Health Blog - All About Eyes

The Gift of Sight: Eye Donation

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November marks the inaugural Eye Donation Month!

Organ donation after death can include the gift of sight: eye donation. Last year, according to the Eye Bank Association of America, over 84,000 corneas were donated. The very first cornea transplant was performed in 1905, and since 1961, over 1.7 million transplants have been done.

Corneal Transplant (with stitches) courtesy of National Eye InstituteUnlike other human organs, cornea transplants have a 95 percent success rate. This success is due in part, to the fact that there doesn’t need to be an “exact match” in race, blood type, or even eye color for the cornea — the transparent cover over the iris and pupil — to be attached.

Additionally, unlike other organs like the heart, lungs, or kidneys, corneas can be transplanted up to 3-5 days after the passing of the donor, so they remain viable for longer periods of time.

Anyone can sign up in advance to have their eyes donated upon death at organdonor.gov which is operated by the United States Department of Health and Human Services or the Eye Bank Association of America. The whole eye can be donated; however, only the cornea can be transplanted. The sclera tissue (white part of the eye) can be used to rebuild the eye of donor recipients. The remainder of the eye itself can be used for research into treatment and cures for future generations.


Benefits of Daily Disposable Contact Lenses

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When faced with how best to correct vision issues, your main options are wearing glasses or contact lenses (surgery is physically invasive and costly). While the variety of glasses are primarily fashion-oriented or purposed-oriented (i.e., sports, sunglasses, etc.), contact lens options tend to be time-oriented, as in, how long you can wear them before changing them out and cleaning them.

The American Optometric Association identifies five different types of contact lenses:

  • Rigid gas-permeable (RGP): Made of slightly flexible plastic that allows oxygen to pass through to the eyes. Corrects most vision problems but debris can sometimes get under the lenses, causing infection or injury.
  • Daily wear soft: Made of soft, flexible plastic that also allows oxygen to pass through to the eyes. Available in lenses that do not need to be cleaned (disposable). They don’t correct all vision issues, however.
  • Extended-wear: Available for overnight wear in soft or RGP lenses. Can be worn up to seven days without removal. May cause infection.
  • Extended-wear disposable: Soft lenses worn for extended periods of time (usually one to six days), then discarded. May cause infection.
  • Planned replacement: Soft daily wear lenses replaced on a planned schedule, most often either every two weeks, monthly, or quarterly. 
CDC - How to wear contact lenses

CDC – Contact Lenses

“Daily disposable contacts are healthier/better for your eyes than the two-week or monthly lenses,” says Dr. Cheryl Roell, optometrist and co-owner of All About Eyes. “We try to prescribe dailies for everyone, but especially all the kids/teens in our practice, for the health benefit as well as the ease of care. There is a higher percentage of eye infections and irritations with longer-wear contacts.”

Eye infection, known as keratitis, is an inflammation of the cornea (the clear dome that covers the colored part of the eye), notes the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on their website. Keratitis happens when contact lens wearers don’t clean their lenses as instructed and germs get on the lenses — and are then transferred onto the cornea — causing the infection.

Disposed of after each use, daily wear contact lenses reduce the chances of infection. Note that disposable lenses should be thrown away in the trash, not flushed down the toilet or washed down the sink, as that causes environmental problems.

Other benefits to wearing daily wear contact lenses include feeling better about your appearance, they’re excellent for participating in sporting activities, and they don’t fog up in sudden temperature changes or get smudged. And because the lenses move with your eyes, side vision tends to improve, and there aren’t any frames getting in the way of your vision. In other words, they offer a more natural vision experience to wearing glasses.

If you are interested in trying out daily wear contact lenses, please contact either Dr. Cheryl or Dr. David Roell for an appointment to learn more about this option.

 


Disposing of the Disposable Contact Lens

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When Leonardo da Vinci first sketched out the concept of a glass lens to correct vision that would cover the eye in 1508, it is unlikely that even he could have visualized the impact that the disposing of disposable contact lenses would have on the environment over 500 years later. Now that over 45 million wearers in the United States alone are using them, researchers at Arizona State University have begun investigating how wearers are disposing of their lenses.

