A Closer Look At High-Tech Advances In Vision Research

With new findings demonstrating the impact of technology on vision and on vision science, researchers have shared the latest high-tech advances in research to treat, diagnose and prevent diseases causing vision loss. “These studies highlight how technology is changing the way we study, detect, diagnose and treat ocular and visual system disease,” says Claude Burgoyne, MD, and president of the Association for Research in Vision and Opthamology. “Whether it is with a cell phone or using web-based products, new technologies are impacting vision research and transforming patient care.”

Recent results indicate that using online symptom checkers may not be the best option for a patient experiencing vision issues. Only 40 percent of interpretations of vision-related symptoms entered into a popular online symptom checker gave the correct diagnosis in the top three results presented to the user. Researchers in Ontario, Canada, sought to understand the accuracy of online symptom checkers for vision by entering 42 cases into the online program. Only 26 percent of the cases presented the correct diagnosis as the top choice, and several cases that require urgent care were identified as non-urgent.

“As more patients present with self-guided research of their eye symptoms, it is important for eye care professionals to be familiar with the capabilities and limitations of popular online symptom checkers,” said Michael Nguyen of McMaster University. “As a specialty with similar common symptomatic presentations of distinct diseases, ophthalmology may represent a particularly challenging field for online symptom checkers to excel in.”

Robots As Future Doctors 
A new study shows that patients enjoyed interacting with both human and humanoid-robot assistants during standard vision testing. Twenty-two patients evaluated visual field tests under four different supervisor conditions: human, humanoid robot, computer speaker, and no supervision. No preference was identified between the human and the robot, but both were preferred over the other two options. Visual field testing takes several minutes and can be boring for both patient and operator, often resulting in minimal supervision during the test. Replacing a human operator for a robotic one may increase clinical efficiency while maintaining clinical outcomes.

“We are exploring ways that technology might improve the experience of visual field testing for both operators and patients,” added Allison M. McKendrick, MScOptom, Ph.D., of the University of Melbourne. “Low patient and operator engagement can lead to inaccurate results and a lack of desire to perform the test as often as recommended.” Researchers have developed an inexpensive and accurate instrument to monitor the condition of patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) at home. The technology may one day offer patients and clinicians a method to monitor the disease’s progression while eliminating the need for monthly visits to the clinic.

In the study, images taken by the at-homeoptical coherence tomography (OCT) were compared to higher resolution images taken by clinical devices. Researchers found that automated interpretation of the images, tracking just a small set of biological indicators, was accurate 90 percent of the time. Larger-scale testing is currently ongoing to achieve the accuracy necessary for clinical use.  “Home monitoring for retinal disorders via OCT offers huge potential for improving patient care, but cannot be done by today’s clinical devices, which are too expensive and too difficult to use,” said Claus von der Burchard, MD, of the University of Kiel.

Holographic Eye Tracking
Engineers have developed holographic eye tracking technology, paving the way toward a future device that could be worn as a pair of reading glasses to diagnose a variety of vision disorders. The advance may allow doctors to collect information on patient behavior outside of the lab. “A low-weight, wearable see-through eye tracker can be used in diagnosing and rectifying eye disorders when the patient is performing daily activities in a natural setting, such as a seven-year old reading or writing at a desk,” said Changgeng (Bruce) Liu, PhD, of the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The researchers tested their benchtop prototype on a prosthetic eye model. The eye tracking technology accurately measured movements over a range of motion. Patient behavior during a formal evaluation in a lab setting can be different than their normal behavior, leading to ambiguous results or misdiagnoses. Data collected in a patient’s everyday environment has the potential to be more accurate than that collected in a lab and less burdensome for both patients and physicians.

Using a smartphone and Google Cardboard, scientists have developed an app to enable vision screening by anyone in any setting. The technology allows patients to monitor themselves, rather than requiring a clinic visit. Nineteen patients were tested using the mobile app and a traditional visual field testing instrument. The results between the two testing methods showed good agreement. Completing the test with the mobile app took 8.6 minutes, compared to 5.7 minutes for the traditional instrument.

“Visual field testing on personal smartphones can enable vision screening in developing countries where access to expensive equipment and dedicated testing facilities is limited,” said Moshe Eizenman, Ph.D. of the University of Toronto. “This is crucial in remote areas where travel time to central testing facilities is prohibitively long or expensive.”

