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We all know why we need to wear sunglasses and sunscreen in the summer. Winter, however, can be deceiving. It's an illusion to assume that we are safe from sunburns during the colder season.

Snow acts as a powerful mirror for sunlight and magnifies the effects of UV rays which would otherwise be absorbed by the ground. As a result, the eyes are exposed to both the UV radiation bouncing back from the snowy carpet and the rays shining down directly from the sun.

If your family is skiing or snowboarding up in the mountains, you need to be even more careful! UV rays are more powerful at higher altitudes. Another important factor to remember is that ultraviolet radiation penetrates through clouds, so even if the sun is hidden behind them, it can still damage your eyes.

Prevent overexposure to sunlight by wearing sunglasses that absorb at least 95% of ultraviolet radiation when you go outside, no matter what time of year it is. Even though you want to look great in your shades, the most important part of choosing sunglasses is making sure they provide adequate protection against UV. Make sure the lenses are 100% UV blocking by looking for an indication that they block all light up to 400 nanometers - UV400. The good news is you don't necessarily have to pay more for full coverage for your eyes. Dozens of reasonably priced options exist that still provide total ultraviolet protection.

Another important factor in selecting sun wear is the size of the lenses. You want to make sure your glasses cover as much of the area around your eyes as possible. The more coverage you have, the less harmful radiation will be able to penetrate. Lenses that wrap around the temples will also prevent UV waves from entering from the sides.

If you like to ski or frolic in the snowy hills, you should be aware that the sun's rays are stronger at higher elevations, so you need to be especially careful to keep your eyes shaded on the slopes. In addition to sunglasses, it's a good idea to put on a wide brimmed hat that covers your eyes.

Make a point to be knowledgeable about proper eye protection throughout the year. Don't forget to wear your sunglasses.

As a professional optometrist with years of experience and hundreds of patients, it's fair to say that I am very familiar with dyslexia. A misunderstood condition that is often misdiagnosed, dyslexia can be very hard to identify and recognise, especially in children.

Dyslexia is essentially a learning difficulty, which affects your ability to accurately and fluently read and spell words. A typical characteristic that a person with dyslexia might display is a lack of phonological awareness, that is how well they interpret the structure and sound of written words. They might also have a lower than average processing speed concerning literacy, and a reduced ability to recall perceptual processes from their short term memory. From an optometry point of view, we are more concerned with how it affects the eyes and vision, predominantly how it affects your visual stress.


So how would I go about diagnosing dyslexia in a patient? Technically speaking optometrists don't necessarily diagnose dyslexia, but we can certainly detect and try to remedy visual problems associated with dyslexia. If you or your child are showing any of the following symptoms, then I urge you to seek consultation as soon as possible. Symptoms can include words and letters going out of focus regularly during reading, words and letters appearing blurred, letters shaking or moving, words appearing backwards, letters that appear as double, constant headaches during or after reading, and also sensitivity to bright screens, lights and glares.

If I believe that you have reading problems that can be linked to dyslexia, then a full sight test and exam will be carried out. This includes a binocular vision assessment and a Wilkins Rate Of Reading assessment, a useful test that can help confirm the presence of visual stress.


So if I believe that you have dyslexia, or that you have visual stress and problems associated with dyslexia, what would be the next course of action? First of all I would recommend what is known as Vision Therapy. This includes personal sessions focusing on puzzles and activities, reading material under certain conditions such as an eye patch over one eye or wearing tinted glasses, and other activities designed to improve visual stress.

There are some exercises that can help with issues such as eye tracking and reading fluency, and these can also be done at home between the therapy sessions. These include focusing on an object moving in a figure 8 direction, repeatedly drawing a large figure 8 on a piece of paper and other exercises. In some cases glasses may then be prescribed to the individual if it is deemed appropriate, which could help with the amount of strain put on the eyes due to the presence of dyslexia. Tinted lenses have also been shown to be of help to certain dyslexia sufferers and will be a considered option.

Unfortunately we as optometrists cannot help with certain aspects of dyslexia, such as phonological and cognitive awareness. However treating vision problems can make reading much more comfortable and effective, and lead to reduced eye strain and visual stress. So if you believe that you or a relative are showing potential signs of dyslexia, ask for a consultation as soon as possible.