Contact Lens Evolution
Contact lens being inserted onto eyeball.

Photo by CDC

At first, contact lenses were crafted out of glass and covered the entire eye. The heavy, thick lenses, fashioned in Germany in the late 1880s*, could only be worn for a few hours at a time. Contact lenses evolved from there in 1936, when New York optician William Feinbloom used a combination of glass and hard plastic to construct a more wearable lens. A dozen years later, the lenses switched to all hard plastic until the next evolution came in 1971 when Bausch and Lomb developed soft plastic lenses.

The first disposable lens became available in the United States in 1987, but lenses didn’t become truly disposable as we know them today, until 1995, when one-use lenses were introduced into the market.

Contact Lens Pollution

With millions of users tossing out their soft plastic lenses every day, Arizona State University researchers set out to discover where those lenses end up in the ecosystem in the first-ever study of its kind this year. According to the researchers, they “found that 15 to 20 percent of contact-lens wearers are flushing the lenses down the sink or toilet. This is a pretty large number, considering about 45 million people in the United States alone wear contact lenses, amounting to 1.8-3.36 billion lenses flushed per year, or about 20-23 metric tons of wastewater-borne plastics annually.”

The study goes on to explain that once put down the drain, lenses are then conveyed to wastewater-treatment plants, which then fragment them into microplastics that accumulate in sewage sludge. Researchers noted for that for every two pounds of sludge, a pair of contact lenses can be found.

The short-term solution: throw away your lenses in the trash. Researchers hope that with enough education and awareness paid to this issue, that in the long-term, manufacturers will develop a lens that will biodegrade on its own.

*For a complete history of the contact lens, check out Eye Topics.


Seeing Signs: Teen Driving

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Photo of a blurry stop sign.The beginning of the new school year for high schoolers often means the start of driver’s education courses and getting permits for most teenagers. While most kids focus on passing the written portion exam for their permit, there’s another, equally important exam to pass: the vision test. As part of the permitting process, eye exams are given at the state’s motor vehicle facility to ensure that peripheral (side) and distance vision are up to the task of driving.

It can also be a time when teens and their parents first learn about myopia, or “nearsightedness.”

As children grow into their teenage years, their eyes grow as well, and this can change the shape of the eye. This, according to the Mayo Clinic, causes light rays to bend (refract) incorrectly, focusing images in front of your retina instead of on your retina. Thus, making objects farther away, blurry. Objects like road signs and license plates in the car ahead.

Nearsightedness is a rapidly growing concern in the United States. From 1972 to 2004, myopia in people ages 12-54 increased from just 25 percent of the population to nearly 42 percent, according to the National Eye Institute. Why? Computers and hand-held devices are the culprits. The Nielsen Report, which monitors media usage, says that Americans are now spending upwards of 11 hours a day on their devices, up from 10 hours a day last year. All this time spent on computers and smartphones is causing problems for people in their distance vision.

Myopia, for some people, can be associated with other eye disorders like cataracts, glaucoma, and retinal detachment. Signs of the condition include squinting, eye strain, headaches, and feeling tired when driving. Nearsightedness can be corrected with prescription eyeglasses, contact lenses, and in some cases, refractive surgery.

Schedule a comprehensive eye exam today!


Effects of Smoking on the Eyes

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smoking-infographic-580x2218Smoking. It’s not just bad for your lungs, heart, and pretty much every organ in your body according to the Centers for Disease Control, but it’s detrimental for your eyes, too. In addition to increased risks of heart and lung cancer, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, smoking can dramatically increase your chances of vision loss as you age.

Eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) skyrocket by 25 percent for smokers. And it doesn’t end there: nonsmokers will double their risk of getting AMD just by living with a smoker and being exposed to second-hand smoke. AMD is an incurable vision disease that attacks the center part of the retina causing a dark spot in the center of your field of vision. Cataracts, a white, cloudy film that forms over the lens, are two times more likely to develop in a heavy smoker (15 or more cigarettes a day) than to a nonsmoker.

