Coronavirus Information

Important Message

In light of the recent events regarding the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19), Vision Resource Center remains unwavering in its dedication to our Berks County communities. Please note we will be experiencing situations that may result in the rescheduling and/or cancellation of VRC activities and events. For up-to-date information related to Vision Resource Center schedules and events, please call 610-375-8407 or visit us on Facebook.

We encourage everyone to be educated regarding facts and information that are currently known. The Center for Disease Control provides the latest information on Coronavirus, including steps to prevent illness, what to do if you’re sick, and ways to keep your surroundings safe. Call your doctor or health professional immediately if you think you have been exposed to COVID-19. Visit https://www.cdc.gov/ for more information.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. The complete clinical picture with regard to COVID-19 is not fully known. Reported illnesses have ranged from very mild (including some with no reported symptoms) to severe, including illness resulting in death. While information so far suggests that most COVID-19 illness is mild, a reportexternal icon out of China suggests serious illness occurs in 16% of cases. Older people and people of all ages with severe chronic medical conditions — like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example — seem to be at higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 illness. CDC has developed guidance to help in the risk assessment and management of people with potential exposures to COVID-19.

  • Everyone can do their part to help us respond to this emerging public health threat:
    • Individuals and communities should familiarize themselves with recommendations to protect themselves and their communities from getting and spreading respiratory illnesses like COVID-19.
    • Older people and people with severe chronic conditions should take special precautions because they are at higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 illness.
    • If you are a healthcare provider, use your judgment to determine if a patient has signs and symptoms compatible with COVID-19 and whether the patient should be tested. Factors to consider in addition to clinical symptoms may include:
      • Does the patient have recent travel from an affected area?
      • Has the patient been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 or with patients with pneumonia of unknown cause?
      • Does the patient reside in an area where there has been community spread of COVID-19?
    • If you are a healthcare provider or a public health responder caring for a COVID-19 patient, please take care of yourself and follow recommended infection control procedures.
    • If you are a close contact of someone with COVID-19 and develop symptoms of COVID-19, call your healthcare provider and tell them about your symptoms and your exposure. They will decide whether you need to be tested, but keep in mind that there is no treatment for COVID-19 and people who are mildly ill are able to isolate at home.
    • If you are a resident in a community where there is ongoing spread of COVID-19 and you develop COVID-19 symptoms, call your healthcare provider and tell them about your symptoms. They will decide whether you need to be tested, but keep in mind that there is no treatment for COVID-19 and people who are mildly ill are able to isolate at home.
  • For people who are ill with COVID-19, but are not sick enough to be hospitalized, please follow CDC guidance on how to reduce the risk of spreading your illness to others. People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to isolate at home during their illness.
  • If you have been in China or another affected area or have been exposed to someone sick with COVID-19 in the last 14 days, you will face some limitations on your movement and activityPlease follow instructions during this time. Your cooperation is integral to the ongoing public health response to try to slow spread of this virus.

 

For additional information, please visit the following sites:

Centers for Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov/

World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/

Pennsylvania Department of Health: https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/disease/Pages/Coronavirus.aspx

 

 

 

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

Beeping Egg Hunt Event

Please join Vision Resource Center of Berks County for a Beeping Egg Hunt, Easter Crafts, and Goodies!

When:  Saturday, April 4th from 1PM-3PM

Where:  VRC Headquarters 2020 Hampden Blvd., Reading, PA 19604

Siblings and family members welcome!

 

Please RSVP by Wednesday, March 18th to Lori at 610-375-8407 ext. 112 if you are able to attend, and the ages of those attending.

*All attendees must pre-register!

THANK YOU!!

Vision and Hearing Expo

Thursday, April 30, 2020
9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Crowne Plaza, Reading

 

brought to you by our Event Sponsor, Wells Fargo, NA

 

 

 

 

featuring live radio coverage by Mike Faust with WEEU’s Feedback Talk Show, sponsored by Berks Optometric Society

and educational topics and seminars underwritten by Berks ENT

 

Join us on Thursday, April 30, 2020 at Crowne Plaza Reading for Vision and Hearing Expo, Berks County’s one stop vision and hearing event. Vision and Hearing Expo is Berks County’s premier experience for brand new and exciting vision and hearing focused trends and technologies. Throughout the day, educational seminars and hands-on demonstrations related to low vision management, hearing loss, caregiver understanding and more will be offered. Vision and Hearing Expo is for you, your family members, friends, caregivers and anyone who wants insight regarding hearing and vision services, technologies and education related to all aspects of hearing and vision.