5 Steps to Lower Your Risk Of Eye Disease
Four eye diseases – age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and cataracts – account for most cases of adult blindness and low vision among people in developed countries. Because these eye diseases cause no pain and often have no early symptoms, they do not automatically prompt people to seek medical care. But a thorough checkup by an ophthalmologist – a physician who specializes in medical and surgical eye care – can detect them in their earliest stages. Early treatment is vital because it can slow or halt disease progression or, in the case of cataracts, restore normal vision.

A thorough eye exam can also detect other health conditions, such as stroke, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases, sexually transmitted diseases and some cancers.

Here are five simple steps to take control of your eye health today:

Get a comprehensive medical eye exam at age 40. Early signs of disease or changes in vision may begin at this age. An exam by an ophthalmologist is an opportunity to carefully examine the eye for diseases and conditions that may have no symptoms in the early stages.

Know your family history. Certain eye diseases can be inherited. If you have a close relative with macular degeneration, you have a 50 percent chance of developing this condition. A family history of glaucoma increases your glaucoma risk by four to nine times. Talk to family members about their eye conditions. It can help you and your ophthalmologist evaluate your risk.

Eat healthy foods. A diet low in fat and rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, benefits the entire body, including the eyes. Eye-healthy food choices include citrus fruits, vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains, dark green leafy vegetables and cold water fish.

Stop smoking. Smoking increases the risk for eye diseases such as cataract and age-related macular degeneration. Smoking also raises the risk for cardiovascular diseases which can indirectly influence your eye health. Tobacco smoke, including second-hand smoke, also worsens dry eye.

Wear sunglasses. Exposure to ultraviolet UV light raises the risk of eye diseases including cataract, fleshy growths on the eye and cancer. Always wear a hat and sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection while outdoors.

“An eye exam doesn’t just check how well you can see, it evaluates the overall health of your eyes,” said Rebecca J. Taylor, M.D., clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “The academy encourages everyone, particularly if you’re over age 40, to get regular eye care. By making vision a priority, we can help protect our sight as we age.”

Detecting Bad Spots In Your Vision

The ability to distinguish objects in peripheral vision varies significantly between individuals, according to research from UCL, Paris Descartes University and Dartmouth College. Some people are better at spotting things above their center of vision while others are better at spotting things off to the right.

The research, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that on average we are worse at spotting objects in crowded environments when they are above or below eye level, although the extent to which this happens varies between individuals.

“If you’re driving a truck with a high cabin and looking straight ahead, you’re less likely to notice pedestrians or cyclists at street level in your peripheral vision than if you were lower down with those same pedestrians on the left and right,” explains lead author Dr. John Greenwood, UCL Experimental Psychology. “A visually cluttered environment like a busy city road makes it even more difficult. As well as the physical blind spots on vehicles, people behind the wheel will also have different areas where their peripheral vision is better or worse.”

The study involved 12 volunteers who took part in a series of perception tests over several years. The key experiment involved focusing on a point in the center of the screen while images of clocks were shown in different parts of the visual field, either a clock alone or with two other clocks next to it. It is more difficult to tell the time on the central clock when the surrounding clocks are closer to it, as the scene is more visually “cluttered.” This is known as “visual crowding.”

Patterns Of Sensitivity

The participants’ ability to successfully identify the central clock in a cluttered scene varied significantly, with different people better at spotting it in different positions. On average, most participants were weakest with their upper peripheral vision, followed by the lower peripheral vision. There was no significant difference between left and right on average, with some volunteers better on the left and others on the right.

In the same task, participants were also asked to move their eyes to where the center of the middle clock had been once it disappeared. There was a strong correlation between the amount of disruption from clutter and the ability of individuals to make precise eye movements to those same locations.

“Everyone has their own pattern of sensitivity, with islands of poor vision and other regions of good vision,” Greenwood said. “If you’re looking for your keys, then this profile will affect your ability to find them. For example, if your keys are on a table to the left of where you’re focusing, the presence of books and papers on the table may stop you spotting the keys. Someone with strong left-sided vision could spot the keys even if they’re right next to the book, whereas someone else might not notice the keys unless they’re a foot away from the book. There is substantial variation between different people.”

