General Vision and
Eye News Archive for 2011
...continued from Current Eye News
Changing Bioelectric Signals Can Spur Tadpoles to Grow an Eye in Other Parts of Their Body
December 2011 Scientists have discovered a way to stimulate cells in tadpoles to grow into functioning eyes.
By manipulating membrane voltage of cells in the back and tail, they can cause the eyes to develop in areas where they would not normally grow.
The researchers hypothesized that a specific voltage range exists for stimulating the development of each particular structure in the body, even an organ as complex as an eye.
Changing the bioelectric voltage in an embryonic frog cell in a tadpole's back caused the cell to develop into a functioning eye (see closeup). (Image: Michael Levin and Sherry Aw)
In the tadpoles they changed the voltage gradient of cells in the back and tail to match that of the creatures' normal eye cells.
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"This suggests that cells from anywhere in the body can be driven to form an eye," commented Vaibhav Pai, PhD in a press release.
Dr. Pai is the first author of the report on this research, which appeared online in the journal Development in December.
He speculated that future uses of this technology may include growing organs for transplantation and repairing birth defects, including those that affect vision.
Parent Alert: 2011's Worst Toys for Young Eyes
December 2011 World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.) has published its "10 Worst Toys of 2011," and we are reporting on two of them here because of their potential to harm your child's eyes.
The "Gigan" Godzilla figure by Bandai shows an age recommendation of 4+ years on the packaging, but most parents would probably not think their young child can handle this toy without the possibility of penetrating injuries from the pointed fins, wings and knife-like attachments on the arms.
The figure is made of rigid plastic, so if a child pokes himself or a playmate in the eye with one of these sharp protrusions, a serious eye injury could result.
Another toy on the W.A.T.C.H. list that could cause eye and other impact injuries is the Jack Sparrow action figure by Jakks Pacific. Again, this toy has an age recommendation of 4+, yet Jack holds a 4.5-inch pointy sword of rigid plastic that, with the push of a lever, moves upward so a child can pretend the figure is sword fighting.
Although the packaging warns of a choking hazard from the included small parts, it doesn't warn against eye injuries.
Since toy manufacturers continue to show incredibly bad judgment regarding age recommendations on their packaging, the burden is on you to be smart and not allow your young child to play with toys that could cause eye injury and even vision loss.
Unusually Acute Vision Discovered in Ancient Marine Predator
December 2011 Scientists have found fossilized eyes of a large ocean predator from more than 500 million years ago and concluded that the meter-long creature had very acute vision.
Artist's conception of an anomalocaris (see closeup). (Image: Katrina Kenny, University of Adelaide)
The animal was at the top of the earth's food chains at that time because of its relatively large size (it was a meter long), the claws at the front of its head and its circular mouth with razor-sharp serrations.
Called an anomalocaris, it had stalked eyes with multiple facets, similar in design to those of flies and crabs. The eyes were among the largest ever, at up to 3 centimeters, and they contained more than 16,000 lenses. The scientists noted that only a few arthropods, including modern dragonflies, can see with such clarity.
The fossils were found on Kangaroo Island in South Australia. An article about the discovery appeared in the December issue of Nature.
How to Survive Losing Vision, by Helen Harris
November 2011 Retinitis pigmentosa took away Helen Harris's vision, but it didn't take away her determination to improve her life and the lives of others with vision loss due to retinal disease.
In How to Survive Losing Vision, Ms. Harris describes how retinitis pigmentosa (RP) gradually reduced her peripheral vision until she became completely blind. She tells how those around her didn't know that she had RP, how she dealt with the news and when she finally overcame her resistance to using a cane.
The book is full of encouraging words for people with vision loss. To order the book, please click here.
Can We Change Eye Color With Surgery?
November 2011 A company called Stroma Medical is developing a way to turn brown eyes blue permanently, using a laser.
How it works exactly is unclear, but it has been reported that the laser releases the brown pigments from the iris, and what's left is a blue color that develops over a couple of weeks. One downside may be that the iris color afterward can't be accurately predicted.
