Posts Tagged blindness

Tips For Halloween Eye Safety

Halloween eyesHalloween is a time for tricks, treats and things that go bump in the night.  And while it’s fun for kids to put on scary costumes for trick-or-treating and Halloween parties,  you should be careful to avoid something truly frightening – permanent damage to their eyesight. Unfortunately, Halloween is a time for many eye-related hazards, but with some care and planning, you can make sure your little goblins enjoy a safe holiday. Here are some practical tips to protect your children:

Masks & Makeup

Masks are number one on the list for obstructing the vision of Trick-or-Treaters. Either the eye holes can be too small or the mask can shift during wear. Be sure to monitor your childrens’ masks to ensure they have the clearest line of sight possible.

Using makeup is almost always preferable to wearing a mask.  However, makeup must be used carefully. To help avoid eye irritation:

  • Use only products approved for use on the skin.
  • Keep products away from the eyes and remember that products approved for use on skin, hair or nails can still irritate the eyes.
  • Use care in removing makeup and avoid getting any into the eyes.

Decorative Contact Lenses

In the last few years more people have been incorporating decorative contact lenses into their costumes.  These are generally safe if prescribed by and worn under the supervision of an eye doctor.

However, decorative contact lenses can cause serious eye problems if they’re worn improperly. There have been reports of corneal ulcers, corneal abrasion and conjunctivitis caused by improper wear.

Remember: contact lenses, whether decorative or not, are medical devices that must be prescribed by an eye doctor. Never share lenses with anyone and only wear the lenses for the time prescribed by your eye doctor.

See and Be Seen

Here are a few more tips to make certain you or your children can safely see and be seen this Halloween.:

  • Wear reflective clothing or attach reflective tape to costumes and Trick-or-Treat bags.
  • Carry a flashlight (Side note: the “glow sticks” sold at Halloween are filled with chemicals that can cause eye irritation).
  • Tie hats and scarves securely on the head to make certain they don’t slip over the eyes and obstruct vision.

Following these simple tips, and using some common sense, will ensure your child only ends up with a sugar rush this Halloween, rather than a rush to the eye doctor!


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New Gene Therapy Could Cure Blindness

Researchers from the University of Florida have developed a new gene therapy method with the potential to treat a common form of blindness that strikes both youngsters and adults.

retinitis pigmentosaThe researchers tackled a condition called X-linked retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic defect that is passed from mothers to sons. Girls carry the trait, but do not have the kind of vision loss seen among boys. About 100,000 people in the U.S. have a form of retinitis pigmentosa, which is characterized by initial loss of peripheral vision and night vision, which eventually progresses to tunnel vision, and then blindness. In some cases, loss of sight coincides with the appearance of dark-colored areas on the usually orange-colored retina.

The technique works by replacing a malfunctioning gene in the eye with a normal working copy that supplies a protein necessary for light-sensitive cells in the eye to function.

Several complex and costly steps remain before the gene therapy technique can be used in humans, but once at that stage, it has great potential to change lives.retinitis pigmentosa 2

Imagine that you can’t see or can just barely see, and that could be changed to function at some levels so that you could read, navigate, maybe even drive — it would change your life considerably,” said study co-author William W. Hauswirth, Ph.D., the Rybaczki-Bullard professor of ophthalmology in the UF College of Medicine and a professor and eminent scholar in department of molecular genetics and microbiology and the UF Genetics Institute. “Providing the gene that’s missing is one of the ultimate ways of treating disease and restoring significant visual function.”

The X-linked form of retinitis pigmentosa addressed in the new study is the most common, and is caused by degeneration of light-sensitive cells in the eyes known as photoreceptor cells. It starts early in life, so though affected children are often born seeing, they gradually lose their vision.

And while this therapy is many years away, any advancement in the treatment prevention of blindness is worth mentioning.

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Drug May Slow Spread of Deadly Eye Cancer

uveal melanoma(PressZoom) – A drug commonly used to treat seizures appears to make eye tumors less likely to grow if they spread to other parts of the body, according to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Their findings are available online in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.

