Skip to main content
autumn_lake-slide
Home ยป

LOW VISION

Mental Health and Your Vision

May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the USA; in Canada, Mental Health week is May 6th to 12th. Since 1949, it has been observed throughout the United States as a way of drawing attention to the importance of proper mental health. This year’s theme is #4Mind4Body. The idea is that using elements around us, such as the people in our lives, faith, nature, and even pets, can strengthen wellness and overall mental health.

Did you know that your vision can affect your mental health? While things like stress, trauma, and family history are factors that impact mental health, vision can also impact it.

How Does Vision Affect Mental Health?

Certain types of eye diseases and visual impairments can lead to emotional problems like anxiety and depression. This is particularly common in cases of severe vision loss. Patients with glaucoma, macular degeneration, or diabetic retinopathy, for example, can experience mild to acute vision loss. This can make everyday activities like driving, running errands, watching TV, using a computer, or cooking, a difficult and painful experience. When this happens, it can cause a loss of independence, potentially leaving the person mentally and emotionally devastated.

Like most surgical procedures, LASIK corrective surgery is permanent and irreversible. Although it has very high success rates, LASIK has been considered the cause of depression and mental health issues in a few instances.

Kids’ Vision and Mental Health

Increased screen time among school-age children and teens has been shown to reduce emotional stability and cause repeated distractions and difficulty completing tasks, while also increasing the likelihood of developing nearsightedness.

Kids with visual problems often experience difficulty in school. If they can’t see the board clearly or constantly struggle with homework due to poor vision, they may act out their frustration or have trouble getting along with their peers.

Coping with Vision Problems

One of the most important ways to cope with visual problems is awareness. Simply paying attention to the signs and symptoms — whether the patient is an adult or a child — is a crucial first step. 

Family members, close friends, colleagues, parents, and teachers can all play an important role in detecting emotional suffering in those with visual difficulties. Pay attention to signs of changes in behavior, such as a loss of appetite, persistent exhaustion, or decreased interest in favorite activities.

Thankfully, many common vision problems are treatable. Things like double vision, hyperopia (farsightedness), myopia (nearsightedness), amblyopia (lazy eye), and post-concussion vision difficulties can be managed. Vision correction devices, therapeutic lenses, visual exercises, or special prism glasses may help provide the visual clarity you need. Your primary eye doctor can help and a vision therapist or low vision expert may make a significant impact on your quality of life.

How You Can Help

There are some things you can do on your own to raise awareness about good mental health:

Speak Up

Often, just talking about mental health struggles can be incredibly empowering. Ask for help from family and friends or find a local support group. Be open and honest about what you’re going through and talk with others who are going through the same thing. Remember: you’re not alone.

If you experience any type of sudden changes to your vision — even if it’s temporary — talk to your eye doctor. A delay in treatment may have more serious consequences, so speak up and don’t wait.

Get Social

Developing healthy personal relationships improves mental health. People with strong social connections are less likely to experience severe depression and may even live longer. Go out with friends, join a club, or consider volunteering.

Have an Animal

Having a pet has been shown to boost mental health and help combat feelings of loneliness. Guide dogs can be especially beneficial for people suffering from vision loss.

Use Visual Aids

If you or a loved one is experiencing mental health issues caused by vision loss, visual aids can help. Devices like magnifiers or telescopic lenses can enlarge text, images, and objects, so you can see them more clearly and in greater detail.

Kids can benefit from vision correction like glasses, contacts, or specialized lenses for more severe cases of refractive errors. Vision therapy may be an option, too. It is a customized program of exercises that can improve and strengthen visual functions.

Always talk to your eye doctor about any concerns, questions, or struggles. 

Thanks to programs like Mental Health Awareness Month, there is less of a stigma around mental health than just a few decades ago. Advancements in medical technologies and scientific research have led to innovative solutions for better vision care.

During this Mental Health Awareness Month, share your share your struggles, stories, and successes with others. Use the hashtag #Mind4Body and give your loved ones hope for a healthy and high quality of life.

 

World Braille Day 2019

Each year during the month of January we recognize World Braille Day which gives us the opportunity to take a moment and appreciate the incredible gift that Braille has given to those who are blind or suffer from vision loss. 

What is Braille?

Braille is a tactile representation of letters and numbers that can be utilized by people with vision loss to read using their fingers.  The system uses combinations of six raised dots – three rows of two – that serve to represent the numbers, letters and even symbols such as music notes. 

Braille History:

Braille was developed by a young Frenchman named Louis Braille and was first published in 1829. Braille invented the system at the age of 15 after he became blind as the result of an accident. The idea was originally based on night writing, a touch-based military code developed for Napoleon’s army by Charles Barbier as a strategy for soldiers to be able to communicate silently in the dark. Barbier’s code was ultimately rejected because it was too difficult to be used effectively by the soldiers. Barbier and Braille later met at the Royal Institute for the Blind in Paris and Braille was able to adapt the idea into a more functional system. In braille, the characters, or letters, are each represented by a cell or block with a particular arrangement of raised dots.

