Wednesday, February 29, 2012

More visual symptoms means lower academic performance: study.

Undetected visual problems are one of the causes of academic difficulties in the classroom.

In a study published in 2006 in the journal, Optometry, researchers set out to determine whether there was an association between vision-related quality-of-life factors and academic performance.  To answer the question, the researchers used a 19-item questionnaire checklist developed by the College of Optometrists in Vision Development.

Ninety-one parents or guardians and their children in grades 3, 5 and 7 in a public school participated in the study. Both the parent and the student independently completed the vision questionnaire. The vision questionnaire scores of both groups were compared with the students results on the Stanford IX test scores for total reading, total math, total spelling, and total battery scores of the Stanford IX.

The researchers found that visual symptoms were found to be inversely correlated to academic performance.  This meant that the lower the academic score, the more symptoms were reported.

Source: Optometry - Journal of the American Optometric AssociationVolume 77, Issue 3 , Pages 116-123, March 2006

Monday, February 27, 2012

TED: Ideas Worth Spreading: Dr. Susan Barry on how vision therapy cured stereoblindess

Neuroscientist, Dr. Susan Barry, gave a TED talk on how optometric vision therapy allowed her to see in three dimensions for the first time at the age of 48.  Until then, she was stereo-blind, meaning that she could not see the world in 3D like people with normal vision.  Stereo-blindness is also called stereopsis.

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design and is a global set of conferences owned by the private non-profit Sapling Foundation, formed to disseminate "ideas worth spreading".

Dr. Barry's story is now fairly well known.  Her 2009 book, Fixing My Gaze was's number 4 most popular science book of the year.  Her story was also the subject of an article in the New Yorker by famous scientist Oliver Sacks (who was played by Robin Williams in the film Awakenings).  

In this talk, Dr. Barry discusses the notion of the "critical period", a long-held belief among neuro-scientists which is being dis-proven by Sue Barry's story as well as current research.  Until very recently, it was thought that there was a critical period in human brain development beyond which the brain was "set in stone" and could not change.  The implication of this belief was that people with disorders like stereo-blindness or amblyopia that originate in the brain could not be cured beyond the age of 5 or 6.

Scientists now accept that the brain displays considerable neuroplasticity and that even the brains of adults can be trained to see normally.  In addition to conditions such as stereo-blindness, this has important implications for other brain-eye disorders such as strabismus, amblyopia and visual information processing disorders.  

Neuroplasticity is actually a prime reason for the success of vision therapy in treating these disorders.  As developmental optometrists will often say, vision therapy is like physical therapy for the eyes and brain.

More people that ever before are discovering that they are stereo-blind.  With the explosion of 3D entertainment, some parents are noticing that their children do not experience 3D media the way that normal-seeing people experience it.  This is often a red flag that prompts the parents to take their child to the optometrist for an eye examination.  Fortunately, as Susan Barry's story demonstrates, we can successfully treat people who are stereo-blind.

Click here to learn more about 3D vision and stereo-blindness.

The best protection against glaucoma

Regular eye exams are the best protection against glaucoma
Awareness is is the key to beating glaucoma.  A recent study has shown that Canadians are not doing enough to protect themselves (by getting regular eye exams) and that glaucoma rates  are rising in Canada.  This shows just how important glaucoma awareness is. 
Glaucoma is called the silent thief of sight because by the time one realizes they have it, it is already too late to reverse vision loss.
Glaucoma is a complicated disease that damages the optic nerve, leading to progressive, irreversible vision loss. It is a leading cause of blindness.
Vision loss is permanent
When glaucoma damages your optic nerve, you begin to lose patches of vision, usually starting with your side vision (peripheral vision). Over time, glaucoma may also damage central vision. Many people do not notice a loss of side vision until they have permanently lost a great deal of vision. That is why it is so important to get annual eye exams that can diagnose glaucoma before it is too late. Those who have risk factors for glaucoma may need more frequent eye exams (talk to your eye doctor if you are unsure about how often to have an exam).  When checking for glaucoma, eye doctors usually look for damage to the optic nerve and any loss of side vision. They may also check your eye pressure because high pressure in the eye can damage the optic nerve.
Once glaucoma takes your vision, you will never get it back.  Early detection is the best way to retain your sight.

