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What is comprehensive eye care?

Five young smiling: Eyecare for the whole family

I am going to let you in on a little secret when it comes to eye care, not every optometrist has the same approach to optometry. And, while that may sound inconsequential to you, you should be aware what the difference between a vision screening or an eyeglass prescription focused eye exam and a comprehensive eye exam are.

What is a vision screening or basic eye exam?

Some eye exams such as a school vision screening or an online eye exam, are focused on getting a fast prescription for you to then go ahead and buy a pair of glasses. The optometrist’s goal at a budget optical is to move patients quickly through the process so that they can sell more cheap glasses.

What is a comprehensive eye exam?

A comprehensive eye exam is a much longer process than just checking your latest prescription. The optometrist will talk with the patient about their vision, symptoms, and even their behavior when it comes to screen time, reading, healthy eating and sunglasses. A patient will be assessed using cutting edge technology for eye diseases like glaucoma and diabetes, and children will be assessed for vision issues that can hold them back in school. The optometrist will speak to the patient about advanced procedures that may be relevant to them such as LASIK eye surgery, Dry Eye treatment, computer vision, eye allergies, myopia control, and vision therapy. Because of the advanced equipment and experience with a wide array of conditions, our optometrists are also the ideal stop for any kind of eye emergency including; scratched eye, something stuck in the eye, a bump/pimple in the eye, pink eye or eye infections and other types of emergencies.

Because of the comprehensive nature of the eye exam, the patient will receive update advice and treatment options for their full eye health, not just what glasses they should get. In this day and age where medical knowledge has exploded and technology has impacted every medical procedure, choose eye health, choose a comprehensive eye exam

6 Habits That Cause Dry Eyes

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Port Elgin Dry Eye Specialists Explain Causes of Dry Eyes

Are you always rubbing your eyes or blinking constantly to spread more moisture across the surface? Dry eyes can be extremely irritating, even painful for some people. Inadequate lubrication may cause sore eyes, redness, an inability to wear contact lenses and overall uncomfortable vision. At our eye care clinic, our experienced, expert eye doctors will perform a thorough eye exam to diagnose Dry Eye Syndrome.

As every patient is unique, our eye exam will include questions about your personal lifestyle in order to identify what’s causing your dry eyes. Finding the cause is the best way to find an effective solution!

Depending upon the results of your eye exam, we’ll recommend a number of lifestyle changes to help alleviate the annoying symptoms caused by your dry eyes. We asked our Port Elgin Dry Eye Specialists and they’ve offered 6 possible culprits for Dry Eye Syndrome:

1. Extreme Weather Conditions

Whether it’s summer or winter, extreme weather can stress your eyes so that they can’t produce enough tears to keep your eyes lubricated well. In the winter, it’s helpful to wear goggles or glasses to protect your eyes from frigid temperatures and wind. This is particularly beneficial when you hit the ski slopes or lace up your ice skates. In the summer, heat can lead to dehydration, which saps the moisture from your eyes too. The best way to avoid this problem and stay comfortable is simply to drink enough!

2. A/C or Indoor Heating

Air-conditioning, fans and indoor heating are directly linked with drying out your eyes. Blowing air evaporates moisture from your eyes more quickly, and it also dries out the atmosphere inside your home or office. A humidifier is a worthwhile investment to solve this problem. In the winter, a humidifier will give you an extra bonus of keeping your sinuses moist too, which helps to relieve the symptoms of your winter cold.

3. Seasonal Allergies

Recent studies have shown a strong link between spring allergens and dry eyes. When pollen counts are highest. an increased number of patients visit our eye doctors with complaints of dry eye symptoms. During allergy season, using an air filter indoors may be the most efficient way to avoid the effects of pollen on your eyes.

4. Skin Conditions

Specific skin conditions and disorders are associated with dry eyes. Blepharitis, which refers to an inflammation of the skin along the edge of your eyelids, often leads to Dry Eye Syndrome, because the oil-producing glands are often clogged. This ruins your eyes’ ability to produce tears with a healthy composition of oil. Rosacea, an inflammatory skin condition that generally appears on the face, may also block the oil-producing glands of your eyes.

