Vision and Eye News
May Is Healthy Vision Month
May 2016 The National Eye Institute (NEI) and partners like AllAboutVision.com are encouraging everyone to take make eye health a priority. Throughout Healthy Vision Month, try focusing on these five aspects of eye health:
- Get a dilated eye exam and make sure your family does, too.
- Take steps toward living a healthy lifestyle, with plenty of exercise and a nutritious diet.
- Learn about your family's health history. Ask if anyone has been diagnosed with an eye disease.
- Make sure you have protective eyewear available at work, at home and for sports.
- Always wear sunglasses outdoors, and make sure everyone in your family has a pair even babies!
Taking these steps can help prevent vision loss or blindness from many eye diseases and conditions.
More than 23 million American adults have never had an eye exam, according to a national survey by the NEI. A popular reason for not having an eye exam is that people think if they see fine, they don't need one. However, comprehensive dilated eye exams can detect problems early, often before they noticeably affect your vision.
For more eye health facts and information about Healthy Vision Month, download this fact sheet.
New Study Estimates That 108 Million People Are Living With Visual Impairment That Is Correctable
March 2016 If you have access to eyewear and eye care, you're lucky. Many people don't, and the result is that they have trouble learning in school, getting a job and even feeding their families. Not to mention the fact that they can't enjoy the gift of good vision.
Children in Raxaul, Bihar state, India. In poor areas like this, many are visually impaired because they lack access to both eye care and eyewear. This limits their ability to go to school and find employment. (Image: Alenq / Shutterstock.com)
A new study has found that 101 million people have moderate to severe refractive error (such as nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism) that is uncorrected. In other words, they don't have eyeglasses or contact lenses to help them see.
And at least seven million people are actually blind from correctable refractive errors, often because they need cataract surgery.
The researchers analyzed data from nearly 250 studies performed between 1990 and 2010, but since they lack data for some regions, these estimates are likely lower than the actual numbers.
"Our data again emphasizes that globally one of the most simple, effective, and cost-effective ways to improve the burden of vision loss would be to provide access to affordable adequate spectacles to correct refractive errors with the appropriate human resources," said Kovin Naidoo, OD, PhD, of Brien Holden Vision Institute, Durban, South Africa. Dr. Naidoo wrote the study report, which appeared in the March issue of Optometry and Vision Science.
Zika Virus Now Thought To Cause Retinal Lesions,
In Addition To Microcephaly
February 2016 The Zika virus has quickly reached epidemic proportions in Brazil and is now rapidly spreading to other parts of the Americas including Hawaii, where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have confirmed the birth of a microcephalic baby whose Brazilian mother was infected with Zika.
This type of mosquito is known to carry the Zika virus, which seems to be causing both microcephaly and vision-threatening retinal lesions in newborns.
It is estimated that, in 2015 alone, more than one million Brazilians have had Zika virus infections. The infection, which is usually transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, is rarely life-threatening. Typically, individuals experience a short-lived fever, nonspecific rash and joint pain. Conjunctivitis, muscle pain and headache have also been reported. Some experience no symptoms at all.
But when infection occurs during pregnancy, complications are far more severe, most often causing microcephaly. In fact, six months after the onset of the Zika outbreak in Brazil, there was a 20-fold increase in newborns with microcephaly. By January 4 of this year, the Brazilian Ministry of Health had reported 3,174 microcephalic newborns.
Now, according to a study report published in JAMA Ophthalmology, it appears that microcephaly isn't the only risk that Zika poses to newborns. In the study, nearly 35 percent of 29 babies with presumed Zika virus-associated microcephaly also have vision-threatening lesions most often on both of their retinas.
Millions of people are believed to have been infected with the Zika virus. And in Brazil, where it's spreading fastest, testing for Zika is not readily available. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can perform serologic testing. However, the mild nature of the symptoms means the illness often goes unnoticed and isn't reported.
Considering that the infection causing microcephaly and retinal lesions typically occurs during the first or second trimester of pregnancy, it has been suggested that women in the areas of the epidemic consider not getting pregnant. And it is recommended that pregnant women, especially during their first two trimesters, not travel to areas where the disease is epidemic. A.H.
Ed. note: For helpful fact sheets on the Zika virus, protecting your family from mosquito bites, controlling mosquitoes and traveling while pregnant, please visit the CDC website.
The Hard-To-Read Card That May Have Tripped Up Steve Harvey
December 2015 Did carelessness, excitement, nerves, spotlights or presbyopia cause Steve Harvey to announce mistakenly that Miss Colombia had won the Miss Universe title instead of Miss Philippines?
The card that caused embarrassment at the Miss Universe pageant. [Enlarge]
Nobody knows for sure. But we suspect that partly to blame was the design of the card that Harvey was referring to when he announced the winner.
The layout is inconsistent, for one thing. And the type size is minuscule!
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We don't know what kind of vision correction Harvey uses, or whether he has had presbyopia-correcting surgery. Hopefully, the next time he's called upon to read something onstage, it will be designed for a middle-aged person to read. L.S.
Three Ways Climate Change Can Harm Your Eyes
December 2015 Most of the body's organs are internal, which helps shield them from direct environmental assault. But the eye, which is one of the most essential and complex sensory organs we have, is largely unprotected most of the day. This leaves it particularly vulnerable to environmental factors like climate change.
The dangers posed by environmental factors have been researched extensively in recent years and were the subject of a recent National Institutes of Health symposium that focused on the impact of climate change on human health.
At the meeting, Sheila West, PhD, vice chair for research at the Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins University, detailed the three most likely ways that environmental change can affect our eyes.
The first has to do with the expansion of arid regions in the United States and around the globe. As areas of the planet get hotter and less humid, people who suffer from dry eye may see an escalation in symptoms. And since dry eye doesn't always produce symptoms early on, more and more people may recognize that they have the condition and start seeking treatment that they may not have otherwise needed.
