EyeMark Newsletters

A list of all our EyeMark Newsletter Articles

BE SUN SMART


Thanks to widespread publicity on the damaging effects of ultraviolet light on the skin, most people are aware of this issue and responsible about protecting their skin and the skin of their children. Less attention is paid to protecting the eyes from the sun, particularly in children. Children receive more annual sun exposure than adults because many of their activities take place outdoors increasing their exposure to damaging ultraviolet (UV) light. Because children's eyes are not yet fully developed, they cannot filter UV light and prevent it from reaching their retinas as effectively as adults can, with the result that they are more susceptible to retinal damage.   Excessive exposure to UV light can lead to both short-term and long-term eye problems. In the short-term, exposure can result in bloodshot, swollen eyes and a hyper-sensitivity to light. Over a lifetime, damage from unprotected exposure to UV rays can lead to eye conditions that will affect the health of the eyes and vision. Unlike the short-term problems caused by UV rays, the long-term damage caused by repeated overexposure will not fade as the symptoms and conditions caused by repeated overexposure appear over a longer period of time. Because UV exposure is cumulative, it is important to begin protecting the eyes from a young age.   The solution for protecting children's eyes from UV exposure seems to be a simple one. Sunglasses! However, it is a little more complicated than this. When should children start wearing sunglasses? How do we select sunglasses that...
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TEAR JERKER


Dry eye is a common condition that occurs when tears are unable to provide adequate lubrication for the eyes, for various reasons. There may be insufficient tears or the tears that are produced may be of poor quality. The tear film has three basic layers, namely oil, water and mucus. Problems with any of these layers can cause dry eyes or there may be an imbalance in the composition of the tears. Dry eyes feel uncomfortable and can make it difficult to perform certain daily activities such as reading or driving. Symptoms include a stinging, burning or scratchy sensation, stringy mucus in or around the eyes, sensitivity to light, redness, blurred vision and eye fatigue. A typical symptom of dry eyes is excessive watering of the eyes. This may seem like a contradiction but is in fact a reflex reaction of the eyes to the lack of moisture and feeling of eye irritation, causing them to send a message to the brain for more moisture. Although there is a flood of tears, they are mostly made up of water which is not able to prevent evaporation of tears and provide long term relief by lubricating the eyes effectively.   A number of factors can influence the development of dry eyes. Although it can occur at any age, it is more common in older people as tear production tends to decrease as part of the normal aging process. Women are particularly susceptible due to the hormonal changes that occur at certain times...
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EYES ON DIABETES


Diabetes is a disease that affects the body's ability to produce or use insulin effectively to control blood sugar levels. It can cause damage to many parts of the body including the heart, kidneys and blood vessels. The eyes are particularly vulnerable to diabetic damage because the tiny blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye are sensitive to fluctuations of the blood sugar levels in the body. The eyes provide an unobstructed view of the blood vessels on the retina and the damage that may be present due to diabetes. This view of the blood vessels is not visible in other areas of the body because it is blocked. During a dilated eye examination, optometrists are often the first professionals to detect blood vessel changes and suspect the presence of diabetes before symptoms appear. With early detection being the key to effective management, regular visits to your optometrist are important.   Diabetic eye disease is a group of eye problems that can affect people with diabetes. These conditions include diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, cataracts, and glaucoma. Often there are no early symptoms of diabetic eye disease and no visual changes as the damage occurs gradually. Over time there could be vision loss and even blindness. When symptoms do occur, they may include blurry or wavy vision, frequently changing vision, dark areas in vision or vision loss, poor colour vision, spots or floaters, or flashes of light. If you have any of these symptoms make an appointment...
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VISIONARY WOMEN