5. Environmental Effects of the Great Outdoors

While fresh, outdoor air is generally healthy for your eyes, skin and lungs, too much exposure to smoke, wind, dust, and extreme temperatures can certainly lead to eye dehydration. Global climate change has been blamed for many of these ill effects, as your tear film depends upon natural humidity to stay moist. Yet as our environments have changed (and continue to change), the amount of hydration that your eyes can obtain from the outdoor environment has been reduced. Air pollution is also detrimental to healthy eyes, damaging and drying out your tear film.

6. Low-Tear Production

Our eye doctors diagnose many cases of dry eyes that are due to a reduced tear production. Officially termed keratoconjunctivitis sicca, a decreased manufacture of tears can result from a variety of causes. To stimulate tear production, it may be helpful to up your intake of omega-3 fish oil.

Aging is a common reason for inadequate tear production, as well as certain medical disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, diabetes, thyroid conditions, scleroderma, vitamin A deficiency and Sjorgen’s syndrome. If you’ve undergone radiation treatments, your tear glands may have suffered damage. Laser eye surgery is another potential culprit, however symptoms of dry eyes due to these procedures are generally short-lived.

When your eyes are unable to keep up with healthy tear production, it’s a good idea to take a look at any medications you’re taking. Common household drugs, such as decongestants and antihistamines are known to affect the moisture level of your eyes. Other medications that could cause dry eyes include: antidepressants, hormone replacement therapy, acne drugs, medication for Parkinson’s disease, hypertension treatment and birth control.

How Do I Treat My Dry Eyes?

 

The Dangers of Blue Light and What You Can Do

We are privileged to live in an advanced age at the turn of the 21st century. Electronic devices are everywhere in our world today and make our everyday interactions with the world around us ever easier, safer and more convenient. Although many positive effects have resulted from these devices in our everyday lives, a darker, more dangerous side exists to all of this progress and convenience. Blue light, also known as high energy visible light, is emitted by many of these electronics, and is a serious threat to eye health which was previously unknown and irrelevant in generations past.

bluetech girl with ipadLiving in such an advanced age, each of us, on average, spends roughly 25 hours every week staring at the screen of one of our electronic devices. To put this in perspective, that means that each of us spend more than one entire day, without sleeping, in front of devices that emit blue light that is proven to do serious damage to our visual system. Eyestrain, headaches and fatigue are common side effects. Even more alarming, recent studies indicate that blue light exposure has the potential to increase risk of macular degeneration significantly over time. Those with a history of macular degeneration are at special risk, as well as children, due to large pupils and shorter arms, which cause them to hold electronic devices closer to their faces, both of which allow more blue light to penetrate the eye.

Fortunately, cutting edge technological solutions to this growing epidemic exist. BluTech Lenses are special lenses specifically designed to selectively filter out blue light, enhancing visual comfort and minimizing eyestrain. These lenses boast a special state-of-the-art filtering agent within the lens material itself that duplicates elements in the eye, called ocular lens pigment and melanin, which the body naturally produces on its own, and which help filter out just the right amount of blue light entering the eye to protect against unfettered blue light penetration, while allowing proper visual contrast.

Recharge is another cutting edge option to help cut down on the harmful effects of blue light. HOYA is the advanced eye care company that produces these lenses, which reflect up to 30% of harmful blue light away from the eye.

Between the filtering effect of BluTech and the reflective properties of the Recharge coating, a large percentage of otherwise very harmful blue light never reaches the eye. This is an extremely important element in the long term health of your eyes.

Patients who spend hours on electronic devices are at increased risk of eyestrain and glare, macular degeneration or problems falling asleep at night. For more information about blue light and how to protect yourself, contact your eye doctor today.

Why Do We Need Glasses?

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The most well-known part of a comprehensive eye exam is the basic vision test. When you have a general vision test, one of the main conditions the eye care practitioner is checking for is a refractive error. A refractive error means there is an abnormality in the shape of the eye, changing the eye’s ability to focus light directly onto the retina.This causes blurred vision and can usually be corrected by wearing prescription eyeglasses, contact lenses and possibly, alternate treatments such as vision therapy, ortho-k, LASIK or refractive surgery such as LASIK.

