Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Gene Therapy May Help Against Rare Blinding Disease

A new gene therapy that successfully treated a rare eye disease in clinical trials could prove the key to preventing more common inherited causes of blindness, researchers say.

In six male patients, doctors used a virus to repair a defective gene that causes choroideremia, a degenerative eye disease that can lead to complete blindness by middle age, according to a clinical trial report published online Jan. 16 in The Lancet.

Vision improved for all the patients following the gene therapy, and particularly for two patients with advanced choroideremia, said lead author Robert MacLaren of the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology at the University of Oxford, and a consultant surgeon at the Oxford Eye Hospital, in England.

“In truth, we did not expect to see such dramatic improvements in visual acuity and so we contacted both patients’ home opticians to get current and historical data on their vision in former years, long before the gene therapy trial started,” MacLaren said in a university news release. “These readings confirmed exactly what we had seen in our study and provided an independent verification.”

While choroideremia is a rare disease, affecting about one in every 50,000 people, doctors believe the process used to treat it could be turned toward more common inherited eye disorders, such as macular degeneration or retinitis pigmentosa.

“This is something that we’ve been trying to accomplish for years in retinal science, and it’s very encouraging,” said Dr. Mark Fromer, an ophthalmologist at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York City.

Fromer, who was not involved with the new research, predicted that gene therapy could in the future be used to prevent blindness by fixing defective genes in patients before something like macular degeneration can even take root.

“We’ll go from putting a Band-Aid on the lesion to preventing it from happening. This is a new pathway to fix things before they get broken,” said Fromer, who is also the eye surgeon for the National Hockey League’s New York Rangers

Choroideremia is caused by defects in the CHM gene on the X chromosome, which explains why it usually affects boys, according to the background information from the journal. It causes the pigment cells in the eye’s retina to die off, progressively shrinking the retina and slowly reducing vision.

The first signs tend to be seen in boys in late childhood, with the disease slowly progressing until vision is lost. There is currently no cure.

MacLaren and his colleagues engineered a virus that would infect the patient’s retina but, instead of spreading disease, would instead release a DNA payload that would replace the defective gene with a working copy of the gene.

The phase 1 clinical trial involved six patients aged 35 to 63 — two with excellent vision, two with good vision and two with damaged vision, according to the case report. In an operation similar to cataract surgery, doctors surgically detached the patients’ retinas and then injected the virus underneath using a very fine needle.

Six months after the operation, patients with good or excellent vision retained that vision but could see more in the dark when tested. Loss of night vision is an early sign of the disease, MacLaren said.

The two patients with bad vision experienced improvement, and were now able to read two and four more lines on a sight chart.

Those improvements have lasted for two years in one patient and one year in the other, researchers reported.

“It’s too early to say the degeneration has stopped, but the vision we’ve seen in these two patients has been sustained at one year and two years,” MacLaren said in an interview.

Fromer said that the most promising part about gene therapy for eye diseases is that vision loss often occurs very slowly. That means that doctors would have ample time to halt vision loss using a genetic cure.

“You have a lot of time to get that virus into the eye, to correct the defective gene,” Fromer said. “The window is large.”

MacLaren said this research has focused on choroideremia because it is a relatively simple disease caused by just one defective gene.

By proving this type of treatment can work, he added, doctors can then investigate using it to treat more complicated genetic eye disorders in which multiple genes are malfunctioning.

“This is effectively the first flight across the Atlantic,” MacLaren said. “It’s one disease, it’s quite rare, but it represents a big step forward.”


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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Can the Weather Affect Your Vision?

It’s the stereotypical front-porch scene: a couple of old-timers complaining about aches and pains, and then predicting  a storm is in on the horizon because of a feeling in a joint or bone.

It’s not just old knees or a beat-up shoulder than can send signals in advance of weather – some people report experiencing symptoms in their eyes as weather gets ready to change. Those issues seem to be most often accompanied by tingling, dizziness, and being mentally flustered. But whether in the eye or joints, what about an impending rain could cause any discomfort at all?

As a storm approaches, the area’s atmospheric pressure drops. This is what the weathermen talk about on the news as they explain that the low pressure system heading your way will be ruining your weekend plans or canceling school tomorrow. Atmospheric pressure is essentially the weight of the air in the atmosphere, and when a big storm is heading in, that can pressure drop — sometimes quickly enough to trigger quite a reaction.

A drop in pressure is a bit like a scuba diver coming up from extreme depths, except on a molecular level. Without the pressure of all that water, divers are required to wait for pre-determined amounts of time to decompress so air bubbles in their blood don’t expand and give them a painful and potentially fatal condition called decompression sickness (more commonly called the bends). Some doctors think that changes in the atmospheric pressure on land — such as those brought on by an impending change in the weather — can cause people with chronic pain or certain other conditions to experience sensations because of the minuscule pressure difference allowing cells to expand just a bit. It’s the same reason people’s feet swell on commercial flights — though the cabin is pressurized, it’s a little less so than you’d experience at home.

While sensitivity to pressure changes in the eyes doesn’t appear to cause more than a little discomfort and annoyance for people in normal environments, at extreme altitude it can be a different story. In part because atmospheric pressure is lower at altitude, some alpinists, soldiers, trekkers and others at very high altitudes report bleeding in the eye, known as High-Altitude Retinal Hemorrhaging. Often, the condition accompanies other signs of acute mountain sickness or other altitude-related malady like cerebral edemas, but the eye issues can also happen on their own. The good news is that a trip into the Catskills isn’t likely to trigger such a reaction. You’d probably need to be hiking high into the Himalayas or Andes to be at risk for such an issue, though people sometimes report altitude issues in places like Colorado.