Climate change also can affect our eyes due to increases in airborne particulates. Dr. West pointed to longer fire seasons and crop clearing as key offenders, emitting pollutants that can cause serious harm to the eyes. In fact, in Dr. West's own research, eye irritants from smoke emitted by cooking fires led to increased scarring of the eyelids and cornea in people with trachoma, which is the leading infectious cause of blindness worldwide.
A third way that environmental changes can be harmful to our eyes relates to depletion of the protective ozone layer in the Earth's atmosphere, which absorbs most of the damaging (UV) rays emitted by the sun. Though recent international treaties may help reverse damage to the ozone layer, the repair will take decades. In the meantime, UV exposure remains a risk factor for cataracts and other eye diseases.
Dr. West estimates that UV exposure will lead to an additional 150,000 to 200,000 cases of cataract by 2050, with a price tag exceeding one billion dollars for care and surgical treatment. And that's in addition to the huge number of cases that would otherwise be diagnosed. A.H.
Why You See Yellow On A Digital Screen Even When It's Not There
November 2015 When you look at a picture of a lemon on a digital screen, be it on a phone, tablet, or your desktop, what color is it?
If you think it's yellow, you're wrong.
An interesting video by Vsauce called "This Is Not Yellow" explains how digital screens can fool our brains into seeing certain colors, even when those colors aren't actually being displayed.
The video also discusses optical illusions created by modern artists, electricity given off by fruits and how quickly historical events can slide out of our collective memory. Enjoy!
Participants Wanted For Test Of Retinal Progenitor Cells In Potential Retinitis Pigmentosa Treatment
September 2015 More participants are wanted for testing the safety of a new retinitis pigmentosa (RP) treatment. The University of California, Irvine-led study is the first to test retinal progenitor cells to treat RP; the cells are similar to stem cells except they are specific to the retina of the eye.
Retinal progenitor cells may someday prove to be a safe treatment for retinitis pigmentosa.
Four participants who are visually disabled due to RP have received injections so far, in either Irvine or Los Angeles. Total enrollment will be 16 patients.
All will receive topical anesthesia followed by one injection of cells into the worse-seeing eye. Then they will be monitored for a year to determine safety and efficacy of the treatment.
The treatment was created by Dr. Henry Klassen and Dr. Jing Yang. It is designed to prevent vision loss by protecting the degenerating photoreceptors in the retina. It is also thought that the treatment could potentially reactivate the photoreceptors. Contact the UCI Alpha Stem Cell Clinic at 949-824-3990 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to enroll.
Bono and Revo Are Raising Funds For People Who
Desperately Need Eye Care And Glasses
July 2015 Bono is partnering with the sunglass brand Revo to raise $10 million to improve access to eye exams and prescription eyewear for people in under-resourced places around the world. The "Buy Vision, Give Sight" program will provide $10 from the sale of every pair of Revo sunglasses to help the non-profit Brien Holden Vision Institute pay for basic eye care and train people to provide eye care and detect eye diseases in their communities.
Bono wearing Revo Raconteur with Blue Water lenses for the "Buy Vision, Give Sight" campaign to prevent vision impairment and blindness. (Photo: Sam Jones Photography)
Bono, who was diagnosed with glaucoma 20 years ago, says that "sight is a human right." He will appear in Revo advertisements supporting the initiative and will exclusively wear Revo sunglasses during U2's Innocence + Experience World Tour.
"Thanks to good medical care my eyes are okay, but tens of millions of people around the world with sight problems don't have access to glasses, or even a basic eye test," he says.
"Poor eyesight may not be life-threatening, but it dramatically affects your life and your livelihood if you aren't able to fix it. When we met with experts, they said the number one problem is untreated poor vision, which prevents a child from learning in school, or an adult from performing their job."
Bono calls the Brien Holden Vision Institute's efforts "remarkable" and "mind-expanding." He has also designed a capsule collection of five sunglass styles for Revo, debuting in late fall. The sales of those styles will also generate $10 per pair for the "Buy Vision, Give Sight" campaign.
Different Colored Eyes Day
July 2015 Different Colored Eyes Day is Sunday, July 12, and it's a great opportunity to learn more about this unusual phenomenon. As it grows, the human body generally follows the rule of left-right symmetry, where one half of the body mirrors the other in structure and appearance. But sometimes one eye's iris has an excess or lack of the pigment melanin, so one eye may be a different color than the other.
Actress Kate Bosworth has one hazel eye and one blue eye (heterochromia iridum). (Photo: Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com)
An inherited gene may cause this heterochromia iridum (also called heterochromia iridis). Or it may result from disease or injury. Another type of heterochromia in the eyes is sectoral heterochromia, where one part of the iris is a different color than the rest.
Many animals are prone to having different colored eyes, including certain breeds of dogs (such as Australian shepherds and Siberian huskies) and cats (such as Turkish Vans). Quite a few famous people reportedly have them, too, such as Kate Bosworth, Mila Kunis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Joe Pesci and Alyson Hannigan. And though we don't have a photo of Alexander the Great, he reportedly had one blue eye and one brown eye.
We don't know who came up with the idea of having a Different Colored Eyes Day, but it's a good way to celebrate the differences among us that make each living thing unique and special! Read more about eye color, as well as what causes hazel eyes and why many think green eyes are the most attractive.
Old Eye Infection Remedy Containing Onion And
Garlic Effective Against MRSA
May 2015 It's hard to imagine that a concoction made of onion, garlic, wine and cow stomach bile (oxgall) could be anything but sickening. But it was once recommended for eye infections.
The mixture, found in a ninth-century Old English medical text called Bald's Leechbook, was recently applied to methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria (MRSA) in test tubes and in wounds. And it worked: the medicine killed 90 percent of the bacteria, which is very resistant to many antibiotics.
But how did it work? That's a mystery for now, though scientists have theorized that perhaps the combination of ingredients forms a new molecule.
Or perhaps each ingredient is effective in its own way and the combination is too much for the bacteria to resist.
