Insight E-Newsletter - January 2011

Happy New Year, and welcome to the January issue of Insight! This month, we bring awareness to the issue of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and eye health, gear up for our annual iFactor musical competition, and taking a closer look at a great educational initiative taking place in Atlantic Canada. As always, feel free to drop us a line with your feedback at or follow @CNIB on Twitter.

Shining a light on SAD and eye health

During the winter months, you might notice how a bright, sunny day can have you feeling Photo of a woman looking out a windowhappy, energetic and upbeat, while a cold, dark day can make you feel under the weather. But for some Canadians, who experience a type of depression called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, changes in the weather can create far greater day-to-day challenges.

But what does SAD have to do with eye health, you ask? Bright light therapy, the most common form of treatment for SAD, can harm your vision, so it’s important to get the facts.

Here are four key things you should know about SAD and your eyes:

1. SAD affects about two to three per cent of the Canadian population.

While SAD can affect some children and teenagers, it’s most common in people between 20 and 50 years old, particularly women. Symptoms may include: low mood; reduced interest in normally pleasurable activities; decreased concentration; oversleeping (often an increase of four hours or more each day); low energy and fatigue, and depression.

2. Genetics and age may be factors.

While the precise cause of SAD isn’t known, most evidence suggests that it arises from abnormalities in how your body manages its internal clock. Although our bodies are built with an internal clock that keeps us in sync with night and day, this clock is not always precise and relies on the intensity of sunlight to provide adjusting cues. These cues originate in the retina, located in the back of the eye, creating signals that pass through the optic nerve to the mid-brain, activating a number of chemical changes in the body.

3. The most common form of treatment is bright light therapy.

While it’s not officially recommended by Health Canada, bright light therapy is the most common treatment for SAD. Antidepressants, mood stabilizing medication and psychotherapy may also be prescribed to some patients.

Exposure to bright light, such as that from a light box, can suppress the brain’s production of melatonin, which helps regulate your body’s internal clock and reduce symptoms of SAD.

In bright light therapy a light box – a small, portable device that contains fluorescent bulbs or tubes – is placed in front of the patient for certain periods of time throughout the day. The light box gives off a type of light that isn’t found in normal household lighting, but rather lighting equivalent to that of a clear spring day.

The box should be placed so the light does not shine directly into the eyes. The eyes need to be open and sunglasses shouldn’t be worn. Patients shouldn’t look directly into the light box because it can damage your eyes.

The light is registered by the eyes through the retina, which then transfers impulses to the brain to normalize the body clock function.

Side effects of light therapy may include: irritability, agitation and eye strain. Be sure to consult a medical doctor before beginning light therapy.

4. Bright light therapy may cause further damage to people who have pre-existing eye conditions.

Ophthalmology researchers have expressed concern that bright light therapy may cause further damage to people who have pre-existing eye conditions such as glaucoma , cataracts or diabetic retinopathy , or who are using medications that cause light sensitivity.

Older people should also be wary. As people age, they become more vulnerable to light-induced damage to the retinal tissue – increasing the risk of damage and blindness.

If you have any of these risk factors, it’s recommended you consult your eye doctor before undergoing bright light therapy.

For further information about seasonal affective disorder, contact a community organization like the Canadian Mental Health Association  to find out about support and resources near you.


New movie explores experiences of vision loss

A new feature-length documentary that recently premiered in Canada is opening eyes and Poster for the movie "Going Blind" challenging perceptions about what it’s like to adapt to life with vision loss.

In “Going Blind, ” filmmaker Joseph Lovett aims to raise awareness of what it means to experience sight loss, from a medical and emotional standpoint. To do so, he turns the camera on himself, inviting viewers to witness his own, often harrowing experience of slowly losing his vision to glaucoma .

In striving to come to terms with his new reality, Lovett also speaks with a range of inspiring people who are also blind or partially sighted – from an Iraq War veteran to an art teacher who is finding new ways of pursuing her work – and highlights the range of support services available for people who are losing their sight

The film ultimately is one about hope, showing that it’s possible to see beyond vision loss, even for people who, like Lovett, have made lives for themselves trafficking in the visual world of television and the arts. In an interview with USA Today , Lovett recounts a visit to an art gallery that brought this realization into focus.

“I found myself in front of a very large canvas and looking at one aspect, one area of the canvas, that was very beautiful, (the paint was) very worked. I wouldn't have noticed that detailing and wouldn't have remarked on his craft and skill if my vision was working,” he says.

“When you're losing your vision and you're paying attention, you begin to know what you don't know, and what you don't see. You know to look deeper.”

The film’s official Canadian premiere took place on January 19, 2011 at Toronto’s Scotiabank Theatre. Presented by CNIB, the free screening featured an appearance by Lovett and an opportunity for the audience to ask him questions following the show.

For more information about “Going Blind,” visit .


iFactor 2011 celebrates talented Canadian musicians with vision loss

CNIB’s iFactor isn’t just a talent competition. This innovative musical competition for people living with vision loss offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the contestants. And for all Canadians, it’s a chance to celebrate the talents and triumphs of people who are blind or partially sighted.

Launched at the CNIB Lake Joseph Centre (Lake Joe) in 2009, the iFactor is a nationwide musical competition that helps to ensure that aspiring artists with vision loss have the same opportunities to develop their skills, further their musical talents and build confidence as others who have succeeded in the music industry.

Beginning January 10, 2011, CNIB is inviting Canadians with vision loss, who are 16 years of age or older, to compete for the chance to perform in a magical live finale taking place at Lake Joe in Muskoka, Ontario on August 20, 2011.

Contestants can enter by uploading a video of themselves singing or playing a musical instrument to before June 9. The 10 semi-finalists who will perform at the finale will be chosen based on online votes cast between February 14 and June 15, and validated by a panel of independent judges.

iFactor finalists’ alumni, including past winners Lucas Haneman of Kanata, Ontario (2010) and Becka deHaan of Fredericton, New Brunswick (2009) , have already begun to turn heads on the Canadian music scene.

As a recipient of Concordia University’s prestigious Oscar Peterson jazz scholarship, Lucas Haneman demonstrated his tremendous talent during last year’s iFactor finale. His energetic performance echoed the sentiments of respected Canadian guitarist, Roddy Ellias, who has said that Lucas has “so much talent.”

Following her iFactor win, Becka deHaan opened for award-winning and Juno-nominee Terry Kelly on October 12, 2010 in Winnipeg, her place of birth. Most recently, she also headlined two dance shows for McCain's Christmas parties and was featured as the lead female vocalist and keyboardist for Fredericton's nine-piece show band, Vinyl2Bits .

Her debut album, "Wait for the Wind ," released in March 2010, was nominated for the 2010 Music New Brunswick’s Spiritual Recording award and the Inspirational Album of the Year at the Gospel Music Association Canada's Covenant Awards.

The 2011 iFactor is part of Lake Joe’s exciting 50th Birthday Celebration, an event to honour this milestone year for CNIB and Lake Joe. The 50th birthday open house celebration is an opportunity for past campers to reunite with friends, staff and volunteers.

For more information or to enter the iFactor, visit . To learn about all the festivities taking place at Lake Joe next summer, check out our special Lake Joe 50th birthday webpage .


Photo of Elite Supreme Low Vision Playing Cards


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