 

The term, “refractive error” refers to a problem with the process of refraction that is responsible for sight. Normally, light rays that enter your eye are refracted or bent through the cornea and the lens, and ultimately converge or are focused onto a single point on the retina. From the retina, messages are sent through the optic nerve to the brain which then interprets these signals into the image that we are seeing.   

 

In order for this process to work effectively, the anatomy of the eye including the length of the eye and the curvature of the cornea and the lens must be just right to be able to focus the light onto the retina. When this is not the case, a refractive error will occur.

 

There are several different types of refractive errors, depending on which part of the eye is affected, and it is possible to have multiple refractive errors at the same time:  

 

Myopia or nearsightedness:

In myopia the length of the eyeball is too long which results in light coming to a focus in front of the retina, rather than on the retina. This allows the individual to see well when objects are close but not clearly when looking at objects at a distance.

 

Hyperopia or farsightedness:

Hyperopia is when the eyeball is shorter than normal and can result in near objects being blurry. However, people experience hyperopia differently. Sometimes distant objects are clear while other times people may experience overall blurred vision near and far or no problems at all. In children particularly, the lens may accommodate for the error allowing for clear vision but may cause fatigue and sometimes crossed eyes or strabismus. Hyperopia causes eyestrain or fatigue especially when looking at near objects for a period of time. Often people with 20/20 vision may still need glasses at their desk to relax their eyes and improve concentration.

 

Astigmatism:

Astigmatism is usually the result of an irregularly shaped cornea (although it can sometimes also be due to a misshapen lens). The cornea, which is normally round, is more football-shaped in an eye with astigmatism, resulting in multiple focus points either in front of the retina or behind it (or both). People with astigmatism usually have blurred or distorted vision to some degree at all distances, near and far.

 

Presbyopia:

Presbyopia is an age-related condition which usually begins to appear sometime after 40.  As the eye begins to age, the lens stiffens and can no longer focus clearly on objects that are close.  

 

It’s important to note that presbyopia is often confused with hyperopia, as both cause problems focusing at near distances.  However, high hyperopia can also cause blur at far distances as well, especially in dim lighting, and depth perception problems can result in motor vehicle accidents.  In these instances people with hyperopia could use glasses at any distance.

If you are having trouble seeing, it is important to have an eye exam to determine the cause of the problem and to effectively correct your vision. Even if your vision is fine, you should schedule a routine eye exam on a regular basis to ensure that your eyes are healthy and that any potential problems are caught early.

 

Eye Safe Toys and Gifts for This Holiday Season

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‘Tis the season for giving, and parents, grandparents, family and friends need to know which toys and games to leave off the list because they can pose a risk to children’s health and eyesight. Last year nearly 252,000 emergency visits were due to toy-related injuries, almost half of which were to the head or face. Further, about 1 in 10 children’s eye injuries treated in the emergency room can be traced back to toys, most of which occur in children under 15 years of age.

The most common types of eye injuries that occur from toys can be anything from a scratch on the cornea (the front surface of the eye) to very serious injuries that can threaten vision such as traumatic cataracts, corneal ulcers, bleeding inside the eye and retinal detachment.

Most of these injuries can be prevented by taking the proper measures to evaluate the safety of gifts before they are purchased and to supervise children during any play with toys that could have the potential to cause damage or harm.

Here are some tips on how to select safe toys for children this holiday season:

  1. Check age recommendations on all toys to make sure they are age appropriate and suitable for the child’s maturity level. If younger siblings are present, ensure that any toys made for older children are kept out of reach.
  2. When possible, check toys for a seal of approval that the product meets national safety standards from a toy safety testing organization such as the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) or the Canadian Toy Testing Council.
  3. Do not purchase toys that have a projectile or sharp, protruding parts. Toys such as darts, guns, arrows or sharp propelling toys can cause serious eye injuries that can lead to permanent eye damage and even vision loss. Even high-powered water guns such as super soakers or soft foam dart guns can cause significant damage when shot at close range.
  4. Purchase safety eyewear with polycarbonate lenses to accompany sports equipment, chemistry sets or woodworking tools. Speak to your optometrist to learn more about the best option for your child’s hobby of choice.
  5. Check that toys with sticks or handles such as swords, fishing rods, pogo sticks, brooms or pony sticks have rounded edges or handles and avoid or supervise use with little children.
  6. Any toys or devices that have a laser or bright light (such as laser pointers or flashlights which are sometimes used by kids to play laser tag) can be dangerous. Bright lights such as those produced by high-powered flashlights can cause temporary vision loss that can lead to a risk of a fall or accident. Further, laser pointers are not safe for use by children as the light intensity can cause permanent vision loss if shined in someone’s eyes.