The procedure is not FDA-approved and will require more testing before U.S. availability is possible. A potential safety question is, what happens to the released pigments within the eye?
Long Periods Spent in Microgravity Cause
Vision Problems for Astronauts
November 2011 Being in space for six months or more can change the eyes, causing blurry vision and changes in eye pressure. This is according to a study that found astronauts experiencing blurriness that persisted long after their space flights were over.
In this artist's conception of the future, an astronaut gathers samples on the Martian surface. Plans for such long-duration manned missions will need to take into account the vision changes that can occur during space flights. (Image: NASA)
The study was of seven astronauts who were around 50 years old and had spent at least six months in space continuously. All seven said their vision had become blurry while on the space station, with the onset beginning about six weeks after launch.
The researchers said that the vision problems seemed unrelated to launch or re-entry, since they occurred only in those who spent a long time in weightless or nearly weightless conditions.
The eye abnormalities included flattening of the back of the eyeball, folds in the choroid and excess fluid around the optic nerve. The researchers hypothesized that causes could be abnormal flow of spinal fluid around the optic nerve, changes in choroid blood flow or chronic low pressure inside the eye.
Since changes varied from one astronaut to another, the researchers hope to learn whether some astronauts are less affected by microgravity and would be better suited for a long trip such as a mission to Mars.
The issue of near vision problems in space is not a new discovery. In fact, "space anticipation glasses" have been kept on all spacecraft since John Glenn was an astronaut.
The study, which NASA sponsored, was reported in the November issue of Ophthalmology.
"Eyes of War" Online Exhibit Honors
Ophthalmologists of World War II
November 2011 In recognition of Veteran's Day, the Museum of Vision is offering an online exhibit called "The Eyes of War," which describes sacrifices and contributions that ophthalmologists made during World War II.
The Museum of Vision, a part of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, originally created the exhibit in honor of the 60th anniversary of VE Day but is featuring it again this month.
An estimated 3 percent of all World War II battle casualties had eye injuries, and 15,000 soldiers were blinded.
The exhibit includes details of how eye doctors were called to the front lines and forward hospitals, in response to the problem of injured soldiers having to wait 36 to 48 hours before they could be examined by an ophthalmologist.
During that war, eye doctors emphasized that proper eye protection might prevent most eye injuries, and innovations resulted. Another wartime discovery was that the same material being used in airplane canopies (PMMA or Perspex) could also be used in intraocular lenses or IOLs for implantation during cataract surgery. PMMA is still used today in certain IOLs.
For more photographs, history and personal stories, please click here to visit "The Eyes of War" online exhibit.
Thanks to Macaque Monkeys, a Trachoma Vaccine
May Be Finally Within Reach
October 2011 A vaccine to prevent or reduce the effects of trachoma may be available soon, thanks to a study involving macaque monkeys.
Trachoma is a chronic eye and eyelid infection that causes the eyelids to scar and eventually turn inward. This causes the eyelashes to irritate the surface of the eye, which can harm and even destroy vision. Trachoma is the most common cause of infectious blindness worldwide.
Antiobiotics can treat the infection, but these drugs are not widely available in developing countries of Asia and Africa, and since trachoma tends to recur, a vaccine is sorely needed.
Researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health tested a weakened strain of Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria as a possible vaccine in the monkeys. Two weeks after the animals were exposed to the weakened bacteria, they cleared the infection. After two more exposures at four- and eight-week intervals, the macaques still didn't show signs of trachoma.
Even when the macaques were exposed to a highly virulent strain of the bacteria, they either did not develop an infection or had a much weaker infection compared with macaques in a control group.
The macaques were tested because their immune responses are very similar to those of human beings. When the study ended, all were treated with antibiotics and recovered completely, according to the researchers. The scientists are now considering human clinical trials.
A report of the study appeared on The Journal of Experimental Medicine website this month.
Raised, Yellow Patches on Eyelids Could Indicate Heart Problems
September 2011 Do you have raised, yellowish patches on your upper or lower eyelids? If so, you may have a higher risk for cardiovascular problems and you should get a comprehensive physical exam, says a recent study of 12,745 people in the Copenhagen City Heart Study.