Uveal melanoma, the second most common form of melanoma, can be very aggressive and spread, or metastasize, from the eye to other organs, especially the liver.

“Melanoma in general, and uveal melanoma in particular, is notoriously difficult to treat once it has metastasized and grown in a distant organ,” says principal investigator J. William Harbour, MD. “We previously identified an aggressive class 2 molecular type of uveal melanoma that, in most cases, already has metastasized by the time the eye cancer is diagnosed, even though imaging the body can’t detect it yet. This microscopic amount of cancer can remain dormant in the liver and elsewhere for several years before it begins to grow and becomes lethal.”

Once this happens, the prospects for survival are poor, according to Harbour, the Paul A. Cibis Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and professor of cell biology and of molecular oncology. He also directs the Center for Ocular Oncology at the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine.

Harbour’s new study shows that drugs known as histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors alter the conformation of the DNA of the aggressive form of uveal melanoma, which changes the way key genes are expressed, rendering the tumor cells less aggressive.

“We looked at uveal melanoma cells in the laboratory and in an animal model, and we found that HDAC inhibitors can block the growth and proliferation of tumor cells,” he says. “HDAC inhibitors appear to reverse the aggressive molecular signature that we had identified several years ago as a marker for metastatic death. When we look at aggressive melanoma cells under the microscope after treatment with HDAC inhibitors, they look more like normal cells and less like tumor cells.”

Because HDAC inhibitors already are on the market, Harbour says he thinks it may be possible to quickly begin testing the drugs in patients with aggressive forms of uveal melanoma.

The drugs have relatively mild side effects that are not as severe as those seen in patients undergoing chemotherapy. One HDAC inhibitor, for example, is the anti-seizure drug valproic acid. Its most common side effect is drowsiness, which is typical of all HDAC inhibitors.

Clinical trials of HDAC inhibitors could begin in the next six to 12 months, Harbour says. Already, other researchers have applied for funding to begin testing an HDAC inhibitor called SAHA (suberoylanilide hydroxic acid) in patients with metastatic uveal melanoma.

“I think this is a reasonable place to start in the challenging effort to improve survival in patients with metastatic uveal melanoma,” Harbour says. “I suspect that the best role for HDAC inhibitors will be to slow or prevent the growth of tumor cells that have spread out of the eye but cannot yet be detected. This might lengthen the time between the original eye treatment and the appearance of detectable cancer in the liver and elsewhere.”

Like the chicken pox virus that lives for years in nerve cells without affecting health, Harbour says treatment with HDAC inhibitors may allow patients with aggressive melanomas to live for many years without any detectable spread of their disease.

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November is Diabetes Eye Awareness Month

Diabetes_eyeAs the population ages, diabetes continues to be a growing epidemic in the United States.  Currently there are an estimated 17.9 million Americans diagnosed with diabetes, and possibly another 5.7 million people that are unaware they have the disease.

What many of these individuals may not know is that all people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at risk for bleeding in the back of the eyes, also known as diabetic retinopathy.  In fact, bleeding from diabetes is responsible for 8% of legal blindness in the U.S., making it the leading cause of blindness among adults 20-74 years old.

With a dilated, comprehensive eye examination, an eye doctor can detect and diagnose diabetes and start you on the road to treatment for the disease. So a comprehensive eye examination should certainly be on your list as part of National Diabetes Month this November.

The American Diabetes Association recommends all diabetic patients have a dilated eye exam at least once a year with your eye doctor in order to detect any changes early and stop potential vision loss. Patients with a history of retinopathy should be seen more often than once a year.

The eye is the only part of the body where we can observe your blood vessels without cutting you open. When there is leakage or damage to the blood vessels in the eye, there are likely similar findings in the brain, heart, lungs and kidneys.