Admission and parking are all free. Don’t miss out on this opportunity of the year!

 

Vision and Hearing Professionals and Product Vendors, there are limited spots still available!

Are you interested in meeting potential clients face-to-face? We have some great spaces still available! This is a wonderful opportunity to share your products, practice, innovations and knowledge base with the Berks County (and beyond) Vision and Hearing related communities. Download the Booth and Sponsorship form HERE and contact Carolyn Krick at ckrick@vrcberks.org for additional information and reservations. Hurry, spots are limited! If you know a business or medical practice that would be interested in sharing their services and products, you can download and share the printable General Info flyer HERE.

 

February is AMD and Low Vision Awareness Month

Low Vision Awareness

February is AMD and Low Vision Awareness Month

Perhaps you have just learned that you or a loved one has age-related macular degeneration, also known as AMD. If you are like many people, you probably do not know a lot about the condition or understand what is going on inside your eyes.

credit: National Eye Institute

AMD is a common eye condition and a leading cause of vision loss among people age 50 and older. It causes damage to the macula, a small spot near the center of the retina and the part of the eye needed for sharp, central vision, which lets us see objects that are straight ahead.

In some people, AMD advances so slowly that vision loss does not occur for a long time. In others, the disease progresses faster and may lead to a loss of vision in one or both eyes. As AMD progresses, a blurred area near the center of vision is a common symptom. Over time, the blurred area may grow larger or you may develop blank spots in your central vision. Objects also may not appear to be as bright as they used to be.

AMD by itself does not lead to complete blindness, with no ability to see. However, the loss of central vision in AMD can interfere with simple everyday activities, such as the ability to see faces, drive, read, write, or do close work, such as cooking or fixing things around the house.

Who is at risk?

Age is a major risk factor for AMD. The disease is most likely to occur after age 60, but it can occur earlier. Other risk factors for AMD include:

  • Smoking. Research shows that smoking doubles the risk of AMD.
  • Race. AMD is more common among Caucasians than among African-Americans or Hispanics/Latinos.
  • Family history and Genetics. People with a family history of AMD are at higher risk. At last count, researchers had identified nearly 20 genes that can affect the risk of developing AMD. Many more genetic risk factors are suspected.
    You may see offers for genetic testing for AMD. Because AMD is influenced by so many genes plus environmental factors such as smoking and nutrition, there are currently no genetic tests that can diagnose AMD, or predict with certainty who will develop it.
    The American Academy of Ophthalmology (link is external) currently recommends against routine genetic testing for AMD, and insurance generally does not cover such testing.

Does lifestyle make a difference?

Researchers have found links between AMD and some lifestyle choices, such as smoking. You might be able to reduce your risk of AMD or slow its progression by making these healthy choices:

  • Avoid smoking
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in green, leafy vegetables and fish

How is AMD detected?

The early and intermediate stages of AMD usually start without symptoms. Only a comprehensive dilated eye exam can detect AMD. The eye exam may include the following:

  • Visual acuity test. This eye chart measures how well you see at distances.
  • Dilated eye exam. Your eye care professional places drops in your eyes to widen or dilate the pupils. This provides a better view of the back of your eye. Using a special magnifying lens, he or she then looks at your retina and optic nerve for signs of AMD and other eye problems.
  • Amsler grid. Your eye care professional also may ask you to look at an Amsler grid. Changes in your central vision may cause the lines in the grid to disappear or appear wavy, a sign of AMD.
  • Fluorescein angiogram. In this test, which is performed by an ophthalmologist, a fluorescent dye is injected into your arm. Pictures are taken as the dye passes through the blood vessels in your eye. This makes it possible to see leaking blood vessels, which occur in a severe, rapidly progressive type of AMD (see below). In rare cases, complications to the injection can arise, from nausea to more severe allergic reactions.
  • Optical coherence tomography. You have probably heard of ultrasound, which uses sound waves to capture images of living tissues. OCT is similar except that it uses light waves, and can achieve very high-resolution images of any tissues that can be penetrated by light—such as the eyes. After your eyes are dilated, you’ll be asked to place your head on a chin rest and hold still for several seconds while the images are obtained. The light beam is painless.

During the exam, your eye care professional will look for drusen, which are yellow deposits beneath the retina. Most people develop some very small drusen as a normal part of aging. The presence of medium-to-large drusen may indicate that you have AMD.

Another sign of AMD is the appearance of pigmentary changes under the retina. In addition to the pigmented cells in the iris (the colored part of the eye), there are pigmented cells beneath the retina. As these cells break down and release their pigment, your eye care professional may see dark clumps of released pigment and later, areas that are less pigmented. These changes will not affect your eye color.