Whatever the case, it's possible that some form of "Bald's salve" will be developed for future use against MRSA and other scary bacteria.
The Color Of Light Can Tell Us What Time Of Day It Is
May 2015 We all know that our body clocks respond to how much light is in our environment, but now scientists have found that we are also affected by the color of the light. For example, light is bluer at twilight, and that can give us clues as to what time of day it is.
Sunrise or sunset?
Researchers at the University of Manchester recorded electrical activity in mice who were shown visual stimuli and found that many of their cells were more sensitive to changes in color between blue and yellow than to changes in the brightness of the light.
They then constructed an artificial sky over the mice to display changes in color and brightness that occur each day. The body temperatures of the mice peaked just after nightfall, when the light became a darker blue. In contrast, when just the brightness of the sky was changed and not the color, the mice were more active before twilight.
The researchers theorized that color could be used to manipulate the body clock of humans such as shift workers or travellers, to help them adjust to unusual schedules or time zones. Results of the study appeared in PLOS Biology in late April.
(By the way: The image above is of a sunset.)
Is This Cat Going Upstairs? Or Downstairs?
April 2015 Remember that dress color debate? Here's another optical illusion that may have your head spinning.
Video: Shared by Lucas P. on YouTube
For the past few days, people with nothing else to do but debate on the Internet have tried to analyze the architecture and lighting in this photo, as well as the cat's position, to decide whether Kitty is headed up or down.
Feline behaviorists have also drawn conclusions based on how the paw is positioned for the next step and the likelihood of the tail to point up or down.
So what do you think? Are you on Team Up? Or Team Down?
Could A 3D Printer Make A Human Eye?
April 2015 A design company named MHOX says yes. In fact, the company estimates its EYE 3D bioprinted sight augmentation products, called Eye Heal, Eye Enhance and Eye Advance, will be on the market in 2027.
MHOX says that it's possible to print organic body parts that function as well as or even better than our natural ones, and that includes the eye. After all, 3D printers have already created prosthetics and bone replacements.
The eyes would be bioprinted with a needle that drops cells that then clump together. Various bio-inks would be used to re-create differentiation of various eye tissues that have different functions.
MHOX imagines that a wi-fi gland and a filter gland could improve and record images your eye sees, so you could share your visual experiences with other people.
The company also projects that eyesight could be improved up to 15/10 far sharper vision than our current standard of 20/20 with a "hyper-retina." Eye functionality could be improved as well, to treat eye injuries and even cure eye diseases.
The envisioned process includes a surgical procedure to install the Deck, "the technology that actually connects the eye to the brain," according to MHOX's website, after the natural eye is removed. Then users could interchange their own augmented eyes without surgery.
Okay, we're getting into very weird territory here: People would have their eyes removed and then could actually replace their own augmented eyes? Hmm. And it is hard to imagine that a 3D printed clump of cells could function as well as or better than our naturally grown peepers.
But the concept is fascinating, so keep an eye on 3D printing, which may become an integral part of our medical care in just a few years from now.
(Image: Caitlin McNeill)
The Big Dress Debate
February 2015 If you were on social media recently, you likely heard about the picture of a dress that is sparking a heated debate.
Initially posted on Tumblr by 21-year-old Caitlin McNeil, the dress is perceived by some people to be white and gold, while others see it as black and blue. The divide in opinion has inspired a viral debate across the web.
Because the processing of colors largely depends on light, our brains develop a "color constancy" system to ensure that colors are perceived the same way, even when there's a varying amount of light. For example, color constancy ensures that a red crayon looks red in the sunlight and looks red when it's in a dark shadow. It is alleged that because of this, the surroundings of an object influence our perception of color.
This brings us back to the dress debate. It is largely believed that the differing opinions on color are based on our brain's assumptions of the surroundings. What kind of lighting is hitting the dress?
Some interpret the dress in a blue-lit room, perhaps near a window with a blue sky on the other side. If that's the case, the brain would "remove" the blue hue from the image, because it's perceived as a shadow.
Others see the dress as being photographed in artificial yellow light. Their brain then sees the gold as light catching the texture of the black lace. They do not filter out the blue, allowing them to see it as a blue and black dress.
The truth is that individual perception of color can often vary from person to person. This particular image seems to be ambiguous enough that our brains have to do a lot of interpreting. N.B.
New Smartphone Technology For Measuring Refractive Errors
February 2015 Smart Vision Labs has developed a portable device, SVOne, which attaches to smartphones to measure refractive errors in eyes. This low-cost, easy-to-use autorefractor is especially helpful in parts of the world where eyeglasses are hard to come by because of a shortage of equipment and trained professionals.
Video: Verizon Wireless
The device has a wavefront sensor that measures refractive errors such as nearsightedness and farsightedness.
The attachment takes a few snapshots of the eye, then uses a smartphone to analyze the images and produce digital refraction data.
The SVOne is pocket-sized and has a battery that can last over 50 hours while doing continuous refractions. It has been field-tested in Haiti and Guatemala and found to be very effective in non-clinical conditions.
Hopefully the new technology will help the millions of people across the globe who don't have access to eye care to at least get a pair of glasses if needed. N.B.
Getting Enough Sleep? Your Rapid Eye Movements
May Be Saying, "Get To Bed Right Now!"
January 2015 A team of scientists has found that rapid eye movements could provide an objective way to measure fatigue in people who work long hours.
Also called saccadic movements, these mostly voluntary eye movements help us fix our eyes on objects that attract our attention.
In the study, the scientists evaluated the performance of doctors from the Traumatology Service at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Centre in Phoenix, before and after their "call-day," which is a 24-hour shift during which the doctors don't sleep.
After these long shifts, the speed of their saccadic movements was reduced as they felt more fatigued.
Fortunately, when the physicians performed simulated laparoscopic tests after their shifts, their performance was not affected significantly by their fatigue. It's probable that fatigue is not the sole contributor to errors committed on the job. Still, measuring eye movements might be a good way to determine whether physicians, truck drivers, subway operators, ship captains and other vital workers are not getting enough sleep.
