Taking Care of Your Eyes at Every Stage of Life

March 13, 2014 by  
Filed under VISION

14 More Days

Eye care is an often underrated but important part of our physical health. You may not think much about what you need to do to take care of your eyes until it is too late. Common eye problems including refractive errors (near- or farsightedness), cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration can happen to anyone. So it is important to always take care of your eyes, no matter your age or general health.


Although young children may not show symptoms of eye problems, it is still important for them to get routine eye exams. Children should be checked at six months, three years, and just before they begin first grade. After this point, you should take your child for an eye exam if you notice they are struggling in school, squinting while reading or watching TV, or if they complain of frequent headaches.

To help your children care for their eyes, always encourage them to take breaks from eye-straining activities. These can include reading, watching television, or playing video games. Also help protect your children’s eyes from the sun. Encourage them to wear sunglasses or a brimmed hat on sunny days.

Childhood is the foundation for health so teach your child the importance of keeping their eyes protected and healthy.


During the teenage years the eyes are still growing and developing. Therefore, teenagers should care for their eyes in a similar way that children would. Take notice if your teen is squinting often or frequently has red, itchy eyes. Occasionally a teen will avoid telling his parents if he is having trouble seeing because he doesn’t want to wear glasses or contact lenses. However, encourage your teen to discuss any health concerns with you and reassure them that whether you live in Los Angeles or Edmonton, optical stores offer plenty of stylish eyewear options. Teens should not have corrective eye surgery because their eyes are still developing and the surgery would not be as effective as it would be for an adult.

Remind your teen to keep their eyes safe from harm and clean to avoid diseases. Encourage them to wear protective eyewear when participating in certain sports or activities. Emphasize the importance of not sharing anything that comes in contact with their eyes like goggles or makeup. Also remind your teen to give their eyes the time they need to rest from the computer and reading.


Adulthood is an extremely important time for eye care because if eye diseases are going to occur, the symptoms will begin to appear during adulthood. Like children and teenagers, adults should take care of their eyes by getting eye exams and taking breaks from visually taxing activities. The latter is especially important since many adults spend a significant time at work staring at a computer screen.

Know what eye diseases run in your family so that you can make your optometrist aware of the risks you have. This will also help you to know what you can do to prevent them. For example, to help prevent diabetic retinopathy you should be cautious about what you eat and have a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables. Try to have a diet rich in vitamin A, antioxidants, and minerals to keep your eyes healthy and happy. Adults should also avoid smoking as it is linked to many eye problems.

The Elderly

The sad thing about growing older is that you encounter a variety of ailments, both physical and mental. Unfortunately, most eye diseases are not reversible so it is important to care for your eyes while you are young. As you age, continue with your regular eye exams and follow your optometrist’s orders for treatment. Continue to eat well to get the nutrients that your eyes need.

Unfortunately, eye care is often a low health priority for many of us. This may make sense since eye problems are not often life-threatening. However, this does not mean that they aren’t severe. Eye disease symptoms can range from discomfort to intense pain and even blindness. Don’t let your eyes get the best of you; take care of them as you age to have a more beautiful life ahead of you.

About The Author

Theo Schmidt enjoys getting healthy in the outdoors and is passionate about protecting the environment. He gets his information about eye care from Londonderry Eye Care. You can reach Theo at his Google+ or Twitter accounts.


6 Signs Your Eyes Are Suffering from a Vitamin B Deficiency—and How to Cure It

March 5, 2014 by  
Filed under VISION

When you’re diagnosed with a vitamin B deficiency, you expect the ever-present fatigue, tingling sensation, and even mouth sores. What you might not expect, however, is the damage it does to your eyes.

Vitamin B produces red blood cells and nerve cells to give you energy, as well as myelin, a protective shield for your nerves. So without this vitamin, your nervous system weakens. The optic nerves in your eyes are no exception. If they are suffering from the deficiency, here’s how you might be able to tell:

1.     You have blurred or dim vision. A deficiency in vitamins B2, B6, and B12 can lead to optic neuropathy (i.e., damage to the optic nerve). Since the optic nerve is the heart and soul of your eye, your vision starts to go if it isn’t fully functioning.

2.     Your eyes itch, burn, or water. Vitamin B produces riboflavin—a strengthening substance. Since your body isn’t producing as much riboflavin as it should, your eyes don’t receive that extra “oomph” to ward off irritating particles and produce enough tears.

3.     You have sensitive eyes. Riboflavin also helps your eyes withstand bright lights and quick changes in the climate. Without it, you likely prefer dimly lit rooms.

4.     Your eyes twitch. A vitamin B deficiency causes fatigue and muscle shakiness. So if your eyelids twitch, you’re probably missing B2 and B6 vitamins.

5.     You have cross-eyes. Vitamins B1 and B12 cause this. They do more than nourish your eyes; they produce myelin to strengthen the cranial nerves. So without the myelin, your eyes might struggle to move in sync.

6.     You have pink eye. Pink eye is essentially inflammation of your eye—an infection that causes burning and itching, among other symptoms. Because you don’t produce as much riboflavin, your eyes won’t just burn and itch; they might also produce more mucous and bacteria.

It’s true that any of these symptoms can happen when you don’t suffer from a vitamin B deficiency. But if you experience any of them, it may be a sign that your deficiency is spreading to your vision (or that you are deficient, if you haven’t already been diagnosed).

What You Can Do

If you do have a vitamin deficiency, you and your eyes don’t have to suffer any longer. You can solve most of your problems by:

·         Taking regular vitamin B shots. Depending on the severity of your deficiency, you can get a shot of this weekly, monthly—whatever works for you. You can’t overdose. Any little bit that you take helps.

·         Eating more vitamin B-rich foods. This means more eggs, meat, fish, cheese, mushrooms, spinach, seafood—all the good stuff. Think protein, and think of it often.

·         Getting your eyes checked. When in doubt, consult an eye doctor, not just a general physician. People with symptoms just like yours opt for an eye exam in Edmonton, Denver, New York, and all over the world to get advice from a specialist. While an optometrist won’t give you vitamin B shots directly, he can provide advice about taking B12 pills and eating eye-healthy foods.