For more information, please talk with your eye professional.

Read the full NEI article

 

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month

Glaucoma… The Leading Cause of Preventable Blindness

Story Credit: Glaucoma Research Foundation

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, an important time to spread the word about this sight stealing disease.

 

Currently, more than 3 million people in the United States have glaucoma. The National Eye Institute projects this number will reach 4.2 million by 2030, a 58 percent increase.Glaucoma is called “the sneak thief of sight” since there are no symptoms and once vision is lost, it’s permanent. As much as 40% of vision can be lost without a person noticing.Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness. Moreover, among African American and Latino populations, glaucoma is more prevalent. Glaucoma is 6 to 8 times more common in African Americans than Caucasians.Over 3 million Americans, and over 60 million people worldwide, have glaucoma. Experts estimate that half of them don’t know they have it. Combined with our aging population, we can see an epidemic of blindness looming if we don’t raise awareness about the importance of regular eye examinations to preserve vision. The World Health Organization estimates that 4.5 million people worldwide are blind due to glaucoma.

Help Raise Awareness

father-son-talking_290.jpg

Talk to your family about glaucoma.

In the United States, approximately 120,000 are blind from glaucoma, accounting for 9% to 12% of all cases of blindness. Here are three ways you can help raise awareness:

  1. Talk to friends and family about glaucoma. If you have glaucoma, don’t keep it a secret. Let your family members know.
  2. Refer a friend to our web site, www.glaucoma.org.
  3. Request to have a free educational booklet sent to you or a friend.
  4. Get involved in your community through fundraisers, information sessions, group discussions, inviting expert speakers, and more.

Connect with us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for regular updates on glaucoma research, treatments, news and information. Share information about glaucoma with your friends and family.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that gradually steal sight without warning. Although the most common forms primarily affect the middle-aged and the elderly, glaucoma can affect people of all ages.

Vision loss is caused by damage to the optic nerve. This nerve acts like an electric cable with over a million wires. It is responsible for carrying images from the eye to the brain.

There is no cure for glaucoma—yet. However, medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss. The appropriate treatment depends upon the type of glaucoma among other factors. Early detection is vital to stopping the progress of the disease.

Watch a video from the research scientists working to find a cure.

Types of Glaucoma

There are two main types of glaucoma: primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG), and angle-closure glaucoma. These are marked by an increase of intraocular pressure (IOP), or pressure inside the eye. When optic nerve damage has occurred despite a normal IOP, this is called normal tension glaucoma.

Secondary glaucoma refers to any case in which another disease causes or contributes to increased eye pressure, resulting in optic nerve damage and vision loss.

Read more about Types of Glaucoma.

Regular Eye Exams are Important

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, according to the World Health Organization. In the most common form, there are virtually no symptoms. Vision loss begins with peripheral or side vision, so if you have glaucoma, you may not notice anything until significant vision is lost.

The best way to protect your sight from glaucoma is to get a comprehensive eye examination. Then, if you have glaucoma, treatment can begin immediately.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness among African-Americans. And among Hispanics in older age groups, the risk of glaucoma is nearly as high as that for African-Americans. Also, siblings of persons diagnosed with glaucoma have a significantly increased risk of having glaucoma.

Read about Glaucoma Eye Exams.

Risk Factors

Are you at risk for glaucoma? Those at higher risk include people of African, Asian, and Hispanic descent. Other high-risk groups include: people over 60, family members of those already diagnosed, diabetics, and people who are severely nearsighted. Regular eye exams are especially important for those at higher risk for glaucoma, and may help to prevent unnecessary vision loss.

Help Us Find a Cure

Glaucoma Research Foundation is a national non-profit organization funding innovative research to preserve vision and find a cure for glaucoma. Gifts of every size make a difference. Donate today.


About Glaucoma Research Foundation: The Glaucoma Research Foundation is a national non-profit organization dedicated to finding a cure for glaucoma. Founded in 1978 in San Francisco, the organization funds glaucoma research world-wide. Learn more about Glaucoma Research Foundation.

 

Remember Safety This Holiday Season!

Set Your Sight on Safety!