When purchasing a toy for a child that is important to you, make sure you are considering what is most important – their safety. Ask us if you have any questions about the eye safety of a toy or gift you are considering.

How Do We See?

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Have you ever thought about how vision works? Seeing is an incredible gift made possible by a system in which the eye and the brain process visual information from the outside world. If any step of that process does not function properly, vision will be impaired.

Similar to a camera, the eye transmits light from the world around us into an image that we can perceive. Certain parts of the eye even function like the different parts of a camera such as the shutter, the lens and film (if we can hearken back to the days when we used film in cameras). Here is a quick breakdown of the fascinating way our eyes and brain enable us to see and experience the world around us:

The Vision Process

Light reflected from an object in our field of view is gathered by the cornea which is essentially the clear “window” to our eye. The cornea then refracts the light rays through the pupil (the center of the iris where light enters the eye). The iris, which like the shutter of a camera will enlarge and shrink based on how much light is coming in, then passes the image onto the crystalline lens. Just like a camera lens, the lens in the eye focuses the light rays, projecting them to a point at the back of the eye called the retina, where the image will appear upside down. The retina contains a thin layer of color-sensitive cells called rods and cones that perceive color.

From the retina, the visual signals travel to the brain via the optic nerve. The brain receives information from both eyes and must then converge the images (and flip them right side up) to get a complete picture.

Vision Problems

A breakdown in vision can happen at any point in this process. From the muscles that control the eyes, to the parts within the eye, to the pathway to the brain. Sometimes vision impairment is due to technical problems with the eye receiving the information and passing the signal on, such as convergence insufficiency (inability to coordinate the eyes to converge on one point), myopia (nearsightedness) or cataracts (clouding of the lens).

Other times, the eyes might work perfectly, but there is a problem with the brain interpreting the signals it receives. In these cases we can’t “see” in the traditional sense, because our brains aren’t able to properly “read’ the signals or we don’t know what we are looking at. This is the case for some learning disorders that are caused by the visual processes in the brain such as dyslexia.

As you can see, vision is quite a complicated process. A simple vision exam isn’t always able to determine vision problems, especially in children which is why it is so important to have regular comprehensive eye exams, to measure the health of the eye and all of its parts.

Binocular Vision and Vision Therapy

Blonde Girl Orange Brown 1280x853As humans, we possess an incredible visual system that gives us the ability to see our world in three dimensions and judge distance with a great degree of accuracy. Our eyes, set a small distance from one another, give us a sense of “depth perception,” allowing us to gauge the distance to, and dimensional characteristics of, an object. The remarkable ability to use both eyes together to produce a single, unified image, as interpreted by the brain, is known as “binocular vision.”

Vision disorders involving binocular vision occur when there is a failure of the eyes to work together properly, making binocular vision difficult or impossible. Symptoms of these disorders may include poor eye movement control, inability to properly focus, poor eye-hand coordination, and difficulty with motor skills, figure-ground perception and eye-teaming abilities. It is possible for even those with 20/20 vision, or better, to experience binocular vision disorders. In some cases of binocular vision disorder, such as with amblyopia and strabismus, surgery is often the accepted method of correcting the issue. In other cases, even surgery is not an option, and patients must live with the detrimental effects of their binocular vision disorder.

Fortunately, however, another treatment option, known as “Vision Therapy” is becoming increasingly well-known and popular in Port Elgin. It is used for the treatment of binocular vision disorders, both in cases that have traditionally been corrected with surgery, as well as those in which surgery is not an option.

How Can Vision Therapy Help with Binocular Vision Disorders?