An article about the study appeared in Annals of Surgery.
Disney's New Technique For Photo-Realistic Animated Eyes
January 2015 A team of Disney researchers from Zurich, Switzerland, has developed a new way to produce more lifelike eyes in animated characters.
Video: Disney Research
The researchers, who believe that the human eye has been over-simplified by animators thus far, hope their new modeling system will help create more believable characters. They have proposed a "novel capture system that is capable of accurately reconstructing all the visible parts of the eye," including the sclera, cornea and iris.
Their method, which uses multiple cameras and lighting set-ups, not only captures the shape, color and texture of real eyes, but also accurately duplicates the way the pupil responds to light. Researchers believe that this technique is more time-efficient than manually creating realistic eyes.
Watch the video for more information on this revolutionary technique. N.B.
Smoking Causes Eye Damage Similar To That Found In Glaucoma
December 2014 It appears cigarette smoking damages the eye in a way that resembles the early stages of glaucoma, according to a new study.
Researchers in Turkey evaluated the effect of smoking on the retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL), which collects visual impulses from photoreceptors (rods and cones) and ganglion cells in the retina and transmits these impulses to the optic nerve.
A total of 88 adults between the ages of 20 and 50 participated in the study: 44 had smoked at least one pack of cigarettes a day for more than 10 years, and 44 did not smoke. All were in good health, and there were no significant differences in age, sex distribution, refractive errors or eye pressure between the two groups.
Examinations of their retinas revealed the mean thickness of the retinal nerve fiber layer of the smokers was significantly thinner than that of the non-smokers. Thinning of the RNFL also is associated with eye diseases such as glaucoma and retinitis pigmentosa, causing blind spots in the visual field, loss of peripheral vision and even blindness.
Birth Order May Affect Reading Readiness And Early School Performance
December 2014 Birth order has been proposed to affect various aspects of a child's development, ranging from personality type to IQ. Now researchers have concluded that first-born children tend to have better eye movement skills than their siblings, which may suggest a higher reading readiness prior to entering kindergarten.
The researchers evaluated a small population of Chicago-area children of similar socioeconomic backgrounds from kindergarten to third grade. The children were given comprehensive eye exams including testing of a number of visual skills the summer before they entered kindergarten. Some of the children were examined again the summer prior to entering third grade.
"Our research demonstrates that first or only children enter kindergarten with better visual function," said Dr. Christine Allison in a press release issued by Illinois College of Optometry (ICO). These superior visual skills of first-born kids "may result in early school success and earlier reading," when compared with the reading and academic performance of younger siblings, added her colleague Dr. Darrell Schlange.
The researchers suggested that activities such as coloring, drawing, putting together puzzles, and working in activity books may lead to the development of better eye movement skills and eye-hand coordination at an early age. They encouraged parents to assist their children in performing these activities to help develop their visual skills.
Another finding was that 30 percent of the children in the study developed vision problems between kindergarten and third grade. According to Dr. Allison, at least part of this trend may be due to added stress on the developing visual system of young children produced by computers and other electronic devices, including hand-held devices and tablets.
Dr. Schlange said more research is needed to understand the rapid changes seen in children's visual function, and the researchers recommended that parents schedule annual eye exams for their children beginning in kindergarten to adequately monitor their visual performance. G.H.
Artist With Rare Condition Sees Millions of Colors
November 2014 Concetta Antico, an impressionist artist, has been in the headlines lately for a rare eye condition that allows her to see more colors than the average person.
Tetrachromacy is a condition where the eyes have four different types of photoreceptor cone cells instead of three, allowing a person to see a broader spectrum of colors. This condition is very rare among humans and is believed to be much more common in females than males.
Antico, who lives in California, claims to be able to process up to 100 million colors, based on recent genotyping. (The average person can see about one million colors.) But because there is so little research done on tetrachromats, it's unknown whether humans possess the right neural pathways to process all the wavelengths a fourth cone absorbs. Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, have been studying Antico and hope to unlock more information about her rare eye condition.
Antico believes that painting in an impressionist style gives her the freedom to show how she perceives color. Visit her website to see her interesting paintings.
Study Reveals Visual Conditions Of Healthy 10-Year-Old Children
August 2014 Recent studies have found the prevalence of myopia is increasing worldwide, including in the United States where approximately 42 percent of young adults are now nearsighted. With this in mind, it's useful to understand when the progression of nearsightedness begins.
A new study from Sweden suggests that less than 10 percent of healthy 10-year-olds are myopic.
Researchers at Uppsala University evaluated the vision and eye conditions of 217 healthy, full-term 10-year-old children. In addition to determining refractive error and visual acuity via a cycloplegic eye exam, additional tests were performed to detect the presence of strabismus and other binocular vision disorders.
Results revealed 17 children (7.8 percent) were nearsighted, eight children (3.6 percent) had at least 2.0 diopters (D) of farsightedness and nine (4.1 percent) had at least 1.0 D of astigmatism. Two children (0.9 percent) had anisometropia of at least 1.0 D, and seven children (3.2 percent) had manifest strabismus. Three children (1.4 percent) had below-normal contrast sensitivity, and five children who did not have strabismus had reduced stereopsis.
The study authors concluded the results of this study can be used as a control when examining children of similar ages with various eye conditions or other health issues.
A full report of the study was published online by the journal Acta Ophthalmology in July.
Amblyz Eyewear: A New Alternative To Patching That Kids May Like Better
July 2014 A company called XPAND has received approval from the FDA for electronic eyewear that can occlude one eye in amblyopic children ages 3 to 10.
Amblyz glasses are an alternative to patching and atropine drops that may be more acceptable to kids. Although they look like prescription eyewear from the outside, they contain an electronic shutter controlled by a microchip within the frame.
Since kids with a lazy eye usually need vision correction as well as a patch, the Amblyz eyewear is also designed to serve as prescription glasses.