These “islands” of poor vision were apparent across several tasks tested by the researchers, despite each relying on different processes in the brain. The implication is that these differences in peripheral vision could occur very early in the visual system, possibly beginning as early as the retina. It is unclear whether these differences are due to genetics or environment, but they are observed consistently over time.

Levels Of Vision

“What is striking is the consistency of the pattern from the first levels of vision up to the highest levels, processing that involves very different areas of the brain,” says senior author Professor Patrick Cavanagh, Dartmouth College. “We propose that these variations originate at the first levels of vision very early in our development where simple features like edges and colors are registered, and then are inherited by higher levels as the rest of the brain wires itself up to deal with the information being sent from the eyes. The higher levels deal with recognizing objects, faces, and actions, and directing our eyes toward areas of interest.”

Most people do not experience visual crowding in the center of their vision, unlike the periphery, however in some conditions central vision is also affected. In amblyopia – also known as “lazy eye” – the brain does not interpret visual signals from one eye properly, leading to an increase in visual crowding. In dyslexia, some research has shown that people with the condition find it easier to read words when the letter spacing is increased to reduce visual crowding. Similarly, visual crowding effects may be one of the early symptoms of Posterior Cortical Atrophy, a form of dementia that predominantly affects vision. Crowding is also a factor in macular degeneration, the most common form of blindness, where the center of the eye is affected first and so patients must rely on their peripheral vision to see.

“Our paper helps us to better understand the mechanisms that cause visual crowding and where these occur in the visual system,” Cavanagh added. “In the long term, we hope that this will help with the development of better treatment strategies for a wide range of conditions that limit the usefulness of vision for millions of people worldwide.”

Beating Dry Eye Syndrome

Symptoms of dry eye syndrome – dry, red, itchy, gritty, sore eyes – are more common among contact lens wearers. A group of Stanford University researchers explored the mechanical interactions between the eye surface, the cornea and contact lenses. The group’s goal was to create better contact lenses that maximize comfort and alleviate dry eye symptoms. When developing biomaterial-based devices that are in direct contact with cells, like contact lenses, their mechanical interaction with cells, biomaterial adhesion to cells and biocompatibility are all extremely important factors.

“Our system, a live-cell monolayer rheometer, is built on a standard inverted microscope for cell biology,” says Juho Pokki, a postdoctoral research fellow in the chemical engineering department at Stanford University. “It can simultaneously observe the cells and test cell mechanisms and adhesion.” Additionally, the group created an automated system to enable controllable experiments at the microscale. Cornea cell surfaces consist of a mechanically complex, soft material which you can think of as nature’s “smart material.” It has properties that depend on stress-strain conditions and time. Corneal cell mechanics and cell adhesion are altered for different corneal surface conditions, such as changes caused by disease, and different contact lenses.

By measuring mechanics and cellular or bacterial adhesion-related information, the group can compare biocompatible materials that are most suitable for contact lenses or for developing new biomedical devices such as prosthetic electronic skin. One of the group’s key findings was that corneal surface cells, which have adapted to protect the eye surface, are mechanically complex. “Their effective mechanical behavior is different between small and large strain conditions,” Pokki said. This behavior may be caused by changes within the cells.

In terms of applications, Pokki said, “beyond developing better contact lenses, our system can be used to screen and find optimal contact lens solutions or eye drops for people who have dry eye symptoms. This would allow people with dry eye syndrome to use contact lenses while maintaining corneal mechanics and adhesion similar to those of users without dry eye symptoms.”

Effects Of Astigmatism And Best Treatments

Wouldn’t it be stressful to drive through life with a “warped windshield”? That’s exactly how astigmatism feels. Astigmatism is an eye disorder which occurs due to the irregular curvature of the eye. It prevents light from being focused on the retina properly and blurs your vision. Astigmatism has different extents of affecting people. Medical research shows that astigmatism can be congenital or occur after an eye injury, disease or surgery.

The Two Types Of Astigmatism

Corneal Astigmatism – This is when the cornea is curved improperly. The cornea has a distorted shape that prevents light rays from getting refracted properly.

Lenticular Astigmatism – When the lens of the eye is improperly curved, it is Lenticular Astigmatism. The lens is curved imperfectly so the image reaching the retina is blurred. Lenticular Astigmatism is seen in patients with diabetes, but is reduced once you start treating diabetes.

