By: Dr. Michelle Trinh Ly and Dr. Jason Woo

There are currently over 2.4 million Canadians living with diabetes, and this number is only expected to increase with time. Individuals with diabetes are at risk for many chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and arthritis. Not as widely known however, are the eye complications related to diabetes: diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma. Although it is important for everyone to have their eyes examined regularly by an optometrist, it is especially important for those living with diabetes. Left untreated, eye complications from uncontrolled diabetes can lead to serious vision loss or even blindness.

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy causes progressive damage the retina, the light-sensitive lining at the back of the eye. It occurs when tiny blood vessels that provide nutrients to the retina become damaged from uncontrolled blood sugar levels in the body. If damaged, these vessels will leak blood and other fluids into the retina and can cause bleeding and swelling in the eye.

In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, simply reducing the blood sugar levels may be enough to reduce the damage at the back of the eye. In the later stages, treatment may require injections of medication into the eye, the application of laser to the retina, or vitrectomy, a process where the vitreous humor in the eye is removed and replaced with a salt solution.

How is Diabetes Related to Cataracts and Glaucoma?

A cataract is the clouding or fogging of the crystalline lens inside the eye. This lens is normally transparent and allows us to see clearly by focusing light onto the retina. Although cataracts can occur in anyone with time and age, people living with diabetes tend to develop cataracts at an earlier age compared to those living without diabetes. To get rid of cataracts, one must undergo a surgery, which involves replacing the cloudy crystalline lens with a clear artificial lens.

Glaucoma is a disease which causes progressive damage to the nerves inside our eyes. These nerves are responsible for carrying the signals for vision from our eyes to our brain. There are several risk factors for glaucoma including increased pressure in the eye, age, and family history. People with diabetes are at risk of developing a rare type of glaucoma called neovascular glaucoma. In this unusual form of glaucoma, new blood vessels grow onto the iris of the eye, eventually blocking the normal outflow of fluid from the eyes. This results in an increase in eye pressure which consequently can damage the eye’s internal fragile nerve connections. This form of glaucoma is very difficult to treat. Currently, the best available options involve using lasers to reduce the presence of the problematic blood vessels in the iris.

How Can I Prevent Diabetes Related Eye Diseases?

Diabetic eye diseases are the result of uncontrolled blood sugar levels in the body. Therefore, it is important to maintain optimal blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Ask your team of healthcare professionals to help you determine your optimal blood sugar level, and the strategies required in order for you to stay on target. It is important to visit your optometrist at least once a year for a comprehensive examination of the health of your eyes. This should include a measurement of your vision and prescription for glasses, a health evaluation of the anterior portion of the eyes (eyelids, cornea, iris, lens), as well as the posterior portion (retina, blood vessels, optic nerve). For most, this involves having detailed photographs or scans taken of the inside of your eyes.

Signs of complications from diabetes in the eyes could indicate that elsewhere in your body, there are damaged blood vessels. Other commonly affected areas are the kidneys, fingertips, and toes. It is important to remember that the early stages of diabetic eye diseases often do not produce any symptoms. Therefore, it is critical to have your eyes examined regularly in order to catch any early signs of damage to the eyes.


By: Dr. Michelle Trinh Ly and Dr. Jason Woo

Yearly comprehensive eye exams by an optometrist are important to ensure that your child’s vision is up to par. If it is determined that your child will need glasses in order for his/her eyes to continue to develop and see properly, your next task will be to choose the most suitable pair of glasses according to your child’s needs. Choosing glasses for your child can be a challenging experience, especially if this is your child’s first pair.

That’s why we’ve prepared these tips for you that will help simplify the process and help you choose a great pair of glasses!

An important factor to consider when choosing glasses for your child is choosing a frame style and colour that they will like. One of the biggest challenges we face when a child is prescribed glasses for the first time is actually getting them to wear it. A child is more likely to wear their glasses if they like how it makes them look! Always choose the frame with your child, not for them.

