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Get Ready For The 2017 Solar Eclipse: Protect Your Eyes

August 2017 — Later this month, an astronomical event will be viewable in the United States that hasn't occurred here for nearly 100 years: a total solar eclipse.

On August 21, the moon will shade virtually the entire sun over a roughly 70-mile-wide band extending from Oregon to South Carolina. The last time a total eclipse of the sun affected such a large area of the country was back on June 8, 1918, when an eclipse extended from Washington State to Florida.

eclipse glasses
Protect your child's eyes during the upcoming solar eclipse with a viewer that's ISO-certified. (Photo: supot phanna / Shutterstock.com)

Within this "band of totality," eclipse watchers will see the moon completely shade the sun (a total eclipse). In areas of the country outside this band, watchers will see the moon pass in front of much of the sun, but not cover it completely (a partial eclipse).

Regardless where you plan watch the upcoming 2017 solar eclipse, it's essential you wear disposable protective "eclipse glasses" to adequately shield your eyes from the sun's harmful UV radiation and high-energy visible light.

When purchasing these protective shades (which are many times darker than sunglasses), buy them from a reputable source and make sure they meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard for safe direct viewing of the sun.

Learn more about the 2017 solar eclipse and protective eclipse glasses. — G.H.

Ladies, Make Your Eye Health A Priority This Month!

May 2017 — All About Vision is partnering with The National Eye Institute for Healthy Vision Month by encouraging women to make eye health a priority. Women are more likely to have eye-related conditions like cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. So ladies, make sure you take care of your eyes!

Throughout the month of May, you can celebrate Healthy Vision Month by encouraging the women in your life to follow these five steps for protecting sight:

5 Steps To Keep Your Eyes Healthy
Image: National Eye Institute. [Enlarge]
  1. Get a dilated eye exam, so your eye doctor can perform a thorough evaluation of the health of your eyes.
  2. Live a healthy lifestyle by eating nutritious foods and maintaining a healthy weight.
  3. Learn about your family's history with eye health. Do eye conditions run in your family? If so, let your eye doctor know at your next visit.
  4. Use protective eyewear in any instances where your eyes may be at risk: playing sports, on the job, home repairs, etc.
  5. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun's harmful UV rays. Make sure your shades block 100 percent of UVA and UVB radiation.

It's easy to get caught up in a busy life, balancing work and family, but eyesight should be a priority. Taking the steps above could help prevent vision loss and blindness from eye diseases.

Please click here to learn more  about Healthy Vision Month. — N.B.

New eBook And App Provide In-Depth Info For Viewers Of Sight: The Story Of Vision Documentary

October 2016 — Don't forget to see the new documentary Sight: The Story of Vision, starting on October 13, World Sight Day! (Details and trailer below.)

In the meantime, a companion eBook has become available for download from the iBooks store and the documentary website .

Screenshots of the Sight: Story of Vision Second Screen app.
The eBook and app are both available at the documentary website .

The author, Mark Mattison-Shupnick, ABOM, said he created the book as a "deeper dive" into the many topics covered by the documentary. (Mr. Mattison-Shupnick is a master optician who is also an All About Vision editorial advisory board member.)

The book is viewable on iPads, Kindles, other eBook readers, other IOS and Android devices, and computers.

Plus, you can download the Sight: Story of Vision Second Screen App, also available on the documentary website  and directly from Apple's App Store. The app provides terminology definitions related to the documentary as well as expanded video content.

The eBook was underwritten by a grant from contact lens manufacturer CooperVision. Development of the app was supported by eyeglass lens manufacturer Essilor.

No More Specs In Passport Photos

October 2016 — You may love how you look in your glasses, but the U.S. Department of State says that starting this November, you can't wear them when having your passport photo taken.

Poorly lit passport-style photo of man wearing glasses with glare on the lenses.
The U.S. Department of State hopes that eliminating eyeglasses from photos will speed up passport application processing.

Why? According to a Department news release, in 2015 more than 200,000 travelers submitted passport applications with unacceptably poor-quality photos. The number one reason? Eyeglasses.