There are several different types of glaucoma, with the most common being open angle glaucoma. Other relatively common types of glaucoma include normal tension glaucoma, acute (angle closure) glaucoma, secondary glaucoma, and post-surgical glaucoma.
Open angle glaucoma results when fluid drains too slowly from the optic nerve area and pressure inside the eye builds up. The high pressure inside the eye damages the optic nerve such that the nerve can no longer send signals to the brain.  In the early stages of the disease, this is experienced as patches of blurred or smudged vision.
Normal tension glaucoma, also called low-tension or normal-pressure glaucoma, is characterized by optic nerve damaged even though the pressure in the eye is not very high.  The cause of this type of glaucoma is still a mystery.  People with a family history of normal-tension glaucoma are at higher risk, as are people of Japanese ancestry and people with a history of systemic heart disease such as irregular heart rhythm.
Acute (angle closure) glaucoma is characterized by a sudden rise in pressure inside the eye.  Emergency medical attention is required if this happens.  The signs associated with acute glaucoma include blurred vision, severe headaches, eye pain, nausea, vomiting or seeing rainbow-like halos around lights. Occasionally, the condition may be without symptoms. Acute glaucoma occurs in less than 10 percent of Caucasians or African-Americans, but for those of Asian and Native American descent the risks are higher.
Secondary glaucoma results from certain diseases and conditions that damage the eye's drainage system such as diabetes, leukemia, sickle-cell anemia, some forms of arthritis, cataracts, eye injuries or inflammation of the eye, the use of drugs that contain steroids and growth of unhealthy blood vessels. Ten percent of all glaucoma cases are secondary glaucoma.
Post-surgical glaucoma is a result of surgery. Specific eye surgeries, such as retinal reattachments, increase the chance of getting glaucoma. Make sure your eye doctor discusses the risks of any proposed eye surgery, including the risk of developing glaucoma.
If you click on the picture accompanying this post (or just click here) you will be directed to a handy PDF flyer that you can print or email and share with family, friends and co-workers.  Help raise awareness of glaucoma during Glaucoma Awareness Month!
The BC Doctors of Optometry Blog recently did a post on glaucoma.  Read it here.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Research shows that half the eyeglasses bought online are junk

Researchers from Pacific University published a  study in 2011 that tested glasses purchased on-line for compliance of optical and safety requirements. Of the 154 pairs of glasses purchased from the top ten U.S. online spectacle vendors, almost half of them failed at least one parameter of testing.

Staff at my clinic have reported many people comming in with glasses bought online that have numerous problems. 

Some are funny, like the kids who walk in with glasses that are way to big for them.  Their parents want them adjusted so that they fit properly but that is not possible since the frames so big should never be sold to a child.  It is often no consolation that in 5 or 6 years the child may grow into the giant frames. 

Others have headaches from lenses that do not align properly with their eyes.  Some people have progressives that are unusable because no one explained to them the best lens choice for their vision and lifestyle.  The list goes on.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Three million Canadians suffer from computer vision syndrome

Some 3 million Canadian workers suffer from Computer Vision Syndrome, a condition caused by prolonged computer use.  In addition to that, a recent survey by the American Optometric Association found that 68% of young adults report a technology related vision problem. 

And as our nation has moved from a manufacturing society to an information society, Computer Vision Syndrome has become a workplace concern.  While prolonged computer use will not damage vision, it can make you uncomfortable and decrease productivity.

Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is caused by the eyes constantly focusing and refocusing on the characters on a computer screen. These characters don’t have the contrast or well-defined edges like printed words and the eyes’ focus cannot remain fixed. Symptoms of CVS include headaches, loss of focus, burning or tired eyes, blurred vision and neck or shoulder pain.

CVS can be partially alleviated by changes in the ergonomics of the work area.  Proper lighting and monitor placement can go a long way toward reducing CVS, as can giving your eyes frequent "breaks” from the computer. But the underlying cause of CVS – the ability of the eyes to focus on the computer screen – may only be remedied by specialized computer glasses.

A comprehensive eye exam, including questions about a person’s computer use habits is the first step. If we determine that vision correction for computer use is required, we can prescribe computer lenses that are designed to improve your vision in the 18” – 28” range, the optimal distance between your eyes and the computer monitor.

The right eye-wear can greatly improve your visual comfort.  One option that is popular with the patients at our clinic is Gunnar eye-wear by Zeiss Vision, one of the oldest optical companies in the world (founded in Germany in the nineteenth century). 

Gunnar lenses have a particular wrap designed to increase the humidity immediately in front of your eyes in order to combat the dry eye that comes from the fact people tend to blink less when they use the computer.

Gunnar lenses also change the frequency of the light that comes from computer and smart-phone screens to make it easier for your eye to absorb thus making vision more comfortable and making the screen easier to read.  The improvement in vision and visual comfort is immediate and dramatic and can be experienced just by trying on a pair at our clinic. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Fake doctors injecting fake Mexican Botox in Vancouver. Buyer beware.

Woman injecting botox
Many people seek out Botox injections to reduce wrinkles and frownlines around their eyes and between their eyebrows.  Here in British Columbia, there are unlicensed people, fake doctors, injecting fake Botox and harming their clients in the process.