So does a light head and slightly blurred vision mean there’s rain in the forecast? Maybe, but regardless you should have any unusual symptoms checked out by an eye care professional before letting the neighbors know that turning on the sprinklers is a waste of time.


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Friday, June 19, 2015

What Is The Difference Between LASEK And LASIK?

LASIK and LASEK share some things in common and have certain differences. The goal of both surgeries is to change the shape and power of the front part of the eye called the cornea, which is the clear window of tissue overlying the colored iris and pupil, such that light travels through the cornea and then the lens, and will then be focused on the retina, achieving clear vision.

This is accomplished in both surgeries, LASIK and LASEK, using a device known as an excimer laser. This cool beam, computer driven, ultraviolet laser changes the shape of the cornea by a chemical process known as photoablation. In LASIK, a corneal flap is created followed by application of the laser. In LASEK, the outer layer of the cornea is first removed or loosened using a dilute alcohol solution. It is then brushed away followed by the application of the laser, and then in some patients, the outer layer may be repositioned, and in others it may be discarded, but in both conditions the outer layer will rejuvenate and replace itself in three to five days. Visual recovery is faster in LASIK than LASEK; however the end result is very similar and the differences are so minor not to be clinically significant.

The recommendation as to proceed with LASIK or LASEK can be only be made by your ophthalmologist after an examination specific to your measurements. For example, if you have a thin cornea or a particularly dry eye, or participate in contact sports, it’s possible that the ophthalmologist may recommend LASEK versus LASIK. In other cases, LASIK may be recommended because of the faster visual recovery.

Source: ABC News

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Scientists Set Sights on 1st Whole-Eye Transplant

In the world of 21st-century medicine, organ transplantation is nothing new.

The first kidney transplant took place in 1950, followed by the first liver transplant in 1963 and the first human heart transplant in 1967. By 2010, doctors had even managed the transplantation of a patient’s entire face.

One major organ still eludes the transplant surgeon, however: the entire human eye. But if one team of U.S. scientists has its way, that dream may become reality, too.

“Until recently, eye transplants have been considered science fiction,” said Dr. Vijay Gorantla, an associate professor of surgery in the department of plastic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh. “People said it was crazy, bonkers.”

However, “with what we now know about transplantation and, more importantly, nerve regeneration, we are finally at the point where we can have real confidence that this is something that actually can be pursued and eventually achieved,” he said.

Whole-eye transplants would be of enormous benefit for many of the 180 million blind or severely visually disabled people around the world, including nearly 3.5 million Americans, experts say.

“Macular degeneration and glaucoma are the root cause of much the world’s visual impairment,” explained Dr. Jeffrey Goldberg, director of research at the Shiley Eye Center at University of California, San Diego.

Certainly, there are therapies that often help restore sight in these cases, or in people who’ve lost sight through injury. “But for some people the eye is too damaged or too far gone,” Goldberg said. “For patients with a devastating eye injury where there’s no remaining connective optic nerve — or perhaps not even an eyeball in their eye socket — restorative approaches are simply not enough.”

In these cases, transplantation of a healthy donor eye would be a solution. “It’s a scientific long shot,” Goldberg said. “But it’s a very attractive long shot.”

So, Gorantla and Goldberg — and their two universities — have teamed up to push whole-eye transplantation from theory into practice. The effort is funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.

One of the biggest challenges is how to regenerate and regrow delicate optical nerves.

“The chief problem,” Goldberg explained, “is that when you switch out an eyeball you have to completely cut all connections between the optic nerve and the eye. So then you need to reconnect the donor eye’s nerve fibers back to the recipient’s brain in order to achieve vision restoration. But we know that once you make that cut, the nerve fibers just do not regrow on their own. That doesn’t happen automatically.”

“That’s what distinguishes an eye transplant from most other types of transplants,” Gorantla added. In other organ transplants, the chief hurdle is simply reconnecting a proper blood supply. “For example, if you get the plumbing connected and the blood going, then a transplanted heart will beat in the recipient patient immediately,” Gorantla said.

“But an eye transplant actually has more parallels with a hand or face transplant,” he said. The eye may appear healthy because of a renewed blood supply, but without reconnecting the optic nerve, “there’s no motor activity and no sensation or eyesight,” Gorantla said. “The result is functionless and lifeless.”

Luckily, various laboratories “have made significant progress” in fostering the long distance regrowth of nerve fibers, Goldberg said. “In animals with optic nerve injury or degeneration we’ve even started to see fibers regrow all the way back to the brain,” he noted.

The regeneration of cells called retinal ganglia cells — key to achieving discernible vision — has also met with recent success in a lab setting. “The recent indications that such nerve generation is actually possible raises optimism that eye transplantation can really be viable,” said Gorantla, who is also administrative medical director of the Pittsburgh Reconstructive Transplant Program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Still, any first attempt at a whole-eye transplant in humans remains years away, the experts cautioned.

“There’s a significant amount of work to be done before anything like this can be tried on patients,” Goldberg said. “But when you survey people, losing one’s vision comes in just a smidge below death as a thing we fear. There are few things people value more than their vision, so while it may be audacious, it’s worth the effort.”


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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Are You Making These 5 Contact Lens Mistakes?

It might seem tempting (and oh-so-easy) to crash on the couch or hop in the shower with your contacts in, but doing so can actually put your eyes at serious risk.