These patches (the medical term for them is xanthelasmata) are actually cholesterol deposits, and so are those small white or gray rings that can appear around the cornea (arcus corneae). But according to researchers at the University of Copenhagen, about half of people who have either or both conditions don't show high cholesterol in a blood test.
In the study, men between 70 and 79 who had xanthelasmata had a 53 percent increased risk of having a heart attack, developing heart disease or dying within a 10-year period, versus a 41 percent risk for those without xanthelasmata. For women, the figures were 35 percent versus 27 percent.
However, the presence of arcus corneae was not significant in predicting heart attack or heart disease. Findings appeared in September on the British Medical Journal website.
New Book Helps People Considering Surgical Removal
of an Eye or Coping With the Loss of an Eye
August 2011 The loss of an eye can be very difficult to accept or cope with. Eye Was There: A Patient's Guide to Coping with the Loss of an Eye is a new book that helps people who are facing eye removal surgery or who have already lost an eye to understand the medical conditions that may require eye removal, the surgical procedures involved, recovery and how to deal with life's challenges afterward.
Eye Was There also describes artificial eyes and orbital prostheses, including historic and current information on how they are made, plus advice on their care and handling.
Perhaps most importantly, the book describes the emotional and psychological impact that someone who loses an eye would experience. The book is useful not only for patients, but also for family members, friends and caretakers.
Eye Was There was written by ophthalmologist Charles B. Slonim, MD, with third-year resident Amy Z. Martino, MD. A well-known expert in ophthalmic plastic and reconstructive surgery, Dr. Slonim is also a member of the All About Vision Editorial Advisory Board. Read his bio on this website.
Currently the book is available in paperback and various electronic book formats, including Kindle. Please click here for more information.
American Optometric Association Video Presents the Facts About Eye Strain From Computers in the Classroom
August 2011 Computer eye strain is affecting just about everyone, including kids. A new video by Dr. James Sheedy and the American Optometric Association addresses concerns parents may have about whether viewing 3-D computer presentations in particular could be causing eye strain or other vision-related problems.
The video explains that the "3Ds of 3D viewing" are the eye strain symptoms you should be watching out for. Watch the video for more information on computer eye strain in the classroom.Watch the video for more information on computer eye strain in the classroom.
Have You Benefited From Vision Therapy? Video Contest Lets You Share Your Story With People Around the World
July 2011 If you or your child had vision therapy and experienced improvement in focusing and other visual skills, you can tell others about it by entering the Visions of Hope video contest.
Sponsored by the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD), the contest aims to show how certain vision problems can be improved or overcome with vision therapy.
Examples include vision deficits among people with traumatic brain injury and a lack of focusing ability that makes it difficult for some children to read and learn.
Shown here is a video made by Robin Benoit about her daughter Jillian, a Harry Potter fan who reports that after her vision therapy she was able to read her favorite books more easily and improve her grades at school.
To submit your own video to the Visions of Hope contest, just visit COVD's Facebook page by August 10. Others will view the entries and vote for the best one, which will be announced later in August.
Packing for a Trip? New iPhone App Won't Let You Forget Your Sunglasses
June 2011 The Vision Council has released a free iPhone app called PackLists that helps you create a quick list of the clothes and other things you'll need for a trip.
It lets you make lists for yourself and for others, and when you enter your travel dates and destination it also includes information on the current UV exposure levels in that city.
The idea behind the app is to remind you to bring your sunglasses when you travel. The app also presents information about harmful UV light that you might not have known before.
PackLists is available for the iPhone, the iPod Touch and the iPad. You can preview it here.
Oxygen Therapy Helps Heal Chemical and Thermal Burns in the Eyes
June 2011 Applying oxygen to burned eyes helped them to heal better and faster in a study.
Scientists at the Department of Ophthalmology, Ahvaz Jundishapur University of Medical Sciences, treated 24 eyes of 22 patients with acute chemical and thermal burns in their eyes. Thirteen of the eyes also received oxygen therapy an oxygen mask applied over the eyes for one hour, twice a day.