Unfortunately, in many cases there are no detectable symptoms of early stage diabetic retinopathy.  Some symptoms, however, include blurred vision, a droopy eyelid, spots missing from your vision or double vision.

If you have diabetes and have been putting off an eye exam, use this month as your reason to have one.  At our office, an exam with dilation lasts only an hour, with complete and comprehensive care for any of your eye conditions.  We accept most major medical insurance to complete this important and necessary exam, so call today and schedule your peace of mind.

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Drug Use Can Lead To A Common Eye Disease

According to the Journal of Glaucoma, the Department of Veterans Affairs has recently found that cocaine use is predictive of open-angle glaucoma – one of the most common types of eye disease.

After the results were adjusted for age, gender and race, former cocaine users were 45% more likely to develop this blinding eye disease. Men with open-angle glaucoma also had increased exposure to amphetamines and marijuana, although not as much as cocaine.

Even more surprising, those with a history of cocaine use developed glaucoma almost 20 years earlier in life, at 54 rather than 73 years old,  leaving them with a longer time for this degenerative disease to progress to total blindness.

Although this study showed an increased risk for glaucoma in people with a history of drug use, it does not prove a cut and dry relationship. However, it is unlikely that glaucoma preceded the use of illegal drugs, since substance use typically begins in the teens or twenties.

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States behind diabetes. And even though the exact mechanism of vision loss in glaucoma is not completely understood, we do know that an increase in eye pressure gradually damages the optic nerve. Because this damage is slow and gradual, most people who develop glaucoma have no symptoms until late in the disease process when they’ve already lost substantial peripheral vision.

The study’s author Dustin French, Ph.D a research scientist with the Department of Veterans Affairs said:

The association of illegal drug use with open-angle glaucoma requires further study, but if the relationship is confirmed, this understanding could lead to new strategies to prevent vision loss.

As of now, eye pressure is the only risk factor for glaucoma that we can control, which can be lowered using eye drops or surgery.  If an association of cocaine use and glaucoma is confirmed in more studies, substance abuse would be a second controllable risk factor for this blinding disease.

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Too Many Diabetics Neglect Simple Tests to Control Their Disease

Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in the United States, and most of these sight-stealing cases can be attributed to neglecting their disease. Unfortunately, new research has shown that the next generation of diabetic patients aren’t likely to fare much better.

A new study in the journal of Pediatrics reports that young Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics are not getting routine tests, such as eye exams, needed to properly manage their disease – setting them up for many future complications.

The most staggering statistic is that one third of those surveyed had not undergone routine eye exams nor had tests of long-term blood sugar control – both recommended by the American Diabetic Association (ADA).

Unlike a simple blood sugar test, a hemoglobin A1C test gives a snapshot of a patient’s blood sugar over the previous three months, a much better indicator of long term control. The ADA recommends this test every six months.

Diabetes EyesiteThe ADA also says patients should have a routine eye exam from their optometrist or ophthalmologist at least once a year – but 34% of diabetic respondents had not had this crucial exam. The eye is unique in that it is the only place in the body where a doctor can see your blood vessels without cutting you open.

Diabetes is ultimately a disease of the blood vessels where blood cannot nourish your body and instead leaks out where the arteries meet the veins. This lack of nourishment can harm limbs, shut down organs and cause blindness.

The ADA guidelines are the most widely accepted method to control diabetes and prevent damage caused by this disease. Diabetes, for the most part, cannot be cured, only managed. The first steps are though routine medical exams, physical activity and a healthy diet.

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New Research on Vitamins May Reduce Macular Degeneration

As the population ages, Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is becoming more prevalent. Two recent studies about different vitamins may hold the answer to managing and slowing down the deleterious effects of this serious disease.

The first study shows that people with increased levels of vitamin D are less likely to have an early onset of this sight-threatening condition.  In this study, women who consumed the most vitamin D had a 59 percent lower risk of developing AMD, compared to age-matched women who took in the least vitamin D.

macular generation photoVitamin D is available in many foods and  is produced naturally by your body during exposure to the sun’s UV rays.  Still, many experts recommend taking a daily supplement to increase your vitamin D levels.