We talked to Thomas Steinemann, M.D., a professor of ophthalmology at Case Western Reserve University and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, about some of the most common mistakes the 36 million Americans who wear contact lenses make. Read on for how to avoid them – and why it’s important you do.

The Mistake: Sleeping in your contacts

Although some professionals and contact manufacturers say that it’s okay to sleep in certain types of lenses, Steinemann does not recommend it. Your cornea, the outside layer of your eye that the contact covers, needs oxygen. Wearing contacts deprives the eye of that oxygen, and sleeping in your lenses exacerbates the problem. At best, overnight wear will likely cause irritation and discomfort. At worst, it could lead to a serious infection. According to an overview of surveys by the Journal of Optometry, sleeping in contact lenses seemed to be “the main cause of microbial keratitis,” a type of eye infection.

The Mistake: Taking a shower or a swim in your contacts

It might seem like no big deal, but swimming and showering with your contacts in is a bad idea, says Steinemann. Most water sources – including lakes, pools, hot tubs, and bathroom sinks – contain the microorganism Acanthamoeba. If it finds its way into your eyes, acanthamoeba can cause an extremely painful infection and potentially even lead to blindness. The treatment is long and difficult, Steinemann says.

Contact lens wearers are at greater risk for a number of reasons (the same Journal of Optometry paper says that contact lenses may account for 95 percent of acanthamoeba eye infections). The acanthamoeba is particularly attracted to the contact lens: Contacts cause minor scratches on the cornea, which make it more vulnerable to bacteria and microorganisms of all kinds. In addition, any bacteria living on the surface of the contact serve as a food source for the acanthamoeba, allowing it to survive in your eye.

The Mistake: Using water to clean your lenses

Even riskier than swimming while wearing contacts is storing your lenses in tap water. “Even though tap water is pure enough to drink, it’s not sterile,” Steinemann says. Acanthamoeba also lives in tap water, so soaking lenses in water from the sink is an invitation to infection. Instead, you should always store them in solution.

It’s also important to wash your hands before putting your lenses in and taking them out – and never leave old solution from the day before in the case (use all new solution, don’t just top it off). Rub and rinse the contacts with solution after each use.

The Mistake: Using a case for too long without replacing it

Steinemann recommends cleaning your lens case thoroughly with solution every day, and replacing the case every month. (The American Optometric Association advises replacing it at least every three months.)

And don’t cut corners by throwing your contacts case in the dishwasher: “There’s food in your dishwasher. It’s not like it’s a sterile place,” says Dr. Anne Sumers, an ophthalmologist and spokesperson for American Academy of Ophthalmology. Steinemann also warns against putting your case in the dishwasher, citing concerns about the residues from dish soap that could end up on the case or lens. Clean the case with solution and let it air dry until the next day.

This may sound complicated, but it’s important. An old case is “a set up for germs growing on the case and on the lens,” Steinemann says. Besides the general griminess of a six-month-old contact case that you can probably see, invisible germs and bacteria are likely living there, too.

And keeping contacts and their cases clean and bacteria-free reduces vulnerability to all types of infection. A 2012 study in the journal Ophthalmology showed that the risk of eye infection was 6.4 times greater in those who didn’t properly clean their contact cases and 5.4 times greater in those who didn’t replace their cases frequently enough.

The Mistake: Wearing your contacts way past their expiration date

“Most people will admit that they keep their lenses longer,” Steinemann says, than the recommended period. This is a similar hazard to a worn-out case: Old lenses become coated with germs and the build-up of solution, proteins, and other residues, Steinemann says. This will make the lenses uncomfortable and can lead to infection.


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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Education Level Linked to Nearsightedness

Nothing says “overeducated egghead” like a pair of coke-bottle glasses. But even clichés sometimes hit the nerd on the head. Because a new study finds that nearsightedness is linked to the number of years spent in school. The findings can be viewed in the journal Ophthalmology. [Alireza Mirshahi et al, Myopia and Level of Education]

In the past century, the prevalence of myopia—science-speak for being able to see only what’s right in front of you—has been on the rise. So much so that it can’t all be blamed on geeky genes.

To nail down the potential environmental influences, researchers focused on the classroom. They gave eye exams to nearly 5000 German subjects in a project called the Gutenberg Health Study.

The researchers found that individuals with 13 years of education were more myopic than those who didn’t get past primary school. And more than half of those with a university degree could use a set of specs, compared to less than a quarter of the folks who quit after high school or secondary school.

All that learning takes a lot of reading. Which itself is associated with nearsightedness. Or the nearsighted may gravitate toward pursuits easier to see—like hitting the books. Either way, seems that being a good student may not require great pupils.


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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Be Smart With Your Eyes Under The Sun

Do Americans have all the facts when it comes to protecting their eyes from the sun?  A recent poll says no.

Along with our skin, we have to protect our eyes from the sun’s rays. Not protecting your eyes properly now raises the risk for eye diseases or cancer, years down the road.

A majority of Americans don’t have all the facts when it comes to protecting their eyes from ultraviolet rays, according to a recent poll from the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

It shows many people are unaware that certain things can cause people to be more susceptible to UV damage, including:

– Some medications

– Having a light eye color — blue, green or hazel.

– Knowing the facts is important to prevent the cumulative effects, say doctors.

Tumors can also develop on the surface of the eye, which can be cancerous.

“You can get skin cancers and skin growths on your eyelids just like other areas of skin and internally, you can get issues that are related to excess amounts of sun and UV light,” said ophthalmologist Dr. Alan Kozarsky.