If you are interested in Amblyz glasses for your child, ask your eye care provider about them. Please click here for close-up photos.
Fireworks Sword Recall
July 2014 Remember Dan Aykroyd's "Bag o' Glass"? This may be worse...
This fireworks sword (yes, you read that correctly) has been recalled, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The mock sword is a handheld fountain designed to let loose sparks from the tip once it is lit.
The bummer of it is, the thing has been known to explode while in use. Fortunately, no injuries have been reported. But think about it: something that explodes in your hand could easily injure your arm, hand, face and eyes.
The brand name is "Big Sword Fountain Devices," and if you have bought one, please don't use it. The CPSC advises purchasers to return it to the store for a full refund.
We've noticed other brands of sword-type fireworks devices, and if you're tempted to buy one for yourself or your kids, our advice is, just don't.
The CPSC's latest report states that last year in the United States, eight people died and an estimated 11,400 people were injured all from fireworks. And lots of these injuries were from handheld items, including sparklers.
For more information, including statistics on eye injuries from fireworks, you can download the CPSC's report. Or see report highlights in the fireworks section of our "preventing eye injuries" article.
A Nation's Eyeglasses Help Determine Its Wealth And Well-Being
July 2014 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) used to be the primary measure of the wealth (or poverty) of a nation. But that has changed, as modern humans have come to associate non-economic factors with quality of life and overall well-being.
A 2014 United Nations-funded symposium in Malaysia discussed birth weight, hours slept, city birds, washing machines and teenage schoolgirls as indicators of how healthy and wealthy a nation is.
Smiles and random acts of kindness were also proposed as measures of non-material national wealth.
The per capita number of eyeglasses owned was also considered as a measure. This shouldn't be surprising, since a lack of eyeglasses makes learning in school and earning a living practically impossible for many. In fact, an estimated 700 million people in developing countries lack affordable vision correction.
Braille Phone Debuts
June 2014 A year ago we reported on a Braille smartphone that was being developed in India. Now a London-based company called OwnFone has launched a simple phone with customizable Braille buttons.
All of OwnFone's credit card-sized phones are partially 3D printed, and when they order, purchasers can customize them online with the various colors, patterns and buttons available.
The company's other scaled-down phones are designed for limited uses, such as for a child or senior. The new Braille-buttoned version is based on this keep-it-simple concept, with either two or four pre-programmed Braille buttons to provide instant communication with friends, family or caregivers.
An emergency services button which must be pressed three times for activation is also included.
The Braille phone is available only in the United Kingdom for now, at a retail price of 60 pounds sterling.
Looser Rules May Mean More Choices For People Who Need Eyelid Weights
May 2014 The FDA is relaxing restrictions on external eyelid weights, which are used to help people with Bell's palsy and other kinds of facial paralysis keep their eyes shut, especially during sleep.
Shown here is a Blinkeze external lid weight by MedDev Corporation.
The inability to close one's eyes completely (lagophthalmos) is a big problem, because the eye's surface (the cornea) can dry out and even develop ulcers and scarring. And it interferes with sleep.
The weights are made of dense metals (gold, tantalum, platinum, iridium or stainless steel), and they are attached to the skin of the upper eyelid with adhesive strips. Usually they come in a choice of skin colors, to reduce their visibility to other people.
The FDA's loosened restrictions will make it easier to bring external lid weights to market. But requirements for weights that are implanted within the eyelid will remain stringent, because of the need for the devices to be sterile and biocompatible.
The new rules will be in effect this July.
You Are Being Watched: How Eye Contact Sells Kids' Cereal
May 2014 A study of product placement in grocery store cereal aisles reveals a creepy fact: the faces on cereal boxes are designed to make eye contact with you and your kids.
You've probably noticed that adult cereals are usually placed on higher shelves, while children's cereals are lower down. But Cornell University researchers found there's more to cereal marketing than that. In fact, the characters and people depicted on the boxes tend to look straight ahead at adults and downward at children. In essence, the packaging is designed to make eye contact with the people who are most likely to want the food inside.
Does the strategy work? When the researchers asked 63 people to view (randomly) either a Trix box with the bunny looking at the viewer or one with the bunny looking down, they found that brand trust and the feeling of connection to the brand were significantly higher when the bunny looked at the viewer.
So how do you protect your child from the come-hither glances of the Lucky Charms leprechaun? You could place him in the grocery cart seat so he doesn't see the kids' cereal box characters trying to catch his eye. Or just avoid the cereal aisle when shopping with your kids.
A report of the study appeared in the Journal of Environment and Behavior. (Image: Musicus, Tal & Wansink - Environment & Behavior, 2014)
Mind Your Beeswax
April 2014 They're at it again: Those crazy kids are finding new and stupid uses for perfectly good products.
Read our lips: This stuff is not for eyelids!
This time it's that tried-and-true beeswax lip balm made by Burt's Bees, which some high school and college kids reportedly have been applying to their eyelids. They've even come up with a catchy name for it "beezin'."
Some hopefully not science majors maintain that beezin' helps keep them awake so they can study. Others say it makes them feel drunk or high.
Few would dispute that Burt's Bees lip balm is a mighty fine product. But there's a really great reason you shouldn't put it on your eyelids: It contains peppermint oil and possibly some other ingredients that, if they come into contact with your eyes, will cause inflammation, a burning sensation and redness.
According to eye doctors, it's very important not to apply any cosmetic in or near the eyes that hasn't been formulated for that purpose, because the possibility of sight-threatening eye damage is very real.
Alcohol Free Weekend April 4-6: Do It For Your Eyes
April 2014 Did you know that drinking too much alcohol can affect your eyes? It can cause eye dryness, and it is a suspected cause of eyelid twitching.
Alcohol increases your risk for cataract development. And it can trigger short-term double vision and the inflammation that causes ocular rosacea.
April is Alcohol Awareness Month and a good time to take a look at how alcohol may be affecting your eyes and your overall health.