A properly tailored vision therapy program may be able to reverse the effects of many eye conditions that cause issues with binocular vision, as well as develop and improve your binocular vision skills. In the same way that physical therapy uses repetitive motions and exercises to strengthen the legs, arms and other parts of the body and accustom them to working more effectively, Vision Therapy uses repetitive exercises to strengthen the eyes and increase their effectiveness.

Customized to the needs of each and every patient, Vision Therapy usually consists of in-clinic sessions scheduled once or twice a week and supervised by your Port Elgin eye doctor. The patient is often given “homework” to further promote the process of strengthening binocular vision skills. These exercises help patients see more clearly, efficiently and comfortably by training both eyes to work together in unison. Often, sensorimotor evaluations are conducted from time to time, in order to track how well the process is working, and to decide the best way to move forward with treatment.

For more information about binocular vision disorders and how Vision Therapy can help, contact your eye doctor in Port Elgin, ON today.

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How to Prevent Diabetic Vision Loss

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Eye Complications of Diabetes

It’s true. Diabetics have a higher risk of blindness than those without the disease. That fact coupled with the superior prognosis of early intervention, makes it easy to understand why optometrists and doctors say routine eye care is absolutely essential. Below, we’ll discuss what your eye doctor is looking for during a diabetic eye exam.

As the incidence of diabetes increases, it is important to spread awareness about the risks and proper preventative care for diabetes patients. November is Diabetes Awareness month, so read on!

Diabetics are at greater risk of for a number of eye problems.

Diabetic Retinopathy:

Diabetic retinopathy is the term used for the disorders associated with diabetes that cause progressive damage to the retina. The longer a patient has had diabetes, the more likely it is that he will develop these conditions which can be very serious, vision-threatening complications.

There are two types of retinopathy: nonproliferative and proliferative.

Nonproliferative retinopathy, which is the most common form, is when capillaries at the back of the eye become weakened and may start to leak blood and fluids. Nonproliferative retinopathy, which often has no symptoms, can be characterized as mild, moderate or severe, depending on how many blood vessels are affected and becoming blocked. This type of retinopathy usually doesn’t require treatment and doesn’t cause vision loss, unless the leaking fluid ends up in the macula where the eye focuses – a condition called macular edema. If this happens, vision can be blurred and even lost so preventative treatment is essential.

Proliferative retinopathy is much more severe. This is when so much damage is done to the blood vessels that they begin to close off. New blood vessels begin to grow in the retina as a response to this deterioration. The new and weak vessels can leak blood, impairing vision, or can form scar tissue which can distort the retina or cause a retinal detachment.

Proliferative retinopathy requires urgent referral to an ophthalmologist for treatment. While it usually takes years to develop, some instances of proliferative retinopathy can occur within weeks or months if blood sugars are not well-controlled. Pregnancy can also accelerate proliferative retinopathy in known diabetics. Yet if detected early, treatment can be done successfully.

Like high blood pressure, there are often no warning symptoms until advanced stages of diabetes. It is best to get checked each year by an optometrist. If you experience any changes in your vision such as spots in vision, flashes of light, blurred or double vision (rarely pain), make an appointment with your eye doctor immediately. Treatments do exists for retinopathy and many of them are successful in repairing damage and sometimes even restoring vision.

Cataracts:

Cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye which blocks light from entering and impairs vision. While cataracts are a fairly common and treatable condition, people with diabetes are 60% more likely to develop the condition and often get them at a younger age. Those with the condition also may experience vision fluctuation which occurs from sugar levels affecting the lens of the eye. Cataracts often progress faster in diabetics as well. In serious cases of cataracts, a surgical procedure is done to remove the natural lens of the eye which can sometimes cause complications in diabetic patients that may already have symptoms of other conditions such as diabetic retinopathy.

Glaucoma:

Glaucoma is a serious condition where pressure builds up in the eye causing damage to the retina and optic nerve and eventually if left untreated, blindness. Diabetics are 40% more likely to develop glaucoma and the risk increases with age and the amount of time the individual has had diabetes. There are treatments for glaucoma including medications and surgery but early detection and treatment are essential to prevent permanent vision loss. Glaucoma is often called the “silent thief of sight” because vision loss often doesn’t occur until significant damage is done. Therefore, yearly eye exams are essential.

