October is Blindness Awareness Month

October is Blindness Awareness Month

Story Credit: Rich Shea, Foundation Fighting Blindness

Back in the 1970s and ’80s, when the Foundation Fighting Blindness was in its formative years, blind people on TV and in movies usually fit the stereotype — dark glasses, a cane, stumbling along the sidewalk. While that one-dimensional portrayal is no longer politically correct, there are still many misconceptions about people who are blind and visually impaired, including just how many there are.

Throughout October, which is Blind Awareness Month, FFB hopes to help put those misconceptions to rest. For instance, worldwide there are 285 million people who are visually impaired, 39 million of whom are completely blind. In fact, the vast majority of the 10 million Americans who have retinal diseases — those affecting the ultra-thin tissue at the back of the eye — have at least some vision. Only it’s progressively getting worse — for some quickly, for others gradually. Some are losing peripheral and night vision, others central vision.

Which is the whole point of Blindness Awareness Month — those affected are individuals, with their own lives, dreams and hopes.

DID YOU KNOW:

  • Worldwide there are 285 million people who are visually impaired, 39 million of whom are completely blind.
  • Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide.
  • Blindness or low vision affects 3.3 million Americans age 40 and over. This figure is projected to reach 5.5 million by the year 2020.

For Additional Information: Visit American Federation of the Blind and Foundation Fighting Blindness.

 

September is National Guide Dog Month

September is National Guide Dog Month

Story Credit: Natural Balance

National Guide Dog Month is a celebration of guide dogs throughout North America. Guide Dog Month was first inspired by U.S. pet food manufacturer Natural Balance’s co-founder, Dick Van Patten, who was impressed by the intelligence and training of guide dogs. During a visit to a local guide dog school, he was blindfolded and experienced how guide dogs provide mobility and assistance to visually impaired and blind people. After learning about the costs, dedication and commitment to raise and train a guide dog, he was inspired to help raise awareness and support the cause.

Van Patten served as an honorary Board Member for the Guide Dogs of the Desert. Through his pet food company Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance Pet Foods, he has underwritten all costs for the promotion of National Guide Dog Month to ensure that all money raised would directly benefit non-profit, accredited guide dog schools in the United States.

In 2008, Van Patten enlisted the support of the Petco Foundation, to organize a fundraising campaign through their retail stores. The San Diego based retailer piloted the first guide dog fundraiser in the Southern California area to benefit the Guide Dogs of the Desert, based in Palm Springs, California. In 2009 National Guide Dog Month was established to benefit the non-profit guide dogs schools accredited by the International Guide Dog Federation.

In 2009, National Guide Dog Month was established for the month of May, however in 2010, it was moved to September due to conflicts with other national fundraising drives.

 

A Lasting Impact

To celebrate National Guide Dog month in 2016, Natural Balance partnered with Guide Dogs for the Blind. Since 1942, Guide Dogs for the Blind has empowered lives by creating exceptional partnerships between people, dogs and communities.

  • Largest Guide Dog school in the country.
  • Dedicated to providing high quality student training services and extensive follow-up support for graduates. 
  • Services are provided to students from the United States and Canada at no cost to them.
  • Operate two training facilities in San Rafael, CA and Boring, OR.
  • More than 2,000 volunteer puppy raisers throughout the Western states.
  • More than 14,000 teams have graduated since their founding.
  • Approximately 2,200 active guide dog teams are currently in the field.

 

 

Ashleigh & Yuri 

Visually impaired since birth, Ashleigh used a cane to get around for years—but found that it became increasingly difficult to be mobile during the wintertime due to dangerous patches of ice on the pavement. These harsh winter conditions—combined with encouragement from her family—got her to consider the possibility of a guide dog.

Ashleigh grew up terrified of dogs, but as she began researching Guide Dogs for the Blind, she felt that their positive reinforcement philosophy matched her personal beliefs and values. So she took a leap of faith. When Yuri—a Guide Dogs for the Blind-trained yellow Lab—first walked into her life, Ashleigh remembers he was so excited that he couldn’t stop sneezing. Now, over two years later, they’re so connected that she can’t imagine life without him.

“Being paired with Yuri has changed my life in so many ways. In addition to being my eyes, keeping me safe, and giving me independence, he has also become my best friend—and is constantly by my side,” says Ashleigh. Without Yuri, Ashleigh may have never developed the confidence and independence needed to fulfill her dream of living and working in New York City. She is now able to navigate the city’s fast-paced subway system every day, feeling fully safe and cared for.

