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Moved UP to the 8th floor

Thank you for the support over the last 20 years.  Next time you visit look for us on the 8th floor of the same building.  Our new address is #800 – 736 Granville Street.  Our phone number and email address are staying the same.

We strive to constantly change and improve your experience.  We will be able to provide you with more space and a more private and enhanced patient and client experience.

Now accepting direct billing to insurance

We are now able to direct bill many extended health insurance plans!  When you come in for your eye exam please bring your insurance card and register yourself on the insurance company’s website, then we can let you know if your plan can be billed directly.  Unfortunately, at this time there is no way for us to tell how much your plan will cover until we make a submission.  If you are curious how much your plan covers please check before arriving at our office.insurance-logos

List of companies we are able to direct bill:

  • Green Shield
  • Great West Life
  • Blue Cross
  • Manulife
  • Sun Life

List of companies we can submit to on your behalf:

  • Standard Life
  • Desjardins Insurance
  • Maximum Benefits
  • Johnston Group
  • Industrial Alliance
  • Camber of Commerce

 

EyeCare Project to Peru, July 2019

 

July 1, 2019

Happy Canada day from Peru

As most of you know, today I am starting a 2 week vision project in the Andean foothills outside of Lima, Peru.

A group of 21 of us from Canada and the US will be serving the communities of Jicamarca and Canto Grande in pop-up style eye clinics in underprivileged areas that have no access to eyecare or glasses. We have brought with us over ten thousand pairs of glasses to distribute, and will be doing literally thousands of eye exams.  

It feels cool to start this project on Canada Day in particular, and also feels a bit easier to appreciate Canada looking through the prism of a trip like this. And I don’t only mean appreciating the beauty, the high standard of living, and all the rights and privileges we enjoy- though those are very clear too.  I am proud to live in a country that celebrates diversity in all aspects: this team comes from all different ethnicities, cultures, backgrounds and ages-in fact, 2 team members are over 70 and 5 are under 19.

I am also proud that as Canadians we recognize the importance of respecting all humanity, and of protecting equal rights for all.  There are 6 doctors on this team, and I am the only man. The leader of this project-Dr. Marina Roma March is a global example of what strong, compassionate women can do when placed in leadership positions.  I’m proud that our team can be progressive role models for people in areas of the world that don’t enjoy the type of equality that we do. 

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On my most recent eye project to Costa Rica, we operated our clinic out of a community center in a refugee neighbourhood. There were many local refugee women that worked at that center cooking and cleaning, and they watched us each day as we worked. At the end of the trip they told us that they had never seen men and women act towards each other as our group did; and seeing Marina as the head person in charge was inspirational to them. This was such a pleasant, unexpected benefit of the work we did there. 

Joining me on this trip is an old optometry school friend of mine, Rene from Minnesota, who I went on my very first eye project to south eastern Mexico over 25 years ago. It has been awesome to catch up with her (and sneak off for an extra pisco sour at the bar while the others shopped!), and she is a very clear reminder that there are awesome people all over the world who are happy to give their time to help others. 

Before I left, my friend Trevor reminded me of a Mr. Roger’s saying that I have always quoted:

“Did you ever grow anything in the garden of your mind?  You can grow ideas in the garden of your mind.  All you have to do is think and they will grow”

I like to think that a trip like this will fertilize the garden of my mind.  And I’m happy to share it with all of you that I love!

Happy Canada Day, Peace, love, and I’ll send more soon!!

July 3, 2019:

The traffic in Lima is chaotic and dizzying, and the only traffic rule seems to be the bigger car gets the right of way. 

The honking is like a constant conversation, and although it is aggressive driving, there doesn’t seem to be the same level of road rage as at home. 

The bus ride to the clinic in the morning is close to two long hours, but there is something interesting to see in every direction you look. The amazing use of bright colors in everyday use (imagine painting your entire house bright fuschia or beautiful turquoise) contrasts with the apparent difficulty of everyday life in some of these areas. 