Symptoms Of Astigmatism  

Astigmatism can be diagnosed through various eye check-ups and eye tests, but other indicators are headaches, squinting, fatigue, blurry vision, eyestrain, distorted vision and photophobia – sensitivity to light. A visual acuity test, regular eye tests and use of a Snellen Chart, Keratometer or Astigmatic dial can be used for the diagnoses.

Treatment For Astigmatism 

Eye glasses, corrective lenses or refractive surgery are a few ways through which astigmatism can be corrected. Eyeglasses and corrective lenses are the primary means of correcting blurred vision caused by astigmatism, but the best way to improve vision and correct astigmatism is through corrective surgery. There are two types of laser surgery: PRK and LASIK.

  • (PRK) or Photorefractive Keratectomy is one of the laser surgery methods to treat astigmatism. The protective layer of the cornea is removed and another laser reshapes the cornea. However, this treatment is known to be painful.
  • (LASIK) or Laser in situ keratectomy is a recently developed technology. It has been favored largely because it is less painful. The surgery involves using a laser to make an incision into the cornea and reshaping it with the help of an excimer laser.

Lesser Known Facts Of Astigmatism

Some mild types of this disorder may not affect vision but this is common in young people and women. It is congenital for some people, so the intensity may increase with age.

  • It can be treated – Most people do not experience symptoms and hardly require treatment. Prescription glasses and contact lenses are just enough to treat astigmatism in the early stages.
  • Diabetes – High blood sugar levels can affect the eye, especially the shape of the lens which helps with the focusing power of the eye. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when tiny blood vessels in the eye are blocked.
  • Rubbing can weaken your eyes – Allergies or rubbing vigorously may weaken your eyes because it can distort the shape of the cornea.
  • Eye exercises help – Our eyes are muscles and need to be kept in shape. It is important to do the “read and avert gaze” exercise every now and then. You can start by reading and then shifting your gaze to a nearby object and then get back to reading. Doing this repeatedly will strengthen your eye muscles and help you with your ability to focus.

Vision therapy, eye exercises and a healthy diet can be beneficial to treat astigmatism as well as other eyesight conditions like Myopia, Hyperopia and Presbyopia. Though there are alternate measures to curb the problem only an ophthalmologist would know best and will suggest the best possible treatment to you.

Author Bio:   

Aaron Barriga is the online marketing manager for Insight Vision Center, an Ophthalmology Center in California. With a knack for understanding medical procedures, and an interest in eye and vision health, Aaron loves to share what he knows and what he learns. He blogs to inform readers about the latest eye care technology and other topics related to eye care, especially LASIK. Aaron loves collecting coasters from the different bars and restaurants he visits during his travels.

Seasonal Dry Eye Relief Tips And Other Recent Eye Care News

It’s once again that time of year when your eyes can feel like the Sahara desert or your vision may seem blurrier than usual. It may just be seasonal dry eye.

The most common type of dry eye is evaporative dry eye – which can often be worse in the wintertime. Evaporative dry eye is caused by inflammation on the eyelids – which is called blepharitis. This can lead to a poor tear film and quicker evaporation of tears, which are the eyes’ natural moisturizer Winter can make this condition worse because the air is dry and heaters are on. Symptoms can include blurry and fluctuating vision, a gritty feeling like sand in your eyes, and even excess tearing.

Tips To Help Relieve Seasonal Dry Eye

  • Reduce reading or heavy computer use, which can worsen dry eye because you don’t blink as often.
  • Have humidifiers on in the house and office.
  • Don’t have the car heater blowing directly on your face.
  • Take omega-3 as fish or flax seed oil – 1000-1500 milligrams of DHA/EPA – to help improve the quality of the tear film.
  • Use over-the-counter artificial tears or lubricant eye drops up to four times a day.
  • Contact lenses can make dry eye worse, so minimize contact lens use if possible.

It can take six to eight weeks to notice improvement, but if the symptoms last longer than that you should see a doctor to be sure nothing else is going on and to discuss alternative forms of treatment for dry eye. “A key point is that all dry eye treatments take time to work,” says Michelle D. Patel, M.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “There aren’t any quick fixes. Each intervention can take a few months to make a significant difference and often you need a combination of treatments for relief.”

Beating Dry Eye Syndrome

Symptoms of dry eye syndrome – dry, red, itchy, gritty, sore eyes – are more common among contact lens wearers. Some relief appears to be on the horizon. A group of Stanford University researchers are exploring the mechanical interactions between the eye surface, the cornea, and contact lenses, with a goal to create better contact lenses that maximize comfort and alleviate dry eye symptoms.