Story Credit: Prevent Blindness

Prevent Blindness Provides Tips on Best Ways to Keep Holidays Safe by Purchasing Safe Toys and Gifts for Children:

Last year, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a report stating that there were an estimated 254,200 toy-related injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments. An estimated 88,700 of those injuries were to children younger than age 5. And, 45 percent of the total injuries were to the head and face area, the area of the body with the most injuries.To help shoppers select appropriate gifts this holiday season, Prevent Blindness has declared December as Safe Toys and Gifts Awareness month and offers tips including:

  • Avoid toys that shoot or include parts that fly off.
  • Ask yourself or the parent if the toy is right for the child’s ability and age. Consider whether other smaller children may be in the home and may have access to the toy.
  • Avoid purchasing toys with sharp or rigid points, spikes, rods, or dangerous edges.
  • Ensure all art materials are labeled as “nontoxic.”
  • Buy toys that will withstand impact and not break into dangerous shards.
  • Look for the letters “ASTM.” This designation means the product meets the national safety standards set by ASTM International.
  • Do not give toys with small parts to young children. Young kids tend to put things in their mouths, increasing the risk of choking.  If any part of a toy can fit in a toilet paper roll, the toy is not appropriate for children under the age of 3.
  • Do not purchase toys with long strings or cords, especially for infants and very young children as these can become wrapped around a child’s neck.
  • Always dispose of uninflated or broken balloons immediately.
  • Do not purchase toys with small magnets. Magnets, like those found in magnetic building sets and other toys, can be extremely harmful if swallowed. Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect a child may have swallowed a magnet.
  • Ensure any batteries are securely in place.
  • Read all warnings and instructions on the box.
  • Always supervise children and demonstrate to them how to use their toys safely.
  • If purchasing sunglasses, make sure they are labeled as 100 percent UV-blocking.
Sports equipment is a popular gift idea. Prevent Blindness suggests that the proper sports eye protection is also included. Recommendations may be found at www.preventblindness.org/recommended-sports-eye-protectors.“By taking a few simple steps when shopping for the perfect gift, we can help to make sure that the holidays are safe and memorable,” said Hugh R. Parry, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness.For more information on safe toys and gifts for children, please visit preventblindness.org/safe-toy-checklist. For more information on sports eye protection and safety, please visit www.preventblindness.org/sports-eye-safety.
Download a copy of the safe toys press release here.

About Prevent Blindness: Founded in 1908, Prevent Blindness is the nation’s leading volunteer eye health and safety organization dedicated to fighting blindness and saving sight. Focused on promoting a continuum of vision care, Prevent Blindness touches the lives of millions of people each year through public and professional education, advocacy, certified vision screening and training, community and patient service programs and research. These services are made possible through the generous support of the American public. Together with a network of affiliates, Prevent Blindness is committed to eliminating preventable blindness in America.

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November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month

November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month

Story Credit: American Diabetes Association

 

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in working-age Americans

  • Almost 1/3 of diabetics don’t know they have the disease and are at risk for vision loss and other health problems.

  • The most common diabetic eye disease is diabetic retinopathy which affects 5.3 million Americans age 18 and older.

  • Once diagnosed with diabetes, you should schedule a complete eye exam, including dilation.

  • Early diagnosis of diabetes can help reduce your risk of developing eye disease related to diabetes.

 

Eye Insight

To understand what happens in eye disorders, it helps to understand how the eye works. The eye is a ball covered with a tough outer membrane. The covering in front is clear and curved. This curved area is the cornea, which focuses light while protecting the eye.

After light passes through the cornea, it travels through a space called the anterior chamber (which is filled with a protective fluid called the aqueous humor), through the pupil (which is a hole in the iris, the colored part of the eye), and then through a lens that performs more focusing. Finally, light passes through another fluid-filled chamber in the center of the eye (the vitreous) and strikes the back of the eye, the retina.

The retina records the images focused on it and converts those images into electrical signals, which the brain receives and decodes.

One part of the retina is specialized for seeing fine detail. This tiny area of extra-sharp vision is called the macula. Blood vessels in and behind the retina nourish the macula.

Glaucoma

People with diabetes are 40% more likely to suffer from glaucoma than people without diabetes. The longer someone has had diabetes, the more common glaucoma is. Risk also increases with age.

Glaucoma occurs when pressure builds up in the eye. In most cases, the pressure causes drainage of the aqueous humor to slow down so that it builds up in the anterior chamber. The pressure pinches the blood vessels that carry blood to the retina and optic nerve. Vision is gradually lost because the retina and nerve are damaged.

There are several treatments for glaucoma. Some use drugs to reduce pressure in the eye, while others involve surgery.

Cataracts

Many people without diabetes get cataracts, but people with diabetes are 60% more likely to develop this eye condition. People with diabetes also tend to get cataracts at a younger age and have them progress faster. With cataracts, the eye’s clear lens clouds, blocking light.