Smokers are twice as prone to uveitis (an inflammation of the iris area of the eye) and dry eye syndrome (where there aren’t enough tears to lubricate the eye).

And if all that wasn’t bad enough, the risk of developing diabetes is 30–40 percent higher for smokers, which can trigger eye diseases like glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.

Traditional cigarettes are not the only cause for concern amongst smokers either. According to Vaping Daily, an online trade magazine covering the latest trends in e-cigarettes (smoking e-liquids via an electronic cigarette), the vapor clouds that are created in exhalation are being studied for their effects on vision as well.

To increase your chances of slowing down or halting the onset of these diseases the solution is simple: stop smoking and limit your exposure to people who do in your environment.


National Sunglasses Day is Here!

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Get Your Sunnies On! National Sunglasses Day

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National Sunglasses Day will be on Wednesday, June 27, and it is a perfect day to celebrate protecting your vision with your sunglasses!

Why Sunglasses?

Sunglasses — not just any sunglasses but specifically those with Ultra Violet (UV) protection — can help to protect your eyes against sunburn (yes, your eyes can get sunburnt), pterygium (abnormal growths on your eyes), potential cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and squamous cell carcinoma (cancer).

What Are Symptoms of Sun Damage?

If you have been outside without sunglasses for a prolonged period of time or around highly reflective surfaces like lakes, the ocean, sand, or snow, you may find that your eyes are affected. The cornea, the outer layer of the eyeball, is like the top layer of skin on your body and can get sunburnt just as easily.

How do you know if your eyes are sunburnt? If you find they are red, swollen, and/or you have blurry vision and light sensitivity, your cornea may have been sunburnt. This is called photokeratitis. Your eyes may water and you may feel like you’ve got sand or grit in them. See your eye-care practitioner for eye drops and stay in a darkened room for at least a day to allow your eyes time to heal. The cornea will usually heal quickly.

How to Protect Your Eyes

IMG_2525It’s easy to protect your eyes, and stylish, too! All About Eyes has a variety of sunglasses to choose from and they are all UV protected.

And it’s okay to go all “Hollywood” and wear your sunglasses on cloudy days, as the sun’s UV rays are present then, too.

Join the fun, share your #SunglassesSelfie on #NationalSunglassesDay and wear your sunnies!


Eyelid Cancers – Shade Your Eyes in Summer!

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SunWith the summer months stretching out before us, there will be plenty of opportunities to be outside. And that means exposure to the sun will increase along with those opportunities. Most people think to apply suncream to protect their skin but they don’t always think about protecting their eyelids from the sun. The eyelid area, according to SkinCancer.org is where up to 10 percent of all skin cancers happen. Most of those, 90 percent, are basal cell carcinomas (benign), just over 5 percent are squamous cell carcinomas, and 1-2 percent are malignant melanomas.

Symptoms

Since most of the tumors grow undetected at first, there are several things to look for — and note that most eyelid cancers happen on the lower lid:

  • Change in appearance
  • Bleeding lump or bump
  • Swelling
  • Sudden loss of eyelashes
  • Chronic infection that doesn’t respond to treatment
  • Wound that won’t heal
  • Spreading, colored mass
  • Flat, irregularly shaped, pigmented lesions

 

Treatment

Once a biopsy has been performed (where they remove a portion of the affected area to test it) and cancer has been diagnosed, a team of doctors will help you. The team usually consists of an ophthalmologist, dermatologist, surgeon, radiation oncologist and/or a medical oncologist.

Surgery can remove the cancerous tissue. In some severe cases, the eye will need to be removed and a prosthetic added, and radiation/chemotherapy treatment may be necessary to prevent cancer from causing tissue damage or spreading to the nasal and orbital cavities behind the eyes.

Prevention

Sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection, along with a wide-brimmed hat will go a long way toward preventing eyelid cancers. There is also suncream available for the eyelid with an SPF15 that can help, too. As always, regular comprehensive eye exams with your eye-care professional can help to detect cancers early, leading to faster treatment.

