Studying the Origins of Eye Disease

Researchers at Sweden’s Lund University are using new technology in hopes of determining why people suffer vision loss due to issues such as retinal detachment and glaucoma. Up to this point, research on eye diseases that lead to vision loss have focused almost entirely on the biomechanics of the eye. This new research, a collaboration between the Departments of Clinical Sciences and Biology at Lund University, will focus instead on the biomechanics of the entire central nervous system in hopes of finding an explanation as to why people develop these diseases.

Researchers have already grown retinal tissue from adult pigs that has been stretched to a similar state as a normal human eye. They have found that when the mechanical balance is disturbed, by being compressed for example, the tissue dies in a matter of days. Their initial findings indicate that the biomechanical factors that control tissue health in the central nervous system influence eye diseases that lead to vision loss. Their hope is to not only better understand these diseases, but to discover more effective late-term treatments and even a potential cure.

About Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a condition in which the optic nerve becomes damaged. There is currently cure for glaucoma, but it can be treated when caught early on. Symptoms of glaucoma include a sudden onset of vision disruption such as blurriness, but in many instances the disease is caught only through frequent eye examinations.

If you have not recently been screened for glaucoma, please find an ophthalmologist in your area to schedule an eye exam today.

Vision Loss Linked to Depression

A recently published study has discovered a shocking link between vision loss and depression. As reported in the Journal of  the American Medical Association Ophthalmology, the rate of vision loss among participants identified as depressed was 11 percent, compared to 5 percent among those who did not consider themselves depressed.

Researchers in the study analyzed data form a three year period in which 10,000 participants took part in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. After adjusting for factors such as age, sex, and general health,  the researchers concluded that there is a link between vision loss and depression, though they are not, as yet, sure which one causes the other.

Routine Eye Exams

The importance of routine eye exams cannot be overstated. Because vision loss can be caused by a number of common eye diseases and disorders brought about by aging, genetics, and, apparently, mood disorders, it is vital that you visit your ophthalmologist at least once every other year for thorough examinations. People over the age of 65 are at an increased risk for vision loss, making it important that you visit your eye doctor with greater frequency once you reach your golden years.

If you are suffering from diminished sight, or simply need to schedule a regular eye exam, please locate an experienced ophthalmologist in your area to help prevent permanent vision loss.

Zebrafish Stem Cells and Retina Repair

Your retina is the inside back surface of your eye that contains the light sensitive cells responsible for converting light into neural information. The retina contains millions of cones that provide sharp vision and color perception in bright light along with millions more rods that allow for vision in low light situations.  Issues with the cones and rods in the retina can prevent information from reaching your optic nerve, resulting in a complete loss of vision.

It has long been believed that damaged photoreceptor cells in the retina could not be repaired, but researchers at the University of Alberta have recently discovered that zebrafish stem cells can selectively regenerate damaged rods and cones, and may be the key to returning vision to those with retinal disorders.

Continuing Research

Thus far, researchers have found that zebrafish stem cells can replace damaged cells in many components of human eye sight. The research to date has shown significant success in repairing damaged rods, but most of the tests have been done on nocturnal animals that have millions more rods than cones. It is still unclear as to whether or not these stem cells can be instructed to only replace damaged cones in the cone-dense human retina.

According to the researchers, eyes tend to regenerate the photoreceptor cells that are most prevalent. In humans, this would be cones. Animal studies would suggest that the tissue environment in the human eye would instruct stem cells how to react to cone damage, but the specific gene in zebrafish that activates cone repair has not yet been isolated.

As it stands, there is no cure for blindness, but there are steps that can be taken to slow damage being done by retinal problems. If you notice floaters or flashers, a primary indication of retinal problems, you should contact your ophthalmologist right away.

If you are experiencing any vision disruptions, please visit our eye doctor directory today to find an experienced ophthalmologist in your area.

February is Low Vision Awareness Month

February is AMD/Low Vision Awareness Month, a campaign that focuses on raising awareness of macular degeneration and other vision problems. This years slogan, “Don’t Lose Site,” is of particular importance to Prevent Blindness America spokeswoman, Jane Seymour, who became involved in the campaign following her mother’s two decades struggle with macular degeneration.

Prevent Blindness America plans to promote awareness of vision disorders this month through online and print media campaigns in an attempt to increase awareness of the prevalence of vision problems and symptoms that should lead to an immediate visit to an ophthalmologist.

Symptoms of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

AMD may be, initially, asymptomatic. In its beginning stages, AMD is most often detected by your eye doctor during your routine examinations. AMD is common in people over the age of 50, making it important to visit your eye doctor yearly for check ups as you age.

Macular degeneration symptoms may include:

  • Difficulties working in low light settings
  • Blurriness of printed words
  • Difficulties recognizing faces
  • Blurry or blind spots in central vision
  • An increase in visual haziness

In most cases, AMD is slow to progress. However, a sudden onset of any of these symptoms may indicate a more serious form of the disorder and should be brought to the attention of your eye doctor right away.