Meanwhile, scientists at Columbia University are trying to slow down the progrrssion of AMD by slowing down the buildup of vitamin A in the eye.

In order for the retina to process light, vitamin A has to undergo a series of chemical transformations, which often causes the vitamin to form ‘clumpy’ deposits. These deposits are the basis of AMD.

Now a team at the department of ophthalmology at Columbia’s Harkness Eye Institute, have synthesized a modified vitamin A drug.  By feeding this artificial vitamin A to healthy mice, the experts were able to reduce the amount of vitamin A deposits without any noticeable side effects. These findings may eventually help to reduce the risk of, and in some cases stop, the condition in its tracks.

While these two studies show hope in the treatment of AMD, until more concrete results are produced patients need to take the condition seriously. Anyone with a family history of Macular Degeneration should visit their optometrist yearly for a comprehensive eye exam. If your eye doctor has seen early signs of AMD, your may need to be seen more frequently.


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May Is Healthy Vision Month

The National Eye Institute (NIE) has declared May “Healthy Vision Month” in order to educate our country on the importance of making vision a priority for  your overall health.  It is vital for our nation to understand that prevention, protection and early diagnosis of eye diseases can improve and preserve our health and wellness.

One of the first, and most important, steps to preserving your vision is to schedule a comprehensive eye exam with your optometrist.

During an eye exam, we examine your eyes to look for common vision problems and eye diseases – many of which have no warning signs. Most eye diseases, in fact, are painless and do not affect your vision.

A comprehensive dilated eye exam can detect eye diseases in their beginning stages, before any vision loss has occurred. So it’s no surprise that early detection and treatment can help save your sight.

Don’t put off your eye exam any longer.  I often see patients who put off exams for too long, and regret not coming in earlier. Seeing clearly and making sure your preserve your vision should be at the top of your to-do list.

For more information on Healthy Vision Month, visit

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A New Implantable Microchip May Create a 'Bionic Eye'

Bionic Vision Australia (BVA), an Australian research group, is getting close to implanting a microchip into a human retina and creating the first bionic eye.

Associate Professor Gregg Suaning, of the Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering and a project leader said the new, 98-channel microchip, now undergoing preliminary lab testing, was a major step towards the goal of a functional bionic eye. He went on to say:

This is a remarkable new microchip that has brought an Australian retinal implant much closer to reality.

At only five square millimetres, the device is tiny but represents a significant advance in nerve stimulation technology. The design team incorporated never-before attempted features with this design and they absolutely nailed every aspect. The result is mind boggling.

The advanced prototype of this new bionic eye uses a pair of glasses with a camera that wirelessly transfers data to the microchip implanted in the retina and stimulating the nerves needed for vision.

The first human trials will begin in 2013.

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Prevent Blindness America Boosts Eye Health Via Workplace

Prevent Blindness America (PBA) has designated March as Workplace Vision Month by in an effort to educate corporations and their employees on the importance of vision health. Tell employers in your community that they can participate in the non-profit organization’s Healthy Eyes Vision Wellness Program at no charge.

The program includes printed posters to hang in common areas of the workplace as well as various eye health educational materials designed to encourage workers to make their vision health a priority. Topics include eye protection recommendations for work or play and information on various eye diseases and conditions for adults and children. Leading eye-care professionals developed the materials. Participants also receive a free download of the adult vision risk assessment.

“By promoting eye health and safety in the workplace, companies can actually help reduce their annual health-care costs,” said Hugh R. Parry, chief executive officer of PBA. That’s because the more vision ailments employees have, the more medical care they use, and this use generates increased health-related expenditures for employers through absenteeism, sick leave, and premature retirement due to vision-related illness or work-related eye injuries, he added.

To sign up for the Healthy Eyes Vision Wellness Program or receive free information on eye safety in the workplace, employers can call 800/331-2020 or visit

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