To help deal with mild cataracts, you may need to wear sunglasses more often and use glare-control lenses in your glasses. For cataracts that interfere greatly with vision, doctors usually remove the lens of the eye. Sometimes the patient gets a new transplanted lens. In people with diabetes, retinopathy can get worse after removal of the lens, and glaucoma may start to develop.

Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a general term for all disorders of the retina caused by diabetes. There are two major types of retinopathy: nonproliferative and proliferative.

Nonproliferative retinopathy

In nonproliferative retinopathy, the most common form of retinopathy, capillaries in the back of the eye balloon and form pouches. Nonproliferative retinopathy can move through three stages (mild, moderate, and severe), as more and more blood vessels become blocked.

Macular edema

Although retinopathy does not usually cause vision loss at this stage, the capillary walls may lose their ability to control the passage of substances between the blood and the retina. Fluid can leak into the part of the eye where focusing occurs, the macula. When the macula swells with fluid, a condition called macula edema, vision blurs and can be lost entirely. Although nonproliferative retinopathy usually does not require treatment, macular edema must be treated, but fortunately treatment is usually effective at stopping and sometimes reversing vision loss.

Proliferative retinopathy

In some people, retinopathy progresses after several years to a more serious form called proliferative retinopathy. In this form, the blood vessels are so damaged they close off. In response, new blood vessels start growing in the retina. These new vessels are weak and can leak blood, blocking vision, which is a condition called vitreous hemorrhage. The new blood vessels can also cause scar tissue to grow. After the scar tissue shrinks, it can distort the retina or pull it out of place, a condition called retinal detachment.

How is it Treated?

Huge strides have been made in the treatment of diabetic retinopathy. Treatments such as scatter photocoagulation, focal photocoagulation, and vitrectomy prevent blindness in most people. The sooner retinopathy is diagnosed, the more likely these treatments will be successful. The best results occur when sight is still normal.

In photocoagulation, the eye care professional makes tiny burns on the retina with a special laser. These burns seal the blood vessels and stop them from growing and leaking.

In scatter photocoagulation (also called panretinal photocoagulation), the eye care professional makes hundreds of burns in a polka-dot pattern on two or more occasions. Scatter photocoagulation reduces the risk of blindness from vitreous hemorrhage or detachment of the retina, but it only works before bleeding or detachment has progressed very far. This treatment is also used for some kinds of glaucoma.

Side effects of scatter photocoagulation are usually minor. They include several days of blurred vision after each treatment and possible loss of side (peripheral) vision.

In focal photocoagulation, the eye care professional aims the laser precisely at leaking blood vessels in the macula. This procedure does not cure blurry vision caused by macular edema. But it does keep it from getting worse.

When the retina has already detached or a lot of blood has leaked into the eye, photocoagulation is no longer useful. The next option is vitrectomy, which is surgery to remove scar tissue and cloudy fluid from inside the eye. The earlier the operation occurs, the more likely it is to be successful. When the goal of the operation is to remove blood from the eye, it usually works. Reattaching a retina to the eye is much harder and works in only about half the cases.

There are two types of treatment for macular edema: focal laser therapy that slows the leakage of fluid, and medications that can be injected into the eye that slow the growth of new blood vessels and reduce the leakage of fluid into the macula.

Am I at Risk for Retinopathy?

Several factors influence whether you get retinopathy:

  • blood sugar control
  • blood pressure levels
  • how long you have had diabetes
  • genes

The longer you’ve had diabetes, the more likely you are to have retinopathy. Almost everyone with type 1 diabetes will eventually have nonproliferative retinopathy. And most people with type 2 diabetes will also get it. But the retinopathy that destroys vision, proliferative retinopathy, is far less common.

People who keep their blood sugar levels closer to normal are less likely to have retinopathy or to have milder forms.

Your retina can be badly damaged before you notice any change in vision. Most people with nonproliferative retinopathy have no symptoms. Even with proliferative retinopathy, the more dangerous form, people sometimes have no symptoms until it is too late to treat them. For this reason, you should have your eyes examined regularly by an eye care professional.

 

You may have heard that diabetes causes eye problems and may lead to blindness. People with diabetes do have a higher risk of blindness than people without diabetes. But most people who have diabetes have nothing more than minor eye disorders.

With regular checkups, you can keep minor problems minor. And if you do develop a major problem, there are treatments that often work well if you begin them right away. Please visit your health professional regularly.


For Additional Information: Please visit the American Diabetes Association website.

 

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, 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.

 

Some Lives Touched:

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