggles under the face shield. Use for laboratory work and liquid chemical handling.

Welding goggles and shields contain special absorptive or filter lenses for protection against welding rays, sparks or flying particles. Wear when welding or working around welding.

Sunglasses can protect your eyes against the harmful rays of the sun. To provide adequate protection sunglasses should:

  1. Block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation;

  2. Screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light;

  3. Be perfectly matched in colour and free of distortion and imperfection;

  4. Have lenses that are gray, green or brown. 

If you wear contact lenses, you can now enjoy an added measure of protection. Contact lenses are now available with a UV blocking feature. These contact lenses should not be worn in place of your sunglasses, but do provide additional protection by blocking much of the UV radiation that can seep in from above and below your sunglasses. It is also a good idea to wear a hat or cap with a wide brim if you are in the sun. Sunglasses that are worn while you participate in eye hazardous work or sports should be made of 2mm thick polycarbonate.

Eye protection is also a major concern to all sports participants, especially those playing certain high risk sports. These include tennis, squash, ice hockey, badminton, archery, baseball/softball, fencing, boxing, karate and any sport with a projectile. There are many types of sports eyewear available in either prescription or non-prescription lenses. Ask your optometrist which one is best suited for your sport.

The lenses in your protective eyewear should provide clear, comfortable vision with little distortion. Excessively scratched, pitted or chipped lenses can lose their impact resistance and should be replaced. Eye protective equipment should fit snugly and correctly. Straps, frames and other parts should be durable and fit comfortably. Your optometrist can offer advice about what eye protection you need.

School-age Vision

Overview

A good education for your child means good schools, good teachers and good vision. Your child's eyes are constantly in use in the classroom and at play. So when his or her vision is not functioning properly, learning and participation in recreational activities will suffer.

The basic vision skills needed for school use are:

  • Near vision. The ability to see clearly and comfortably at 25-30 centimetres.

  • Distance vision. The ability to see clearly and comfortably beyond arm's reach.

  • Binocular coordination. The ability to use both eyes together.

  • Eye movement skills. The ability to aim the eyes accurately, move them smoothly across a page and shift them quickly and accurately from one object to another.

  • Focusing skills. The ability to keep both eyes accurately focused at the proper distance to see clearly and to change focus quickly.

  • Peripheral awareness. The ability to be aware of things located to the side while looking straight ahead.

  • Eye/hand coordination. The ability to use the eyes and hands together.

If any of these or other vision skills is lacking or not functioning properly, your child will have to work harder. This can lead to headaches, fatigue and other eyestrain problems. As a parent, be alert for symptoms that may indicate your child has a vision or visual processing problem.

Be sure to tell your optometrist if your child frequently:

  • Loses their place while reading;

  • Avoids close work;

  • Holds reading material closer than normal;

  • Tends to rub their eyes;

  • Has headaches;

  • Turns or tilts head to use one eye only;

  • Makes frequent reversals when reading or writing;

  • Uses finger to maintain place when reading;

  • Omits or confuses small words when reading;

  • Consistently performs below potential.

Since vision changes can occur without you or your child noticing them, your child should visit the optometrist at least every two years, or more frequently, if specific problems or risk factors exist. If needed, the optometrist can prescribe treatment including spectacles, contact lenses or vision therapy.

Remember, a school vision or paediatrician's screening is not a substitute for a thorough eye examination.

Toys and Vision

Overview

From the moment of birth, your child is learning to see. He or she progresses from the newborn's blurry world of light and dark to the school-age child's sophisticated ability to handle complex vision tasks. Toys, games and playtime activities help by stimulating this process of vision development.

Here is a list of toys and activities that can help your child develop or improve various vision skills.

Birth through 5 months:

  • Toys: Sturdy cot mobiles and gyms; bright large rattles and rubber squeaky toys.

  • Activities: Peek-a-boo; patty cake.

6 months through 8 months:

  • Toys: Stuffed animals; floating bath toys.

  • Activities: Hide and seek with toys.

9 months through 12 months:

  • Toys: Sturdy cardboard books; take-apart toys; snap-lock beads; blocks; stacking/nesting toys.

  • Activities: Roll a ball back and forth.

One-year olds:

  • Toys: Bright balls; blocks; zippers; rocking horse; riding toys pushed with the feet.

  • Activities: Throwing a ball.

Two-year olds:

  • Toys: Pencils, markers, crayons; bean bag/ring toss games; peg hammering toys, sorting games; puzzles; blocks.

  • Activities: Read to child; outdoor play; catch.