Health Canada regulations stipulate that only a physician can inject Botox.  Moreover, Allergan, the company that makes Botox only supplies it to real physicians.  However, that does not stop fake doctors from ordering fake Botox from places like Turkey and Mexico.

According to Health Canada:

 "As described in the Botox product monograph, Botox should only be prescribed and administered by a physician. If Botox is used in any way other than that described in the product monograph, it would be considered to be a contravention of the Food and Drugs Act."
CBC has done a story on this problem, which is rampant in Vancouver, as indicated by the large number of beauty clinics offering Botox but with no MD on staff. 

The brazenness of some of these medical fakes is striking.   Read this quote from the CBC story about what is happening in a suburb of Vancouver:

A CBC producer made an appointment at Queen's Park Laser Skin Care Centre in Richmond, B.C., and was told she would see a doctor. Eddie Lee, who admitted he is not a doctor despite certificates on the wall bearing the name "Dr. Lee," told the CBC producer he could make her cheeks thinner with six injections of Botox for $450. "Yes, you need to be a doctor [to inject Botox]," he said. "I'm not a doctor … so is not illegal, and is also not legal either."
Even though Lee admitted that he was not a doctor, he had certificates on his wall representing himself as one and his staff would tell clients that Lee is a doctor.  How do people like Lee get away with controvening the Food and Drug act on a daily basis with impunity? Lee justified his misrepresentations and law-breaking by saying that he has been trained to inject Botox by doctors from around the world.  I bet those doctors are as much a fraud as Lee himself.

At Another clinic in Vancouver called EuroCharm Medical Spa, a CBC reporter was told a doctor would prescribe and inject her with Botox.  When questioned, the "doctor" admitted that she was not a physician but said that she was a naturopath.  As it turned out, that was not true either and, in any event, naturopaths are not allowed to prescribe Botox.  To top it all off, the "doctor" at EuroCharm did not even inject her clients with botox but with some mystery substance that she misrepresented as Botox. 

One of EuroCharm's unfortunate clients sufferred a collapsed eyelid and her eye was swollen shut for two weeks.

Unless the appropriate regulatory authorities step up enforcement or the injured clients stand up for themselves and sue, it will be the wild west of medical care in British Columbia.  Buyer beware.

Click here to read the follow-up CBC story that suggests that regulators will be taking some action on this issue.

Image courtesy of Ambro /

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sharp Vision Sharp Mind

Poor vision and inadequate eye health care is linked to cognitive decline in elderly people.

In a recent study of 625 elderly patients conducted by the University of Michigan, those with poor vision who did not receive proper eye care were a stunning nine times more at risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and five times more at risk for some form of cognitive impairment. 

In contrast, those with good vision had a 63% reduced risk of developing dementia.

Another study that reached similar results was published in the journal Optometry & Vision Science in December 2010.  In the latter study, the researchers simulated visual impairment in a group of elderly people.  They found that visual impairment can lead to a slowing of cognitive performance in older adults.  Cognitive impairment was greater in older adults that it was in their younger counterparts. 

The findings of these studies have important implications for older people who have a high prevalence of cataracts or may be prone to ignoring their health. They may be well advised to have surgery to remove their cataracts in order to prevent any possible cognitive decline and to always keep current with their spectacles prescription.

Sharp vision and a sharp mind seem to go hand-in-hand.  Protect both by scheduling a comprehensive eye health examination.  Remember, age is a risk factor for a host of diseases that can lead to vision loss. Glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration are two of the most prevalent.  An eye exam is the only way to catch these diseases early enough to do something about them.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Is your child at risk for a vision disorder? Take this interactive quiz to find out.

Most problem learners have a vision problem
Organizations devoted to eye care estimate that one in five children has a vision disorder.  This can be something relatively simple like nearsightedness or farsightedness that can be corrected with eyeglasses.  However, more complicated disorders are also a possibility such as strabismus, amblyopia, convergence insufficiency, binocular vision problems, lack of depth perception and the list goes on.  To help you assess your child's risk, take the quiz at the bottom of this post.

It is critical that parents take their child's eye health and vision seriously.  I remember one kindergarten student who came in for her first eye exam.  Her vision was bad enough that she had never seen her mother's face before!  For her, the world was a collection of blurry blobs and because she had always seen that way, she assumed that it was normal.  The only way to really know if your child has a vision problem is to take the child to see an optometrist.

Click here to download the BC Doctors of Optometry brochure on childrens' eye health.  It is also available in a number of other languages.  Click the language of your choice:


For more information on vision and eye care for children, click here.

Here is the quiz: