Do you have questions about vision and eye care in Sault Ste. Marie? Many of our patients do. The following are some of the questions we hear most often in our practice; if you have a question or concern that is not addressed here, please contact either of our 2 area offices for more information.
Q. How does the Eye See … Eye Learn® Program work?
A. The Ontario Association of Optometrists, in cooperation with Nikon Lenswear, OGI and participating optometrists, offers complimentary eyeglasses for junior kindergarten students in Ontario. Funded in part by the Government of Ontario, The Eye See…Eye Learn® program provides comprehensive eye exams to junior kindergarten students across Ontario. These exams are performed by participating local optometrists, including Station Tower Optometry. The eye exams are covered under provincial health insurance (or OHIP) when you show your child’s health card. This means that there is no out-of-pocket cost for the eye exam.
Q. How does the eye work and what can I expect as I age in regards to my vision?
A. Our ability to "see" starts when light reflects off an object and enters the eye. As it enters the eye, the light is unfocused. The first step in seeing is to focus the light rays onto the retina, which is the light-sensitive layer found inside the eye. Once the light is focused, it stimulates cells to send millions of electrochemical impulses along the optic nerve to the brain. The portion of the brain at the back of the head interprets the impulses, enabling us to see the object.
Even with the light focused on the retina, the process of seeing is not complete. For one thing, the image is inverted, or upside down. Light from the various "pieces" of the object being observed stimulate nerve endings – photoreceptors or cells sensitive to light – in the retina.
Millions of impulses travel along the nerve fibers of the optic nerve at the back of the eye, eventually arriving at the visual cortex of the brain, located at the back of the head. Here the electrochemical impulses are unscrambled and interpreted. The image is re-inverted so that we see the object the right way up.
Most changes in vision occur in the early and later years of life. Although some people may discover they have nearsightedness – or difficulty seeing at a distance – as late as their mid-20s, vision typically stabilizes during the late teen years. From then until around age 40, vision typically changes little, if at all.
At about 40 years of age, seeing to read or do close work such as sewing may become difficult. This is known as "presbyopia." Presbyopia, a name that comes from the Greek words for "old eye," occurs because the crystalline lens, an essential component of the eye's refractive or light-bending structure, loses flexibility as it grows thicker with age. This lack of flexibility affects the ability to focus on close objects.
Generally, by around age 45, reading glasses may be required for nearby tasks. If near- or farsightedness is also present, a number of vision correction options will be evaluated to best meet your needs.
Q. How do reading and watching television affect my vision?
A. Eye care experts agree that watching television will not harm your eyes or vision if the room is lighted properly and if you follow a few viewing tips. In fact, there is usually less strain involved in TV viewing than in doing close work such as sewing or reading. But TV watching for long stretches of time can leave your eyes fatigued.
While close-up TV viewing is certainly not recommended, it is generally not harmful. It is best to watch television from a distance of at least 5 times the width of the picture. Other tips include placing the set to avoid glare and reflections from lamps, windows and other bright sources and having the set positioned at approximately eye level.
Reading requires the integration of 8 different vision skills: Visual acuity (the ability to see objects clearly at a distance); Visual Fixation (the ability to aim the eyes accurately); Accommodation (the ability to focus the eyes as distance increases or decreases); Binocular Fusion (the brain’s ability to form a single, unified image from information received from each eye separately); Stereopsis (depth perception); Convergence (the ability to turn the 2 eyes toward each other to focus on a close object); Field of Vision (the area over which vision is possible); and Perception (the total process of receiving and recognizing visual stimuli).
Good vision is vital to reading well. Although vision may not be the only cause of reading difficulties, it is one that is sometimes overlooked. The optometrist's role is to help overcome any vision problems interfering with the ability to read. This may require the use of corrective spectacles and/or the implementation of a variety of eye exercises.
Astigmatism is one of a group of eye conditions known as refractive errors. Refractive errors cause a disturbance in the way that light rays are focused within the eye. Astigmatism often occurs with nearsightedness and farsightedness. This abnormality may result in vision that is much like looking into a distorted, wavy mirror. The distortion results because of an inability of the eye to focus light rays to a point.
If you can see objects at a distance clearly but have trouble focusing well on objects close up, you may be farsighted. Also known as hypermetropia or hyperopia, farsightedness causes the eyes to exert extra effort to see close up. A comprehensive eye examination at the recommended intervals will ensure that minor changes in vision are diagnosed and treated so that your vision will remain as clear and comfortable as possible.