Choose a frame that is comfortable. A properly fitted frame will ensure that the glasses feel comfortable while staying firmly on your child’s face. Keep in mind that although frames can be adjusted, not every frame may be suitable for your child. An experienced frame fitter can assist you in making sure the frame can be properly adjusted to your child’s face.

Look for frames with spring hinges. These special hinges allow the temples to flex slightly outward from the frame without causing any damage. This is ideal for children because they are not always careful with their glasses. The temple hinge is the only moving part in a pair of glasses, and therefore the likeliest place to break during rough play. Selecting the right hinges can help prevent the need for frequent repairs or replacements.

Protect your child’s eyes with a lens material that is resistant to shattering. Polycarbonate and trivex are excellent options for children as they can absorb large impacts without breaking. Depending on your child’s prescription, additional features such as aspheric surfacing or high index materials may be required to keep the lenses thin and light.

Add a high quality scratch-resistant and anti-reflection coating. This will help to prolong the life of your child’s lenses and help to reduce glare from electronic devices such as computers and tablets. Additionally, it will help make the lenses more resistant to smudging so your child can actually see through them!

When the glasses are ready to be picked up, it is important that your child is present to allow for the frame to be adjusted properly to your child’s face. The frame needs to be properly positioned and sit level on your child’s face. The frame should not move around or slip down the nose. There should not be noticeable red marks on the bridge of the nose or behind the ears after a few hours of wear. If this is the case, you should bring the glasses back to where you purchased them to have them re-adjusted.

For any new pair of glasses, there can be an adaption period. The best way to overcome this is to encourage your child to wear the glasses as much as possible without repeatedly taking them off as this will slow down the adaptation process. Remember to inform all teachers about the glasses to ensure that your child will wear them in school and continue to learn effectively along with the rest of the class.

And lastly, make it a fun experience! Choosing your child’s first pair of glasses is something that only happens once, and making it a positive experience will set the stage for the next time you have to pick out new glasses.


Even though you don’t feel as much heat from the sun in the winter, this does not mean that you no longer need to wear those trendy sunglasses you wore all summer long!

In the winter, the sun sits lower in the sky compared to during the warmer summer months. This results in more sun exposure if you are doing winter sports or attending various outdoor events. Most importantly, the UV (ultra-violet) radiation from the sun can be damaging to the eye.

Children are especially at risk because they often spend more time outdoors than the average adult. Since UV damage is cumulative, it is important to protect your eyes and your children’s eyes early on.

Here are some facts about the effects of the sun in the winter:

  1. Snow reflects up to 85% of the sun’s rays upward – The reflective qualities of the snow make conditions very bright and create intense glare that makes it very difficult to see. Sunglasses will reduce glare to allow for safe driving and participation in sports like skiing or snowboarding
  2. Outdoor activities increase exposure – Being out on a snowy day allows reflected rays to hit the eyes from all angles. This includes the rays from the sun above and the rays reflected from the ground up and into the eyes
  3. UV rays can cause sunburned eyes – This is sometimes referred to as “snow blindness” and often affects skiers and snowmobilers. Without proper eye protection, the cornea can be sunburned for up to a week. Snow blindness can occur in anyone, including the unprotected eyes of infants in strollers, toddlers in the snow, or children going tobogganing. Some symptoms of snow blindness include excessive blinking, watery and red eyes, irritation, discomfort, or pain. Symptoms can appear immediately or up to 12 hours after exposure. Pain and temporary blurring of vision can show up even later than that.
  4. Don’t forget about hats, scarves, and sunscreen – In addition to sunglasses, hats with wide brims will help to shade the eyes and eyelids from the sun. Scarves will help to protect the neck. Always remember to apply sunscreen to exposed area of the skin.

Sun protection year-round is important for everybody, especially children. Set a good example for your children by wearing sunglasses and sunscreen yourself. Be sure to book an appointment with your optometrist for a comprehensive eye exam to ensure your eyes are healthy and vision is good to safely participate in winter activities. Most importantly, have fun this winter!

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