 

Melissa & Camry

Being diagnosed with juvenile arthritis at age three, Melissa was at risk of losing her eyesight from a very young age. In the coming years, she slowly began to realize the impact that this diagnosis would have on her. As Melissa had to sit closer and closer to the whiteboard in her college courses and could no longer see her friends waving to her across campus, things began to take a turn. As her vision continued to deteriorate, her doctor told her: “Melissa, you need to face the facts, you’re going blind.” She was just 27 years old.

The hardest step after hearing this shocking news was accepting the use of a cane to help Melissa get around. When she finally accepted her new reality, Melissa was ready for the chance to bring her old self back—and her first step was to apply to Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Now on her third guide dog—a beautiful black labrador named Camry—Melissa is an entirely different person. She says that with Camry, her “invisibility clock has been lifted.” Her independence and mobility have been enhanced, and new-found freedom shines through her countless adventures with Camry. The two have traveled to three continents, including North America, Europe, and Asia. Even more importantly, through the highest of highs and lowest of lows, Camry is always by Melissa’s side. From navigating through the chaotic streets of Los Angeles to dodging skateboarders, Camry and Melissa tackle each new obstacle like professionals. Together, the two are ready to conquer the world.

 

Michelle & Oscar 

Born with glaucoma, Michelle spent a big part of her young life unable to navigate the world around her. Later, when Michelle became more mobile, it came with its fair share of bumps and bruises. Lacking depth perception, she lived in a constant state of discomfort and found it increasingly difficult to get around.

Around the same time that she started her undergraduate degree in psychology, Michelle made the split second decision to apply for Guide Dogs for the Blind program, and she has never looked back. From the get go, Michelle knew that the program had done a marvelous job in matching her with her beautiful golden guide dog Oscar—they immediately fell into step with each other, and within two months knew they had a lifelong partnership.

Even more surprising was the sheer number of people who approached Michelle on the first day of the new semester. The questions on everyone’s lips were: “Who is your furry friend?”, “Where can I get one?”, and of course “Can I pet him?” With this positive attention, the pair was able to walk with confidence everyday—whether it be on a small grocery shopping trip or a longer trip to visit Michelle’s sister in Los Angeles. Together, the two tackle intense psychology and jiu jitsu classes, but always leave room for playtime. Michelle and Oscar are primed to tackle deadlines and take the mental health field by storm.

 

Tom & Dynamo 

After months of seeing Tom come home from his daily walks with strange bruises, his wife decided to apply to Guide Dogs for the Blind on his behalf. Before he knew it, Tom was headed to San Rafael, California to meet his future soulmate—Dynamo, a professional guide dog. “I’ve had four great gifts in my life: my wife, my two kids, and Dynamo,” says Tom. A superhero guide dog and a superhuman athlete, Dynamo and Tom spent their days training and securing their bond for two intensive weeks. They have never looked back.

With Dynamo never more than 20 feet away, Tom can listen to the birds sing and feel the wind in his hair without worrying about his safety. The added mental calm that Dynamo gives Tom, and the support and positive reinforcement that Tom gives Dynamo, have helped the two complete a half-marathon together, raising $6,000 for charity. With no signs of slowing down, the two are now planning to hike up Mount Rainier and travel the country— speaking as ambassadors for Guide Dogs for the Blind.


For Additional Information: Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance Pet Foods, has underwritten all costs for the promotion of National Guide Dog Month to ensure that all money raised would directly benefit non-profit, accredited guide dog schools in the United States. Visit them here: Natural Balance Pet Foods

 

April is National Sports Eye Safety Month

April 2017 is National Sports Eye Safety Month

from Eye Health in Sports and Recreation written by David Turbert, reviewed by Brenda Pagan-Duran MD – American Academy of Ophthalmology

Tens of thousands of sports and recreation-related eye injuries occur each year. The good news is that 90 percent of serious eye injuries are preventable through use of appropriate protective eyewear.

The risk of eye injury can vary depending on the activity. Make sure the level of eye protection you or others in your family use is appropriate for the type of activity. Regular eyeglasses do not offer proper eye protection.

 

High-Risk Sports

For all age groups, sports-related eye injuries occur most frequently in baseball, basketball and racquet sports.

Boxing and full-contact martial arts pose an extremely high risk of serious and even blinding eye injuries. There is no satisfactory eye protection for boxing, although thumbless gloves may reduce the number of boxing eye injuries.

In baseball, ice hockey and men’s lacrosse, a helmet with a polycarbonate (an especially strong, shatterproof, lightweight plastic) face mask or wire shield should be worn at all times. It is important that hockey face masks be approved by the Hockey Equipment Certification Council or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA).