Issues like macular degeneration- central vision loss- or cataracts. The Academy says there are steps you can take right now for protection.

Wear your sunglasses – a big pair of them.

– Look for ones labeled, “100 percent UV protection,” meaning they protect against UVA and UVB rays. they may also say “UV 400.”

– Wear them even if it’s cloudy.

– Also put on a wide-brimmed hat.

– Don’t use contact lenses as a substitute for protecting the entire eye.

– And finally, remember, kids need protection, too.


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Saturday, May 9, 2015

What Your Optometrist Can Tell About Your Health Just By Examining Your Eyes

When you look into your eyes, you may be trying to steel yourself for an interview. Or maybe you’re just checking to see if they are red and bloodshot, irritated by allergies or perhaps a long night out.

But when doctors look into your eyes, they can see a lot more. The eyes might be the proverbial window to the soul, but they are also a clear window to your health, and the amount of information they can reveal is astounding.

Many conditions cause symptoms throughout the body — some show up in the skin, others in the mouth, and some even in fingernails — but the eye is one spot that reveals a particularly large percentage of health issues.

“Looking in an eye really is a fabulous experience,” says Dr. Charles P. Wilkinson, a retina specialist and clinical spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “It’s the only place you can see blood vessels bouncing along their merry way, you can see the optic nerve, which is part of the brain.”

With so much visible, more than 30 conditions show symptoms in the eyes. That’s why eye doctors — ophthalmologists — and optometrists are frequently among the first to spot certain problems.

An internal study of 120,000 patients by the insurance company VSP Vision Care found that an eye exam was the first indicator of 34% of diabetes cases, 39% of cases of high blood pressure, and a shocking 62% of cases of high cholesterol.

VSP president Jim McGrann says that these findings showed that for many of these patients, “if people hadn’t gone to see their eye doctor, they’d be walking around with time bomb diseases.”

Here are irregularities that show up in your eyes — and sometimes mean that something more serious is at stake.

Red spots, caused by dots of blood in the eye, can be a sign of diabetes — a terrible disease that the CDC predicts 40% of Americans will develop in their lives. If blood sugar builds up too high, blood vessels begin to get blocked and to swell up. This can burst the tiny blood vessels in the retina, causing bleeding. If it’s not treated, this can potentially lead to impaired vision or even blindness.

But bloodshot eyes can be caused by many other conditions, too — ranging from an intense cough to pinkeye to a fungal infection.

Itchy, swollen, red eyes are common giveaways that a patient is suffering from allergies, frequently triggered by pollen, dust, or pet dander. Eyedrops can help, especially if they include an antihistamine, though be careful of oral antihistamines, as some can cause eyes to dry out, worsening the problem.

Dry eyes are a side effect of both computer usage and many medications, like sleeping pills, pain relievers, or anti-anxiety medications. Autoimmune diseases can cause dry eyes as well, especially one called Sjögren’s syndrome, which destroys moisture-producing glands and mostly affects older women.

Most people lose the ability to focus on close-up things like the print on restaurant menus as they age, but certain medications — antidepressants, antihistamines, and diuretics — can cause this condition, called presbyopia, to happen prematurely.

Blurry vision can be caused by a long list of eye conditions, but for those already at risk of high blood pressure, it can be a sign that someone needs to get to the doctor immediately. Once a person’s sight is obscured by side effects of hypertension, that person needs treatment quickly, as vision and more is at stake.

Suddenly seeing specks or flashes of light can be a sign of a torn retina. Some people experience these symptoms with migraines or simply as they grow older. But a sudden increase in the size and number of specks or flashes of light you see can be caused by a torn retina, which needs to be treated. That’s especially the case if the flashes or spots are accompanied by a shadow or loss of peripheral vision, which very likely indicates a detached retina.

Eye doctors can be the first ones to detect some cancers. An eye doctor can check for ocular melanoma, a rare form of melanoma but one that usually can’t be detected by looking in the mirror. If other causes of pressure or pain in the eye are ruled out, Wilkinson says, an eye doctor may check to see if a brain tumor is a possibility.

High cholesterol can frequently cause white rings to develop around the eyes, and can also cause yellowish bumps to appear in the eyelids. Older patients are likely to also develop similar white rings, but in any case, it can be a sign that cholesterol needs to be checked by a doctor.

McGrann says the large number of diseases that cause symptoms in the eye should convince people that an annual eye exam is worthwhile. An annual exam is especially necessary for anyone over 40, Wilkinson says — though he notes that many of these health conditions are frequently detected first during routine medical screening.

At that point, changes in the eye and body mean that eye doctors have important conditions to monitor, even if vision is stable. And new problems can surface at any time. Many can be treated before they cause a problem — but only if a doctor has a chance to examine the eye in the first place.

Source: Business Insider

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Friday, May 1, 2015

What Causes Contact Lens Discomfort?

Have you ever met someone with contacts who didn’t complain about them? Yep, we haven’t, either. A new report in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science found contact lens discomfort affects up to half of contact lens wearers—and there’s reason to believe that number could be even higher.

The report is the culmination of 18 research-packed months conducted by 79 eye experts all talking about those little plastic circles. But beyond the common sense of contact care—like, ehem, not taking them out when you’re supposed to—contact comfort is way more multifaceted than we ever thought. “We still really don’t understand the underlying biological mechanisms associated with contact lens discomfort,” says study author Jason J. Nichols, OD, MPH, PhD, who looked at everything from contact lens materials, to patient behavior, to wearing schedules, to how the contact lens actually interacts with your tear glands. Here’s what the team learned:

No amount of actual pain is normal. “Generally speaking, contact lens wearers do not experience the symptom of ‘pain’ unless something is very wrong with the eye,” such as an infection, says Dr. Nichols. Life threatening infections are rare, and are easy to prevent by using the best contact lens materials and caring for yours as recommended by your doctor.