When developing biomaterial-based devices that are in direct contact with cells – like contact lenses – their mechanical interaction with cells, biomaterial adhesion to cells and biocompatibility are all extremely important factors. “Our system, a live-cell monolayer rheometer, is built on a standard inverted microscope for cell biology,” says Juho Pokki, a postdoctoral research fellow in the chemical engineering department at Stanford University. “It can simultaneously observe the cells and test cell mechanisms and adhesion.”

The group also created an automated system to enable controllable experiments at the microscale. Cornea cell surfaces consist of a mechanically complex, soft material which you can think of as nature’s “smart material.” “It has properties that depend on stress-strain conditions and time,” Pokki says. “Corneal cell mechanics and cell adhesion are altered for different corneal surface conditions, such as changes caused by disease, and different contact lenses.”

By measuring mechanics and cellular or bacterial adhesion-related information, the group can compare biocompatible materials that are most suitable for contact lenses or for developing new biomedical devices such as prosthetic electronic skin. To date, one of the group’s key findings is that corneal surface cells, which have adapted to protect the eye surface, are mechanically complex.

“Their effective mechanical behavior is different between small and large strain conditions,” Pokki said. This behavior may be caused by changes within the cells, which the group plans to study in the future. “In terms of applications,” Pokki added, “beyond developing better contact lenses, our system can be used to screen and find optimal contact lens solutions or eye drops for people who have dry eye symptoms. This would allow people with dry eye syndrome to use contact lenses while maintaining corneal mechanics and adhesion similar to those of users without dry eye symptoms.”

A New Kind Of Eye Dropper

A new kind of eyedropper can deliver tiny droplets of medication to treat the eye more precisely than traditional eyedroppers while reducing waste and avoiding dangerous side effects, says the American Academy of Ophthalmology. This technology may prove to be especially advantageous in the treatment of dry eye and glaucoma, for which patients require daily use of medicated eye drops that can cost hundreds of dollars for a bottle that lasts only a month.

Researchers at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai showed that a microdose delivery system achieved a treatment effect comparable to a conventional eyedropper, while delivering less than four times the amount of drug. Microdosing also reduced the eye’s exposure to the drug and preservative by 75 to 80 percent.  Patients experienced reduced side effects, leading to a gentler treatment.

Delivering drugs in very small, precise dosage volumes not only avoids spillage, it can also decrease tearing and blinking, thereby limiting dilution of the medication. The hand-held system evaluated in the study could deliver precise, single-digit microliter doses of medication to the eye’s surface within 80 milliseconds, quicker than the blink of an eye.

While glaucoma treatment preserves sight by reducing pressure inside the eye, it can also cause painful, irritating side effects for patients. A conventional eyedropper’s opening creates a drop that’s four to five times larger in volume than the human eye can actually hold. When drops are too big, the overflow runs down the face or drains into the body through the ducts in the corner of the eye.

Oversized eye drops don’t just waste medication, they overdose the eye with medication and toxic preservatives that cause side effects, such as redness, itching, irritation, and dry eye. Some topical medications can cause the heart to beat too fast, too slow, or irregularly when too much is absorbed into the body.

Testing The System

To test the safety and effectiveness of microdosing, the researchers delivered a common drug ophthalmologists use to dilate the pupil and examine the back of the eye. Microdosing was used to treat one group of patients, while a conventional eye dropper was used to deliver the drug to another group.

They found that high-precision microdosing dilated the pupil as well as the conventional eye dropper method. At the same time, microdosed patients showed lower levels of the drug in their bloodstream. They also experienced a significantly lower rate of side effects – eight percent compared with 66 percent for patients treated with conventional eye drops.

“We believe that we have developed a viable 21st-century microdosing technology to transform the 100-year old eyedropper paradigm with modern, high-precision smart technology,” said lead researcher, Tsontcho Lanchulev, M.D. MPH, professor of ophthalmology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and director of the Ophthalmic Innovation Technology Program at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai Hospital.