On April 4-6 the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence is inviting everyone to participate in Alcohol Free Weekend three days of abstinence that may help you reduce your consumption of alcohol and improve your health.
Give it a try!
Video: What Is The Resolution Of The Human Eye?
March 2014 When buying a camera, TV, computer monitor, laptop or other digital device, we usually want to know the resolution.
Whether it's expressed in pixel dimensions or total megapixels, the number gives us some idea of what to expect in screen or print quality.
But have you ever wondered what the resolution is of the human eye? Is it better or worse than what we can experience on a digital screen? And how does the brain affect the quality of what we see with our eyes?
New Eye Test May Provide Early Diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease
February 2014 People who develop Alzheimer's disease often do so slowly, with symptoms that can be confusingly similar to those caused by stroke, Parkinson's disease and other conditions.
New drugs to slow or stop Alzheimer's are in development, but they rely on early diagnosis, before irreversible brain damage occurs.
A company called Cognoptix is developing the Sapphire II, a device that detects a specific fluorescent signature of ligand-marked beta-amyloid in the natural lens of the eye. These abnormal deposits indicate the probable presence of Alzheimer's disease.
Besides being quick and easy to use, the Sapphire II test is also less costly than brain imaging (MRI, CT, PET). Recent clinical tests showed similar results to PET amyloid brain imaging.
Cognoptix is conducting clinical trials of the device in hopes of receiving FDA approval soon. For more information, watch the video.
How Does Alcohol Really Affect Your Vision?
January 2014 Researchers in Australia have found that drinking the legal limit of alcohol greatly affects the ability to adjust vision for brightness and contrast by 30 percent.
The study, conducted at Western University's Faculty of Social Science, used the Hermann Grid to understand how alcohol affects the perception of contrast.
The Hermann Grid is a grid of black squares on a white background. Ghost-like dark spots appear at the intersections of the grid but are not actually there.
According to researchers, it's the way our visual system processes contrast or brightness differences that creates this illusion.
The researchers were able to show that the apparent contrast of the illusory spots in the grid is reduced by 30 percent at a blood alcohol level around the legal driving limit. This means that making distinctions between different objects based on lightness and darkness becomes more difficult when we drink alcohol.
Gene Therapy Holds Promise For Treating Eye Disease
January 2014 People suffering from a rare degenerative eye disease might finally have hopes for improved vision though gene therapy.
Choroideremia is caused by defects in a single gene on the X chromosome that leads to blindness and affects one in 50,000 people, mainly boys. Many start losing night vision by age 10 and become legally blind in their 40s. Because of the defective gene, light-sensitive cells in the retina slowly stop working and then die.
In an early-stage clinical trial, University of Oxford researchers used a deactivated virus to safely transport billions of healthy, lab-made versions of the gene into the retina. That appeared to restore the function of light-sensitive cells.
The trial began with six patients. Two still had excellent visual acuity, which was measured by reading lines of letters on a sight chart. Two other patients had good acuity, and two had reduced acuity. Six months after the operation, the two patients with reduced acuity showed improved vision, being able to read two and four more lines on the sight chart. The others could see better in dim light. The gains were sustained over several months of follow-up.
The experiment marks one of the first times that gene therapy has targeted the main light-sensing cells in the retina. And it offers a possible blueprint for treating far more common causes of blindness that affect the same cells, such as retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration.
Blue Handheld Laser Devices Can Cause Serious Eye Injuries
December 2013 Exposure for even fractions of a second to high-powered blue handheld laser devices can cause serious eye injuries, according to a study released online in the journal Ophthalmology. The researchers have concluded that the wide availability of these devices, which are often marketed as toys, could lead to an epidemic of ocular injuries.
The natural protective mechanisms of the eye such as the blink reflex are ineffective against these lasers, and severe retinal damage may occur, even after momentary exposure. Studies have also shown that blue lasers are more likely to cause retinal injury compared with green or red lasers.
Blue laser devices often resemble laser pointers that have lower wattages. But blue laser devices actually have an output power of up to 1,200 milliwatts.
Potential eye injuries include macular holes, hemorrhages and macular puckering, whereby cells proliferate on the surface of the retina, causing visual impairment.
Visualization Can Affect Pupil Size
December 2013 Simply imagining scenes such as a sunny day or a night sky can cause your pupils to change size, a new study finds.
Pupils automatically dilate (get bigger) or contract (get smaller) in response to the amount of light entering the eye. The study, conducted by the University of Oslo in Norway, shows that visualizing dark or bright scenes affects people's pupils as if they were actually seeing the images.
In one experiment, participants looked at a screen with triangles of different levels of brightness. When later asked to imagine those triangles, the participants' pupils varied in size according to each triangle's brightness. When they imagined brighter triangles, their pupils were smaller, and when they imagined darker triangles, their pupils were larger.
Pupils also changed diameter when study participants imagined a sunny sky, a dark room, or a face in the sun versus a face in the shade, according to the study published online in the journal Psychological Science. The research may potentially enable scientists to probe the mental experiences of animals, babies and even people with severe neurological disorders, the study authors suggested.
Seniors See Better In Doctors' Offices Than At Home
December 2013 Research has shown that patients who see perfectly well in their eye doctor's office often end up seeing considerably less well in the comfort of their own home. The principal culprit: poor home lighting.
The research focused on 175 eye patients between the ages of 55 and 90 and was presented in the online issue of the journal JAMA Ophthalmology in November.
Most of the patients had been diagnosed with glaucoma before attending a regularly scheduled appointment with their ophthalmologist at some point between 2005 and 2009. The remainder had no eye health issues.
All of the patients had their vision tested both in their doctor's office and at home. Both exams were scheduled within a one-month span and took place during the daytime. Home exams included testing that assessed near-vision abilities, such as paying bills and reading. Digital light meters were used to determine lighting levels in both settings.
Vision test results were significantly better in the doctor's office than in a home setting, regardless of whether a patient had glaucoma. For example, nearly 30 percent of glaucoma patients were able to read two or more lines more easily on an eye chart when tested in the doctor's office than when at home.