Yesterday we set up our clinic in a community where people build small homes terraced into the aird foothills. All of these homes do not have plumbed water access, so the higher up the hill the less desirable the location (the further to transport water to their home on a daily basis)-it’s basically the polar opposite of how we live in Canada, where mountain view homes are status symbols. Imagine access to water dictating your life every single day, it’s hard to reconcile the impact that would have. It was an eerily beautiful place:

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Today we moved our clinic to a school in Jicamarca, and we examined close to 600 people in that neighborhood, about 300 of these being school kids that looked something like this:IMG_0514

A couple patients stand out in my mind from today: this 28 year old guy, Freddy, had vision out of only his right eye (the left eye had a traumatic cataract since he was young)-and he hasn’t had glasses in over 10 years. He is a 12 diopter myope, meaning that without glasses he is incredibly visually impaired:

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How has he managed to function over that last decade without these glasses?  How did he even make it to our clinic? 

I’m just happy he did. 

Another woman I examined today was also incredibly near sighted…..even more than my new friend Freddy, at over 15 diopters of myopia. She did have a pair of glasses, but they were extremely scratched, and in terrible condition. A patient at our clinic in Vancouver had donated her old spectacles (shout out to Mary McC!) and they were absolutely perfect for this lovely Peruvian woman:

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To be able to bring something from home, donated from a long time patient, across the equator to a woman in need is a very special thing that I do not take for granted. 

#Synchronicity-coincidences that have spiritual meaning to the person who experiences them. I’m feeling that right now. 

Like many parts of the world there  are free roaming dogs everywhere, most of them stray, but many of them wearing tshirts and pajamas like these ones in the pictures-maybe as a symbol of ownership. It makes me smile every time. My dog Josie literally has no idea how lucky she has it. 

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Then again, I usually don’t realize how lucky I have it as well.

July 5, 2019:

The traffic. The traffic. I cannot over state it. It takes us over two hours back and forth to our clinic site, and it is an aggressive, honking, jerking driving affair. How on earth there are not more accidents is beyond us all. 

The first thing we typically do when we arrive to check our driver’s visual acuity, and I’m happy to report he is 20/20. 

It is winter here, so it is foggy and very humid most days. It is so humid that my normal process of washing clothes each day doesn’t work as they don’t dry overnight. I washed my socks and underwear after our first day and they still aren’t dry 4 days later.  Maybe that is a mute point as the next 3 days in Lima there is a water restriction so we may not be able to shower or launder anything. yikes.

Re-wearing dirty clothes is something that is to be taken in stride, just as is the one non-flushing toilet that we all have to share throughout the day. Nothing binds a group like intimate sharing of elimination!! #thisisintense 

We have seen over 1500 patients in the last 3 days. That is as epic as it sounds. Believe me, my body and mind feel every one of those eye exams!  However, today was a very satisfying day as we saw so many people in need. 

On previous trips I have always been amazed by our “magic box” of glasses and low vision devices- meaning that all of the things we have packed up over the months leading up to this trip seem to be magically just what we need in the moment:

This woman was 12 years old when she last had glasses- she fell and they broke and she has never been able to replace them. Her prescription is -18.00. How could we possibly have the correct thing for her?!  It must be magic. Or God. Or the Universe, or spirit, or whatever you call it. 

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With her is a young optometrist from New Mexico, Elizabeth, who worked on this with me. The look on this woman’s face when she finally put on this pair of glasses will stay with me for the rest of my life

 

What endures me through the day is a sense of humor (and also the promise of a beer at the end of the day). I am working with a great, compassionate, and fun group of people and we joke around as we work through the clinic at a grueling pace. None of us speak Spanish very well, and it is comical how we butcher our way through our communication with the locals. An optometrist from Michigan, Rita and I have been laughing as we say only to each other: los cientos no los cientos…..which we think means: “sorry, not sorry”. I’m not sure that translates, but we smile at each other and laugh as we face the hundreds of people ahead of us that need our service. 

July 14, 2019:

I have just finished a 14 hour day, a long winding bus ride home, and after two beers we are all giggling like school kids. I think we are all punch drunk. Rene took this picture of a young girl in the clinic this afternoonbecause her shirt was so unexpected, and we have been giggling at it all day:

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Keeping your mind open to seeing the unexpected in the routine is a part of fertilizing the garden of your mind, and somehow this feels like fun version of that. I am having so much fun reconnecting with Rene and sharing this experience with her.  We share a perverse, but compassionate view of the human condition.  

