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What You Should Know About Night Blindness

If you don’t see well while driving at night, there’s a chance you have night blindness. Night blindness, or nyctalopia, is the inability to see well at night or in dim lighting. It’s not considered an eye disease, but rather a symptom of an underlying problem.  

Our eye doctor can help diagnose, manage and treat your night blindness so that you can enjoy being out at night again. 

Here are 4 things you should know about night blindness:

Causes of Night Blindness 

The inability to see well at night can be the result of a condition such as:

Vitamin A Deficiency — Vitamin A helps keep your cornea, the layer at the front of your eye, clear; it’s also an important component of rhodopsin, a protein that enables you to see in low light conditions. Although uncommon in North America, deficiency of this vitamin can induce night blindness. 

Cataracts — A buildup of protein clouds the eye’s lens, leading to impaired vision, especially at night and in poor lighting conditions.

Diabetic Retinopathy — Damage to the eyes’ blood vessels and nerves can result in vision loss, including difficulty seeing at night.  

Glaucoma — This group of eye diseases is associated with pressure build-up in the eye that damages the optic nerve. Both glaucoma and the medications used to treat it can cause night blindness. 

Myopia — Also called nearsightedness, myopia makes distant objects appear blurry, and patients with it describe a starburst effect around lights at night.

Keratoconus — An irregularly shaped cornea causes blurred vision and may involve sensitivity to light and glare which tend to be worse at night.

Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) — A progressive genetic eye disease which can be associated with other diseases, RP leads to night blindness and peripheral vision loss.

Usher Syndrome — This genetic condition causes both hearing loss and vision loss, including night blindness and RP, mentioned above.

Symptoms of Nyctalopia

Since night blindness is a symptom of some serious vision problems, it’s important to get your eyes checked regularly to ensure that everything is in good working order. Contact your eye doctor as soon as possible if you notice that you don’t see as well in dim light as you used to, such as when driving at night or when adjusting from being outdoors in the sunshine to being indoors. 

Symptoms of Night Blindness Include:

  • Reduced contrast sensitivity
  • Difficulty seeing people outdoors at night
  • Difficulty seeing in places with dim lighting, like a movie theater
  • Trouble adapting to the dark while driving
  • Excessive squinting at night 
  • Trouble adjusting from bright areas to darker ones 

Treatments for Night Blindness

Your eye doctor will want to diagnose the cause of your night blindness in order to treat it. For example, in the rare case of vitamin A deficiency, it can be treated with vitamin supplements and vitamin-A rich foods; myopia can be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses. Other conditions may require medications or surgery. 

If night blindness is caused by a birth defect, Usher syndrome, or retinitis pigmentosa, low vision aids and devices can help you make the most of your remaining vision. 

Prevention

While there is no proven way to prevent night blindness resulting from genetic conditions or birth defects, consuming healthy, nourishing foods and taking certain vitamin supplements may prevent or slow the onset of some eye conditions that cause night blindness. 

If you experience poor vision at night or in dim lighting, we can help. Contact Lowy & Sewell Eye Care in Concord to schedule your appointment today. 

3 Ways Diabetes Can Affect Your Vision and Eyes

Did you know that people with diabetes are 20 times more likely to get eye diseases than those without it? There are three major eye conditions that diabetics are at risk for developing: cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. To prevent these sight-threatening diseases, it’s important to control your blood sugar level and have your eyes checked at least once a year by an eye doctor.

But First, What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that is associated with high blood glucose levels. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, helps our cells get energy from the sugars we eat. Diabetes develops when the body doesn’t produce or respond to insulin effectively, leaving too much sugar in the blood stream instead. Over time, diabetes can lead to potentially irreversible ocular damage and poor eyesight. However, by taking care of your blood sugar levels and your eyes, you can prevent vision loss.

Annual eye exams are recommended for everyone, but routine screenings are even more important for diabetics. Eye doctors may send diabetic eye health reports to a patient’s primary care physician or internist to adjust medication as needed to prevent complications.

What’s the Link Between Vision and Diabetes?