Source: upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/66/B_vitamin_supplement_tablets.jpg

So if you’ve struggled with eye problems, take heart. The cause of it may well be a vitamin B deficiency, and if it is, you have a say in how you feel. Don’t hesitate to meet with different doctors, and adjust your diet so you give your eyes—and the rest of your body—their best chance.

About The Author

Candice Harding enjoys writing about ways to improve specific areas of health, such as optic health, and is always looking for ideas to publish on her website, myredbicycle.com. She is single, lives in Phoenix, AZ, and loves riding her bike and exploring the outdoors. She recommends the Eyewear Place to anyone looking for a great optometrist in that area.


Taking on Tunnel Vision

January 30, 2013 by  


The world is full of beautiful things, and being able to see all the breathtaking images the world has to offer is a cherished gift.  However, vision does deteriorate due to age and various medical conditions, and losing quality of sight is detrimental to many people. Tunnel vision limits the ability to see peripherally, and depending on the cause, could eventually lead to blindness. Fortunately, there are many treatments out there to help protect your vision and keep you from losing sight of the beautiful things around you.

What Causes Tunnel Vision?

There are many possible causes of tunnel vision, and some pose more serious threats than others. If you experience difficulty concentrating on areas that stray from the direct center of your vision, poor night vision, or dizziness, contact a doctor immediately to have your condition evaluated.  There are many causes of peripheral vision loss and understanding the root of the disorder can help determine what treatment option is the best bet.

The most common causes included:

·         Glaucoma 

·          Blood loss

·         Eye strokes

·         Mercury poisoning

·         Intense anger or anxiety (temporary)

·         High altitudes (temporary)

·         Alcohol consumption and some hallucinogenic drugs (temporary)

·         Brain damage

·         Certain eye disease

·         Cataracts

·         Wearing glasses

·         Sagging, droopy skin around the eyes

Treatment Options

The cause and severity of tunnel vision can help determine what treatment option is best for you, and always check with a credible doctor about any health issues you experience. Remember the tunnel vision might be the cause of a more serious disorder.

·         For those suffering from glaucoma, eye pressure lowering eye drops are prescribed (along with other medication) that help with the disorder. Unfortunately, tunnel vision is hard to reduce if it stems from glaucoma, but the good news is the mediation can keep it from getting any worse and affecting the optic nerve.

·         In some cases, vision therapy can be used to restore peripheral vision, and it’s implemented in a similar way as any other physical therapy.

·         Eye doctors might prescribe a prism, a special type of lens that helps to expand the field of vision, for patients suffering from tunnel vision.

·         Eye lid surgery removes excess skin that droops down and blocks the peripheral vision.

·         Getting cataracts removed often helps to expand the field of vision.

Tips to Help Improve Peripheral Vision

The best way to strengthen any part of your body is exercise, and just like any other muscle, your eyes need to get active once in a while, too. Even if you have already suffered a bit from tunnel vision, it doesn’t have to go downhill. 

·         If you work a desk job and focus mostly on a computer screen all day, it can be hard to exercise your peripheral vision. Deliberately place pictures, flowers, or other décor on the side of your desk, and try to pay attention to those objects as you’re working on the computer. Focusing on more than one thing at once will help keep all areas of your vision sharp.

·         Complete hidden word puzzles, or play hidden picture games. Both of these force you to look at the whole thing at once and use all areas of your sight, not just the centralized part.

·         There are numerous sites online that offer free eye strengthening games such as eyecanlearn.com.

·         Try focusing on one center item such as a painting on a wall. Then, shift your eye as far left as it will go while still maintaining focus on the painting and then do the same thing for all directions. You might feel a bit of strain coming from the eye muscle, but that’s a good sign that your muscles are being exercised.

·         If you wear glasses, try to take them off periodically. Some lenses can obstruct the field of light and cause a limited field of vision.

Peripheral vision affects your ability to drive a car, read a book, watch television, and many other daily activities. It’s unfortunate that there are so many causes that can increase the risks of tunnel vision, but there are plans out there that work to help those suffering. By talking to your doctor and finding the right treatment plan, as well as taking time to exercise your eye muscles, you’ll help add years and health to the wonderful world of sight.

About The Author:

Benji Grayson is a freelance health and fitness writer. He currently writes about skin treatment and eyelid surgery in Melbourne, Florida for the Clevens Center for Facial Cosmetic Surgery. His personal interests include helping other people achieve their personal health and wellness goals.


Acupuncture to treat “lazy eye”?

January 6, 2011 by  
Filed under VISION

Acupuncture is a very welcome alternative in treating anisometropic amblyopia.

Amblyopia, otherwise known as “azy eye”, is a disorder in which one eye works better than the other so that the brain uses the good eye gradually making the neural connection to the bad eye weaker.   This is usually fixed by occlusion therapy or patching, that is, by making a  patient wear a patch  over the good eye thereby forcing the bad eye to work harder. 

According to a study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology, 0.3-5%  of individuals worldwide have amblyopia and about 40%  of the cases are  due to anisometropia, a condition by which the two eyes have unequal refractive powers or degree of nearsightedness or farsightedness.     Correcting this visual error through wearing glasses and contact lenses is effective for young children but for children between 7-12, visual correction is not enough.  Although patching increases the success rate among these children, many do not like this therapy and it is easy to imagine that those who undergo this therapy, experience emotional problems. Who  wants to walk around with a patch on his/her eye at this age?   Another disadvantage of patching is the possibility of developing reverse amblyopia, wherein the originally good eye becomes worse although improvement takes place in the other.

The study from the Joint Shantou International Eye Center of Shantou University and Chinese University of Hong Kong compared treatment of the amblyopic eye with patching and acupuncture.  After 15 weeks of treatment an improvement was reported in both treatments, and that „Lazy eye was considered resolved in 16.7% of patched eyes and 41.5% of eyes in the acupuncture group.“   Although it is obvious that the study shows that the effect of acupuncture can be considered equivalent to patching in treating amblyopia, the researchers cannot explain the mechanism underlying its success but noted that  „Targeting vision-related acupoints may change the activity of the visual cortex, the part of the brain that receives data from the eyes. It may also increase blood flow to the eye and surrounding structures as well as stimulate the generation of compounds“.