We saw over 600 people today in a new neighborhood called Canto Grande.  People came from many miles away, mostly from down in the hills, and this is an even poorer area than where we have been the last several days. When you look off into the hills above the school where we have set up our clinic, it looks very beautiful in a way, but when you zoom in on the details it really is such a harsh, dry, rough existence. 

The people we are serving have been completely lovely, and so gracious and thankful.  As we work through such a huge volume of patients it requires a constant, diligent mindset to remember to see people as individuals and not just sets of eyes that need to be examined over and over and over and over and over. 

I try to always remind myself to afford each person the dignity of seeing them as an individual. 

I believe that as humans we are energetic beings, and that the potential to affect each other’s energy without speaking is both a gift and a responsibility- I am trying to emanate respect, kindness and a healing vibe. And I am feeling this back from the hundreds standing in line waiting to get to my station. 

Life appears very hard here in the Andean foothills. And it is harder for some than for other. Even here there are the haves, and the have-nots.  The poorest of the poor can be treated badly by the others;  scorned and generally not afforded any status whatsoever, including wanting to have them not hold their place in line. When I can, it makes me happy to dignify these poorest people with recognition and any little bit of status I can pass on to them. Sometimes just calling them Senor/Senorita, touching their shoulders, or moving them up in line seems like the least I can do.

Our magic box continues to provide what seems to be needed, when it is needed, how it is needed. I saw a legally blind 17 year old girl today who has been struggling with her whole life, defined by her blindness.  We were able to provide her with some high-end North American devices that I hope will change and empower her life goi g forward. She has nystagmus, and is very uncomfortable and light sensitive and she was so happy with the simple sunglasses we gave her (they were very fashionable and were pink) that she essentially glossed over the much more significant low vision devices that may have a bigger impact on her life in the long run. But everyone wants to look good, and this blind girl in Canto Grande was feeling her look in these sunglasses. She insisted I take a picture of us on my phone (not even hers). #Gogirl

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Feeling very grateful, but also very tired.

Eye Care Mission to Costa Rica , November 2018

 

First day of clinic done:

The last 24 hours have been a blur of airports, buses and all of a sudden I am in the jungle very near to the equator.  We finally arrived to our (very nice) hotel in San Jose about midnight local time, and we were up ‪at 5 am to eat breakfast, and set up the clinic to start seeing patients by 8. Our first 3 days are going to be in La Carpio, which has the reputation of being one of the “worst ghettos in Central America”. I have to admit that description had been giving me some anxiety before leaving on this trip. I was trying to stay optimistic that everything would be all right, but that description created uncertainty in my mind, and gave me some cause for worry. After spending the first day in La Carpio, let’s just say this, here are the faces of a couple refugee migrants living in this ghetto:

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There has been so much in the news lately about refugees and human migration-and these groups are often cast as criminals, gang members, and poor people bringing disease. It’s too easy (for me as well) to paint with a broad stroke, and not see people as individuals.  But of the hundreds of people we served today, there were moms and dads with new babies, old people with very poor vision and no access to glasses, giggling teen girls, and generally hardworking, respectful people just living the life that has been put in front of them.

I’m certain there is a lot of trauma and heartache that happens in La Carpio, (and the path that takes you there in the first place) and I am not about to move there from my comfortable home in kits….but, people are people, and except for the luck of where I was born I can totally see myself in their place. The significance of looking directly into each person’s eyes is not lost on me.

Here is another picture from the clinic today of a woman who was so happy with her glasses and new vision that she worked her way backwards through the line up to give me a hug before she left. It warmed my heart and reminds me of why these trips are such a nice part of my life.

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Also in this picture is Dr. Marina Roma March, our team leader and one of my personal hero’s. She has done dozens of these trips all over the globe over the last 2 decades and she told me yesterday that this trip was important because she felt it was time to “refuel her empathy” which had been chipped away through her day to day and practice life.  It’s a great thought, and an inspiring lesson.

