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Box 660, #4-3380 Smith Drive
Armstrong, BC, V0E 1B0

Evening Appointments Available

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Box 660, #4-3380 Smith Drive
Armstrong, BC, V0E 1B0

Evening Appointments Available

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Author: armstrongoptometry

Omega 3 Oils

The Omega 3’s are essential fatty acids that we do not want to go without! I hope we have all moved on from the ill-advised low-fat diet craze of the 80’s and 90’s, but we may still hang on to some mental adversity at adding fats into our diet on purpose. However, this is exactly what we should be doing! If you are not eating at least 2-3 servings of fatty fish per week, you should consider taking a supplement. Our bodies need Omega 3 essential fatty acids to function and they deliver some big health benefits:

Omega 3’s have been shown to lower the triglyceride levels in our blood, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

A diet high in omega-3s lowers inflammation, which can be helpful in conditions such as arthritis and asthma. It is also good for dry skin, and dry eyes and macular degeneration.

High levels of omega 3 oils may help with mood stabilization, depression and even help prevent dementia (more research needed on this).

Omega 3 oils are made up of two crucial fatty acids — EPA and DHA – and these are primarily found in certain fish. ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), another omega-3 fatty acid, is found in plant sources such as nuts and seeds and grains. ALA is less useful than EPA.

There is a massive wall of vitamins and dietary supplements at every pharmacy, grocery store and health food store. How does one figure out which Omega 3 supplement to take?? The basic rules are: look for high levels of DHA and EPA, not ALA. The DHA and EPA can be in an ethyl ester form or a triglyceride form. Ethyl ester is cheaper to produce, but your body does not absorb this form well. Triglyceride form is the one you want. It mimics the form of the Omega 3 as it is found in fish flesh, and has better bioavailability.

Supplements come in capsules or liquid form. Good quality products should not taste fishy, even in the liquid form. If you cannot have fish, there are Vegan products made from plankton that have DHA and EPA, and this is a great alternative. Armstrong Optometry has sourced both the capsules and the liquid and found excellent quality products to offer our patients. Contact us if you have any questions or to purchase these important supplements!

Dr. Lisa Scharf


Sense of Smell

Why is an eye doctor writing about our sense of smell?? Because it is fascinating! Smell is an under-rated and under-appreciated sense in humans. People can easily imagine how devastating it would be to lose our vision, but we tend to think that losing our sense of smell would have little impact on our lives. In fact, a survey of young people indicated that most would rather lose their sense of smell than live without their smartphones!

Covid-19 has brought new attention to a condition called anosmia – the loss of smell. Anosmia is a common symptom of COVID-19 – up to 86% of people infected with the virus may partially or fully lose their sense of smell. Anosmia can be the first or only symptom of mild COVID-19 infection. Most people recover their sense of smell within days or weeks, but a small percentage of people are experiencing long-term losses.

When we stop to appreciate it, our sense of smell is wondrous. Our sense of smell enhances and broadens our taste and appreciation of food. But think too of the information that smell gives us… we can deduce that a lawn has been mowed just from the whiff of fresh-cut grass, or know that bread has been baked the moment you open your front door. Smell also provides essential information on dangers in our environment – the smell of smoke, gas leaks, or rancid food. Humans can even distinguish between the smells of sweat from exercise versus sweat from fear. We gain all this information almost instantly from breathing in some chemical molecules floating on airwaves – it is amazing!

Our visual system has been well studied and we know a lot about the structure and function of the photoreceptors (rods and cones) that provide us with sight. Our smell receptor cells (olfactory sensory neurons) were only discovered in the 1990’s, and there is a great deal to be learned about them. Viruses have been known to affect our sense of smell, but it was previously assumed that this was due to congestion in the nasal passages. With COVID-19, many patients with anosmia have no nasal congestion to account for their loss of smell. Researchers are now thinking that the COVID-19 virus may cause damage to the supporting cells to the olfactory sensory neurons, which in turn causes a loss of function of the actual nerves responsible for smell.