The acupoints used in this study are highly recommendable for other clinical setups.  One must also bear in mind that there are „differences…among acupuncturists“  in terms of „manipulation modes“ and „treatment styles“, according to the reseachers.   But if acupuncture works, why not?

Do contact lenses cause eye ulcers?

August 30, 2010 by  
Filed under VISION

I used to wear contact lenses but when I had my kids, it became too tedious to care for the lenses. I used to eyeglasses instead. They may not make me look great or fashionable but I find eyeglasses more practical. Little did I know that the decision to switch from contacts to eyeglasses may have some additional benefits.

The incidence of corneal ulcers may be more than previously thought – up to twice the previous estimates, according to a recent study. Cornea is the transparent white layer covering the front of the eye. Ulcers of the cornea can develop by viral or bacterial infections. It can start as a minor injury such as a small scratch on the cornea that can develop into open infected painful sores. In severe cases, the ulcers can lead to permanent eye damage and vision loss. The researchers attribute the increase in corneal ulcers to increased use of contact lenses.

According to researcher Dr. David Gritz of Montefiore Medical Center in New York:

“As new contact lens innovations become available, and people hear that they can wear these contact lenses for weeks or a month without taking them off, they do just that. They don’t realize the dramatic increase in risk it causes them. Our eyes do need breaks from contact lens wear.”

The research study looked at 1,093,210 patients treated in the Northern California Kaiser Permanente Health Care Program. Data on corneal ulcers, contact lens use, eye trauma or disease, and HIV status were collected. About 0.03% of these patients developed ulcers of the cornea during a 1-year period and more than half of these were contact lens users. The likelihood for corneal ulcers among those who use contact lenses is 9 times higher than those of non-users. Those who are HIV-positive have also a similar elevated risk. Young women seem to be especially susceptible to corneal ulcer – with double the risk compared to their male counterparts of similar age. The reason might be due to common use of cosmetic contact lenses by these women.

The fact that contact lenses are available over-the-counter or on the internet exacerbates the problem according to the researchers.

“People need to get properly fitted for contact lenses, and seek follow-up care by an eye care professional. Contact lenses can even act as a bandage over eye irritation, covering up symptoms. So people need to listen to what their eyes are telling them, and always have a good pair of glasses available as an alternative.”

Cells in your eyes that help your sleep

August 2, 2010 by  

Your eyes are very much involved in your sleep patterns – way beyond the physical involvement of opening and closing your eyelids. Rods are cells in our eyes basically detecting light. Our brain and our body respond to the light detected by our eyes. When we are active and when we sleep is our so-called circadian rhythm and this rhythm is influenced by the light/dark cycles of external lights from the sun and the artificial lights we use indoors. Our eyes’ response to the light can be observed during the dilation and constriction of our pupils.

The light to brain function is not performed by rods and cones alone. Researchers have identified a small subset of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) which are intrinsically photosensitive, thus are called ipRGCs and are responsible for maintaining our body clocks (circadian rhythms) as well as the pupil constriction and dilation. These cells produce a protein called melanopsin that allows them to sense light on their own and send information about light intensity to the brain.

Yet, the ipRGCs are rather slow compared to the light-detecting function of rods and cones. They capture very little light but, once captured, the light is very effective in producing a signal to the brain. The researchers found that the density of melanopsin in ipRGC membranes is almost 10,000-fold lower than that of rod and cone pigments. But once the threshold is reached, the signal is sent to the brain efficiently enough. So how can this rather slow signalling mechanism be useful? In fact, the slowness of the ipRGCs is what makes them useful.

Study author Dr. King-Wai Yau at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine explains:

“In terms of controlling the pupils and the body clock, it makes sense to have a sensor that responds slowly and only to large light changes. You wouldn’t want your body to think every cloud passing through the sky is nightfall.”

Those of you who have had experienced jetlag would know that the body takes time to recover as the ipRGCs in your eyes adapt to a new light and dark pattern.

This discovery of ipRGCs and how they work can help in unravelling some of the mechanisms not only of jetlag but also other sleeping disorders such as insomnia, and light-triggered neurological disorders such as seasonal affective disorder (winter blues).

Slowing down diabetic retinopathy

June 30, 2010 by  

Diabetes comes with a lot of complications and one of them is vision loss due to retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is a condition wherein the blood vessels supplying the retina, the light-sensitive area of the eye gets damaged by diabetes. This damage leads to leaks, swelling, and development of abnormal blood vessels. This eye disease is the leading cause of vision loss among Americans of working age.

Based on recent results, the Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes (ACCORD) Eye Study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports about therapies that slow down the progression of this diabetes-related eye disease.

The ACCORD clinical trial included 10,251 patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus and had high risk for heart attack, stroke or death due to cardiovascular events. The trial evaluated the efficacy and safety of 3 intensive treatments strategies and compared them to standard treatments. A subset of this consisting of 2,856 patients was used to evaluate the effects of cardiovascular treatments strategies on the blood vessels of the eye. Two strategies are especially promising, namely:

Intensive control of blood sugar levels

The glycemic target of standard diabetes management strategies is 7.5% haemoglobin A1c. The intensive control strategy has a much lower blood sugar target – 6.5%. Those who achieved this target also experienced a slowing down in the progression of diabetic retinopathy – from 10.4 to 7.3% over 4 years.

According to Dr. Paul A. Sieving, director of the National Eye Institute

“Previous clinical trials have shown the beneficial effects of intensive blood sugar control on slowing the progression of diabetic retinopathy in people with type 1 diabetes or newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes. The ACCORD Eye Study expands these findings to a larger population of adults who had type 2 diabetes for an average of 10 years, and demonstrates that the eye benefits from the reduction of glucose below previously established levels.”

This strategy, however, comes with some risks, especially hypoglycemia, i.e. blood sugar levels which are too low.

