General Vision and Eye News Archive for 2012
...continued from Current Eye News
Your Eyes Can Get Sunburnt, Too!
December 2012 TV personality and CNN newsman Anderson Cooper was "blind for 36 hours" after his eyes were sunburned on a recent trip to Portugal. Cooper spent two hours outside on a boat without sunglasses and consequently burned his corneas.
"I wake up in the middle of the night and it feels like my eyes are on fire... Anyway, it turns out I have sunburned my eyeballs," he said on his talk show Anderson Live. "I had no idea you could do this."
The condition is called photokeratitis, commonly known as "snow blindness" among skiers, and can cause temporary vision loss. It occurs when UV light, typically when reflected off bright surfaces such as water, sand or snow, burns the cornea.
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The effects of photokeratitis are temporary and typically subside after a couple of days of using numbing and antibiotic eye drops. However, like regular sunburn, burning your cornea causes cumulative damage and increases your risk for developing cataracts and macular degeneration.
To protect your eyes from the sun's rays (at any time of year), always wear sunglasses or ski goggles that block 100 percent of UV rays.
Augmented Reality Glasses Wars on the Horizon?
December 2012 Microsoft may be working on augmented reality glasses, according to an application filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Unlike the minimalist design of the Google Glass (to be available to the public in 2014), Microsoft's version may look more like normal eyewear, if the drawings included in the patent application are any indication. The processing unit would be worn on the wrist, presumably to reduce weight and bulk in the eyewear itself.
It will be interesting to compare the two devices when they are launched.
But for now it appears that Google is emphasizing constant Internet access with a smartphone type of approach, while Microsoft may be focusing on providing an additional layer of information for live events such as ball games and performances as you observe them.
In case you were wondering, Apple has a patent for a head-mounted device, too. Let the competition begin!
A Bright Idea for Saving Energy Costs: Light Sources That Are More Efficient for the Human Visual System
November 2012 As you have probably noticed, light bulbs and most other light-emitting devices flicker.
When the flicker rate is slow, the flicker is noticeable and makes viewing uncomfortable, as explained in our computer vision syndrome articles. When the flicker rate is fast, then viewing is easier on the eyes.
Vision researchers at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix have discovered a flicker rate "sweet spot" that optimizes the perceived brightness of light by the human visual system without increasing the power required to generate the light.
The researchers concluded that if we optimized every light-emitting device (light bulbs, computer screens, TVs, tablets, cell phones, etc.) to work at peak efficiency for the human visual system, we could save billions of dollars in electricity.
A report of the study appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The World Would Save $202 Billion a Year, if Vision Care Were Provided to Those Who Need it
October 2012 In 2010, about 703 million people in the world could not see well because they didn't have access to eye exams and eyeglasses.
This is according to a report that calculates the savings achieved by correcting their vision would be $202 billion each year, while the cost of this effort would be a one-time investment of just $28 billion.
The money would be spent on training 47,000 eye care providers and 18,000 optical dispensers, building facilities, and paying operating costs of providing vision care for five years.
"Spending US$28 billion to train eye care personnel, establish infrastructure and provide spectacles, is a drop in the ocean compared with the annual cost to the global economy," says co-author of the study Professor Brien Holden, CEO of the Brien Holden Vision Institute. "By restoring people's vision, we're generating massive economic benefits for society it's as simple as that."
The $202 billion is an estimate of lost productivity due to the inability of vision-deprived people to learn and to work. It takes into account only the 158 million cases of distance vision problems (myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism). If the 544 million people who have near vision problems due to presbyopia, etc., were also helped, even more savings could be achieved.
The Brien Holden Vision Institute in Australia and South Africa and Johns Hopkins University in the United States researched and calculated the data. Please click here for a copy of the free study report, which appeared in the October edition of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization.
Mystery Eyeball of the Sea Identified
October 2012 You may have heard about the softball-sized blue eye that washed ashore this month in Pompano Beach, Fla.
After speculation that it had come from a giant squid, scientists and fishermen now say it's likely that of a large swordfish or marlin, though final testing has not been completed.
It is unusual to find fish eyes floating in the water. This one may have been removed from the swordfish by a fisherman and drifted to shore before it could become a meal for other sea creatures.