Among those with more severe glaucoma, nearly four in 10 read three or more lines better when tested in the office than when tested at home.
The same dynamic was observed with near vision, the researchers said. More than one-fifth of patients experienced better results at the doctor's office when trying to read two or more lines of text.
Improved Vision May Have Helped Red Sox Win The Series?
November 2013 In the wake of the Red Sox winning the World Series in Game 6, there is speculation that the fourth-inning home run by shortstop Stephen Drew may have been due in part to his brand-new contact lenses.
After all, he reportedly wasn't wearing vision correction before then, and his post-season hitting record had been abysmal (though his defensive play remained strong).
We don't know how bad Drew's uncorrected vision is, but we do know that batting a ball that's hurtling toward you at 90+ mph is not easy even with excellent visual acuity and contrast sensitivity.
The beards didn't win the title for Boston. It was the players' talent and physical abilities including their ability to see the ball that ultimately helped them prevail this year. Which is why all athletes need to take care of their vision and get regular eye exams.
Sun-Induced Frowning Can Trigger Anger, Study Finds
October 2013 Involuntary frowning in response to direct sunlight can foster aggressive feelings, according to a study published in the journal of Cognition & Emotion.
The researchers tested whether aggressiveness can be triggered by the scrunched-up frown reflex people make when they face the sun, due to the fact that sun-induced frowning involves the same pattern of facial muscle activation as the expression of anger.
Random people with and without sunglasses were surveyed walking along a beach or boardwalk. "We found that participants walking against the sun without sunglasses scored higher in a self-report measure of anger and aggression compared to those walking with the sun behind and/or wearing sunglasses," the authors report. "We also suggest that frowning at the sun affects mood very quickly, because we did not find any effect of walking time on self-reported aggressiveness."
The idea that your facial expression can change your mood isn't new. Some studies suggest that Botox, for example, can make you feel happier because you typically are unable to frown.
Moral of the story? Wearing sunglasses when you're outside to protect your eyes from the sun will make you less of a grouch. A.S.
Simple Blood Or Urine Test May Identify Retinitis Pigmentosa
October 2013 Researchers at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute have discovered a key marker in blood and urine that can identify people who carry genetic mutations in a gene responsible for retinitis pigmentosa, a blinding disease that affects about one in 4,000 people in the United States.
The first mutation in this gene, named DHDDS, was identified in 2011 by scientists at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Mutations in this gene are more common in persons of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage than in the general population.
Retinitis pigmentosa is a group of inherited eye diseases that cause progressive vision loss and blindness due to degeneration of the retina, the layer of light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye.
Take The #EyePledge In Honor Of World Sight Day And You Can Generate Donations To An Eye Charity!
October 2013 World Sight Day is October 10, and it's a great opportunity for you to make an appointment for an eye exam.
Vistakon, a division of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, is asking everyone to take an "eye selfie" photo and post it online in one of two ways:
- Either post it through the "Donate a Photo" app by Johnson & Johnson with #EyePledge;
- Or share it on social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), using #EyePledge.
When you post your photo, you should also promise to get your eyes tested.
If you use the "Donate a Photo" app to upload your photo on behalf of the charity organization Sight for Kids, Johnson & Johnson will donate $1 (up to $30,000) to the charity. Sight for Kids has provided free vision screenings to more than 17 million children in Asia Pacific since 2002.
The "Donate a Photo" app is available from the App Store and Google Play. You can post up to one photo per day via the app.
Research Supports Extended Patching For Childhood Amblyopia
October 2013 Increasing patching from two hours to six hours a day effectively treats persistent amblyopia, according to a Pediatric Eye Disease Investigators Group (PEDIG) study published in the journal Ophthalmology.
(Image: Krafty Eye Patches)
Patching is the standard treatment for amblyopia, according to the National Eye Institute, which funded the research. Eye care practitioners often increase the daily duration if children stop making progress.
Researchers enrolled 169 children between ages 3 and 8 with persistent amblyopia in the study. One treatment group continued with two hours of daily patching, and another increased daily patching to six hours.
After 10 weeks, children in the six-hour patching group could see an average of 1.2 additional lines on an eye chart with the affected eye. Children in the two-hour patching group improved on average only 0.5 lines. Perhaps even more compelling, 40 percent of children in the six-hour group saw two or more lines of improvement.
The report proposes an evidence-based, staged approach for treating amblyopia:
- The first stage is wearing eyeglasses, to correct vision as much as possible.
- Patching for two hours a day or using eye drops or lens filters that blur vision in the better eye is recommended if amblyopia persists after 10 weeks of wearing glasses.
- If amblyopia persists after 10 weeks with two-hour daily patching, PEDIG recommends children patch for six hours per day.
Once children reach maximum visual acuity, the report recommends monitoring them for recurrence.
Will Your Doctor Be Using A Smartphone App To Diagnose Eye Disease?
September 2013 Researchers from Massachusetts Eye and Ear have found an alternative way for eye doctors to capture high-resolution images of the retina: a smartphone app.
Commercial fundus (retinal) cameras can be costly for eye care practices, especially those in developing countries, and the cameras' large size limits their portability.
By combining the technologies of Apple's iPhone 4 or 5, a smartphone video camera app called Filmic Pro and a 20 diopter lens, the researchers captured excellent retinal images at a significantly lower cost with these mobile devices.
"This technique has been extremely helpful for us in the emergency department setting, in-patient consultations and during examinations under anesthesia, as it provides a cheaper and portable option for high-quality fundus-image acquisition," said senior author Shizuo Mukai, MD, Mass. Eye and Ear retina specialist and Harvard Medical School associate professor of ophthalmology.
The research team expects the quality of these images to continue to improve as smartphone technology advances. They predict that more eye doctors will use smartphone technology as an easy, inexpensive way to document eye diseases.
A full report of this study was published online this month in Journal of Ophthalmology.