If you can see nearby objects with no problem, but reading road signs or making out the writing on the board at school is more difficult, you may be near- or shortsighted. Also known as myopia, nearsightedness usually occurs between the ages of 8 to 12 years. A comprehensive eye examination will detect myopia. Periodic examinations should follow after myopia has been discovered to determine whether the condition is changing, and whether a change in prescriptive eyewear is needed.
Hold the book up close and the words appear blurred. Push the book farther away and the words snap back into sharp focus. This phenomenon, as well as symptoms such as eye fatigue or headaches when doing close work are common complaints made by people who are experiencing presbyopia. An accurate, thorough description of symptoms and a comprehensive eye health examination, including a testing of the quality of your near vision, are necessary to diagnose presbyopia. Presbyopia is typically treated with prescription eyeglasses.
If you see 2 of whatever you are looking at, you may have a condition known as double vision, also referred to as diplopia. Double vision is typically the result of 1 of 2 possible factors:
Treatment of double vision consists of eye exercises, surgical straightening of the eye or a combination of the two. Therapy is aimed at re-aligning the squinting eye where possible without surgery and re-stimulating the part of the visual pathway to the brain that is not working correctly.
Spots and Floaters
Do you occasionally see specks or threadlike strands drifting across your field of vision? Then, when you try to look at them, do they seem to dart away? If so, you're seeing what eye care practitioners call spots or floaters.
While almost everyone sees a few spots at one time or another, they can occur more frequently and become more noticeable as you grow older. Most spots are normal and rarely cause blindness. But spots can indicate more serious problems. If you notice a change in the number and size of spots, a comprehensive eye examination is in order to determine the cause.
A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear crystalline lens of the eye. This prevents the lens from properly focusing light on the retina at the back of the eye, resulting in a loss of vision. A cataract is not a film that grows over the surface of the eye, as is often commonly thought. Cataracts are most often found in persons over the age of 55, but they are also occasionally found in younger people, including newborns. Currently, there is no proven method to prevent cataracts from forming.
If your cataract develops to a point that daily activities are affected, you will be referred to an eye surgeon who may recommend the surgical removal of the cataract. Prescription changes in your eyewear will help you see more clearly until surgery is necessary, but surgery is the only proven means of effectively treating cataracts. The surgery is relatively uncomplicated and has a very high success rate.
Cataract surgery has now developed to the point where most procedures are completed in a day and overnight stays in hospital are unnecessary. The results are usually excellent and patients are often able to appreciate a significant improvement in vision almost immediately following surgery.
Keratoconus (Conical Cornea)
Poor vision that cannot be corrected fully with glasses may indicate a condition known as conical cornea or keratoconus. An uncommon condition, keratoconus primarily affects people in their early 20's.
With keratoconus, the cornea, the "clear window" at the front of the eye, may become thin and bow outwards. It is this irregular distortion of the cornea that makes vision correction with glasses less than optimal. For this reason other means of correcting vision are often necessary.
Mild to moderate keratoconus is best corrected with rigid gas-permeable contact lenses, which provide a smooth surface in front of the cornea to make clear vision possible. Because the lens is rigid, the tears between the lens and the cornea form a 'liquid lens,' which smooths the irregularities of the cornea and makes clear vision possible again. Soft lenses, which 'wrap' onto the cornea and take up its shape much more closely than rigid lenses, are less successful at correcting keratoconus.
As keratoconus progresses, some scarring of the cornea can occur. Eventually, contact lenses may no longer be a successful treatment. Instead, the cornea may need to be replaced surgically with a cornea of more regular shape. The prognosis for corneal replacement surgery is generally very good.
A new technique known as corneal crosslinking is aimed at halting the progression of the corneal thinning. The earlier this treatment is applied, the better the success in preserving vision quality.
Q. How do I know if contacts are for me?
A. The vast majority of people requiring vision correction can wear contact lenses without any problems. New materials and lens care technologies have made today's contacts more comfortable, safer and easier to wear. However, wearing contact lenses may be difficult for people whose eyes are irritated by allergies or work in an environment with lots of dust and chemicals. Medical conditions such as an overactive thyroid, uncontrolled diabetes, or severe arthritis in the hands can also interfere with the ability to comfortably wear contact lenses. Likewise, pregnant women and patients who take certain medications that cause eye dryness may find it uncomfortable to wear contacts.