 

I came home from the clinic today and this is what I did: walked into the shower with all my clothes on, rinsed them off, then showered myself, then washed all my clothes by hand and hung them to dry. Not very glamorous, but really pretty efficient! (Note the drying compression socks and handkerchiefs-I have officially become my dad!)

All of my allotted baggage for this trip is made up of our eyeglass library and equipment, so I am only allowed to bring 1 carry on of personal effects-so I have to hand wash my clothes at night to get them back into rotation next day.   Already another lesson: I don’t need nearly as much stuff as I have!

I’m feeling healthy, and I love the beans and rice- I hope it becomes a staple while I’m here.

 

 

Pura Vida:

Our clinic site in La Carpio has been set up in essentially what is a community center, and this is a child’s drawing that is hanging up right beside my station:

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My translator told me that it essentially means that “the heart always breaks in La Carpio”.  It’s a pretty uncomfortable image for me to work beside all day, but it kind of keeps my mind in the right perspective. A mental reminder is good, because each day we see around 400 people at my triage station, and I try my best to see each person as an individual with a life full of stories, happy events, traumas and heartbreaks.

 

 

 

On a lighter note, this kid has been hanging around our station all day, and he is straight-up awesome:

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He found this piece of junk wire somewhere and he has been acting like it is a microphone receiver that he is translating messages on.

 

 

 

 

Also awesome is this dog that slept underneath our triage table for a good part of the afternoon:

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I guess he felt safe, and I don’t dare tell him how comfortable my own dogs have it at home!! :)

 

 

 

 

This woman was a 3 diopter myope, and she was thrilled not only with her vision, but also with how great these donated glasses looked on her. Her son is literally a bundle of light:IMG_9323

 

At home I practice meditation to try and keep my mind balanced, and over years of practicing I think it all basically boils down to trying to live in the moment (not thinking about the past, and not worrying about the future).  A thing I have noticed about being on these trips over the years is that you cannot help but live in the moment. You are forced to be in the moment because there is a constant stream of people to serve, and you have to stay alert and present. So each day feels like a meditation in a way. At the end of the day I am sweaty, dirty, tired, and spent-but somehow it brings a sense of peace.

 

A very common saying in Costa Rica is “Pura Vida”.  People say it as hello, or if someone asks how you are doing, you would say it to mean everything is cool.  The locals say it is a lifestyle as much as a greeting-a relaxed, simple way of looking at life.

Tonight we have packed up our clinic in La Carpio and tomorrow at 5am we head east for a 3 hour drive through the mountains to serve an indigenous group called Cabecar.  I miss home, but I am having a great experience, and our team is one of the best groups I have experience in any trip so far.

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Follow me to the Jungle:

The last 2 days are the deepest I have ever been into a real jungle.thumb_IMG_9364_1024

After a long, winding, early-morning drive through a mountain range, we set up our first clinic site in an outdoor Cabecar church in an area called Tajo Chirripo.

 

 

 

 

 

A unique trait of the indigenous Cabecar is that their homes are not clustered together, but rather spread out through the mountains.thumb_IMG_9356_1024To gather, (and to get to our clinic site) most people have to trek back and forth across a fairly wide and fast moving river.  Our guide told us that it also has snakes in it (!), so people really appreciate rubber boots which I guess snakes can’t bite through. Whoa. Remember how all our parents used to say they had to walk miles to school in the snow…..?!???

 

So, anyway, a special thank you to those of you who donated boots and runners for us to bring along on this trip. We gave your donations to the community head who distributed them to people after they moved through our clinic. I collected over 80 pairs in just 10 days- a testament to how many wonderful people I have in my life. (and a special shout out to Dawn and her son Ian’s classmates!)

 

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This guy loved his “new” boots!

One of the teen Cabecar girls we saw in the clinic turned out to be a 10 diopter myope (very, very nearsighted). Her new glasses are literally going to be life changing. I can’t even begin to imagine how she would navigate this river crossing without such strong glasses. It made every second of travel to get to this remote spot feel completely worthwhile.