3 to 6 years:

  • Toys: Building toys with large snap-together pieces; stringing beads; puzzles; pegboard crayons; finger paints; chalk; large balls; modeling clay; simple sewing cards; tricycle; follow-the-dot games; sticker books and games.

  • Activities: Climbing, running; using a balance beam.

7 years and older:

  • Toys: Bicycle; skipping ropes, pogo sticks; roller skates; different size and shape balls; target games; remote controlled toys; complex puzzles;

  • Activities: Active sports; cycling.

When buying toys, remember to select those that are well-made and age appropriate. Provide proper eye safety equipment for older children and be certain that they wear protective eyeware when participating in eye hazardous sports and when using chemistry sets, tools or other items. Inexpensive homemade toys can be just as effective in helping children develop and improve their vision skills as expensive store bought ones.


HAZARDOUS TOYS

Certain toys pose a serious threat to children's vision; most injuries are preventable.

The following are guidelines for choosing safe toys for a child:

  • Avoid poorly designed toys with sharp, pointed or rough edges that can cut or poke.

  • Avoid poorly constructed toys with exposed nails or made of a brittle material that can shatter, sending splinters or sharp pieces into a child's eyes.

  • Choose toy brooms, mops, sweepers and push toys with sticks that have rounded edges.

  • Select toys appropriate to the child's age. Children under two should not have toys with stick handles. Those under six should not play with darts, arrows, catapults, other missile-throwing games or toys that eject missiles. Even those with suction cup tips can be unsafe in their hands.

  • Teach older children the proper way to play with darts, arrows, catapults and other missile-throwing toys and supervise their play.

  • Require older children and teens to wear safety goggles when playing or working with chemistry sets, some hobby kits, workshop tools, rifles and pellet guns. These safety goggles can be purchased at hardware, hobby and department stores.

  • Be certain children have and wear the proper goggles when using minibikes, skate boards and roller skates.

Using Eyedrops and Ointments Correctly

Overview

Your optometrist may prescribe eyedrops and/or ointments for you to use to treat certain eye conditions, infections or diseases. Before you use these, be sure to tell your optometrist about any other prescription or non-prescription medications that you are taking or any allergies that you have.

Here are some general tips about correctly putting eyedrops in your eyes:

  1. Always wash your hands before handling medications

  2. Look at the ceiling by standing or sitting and tilting your head backwards. Some people like to lie down on a flat surface.

  3. The best way to ensure the drop remains in your eye is to gently pull the skin of your lower eyelid between your thumb and index finger to create a "pocket" for the drop. If you are unable to master this, gently pull your lower lid down with your index finger.

  4. Look up (so you are not looking directly at the bottle) and gently release a drop into the pocket of your eye. Keep the bottle's nozzle or the eyedropper clean by not touching it to any part of your eyes.

  5. If you are unable to get the drop into your eye because of blinking, try this: Close your eye and pull the lower lid down. Aim the drop into the inside corner of your eye. Open your eye and let the drop run into your lower lid. (Be sure to try the open-eye method at your next scheduled dose as it is a more reliable way to ensure the drop remains in your eye).

  6. To help keep the medication in your eye and prevent it from escaping through the tear duct, your optometrist may instruct you to "occlude" this duct by gently pressing on the inside corner of your closed eye with your index finger for about three minutes. If drops have been placed in both eyes, you can perform occlusion by placing your thumb and index finger (or the index fingers of both hands) on either side of your nose and gently pressing down on the inside corners of both closed eyes. This step is very important with some medications, so do not skip it if your optometrist specifies it.

  7. Gently blot your closed eyes with a tissue to wipe away any excess drops.

  8. If you use more than one kind of drop, wait at least five minutes between drops.

Here are some general tips about correctly putting ointment in your eyes.

  1. Begin by expressing and discarding a ½cm of ointment from the tube at each use.

  2. If applying to your eye's surface, form a pocket by gently pulling the skin of your lower eye-lid between your thumb and index finger to create a pocket for the ointment. Then express a ½cm to 1cm strip of ointment into the pocket (unless your optometrist prescribes a different amount).

  3. Twist your wrist to break the strip of ointment from the tube.

  4. After placing the ointment in your eye, blink or close your eyes briefly. Your body heat will melt the ointment so it can spread across the surface of your eyes.

  5. If you are applying the ointment to the edges of your eyelids, express about a 1cm strip of ointment onto your finger and glide it across the length of your closed lids near the base of your lashes.

  6. Use a soft, clean tissue to remove any excess ointment from the skin around your eyes. Be sure not to disturb the ointment placed in your eyes or on the edges of your eyes.