Combination lipid therapy with fenofibrate plus simvastatin

Combining fenofibrate with the cholesterol-lowering drug simvastatin also showed a reduction in the progression of retinopathy in diabetes patients. Disease progression was reduced from 10.2 to 6.5% over five years.

According to Dr. Emily Chew, M.D., chairperson of the Eye Study

“The ACCORD Eye Study clearly indicates that intensive glycemic control and fibrate treatment added to statin therapy separately reduce the progression of diabetic retinopathy. The main ACCORD findings showed that fibrate treatment added to statin therapy is safe for patients like those involved in the study. However, intensive blood sugar control to near normal glucose levels increased the risk of death and severe low blood sugar, so patients and their doctors must take these potential risks into account when implementing a diabetes treatment plan.”

Tips for Healthy Vision Month

May 12, 2010 by  
Filed under VISION

May is Healthy Vision Month. To observe this event, the National Eye Institute (NEI) shares with us some tips on how to promote eye health.

Why do we need to promote eye health? According to NEI:

“An estimated 14 million Americans are visually impaired. This number is expected to grow significantly as our nation ages and age-related eye diseases become more common. Many blinding eye diseases have no warning signs or symptoms, so people may not notice anything is wrong with their vision. In fact, 11 million people in the United States have uncorrected visual impairment, such as nearsightedness, and could benefit from eyeglasses or contact lenses to improve their vision.”

However, early detection through an eye exam can prevent unnecessary vision impairment and loss. But not just any eye exam. NEI recommends a comprehensive dilated eye exam. The test occurs in several steps. The first step is to dilate the pupils using special eye drops. The eye doctor then examines the retina and the optic nerve, now easily visible due the dilated pupils using a special magnifying glass. In addition, other tests are also conducted such as tonometry, visual field test, and visual acuity test.

For the month of May, NEI offers the opportunity available for LIVE interviews with an expert. On Wednesday, May 12, 2010 Emily Y. Chew, M.D., deputy director of the NEI’s Division of Epidemiology and Clinical Applications is available for questions and discussions from 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. EDT. Some of the topics that Dr. Chew will touch on are:

Why Healthy Vision Month was created

What everyone should know about their eye health

How to eat right and stay healthy to protect your sight

How to protect your eyes

Other resources you might want to check out:

Vodcast: Healthy Vision on i on NIH                
Podcast: Healthy Vision Month on NIH Radio

The latest on retinopathy of prematurity

April 20, 2010 by  
Filed under VISION

As a mom of twin preemies, I always keep my eyes and ears open about health problems related to prematurity. Here’s the latest about retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).

ROP occurs in approximately 15,000 babies in the US each year, according to recent estimates. ROP is one of the most common causes of visual impairment in children.

But how does ROP occur? Medline Plus describes this condition:

The blood vessels of the retina begin to develop 3 months after conception and complete their development at the time of normal birth. If an infant is born very prematurely, eye development can be disrupted. The vessels may stop growing or grow abnormally from the retina into the normally clear gel that fills the back of the eye. The vessels are fragile and can leak, causing bleeding in the eye. Scar tissue may develop and pull the retina loose from the inner surface of the eye. In severe cases, this can result in vision loss.

In addition, preemies are usually treated with oxygen at birth. Excessive oxygen can stimulate the growth of blood vessel that can lead to ROP. Improved monitoring of oxygen supply has reduced ROPs caused this way. However, babies born before the 31st week of gestation and weighing less than 3 pounds are at high risk for ROP. However, all preemies should be screened for ROP.

Long-term results from the Early Treatment for Retinopathy of Prematurity (ETROP) show that ROP, when caught early, can reduce or prevent impairment. Screening entails an eye exam that examines the appearance and location of the blood vessels in the eyes. Through the examination, the severity of ROP can be determined.

ROP may be categorized into the following types based on the characteristics of the blood vessels:

  • Type 1 ROP is characterized by lots of new blood vessels growing which may be dilated or twisted, with a very high risk for visual impairment
  • Type 2 ROP is characterized by moderate amounts of growing blood vessels.

ROP treatment options include laser therapy or cryotherapy (using freezing temperatures) which stops or slows down the growth of blood vessels.

The ETROP study revealed that babies with Type 1 ROP benefits from early treatment but not those with Type 2 ROP. These findings, which were initially based on a short-term 9-month study, have been confirmed by a long-term study which followed up the patients for up to 6 years. 75% of those with Type 1 ROP cases treated early were spared progression to legal blindness compared to 67% of those who receive treatment at standard time. No difference in outcomes was observed in those with Type 2 ROP regardless of the timing of the treatment.

According to study leader William V. Good of Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco:

“The long-term study has given clinicians evidence that infants with ROP should be treated with different strategies based on an infant’s risk for a severe form of the disease, which can be determined through an exam at the bedside.”

When cigarette smoke gets in your eyes…

March 4, 2010 by  
Filed under VISION

There is truth to what the old song says “[cigarette] smoke gets in your eyes” …and it can make you blind. This is the message coming from an accumulating amount of scientific evidence. Yes, there is such as a thing as tobacco-induced blindness.

Macular degeneration also known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) “is a disease that destroys your sharp, central vision. You need central vision to see objects clearly and to do tasks such as reading and driving. AMD affects the macula, the part of the eye that allows you to see fine detail. It does not hurt, but it causes cells in the macula to die. In some cases, AMD advances so slowly that people notice little change in their vision. In others, the disease progresses faster and may lead to a loss of vision in both eyes. Regular comprehensive eye exams can detect macular degeneration before the disease causes vision loss. Treatment can slow vision loss. It does not restore vision.”

AMD comes with age and it comes faster in smokers than in non-smokers. It is the leading cause of visual impairment in the elderly. There are many risk factors involved in the onset of AMD. One main factor is genetics. Another one is cigarette smoking.

Dr. Johanna M. Seddon, director of the Epidemiology Unit, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, USA and her team looked at data from twin studies. A total of 681 male twins participated in the study by completing questionnaires, answering questions, and eye examination. The research findings are:

However, the link between smoking and AMD is not unique in the male gender. A research study by scientist at the University of California in LA (UCLA) revealed that women who are smokers are also at risk for early onset of AMD. Study leader Dr. Anne Coleman looked at data on 1958 women age 78 and older, of whom 245 were black and 1713 were white. She found that smokers are more likely to have visual impairment due to AMD than nonsmokers. The researchers recommend that people should quit smoking even at a late age to slow down the onset of blindness.