That annoying dryness and discomfort, especially at the end of the day, is. And they often result in you wearing your contacts a lot less than you’d like to. Unfortunately, the experts on board weren’t able to identify any actual causes. The research hints at a possible lead regarding the eyelids, but “the symptoms associated with contact lens discomfort are frequent and real; there is indeed much to be understood about this problem,” says Nichols.

Patients are more apt to stop wearing their contacts all together than actually consult their eye doc. Contact lenses are FDA-regulated medical devices and the second most common vision-correctors in the world. And yet, patients end up taking matters into their own hands. The consequences? Inability to wear them as long as you’d like, inflammation, and even infection (depending on the symptoms).

The bottom line: If your contacts aren’t as comfortable as you’d like them to be, head back to the eye doctor. Even though scientists still don’t know the cause of many nagging symptoms, eye doctors are the most equipped to find the right lens material, rinse, and fit for you.


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Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Do’s and Don’ts of Contact Lens Care

contactSeven a.m. You hit snooze, wake up, get dressed and brush your teeth. You comb your hair, throw in your contacts, slug some coffee and leave for the day. That quick minute devoted to putting in your contacts may seem as routine and insignificant as choosing a travel mug for your coffee. But think about it: You are placing a custom-fitted, doctor-prescribed plastic device on your fragile mucus membrane, likely allowing you to see your best.

“Give the contact lens respect,” says Christine Sindt, an optometrist in Iowa City, Iowa. Contacts are so commonplace and frequently used that we sometimes don’t see them as a medical device, she says, although that’s exactly what they are. And while she believes contacts are a wonderful invention – if not a luxury – “when things go wrong, they go very, very wrong and can be visually devastating.” Think infections, which can range from redness and oozing to vision problems possibly leading to blindness. No thanks. Contact wearers, avoid these common mistakes to maintain healthy eyes and vision.

You don’t wash your hands before handling your lenses. Hand washing is the most important step in keeping your contact lenses and eyes healthy, says Sindt, who is also an associate professor of clinical ophthalmology and director of the Contact Lens Service at the University of Iowa. Think about all the germy things you touch throughout the day – countertops, door handles, keyboards. Their microbes will transfer from your fingers to your contact lens and then to your eye. This can cause huge problems for your eyes, like nasty infections that may damage your sight.

So get washing. Right before handling your contact lenses, wash your hands thoroughly with a clear soap that’s free of residues, like moisturizers, Sindt says. And a five-second rinse doesn’t cut it. As you’re scrubbing, Sindt suggests singing the entire birthday song (silently, if you prefer). The length of this song is about how long you should be washing your hands.

After washing and before touching your contacts, dry your hands with a lint-free towel. Water and its microbes are no good for our eyes.

You don’t completely replace yesterday’s contact solution. Instead, you leave the old liquid in the little bowls and top it off with a squirt of fresh solution. You’re not alone in this offense. Of the 1,000 contact wearers polled for a recent study conducted by Wakefield Research for Alcon, 96 percent admitted to frequently reusing or topping off old solution. Here’s the problem: When a contact sits and soaks in solution, the mixture becomes depleted of its organism-killing biocide, rendering it ineffective for disinfecting your lenses, Sindt says. Opt for only fresh solution with every use, and don’t fill the wells of the case with just enough solution to submerge the lenses. Fill the entire bowls with solution to fully disinfect the contacts.

You skip the rub. After you take out your contacts, before plopping in that super fresh, filled-to-the brim solution, give them each a little five-second rub between your fingers, Sindt says. This rub will help remove deposits that have become stuck to the lens.

You wear a pair of contacts for a longer amount of time than you should. Although contacts are prescribed medical devices, 84 percent of the participants in the Alcon poll said they wear their contacts longer than the recommended time. Whether it’s every day or after 10 wears, replace your contacts as frequently as your doctor tells you to avoid irritated, possibly infected, eyes.

You rinse your lens case with water (or not at all). Each day, dump out the used solution, rinse the case with contact solution and wipe it out with a clean towel after every use. Then store the case with its caps removed. “Anything that can live in your eye will not live in a dry contact lens case,” Sindt says. “When you just have your old solution in there with the caps on, it’s just like a little petri dish.”

You pop your contact lens in your mouth when if falls out. Just about every contact wearer has been there: Your lens falls out while you’re away from home. It’s a tricky problem if you don’t have solution, a spare lens or a pair of glasses nearby. Besides being prepared with these items stored at your office, car or purse, there are no great solutions to this problem. But there is one terrible idea. In perhaps a quick attempt to lubricate the lens, many folks will put it in their mouth before sticking it back into their eye. Given that our spit has about 60,000 bacteria per drop, Sindt identifies this solution as “the worst possible thing you can do.”

Source: US News

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Steps You Can Take to Help Combat Digital Eyestrain

Our lives have increasingly become more digital today. While some may see this as a benefit, others are finding that it can literally be a pain in the eye.

Digital eyestrain is now a common problem. Eye and vision problems are reported in 70 to 75% of computer workers, according to the American Optometric Association.

Headaches, eye pain, redness, watering, double vision and loss of focus are all associated with digital eyestrain.