Lanchulev expects additional clinical trials to begin within the next 12 months to further evaluate the technology for treating patients with glaucoma, as well as for pupil dilation. He believes the first micro-therapeutic formulations could be available for consumers by 2020. Lanchulev added that the microdosing approach could eventually be used to treat a wide variety of eye diseases and conditions, such as dry eye, allergic eye disease, and infections. He also believes that the smart electronics of the platform will be used for digital health applications, such as compliance monitoring by both patients and physicians.

Ask More Questions For Better Eye Care

Compare a patient’s self-reported eye symptoms to their electronic medical record and clear discrepancies can be seen. A study from the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center revealed wide disparities in the content of pre-appointment patient questionnaires and what a clinician wrote down to document the visit. The study, published in JAMA Ophthalmology, analyzed the symptoms of 162 Kellogg patients. Each completed a 10-point survey while waiting to see a physician; questions came from sources including the National Institutes of Health Toolbox.

“We found pretty noticeable differences between the two,” says Maria Woodward, M.D., M.S., an assistant professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at U-M. “I think certainly the biggest takeaway is when people are presented things in different ways, they tell you different things.”

The doctors treating these patients weren’t told about the surveys, or that their record-keeping would be reviewed for comparison. The contrast was stark: Of the study’s group, “exact agreement” between an individual’s survey and what appeared on their medical record occurred in only 38 patients.

A Need For Focus

Symptom reporting drove the inconsistencies between surveys and medical records, the study found. The top discordant issue: glare. Of patients reporting concern about glare on their surveys, 91 percent didn’t have it on their medical record.

Eye redness was second-most common – 80 percent had no medical record mention – followed by eye pain – 74.4 percent. Blurry vision was the only symptom to tilt the scales with more instances of inclusion in medical records than in questionnaires.

As a result, other doctors treating the same patient in future visits could have an incomplete picture of their symptoms. Perhaps more risky, because digital medical records are increasingly used to guide clinical practice or research, the collective data may be shortsighted or misleading in some scenarios. “Many parties in health care use the electronic health records now and they expect the data to accurately reflect the interaction with the doctor,” Woodward said.

Explanations for the medical record/doctor-patient disconnect are understandable, with neither party at fault. The doctor-patient relationship is more nuanced than what is reflected in the medical record. A patient might not choose to mention all of their symptoms. Doctor dialogue may follow a conversational path versus a point-by-point checklist.

Time constraints of record keeping in the electronic chart can also be an issue. And not every detail of a given appointment — particularly minor concerns — is necessarily worth documenting. “The concern highlighted by this research is that important symptoms may be overlooked,” Woodward added. “If a patient has severe symptoms, all of those symptoms should be documented and addressed.”

Gaining Greater Clarity

The study highlights an opportunity to improve lines of communication between patients and doctors. For example, implementing pre-appointment eye symptom questionnaires similar to those in the study could prove simple and effective. A similar pilot program is underway in Woodward’s clinic. “This is definitely a pathway I see as very feasible to resolving this disconnect in the near future; the infrastructure is already there,” she says.

The concept also could help bring more clarity to what ends up on a patient’s medical record. Because the surveys Woodward and her team used asked participants to assess their conditions’ severity on a numeric scale, results could help practitioners better evaluate the depth of a patient’s symptoms — and even identify concerns that might have gone unnoticed.

The use of a self-report system before seeing the doctor could really change the conversation between the doctor and the patient. Rather than spending time identifying symptoms, doctors and patients could be talking about how to manage severe symptoms.

Are Doctors Treating Pink Eye Incorrectly?

A recent study regarding the effectiveness of the common recommendation an individual receives for acute conjunctivitis, otherwise known as pink eye, says doctors may be getting it wrong. Over 60 percent of patients are prescribed antibiotic eye drops, but research shows that antibiotics aren’t necessarily effective in properly treating this type of eye infection. Another 20 percent receive a type of antibiotic eye drop that also contains steroid which often makes the infection worse.

The study was published in the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, which really dissected the use of antibiotics as a way to treat pink eye in the United States. It was shown that all this type of treatment protocol does is promote antibiotic resistance while also increasing overall costs to patients. The study identified those who had filled specific prescriptions for eye drops after being diagnosed with acute conjunctivitis. The 20 percent that received the antibiotic eye drops that also contain a steroid often found their symptoms prolonged or worsened because steroids shouldn’t typically be used for that type of infection.