Protective eyewear with polycarbonate lenses should be worn for sports such as basketball, racquet sports, soccer and field hockey. Choose eye protectors that have been tested to meet the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards or that pass the CSA racquet sports standard. See the EyeSmart Protective Eyewear page for additional details.

If you already have reduced vision in one eye, consider the risks of injuring the stronger eye before participating in contact or racquet sports, which pose a higher risk of eye injury. Check with your ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) to see if appropriate eye protection is available and whether or not participating in contact or racquet sports is advised.

 

Other Risky Leisure Activities

While sports account for a particularly high number of eye injuries, they are by no means the only hobby that poses a risk to your sight. According to physicians surveyed for the 2008 Eye Injury Snapshot conducted by the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Ocular Trauma, more than 40 percent of patients treated for eye injuries sustained at home were involved in home repairs, yard work, cleaning and cooking. Use common sense and err on the side of caution, whatever the activity.

  • Consider the risk of flying debris or other objects during activities and wear appropriate eye protection.
  • Remember that eyeglasses aren’t sufficient protection.
  • Be careful during activities or games involving projectiles and other sharp objects that could create injury if in contact with the eye. For example, the U.S. Eye Injury Registry indicates that fishing is the number one cause of sports-related eye injuries.
  • If you wear contacts or eyeglasses, pack a back-up form of vision correction during bike trips or other activities where you could lose or shatter a lens.

If an eye injury occurs, see an ophthalmologist or go to the emergency room immediately, even if the eye injury appears minor. Delaying medical attention can result in permanent vision loss or blindness.

 

Learn What to Do For an Eye Injury

If you or your child get an eye injury, follow these important care and treatment guidelines for eye injuries.

 

On-the-Field Visual Test Helps Diagnose Concussions in Athletes

About 3.8 million Americans sustain sports-related concussions each year, so a quick, reliable screening test would be useful on the sidelines, to keep injured athletes from returning to play too soon, and off the field to help physicians more effectively diagnose, treat and rehabilitate patients with concussions. An on-the-field visual test can help.

 

For more information, please talk with your eye professional.

Read the full AAO article here

Spring 2017 In-Sight Newsletter

A great way to keep up with all the good things Vision Resource Center of Berks County is doing in our community is by staying informed through our newsletters. Please enjoy our Spring 2017 In-Sight Newsletter in print and audio format below.

 

print version: Spring Newsletter, 2017
audio version:

March is National Save Your Vision Month

National Save Your Vision Month

March is National Save Your Vision Month

Digital technology not only redefines how people interact with the world, but also how they see it, making it all the more important for the public to make smart eye care choices.

credit: American Optometric Association

That’s why the ’21st-century Eye’ is the focus of AOA’s Save Your Vision Month public awareness campaign throughout March, offering consumers a healthy reminder about eye health from the most authoritative source they know—their eye doctors.

Take advantage of Save Your Vision Month resources—such as promotional kits from Optometry Cares®—The AOA Foundation—to get your message heard.

3 considerations for the 21st-century eye

Below are three messages bound to resonate with an increasingly tech-conscious public that this year’s Save Your Vision Month campaign will reinforce:

  1. Give your eyes a break. An AOA survey found that 83 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 17 use an electronic device for more than three hours a day, while only 14 percent reported taking a visual break every 20 minutes. The AOA recommends the 20-20-20 rule to ward off digital eye strain: Take a 20-second break to view something 20 feet away every 20 minutes. And when it comes to digital devices, research indicates that blue light exposure could be doing some harm.
  2. Be a savvy shopper. Purchasing eyeglasses online may seem like a consumer convenience, but the AOA warns that the consequences of making an incorrect or uninformed purchase could cost patients more time and money in the long run. An AOA study published in 2011 with the Optical Laboratories Association and The Vision Council found nearly half of all glasses ordered online had either prescription errors or failed to meet minimum safety standards.
  3. Skip shortcuts. When it comes to the overall health and wellbeing of eyes, there is no substitute for a yearly, comprehensive eye exam by an eye doctor. Mobile apps or online tests do not provide the appropriate accuracy or information when it comes to changes in eye and general health. Regular, comprehensive eye exams are one of the most important, preventive ways to preserve healthy eyes and save vision.

Jack Schaeffer, O.D., Optometry Cares board member, says the observance is a great chance to join a worthwhile national awareness campaign that benefits optometry.

“This is an opportunity to really educate as many people as we can, to start that word of mouth of, ‘hey, let’s take care of our eyes,'” Dr. Schaeffer says in an upcoming article about the campaign in the March edition of AOA Focus.

 

For more information, please talk with your eye professional.

Read the full AOA article