In the oxygen therapy group, injuries on the surface of the eye healed in 10 to 21 days, vs. 28 to 95 days in the group that didn't receive oxygen. Blood vessels healed in 10 to 21 days in the oxygen group, vs. 25 to 105 days for the others.
The oxygen group had more transparent corneas with less redness three and six months afterward and regained better visual acuity after healing. Symblepharon (when the eyelid adheres to the eyeball) didn't occur in the oxygen group, but it did in three eyes of the other group.
The study report appeared in the American Journal of Ophthalmology in May.
Be Careful Out There: Fireworks Caused 1,300 Eye Injuries
in One Month in 2010
June 2011 Fireworks were responsible for 8,600 injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms in 2010, according to a new report by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). And 6,300 of these occurred from June 18 to July 18, a period of special focus in the report.
Of these, about 1,300 (21 percent) were eye injuries. A thousand injuries occurred in the head, face and ears (including the eye area and eyelids, but not the eyeballs), accounting for 16 percent of the 6,300 total.
Which types of fireworks caused the eye injuries? They were firecrackers (100), bottle rockets (200), sparklers (200), fountains (100), Roman candles (100) and public displays (100), with 500 unspecified. Most of the eye injuries were burns, contusions, lacerations and foreign bodies in the eye.
Sadly, children under 15 suffered about 40 percent of the total estimated injuries. And for children under 5, sparklers caused 300 injuries.
Want your family's eyes to be safe? Don't use fireworks at home, and keep well away from them at public displays. For a PDF of the CPSC report, click here.
New Eye Surface Temperature Test May Indicate Dry Eyes
June 2011 There are several ways to test people's eyes for dryness, and now scientists may have found another: measuring the temperature of the eye's surface.
In a recent study of a new instrument called the Ocular Surface Thermographer, developed by Tomey Corporation, researchers found that dryness correlated with a lower eye surface temperature.
In a study of 30 eyes of 30 dry eye patients and 30 eyes of 30 normal subjects, researchers measured the temperature of the eye surface right after eye opening and every second during 10 seconds of eye opening. The temperature readings were correlated with other dry eye tests such as tear film break-up time and Schirmer strip tests.
The researchers concluded that eye surface temperatures 10 seconds after eye opening were highly reliable in predicting dryness, calling the decrease in temperature "significantly greater" in the dry eyes than in normal eyes.
A study report appeared in the May issue of the American Journal of Ophthalmology.
High Visual Perception Ability in Autistic People Explained
April 2011 People with autism have more brain activity in the areas associated with visual detection and identification than others, according to researchers at the University of Montreal.
Regions showing more task-related activity in autistics than non-autistics for the three processing domains: "faces" in red, "objects" in green and "words" in blue. (Images: Human Brain Mapping, Wiley-Blackwell Inc.)
It has been noticed before that autistic people are highly able to process visual information, and this may be why.
The researchers analyzed 26 brain imaging studies containing 15 years of data on how an autistic brain works when processing faces, objects and written words.
They mapped the areas of higher activity and compared the maps with those of non-autistics, finding that the autistic people had more activity in brain areas involved in perceiving and recognizing patterns and objects.
The research findings appeared in Human Brain Mapping on April 4.
White Paper Explores Dangers of UV Light to Our Nation's Eyes
March 2011 "UV and Our Nation's Vision" is a new white paper that summarizes a congressional briefing last fall on the dangers of UV light to our nation's vision. The white paper contains lots of useful information for employers, teachers and parents about how and why we need to protect our eyes and our children's eyes from the sun.
The white paper outlines the economic impact of eye diseases related to UV light exposure, such as macular degeneration and cataracts. It also presents facts on demographic groups in the United States who are at particular risk for these eye problems.
The white paper was produced by Prevent Blindness America and Transitions Optical, and you can download it here.
EyeXam Updated: Free iPhone App Now Available for the iPad
March 2011 Developed by optometrists, EyeXam is a free iPhone app that performs tests for color perception, astigmatism, near and distance vision, eye dominance and more.
The developers, Global EyeVentures, have issued a new version of EyeXam that also works on the iPad.
