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.

Faster, Easier Reading with use of iPad and Kindle

Many of us may not recognize how precious the ability to read is until we start to experience vision loss. A recent study shows hope for people suffering central vision loss, such as occurs with age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. It seems digital tablets, including the iPad and Amazon Kindle, help people with vision loss read faster and easier.

The study was carried out at New Jersey’s Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. The study author and his team asked the 100 participants to read on digital tablets. All 100 participants had lost some degree of central vision, which is what you see straight ahead of you. Certain diseases, namely macular degeneration, degrade central vision so that you no longer see clearly or sharply in front of you.

Using digital tablets, the study participants read faster compared to reading print. They read faster by an average of 15 words per minute. With Apple’s iPad, participants read faster by a rate of 42 words per minute, and by a rate of 12 words more per minute with Amazon’s Kindle. Reading improvement was greatest among those with 20/40 vision or worse.

The team conducting the study, including the lead author Dr. Daniel Roth, attributes the improved reading from the iPad to its backlit screen. At the time, the Kindle was not backlit, but current Kindle models are. The study was presented at a joint meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the Asia-Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology.

Depending on the size, storage capacity and brand of the device, tablets right now cost anywhere from $200 to close to $1,000.

To learn more about treatments for vision loss, please find an eye doctor through the directory.

FDA Approves Lucentis for Diabetic Macular Edema

Earlier this month, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved use of the drug Lucentis to treat diabetic macular edema. Lucentis is already used to treat other vision problems, including wet age-related macular degeneration. People with diabetes are at an increased risk for developing the type of diabetic retinopathy known as diabetic macular edema (DME), which has the potential to severely impair vision.

Blurred vision is the most common outcome of DME. It can lead to vision loss. The macula is the central portion of the retina, and it is where clear, sharp vision originates. When DME occurs, fluid leaks into the macula, and the fluid causes the macula to swell and blurs vision as a result.

The FDA approved the drug following data from two clinical studies with 759 participants. These participants were treated with Lucentis and monitored for three years. Using an eye chart, researchers determined whether vision improved. According to an FDA news release, between 34 to 45 percent of the participants treated with monthly 0.3 milligram injections of Lucentis gained three lines of vision on an eye chart. Only 12 to 18 percent of participants who did not have Lucentis injections had improved vision.

Common side effects of Lucentis injections include bleeding from the tissue on the inside of the eyelids (conjunctiva), floaters, eye pain and a rise in intraocular pressure.

To learn more about treatment for diabetic retinopathy, please find an eye doctor in your area using the directory.

Eye Diseases on the Rise in the US

According to a report issued by Prevent Blindness America and the National Eye Institute, eye diseases – including those that cause blindness – are on the rise in the US. The research shows that since 2000, there has been a marked increase in cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetic retinopathy has increased an alarming 89% over the last 12 years, and an estimated eight million people 40 and over now have this disease, which can lead to blindness.

Other results show:

  • A 25% increase in macular degeneration affecting more than two million people over the age of 50
  • A 22% increase in open angle glaucoma affecting nearly three million people 40-years-old and older
  • A 19% increase in cataracts affecting more than 24 million people 40 and older

While vision can be restored if the patient has cataracts, provided they are caught in time, glaucoma can only be treated and the pressure relieved. The high percentage of diabetic retinopathy cases seems to be due to the diabetes epidemic plaguing the country, especially among minorities. A clinical correspondent for the American Academy of Ophthalmology calls the results “scary” and says they are “proof we are in a losing battle.” She also says the he increase in macular degeneration “mirrors the booming aging population.”

Protecting the eyes against these and other diseases is very important. Getting regular eye exams yearly can help head off any serious problems you may encounter later on in life. Eating healthy, getting your blood glucose levels checked, and talking to your healthcare provider, as well as your ophthalmologist are things you can do to keep your risks of eye diseases low.

If you believe you are at risk for these or other eye diseases, please find an experienced eye doctor in your area through today.

Diabetic Retinopathy and other Vision Problems on the Rise

Vision problems are on the rise in the US, according to a report released last week by Prevent Blindness America and the National Eye Institute. Many of these eye diseases can lead to vision loss. One of the most significant rises was seen in diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetic retinopathy has increased 89 percent over the last 12 years. This rise is largely attributable to higher rates of diabetes. This eye disease can cause blindness.

Other vision problems which have seen a rise since 2000 include:

  • Macular degeneration, by 25 percent
  • Glaucoma, by 22 percent
  • Cataracts, by 19 percent

The rises in age-related eye diseases may be explained by a large generation who is now aging. Both cataracts and age-related macular degeneration are typically associated with advanced age.

If you are concerned about your eye health, you can take steps to prevent vision problems. Schedule annual eye exams and physicals to prevent health problems and catch them early. You should also ask your eye doctor about your ocular health, including finding out what vision problems you are at risk for and what steps you can take to prevent that risk.

If you want to see the original Prevent Blindness America report, it can be viewed at

To learn more about diabetic retinopathy and other vision problems, please find an eye doctor in your area.

Diabetes Drugs May Increase Risk for Eye Disease

A recent study echoed earlier research that the popular diabetes drug Actos may increase the risk of diabetic macular edema (DME).