 

There are officially 8 indigenous groups in Costa Rica, 4 of whom have maintained their own language, and one of these is the Cabecar. Luckily most also speak a fair amount of Spanish.  I only speak what could be called TWECS-Spanish: look up, look down, don’t look at my light, you need glasses for distance, you have a cataract, please go to station 6, etc.  Sometimes I catch myself off guard when I string several of these together and the person is nodding along with me as they understand.  I often end with: yah? And they usually say back: yah.  That part seems universal.

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Here was today’s clinic-dog:

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The Final Wrap Up:

We wrapped up our trip back in La Carpio with one of the most satisfying clinic days ever.  Often word of mouth spreads about what we are doing, and near the end we see the people who ultimately need our service the most.thumb_IMG_9422_1024

 

We saw around 600 people that last day, and several were very remarkable.

 

 

 

One was a young father irreparably blind in one eye, with a traumatic injury to his good eye that happened about a year ago. He came in with his wife and young baby, and was only able to discern what we call “count fingers” about 2 feet in front of his face.thumb_IMG_9397_1024

 

Each trip we bring one box of “low vision devices” donated from legally blind people in Canada, and that box is full of quite custom odds and ends, and it seems to have some magical (or spiritual) power. A combination of several high powered lenses from that box improved this man’s distance vision to a much more functional, but not perfect, state.  With several other small but strong custom magnifiers he was actually able to read pretty well, and clearly see his son’s face for the first time since the injury. We were almost as happy as he was.  It honestly feels like some other power is working through us.

 

 

Another patient was a young boy, maybe around 10, in a wheelchair who had such bad scarring on the front of his eyes from corneal ulcers that we really didn’t hold much hope.thumb_IMG_9431_1024

 

 

After sometime of showing him a variety of strong stand magnifiers (again from that box) he quickly became so engrossed the the kids picture book we were using to trial him that he tuned all of us out while his mother beamed. It was a really magical moment.thumb_66988556-deff-4e9f-b794-275763a289e4_1024

 

 

 

 

 

 

This has been such a rewarding trip all around- amidst the poverty and challenging situations I have felt surround by kindness and tenderness of our team towards not only the people we have met, but also to each other.thumb_IMG_9402_1024

 

I have felt compassion and understanding, especially for people being forced from their own home country.

 

And I have found beauty in surprising places.thumb_IMG_9367_1024

I have been practicing creativity daily, not just in how I have to improvise my eyecare, but also in the newness of each day and in every direction I look.

 

And I think I have evolved how I see myself and what I am capable of.

 

I hope you have all enjoyed some of the stories and pictures from this trip. I can’t wait to be back at home and am bringing a new appreciation of my wonderful life.

Pura Vida,

Brad

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Blue Light Filter For Glasses

We are connected to a digital world almost 24-7, could this be harmful to our eyes?

Blue light is emitted from all our electronic devices, such as smart phones, tablets, TVs, and even energy efficient light bulbs.  A blue light filter on your glasses helps to prevent the potentially harmful blue wavelength light from getting into our eyes.

Blocking blue light helps prevent eyestrain, headaches, fatigue, and blurred vision.

Before you purchase your next set of glasses be sure to ask us about the blue light filter.Man is viewing to eye examination chart on display through eyeglasses

 

 

 

 

TWECS Eye Care Mission 2015: Return to Tacloban

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The following are dispatches sent by Dr. McDougall from his eye care mission to the Philippines in November, 2015.

November 11, 2015:  Today is Remembrance Day

I feel even more grateful than usual. Grateful for the country I live in, grateful for health and peace, and grateful that I am free to make my own choices about how to live my life. But as I am packing up to leave for the next three weeks, I am particularly grateful for the comforts of my home, my friends and family, and of course my dog jackson :)

Tonight, Walley and I are headed to the Philippines with TWECS, for an eye care mission to the city of Tacloban, on the island of Leyte. It has been exactly two years since Super-Typhoon Haiyan hit Tacloban, killing thousands and displacing over one million people in the surrounding area.

I joined the TWECS trip that went to Tacloban two months after the disaster, and the images of destruction I saw, and the stories of loss that I heard from survivors will stay with me for life. Typhoon Haiyan, known in the Philippines as Typhoon Yolanda, was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded, devastating portions of Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines, in early-November 2013. It will be an interesting return for me, to hopefully see progress and rebuilding; yet I know that there are still thousands of people living in makeshift homes, and large tent cities that were created as temporary housing.