As this pandemic continues, please be alert to any changes to your sense of smell. A loss of smell and/or taste indicates a need to get COVID tested and isolate while awaiting results. So take a moment today to appreciate your amazing sense of smell (and don’t forget your vision too! – book an appointment for an eye examination if it’s been more than two years).

Dr. Lisa Scharf


IRITIS – An inflammation affecting the eye.

The iris is the colored portion of the eye. It contains muscles that contract and relax in response to light and other stimuli including emotional states. Muscle activity in the iris changes the size of the pupil, thus regulating the amount of light entering the eye.

Inflammation of the iris and other nearby structures is called iritis, also known as anterior uveitis or iridocyclitis.

Iritis has many causes including but not limited to eye trauma, following eye surgery, some medications, malignancy, infection, adverse reaction to contact lenses, and association with general health problems that often have an autoimmune component (for example inflammatory bowel disease, ankylosing spondylitis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis among others).

Iritis may be acute or chronic. Nearly half of acute iritis is idiopathic, meaning that there is no cause found for it. Recurrent episodes of acute iritis, iritis involving both eyes, or chronic iritis often indicate a need for medical testing to search for an associated underlying general health condition.

Recurrent episodes of iritis and chronic iritis can be associated with development of glaucoma and premature development of cataracts, and may affect structures deeper within the eye thus compromising vision.

Symptoms of iritis include blurred vision, tearing, light sensitivity (also called “photophobia”), eye pain that often radiates into the brow or forehead, pain upon focusing for near vision, and redness of the eye that often increases towards the limbus (which is the junction of the white of the eye with the cornea). However, some patients with iritis have no symptoms.

Treatment of iritis typically involves the use of anti-inflammatory steroid eye drops coupled with drops that dilate the pupil of the eye. The frequency of these drops is adjusted based on how the inflammation responds. Medical treatment of any underlying general health conditions may also contribute to managing iritis.

Any time you have a new onset, red eye with aching pain and light sensitivity, you should contact your Doctor of Optometry immediately for diagnosis and treatment.

Dr. Tim Styles, OD

Continuing Education During a Pandemic

I have always enjoyed school and learning – as evidenced by my nine years of university completing my Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and doctorate degree (Optometry), plus a few extra meandering courses along the way! One of the things that I love about practicing optometry is the ongoing opportunity for continued learning and development of professional knowledge and skills.

Many regulated healthcare professionals are required to complete continuing education hours in order to maintain professional licensing. Optometry mandates a minimum of twenty hours of continuing education per year, with at least half of these hours dedicated to ocular disease courses. The remaining hours may be used to learn about product knowledge, business management, communication, and leadership.

This year brought a number of changes to the way I completed my continuing education requirements. Gone were the weekend conference “getaways” to the city, and instead courses were completed via online platforms at my kitchen table. I focused on glaucoma, diabetes, and retinal pathology topics this year. I also spent an inordinate amount of time learning about Covid-19 and all the associated protective and sanitization protocols.

I read a number of fascinating books about the effects of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes on our overall health and wellness. A few excellent books on this topic:

The Diabetes Code and The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung

Why We Get Sick by Dr. Benjamin Bikman

(You can also find YouTube talks by these authors if you prefer video content to reading!)

On personal values, communication, and leadership, I enjoyed the book Dare to Lead by Brene Brown. And this year was a great time to re-read the classic book Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, with its reminder that each of us have the freedom to find purpose and meaning in even the most difficult circumstances.

Dr. Lisa Scharf

How to Clean Your Glasses

Cleaning your glasses may seem like a straightforward task, but improper cleaning techniques can cause damage to your lenses. We will review the best ways to clean and maintain your glasses.

An easy step-by-step guide to clean your glasses:

  1. Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water.
  2. Rinse your lenses under cool or lukewarm water – this will help remove larger debris. Be sure not to use hot water as it can damage your lenses!
  3. Apply a small drop of dishwashing soap (without lotion) to each lens and rub the lenses and entire frame with gentle pressure.
  4. Rinse the lenses under cool or lukewarm water, then dry gently with a lint-free towel.
  5. If you still notice any streaks or smudges, you can polish your lenses with a microfiber cloth.