The medication is currently under scrutiny due to mounting evidence that it also contributes to pulmonary edema and bladder cancer. Eye disease in those who suffer from diabetes is one of the most common causes of blindness among American adults, according to the National Eye Institute.

DME specifically is a condition in which the retina swells and thickens as a result of leaking blood vessels. Blurry vision occurs and worsens as the condition develops; DME can lead to blindness.

According to a study of more than 100,000 patients presented at the American Diabetes Association’s annual meeting in June, those taking Actos and Avandia—a similar diabetes drug that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ordered be pulled from pharmacies by this November—were three to six times more likely to develop DME than diabetics not taking the drugs.

The research, conducted by the University of Nottingham, indicated that patients who have poor control of their blood sugar or a previous history of macular edema are at an especially high risk for DME if taking Actos or Avandia. Those with these risk factors should talk with their physicians about the potential risks and other possible treatment options.

Please visit our Find an Eye Doctor page to locate an ophthalmologist near you.

Simple Test During Eye Exams Could Diagnose Diabetes

A simple blood test during routine eye exams would likely diagnose millions of cases of Type 2 diabetes, according to a recent Durham University study.

An estimated 150 million people have Type 2 diabetes, which is one of the leading causes of blindness in adults. Tens of millions of people, however, are thought to have undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes, which may only be detected when related health problems arise.

The Durham University research indicates that testing for the disease in unconventional settings such as optometry offices and dental clinics would identify a significant number of instances of Type 2 diabetes in time to begin treatment before complications occur. The study, which was published in the July issue of the British Journal of General Practice, found that 32 percent of 1,000 people visiting an optician for an eye test and presenting risk factors for diabetes were referred to their general physicians for follow-up diagnosis after blood-glucose level tests.

While even most pharmacies have the ability to conduct the basic finger-prick blood test necessary to identify Type 2 diabetes, most diabetes screenings are conducted in doctors’ offices, medical clinics and hospitals. Ophthalmologists and optometrists, however, already have an understanding of diabetes and its effects on eye health; vision care professionals frequently screen diabetes patients for eye diseases.

Dr. Jenny Howse of the Durham University School of Medicine and Health, the study’s lead author and a former optician, said healthcare professionals such as eye doctors and dentists are an untapped resource in identifying diabetes in patients who do not routinely visit their family physicians.

“Opticians could provide routine, non-emergency care and the simple screening can be done outside usual medical settings,” said Howse in the article “Screening and Identifying Diabetes in Optometric Practice: A Prospective Study”.

To learn more about the links between diabetes and vision health, please contact an ophthalmologist near you.

Newly Developed Implant Treats Macular Edema

Five out of every 1000 people over the age of thirty will suffer from some form of RVO (retinal vein occlusion). In RVO, the retinal vein becomes blocked (occluded), causing fluid to build up in the retina and the macula to swell and thicken. This thickening, called macular edema, can cause severe vision loss.

Because of the swelling in their eyes, people with macular edema have trouble with everyday activities like reading, watching TV, and driving. People with RVO have many direct medical costs from this condition, but they also have indirect costs such as loss of income. Previously, procedures such as surgery and laser photocoagulation have been used to treat RVO and macular edema, but these are not always effective.

There is good news, however. Allergan, Inc., a company devoted to developing pharmaceuticals for commercial use, has released a product called Ozurdex which has been clinically proven to treat RVO. Ozurdex is a tiny rod-shaped implant which doctors inject directly into the eye. The rod dissolves and releases dexamethasone, a steroid that reduces inflammation in the eye.

When compared with a placebo, Ozurdex significantly improved patients’ vision and reduced swelling. Research shows that after 8 weeks, 43% of the people who received Ozurdex had vision improvement of at least three lines on an eye chart, and 47% were considered inflammation free.

Ozurdex will help many people suffering from RVO, as well as those affected by diabetic retinopathy, a similar disorder common in diabetic patients. If you have been diagnosed with RVO or diabetic retinopathy, please contact an ophthalmologist near you to discuss your treatment options and to set up an initial consultation today.

February Is “Save Your Vision Month”

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) encourages everyone aged 40 and older to schedule a comprehensive eye examination this February. The AAO has designated February “Save Your Vision Month” in a campaign to raise awareness about the need for regular vision exams to screen for age-related eye diseases and conditions.

By 2020, the AAO estimates that about 43 million Americans will be at risk for serious loss vision and even blindness due to age-related eye conditions, such as:

These age-related eye diseases often progress slowly and may not be noticed without regular screenings by a trained eye doctor. Early detection of eye conditions like glaucoma can often be crucial in preventing further vision loss and blindness.

The AAO not only recommends a comprehensive baseline eye examination at age 40, but also encourages adults to increase the frequency of their eye exams as they age. For adults with healthy eyes and no additional risk factors other than age, the AAO recommends regular eye examinations every:

  • 5-10 years for adults under 40
  • 2-4 years for adults 40-54
  • 1-3 years for adults 55-64
  • 1-2 years for adults 65 and older

If you fall into any of these age groups at risk for age-related eye diseases and conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration, please contact a local ophthalmologist today and schedule your comprehensive eye examination.