The focus of this trip will be to help those who have not yet recovered from the effects of the natural disaster. Poor vision is not only a quality of life issue, but also an educational issue, an economic/work issue, and for many a safety issue. The moto of TWECS is “your old eyeglasses can make a world of difference”, and I have seen this myself over and over again.

Read More

Building Community

https://youtu.be/00B8Yf3DCp4

We believe in building community inside and outside of our office.  And around the world.

Everyone at the Vancouver Block Optometrists donates their time, and helps raise money for local charities including the C.N.I.B, B.C. Guides Dogs, Foundation Fighting Blindness, Vancouver Food Bank, and Covenant House.

July 11, 2014: Essilor Opening Eyes Program at the Canadian National Special Olympics held at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC, Canada. ****(Photo by Bob Frid 2013) All Rights Reserved : cell 778-834-2455 : email: bob.frid@shaw.ca Web: bob-frid-images.photoshelter.com ****We are also deeply involved with Special Olympics B.C.  Dr. McDougall is a clinical director of the “Opening Eyes” vision care program of Special Olympics Canada, and all of our doctors and staff volunteer their time to examine Special Olympic Athletes at provincial and national Games.  Watch a video of our office volunteering at the 2014 National Summer Olympic Games held in Vancouver:  Special Olympics videoIMG_3871

We have an ongoing commitment to international organizations that provide vision care to underprivileged people around the world.  Our doctors have travelled to Africa, Central America, South America, and East Asia providing vision care to people in need.  Vision is a human’s primary sense, and it’s importance is not just a quality of life and health issue, but also an educational, economic and safety issue.  Sometimes the difference in being able to succeed in school, or provide for your family is simply a pair of eyeglasses.  To read more about our care around the world, check out our blog: Eye Care Mission Blog

The 20-20-20 Rule

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Many of us spend a good deal of our time staring at screens, from laptops, computers,smart phones, gaming systems and television we can put a lot of strain on our eyes or cause eye fatigue. This quick rule can help to reduce some of that stress. When using your screens give your eyes a break.

Use the 20-20-20 rule.

Every 20 minutes take a 20 second break and focus your eyes on something at least 20 feet away.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month in Canada

It is Diabetes Awareness Month in Canada and I wanted to share some facts from my blog on how diabetes and its complications can affect not only your vision, but the delicate structures inside your eye.

Facts from the Canadian Diabetes Association:

  • With an estimated 3.4 million Canadians living with diabetes, it touches most of us.
  • Untreated, type 2 diabetes can cause severe health problems and even be fatal.
  • Early detection for those who have the disease can decrease complications and improve an individual’s quality of life.
  • To find out your risk of developing diabetes visit Dontberisky to take a short survey.

World Sight Day

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World Sight day is an annual awareness day that falls on the second Thursday of October. Its objective is to bring attention to blindness and vision impairment. WSD is coordinated by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness under the VISION 2020 Global Initiative. The global theme is “Universal Eye Health” and this year IAPB asks us to think about:

Eye care for all.

World Vision Facts from IAPB:

  • Approximately 285 million people worldwide live with low vision and blindness
  • Of these, 39 million people are blind and 246 million have moderate or severe visual impairment 90% of blind people live in low-income countries
  • Yet 80% of visual impairment is avoidable – i.e. readily treatable and/or preventable
  • Restorations of sight, and blindness prevention strategies are among the most cost-effective interventions in health care
  • The number of people blind from infectious causes has greatly reduced in the past 20 years
  • An estimated 19 million children are visually impaired
  • About 65% of all people who are visually impaired are aged 50 and older, while this age group comprises only 20% of the world’s population
  • Increasing elderly populations in many countries mean that more people will be at risk of age-related visual impairment.

The Canadian Association of Optometrists encourages all Canadians to think about their eyes on World Sight Day and every day.

Smoking and Eye Health

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While many people know the risks of smoking to their overall health, often there is less awareness of the impact of smoking on vision and the eyes. Avoiding smoking or taking steps to quit, lowers your risk of vision impairment and vision loss.