Be sure to follow all the instructions that your optometrist gives you and to complete the course of medication he or she prescribes. If you experience any side-effects, (such as burning, inflammation, puffiness, itching, etc.) call your optometrist immediately.


Vision and Sports

Overview

Do you wish you could improve your batting average in the weekend cricket league; cut a few strokes off your golf score; or take your tennis game to the next level? Vision, just like speed and strength, is an important ingredient in how well you play your sport.

Your vision is composed of many skills, and just as excercise and practice can increase your speed and strength, it can improve your vision skills. You can select from the list below to see explanations of specific vision skills and tips to improve them.

The definitions and suggestions that follow are general and should not be considered complete or thorough. They are to give you a general idea of the types of excercises that can be helpful when incorporated into a total program of sports vision care.

Some athletes will have visual difficulties that will need individual, professional attention and will not benefit from these exercises alone. An evaluation by a sports vision optometrist can pinpoint your individual problems and needs as related to your sport.

Remember, a thorough eye examination by your optometrist is a great place to begin "getting the winning edge."

  • In racquet sports, Depth Perception  enables you to quickly and accurately judge the distance between yourself, the ball, your opponents, teammates, boundary lines and other objects. When you are shooting or hunting, if you consistently over or underestimate the distance to your target, poor depth perception may be at fault.

    You can work to improve depth perception by having a friend hold a straw about a ½ metre in front of you, parallel to the ground. Practice inserting a toothpick into the hole.

  • If you are playing a sport like tennis, soccer, rugby or hockey, it is important that you be able to clearly see objects while you and/or the objects are moving fast. Without good Dynamic Visual Acuity, you are going to have a difficult time in sports like these.

    To improve dynamic visual acuity, cut different size letters out of a magazine and stick them on a stereo turntable and try to identify them (from about arm's length) at 33, 45 and 78 rpms. As it gets easier, use smaller letters.

  • When you are playing any sport with a ball or a fast moving opponent, it is important that you be able to follow objects without much head motion. Eye Tracking helps you maintain better balance and react to the situation more quickly.

    One way to improve eye tracking is to keep a book balanced on your head while following the flight of a ball or object that is thrown or hit.

    With the book on your head, you can also follow a tennis ball as it rolls slowly around the inside of a Frisbee. After you master the softball, replace it with a faster moving golf ball.

  • Eye-Hand-Body Coordination is how your hands, feet and body and other muscles respond to the information gathered through your eyes. It is an important part of most sports because it affects both timing and body control.

    To improve your eye-hand-body coordination, try jumping up and down on an old mattress while someone tosses a tennis ball to you from a variety of unpredictable angles. Catch it and toss it back.

    You can also paste a small target on a stereo turntable and try to accurately touch the target with a pointer at speeds of 33, 45 and 78 rpm. As you improve, you can make the target smaller.

  • The split second that it takes you to change focus from an object far away to one near you may delay your reaction time and cause you to frequently drop a pass or mis-hit an easy volley.

    To improve Focus Flexibility, stick a newspaper page on a wall at eye level about 5 metres away from you and hold a similar one in your hand about 40 cm from your face, at the same height but slightly to one side, so you can see both pages.

    Focus on a headline on the page on the wall and then try to quickly change to focus on the page near your face. Keep changing focus back and forth and you will improve your ability to change focus quickly. If you find it getting easier, move the paper in your hand closer to your face.

  • When a soccer player sees a teammate out of the corner of his eye, he is using his Peripheral Vision. Since much of what happens in sports does not happen directly in front of you, it's important to increase your ability to see action to the side without having to turn your head.

    To increase your ability to see things while you are not looking directly at them, try watching TV with your head turned to one side and then the other. If you are watching a game live, you can turn your head to one side and see if you can still follow the action.

  • When you commit an error on an easy ground ball or miss a short putt, it may be that you are distracted by things that are happening around you. Our eyes normally react to anything that happens in our field of vision....spectators, other participants and even the wind blowing leaves on an overhanging branch. Visual Concentration is the ability to screen out these distractions and stay focused on the ball or the target.

    To improve your concentration, practice your sport while a friend is standing nearby waving his or her arms and moving at erratic intervals. You can also practice in a darkened room with a strobe light pulsating slowly. These exercises can help your eyes to remain fixed on their target in spite of other movement around you.

  • When you are pushing a fast break up the basketball court, leading a rush up the ice in hockey, or catching the big wave amid a crowd of surfers, you need to process and remember a fast moving, complex picture of people and things. This is called Visual Memory. The athlete with good visual memory always seems to be in the right place at the right time.

    To improve your visual memory, try paging through a magazine, glancing briefly at each visually complicated ad or illustration, then turning the page and reconstructing the images from memory. When this becomes easy, wait 5 seconds (then 10, etc.) before starting to reconstruct the image.