Just to remove small smudges or streaks, you can also use:

  • Moist wipes made for lens cleaning
  • A microfiber cloth
  • Lens cleaning solution with a lint-free cloth
  • Peeps lens cleaners

Anti-reflective coatings: These coatings offer the clearest optics and reduction in glare, but you may find that your lenses need to be cleaned more often as smudges and fingerprints are more readily seen with these coatings. Properly cleaning your lenses will help optimize the benefits of these coatings.

What should you not use to clean your glasses?The coatings on glasses lenses can be damaged by heat and chemicals, so avoid:

  • Hot water – using heat on your lenses can damage the coatings
  • Glass or surface cleaner (eg Windex) – these can damage your lens coatings
  • Paper products (eg tissue, paper towel, toilet paper, etc) – these can create scratches on your lens
  • Your shirt or other clothing – these may contain abrasive fibres that can scratch your lenses

It’s recommended that you clean your glasses thoroughly once a day, or as needed throughout the day. Your frames may need regular maintenance as well – you can bring them to your optician to have screws tightened and adjustments made. Do not use super glue to repair your glasses, as this can damage both the frame and lenses!

And if you find your new face mask is fogging up your glasses, start by checking the fit of your mask. A properly-fitted mask, especially around the nose, will help prevent fogging. There are also several anti-fog products you can use, such as FogBlocker and ZEISS AntiFOG, available at your optometry clinic.

Lauren York, Dispensing Optician

Computer Vision Syndrome

Most of us now spend an appreciable amount of time using a computer, tablet, or smart phone for work or recreation. Computer vision syndrome is a term that was coined to describe eye and vision discomfort resulting from screen time.

Symptoms of computer vision syndrome include headaches, blurred vision, sore burning eyes, watery eyes, and ocular and general fatigue.

Many of these symptoms are related to the fact that the human eye is not well adapted to hold focus at one distance for extended periods of time. In addition, reduction in blink rates and widening of the eye as we stare at the screen can create surface dryness on the eye. Variations in the screen brightness as the image changes cause the iris musculature of the eye to work overtime to regulate light getting into the eye thru the pupil, thus causing fatigue.

Help and relief from computer vision syndrome may involve optical correction with glasses for computer work, often incorporating antireflection and blue light blocking filters to optimize vision. Adjusting workstation lighting and screen position can also be helpful. Increased awareness of blinking and taking regular breaks from the screen to look to a farther distance relaxes focusing muscles momentarily and can help avoid eye muscle fatigue.

If you suffer from computer vision syndrome, discuss it with your eyecare professional to help find a personalized solution to your symptoms.

–Dr. Lisa Scharf, BSc, OD

Presbyopia – why we lose our near vision as we age

We all know someone who had perfect vision all their life, but then began to need reading glasses as they entered their mid-40’s. Why does this happen?

First – a short explanation of how the human eye focuses for near vision. Behind the pupil of the eye is the lens. The lens is attached via small ligaments (called zonules) to the ciliary muscle. As the muscle contracts the lens changes shape and we are able to “accommodate”, or adjust our focus to different distances.

As we go thru life the lens is constantly bombarded by light energy and UV radiation. This causes stiffening of the lens, much the same as how plastic left outdoors will stiffen and go cloudy over time. Throughout our life the lens also grows constantly like our hair and our fingernails, gradually becoming larger and rounder. These joint processes of hardening and growing create a situation where the lens gradually looses it’s ability to change shape, resulting in the loss of near vision that we call presbyopia.

In our climate people often start to notice their near vision changing in the decade between age 40 and 50. In other parts of the world, the Caribbean for example, where the locals may not wear sunglasses much and are exposed to high levels of UV from the intense sun, hardening of the lens can be accelerated and the onset of presbyopia can be earlier in life.