Please click here for close-up photos. (Images: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)
Watch Out for Eye Cosmetics That Contain Lead
September 2012 The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is cautioning people not to use eye cosmetics with lead in them, after an infant of Nigerian descent was diagnosed with lead poisoning in Boston, Massachusetts.
Little girl with kohl on her eyelids. (Image:
New York City Health Department)
An investigation concluded that the baby's only lead exposure was from the application of a dark powder called tiro to his eyelids three to four times a week.
In Nigeria, tiro is used as a cosmetic and a medicine. It is popularly believed to aid in visual development, relieve eye strain, ward off the evil eye and more.
The tiro contained 82.6 percent lead, though the amount can vary among these types of cosmetics. Kohl, surma, kajal, tozali and kwalli are similar examples, and they are used in many cultures in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. They don't always contain lead, but other toxic ingredients, such as antimony, are often found in them. Unfortunately they are often poorly labeled, so their actual formulations are unknown to users.
According to the CDC, contact with any amount of lead is dangerous, with damage to the brain, kidneys and bone marrow among the many consequences. High exposures can even lead to convulsions, coma and death.
The boy had 13 micrograms per deciliter of lead in his blood. The CDC's official level of concern is 5 micrograms per deciliter.
A report of the incident appeared in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in early August. The author urged medical professionals to consider these cosmetics as a possible cause when lead exposure cases arise and noted that the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control plans an awareness campaign to educate the public about tiro and safer alternatives.
Eye-Tracker Lets You Control Your Computer With Your Eyes
September 2012 With an eye-tracking device and software, people with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, missing limbs or spinal cord injuries will be able to use just their eyes to control their computers.
Designed by researchers at Imperial College London, the system is low-cost, using fast video game console cameras and a pair of glasses. The cameras take pictures of the eye to pinpoint where the pupil is pointing, and by measuring this the researchers can figure out where the person is looking on the computer screen.
Measurements of how far into the distance the person is looking can also be taken, which means people could also control an electronic wheelchair or prosthetic limb with their eyes.
More information on this project is available in the July issue of Journal of Neural Engineering.
Better Vision Can Mean Clearer Thinking in Elderly
August 2012 Can you get brain fog from not wearing your glasses? A study of elderly Chinese suggests that not seeing clearly can lead to lower cognitive function levels.
Cognitive function is the ability to perceive, understand and remember ideas. A low cognitive function score can mean a reduced ability to make good decisions and live independently.
Cognitive function was calculated in 3,127 participants of the Beijing Eye Study, all of whom had received eye and medical examinations.
After adjusting for factors such as age, education level, gender and occupation, the researchers found that participants whose vision problems were not fully corrected or who failed to wear their glasses had a significantly lower cognitive function score than others.
A study report was published online this month in Acta Ophthalmologica.
Do Migraines Cause Dry Eyes?
August 2012 A study that compared 33 migraine sufferers with 33 people without headache, eye disease or systemic disease found significantly more eye dryness among the people with migraine.
How migraines could be related to dry eyes is not clear from the study, but the researchers speculated that some migraines may worsen when dry eye syndrome is present.
The study report appeared on the website of the journal Cornea in June.
Eye-Tracking Glasses Reveal Attention-Getting Strategies for Teachers
July 2012 When students are in a classroom, what captures their attention most? Unfortunately, it's not always the material the instructor is trying to teach.
College student wearing Tobii eye-tracking glasses.
A four-month eye-tracking study at Kennesaw State University discovered that classroom attention ebbs and flows depending on a variety of factors. This is contrary to the widely held belief that students are most attentive during the first 15 minutes of class and gradually less attentive after that.
During the study, eight students wore Tobii Glasses, a wearable eye-tracking device that looks like clunky eyewear. The devices found that attention-getters included humor, the verbal presentation of material that was not in the instructor's PowerPoint presentation and close proximity of the instructor to the student.
Not surprisingly, mobile phones and the Internet (especially Facebook) were the biggest distractions to students.
A study report, "Studying Student Attention via Eye Tracking," will be published this fall.
New Video on Avoidable Blindness Challenges You to Get Involved
June 2012 What is avoidable blindness? It's vision impairment caused by a lack of access to eye exams, eyeglasses and eye care, and it is especially prevalent in developing countries.