The Canadian Association of Optometrists indicate that smokers are at higher risk for the following conditions:

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

The macula is the central most part of the retina, the inner layer at the back of the eye responsible for detailed central vision. It is used for reading, driving and recognizing people’s faces. Macular degeneration is a condition that causes the center of your vision to blur while the side or peripheral vision remains unaffected. It is generally related to the aging process, and is also commonly referred to as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). It is the leading cause of blindness in North America in adults over the age of 55. High-risk groups include smokers and people who have had extensive UV exposure. AMD is also associated with conditions such as high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, and those with a family history of AMD.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes and its complications can affect many parts of the eye. The most serious eye problem associated with diabetes is diabetic retinopathy which occurs when there is a weakening or swelling of the tiny blood vessels in the retina of your eye, resulting in blood leakage, the growth of new blood vessels and other changes. If diabetic retinopathy is left untreated, blindness can result. Several factors that increase the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy include smoking, high blood pressure, drinking alcohol and pregnancy.

Cataracts

Cataracts are the result of aging changes that occur within your eyes that cause the lenses to become cloudy. This may be due to advancing age or it may be the result of heredity, an injury or a disease. Excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation present in sunlight, cigarette smoke or the use of certain medications is also risk factors for the development of cataracts. Cataracts usually develop in both eyes, but often at different rates.

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

The most common cause of temporary vision loss is known as a transient ischemic attack. It is more commonly known as a TIA, or a “mini-stroke,” and tends to occur most often in seniors. A TIA may only last a matter of minutes but it should not be ignored since roughly fifteen per cent of patients who survive their first TIA or mini-stroke will suffer another one within one year. Risk factors for TIA: High blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, IV drug use, cocaine use, excessive alcohol, use of oral contraceptives, and lack of exercise causing obesity.

In 2011 the Canadian Journal Optometry (CJO) published the article:

Smoking and Blindness: What Optometrists Want Their Patients to See.

Abstract: Most smokers are not aware that their tobacco use is a preventable cause of blindness. Despite the important role optometrists can have impacting patient health choices; their voice has been largely silent in the development of tobacco cessation practice guidelines and health promotion strategies. In this study, we use the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project (ITC) Four Country Survey to describe the level of Canadian smokers’ knowledge of the association of smoking with blindness and we use focus groups to elicit ideas from Canadian optometrists and senior optometry students about blindness-related graphic warning labels.

Considering quitting smoking? Get help!

Pregnancy & Vision

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Women experience a myriad of physical changes during pregnancy such as body tenderness, water retention, and nausea – but few women know about the impacts pregnancy can have on their vision according to the Doctors of Optometry of Canada.

Every mom-to-be experiences hormone fluctuations, but what most don’t know, is that these changes can cause them to develop conditions such as blurred vision and dry eye and severe changes to vision, may be the first sign of a more serious condition such as gestational diabetes.

While pregnant, here are three vision conditions to keep an eye on.

Blurred Vision

Slight vision changes are common for pregnant women to experience. If you notice that your vision has steadily changed or is periodically different, you’re likely experiencing refractive changes caused by fluid retention.

Not to worry, for most women these changes are temporary and return to normal after delivery, but for some, these changes are permanent and may require a trip to a Doctor of Optometry for a new prescription.

Doctors of optometry recommend that women wait between six and nine months after delivery before making changes to their prescription to ensure their eyes have fully adjusted.

Dry Eyes

Stinging, gritty, scratchy and uncomfortable feeling eyes are all common signs of a chronic condition called dry eye.

Hormone fluctuations common during pregnancy can cause a decrease in the production of natural tears, leading to the development of the condition. These symptoms usually dissipate after delivery, but for some women, the condition cannot be cured and will need to be managed with a prescription.

If dry eye is left untreated, it can be harmful and can even lead to tissue damage and scarring that can impair vision.

If you’re experiencing dry eye symptoms, your comfort can be improved by visiting your Doctor of Optometry, who can prescribe artificial tears, gels and ointments that can be used to alleviate the discomfort.