–Dr. Lisa Scharf, BSc, OD



Astigmatism sounds bad, but really it is just a type of blurry vision that is caused by the focussing parts of the eye (the cornea and the lens) not being perfectly round. Since the eye is a biological structure, it is common for some imperfection like this to be present. Subsequently, many people have some degree of astigmatism.

Along with nearsightedness and farsightedness, astigmatism is lumped into what are known as “refractive errors”. Refractive error means that the light entering the eye does not get focussed accurately onto the retina, and the result is blurry vision.

Astigmatism may occur together with nearsightedness or farsightedness, or may be present on it’s own. The blurry vision caused by astigmatism is usually easily rendered clear by the use of glasses, special “toric” contact lenses, or even laser eye surgery in some cases.

People with uncorrected astigmatism often complain of headaches and eyestrain when doing visually concentrated activities like long drives or computer work. They may note that the scenery looks pretty clear, but are unable to accurately read a road sign an appropriate distance away. People with uncorrected astigmatism may tire easily when doing visually concentrated tasks, and this can result in the inability to complete tasks and poor school performance.

Astigmatism is easy for your eye care professional to detect, measure and correct. If these symptoms are familiar to you, an eye exam is a good idea!

–Dr. Tim Styles, OD


Smoking and your eye health

It is well known that smoking is detrimental to your health. Smoking tobacco harms every organ in your body— your eyes included. Smoking tobacco is the single most preventable cause of death and disease in Canada.

Most smokers are not aware that their tobacco use is a preventable cause of blindness. Avoiding smoking, or taking steps to quit lowers your risk of vision impairment and vision loss. Smokers are at higher risk for the following conditions:

  • Dry Eye and Contact Lenses: Smoking can affect the skin around the eyes and the tissues on the eye’s surface. Smoke is a drying agent that increases evaporation of the eye’s natural moisture which can lead to discomfort and irritation, especially when contact lenses are worn. The chemicals found in tobacco smoke have been found to cause cellular damage leading to delayed healing rates and increased risk of corneal infections. In some studies, smokers who wear contact lenses were shown to have a four times increased risk of infection.
  • Uveitis: Uveitis is more common in smokers than non-smokers. Uveitis harms the structures of the eye, and can lead to cataract formation, glaucoma, and retinal detachment, and vision loss.
  • Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD): Macular degeneration is a condition that causes the center of your vision to blur while the side or peripheral vision remains unaffected. Age is the most significant risk factor overall, but smoking is the leading preventable risk factor for developing AMD.
  • Diabetic Retinopathy: Diabetes and its complications can affect many parts of the eye. Diabetic retinopathy is the swelling and damage to the blood vessels of the retina related to diabetes. Smoking increases the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, which can ultimately cause blindness.
  • Cataracts: Cataracts are a cloudiness of the lens in the eyes that occurs with age. Smoking, UV exposure, or the use of certain medications are risk factors for the development of cataracts at earlier ages.
  • Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA): Commonly known as a mini-stroke, TIAs can cause of temporary vision loss. A TIA may only last a few minutes but it should not be ignored; roughly 15 percent of patients who survive their first TIA will suffer another one within one year. Risk factors for TIA: High blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, IV drug use, cocaine use, excessive alcohol, use of oral contraceptives, and obesity.
  • Grave’s Disease: Thyroid ophthalmopathy, also known as Grave’s Disease, is an autoimmune disease characterized by an increase in the volume of fatty connective tissue and enlargement of the muscles around the eye. Smoking is a major risk factor.
  • Pregnancy and Infant Eye Disease: Smoking while pregnant increases the chance of many fetal and infant eye disorders, among other serious health problems. Studies have found that smoking during pregnancy is associated with premature births and higher rates of strabismus (crossed eyes), refractive errors, retinal problems, and optic nerve problems.

Dry Eye Treatments

There is help for your dry eye woes! Learn how to manage the symptoms of chronic dry eye syndrome. We have drops, cleansing wipes and more that can give you the relief you need. Dr. Tim Styles offers personalized care for Blephex treatments.

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