According to Dr. Seddon:

Smoking increases the risk of age-related macular degeneration. This study of twins provides further evidence that cigarette smoking increases risk, while fish consumption and omega-3 fatty acid intake reduce risk of age-related macular degeneration… Clearly, there is a genetic predisposition to age-related macular degeneration, but that does not necessarily mean you are destined to get the disease.”

Indeed, do not all your cards on your genes. You’d be surprised at how much can lifestyle influence your predisposition to a disease.

Red eye: what you should know

February 9, 2010 by  
Filed under VISION

Red, puffy eyes are not only due to crying or a sleepless night. Red eye may be due to a lot of causes, including irritation, inflammation and infections. What are the symptoms of red eye or conjunctivitis? Aside from the abnormally red color of the eye and undersurface of the lids, red eye also manifests in (source: Medscape)

  • Itchiness
  • Profuse eye discharge
  • Pain
  • Visual changes
  • Sensitivity to light

What causes red eye?

The most likely culprit for red eye is viral and bacterial infections. Other causes are:

  • Presence of foreign body in the eye
  • Corneal abrasion
  • Subconjunctival hemorrhage
  • Keratitis
  • Irritation due to chemicals
  • Allergies

According to a review by researchers from the Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus:

“Red eye is the cardinal sign of ocular inflammation. The condition is usually benign and can be managed by primary care physicians. Conjunctivitis is the most common cause of red eye.”

How is red eye diagnosed?

The Medscape feature recommends that doctors should check the following:

  • Thorough eye examination that would include the eyelids, corneal, pupil’s reaction to light, visual acuity, and the lacrimal sac (tear gland).
  • Patient medical history that would include allergies, use of contract lenses, and other illnesses that may or may not be seemingly related to the eye problem.

There are no specific tests that can be performed to distinguish between bacterial and viral infections of the eye but the symptoms may slightly differ.

Viral conjunctivitis usually does not present in visual problems or sensitivity to light. Pain is usually mild or absent. Lymphoid follicles under the surface of the eyelid are usually present. Eye discharge is watery.

Bacterial conjunctivitis, on the other hand manifests in pain and edema of the eyelid. Eye discharge is sticky, making the eyelids glues together upon awakening.

The authors continued:

“Red eye is one of the most common ophthalmologic conditions in the primary care setting. Inflammation of almost any part of the eye, including the lacrimal glands and eyelids, or faulty tear film can lead to red eye. Primary care physicians often effectively manage red eye, although knowing when to refer patients to an ophthalmologist is crucial.”

How is red eye treated?

Although uncomfortable and irritating, red eye is rarely serious and usually goes away by itself. In most cases, eye drops containing broad-spectrum antibiotics (ophthalmic antibiotics) are prescribed. Anti-histamines, anti-inflammatory agents and topical steroids may also be

In addition, patients should be advised to take precautionary measures as red eye due to infection is highly contagious.

The authors concluded:

“To prevent the spread of viral conjunctivitis, patients should be counseled to practice strict hand washing and avoid sharing personal items; food handlers and health care workers should not work until eye discharge ceases; and physicians should clean instruments after every use.”

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Meaningful Christmas Shopping Part I: A Gift of Fresh Air and Clear Vision

December 16, 2009 by  
Filed under VISION

Would you like to give something this Christmas that doesn’t come in a box? What about a gift of sight? A1161714_kids_under_tree gift of fun? A gift of fresh air?

The not-for-profit organization Fresh Air Fund is something special not only because it is focused on children but because it doesn’t give recipients material things. Instead, it gives children the gift of health – fresh air and clean vision.

The Fresh Air Fund’s philosophy is simple. City children need to breathe fresh air and be in touch with nature. And that is what the fund gives them – a summer of fun in the countryside in camps and host families in 13 states. The program has been going for more than 100 years.

Recently, the Fresh Air Fund initiated, in addition to their summer camps, something new – the gift of clear vision. Together with OneSight, free eye check ups were conducted in the camps each summer.

Sara Wilson, spokesperson for the Fund was kind enough to enough a couple of questions about OneSight.

Q. What exactly is OneSight? 

OneSight is a family of charitable vision care programs dedicated to improving vision through outreach, research and education. OneSight gives the gift of sight.For more information, visit www.onesight.org/.

Q. Why isn’t vision loss in children diagnosed early? 

A lot of the children who participate in Fresh Air programs simply don’t have access to proper vision care.  Not all the children have vision insurance, which means that they cannot afford to visit an optometrist.

Q. Who conducts the eye exams at OneSight? 

Doctors conduct the eye exams, they work on a volunteer basis.

Q. How do kids cope with wearing eyeglasses?

The kids love it! They do better in school and in sports when they return back in September to their schools.

Q. What are the other projects that the Fresh Air Fund is involved in?

Our main focus is to provide free summer experiences to NYC children thru volunteer host families and stays at Fresh Air camps. We work year-round to provide the best experience possible!

Q. How can people help the Fresh Air Fund?

We are always looking for donations and volunteers – please check out www.freshair.org to get involved.

glasses2Here are some facts and figures about the Fresh Air Fund and OneSight:

  • More than 1.7 million NYC children have benefited from their programs since the Fund was established in 1877.
  • 3,000 children attend one of the Fund camps each summer.
  • 10,000 children visit during the school year to get outside and enjoy our camps and take advantage of facilities like the environmental center, the planetarium, hiking trails, and the overall camp experience.
  • 3,295 eye exams were performed in the summer of 2009 by OneSight’s vision van: This included all campers and camp staff.
  • 2,300 acres cover the 5 camps, hiking trails, a nature center, woods, ponds, lakes at the Sharpe Reservation in the Hudson Highlands near Fishkill, NY.
  • 50 full-time staff members run the Fresh Air Fund plus hundreds of seasonal staff and volunteers in the summer.