Not Just the ABC’s

While first developed for the French alphabet, braille has since been expanded for many languages including all the European-based languages, as well as Arabic and Asian languages. Even within those languages there are different forms of the system.  For example, in English, there is Grade 1 braille which is composed of the representation of the 26 letters of the Roman alphabet and is primarily used for those learning to read and write the language. Grade 2 on the other hand is the type of braille you are likely to see written in public places such as menus or signs as it is more complex. Grade 2 includes higher level punctuation, abbreviations and contractions. Lastly, Grade 3 is a form of shorthand designed for personal use such as taking notes or writing letters. 

In addition to the cells which represent the letters, braille may also include illustrations, graphs and symbols such as bullets or arrows. Further, a cell can also represent a number, a word or a punctuation mark. Because braille takes up more space than standard print there are many abbreviations or contractions that represent words or word sequences to save space. This also helps to improve the speed at which one can read and write using the system. 

How To Write Braille

Writing braille requires some tools. To do it by hand you need a stylus, which is a metal tool that is used to create the dots, a slate, which is a type of stencil used to align the dots into neat cells and card-stock paper which is heavy enough to emboss.  You can also write braille with a special braille typewriter or an electronic brailler as well as certain computer programs with a braille embosser printer. 

Being able to read and write braille allows those with vision impairment to learn and express themselves in a way that they would otherwise not be able to. While newer technologies such as screen readers and other computer based programs have become more common in recent years, braille is the foundation of innovation in improving the lives of the blind and vision impaired. 

Dr. Kimberlee Robertson-Woods OD, BSc

  • McMaster University – Faculty of Health Sciences. Dr. Kim Robertson-Woods has been appointed to the rank of Assistant Clinical Professor
  • Department of Family Medicine Michael DeGroote School of Medicine
  • Ocular Nutrition Society Member
  • College of Optometrists in Vision Development (Canadian and International) Member

Dr. Kimberlee Robertson-Woods has provided optometric care in the Niagara region for over 20 years. She has shared space with Ophthalmologist Dr. George Beiko at the Niagara Health Centre, in St. Catharines. In earning her various degrees, Dr. Robertson-Woods attended university for over ten years. She initially enrolled in a general Arts and Science program at the University of Toronto. Prior to attending the University of Waterloo’s School of Optometry, she obtained her undergraduate science degree from the University of Guelph through the college of Physical and Engineering Sciences. She received her Doctor of Optometry Degree from the University of Waterloo and has received certification for the treatment and management of ocular disease. In addition, Dr. Robertson-Woods has received numerous academic awards and has been on the Dean’s Honor List every semester for both her Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Optometry Degrees. While in Waterloo, she was a teaching assistant for both the School of Optometry and the Department of Biology, teaching students and conducting labs for physical optics, embryology and histology. During her studies, Dr. Robertson-Woods completed two externships in ocular disease and therapeutics at Omega Tertiary Eye-Care Centres in Alabama. While there she participated in advanced aspects of therapeutic eye care, including Cataract, Glaucoma, Retinal and Extra-ocular muscle surgeries and management. She also studied at a surgery centre specializing in only vitreo-retinal surgical procedures, and has experience in ultrasonic imaging (A and B scans), intravenous fluorescein angiography and retinal tomography. She continually strives to learn and is currently working towards her Fellowship in Neuro-Sensory training, Developmental and Behavioral Optometry. Dr. Robertson-Woods has also acted as a consulting Optometrist at LASIK Centres of America, and has been an Associate with Dr. James Agate in Grimsby. Dr. Robertson-Woods is an active member of the Canadian Association of Optometrists, The Ontario Association of Optometrists, the College of Optometrists of Ontario, the Niagara Society of Optometrists, the Ocular Nutrition Society and the College of Optometrists in Vision Development. She has acted as a proctor for the Canadian Standard Assessment in Optometry through the Canadian Examiners in Optometry, for Optometrists to become licensed to practice in Canada. Dr. Robertson-Woods primary areas of interest are pathological states of the eye and ocular adnexa; pediatric optometry, developmental and behavioral optometry, visual rehabilitation, nutrition and sports training; and the ocular health concerns of the aging. Upon graduation, she was presented with the William Feinbloom Low Vision Award “in recognition of the graduating student who, by study, interest and performance, has demonstrated aptitude in the clinical care of Low Vision patients”. She enjoys educating the public through her clinics as well as through community based public speaking forums. Her office and her services were utilized as a rotation site to teach fourth year University of Waterloo Interns different aspects of primary eye care practice. She is involved in providing eye care for the Third World and has conducted and managed two eye care clinics in impoverished areas of Central America.

x

Click here to read about our COVID-19 Protocols and Procedures.