Next month celebrates #NationalSunglassesDay and All About Eyes has a wide-array of sunglasses to choose from! Come see us to get a head-start on prevention!


Life After Enucleation Surgery: Prosthetic Eyes

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Losing an eye, whether due to an injury, birth defect, or diseases — such as end-stage glaucoma, diabetes, or cancers like retinoblastoma and choroidal melanoma — can be an emotionally and physically traumatic experience. But all hope is not lost. While vision itself cannot be restored in the affected eye, appearance can be, and for most, this is an important aspect of restoring self-esteem.

After the enucleation surgery has been performed to remove the affected eye from the socket, usually keeping the muscles and bone structure intact, a temporary prosthesis is inserted to allow the patient time to heal. A specialist known as an ocularist makes a custom designed artificial eye and can expertly match iris colors to the remaining eye and form the eye shape to the existing socket. Once the inserted, the muscles and blood vessels can conform to the new prosthetic, allowing for both eyes to track objects simultaneously. The result is a restored appearance.

The prosthetic must be checked yearly and polished to maintain it. As age, weight, and movement all affect the eye socket over time, adjustments will need to be made to the artificial eye to keep it in good shape and in good condition. For people who are blind, ocular prosthetics are available. These are similar to contact lenses and are called scleral covers.

Prosthetic EyeProsthetic eyes have been around for a long, long time and, thankfully, have come a long way! The ancient Roman and Egyptian priests in the fifth century B.C. were known to have crafted painted clay eyes attached to cloth that were then worn on the outside of the eye socket. Fast forward several centuries later, and you’ll find the first in-socket artificial eyes made out of gold and colored with enamel. Venetians in the 16th century started making glass eyes and dominated that market until the 18th century, when the Germans perfected the technique. In the United States, glass eyes were made starting in the 19th century but stopped during World War II, as the glass was being imported from Germany, and developed plastic polymers instead. Today, prosthetic eyes are largely crafted from acrylic or silicone polymers as well as glass. With the advent of 3-D printing capabilities, there is hope that prosthetic eyes might one day be able to incorporate Wi-Fi signals and transmit visuals to the wearer.

For more information, visit the websites of the American Society of Ocularists so and the National Eye Institute.


Are Those Stars in Your Eyes? Or is it VIIP?

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Image of stars.

NASA

Space travel, it’s the future. We’ve been hearing about it for decades. But with NASA’s commitment to a mission to Mars by 2030, Elon Musk’s Space X company single-handedly reigniting the excitement of building better rockets, and the International Space Station (ISS) orbiting Earth for nearly 18 years, life among the stars appears to be humanity’s destiny. But before we jump into our spaceships and don our space suits, there are some down-to-Earth, practical matters to attend to: vision issues.

It all started in 2005 when astronaut John Phillips noticed something when he looked down at planet Earth from the space station: it was blurry. Astronauts are expected to have 20/20 vision, so suddenly developing vision problems was, well, a problem. It’s not like you can schedule a visit to your eye doctor three months into your mission to Mars!

NASA Twins

Mike (left) and Scott Kelly. NASA Astronauts.

Years later, and now with 80 percent of long-duration mission astronauts reporting nearsightedness during and after their missions, NASA has been studying what’s happening up in space and has identified the condition as Vision Impairment and Intracranial Pressure (VIIP). In fact, the vision study is one of ten studies commissioned by NASA in their Twin Study this past year. In this study, identical twin brothers Scott and Mike Kelly are being observed for the biological effects of long-duration missions. Scott Kelly was in the ISS for 340 days while his brother Mike remained on Earth.

While the study on the effect on eyes hasn’t been completed yet, preliminary results are that being in a zero-gravity environment does affect the structure of the eyes. On Earth, we have gravity, which pulls our fluids down toward our feet. In space, there is no gravity, so those fluids can remain in the brain, putting pressure on the eyes and flattening the back of them out, causing nearsightedness. This study will help scientists plan for future space travel.


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