Treating AMD

Low Vision Awareness Month focuses on early detection of AMD because it is essential for preserving vision. There is no way to reverse damage once it has been done by AMD, but your eye doctor can help you slow future damage and preserve your vision well into the future.

Most often, treating macular degeneration includes lifestyle changes such as improving your diet, adding certain nutritional supplements, quitting smoking, and increasing physical activity. Medications and surgical treatments may also be used, but this will be dependent on your unique needs.

To learn more about macular degeneration and other vision disorders, please locate an experienced ophthalmologist in your area to schedule an initial consultation today.

Blinded by Vodka, Cured by Whiskey

You probably know some of the causes of blindness such as cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. What you may not know is this: combining vodka and diabetes medication can take your sight as well.

Denis Duthie, a tutor at West Plymouth’s Western Institute of Technology in Taranaki, New Zealand, was celebrating his parent’s 50th wedding anniversary with a bottle of vodka gifted to him by his students. This relatively benign action ended in a loss of sight when the alcohol in the vodka interacted with his diabetes medication. At first, Mr. Duthie assumed he had simply drank too much and decided to sleep it off, but when the problem persisted the following morning, he sought medical assistance at his local hospital.

During his examination, doctors noticed a “smell of nail polish” coming from Mr. Duthie. Diagnostics found that he was actually suffering from formaldehyde poisoning which, in this case, was due to the interaction between the vodka and Mr. Dutie’s diabetes medication resulting in the production of methanol.

Methanol Poisoning

When your body metabolizes dangerous quantities of methanol it results in too much acid in your bloodstream. Excessive amounts of acid in the bloodstream can damage or kill important cells in your optic nerve. Left unchecked, methanol poisoning can cause permanent damage to the optic nerve, resulting in a complete loss of vision.

Fortunately, this wasn’t the case for Mr. Duthie, but the solution may surprise you. Doctors at Taranaki Base Hospital needed to act quickly to prevent Mr. Duthie’s body from metabolizing more methanol. Their solution? Whiskey.

The ethanol in unadulterated liquor such as whiskey prevents the body from metabolizing methanol. Sadly, Mr. Duthie did not get to enjoy his shot of Johnny Walker Black Label. The doctors decided the fastest and most effective way to administer the ethanol was through a tube in Mr. Duthie’s stomach. Five days later, Mr. Duthie’s vision was restored.

Alcohol is not commonly associated with helping vision, but in the case of Denis Duthie, whiskey cured more than the blues. This is not, however, a suggestion to drink whiskey to treat vision disorders. If you are suffering from any vision disturbances, you should visit your ophthalmologist for a throughout examination and professional treatment.

If you would like more information about preventing blindness and maintaining optimal vision, please find an experienced eye doctor in your area through today.

Study Links Increase in Vision Loss to Rise in Diabetes

For those who don’t already know, diabetes can cause blindness, especially long-term. A new study from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s Wilmer Eye Institute states that vision loss has increased a whopping 20 percent in a decade. They blame the rise in diabetes for this rise.

Nonrefractive vision impairment, like glaucoma and cataracts, requires surgery or laser therapy, and is often caught too late. When diabetes strikes younger people, these vision impairments are likely to come at a much younger age. When people have diabetes for ten or more years, vision loss risks skyrocket. And according to the study, adults younger than 40 who have had diabetes for ten or more years, doubled from 0.3 to 0.7 percent during testing from 1999 to 2002 and 2005 to 2008.

The study acknowledges that there is no proof that diabetes is the singular factor in the rise of vision loss, however the association is certainly there, and the only indicator that got worse and worse as the study went on.

What this means for the future is more people who are dependent on others in getting around, restricted driver’s licenses, as well as other problems that simply come from younger people who are considered overweight or obese.

It was also noted that everyone with diabetes in England is screened regularly for vision problems, which can eliminate blindness related to the disease. However, only about half of diabetics in the US are screened regularly.

If you have diabetes and need to have your eyes checked, find an experienced eye doctor in your area through today.

Repackaged Bevacizumab Causing Eye Problems

Washington, DC – Late last month, the FDA warned health professionals who treat “wet” age-related macular degeneration (AMD) with repackaged intravitreal injections of the drug bevacuzumab that there have been clusters of serious Stretococcus endophthalmitis infections and blindness.

Genentech packages bevacuzumab as Avastin.

Cases of blindness have been found in and around Miami, Florida, and severe eye infections have been reported in Tennessee. At least 12 people in three clinics developed eye infections, and some of them lost all vision in the infected eye.

Officials with the FDA traced the eye infections to a pharmacy in Hollywood, Florida that was repackaging bevacizumab from sterile, injectable, 100 mg/4 mL single-use preservative-free vials into individual 1-mL single-use syringes. The packages were then distributed to multiple eye clinics.

It is believed the problem started because bevacuzumab is primarily used in treating cancer, but has been found to work well in wet AMD in an off-label basis. Genentech makes a similar drug called ranibizumab (Lucentis) that is approved for AMD, but costs $2000 a dose. Bevacuzamab costs $50 a dose. However, the cancer treatment comes in much larger doses, so it must be repackaged into a smaller dose for AMD.

