Lori Schermerhorn discusses different visual impairments and low vision with Dr. Heidi Sensenig and Dr. Dawn Hornberger.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Celebrating Independence for the Visually Impaired. Chris Balatgek talks about his journey and experience becoming visually impaired with Mark Levengood. He also performs a song.
January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month.
Everyone is at risk. Including YOU.
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that gradually steal sight without warning and is the leading cause of preventable blindness. As much as 40% of vision can be lost without a person noticing. Once vision is lost, it’s permanent.
credit: Glaucoma Research Foundation
The most common type of glaucoma is open-angle glaucoma.
The other main type of adult glaucoma is angle-closure glaucoma.
For more information, please visit Glaucoma Research Foundation.
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 Winter 2017 In-Sight Newsletter in print format below. Audio format is coming!
print version: Winter Newsletter, 2017
audio version: to come
Mark Levengood talks with Bridget Scogna and her daughter Katie about a family experiencing the holiday season with a visually impaired child.
Insight host and VRC Counselor Mark Levengood talks with Jerry Cunningham about loss of eye sight and serving in the military.
Mark Levengood talks about Seeing Eye Dogs and his experience with training and working with his Seeing Eye Dog, Andy. Hosted by Ann Heiser.
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 Autumn 2016 In-Sight Newsletter both in print and audio formats.
Fall Newsletter, 2016