This month we honour the strength, power and spirit of women. We celebrate the achievements of women throughout history, and their many contributions to the world.    Speaking of history, what if some of the world’s most legendary women had worn glasses? And speaking of legend, what if fairytale heroines had worn glasses too? Would the stories have been any different?    To start with Red Riding Hood, well… Without a full examination it’s difficult to say whether it was a case of short-sightedness or long-sightedness or possibly astigmatism. But seeing a wolf in a nightgown and believing it was her grandma? Getting lost in the forest in the first place is a sign that her eyes needed attention. Or maybe she just needed a better GPS.    Come to think of it, the course of all fairy tales could’ve been changed with just a few pairs of prescription glasses. Maybe Sleeping Beauty would’ve seen that spindle and avoided the finger prick. Maybe Cinderella would’ve left the ball in time, because thanks to a pair of glasses she would’ve read the clock on the wall and seen that it was almost midnight.    With an appropriate pair of glasses, that other princess could’ve found the pea under her mattress and got a decent night’s sleep – instead of doing nothing and complaining about it the next morning. If Jack’s mother had had a pair of glasses to correct her vision, she might’ve noticed that those beans were magic, and capable of...
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RED EYES RED FLAG?


Most people suffer from red or bloodshot eyes at some time or another. They occur when blood vessels near the surface of the eye become irritated, causing them to become enlarged and dilated. While red eyes are a common condition which generally does not “raise a red flag” to signal anything serious, the eyes are red for a reason, and there is a variety of reasons which may be responsible. Depending on the underlying cause, red eyes can be associated with other symptoms including burning, itching, watering, discharge, swelling of the eyelids and sensitivity to light. CAUSES OF RED EYES Dry Eyes A common cause of bloodshot eyes is dry eye syndrome, which occurs when there are not enough natural tears to keep the front part of the eye lubricated. When the eye becomes dry, it also becomes very red and irritated. Dry eyes may be the result of hormonal changes in the body, chronic medications, lack of sleep, wearing contact lenses for too long or extended periods of staring at computer screens. Lubricating eye drops, either bought over the counter or recommended by your optometrist, may be helpful. Take regular breaks from computer work and follow your optometrist’s instructions on contact lens wear. Don’t forget to blink! Pink Eye Conjunctivitis, commonly called “pink eye” is an inflammation or infection of the clear, protective layer that coats the front part of the eye. It may be bacterial or viral, causes the eyes to be red and is often associated with a...
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FALSE ECONOMY?


While travelling on the Gautrain recently, an optometrist overheard a conversation between two other passengers.    “I have just collected my new glasses from my optometrist,” said one of the men. “I can see clearly with them, but I find the glare really bothers me.”    “Didn’t you discuss that with your optometrist? Couldn’t he recommend something to deal with your problem?” asked his companion.    “He made a number of suggestions but none of them are covered by my medical aid, so I decided against them.”    Making a decision based primarily on what is covered by medical aid may be false economy. Glasses are often an expensive item but making a co-payment that will not be too tough on the pocket may be worthwhile in the long run. Lens coatings can improve the performance, longevity, durability and appearance of your glasses as well as providing necessary protection for both your lenses and your eyes.    At the very least one should consider a  hard or scratch-resistant coating . Scratched lenses interfere with the clarity of vision, often leading to eye strain or headaches. Sometimes excessive scratching necessitates replacing the lenses fairly frequently. While no lenses are completely scratch-proof, applying a scratch-proof coating makes them more resistant to scratching, reduces smudging and makes them easier to clean, prolonging the life of the lenses.    The man on the train would certainly benefit from an  anti-reflex coating  on his glasses. This virtually eliminates reflections on the front and back surfaces of...
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AGE-RELATED MACULAR DEGENERATION


Everything we look at directly is identified by the macula, the area on the retina at the back of the eye responsible for sharp central vision. When the macula is damaged in some way there is a gradual loss of central vision. Peripheral vision remains intact, but it becomes difficult to see fine details both close up and further away. This age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in people over the age of 50. Because the vision loss is gradual, many people are unaware that they have macular degeneration initially. Your optometrist is usually able to detect the early signs, often before you experience visual problems, so regular visual examinations are important. TYPES OF AMD There are two types of AMD, dry and wet. Dry AMD is more common than wet AMD.    In most cases dry AMD is diagnosed when tiny white spots are noticed on the retina due to a thinning of the macula. These are called drusen (pebbles) and they represent tiny deposits of cellular waste products and immune system proteins. Over time the macula may become thinner and the drusen may increase in size or number, increasing the risk for the development of intermediate AMD. Although symptoms are not generally present at first, a blurred spot in central vision may begin to appear.    Wet AMD is less common but more serious than dry AMD. It tends to progress more rapidly and cause more severe vision loss. Wet AMD occurs when new,...
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HELLO SPRING, HELLO ALLERGIES