Blurred vision or fluctuating eyesight clarity is often one of the first noticeable signs that diabetes has begun to affect your eyes. Sometimes, fluid leaking into the eye causes the lens to swell and change shape. This, in turn, makes it difficult for the eyes to focus, resulting in fuzzy vision. Such symptoms can indicate that an eye disease is developing, or may simply be due to imbalanced blood sugar levels which can be rectified by getting your blood sugar back to healthy levels.

If you start to notice blurry vision, make an appointment with Dr. Lowy as soon as possible.

The 3 Ways Diabetes Impacts Vision

Cataracts

While cataracts are extremely common and a part of the natural aging process, those with diabetes tend to develop cataracts earlier in life. Characterized by a clouding or fogging of the lens within the eye, cataracts impede light from entering the eye, causing blurred vision and glares. The best treatment is cataract surgery, which is very safe and effective.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma refers to a group of eye diseases characterized by optic nerve damage. Since it tends to impact peripheral vision first, glaucoma often goes unnoticed until significant damage has occurred. However, routine glaucoma screenings can detect warning signs; early treatment can prevent disease progression and vision loss.

Although there is no true cure for glaucoma, most glaucoma patients successfully manage it with special eye drops, medication, and on occasion, laser treatment or other surgery. The earlier glaucoma is diagnosed and managed, the better the outcome.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the small blood vessels on your retina (capillaries) become weakened and then balloon (microaneurysm) due to poorly controlled blood sugar levels. The resulting poor blood circulation in the back of the eye causes more abnormal blood vessels to grow, which also bleed or leak fluid, and can lead to scar tissue, retinal detachment and even blindness, over time.

Often there are no symptoms until the advanced stages of diabetic retinopathy, where patients may begin to see spots and missing patches in their vision. Retinopathy can be treated through surgery and eye injections, but the best way to prevent this disease from progressing is to regularly have your eyes screened.

The good news is that diabetic eye disease can often be prevented with early detection, proper management of your diabetes and regular diabetic eye exams. Contact Lowy & Sewell Eye Care in Concord to set up your eye doctor’s appointment today.

Does Obesity Impact Eye Health?

Nation-wide awareness about the vast dangers of obesity is at an all-time high, with TV shows like “The Biggest Loser” and health initiatives such as Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign shining a spotlight on the importance of fitness and good nutrition. However, despite the public’s knowledge of obesity’s effects on hypertension, stroke, and diabetes, many are not aware of how it damages eye health and vision.

Increasing evidence shows that people who are clinically obese have an elevated risk of developing serious eye diseases. It is widely known that expanding waistlines place people at a higher risk of getting diabetes, heart disease, and cancer — but researchers say the link between obesity and deteriorating vision is the “risk factor that no one talks about”. Professor Michael Belkin and Dr. Zohar Habot-Wilner, from the Goldschleger Eye Institute at the Sheba Medical Center, found a consistently strong correlation between obesity and the development of four major eye diseases that may cause blindness:

  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma
  • Diabetic retinopathy

The researchers said that although the evidence was out there suggesting a link between obesity and these conditions, their study emphasizes the optometric risks of obesity which can help motivate people to shed those extra pounds.

How Obesity Contributes to Eye Disease

A Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 is considered overweight and above 30 is regarded as obese. A high BMI is tied to several chronic systemic health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke, among others. Recent research indicates that a handful of ocular diseases can now be added to that list.

Serious eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration are more common in individuals with obesity, as well as floppy eyelid syndrome, retinal vein occlusions, thyroid-related eye diseases, and stroke-related vision loss.

The connection between obesity and these eye diseases is likely due to the increased risk of peripheral artery disease. This occurs when the tiny blood vessels bringing oxygen to parts of your body like the feet, kidneys, and eyes become compromised.

Your eyes are particularly prone to damage from obesity because the blood vessels in the eyes (called arterioles) are easily blocked, since they’re extremely thin and small — as thin as ½ the width of a human hair!

Most people are not aware that obesity may increase the rate of developing cataracts, too. Cataracts result when the focusing lens in the eye becomes cloudy and requires surgery to be replaced. In addition to age, cataract development is associated with obesity, poor nutrition, gout, diabetes and high blood sugar levels, though the exact cause isn’t clear.

A Healthy Lifestyle Can Reduce Your Risk of Ocular Disease

Knowing about the risk of vision loss may give those with a high BMI the extra motivational boost they need to lose weight. The good news is that a few lifestyle changes can reduce the associated risks.