Christmas is a time of giving. By giving to charities, we are giving something that doesn’t expire like calendars at the end of the year. We may be giving gifts that can affect somebody for life.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Overnight lenses for young myopic eyes

November 3, 2009 by  
Filed under VISION

boy_in_safety_glassesI remember when about a year ago when our paediatrician referred us to an eye specialist to check my twin boys’ eyesight. I was praying silently “Please no eyeglasses…”

I mean, the likelihood that they would need glasses at an early age is quite high – it runs in my family. They were such active, sporty 5-year olds then; they are even more so now and are into soccer, gymnastics, inline skating, etc. I can’t imagine how they would manage to do all those active sports activities with glasses on. I remember how my brothers weren’t allowed to play basketball with their glasses on. That was so frustrating. Luckily, the eye doctor gave my kids a clean bill of health.

Some kids are not so lucky. There are many children out there with eyesight problems. The most common eye condition among children is nearsightedness (also known as shortsightedness or myopia).

Nearsightedness occurs when the physical length of the eye is greater than the optical length. For this reason, it often develops in the rapidly growing school-aged child or teenager, and progresses during the growth years, requiring frequent changes in glasses or contact lenses. It usually stops progressing as a person finishes growing in his or her early twenties.

A nearsighted person can see objects which are near very quickly whereas objects in the distance appear blurred.

Nearsightedness can be corrected by eyeglasses or contact lenses. The standard practice, however, is to take off the glasses or the lenses before going to sleep at night. A new type of contact lenses for children, however, requires that the children do wear them at night. This type of lenses is available for adults but only just now for children. So how do these lenses work?

It works  “by gently pressing on the cornea, reducing its curvature and thereby refocusing the light directly on to the retina. It also, in effect, shortens the eyeball. “

In the adult version, the effect of the lenses on reshaping the eyeball is temporary. The eye will eventually spring back to its original shape so that it is necessary to wear the lenses every night.

In the case of children, however, the lenses seem to have corrective effect that is long-lasting. The lenses slowed down the deterioration of the yes. In a clinical trial that involved more than 300 children, those who wore overnight lenses for a year did not have prescription change. Those who did not wear the lenses had increase in prescription indicating deterioration.

So why do the lenses work better for kids than for adults? Well, children’s eyes are still growing and are therefore more “malleable” than adult adults. The lenses work like a dental brace by restoring the eye to its original shape.


Photo credit: stock.xchng

Gene therapy to treat congenital blindness

October 28, 2009 by  
Filed under VISION

poor_eyesightMany people are born partially or fully blind. A recent development in biomedical research is bringing hope to people with congenital blindness and it’s called gene therapy.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and the Center for Cellular and Molecular Therapeutics at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia used gene therapy to treat five children (age range: 8 to 17)and seven adults (maximum age of 44 years) born with Leber’s congenital amaurosis (LCA). All of the patients treated showed marked improvement in vision but the best improvements were seen among the children who, after the treatment were able to navigate a low-light obstacle course. Six of those treated are no longer classified as legally blind.

One of the patients, a 9-year old boy showed a “spectacular” recovery of vision after just 1 dose of gene therapy that allows him to play sports like other children.

About LCA:

Leber’s congenital amaurosis (LCA) is a group of inherited blinding diseases that damages light receptors in the retina. It usually begins stealing sight in early childhood and causes total blindness during a patient’s twenties or thirties. Currently, there is no treatment for LCA. LCA affects around 1 in 80,000 population.

About the therapy:

The therapy entails a single injection of genes that produce proteins to make light receptors in the retina. The researchers sued a vector to carry the genes. The research team used a vector, a genetically engineered adeno-associated virus, to carry a normal version of the gene, called RPE65, that is mutated in one form of LCA, called LCA2, that accounts for 8 to 16 percent of all LCA cases.

Effectiveness of the therapy was best seem among the children treated. Since LCA is a progressive disease which damages the retina, treatment is best when progression is stopped or delayed at a very early stage when retinal damage is still minimal.

According to principal author Dr. Albert M. Maguire

“Children who were treated with gene therapy are now able to walk and play just like any normally sighted child. They can also carry out classroom activities without visual aids.”

Gene therapy is relatively new development and is still in the experimental stage. The patients in the current study were among the first to receive gene therapy for a non-lethal disease. The children were the youngest so far to be treated with the therapy. The patients will be closely monitored in the coming years for signs of side effects or regression.

This new therapy gives hope to people with vision problems, not only those with LCA but other forms of retinal degeneration.

October 8 is World Sight Day

October 8, 2009 by  
Filed under VISION

wsd_banner_woman_and_flowersWorld Sight Day is celebrated every 2nd Thursday of October. It is an annual one-day observance to help increase awareness and focus global attention on blindness, visual impairment and rehabilitation of the visually impaired. The theme for this year’s celebration is Gender and Eye Health: Equal Access to Care. More than 300 events in over 50 countries are planned.

Here are some statistics on visual impairment:

  • Visual problems are most prevalent in people 50 years and older.
  • Nearly 2/3 of blind people worldwide are females.
  • In some places, men have twice the access to eye care than women.
  • 80% of blindness is preventable.
  • 90% of blind people live in low income countries
  • The leading cause of blindness is cataract which is easily treated by a simple operation.
  • 8 million people globally are blind to due uncorrected refractive errors which are easily corrected by a pair of glasses.

Main causes of visual impairment

The World Health Organization (WHO) identified 10 priority eye diseases namely:

  • Cataract
  • Trachoma
  • Onchocerciasis (river blindness)
  • Childhood blindness
  • Refractive errors and low vision
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Glaucoma
  • Age related macular degeneration
  • Corneal opacities
  • Genetic eye diseases

Here are initiatives on the prevention of vision impairment and loss.

Vision 2020: The Right to Sight

Vision 2020 is the global initiative for the elimination of avoidable blindness, a joint programme of the WHO and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) with an international membership of NGOs, professional associations, eye care institutions and corporations.

Nearly 2/3 of blind people worldwide are females. In some places, men have twice the access to eye care as women.