What was even more unsettling was that the odds of whether or not the prescription was filled depended heavily on the patient’s socioeconomic status instead of their risk for developing additional eye infections. This is the case with those who wear contact lenses and those who have been diagnosed with chronic conditions such as HIV/AIDS.

The Right Diagnosis

Pink eye is incredibly common. So much so that over six million people in the United States suffer from it per year. There are typically three types that are seen most regularly: allergic conjunctivitis, viral and bacterial.

The study found that acute conjunctivitis is often diagnosed improperly by the wrong type of medical professionals. Over 83 percent of urgent care providers, family physicians and pediatricians made the diagnosis instead of trained optometrists or ophthalmologists. It also needs to be noted that patients diagnosed by those outside of the specialty prescribe antibiotic eye drops two or three times more than an ophthalmologist

Patients who did fill their antibiotic prescriptions tended to be white, younger, wealthier and better educated. This highlights the systemic and prevalent bias that the medical industry is complicit in allowing – along with most other industries in this society.

One researcher explains: “This study opens the lid on overprescribing of antibiotics for a common eye infection. It shows that current treatment decisions for pink eye are not based on evidence, but are often driven more by the type of health care practitioner making the diagnosis and the patient’s socioeconomic status than by medical reasons. The potential negative consequences are difficult to justify as we move toward focusing on value in health care.”

This is also incredibly inefficient on top of being shameful. But many people who have frequented the doctor’s office for various illnesses and ailments know that sometimes the doctor is really only guessing when it comes to what they think the diagnosis is and what they advise you to take for it. Antibiotics as a whole are overprescribed, and because of this, certain strains of bacteria are performing mutations and becoming stronger than the antibiotics themselves. When dealing with prescription medication, even if it’s just eye drops or ointment, getting the proper item for your specific needs is crucial.

 

The Need To Understand Glaucoma

The eyes are not simply just the windows to our soul. In fact, the eyes are one of the foremost senses that we rely on in our day-to-day lives. Many people often take sight and seeing for granted, but for those who have impaired vision, from an accident or age-related issues, understanding the complexities of compromised eyesight is imperative to then being able to properly treat and combat it. Glaucoma is considered the second leading cause of blindness for those over the age of 40. More than 2.5 million Americans suffer from some form of the eye disease. This makes it incredibly pervasive and it’s only climbing higher as time goes on. That number is expected to more than double in 30 years.

Who Can Get Glaucoma?

There is ongoing research that has been done in regards to better understanding this condition and effective ways to prevent it from occurring. A very interesting tidbit of information regarding it is that anyone can actually develop glaucoma. Though there are certain people who may be more genetically predisposed to the condition, it can show up in anyone. Even younger individuals, such as children and babies, may develop the early onset of this condition which can have terrible effects and consequences on eyesight. Familial and genetic makeup does contribute to this specific condition in many ways. It has been found that people over the age of 60, especially those of Mexican-American descent, have a higher probability of suffering from glaucoma.

Comprehensive Eye Exam

The most effective way to catch the presence of glaucoma, in order to treat it quickly, is by getting a comprehensive dilated eye exam. One of the most beneficial methods of treatment and prevention starts when detection is made early. Eyesight can be saved and restored by taking this simple and relatively quick eye exam. The trained eye care professional will use a special tool that examines the very back of the eye. This magnifying lens will show any type of nerve damage or irregularity that may exist in the back of the eye where issues typically occur first.

Preventative Treatment Important

Simply waiting for symptoms is a bad idea. Because of how quickly glaucoma can spread and become unmanageable, preventative treatment is better than reactive treatment. This is how lack of awareness can really be costly in the end. For those who have a history of glaucoma in their family or have dealt with similar eye issues in the past, making it a point to be examined at least yearly is necessary. When glaucoma isn’t properly treated, eyesight begins to diminish. It is the peripheral eyesight that typically diminishes first. Seeing things out of the corner of the eye becomes more difficult. Over a period of time, even central vision can be negatively affected.

Nerve Cell Damage

The optic nerve is the compromised entity in the face of glaucoma. It exists in the very back of the eye and helps to carry specific peripheral visuals to the brain. When that optic nerve is damaged, its range of motion than becomes compromised. When the nerve cells become under attack from the presence of glaucoma, the flow of visual data is disrupted and can often be short circuited. Once this damage is done it cannot be reversed. Specific studies have been researching ways to protect eye cells from this nerve damage.