Contact lenses take some getting used to. New soft lens wearers typically adjust to their lenses almost immediately. Rigid lenses generally require a somewhat longer adjustment period. Even with these caveats, contact lenses offer a number of advantages over eyeglasses. In addition to providing good peripheral vision, eliminating the problem of fogged or rain splattered lenses and freeing you from worries about broken glasses, contact lenses also mean you can wear non-prescription protective eyewear.
Contact lenses aren't just for seeing better. They're for looking better, too. In fact, some people who don't even need vision correction wear tinted contact lenses as a way to change their look. Today's tinted lenses allow you to enhance your natural eye color – making the blue bluer or the green greener – or change it altogether.
Q. How should I care for my new contact lenses?
A. Here are some tips about the basics of contact lens wear and care to help keep your eyes healthy and comfortable.
How to Insert Your Lenses
How to Remove Your Lenses
Follow Professional Advice
Make Cleanliness a Habit
Contact Lenses: Lens Care Solutions
When you are fitted for contact lenses a particular lens care system is recommended. Since different systems use different types of chemicals, it is not advisable to mix or substitute solutions from other systems. Doing so could lead to discolored lenses, eye discomfort or eye injury. In particular, rigid lens solutions should not be used to clean or disinfect soft lenses as the chemicals can damage the soft lens material.
Q. Do you have any tips for teens with contact lenses?
A. Oh, the pressure! Get great grades, excel in at least one sport, play a musical instrument, work part-time, hang out with friends -- and always, always look cool. If you're a teenager today, much is expected.
But what to do if suddenly you can't make out the writing on the blackboard, you can't see the ball until it's practically in your hands, or you have to squint to read the notes? What to do -- and still look cool?
Try contact lenses. Not that glasses can't be fashionable. But for today's active teenagers, contacts are a perfect fit. What your parents may not know is that today's lenses are more comfortable and easier to care for than those of a decade ago. Plus, there are more types of contacts, from disposables to toric (for people with astigmatism) from which to choose. In other words, there are almost certainly lenses to fit your individual needs.
When Can You Begin Wearing Contact Lenses?
Even pre-teens can handle contacts. A 3-year study* conducted by the Indiana University School of Optometry found children ages 11 – 13 able to handle contacts well and understand the use of their care systems to maintain clean, comfortable lenses. When to begin contact lens wear can only be determined in conjunction with your eye care practitioner.
Glasses can get in the way, especially in sports, cheerleading, dance or other exercise. Not contact lenses. When you're active, contact lenses don't steam up or slide down your nose.
Fiction or Fact? Truths about Contact Lenses
FICTION: Teen eyes are not "mature enough" for contacts.
FACT: Most eye care professionals agree that by age 13, even as early as age 11, most eyes are developed enough for contact lenses. An eye exam will confirm whether contacts can be worn or not.
FICTION: Contacts fall out a lot.
FACT: They fell out more often when the only ones available were hard lenses. Soft lenses conform to the shape of the eye, are larger in diameter and are tucked under the eyelids, so they usually don't move out of place or fall out.
FICTION: Contact lenses are expensive.
FACT: Not! The price of contact lenses is comparable to that of an average pair of eyeglasses.
FICTION: Contact lenses are hard to care for.
FACT: Not at all. Today's lens care systems are easy and quick to use. Contacts can be ready to wear in just 5 minutes.
FICTION: Contact lenses are not safe to wear for sports.
FACT: Except for water sports, contacts are very safe. They can't be broken or knocked off the face and they provide unobstructed peripheral vision. Remember to always wear safety glasses when participating in sports such as badminton and squash to protect your eyes from possible damaging impact from small projectiles.
Ask your parents to make an appointment to assess your ability to wear contacts. If he or she gives thumbs-up, then try a pair. Wearing lenses is the best way to find out if you and contact lenses were made for each other.
Sault Ste. Marie Office Hours:
Monday-Friday: 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM
Saturday & Sunday: Closed
Thessalon Office Hours:
Monday & Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday: 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM (by appointment only)
If you are experiencing a serious ocular emergency, please call. If you need after-hours care, please report to the Sault Area Hospital’s Emergency Department.
Q. How do I locate your office?
A. Our main office is located in the Station Tower at 501-421 Bay Street in Sault Ste. Marie, right across from the Station Mall. Look for the TD Canada Trust Bank and Subway on the main floor. We also operate a second location in the Medical Clinic at 333 River Street in Thessalon, Ontario. Both locations offer a dispensary and free parking and are fully wheelchair accessible.