  • The bowler releases the ball and you swing...a little late and you are caught behind...or worse you miss the ball completely. Or, maybe you just can't quite return that tennis serve. You need to improve your Visual Reaction Time, or the speed with which your brain interprets and reacts to your opponent's action.

    Stand with your back to a friend. Have that person carefully throw a tennis ball or football and yell "now." When you hear the yell, turn around, find the ball and try to catch it. If you do this repeatedly, you can train your brain to interpret and react faster.

  • Picture yourself hitting a perfect drive...long and right down the middle of the fairway. Believe it or not, picturing yourself doing it can actually help you do it. Visualizationis the skill that enables you to see yourself performing well in your "mind's eye" while your eyes are seeing and concentrating on something else, usually the ball. Using scanning techniques, researchers have found that the same areas of the brain that light up during performance also do so when you visualize the performance.

Always wear the proper eye protection for your sport. When appropriate, use proper eye protection when you are trying these excercises. Your optometrist can advise you about what is best for you.

Your Eyes and UV Radiation

Overview

The sun supports all life on our planet; however, its life-giving rays also pose dangers.

The principal danger is in the form of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV radiation is a component of solar energy, but it can also be given off by artificial sources like welding machines, tanning beds and lasers.

UV radiation is divided into UV-A, UV-B and UV-C. UV-C is absorbed by the ozone layer and does not present any threat (man made sources of UV-C, like electric welding arcs, are very harmful to the eyes, if you do not use the proper protection). That's not true of UV-A and UV-B. Scientific evidence now shows that exposure to both UV-A and UV-B can have damaging long and short term effects on your eyes and vision.

If you are exposed, unprotected, to excessive amounts of UV radiation over a short period of time, you are likely to experience a condition called photokeratitis. Like a "sunburn of the eye" it may be painful and you may have symptoms including red eyes, a foreign body sensation or gritty feeling in the eyes, extreme sensitivity to light and excessive tearing. Fortunately, this is usually temporary and rarely causes permanent damage to the eyes.

Long term exposure to UV radiation can be more serious. Scientific research has shown that exposure to even small amounts of UV radiation over a period of many years may increase your chance of developing a clouding of the lens of the eye called a cataract and can cause damage to the retina, the nerve-rich lining of your eye that is used for seeing. Damage to the lens or the retina is usually not reversible.

The effects of UV radiation are cumulative. The longer your eyes are exposed to UV radiation, the greater the risk of developing conditions such as cataracts in later life. Therefore, you should wear quality sunglasses that offer good protection and a hat or cap with a wide brim whenever you are working outdoors, participating in outdoor sports, taking a walk, running errands or doing anything in the sun.

To provide protection for your eyes, your sunglasses should:

  • block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation;

  • screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light;

  • be perfectly matched in color and free of distortion and imperfection; and

  • have lenses that are gray, green or brown.

If you spend a lot of time outdoors in bright sunlight, wrap around frames provide additional protection from the harmful UV radiation.

People who wear or are interested in wearing contact lenses can now enjoy an added measure of protection. Contact lenses with a UV-blocking feature are now available. These contact lenses should not be worn in place of your sunglasses, but they do provide excellent added protection by blocking much of the UV radiation that can seep in from the top, bottom and sides of your sunglasses. With the small, round lenses found in many trendy frames, wearing UV-blocking contact lenses is an added measure of protection against potentially harmful UV radiation.

Contact lenses with UV-blocking also provide UV protection against indoor UV radiation emitted by sources such as high wattage halogen and fluorescent lighting. By wearing UV-blocking contact lenses, your eyes will also be protected indoors when you are less likely to be wearing sunglasses.

Don't forget protection for children and teenagers. They typically spend more time in the sun than adults.

UV RADIATION CHECKLIST

If one or more of the following factors fits you, you could be in a higher risk category for damage to your eyes from UV radiation:

  • Do your spend a great deal of time outdoors?

  • Do you spend time skiing, mountain climbing or at the beach?

  • Do you use a sunlamp or tanning parlor?

  • Do you live at high altitude?

  • Are you a welder, medical technologist or do you work in the graphic arts or in the manufacture of electronic circuit boards?

  • Do you take prescription or over the counter drugs that can increase your sensitivity to UV radiation (check with your optometrist, pharmacist or physician)?

  • Have you had cataract surgery in one or both eyes?

Be sure to see your optometrist regularly for a thorough eye examination. It is a good way to monitor your eye health, maintain good vision and keep up to date with new advances in UV protection.