The good news is there are numerous things you can do to help avoid the condition, including:

Take a break. Take frequent 15 minute breaks and focus your eyes on a distant object across the room. This will give the focusing muscle a chance to relax.

Try palming. This is essentially meditation for the eyes. To do this, you will close your eyes and place the centers of your palms over your eyes. Take deep slow breaths and relax your eye muscles.

This is a wonderful way to rejuvenate your eyes during those long computer projects. Keep your shoulders and neck relaxed. Tension in this area will cause a tension in your eyes. An occasional neck and shoulder massage will also work wonders.

Blink frequently. When doing demanding digital work, your blink rate decreases. A conscious effort should be made to blink lightly every 10 to 15 seconds. This will coat the cornea, or front part of the eye, to nourish your eye with oxygen and nutrients — and the coating of tears will also sharpen your vision.

Wear computer glasses. Use a pair of computer glasses and work at the proper distance — 20 to 28 inches, depending on the focal point of the eye. Computer glasses have a different focal point than reading glasses. This will reduce the effort of focusing and putting a strain on your eyes. The extra effort to focus will cause tension in the eye muscles, which in addition to causing eye discomfort can lead to an increase in eye pressure.

Keep your monitor bright. This will reduce the flicker rate of the computer and reduce fatigue. Flickering can lead to eyestrain and headaches. A bright monitor causes the pupil to constrict and a greater range of focus will result. This will reduce the need for your eye to accommodate and enable you to work longer with more comfort.

Reduce blue light at night. A Harvard study revealed that blue light at night negatively reduces melatonin levels, which have a serious adverse health effect. It is associated with an increased incidence of diabetes, obesity and cancer. Reduce computer time at night or wear blue blocking glasses. These will block out the harmful blue spectrum light at night.

Take vitamins and minerals. Considering that the eyes have one of the highest energy requirements in the body, it is important that they get proper amounts of vitamins and minerals. It is important to opt for a vitamin that offers key antioxidants and ingredients that will help improve the health of the eye and reduce eyestrain. Those can include vitamins A, C, and E with a B complex and zinc.

Homeopathy. Speak with a practitioner to find a level of therapy that will work for your individual circumstances. One of the most common homeopathic remedies to treat eyestrain is Ruta Graveolens, a common ornamental plant found in gardens that is used to treat strains of tendons. This remedy can greatly reduce the symptoms of eyestrain during prolonged computer use.

Increase the light. Not having a light on when you are using the computer (or television) can put more of a strain on your eyes. Be sure to have a light on to help reduce the strain.

Check your computer’s position. The position of your computer can add to your eyestrain. It is important that it is positioned a good distance away, around 20-28 inches from the eye, and that there are no glares on it. Re-position your computer to provide maximum eye comfort.

Following the tips above can help reduce your chances of getting digital eyestrain. You will feel better and be able to work longer.


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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Glaucoma Can Cause Loss of Vision and Eventually Blindness if Not Adequately Treated

The specialist:

As professor of ophthalmology and director of the glaucoma research and clinical fellowships at Mount Sinai, Janet Serle is an ophthalmologist who has been practicing since 1985. Her patients have glaucoma.

Who’s at risk:

“Glaucoma is a disease that causes loss of vision and eventually blindness if not adequately treated,” says Serle. “This is a disease that we can manage with medication, laser treatments and surgery — but far too many patients are only diagnosed when they’ve lost much of their vision.”

January is glaucoma awareness month, a nationwide initiative to bring treatment to the estimated 1 million Americans who have glaucoma without knowing it.

Over 2 million Americans have glaucoma, and 120,000 of them are blind from it.

Glaucoma is the result of damage that occurs in the optic nerve, the pathway that carries images from the eye to the brain.

“We don’t know exactly what causes glaucoma, but we think it’s a combination of genetics and environmental factors,” says Serle. “In the United States, glaucoma accounts for 12% of all cases of blindness, and is the second-leading cause of blindness around the world.”

Doctors have identified certain population groups as being at increased risk.


“While Caucasians have about 1%-2% risk of getting glaucoma, blacks and Hispanics have a 5% risk,” says Serle. “And this risk goes up with age. Studies have found that by age 80, 10% of blacks and 20% of Hispanics have glaucoma.”

You’re also considered at high risk if you have a family history of the disease, thin corneas, eye pressure above the normal range, optic-nerve cupping, eye injuries, diabetes or nearsightedness.

Signs and symptoms:

One difficulty in treating glaucoma is that it often sneaks up on people.

“We call the most common type of glaucoma — open-angle glaucoma — the silent thief of vision,” says Serle. “It has no symptoms until the late stages and is only discovered through careful examination by an ophthalmologist.”

Angle closure glaucoma, which is most common in Asian patients, causes symptoms like pain in the eyes, blurry vision, a halo around lights, and even abdominal and chest pain.

Routine eye exams are the key to fighting glaucoma.

“For a typical patient under age 40, we recommend a thorough eye exam every two to four years,” says Serle. “That drops to one exam every three years for the next 10 years, and then exams every one to two years until age 65. After that, we recommend one to two exams a year.

“People with risk factors like family history should consult their doctor about an exam schedule, and expect to start getting exams every one to two years after age 35.”

Visiting the optical shop to get a new prescription for glasses doesn’t count — they don’t do a complete exam for glaucoma.

Traditional treatment:

Getting glaucoma diagnosed is a vital first step, because the best eye doctor in Reno can prevent it from progressing to blindness. It’s a chronic disease that can be managed, not cured.