Version 1.4.1 is free and includes information on intraocular lenses for cataracts, a listing of sunglasses and eyeglasses and some minor bug fixes.
EyeXam Pro (version 1.4.2, costing $1.99) also includes the ability to score and review macula distortion tests.
For more information, click here for the free version.
Program Examines Feasibility of Presbyopia Correction
Clinics in Rural East Africa
Tanzania, March 2011 A pilot program was created to distribute reading glasses to people in Zanzibar and then evaluated to see if it should be expanded to more locations in East Africa.
Six clinics each received 200 pairs of ready-made near vision-correcting eyeglasses, and medical officers there were trained to dispense them, as well as to keep patient records. After six months, the evaluation team visited the clinics and found that of the 574 people visiting the clinics, 372 had eye complaints: 285 eye infections, 29 distance vision problems and 173 near vision problems. Everyone with near vision problems received near vision-correcting glasses.
Later, 41 of the eyewear recipients were traced and asked about their experience. All 41 had their glasses and said they had them with them all the time. Their satisfaction rates were high, and all recommended that the program be expanded to other villages.
In addition, all the medical officers recommended that the program be continued, though with improvements in training of the medical officers.
The World Health Organization has made near vision problems (presbyopia) a priority. More than a billion people in the world were presbyopic as of 2005, and 517 million of these did not have adequate correction with eyeglasses. Near vision correction is very important for literacy, as well as for work that requires closeup vision. In developing countries, glasses are available in urban areas, but not at an affordable price in rural areas.
A report on the program appeared online in February on the British Journal of Ophthalmology website.
Why Cold Temperatures Increase Eye Dryness
March 2011 If your eyes tend to feel dryer during winter weather, wearing goggles might help.
A recent study found that a temperature less than 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) on your eye and eyelid causes the oily, outer layer of your eye's tear film to thicken and stiffen, so that it can't spread well across the eye. This oily substance, called the meibum, is necessary to prevent evaporation of the tears on your eye's surface.
In fact, the meibum can solidify in cold temperatures and block the meibomian gland ducts, thereby preventing release of meibum into your eye.
Wearing goggles when it's cold and windy would not only help keep your eyes warm, but would also keep out wind that would evaporate your tears.
The study report appeared in the November 2010 issue of Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.
Why Do Birds Fly into Power Lines? Is Poor Vision the Problem?
March 2011 Power lines, pylons and wind turbines are easy for us to see, yet birds often collide with them. Do they not see them as well as we do?
Research suggests that collision with human structures is the largest unintended human cause of bird deaths, and some endangered species may even become extinct as a result. White storks are one example of birds whose numbers have been significantly reduced by collisions and power line electrocutions.
During a 16-year period, about 25 percent of juvenile and 6 percent of adult white storks (Ciconia ciconia) in Europe died each year from power line collisions and electrocutions.
To approach the problem, Professor Graham Martin of Birmingham University studied how birds use their eyes while flying. He found that some bird species can't see ahead of themselves at times when they turn their heads to look down at the ground.
He also found that birds' frontal vision, especially when the bird is hunting, tends to be tuned for the detection of movement, instead of spatial detail. So they may not always notice a stationary object ahead of them in time to avoid a collision. Also, some birds are physically unable to fly slowly, and when flying quickly it is more difficult to avoid obstacles. The problem worsens in low-light conditions or when it is rainy, misty or foggy.
"Armed with this understanding of bird perception, we can better consider solutions to the problem of collisions," said Professor Martin in a release. "While solutions may have to be considered on a species-by-species basis, where collision incidents are high it may be more effective to divert or distract birds from their flight path rather than attempt to make the hazard more conspicuous."
He concluded that it may be best to assume that birds are looking down or sideways rather than forward, so sounds or signals placed ahead of an obstacle may work better than one placed on it.
The study report appeared in the March issue of Ibis, which is published on behalf of the British Ornithologists' Union.
Product-Related Eye and Other Injuries Now Can
Be Reported at Government Website
March 2011 The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has created a new website where you can submit a report if you have been harmed by a product or if you believe that a product could harm someone.