Diabetes and Gestational Diabetes

Most pregnancy-related vision issues are not serious, but women with diabetes or gestational diabetes are at higher risk of developing serious eye conditions that often worsen during pregnancy and can lead to permanent damage to the blood vessels in the eye.

Visual symptoms to watch for include severe fluctuating or blurring of vision, occasional double vision, loss of visual field, and flashes and floaters within the eyes.

Women with diabetes or gestational diabetes should be seen by an optometrist once per trimester to monitor the blood vessels in the eye and to ensure steps are being taken to mitigate the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to permanent blindness.

Eye Health

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The most important thing you can do to preserve your eyesight is to visit your eye doctor for regular checkups. Like the rest of your body your eyes will change gradually as you age. However, unlike the rest of your body, the eyes often don’t hurt if something is wrong. We’ll advise you when it’s time to be re-examined. So, don’t rely on broken glasses or lost contact lenses to remind you of your next appointment. Follow the advice of experts, have your eyes examined by an eye doctor on a regular basis.

Why should you see an Optometrist?

Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventative blindness today, and can be detected by regular eye health exams with an eye doctor. It is caused by increased pressure in the fluid inside the eye which causes damage to the optic nerve and loss of peripheral vision.

equipment vi ottico 2014Diabetic patients are 25 times more likely to become blind than those without the disease, so annual eye health exams are essential.

Seniors should be on the alert for eye conditions such as macular degeneration, the leading cause of central vision loss among older people. Early detection is essential, as its damage is permanent. Cataracts are another common effect of aging that can be easily detected by optometrists.

Computer vision syndrome is very common in those who work in front of a computer terminal all day.  An optometrist can recommend strategies to prevent eyestrain and improve eye health.

Children should have their eyes examined before the age of three for childhood eye disorders. School-aged children should be examined every year, as at least 80 per cent of all classroom learning is visual. Parents should watch for rubbing or blinking of the eyes, poor hand/eye coordination, poor reading skills, headaches, eye-covering or head-tilting as signs that a child’s eyes need attention.

For more information on Eye Health issues check out the following informational websites: BC Association of Optometrists or Canadian Association of Optometrists.

All information on this site is provided for educational purposes. It is not a substitute for the advice of your optometrist.

New Technology for Eye Health Assessment

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We use high-tech digital photography in our clinic. The digital retinal camera takes pictures of the inside of the eye, so that the doctors can monitor any eye health changes in the retina (including the optic nerve, macula, and vasculature of the retinal blood vessels).

The eye is the only part of the body where blood vessels can be examined directly without using an invasive procedure. Your doctor will be watching for early signs of diabetes, high blood pressure and other diseases. Your photo will be archived so that the doctor can watch for change in these structures over time.

We also utilize a Humphrey visual field machine. This sophisticated, computerized instrument allows us to map the peripheral vision of each eye, which is valuable in assisting in the early detection of many diseases such as glaucoma, optic neuritis, stroke, or brain tumors affecting the visual pathway. These conditions may not affect your eyesight until the condition has become severe. In some cases, a visual field mapping may be the only effective way of detecting these problems, if they exist.

Healthy eyes for a better life

Enjoying good vision and eye health may be something we take for granted, but taking care of your eyes now can mean a lifetime of seeing as well as possible.

Protect your eyes at work, rest and play. Eye injuries can be devastating. Encourage children to wear protective eye wear by wearing it yourself. Properly fitted protective eye wear won’t hurt performance and may save your sight.

Protect your eyes from the harmful effects of UV. Getting children to wear sunglasses from an early age is one of the best habits they can develop. We get most of our UV exposure before we turn 18. Children spend about triple the time outside as adults do, and since up to 75% of UV can penetrate the front structures of a child’s eye (compared to only 10% when we reach 25 years of age), it is extra important for their eyes to be protected. The crystalline lens of the eye absorbs most of the UV, which contributes to the development of cataracts.

A healthy diet and lifestyle is one of the best ways to stay healthy, and to maintain eye health. Don’t smoke (smokers have a six fold increased risk of macular degeneration), exercise regularly, and get a variety of nutrients from eating a combination of healthy foods everyday.

The following are some of the top nutrient rich foods for eye health:

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