An active lifestyle and a balanced, nutritious diet lower obesity and improve overall physical and eye health. Give your body a boost by incorporating important nutrients, such as vitamins C and E, zeaxanthin, omega 3, zinc, and lutein, many of which are found in green leafy and dark orange vegetables, as they have been shown to reduce the onset, progression, and severity of certain eye diseases.

We Can Help Keep Your Eyes Healthy in Concord

While a healthy diet and regular exercise greatly increase your chances of living a disease-free long life, they alone are not enough to ensure long term healthy eyesight. Regular eye exams with Dr. Lowy can help prevent or detect the onset of ocular disease, and maintain vision that is clear and comfortable.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your vision or eye health, don’t hesitate to call Lowy & Sewell Eye Care — we’re here for you.

Cataract Awareness Month

June is Cataract Awareness Month. During this important time, people living with cataracts (and their loved ones) are encouraged to talk about their personal experiences by giving each other helpful information and sharing their knowledge and advice. Use the hashtag #CataractAwarenessMonth on your social media channels to encourage and support others.

Did you know that over 24 million Americans have cataracts? More than 3.5 million Canadians are blind from cataracts, making it one of the most common – and serious – eye conditions today. Dr. Lowy treats cataract patients from all over Concord, Ontario with the newest and most effective methods of eye care.

With millions of people living with the condition, it’s now more important than ever to bring awareness to this serious condition.

What Are Cataracts?

So what exactly are cataracts?

The lens of the eye is normally clear, which allows you to see things clearly and in sharp detail. Over time, the lens can become cloudy, causing blurry vision. It’s as if you’re looking through a dirty window and can’t really see what’s outside. This clouding of the lens is called a cataract, and it can affect one or both of your eyes.

What Causes Cataracts?

Aging is the most common cause of cataracts. The lens of your eye contains water and proteins. As you age, these proteins can clump together, and when that happens, the normally clear lens becomes cloudy.

Did you know that certain types of major eye surgeries and infections can trigger cataracts? Other issues that can lead to cataracts include congenital birth defects, eye injury, diseases, and even various kinds of medications. If you’re already developing cataracts, be careful when going outside. UV rays from the sun can make cataracts develop faster.

How Can I Lower My Risk of Cataracts?

Certain risk factors increase your chance of developing cataracts. These typically include:

  • Diabetes
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Family and medical history
  • Medications
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • UV ray exposure

To lower your risk, consider reducing your alcohol intake, quit smoking, start an exercise program, eat foods rich in vitamin A and C, and wear 100% UV blocking sunglasses.

Common Symptoms of Cataracts

If you have cataracts, you may experience some common symptoms like:

  • Blurry vision
  • Colors that used to be bright now appear dim
  • Double vision
  • Glare from natural sunlight or from artificial light, like light bulbs and lamps
  • Halos around lights
  • Night vision problems
  • Sensitivity to light

If you or a family member notice any of these signs, talk to Dr. Lowy right away. The sooner you seek treatment, the faster we can help you get back to clear vision.

Coping With Cataracts

If you’re experiencing vision problems from cataracts, there is hope. If you have a mild case, a combination of a different eyeglass prescription and better lighting in your home, office, or other environment can improve your vision. In more advanced cases, your optometrist will likely recommend cataract surgery to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with a clear one.

Do I Need Cataract Surgery?

Cataract surgery is one of the most common procedures today. In fact, the American Academy of Ophthalmology estimates that 2 million people undergo the procedure each year.

During the procedure, the doctor will gently remove the cataract from the eye and replace it with an artificial intraocular lens (known as an IOL). Because it’s a common procedure, cataract surgery is usually performed in an outpatient clinic or in your eye doctor’s office. There is no need to stay in a hospital and you can usually resume your normal activities in just a few days.

If you’ve exhausted every other solution and still suffer from blurry vision from cataracts, surgery may be an option. Schedule a consultation online or call 905-738-6680 to book an eye doctor’s appointment at Lowy & Sewell Eye Care and together, we’ll determine if cataract surgery is right for you.

During this Cataract Awareness Month, share your stories and successes, and give your loved ones hope for a healthy and high quality of life.

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