The website, called SaferProducts.gov, also lets others search for reports, as well as product recalls.
By law, the CPSC is required to review all reports and transmit the qualifying ones to the manufacturer within five business days. Manufacturers will have 10 business days in which to respond and provide comments and claims, and at that point the report and the manufacturer's comments will be posted on the website.
Reports must be accurate and complete in order to be published on the site; also, any information that is confidential will be omitted from the published reports.
"I believe that an informed consumer is an empowered consumer," said CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum in a release. "The ability for parents and consumers to search this database for incidents involving a product they already own or are thinking of purchasing will enable them to make independent decisions aimed at keeping their family safe."
Between the start of testing and the launch of the website on March 11, consumers submitted about 1,500 reports to the site, and they will be processed internally as in the past. But reports submitted starting March 11 will be visible and searchable around the beginning of April. Until then, only recall information, including of products that have caused eye injuries, will be searchable.
How To Tell if a Face Is Alive: Look at the Eyes
February 2011 Have you ever seen an animated movie that did such a poor job of portraying human faces that it was offputting? Where did those movie-makers go wrong?
At what point do these morphed faces begin to look alive? Watch these animations: female and male.female and male.
A recent study found that artificial faces don't appear alive unless they are very similar to real, human faces.
In the study, Dartmouth college researchers paired images of doll faces with those of similar-looking human faces and blended them with morphing software.
Study participants looked at the faces and decided at what point during the morphing the faces began to look alive.
In the experiments, the tipping point tended to be two-thirds of the way along the continuum, closer to the human image.
The researchers also found that the features most responsible for making the faces look alive were the eyes.
The following videos were used in the experiments. Take a look and decide for yourself where the tipping point is for when the faces look alive to you and when they don't:
A report on this study appeared in the December issue of Psychological Science.
Blind Man Drives Unaccompanied
February 2011 It may seem impossible, but Mark Anthony Riccobono, a blind executive with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), successfully navigated 1.5 miles of track at the Daytona International Speedway in a pre-race demonstration.
Mark Anthony Riccobono (left) with NFB president Dr. Marc Maurer. Watch a video about Riccobono's historic drive.Watch a video about Riccobono's historic drive.
His vehicle was a Ford Escape hybrid that had been specially fitted with laser range-finding sensors. A computer inside the car received information from the sensors and in turn sent instructions to vibrating gloves on Riccobono's hands so he would know which way to steer. He was seated on a vibrating strip, which indicated when to accelerate, slow down or stop.
As part of the demonstration, Riccobono had to make turns and avoid both stationary obstacles and some that were thrown randomly from a van driving in front of him. He also passed the van without collision.
"The NFB's leadership in the Blind Driver Challenge has taken something almost everyone believed was an impossible dream and turned it into reality," said Riccobono. "It was thrilling for me to be behind the wheel, but even more thrilling to hear the cheers from my blind brothers and sisters in the grandstands."
"Today all of the members of the NFB helped drive us forward," he added. "It is for them and for all blind Americans that the National Federation of the Blind undertook this project to show that blind people can do anything that our sighted friends and colleagues can do as long as we have access to information through nonvisual means."
The Blind Driver Challenge is a research project of the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute.
Free Eye Exams for Eligible Seniors; Plus, Free Dessert
Recipes That Are Good for Your Eyes
February 2011 A Valentine's Day health campaign is urging people 65 and older to contact EyeCare America for an eye exam at no out-of-pocket cost.
Nearly 7,000 volunteer ophthalmologists across the United States are available to provide a free eye exam in this year-round program. To get one, simply visit EyecareAmerica.org to learn if you are eligible.
Plus, during February you can download free recipe cards for desserts with ingredients full of eye-healthy vitamins and antioxidants. Included are recipes for "Where'd Ya Get Those Peepers Papaya Coconut Parfait," "Come Up and See Me Sometime Carrot Cake" and more special desserts for two, perfect for a Valentine's Day dinner or anytime. Please click here to download these free eye-healthy dessert recipe cards (PDF format).
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[Page updated January 2014]
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