“We treat glaucoma by lowering the pressure in the eye, which we can do three ways,” says Serle. “We start with medications, then laser treatments, then surgery.

“For the vast majority of patients, adequate treatment and regular followup exams are enough to prevent vision loss,” says Serle.

Medications can manage glaucoma in one of two ways.

“Fluid is secreted into the eye and also leaves the eye,” says Serle. “So medications can decrease the fluid being secreted into the eye or increase the amount being secreted out.” Most medications are administered as eye drops one to four times a day.

Laser treatments are painless procedures done at the doctor’s office.

“The lasers direct energy into the eye, opening up the channels that fluid uses to exit the eye,” says Serle, “However, we can do a laser at most three times in each eye, and they have a limited duration of effect.”

Surgery makes alternative pathways for fluid to leave the eye.

“Either we make a hole in the eye or insert a tube into the eye,” says Serle. “These surgeries are done under local anesthesia, and most patients go home the same day.”

There’s an 80%-90% success rate for the first year, and 60%-70% success rate five years down the road, says Serle.

Research breakthroughs:

It’s a promising time for glaucoma research.

“On the horizon, we have exciting new medications and lots of new surgical procedures,” says Serle. “Earlier detection is also a big push, so we’re testing devices that would detect glaucoma before permanent damage is done.”

What you can do:

Get regular eye exams.

Depending on your age and risk factors, you should be screened as often as twice a year or as little as once every four years. “Make sure that you don’t miss these exams,” says Serle.

Know your family history.

Know your relatives’ ocular and medical history. If you’re at increased risk, you should get eye exams more frequently.

Get informed.

For reliable info, start with the American Academy of Ophthalmology, at, or the Glaucoma Research Foundation,

Get a comprehensive glaucoma exam.

If you have risk factors, make sure that you get the full workup, which includes checking intra-ocular pressure, an optic nerve exam, computerized visual field testing, measurement of corneal thickness and an exam of the angle of the eye.

Questions for your doctor:

Ask, “What’s my eye pressure?” If the answer is 21 or higher, then ask, “Should I have extra testing?” When you go for an eye exam, ask “What kind of device did you use to measure my eye pressure?” The preferred unit is the Goldmann machine, which uses a blue light, notes Serle.

By the numbers:

Glaucoma affects over 2.2 million Americans and 60 million people worldwide.

120,000 Americans are blind from glaucoma.

Glaucoma accounts for 12% of all cases of blindness in the U.S.

Half of people with glaucoma don’t know they have it.

Source: NY Daily News

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Are Computers the Source of Your Eyestrain?

We’ve all heard the complaint or something like it: “I’ve been staring at the screen all day. My eyes hurt.” But is it really the screen’s fault? (And if so, is there any long- or short-term damage?) Would our eyes be any better off perusing printed pages all day?

Yes, you can blame the screen, but not for everything. Some of the same eye-care advice you’ll hear for computer screens apply to paper-bookworms, too.

Screen-induced eye strain has an official name, if not a surprising one: computer vision syndrome. The term emerged about 20 years ago and describes a host of bothersome symptoms, including eye fatigue, burning and itchy eyes, blurred vision and sensitivity to bright light. People who spend two or more continuous hours at a computer every day are at greatest risk for developing the syndrome, according to the American Optometric Association.

For most people, symptom treatment is enough — managing their reading position, taking rest breaks or using eye drops to relieve dry eyes. That said, dry and irritated eyes are associated with disorders of the cornea, the transparent layer at the front of the eye. See a Reno optometrist if you’re putting drops in your eyes five or six times a day and still feel like they’re dry, says James Salz, a University of Southern California eye doctor and spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Still, he adds, “there’s no evidence that there’s any long-term damage from reading on a screen.”

What is it about computers that irritates our eyes? The problem boils down to a couple of key factors:

Blinking. Study after study has found that when reading on screens people tend to stare more than they do when reading on a printed page. More staring means less blinking, which means your eyes get less refreshment from tears. “When you blink, you spread a layer of tears over the eye,” says Mark Rosenfield, a professor at the State University of New York College of Optometry. With less blinking, eyes get dry and sore.

Another difference between the printed page and the computer screen is where the words are positioned relative to the eyes. People generally look down while reading a book or newspaper, but staring at screen usually means staring straight ahead. When you look down, more of your eye is covered by the eyelid, but when you look straight ahead more of your eye is exposed to the drying effect of air. Coupled with reduced blinking, this leads to dry eyes. Reading on mobile devices may be more book-like in terms of positioning, but blink rate is still a concern.


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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Is Mobile Device Use Causing Nearsightedness In Children

Our kids seem to be naturals when it comes to using smartphones and tablets, but all that close-up screen time may be doing a number on their eyes.

“We are seeing a lot more nearsighted children these days,” says Dr. Thomas Yau, an opthamologist in Silver Spring, Md.

A lot of factors may play a role in the increased number, including better screening and genetics, since nearsighted parents are more likely to have nearsighted kids.

However, the rise in the use of hand held electronic devices may be making the situation worse.

“One of our concerns is that kids are holding things very close to their eye,” says Yau.

He suggests that over time, this constant staring at close objects may reduce children’s ability to focus on things farther away.

The result could be an increased risk of nearsightedness, or myopia.

How big is the problem?

Myopia is steadily on the rise, according to the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

The NEI says there were 34,119,279 cases in 2010, and they project 39,094,141 cases by 2030, when today’s kids are grown.

Parents may well remember similar concerns about the dangers of watching television.