Optometry Giving Sight’s World Sight Day Challenge
Optometrists from all over joined efforts to donate their services before or on World Sight Day. In addition, fundraising campaigns are ongoing!

WHO Prevention of Blindness (PBL)

PBL teams work with advocacy groups and NGOs to implement and „facilitate ongoing strategic planning, the PBL team co-ordinates the collection and dissemination at national, regional, and global levels of data that reflect the burden of visual impairment and the implementation of programme strategies. The principal area of work of the Prevention of Blindness team (PBL) is elimination of avoidable blindness.“

Through her Eyes

The photo exhibition „Through Her Eyes“ is going to be launched today by the Fred Hollows Foundation (FHF) at Chifley Tower, Bent street lobby area, 2 Chifley Square, Sydney, Australia. The exhibition includes „beautiful photographs looking at the topic of blindness and gender „ goes till October 17. More info at www.hollows.org.au.

Check your community for local events on this big day!

A tooth for an eye

September 24, 2009 by  
Filed under VISION

OPAn eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. That’s how it is usually said. But in the unusual case of Sharron Thornton, it’s actually an eye for a tooth. Or is it a tooth for an eye?

60-year Thornton has been blind for 9 years, according to this CNN report. She was so depressed due her helplessness and dependence on her daughter that she even considered committing suicide.

Fortunately, Thornton qualified to undergo a rather unusual procedure at the University of Miami Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. It entails implanting one of her tooth (the canine or cuspid) in one eye as a base to hold a prosthetic lens. The procedure takes months to complete and is still at the experimental stage. However, it was worth all the time and effort. Almost 2 weeks after her eye bandages were removed, Thornton’s visual acuity is 20/70 in the treated eye.

Thornton lost her sight in 2000 due to Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a condition defined as

“rare, serious disorder in which your skin and mucous membranes react severely to a medication or infection. Often, Stevens-Johnson syndrome begins with flu-like symptoms, followed by a painful red or purplish rash that spreads and blisters, eventually causing the top layer of your skin to die and shed.”

In Thornton’s case, the condition damaged also her hair, nails and the cells lining her eye surface.

The procedure is called modified osteo-odonto keratoprosthesis (MOOKP)and was the first of its kind ever performed in the US and has been only done about 600 times in other parts of the world mainly Asia and Europe. Here is how it is done:

To start the procedure, surgeons remove a healthy tooth and part of the patient’s jawbone… The tooth and bone were then shaved and sculpted, and a hole was drilled into them to hold the prosthetic lens. Then the whole unit was implanted into Thornton’s chest and left for several months, allowing the tooth and lens to bond. This was then implanted into her eye.

The procedure is very complicated and requires a team of dentists and ophthalmologists to perform. It is only applicable in cases where severe corneal scarring blocks vision, but the eye remains healthy and can see and localize light. It is usually indicated in the worst of cases of end-stage ocular surface disease where other options such as corneal transplant are not possible.

The surgeons gave Thornton a jaw implant to replace what was taken but it had to be removed due to an infection. They will try another implant later. However, losing a tooth and a part of the jawbone is a small price in exchange of an eye that can see, don’t you think?

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Magic glasses for the developing world

September 17, 2009 by  
Filed under VISION

reading glasses 2I’ve been wearing glasses for more than 30 years now and it has always been a hassle to go back regularly to the optometrist, not to mention expensive.

In the developing world, many people are suffering from poor eyesight but do have the means to obtained a pair of glasses that can help them read, work, and see better.

Magic glasses

But hey, here’s a cool invention that presents an affordable solution. According to CNN, Joshua Silver, a physics professor at the University of Oxford has developed the so-called self-refraction glasses which have lenses that can be adjusted by the wearer to the right strength.

So how do these magic glasses work?

The secret of the self-refractive glasses is their lenses.
They consist of clear membranes filled with silicon oil, protected by plastic discs. The wearer can adjust the amount of oil in the lenses using a dial fitted to a syringe on the arms of the glasses.
Changing the amount of oil in the lenses changes their curvature, which alters their strength. When someone has adjusted the lenses to suit their vision, the lenses are sealed with a valve and the syringes removed, giving near-instant glasses with no need for an optometrist.

Now, that is what I call a neat innovation although this won’t make optometrists happy.

Global Vision

However, Silver’s motivation in developing these lenses which took almost 20 years is to help people in developing countries who don’t even have any access to an optometrist. In some countries for example, there is one optometrist for every million people. An estimated billion people in the developing world need glasses.

According to Sillver

“Any model of delivery of vision correction in the developing world that depends on eye care professionals won’t work. If you find a model that doesn’t rely on them then you potentially have a solution.”

So far, 30,000 pairs of these self-refraction glasses have been distributed worldwide. Distribution has been done through the adult literacy program in Ghana, and the Global Vision 2020 initiative of the U.S. Military Humanitarian and Civic Assistance (HCA) Program.

Kevin White is the driving force behind HCA’s Global Vision 2020. In order for the initiative to be sustainable, it not only distributes glasses, it also trains people from local NGOs to dispense glasses and teach people how to use them.

The limitations

There are some limitations to overcome before White’s and Silver’s vision becomes a reality. These are:

  • Logistics. Manufacturing and delivering a billion pairs of glasses by 2020 is a daunting task
  • Effectiveness. The glasses do not work for those with astigmatism and not tested in children
  • Cost. It costs $19 to manufacture a pair of self-refraction glasses, a pittance in the Western world, a fortune in many poor countries.
  • Style. The current version of the glasses is functional but not fashionable and may not be attractive. New models are currently being developed.

Now, that’s a pair of glasses I would love to have, fashionable or not!

Implantable lenses to correct myopia

August 12, 2009 by  
Filed under VISION

contact_lensI have been nearsighted since my early teens. I had to wear glasses, tried out contact lenses, and now am back to eyeglasses. This recent report in the July issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology describes a novel and promising treatment for myopia that I might try someday.

Japanese researchers have developed implantable lenses to correct myopia and have tested its efficacy and safety during a follow up period of four years. The lenses are made from a biocompatible collagen-like compound. The lenses were implanted in 56 eyes of 34 patients. Follow up checks were done one, three and six months and one, two and four years after surgical implantation.