One example is the lack of eyeglasses that keeps many children from attending school and learning a trade.
Another example is an elderly person who can no longer see because of cataracts, which could be removed in 30 minutes if only she could afford the surgery.
Although avoidable blindness is a huge problem in the developing world, people like Emily Longstaff know we can do something about it.
She created a charming, inspiring stop-motion animation that reminds us how special our gift of vision is and that we can help others to have it simply by supporting global initiatives such as Optometry Giving Sight. It took her six months to create, using only $184.41 worth of materials.
Watch the video and get inspired!
Caffeine: A Boon to Dry Eyes?
May 2012 Your Starbucks habit may help improve your dry eyes, according to a study conducted at the University of Tokyo's School of Medicine.
All 78 study participants produced more tears after consuming caffeine than they did after taking a placebo (both substances were in tablet form).
In the study, tear volume was measured within 45 minutes of consuming the tablets, and none of the participants knew which substance they had received.
All avoided caffeine use for six days before each session, and all were free from high blood pressure, eye allergies, glaucoma, dry eye syndrome, and other problems that can change tear production.
The caffeine may stimulate tear glands in some way, as it does saliva and digestive juice production. The researchers also found that the participants whose DNA contained two genetic variations that are important in caffeine metabolism had more tear production than the other participants.
A report of the study appeared in the journal Ophthalmology in February.
U.S. College Students Prefer Digital Tablets Over Printed Books
May 2012 A survey of mobile technology usage among college students and college-bound high school seniors shows a dramatic increase in digital tablet ownership from a year ago in fact, it has more than tripled, to 25 percent.
Ninety percent of the tablet owners in college said the tablets are valuable for educational purposes; 63 percent believed that tablets will effectively replace textbooks as we know them today within the next five years; and 78 percent agreed that tablets make learning more fun.
A significant change from last year's survey results was that nearly six in 10 said they preferred a digital format when reading books for fun or textbooks for class, while only a third said they preferred a print format. Last year, more students preferred print over digital.
The survey did not address reading comfort issues, but the results may hint that reading a digital screen is less objectionable than in the past. Has digital tablet screen quality improved to the point that computer eye strain is less of an issue? Or are these students so motivated to use digital tablets that they are ignoring vision problems?
The Pearson Foundation underwrote the online survey of 1,410 U.S. students.
Google Glasses? Really?
April 2012 Yes, someday the Internet giant may release eyewear that provides you information literally right before your eyes. The development team has dubbed the effort "Project Glass" and hopes to integrate Internet access in the lenses, so you're never without it.
A fascinating video shows how you might use the eyewear throughout the day, to stay on top of your scheduled events, listen to music, check the weather, map out a route, communicate with friends and more all without help from a smartphone or computer.
Google says it has been noodling over ways to integrate the electronics with prescription eyewear an aspect of the project that poses quite a few challenges. But if you wear contacts or don't need a prescription, this would probably not be an issue.
A Project Glass team member posted on their Google+ page, "We think technology should work for you to be there when you need it and get out of your way when you don't." Watch the video, then tell Google if you think Project Glass is or isn't on track to meet that goal (you'll need to sign into Google+ to post your comments).
Want To Preserve Your Eye Health and Vision? Try a Quit-Smoking App
If you're ready to quit, your mobile device can help, with one of the many quit-smoking apps now available. Here is one, called "Quit Smoking Now with Max Kirsten" for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.
Max Kirsten is a well known hypnotherapist who developed a smoking cessation program that is now available as an app. It includes videos, hypnotherapy session recordings, an e-book, a smoking calculator and more. Click here for a link to "Quit Smoking Now."
Be sure to read the user reviews before you buy this or any other apps, to make sure you know what you're getting.
Eyes Better Than Ears for Evoking Quick Reactions
March 2012 Humans rely on sight more than sound or touch for identifying threats, says a study conducted at Old Dominion University.
Thirty undergraduates received alerts about nearby enemies during virtual reconnaissance sessions and were asked to say which alerts they trusted and which they distrusted. They were also asked to identify the avatar they saw as friend or enemy.
Visual alerts resulted in quicker identifications than did auditory or tactile alerts. The research may have important implications for battlefield operations.
A report of the study appeared in the February issue of Intelligent Decision Technologies.
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[Page updated December 2014]