It's bad enough that people send in dark, blurry, poorly cropped passport photos, but wearing glasses can make the problem even worse.

People look different with their eyeglasses on than when they're off, making identification difficult. Frames can throw confusing shadows on faces, and lenses may have glare spots from the camera flash. Tinted lenses can obscure features and change eye color.

The Department hopes the rule will reduce passport application delays and wait times at U.S. ports of entry. If your passport is unexpired, you're fine. The rule applies only when you renew a passport or get one for the first time.

Need your glasses to stay on for medical reasons? Get a signed statement from a medical professional and submit it with your passport application. — L.S.

New Documentary On Human Vision Narrated By Sir Elton John

September 2016 — Sight: The Story of Vision, a documentary on scientific, medical and technological aspects of human vision, is set to premiere on October 13 (World Sight Day).

The one-hour film will broadcast on public television and features Sir Elton John as narrator.

Please click here to watch a trailer for the documentary Sight: The Story of Vision.
Click above to watch the trailer for Sight: The Story of Vision. Please check your local TV listings for broadcast times and dates for the documentary.

It tells the story of how people discovered how our eyes work, as well as how to improve our eyesight and even restore it when it is lost.

Online content will also be available for viewers of Sight: The Story of Vision, in the form of apps, a downloadable eBook and a companion website StoryofSight.com .

One interesting detail about the documentary is that its writer and director Kris Koenig decided to apply color correction to the film so people with red-green color confusion could distinguish those colors better while watching. He did this after trying a pair of EnChroma eyeglasses, which are custom-tinted to help people with various types of colorblindness.

Please check your local TV listings  for broadcast times and dates. Watch the trailer.

Computerized Visual Training Game Is Believed To Stall Dementia

August 2016 — There's new hope for baby boomers who are fast approaching the age at which they will be most vulnerable to developing Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. A new study of 2,802 seniors has led researchers to conclude that an inexpensive intervention involving visual training exercises can cut the likelihood of cognitive decline by nearly half over a 10-year period.

Older person using a computer keyboard at light speed
To see how the visual training game works, please watch the Double Decision video .

The ACTIVE study — short for Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly — was funded by the National Institute on Aging. All participants were cognitively healthy seniors with an average age of 73.4 at the study's start. They were divided into four study groups:

  • No training
  • Classroom-based course designed to impart strategies aimed at boosting memory
  • Classroom-based course designed to sharpen participants' reasoning skills
  • Computerized training designed to increase the speed at which the brain picks up and processes cues in a person's field of vision

The participants who received training got 10 hour-long training sessions over a five-week period.

The results over the study's 10-year follow-up showed that 14 percent of participants who received no training suffered significant cognitive decline or dementia. Two of the three treatment groups fared slightly better: significant cognitive decline or dementia occurred in 11.4 percent of the memory-strategies training group, and in 11.7 percent in the reasoning-strategies training group.

In the group who received computerized training to improve speed of processing, 10.5 percent experienced these conditions; however, when significant cognitive decline or dementia appeared, it came later.

Statistically speaking, the cumulative risk of developing cognitive decline or dementia over 10 years was 33 percent lower for those who had received the visual processing training compared with those who got no training at all. And when researchers gave a small group of seniors a refresher class 11 and 35 months after the initial training, the risk of cognitive decline or dementia went down even further — making them 48 percent less likely over 10 years to experience dementia or cognitive decline.

The computerized brain-training program is called "Double Decision." It uses a gaming format that exercises an individual's ability to detect, remember and respond to cues that appear and disappear quickly in varying locations on a computer screen. It uses colorful graphics and challenges players with escalating difficulty as their proficiency increases. This video explains the game in more detail. A.H.

FDA Approves New Prescription Eye Drop For Dry Eye Disease

July 2016 — A twice-daily eye drop called Xiidra (lifitegrast ophthalmic solution) 5% has received FDA approval for treatment of both signs and symptoms of dry eye disease in adults. The biotechnology company Shire manufactures Xiidra and plans to launch it in the United States this quarter.