Spring is in the air! For some people it is a time to look forward to enjoying warmerweather, longer days and the beauty of blossoms, while for others it is a time to dread the discomfort of allergies with red itchy eyes and runny noses. While some people are packing away winter woollies, others are unpacking allergy remedies. Spring is typically the season for allergies to emerge, due to an increase in allergens in the air both indoors and outdoors. These allergens include pollens from grass, trees and other plants, dust, pet dander and mold. Allergic reactions to perfume, cosmetics or drugs can also cause the eyes to have an allergic response. Allergy to contact lenses, particularly hard contact lenses, can occur in some cases.    Eye allergies, also called  allergic conjunctivitis , are quite common. Although they tend to run in families, anyone can experience allergic reactions, which are essentially an over-reaction of the body’s immune system in response to an irritant. A substance called histamine is produced to fight off the allergen. As a result, the eyelids and conjunctiva become red, swollen and itchy, and the eyes tear and burn. The eyes are an easy target for allergies because they are directly exposed to the environment without the help of a filtering system such as the hairs found in the nose. Sometimes the eyes can react to allergens that do not necessarily come into direct contact with them, such as insect bites or certain foods.    The most common...
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WOMEN SEE THINGS DIFFERENTLY


With August being Women’s Month it is perfect timing to examine the factors that affect women’s vision. As we get older, age-related health conditions occur, and the eyes are no exception. This is especially true of women, who tend to live longer than men and are more likely than men to develop vision problems. Cataracts are more common in women who are also at higher risk to develop age-related macular degeneration. While open angle glaucoma affects males and females equally, the less common and more serious closed angle glaucoma is two to four times more likely to affect women.    Vision problems occur for a variety of reasons, but an imbalance in hormone levels is often the underlying cause. Hormones are chemicals in the body that regulate important body functions. Often called the messengers of the body, they travel through the bloodstream and other fluids to organs and tissues coordinating and controlling major functions. From childhood to old age everyone experiences hormone fluctuations which can affect all parts of the body including the eyes. Changes in hormone levels generally occur more frequently in women during the specific life-changing milestones of their lives.    As children go through the hormone fluctuations of puberty, their bodies change and grow rapidly, and so do their eyes. If their eyes lengthen too much, this can cause or worsen short-sightedness, leading to blurred distance vision. For girls the onset of menstruation brings huge changes in hormone production and estrogen levels which is thought to be largely...
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HAVE A GOOD CRY


A teardrop running down the cheek is a symbol of sadness, but people may also "cry" while cutting an onion or trying to blink out an eyelash or a speck of dust. Researchers are investigating the various reasons that people cry, as well as the physiological, psychological and social effects of shedding tears. For the most part, tears help maintain healthy eyes, but they also have other roles to play. As the children's song says: "Its all right to cry; crying gets the sad out of you, crying gets the bad out of you."    Tears are more than salty water When we cry a complex salty fluid full of protein, water, electrolytes, mucus and oil is released from the lacrimal gland in the upper, outer region of the eye. This fluid, better known as tears, then flows down the surface of the eye and runs down the cheeks. The body produces tears at a rate of about one to three microlitres per minute. Not all tears have the same composition - three types of tears exist, all with different purposes.    Basal tears are the tears that are constantly in the eyes, keeping them from drying out completely. They flow continuously from the lacrimal glands and drain through the nasal cavity. As we blink the basal tears clean and lubricate the eyes, keeping the eye surface smooth and helping us to see clearly. Basal tears have three layers: a thin mucus layer that sits directly on the eye, a watery...
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