A major difference exists, however: Yau says standard computer and television screens aren’t quite as hard on the eyes as today’s handheld devices, because there is more distance involved.

So what should these moms and dads do to protect their kids’ eyes at a time when screens keep getting ever smaller?

Yau says limiting screen time is very important.

However, in a digitally-infused world, “the games, the devices, the apps, are certainly attention-grabbing” and enforcing limits may not be easy.

A better idea, according to Yau, may be to encourage kids to engage more in activities that are not electronic and do not involve a screen.

In other words, convince them to go outside and play in sunlight.

The outdoor play will not only improve their fitness; it will get them to use their distance vision as well, Yau says.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Conjunctivitis: What to know about pink eye

The conjunctiva is the thin mucous membrane lining over the white portion of the eye ball (sclera) and the inner aspect of the eyelids. Inflammation of this normally clear tissue results in redness, swelling and increased secretion of mucous, and can be caused by a number of conditions:

A virus

Any variety of cold viruses can cause a red, mucous-filled eye. In the same way that the offending virus may cause nasal congestion, a sore throat and/or cough, the conjunctiva becomes irritated and makes your eye congested as well. If you have cold symptoms accompanying your pink eye then it is almost certainly due to a virus and will resolve without any antibiotic drops.


A bacterial eye infection is a more serious matter and is often preceded by overuse of contact lenses, sometimes leading to a corneal ulceration. There is often pain and any discharge may be thicker and gray-yellow in color. This requires a prescription for antibiotic drops and immediate attention from an eye doctor.


Seasonal or environmental allergies to pollen, pet dander, dust mites or other allergens are the most common cause of conjunctivitis, and often accompanies typical allergic symptoms such as a stuffy nose, scratchy throat or sneezing. Over-the-counter antihistamine tablets and drops may effectively reduce or relieve these symptoms, which are usually chronic and recurrent in nature.


Any substance that splashes or is accidentally rubbed into the eyes may cause irritation and conjunctivitis. This may include hand sanitizer residue or moisturizing hand creams that inadvertently rub off of your fingers into your eyes. Washing out any known or suspected substances is the first line of treatment. Any persistent irritation after a known exposure, or involvement of a caustic substance (acid, etc.) should be cared for as soon as possible in a hospital ER or ophthalmologist’s office.

Dry eyes

As we age, the eyes often secrete fewer tears that may result in redness due to drying of the conjunctiva. There are a number of artificial tears and lubricating drops for daily use to prevent development of redness from dry eyes.

Treat it

General care for any source of pink eye may include warm water to wash away any mucous or crusting, and cool compresses to relieve itching or burning. Over-the-counter drops may be helpful in getting relief from allergies or chemical conjunctivitis, but are of no value in treating infections.

The same viruses that cause colds are similarly contagious by contact or via respiratory inhalation and can spread pink eye from person to person. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, don’t shakes hands and wipe down surfaces with a disinfectant. As long as you have symptoms, you are likely contagious.

See an ophthalmologist

Regardless of the source of your pink eye, always seek immediate attention from an ophthalmologist if you have eye pain, a foreign body sensation or if your vision is compromised.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Comprehensive eye exam can help detect glaucoma in early stages

Glaucoma is a disorder that damages the optic nerve. In its advanced stages, it can impair vision and eventually lead to blindness. In most cases of glaucoma, the optic nerve is damaged by a rise in pressure within the eye due to a buildup of the fluid that flows in and out of the eye.

In addition to having a family history of glaucoma, risk factors for the disease may include high or low blood pressure, as well as other medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and hypothyroidism. Other eye problems may increase your risk of developing glaucoma as well, including eye inflammation, retinal detachment and lens dislocation. A severe eye injury can put you at risk for glaucoma, as can certain types of eye surgery and being nearsighted or farsighted.

Ethnic background also appears to have an impact on a person’s risk of developing glaucoma. African-Americans and Latinos who are older than 40 have a much higher risk of developing glaucoma than Caucasians. African-Americans also are more likely to suffer permanent blindness as a result of glaucoma. People of some Asian backgrounds have an increased risk of developing glaucoma, as well.

Prompt treatment of eye problems and good management of other underlying medical conditions may help reduce the risk of developing glaucoma. Some research suggests that eating a healthy diet may reduce your glaucoma risk, too.

Certain dietary supplements touted as promoting eye health claim to be able to prevent glaucoma. But at this time, there’s no solid evidence that these products — often marketed as “eye vitamins” — can prevent, manage or treat glaucoma.

In its early stages, glaucoma usually doesn’t show any symptoms. Typically it’s not until the late stages of the disease that people who have glaucoma begin to notice eye problems, such as loss of peripheral vision. That’s why it’s so important to get regular eye exams, particularly if you are at high risk for developing glaucoma.

In general, it is recommended to see a Reno eye doctor once every two to four years for people between the ages of 40 and 54, and every one to three years for people between the ages of 55 and 64, even if you have no problems with your eyes or your vision. After age 65, you should have a comprehensive eye exam every one to two years. Depending on your risk factors, these exams may need to be more frequent.

If an exam shows that your internal eye pressure is higher than normal, that means you’re at increased risk of developing glaucoma. It is important to note, however, that not everyone with elevated intraocular pressure develops the disease, and not everyone who has glaucoma has increased eye pressure. If you have elevated eye pressure and your eye doctor indicates that you have a high risk of developing glaucoma, eye drops may be prescribed to reduce the risk that your condition will progress to glaucoma.


Saturday, March 21, 2015