Man using eye drops

"The clinical program supporting the approval of Xiidra is the largest for an investigational-stage dry eye disease candidate to date, including more than 2,500 patients," said Edward Holland, MD, in a company release. Dr. Holland is professor of clinical ophthalmology, University of Cincinnati, and a clinical trial investigator for Xiidra.

"The clinical trial program design took into consideration many of the challenges of past dry eye research," he continued. "It's exciting to see Xiidra as the first prescription eye drop FDA-approved for both the signs and symptoms of the condition."

In the safety/efficacy study, 1,067 patients received the drops in four placebo-controlled 12-week trials. In two of the trials, an improvement in the patient-reported eye dryness score was seen at two weeks. In three of the trials, an improvement in the inferior corneal staining score was seen at 12 weeks.

The most common adverse reactions reported in 5 to 25 percent of patients were instillation site irritation, altered taste sensation (dysgeusia) and reduced visual acuity.

Take The See Change Challenge — And Change The World!

July 2016 — Eyeglass lens manufacturer Essilor wants YOU — that is, wants your ideas on how to help vision care providers in underserved areas of the world to accurately measure eye refractive errors.

Eyeglasses resting on a map of South America and the southern Atlantic Ocean.
Have an idea for a better way to provide eye exams in underserved areas of the world? You could make life better for billions of people.

More than 2.5 billion people live with uncorrected poor vision, and 95 percent of them live in countries where eye care is difficult to obtain or practically non-existent. They can't go to an eye doctor's office and get eye exams with up-to-date instruments. They can't get eyewear. With uncorrected vision, they can't learn in school or work to support their families.

So Essilor has launched the See Change Challenge, an initiative to find low-cost, easy-to-use, scalable software, hardware, or other solutions to enable more people to be easily trained to become eye care workers in less developed areas.

The Challenge is open to anyone, including app developers, universities, vision scientists, engineers, startup organizations and optometrists. Up to five winners of the first phase of the Challenge will each earn 25,000 € in cash and will have the opportunity to be in the second phase. Up to two final winners will receive 100,000 € in cash.

Essilor will potentially support the final winners with development contracts to help them build and scale up their solution.

Want to change the world? Visit the See Change Challenge website  for details, and submit your entry by October 21. The first phase winners will be announced in January.

Celebrate National Sunglasses Day

June 2016 — Monday the 27th is The Vision Council's National Sunglasses Day, but protecting your eyes from the sun's UV rays is important every day.

National Sunglasses Day 2016
Please click here for a great infographic you can download and share!

The more exposure your eyes have to sunlight without sunglasses throughout your life, the greater your risk of cataracts, macular degeneration and more — even on cloudy days. After a day in the sun without sunglasses, UV rays can also cause immediate, temporary issues like red eyes and sensitivity to light.

Don't let excuses prevent you from protecting your eyes. Get multiple pairs of sunglasses and keep spare shades in your car, so you're not caught without them.

According to The Vision Council, these are the top four excuses for not wearing sunglasses while outdoors:

  • "I don't have them with me" — 28%
  • "I forgot to put them on" — 26%
  • "I'm not outside long enough to put them on" — 17%
  • "I don't own prescription sunglasses" — 11%

Celebrate National Sunglasses Day by making sure your family always wears shades while outside. On June 27, post a sunglass selfie to your favorite social media outlet with the hashtag #NationalSunglassesDay to promote the importance of UV protection for eyes. — N.B.

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:

Woman wearing safety goggle while woodworking. The caption is: Protect your eyes at home and at work.
  • 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. Copyright: Alenq / Shutterstock.com
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.

Zika-carrying mosquito, shown close-up on human skin
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?

Miss Universe winners card
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!

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.

Watch this video on the impact of climate change on the eye.
Video: National Eye Institute, NIH

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

Watch this video by Vsauce called This Is Not Yellow.
Video: Vsauce

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!

Page updated August 20, 2018