Electrical Stimulation Of Brain Helps Adults With Amblyopia
July 2013 A growing body of evidence reveals that the human brain has greater neuroplasticity than previously thought when it comes to the treatment of amblyopia.
Researchers in China tested the hypothesis that transcranial direct-current stimulation of the visual cortex would enhance the effects of dichoptic videogame-based treatment. (In a dichoptic video display, each eye is presented a separate and independent array of objects. Vision therapy of this type has been shown to aid in amblyopia treatment.)
Sixteen young adults with amblyopia (mean age 22.1 years) participated in the study. Compared with videogame therapy alone, the combined treatment led to greater improvements in binocular functioning.
According to the study authors, the electrical brain stimulation in the combined treatments appears to improve effectiveness by reducing the inhibition of input from the amblyopic eye to the visual cortex by cortical interneurons. They recommended additional studies be performed to evaluate this new approach for adults with amblyopia.
The study report appeared this month in Neurotherapeutics.
Can Tetris Correct Lazy Eye In Adults?
When a child has amblyopia, the usual treatment is to patch one eye. Adults, however, don't normally respond to this type of therapy.
For older amblyopes, vision therapy techniques including special computer programs can encourage neural changes that result in better vision. Recently, scientists tested the video game Tetris as a fun tool in this kind of therapy.
The idea is that the rapidly changing scene in a game like Tetris forces both eyes to work together and heightens plasticity levels in the visual cortex the area of the brain that processes visual input.
In the Tetris study, 18 adults were tested for two weeks, with half wearing goggles that covered one eye. The group that played the game with both eyes unobstructed showed significant vision improvement.
A report of the study appeared in the April 2013 issue of Current Biology.
New Eye Movement Test Could Reduce Need For Costly Stroke Testing
April 2013 Often people who have severe dizziness are tested for stroke. In our healthcare system, stroke work-ups are very expensive, so the ability to rule out stroke by other means could save time and money.
Measuring eye movements with a special goggle, to determine whether dizziness is due to stroke.
That's why researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine tested an electronic device that measures eye movements in people with dizziness or vertigo, to see if it could determine whether the symptoms are due to stroke or a more benign condition.
Three eye movement tests are used to check the balance system in possible stroke victims. One, called the horizontal head impulse test, is the best stroke predictor, so the researchers performed it with a video-oculography machine to detect very small eye movements.
Patients wore a special goggle that contained a webcam and an accelerometer in the frame. A laptop was connected to the webcam, software determined eye position based on the webcam input and the accelerometer measured how fast the patient's head moved.
Six of the 12 patients in the study were diagnosed with stroke, while the other six had benign conditions. All the diagnoses were confirmed later with MRI.
A report of the study appeared in the April issue of the journal Stroke.
Visual Evaluation Needed After Any Traumatic Brain Injury, Says Study
February 2013 Researchers have found that as many as 65 percent of people who sustain traumatic brain injury (TBI) develop associated vision problems. The vision problems occurred whether the trauma was blast-related, such as TBI sustained by Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans from explosions in combat, or non-blast-related, such as TBI sustained by civilians in auto accidents, falls or other trauma.
TBI-related vision problems included light sensitivity, eye movement dysfunction, focusing problems and eye teaming problems. Related symptoms included eye strain and difficulty reading.
What's striking is that despite these vision problems, most of the patients had normal visual acuity. The researchers suggested that anyone with TBI should have a comprehensive vision examination, regardless of the cause or severity of their injury.
The study report appeared in the February issue of Optometry & Vision Science.
Did Scarlet Fever Cause Mary Ingalls' Blindness?
February 2013 Probably not, says a study that appeared in the February issue of Pediatrics.
Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote of her sister Mary's vision loss in the Little House on the Prairie series of books about her childhood. She wrote that it had resulted from a bout of scarlet fever.
Using newspaper reports, school registries and Wilder's memories, the researchers concluded that Mary's blindness was likely caused by viral meningoencephalitis. Her symptoms, including facial nerve inflammation that caused temporary paralysis of the side of her face, strongly suggest meningoencephalitis.
The disesase also could have caused inflammation of the optic nerve, which would lead to vision loss.
The researchers speculated that the editors of Wilder's books may have decided to name scarlet fever as the cause, since most people were familiar with the disease and knew how deadly it could be to children.
Light Exposure During Pregnancy Important To
Good Infant Vision Development
January 2013 Did you know that normal eye development requires light to reach an infant even while in the womb?
This finding reported in this month's Nature is based on studies of fetal mice. The researchers discovered that a light-response pathway controls the number of neurons in the retina.
In mice, this pathway must be activated during late gestation, about 16 days into the pregnancy.
The light-response pathway keeps the blood vessels forming in the retina from becoming too numerous and causing potentially blinding retinopathy of prematurity.
Are People With Brown Eyes More Trustworthy?
January 2013 In a study of 238 university students in Prague, participants were asked to rate photos of 40 female and 40 male students for perceived trustworthiness. The photos of brown-eyed people received higher ratings than those of blue-eyed people.
Who looks more trustworthy to you?
But eye color was probably not the determining factor, concluded the researchers. Apparently, there is a correlation between brown eye color and certain face shapes.
When the researchers showed the students photos with brown eyes recolored to blue and vice-versa, they found that it was the face shapes not the eye colors that were influencing their answers, at least when it came to the male photos.
In the photos, the brown-eyed males had a bigger nose and mouth, a broader chin and more prominent eyebrows positioned closer to each other, compared with the blue-eyed males. These features seemed to convey more trustworthiness to the participants.
In the female photos, the correlation between trustworthiness and face shape was not statistically significant, though the researchers said the trend "was in the same direction."
And overall, there was a negative correlation between perceived dominance and trustworthiness.
For more information, read the interesting report of the study in this month's issue of the Public Library of Science online journal, PLOS ONE.
Please click here for eye and vision news from 2012.
[Page updated May 11, 2016]