According to the FDA, “Repackaging sterile drugs without proper aseptic techniques can compromise product sterility, potentially putting patients at risk for microbial infections.” They go on to state that it is important all eye doctors and health care professionals ensure bevacuzumab is obtained from a reputable and reliable source, and that it is properly administered.

AMD is the leading cause of legal blindness in the world. Finding drugs that can combat and slow progression of this incurable disease has been ongoing.

For more information about age-related macular degeneration and treatment options, please find an experienced eye doctor in your area today.

Artificial Cornea Restores Sight in Blind Woman

Boston – Mercy Muzmara, a Zambian woman with three children, has been blind for three years due to a rare disease that caused severe, permanent scarring in her corneas. As a widow, she is the sole provider for her family, and her blindness has made it extremely difficult for her to take care of her young children, ranging in ages from 7 to 13.

“At the time, I was like, ‘God, why is it that you’ve allowed this to happen to me? Maybe if I was born blind, I was going to take it. But not at this age, when I need to give so much care to my kids…my family,” said Muzumara.

Muzumara visited several eye doctors in Zambia, but they all told her they could not help her see again. Determined to regain her sight, Muzumara decided to try her luck with ophthalmologists in the United States. Eye specialists at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary found out about her situation, and they brought her in for a visit to see if she was a candidate to receive treatment using the brand new, state-of-the-art technology that they had developed.

Dr. James Chodosh, an eye surgeon and ophthalmology professor at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, performed a procedure to insert an artificial cornea, called a keratoprosthesis, into her eye. Due to the severity of the scarring on her natural cornea and her inability to produce tears, Muzumara required a type 2 keratoprosthesis which uses an interior extension that goes in between the lids so that they can close around it.

The operation on her left eye lasted more than five hours, and the results were extremely successful. Muzumara was able to see immediately following the procedure, and by now her normal vision has been completely restored. She is returning home this weekend, and is looking forward to being able to provide her children with the care they need and deserve.

Chodosh said that Muzumara will need lifelong care to protect her newly restored vision. More than one third of patients undergoing this procedure experience complications within two to five years. These complications can potentially cause her to once again go blind if they are not properly treated in a timely manner.

Anti-VEGF Reportedly Better than Lasers in Preventing Recurrences of Retinopathy in Prematurity

Houston, TX – Scientists at the Robert Cizik Eye Clinic at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston-Medical School have found that using intravitreal injections of bevacizumab are better than conventional laser therapy for the prevention of recurrences of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). Using intravitreal injections also avoids some of the complications that come with laser treatment.

Bevacizumab, an inhibitor of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), has been used more frequently as an off-label treatment for ophthalmologic neovascular disorders, such as ROP and the wet form of age-related macular degeneration.

According to the authors of the study, this is the first time a controlled trial of ROP has taken place. They picked patients who were the most vulnerable and had the worst cases of the condition. The study compared the two treatments for stage 3+ ROP in zone I or zone II. Zones indicated the area of vascularization. Zone I stage 3 is the hardest to treat, and has a higher rate of recurrence. Stage 3 ROP is when treatment usually begins, and stage 3+ means the “dilated veins and tortuous arteries” are in at least two quadrants of the eye.

The Trial

There were 15 different centers participating in the trial and used 150 infants 30 weeks old or younger. They were randomly given either intravitreal bavacizumab or conventional laser therapy. Almost 70 of the infants had zone I disease; the others had zone II posterior disease.

The primary outcome of the study was focused on recurrence, and showed 26% of the infants given laser therapy compared with only 6% of the infants given bevacizumab. The risk reduction was 83% when using bevacizumab.

The maker of bevacizumab, Genentech, does not plan to seek FDA approval for its use for treating ROP, nor will it be promoted for use for any ocular disorder.

If you would like to learn more about this, please find an experienced ophthalmologist through today.

Man Has Sight Restored after 55 Years of Blindness

New York – A 63-year-old man has vision in his right eye for the first time in more than 55 years. When he was 8 years old, he suffered a detached retina after his right eye was hit with a stone. He had experienced blindness in his right eye ever since.

Recently, the man went into the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary complaining of pain and redness in his eye. Doctors found swelling, bleeding, and a high fluid pressure in his right eye. After cleaning the eye and prescribing a drug to prevent the formation of new blood vessels, the eye was able to detect the source of a bright light for the first time since the man was a child.

As a result, doctors believed it was worth trying to re-attach his retina. However, they acknowledged that there was no guarantee the procedure would restore his vision. When a retina is detached for such a long period of time, it can result in permanent damage.

However, the surgery was successful, and the man is once again able to see out of his right eye. Doctors believe the surgery was successful because of the low “height” of the man’s detached retina. According to doctors involved in the procedure, this is the first time a man has had his sight restored after such a prolonged period of blindness.

According to Dr. Olusola Olawoye, “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of visual recovery in a patient with long-standing traumatic retinal detachment. This is not only a great result for our patient, but has implications for restoring eyesight in other patients, especially in the context of stem cell research into retinal progenitor cells which may be able to be transplanted into diseased retinas to restore vision.”