Cornea Alterations:

Diabetics may experience reduced sensitivity in their cornea. This means that contact lens wearers that are diabetics should be more cautious, as they develop higher tolerance if the lens irritates the eyes and may be at greater risk of infection.

Eye Muscle Disturbance:

More advanced diabetes cases can show restriction of eye muscle movement due to nerve palsy.

 

For diabetics, the key to early detection and treatment – and therefore preserving your vision – is to have your eye health monitored on a regular basis. Get your eyes examined every year by an optometrist and if you experience any changes in your vision such as spots, floaters, blurred vision or pain, make an appointment with your eye doctor immediately.

Decorative Lenses Could Cost You Your Vision

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Beware this Halloween and think before you blink (in decorative contact lenses that is)! Sure, decorative contact lenses can enhance any Halloween costume, but if not taken seriously, they can also cost you your vision. Whether they are sold as cosmetic lenses, colored lenses or fashion lenses, they are anything but cosmetics – they are medical devices that must be properly fit and handled. 

All contact lenses should be properly fitted by an eye doctor that has measured your eye and given you proper handling and care instructions.  A poor fit can result in serious eye damage, corneal scratches, infections, vision loss and even blindness. 

When purchased and handled properly, decorative lenses can be a fun (or spooky) addition to your costume, so go ahead and purchase them, but do it safely. 

Here is the right way to buy decorative lenses:

  • Get a contact lens eye exam and fitting from a licensed eye doctor and a valid prescription for contact lenses that includes the lens measurements, brand, base curve, diameter, power and color as well as an examination date and an expiration date. When the lens is coming from a legitimate source, the lens supplier ensures it has not expired and that manufacturer takes care of the material and tracking bar codes. 
  • Optimally, have your optometrist order the lenses or if that is not possible, purchase lenses from a registered store or online shop that requires you to provide this prescription to ensure that it is properly fit.
  • Follow the directions for cleaning, storing and wearing lenses.
  • See your eye doctor immediately if you experience persistent redness, pain or vision disturbances.
  • Important note: Many patients believe that a routine eye exam and eye glasses prescription is the same as a contact lens prescription but this is not the case! Many online companies do not advise people of the difference or do not adhere to the one year prescription expiry. This is a big concern for eye doctors because eye health changes can detrimentally affect contact lens wear. All contact lenses should be checked yearly by an eye doctor or registered contact lens fitter. 

Contact us today to book a contact lens exam.

It’s Time to Be Serious About Home Eye Safety

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The home can be a dangerous place if you aren’t aware of the risks that surround you. This is specifically true for your eyes and vision. Nearly half of all serious eye injuries take place in or around the home and the majority of these can be prevented with proper awareness and precaution. Whether you are cooking, cleaning, tending to yard work or doing home repairs, it is important to be aware of the possible dangers to your eyes and to take preventative measures to protect them.

It is recommended that every household have at least one pair of protective eyewear on hand to use during activities, projects or tasks that could pose a danger to your eyes. While protective eyewear can reduce your risk of an eye injury by 90%, in fact, only 35% of North Americans wear protective eyewear during tasks that could be dangerous to their eyes. Such activities could include the following:

Use of dangerous or hazardous chemicals: Many substances, such as cleaning chemicals, are hazardous and can be the cause of serious eye injuries and burns upon contact. In fact, household cleaning products like bleach cause 125,000 eye injuries a year.

Proximity to flying debris: Particularly when working in the yard mowing, trimming, shoveling and clipping, debris and particles can be thrown into the air that can enter your eye. This goes for those actually doing the gardening as well as bystanders.

Using sharp tools: Whether you are dealing with shovels and clippers, or hammers, nails and screws, it is important to protect your eyes. Many eye injuries are caused by the actual tools which are mishandled, dropped or used carelessly.

Projectiles: Flying objects pose a serious danger to the eyes, particularly with power tools, nails and screws. Never use power tools without protective eyewear. 

When it comes to selecting protective eyewear there are certain requirements that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established to ensure your safety. Our eyewear experts are happy to help you find the best eye protection for you and your family.

Bottom line: use common sense and be EyeSmart, especially if there are children around for whom you’re setting an example.