With the recent measles outbreak in the Greater Vancouver area, measles awareness has increased dramatically in the past couple of months. With Spring Break coming up, and more families travelling to foreign countries that have lower levels of measles immunization, so we wanted to spotlight the connection between eyesight and measles, especially for children.
Do you love to play hockey, squash, baseball or golf? If you play any sport that involves balls, pucks, racquets, sticks or bats, the risk of serious eye injury is very real. In fact, about 40% of eye injuries over the last few decades, are from playing ice hockey, with racquet sports being the second most common cause.
Studies also show that 1 in 3 sports eye injuries involves children, and are a common cause of blindness in kids. (Before you ‘sideline’ your athlete, know that 90 percent of sports eye injuries can be prevented with the right eye protection.)
As better eye gear has been developed for these sports and more players have been wearing it, fewer serious injuries have occurred. However, over the last 20 years in Canada, over 4000 eye injuries were reported, with 449 resulting in blindness.
Here are five ways you can protect your eyes and prevent sports eye injuries.
What is Diabetic Retinopathy? This is a medical condition caused by diabetes where the tiny blood vessels in the retina are damaged by chronically high blood sugar. This damage causes bleeding, which distorts vision and, eventually, leads to blindness if untreated.
This disease affects 80% of the people who have had diabetes for 20 years or more. The longer a person has diabetes, the higher their chances of developing this condition.
Diabetic Retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in people 20 to 64 years old.
The winter months can take a surprising toll on your eye health. For most people, their eye health is probably one of the last things on their mind during the long winter months – but winter eye care is more important than most people realize. Damaging sun reflections off snow and dry indoor air conditions can irritate your eyes and impair your vision – follow these precautions to keep your eyes healthy and happy this winter!
Indoor Air Conditions
Once of the most common complaints for our eyes in the winter is dryness, and subsequent burning or itchiness. The winter usually causes lower humidity levels in your home or work when the heat is on and the windows are closed. Those who wear contact lenses are more likely to experience this problem, but it can affect anyone. Sometimes, people with this issue complain initially of eyes that water too much – this is cause because their eyes are not tearing as they should when they get dry and irritated, and are therefore watering too much. Over time, dryness can cause blurred vision or can damage the cornea.
To avoid this issue, you can follow a few steps:
- Drink lots of fluids to stay hydrated;
- Use an air humidifier;
- Carry eye drops with you;
- Try blinking more often.
If you plan to spend several hours outdoors in the winter – whether that be skiing, skating, or shovelling snow – exposure to UV light from the sun’s reflection on the snow or ice can cause damage to the eye’s surface, and cause an inflammation of the cornea. This can make the eyes red, sore, sensitive, and may require antibiotics to prevent infection. Too much exposure to UV light also plays a key role in the development of cataracts, which affect vision.
To avoid damage from outdoor glare, follow these steps:
- Wear sunglasses that protect against the UV light;
- When skiing, wear goggles with polycarbonate lenses;
- Limit your time outdoors – especially if you’ve forgotten eye protection and it is sunny or bright outside.
Additionally, getting laser vision correction ahead of the winter season can be a great idea to improve your enjoyment of the winter activities that you love, as it would mean no rain or fog on your glasses – just clear vision so you can focus on your favorite winter sport.
If you plan to spend time outdoors this winter, plan ahead to help avoid eye problems. They may not be bothering you now, but protecting your eyes from the winter weather can help to avoid long-term issues.
Remember back in the ‘good ‘ol days’ when our parents would send us outside to play until the sun went down? We were encouraged to play outside to get ‘fresh air’ and likely to get out of their hair while dinner preparations happened. What has happened? With the increase in technology, less school organized sports, and a perceived danger for children to play by themselves outside, the frequency for outdoor physical activity is trending down at an alarming rate. In fact, 73% of parents report their kids aged 5-19 watch TV, read, or play video and computer games during the after-school period between the end of the school day and suppertime.
So what does this trend mean for your kids eyesight? New Canadian research out of the University of Waterloo’s School of Optometry and Vision Science, found nearsightedness in children increases drastically from Grade 1 to Grade 8 in local schools, and almost a third of the cases are undiagnosed and uncorrected. “Historically, myopia started at age 12 or 13, but now it is showing up more often in kids six or seven years old,” said Dr. Mike Yang, lead investigator and clinical scientist with the Centre for Contact Lens Research (CCLR), Waterloo. “Our eyesight as a population is deteriorating and at a much younger age.” (1)
These cases in which they kids are undiagnosed, can be detrimental to their academic experience. “Kids don’t know they can’t see the blackboard,” said Prof. Deborah Jones, co-lead investigator on the study and a clinical professor at the School of Optometry and Vision Science at Waterloo. “This kind of gradual deterioration in eyesight easily goes unnoticed without regular eye exams.”
So what is causing this trend with our newest generation? Researchers may have stumbled upon a reason: the lack of outdoor play. According to the report, children of a parent with myopia (nearsightedness) have more than double the risk of developing it themselves. However, the study found that spending one additional hour per week outdoors significantly lowered the odds of children becoming nearsighted.
An additional study out of China, the researchers looked at about 1,900 schoolchildren. The scientists found that the kids who had been instructed to spend more time outdoors, over three years, were 23 percent less likely to develop nearsightedness during this time than those who had not been instructed to spend more time outdoors.
Based on the results, the researchers recommend that children spend more time outdoors because of the potential benefits to their eyesight. In order to maximize the benefit of outdoor play, we should further increase the outdoor time by using school recesses and encouraging parents bring their children outside on weekends.
The long and the short of this information, is get outside! Children who spend just one extra hour a week outside lower their risk of developing nearsightedness by 15 per cent.