The results of the study showed that:

  • 44 of the eyes (79%) were within 0.5 diopter (unit of measuring lens power) of the targeted correction
  • 52 (93%) were within one diopter

The study results indicate that the collagen copolymer lenses were able to correct moderate to high myopia.

“The results were good in all measures of safety, efficacy, predictability and stability for the correction of high myopia throughout the four-year follow-up”, according to the researchers at the University of Kitasato School of Medicine, Kanagawa, Japan.

Implantable lenses versus LASIK

In recent years, intervention using laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK) has become a popular approach in the treatment of myopia. Although technique was demonstrated to be effective and safe, there were some risks involved, e.g. restrictions in patients with severe myopia and/or thin corneas and risk of developing keratectasia (i.e., a weakening of the cornea). The implantable lenses supposedly can overcome these limitations associated with LASIK. In addition, the procedure is reversible, and the lens can be changed as the need arises.

The current trial aimed to evaluate the long-term safety of the implant especially in terms of increased risk for cataract and glaucoma. The 4-year results showed “no vision-threatening complications occurred throughout the follow-up period.

Because of the novelty of this technique, the 4-year study described here is the longest assessment study so far. The researchers will continue to follow up the patients with implantation for possible late onset complications associated with the implant and/or the surgery.

In the meantime, I’ll stick to my eyeglasses till more conclusive findings are reported.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Blind, yet with a vision: Cathy Birchall’s world tour on a motorbike

July 23, 2009 by  
Filed under VISION

UPDATE: November 2012

I have been informed by Bernand Smith regarding error of this post …. as well to point out the comment from 2009 below

Date: November 5, 2012
Subject: errors of information // Message
Hi there – a correction if I may. On the following address from your site, battlingforhealth.com/2009/07/blind-yet-with-a-vision-cathy-birchalls-world-tour-on-a-motorbike/ At no time did sponsors contribute to the running costs of the trip in any shape or form. The trip was funded by myself in its entirety – I actually sold my house to fund it. Best wishes. Bernard Smith

– Thanks for the update Bernard and Cathy / HART

Motorcycling seems like a fun sport. I never tried it myself  
except by sitting behind my husband and holding on for my dear life. But even I, as the “passenger” could feel the freedom of movement that comes with these vehicles.

I can imagine how good it felt for Cathy Birchall of Warrington, Cheshire, UK to go around the world on her motorbike. So what’s the big deal, you’d ask? It’s been done before.

Well, what if I tell that Cathy is blind, and is the first blind person to circumnavigate the world on a motorbike?

That certainly breaks down your misconceptions of motorbiking and of visually impaired people, doesn’t it? And that’s exactly what Cathy aimed to do. Because hers was a journey with a real vision – to help raise awareness of sight loss and eye conditions around the globe.

And her travels took to places where she met people who inspired her and whom she inspired. Among the organizations she visited are

  • Swiss Guide Dogs
  • The Score Foundation
  • Eyeway in India
  • Vision Australia
  • Fred Hollow’s Foundation
  • The Centre for the Blind Women in Delhi

Cathy says

The past year has been an amazing experience; I have had the pleasure of moving freely in the world as a blind person – something that seemed unimaginable when I first lost my sight and I actually became a real inspiration to those I met throughout my journey“.

Cathy was born with a degenerative eye condition which gradually robbed her of her sight, so that she was completely blind when she reached her mid twenties.

Cathy travels with Bernard Smith who does the steering and a 20-year BMW motorbike Bertha. They started the incredible journey in Ireland on August 8, 2009 and arrived back in the UK earlier this month. , covering a distance of about 25,000 miles in 30 countries. During the journey, Bertha used up three sets of tires and had replacements for a starter motor, an exhaust and an alternator.

In their stop in Peru, Cathy even managed to climb the Wynapicchu at Machu Picchu, making her the first blind woman ever to scale the famous Inca mountain.

During her travels, Cathy managed to gain sponsors that contributed to the expenses of her trip as well as raise funds which will be split equally between Action for Blind People, Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

Where to next, Cathy?


Accidental eye injuries: causes and prevention

July 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured, VISION

eye_seriesHow’s this for statistics to make you think seriously about protecting your eyes:

  • More than a million people in the US have eye injuries each year.
  • Accidental eye injury is one of the leading causes of vision loss and impairment.
  • 90% of the said injuries are actually preventable.

Although a lot of eye injuries may occur in the workplace, many people are not aware that a lot of injuries also happen at home and at leisure time.

Here are major ways of injuring your eyes:

Fireworks and firecrackers

In almost every country, fireworks are part of national celebrations. Today is Canada Day. The 4th of July is just around the corner. Fireworks are beautiful and fun but they can cause major injuries, including the eyes, to users as well as to bystanders. Keep firecrackers out of little children’s sight and reach. Not only are they fire hazards, they can also cause injuries.


Those who are dealing with chemicals in the workplace wear eye protection gear. I’ve worked in a lab before and knew the risks and the precautionary measures. What we tend to forget is that household chemicals can also be hazardous and can cause permanent eye damage. Medicine.Net recommends that

when using household chemicals, read instructions and labels carefully, work in a well-ventilated area and make sure to point spray nozzles away from you.

Machinery and appliances

Household appliances and machinery can also cause eye injuries. Look at your hobby room, your workshop. Do you wear protective eyewear when you use that electric saw? That potter’s wheel? The kitchen blender? Any other moving machinery?

How about the lawnmower or the power trimmer? Projectiles in the form of stones, branches and pieces of debris can shoot from these machines during use. These projectiles present risk not only for the machine operator but for the bystanders as well.

Sports and recreation

Sports and other recreational activities are fun but they can cause eye damage, too. A blow from a hockey stick, puck, or ball can have some devastating effect on the eye. In April, I posted a resource post on Sports Eye Safety.

So what do we do in case of an eye injury?

Medicine.Net recommends:

For more information about eye injury prevention, check out recommendations by the American Academy of Ophthalmology

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.