News

UT chemists discover how blue light speeds blindness

Blue light from digital devices and the sun transforms vital molecules in the eye’s retina into cell killers, according to optical chemistry research at The University of Toledo.

The process outlined in the study, which was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports, leads to age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in the United States.

Dr. Ajith Karunarathne examined toxic oxygen generation by retinal during blue light exposure.

“We are being exposed to blue light continuously, and the eye’s cornea and lens cannot block or reflect it,” Dr. Ajith Karunarathne, assistant professor in the UT Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, said. “It’s no secret that blue light harms our vision by damaging the eye’s retina. Our experiments explain how this happens, and we hope this leads to therapies that slow macular degeneration, such as a new kind of eye drop.”

Macular degeneration, an incurable eye disease that results in significant vision loss starting on average in a person’s 50s or 60s, is the death of photoreceptor cells in the retina. Those cells need molecules called retinal to sense light and trigger a cascade of signaling to the brain.

“You need a continuous supply of retinal molecules if you want to see,” Karunarathne said. “Photoreceptors are useless without retinal, which is produced in the eye.”

Karunarathne’s lab found that blue light exposure causes retinal to trigger reactions that generate poisonous chemical molecules in photoreceptor cells.

“It’s toxic. If you shine blue light on retinal, the retinal kills photoreceptor cells as the signaling molecule on the membrane dissolves,” Kasun Ratnayake, a PhD student researcher working in Karunarathne’s cellular photo chemistry group, said. “Photoreceptor cells do not regenerate in the eye. When they’re dead, they’re dead for good.”

Karunarathne introduced retinal molecules to other cell types in the body, such as cancer cells, heart cells and neurons. When exposed to blue light, these cell types died as a result of the combination with retinal. Blue light alone or retinal without blue light had no effect on cells.

“No activity is sparked with green, yellow or red light,” Karunarathne said. “The retinal-generated toxicity by blue light is universal. It can kill any cell type.”

The researcher found that a molecule called alpha tocopherol, a vitamin E derivative and a natural antioxidant in the eye and body, stops the cells from dying. However, as a person ages or the immune system is suppressed, people lose the ability to fight against the attack by retinal and blue light.

“That is when the real damage occurs,” Karunarathne said.

The lab currently is measuring light coming from television, cell phone and tablet screens to get a better understanding of how the cells in the eyes respond to everyday blue light exposure.

“If you look at the amount of light coming out of your cell phone, it’s not great but it seems tolerable,” Dr. John Payton, visiting assistant professor in the UT Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, said. “Some cell phone companies are adding blue-light filters to the screens, and I think that is a good idea.”

To protect your eyes from blue light, Karunarathne advises to wear sunglasses that can filter both UV and blue light outside and avoid looking at cell phones or tablets in the dark.

“Every year more than two million new cases of age-related macular degeneration are reported in the United States,” Karunarathne said. “By learning more about the mechanisms of blindness in search of a method to intercept toxic reactions caused by the combination of retinal and blue light, we hope to find a way to protect the vision of children growing up in a high-tech world.”

The Best Eyesight In The Animal Kingdom

Human eyes are complex and powerful organs, but there are a few animals who have us beat when it comes to eyesight.

Let’s take a look at some of the best peepers in the animal kingdom and find out what makes them so different from ours!

Difference Between Human And Animal Vision

All eyes work by the same principle of focusing light onto the retina and translating the resultant image into neurological signals in the brain, but depending on what an animal has to do to survive, there will be different adaptations. The adaptations that are important for humans include detailed color vision, the ability to detect motion, and depth perception.

One of the easiest differences to spot between all the kinds of animal eyes is predator versus prey animals. We have our eyes on the front of our faces, like predator animals, while prey animals tend to have their eyes on the sides of their heads so predators can’t sneak up on them.

But the differences go much farther than that. Eagles, for instance, have a much deeper fovea than humans, which essentially gives them built-in telephoto lenses! They can see detail at much greater distances than we can as a result. They also have a wider field of vision and color vision that enables them to see in the UV spectrum!

Which Eyes Are The Best?

Even eagles don’t have the best eyesight out there, though. They might be kings of the daytime skies, but their eyes can’t do everything. Here are some other incredible eyes in the wild:

  • The critter with the world’s best color vision (as far as we know) is the bluebottle butterfly. Where we have three different types of cones to detect color, they have a whopping fifteen, some of which see in the UV spectrum.
  • When it comes to night vision, owls are at the top. Their eyes are shaped more like tubes than spheres, and they don’t move in their sockets, so they swivel their heads instead. Their eyes are very large and their retinas have five times the rod density that ours do in order to see in the dark. They also have a layer behind the retina called the tapetum lucidum, which reflects the light back to the retinas one more time, sharpening the night vision even more.
  • Land animals, no matter how well they can see, lose that advantage underwater. But sharks’ eyes are well adapted to seeing in their ocean habitat. Many shark species have a protective layer over their eyes, and they have the tapetum lucidum like owls to see in dark or murky water.
  • The animal with perhaps the most complicated eyes is the mantis shrimp, which has eye-stalks that move independently, each of which has three separate compound eyes (meaning there are numerous separate low-resolution “screens” instead of a single image) that do different things and send the information to different parts of the brain. They also have twelve types of photoreceptors.

Have You Noticed A Change In Your Vision?

While our eyes will never be able to see the way animals do, if you notice a change in your own vision, schedule an appointment so we can check it out! We want to make sure you always have the most current prescription, and we especially want to make sure no eye conditions are developing.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

Top image by Flickr user jon hanson used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

5 Tips For Making Glasses Cool For Your Kids

Have you been struggling to convince your child to wear their glasses?

Many children struggle with getting used to glasses, whether it’s because they fear being teased or because the glasses feel strange on their faces, so how can we as parents make our children more excited to wear their glasses? Here are a few tips to help you do just that!

1. Make Sure The Glasses Fit

No child wants to wear something uncomfortable, and that holds just as true with glasses as with an article of clothing. Children are always growing, so glasses that fit perfectly a few months ago might be starting to pinch now. At our practice, we can adjust the fit of glasses to make sure they stay in place without being uncomfortably tight.

2. Let Them Choose Their Frames

Jeers of “nice glasses, four-eyes!” might be less common today than they once were, but children can still feel self-conscious about how their new glasses will impact their peers’ behavior towards them. A great way to counter this self-consciousness is to let them choose their own frames! Don’t let your own sense of fashion get in the way of your child’s delight at wearing brightly colored frames. If they get to wear frames they think are cool, they’ll feel much better about leaving them on.

3. Make Sure The Glasses Are Age-Appropriate

Even if a pair of glasses is your child’s favorite color, they will lose a lot of points in the coolness department if they are glasses that look like they’re for a younger child. Likewise, glasses for an older child won’t be very comfortable for toddlers. Let your child show off what a big kid they are by wearing glasses in the right style for their age group.

4. Set Goals And Take Your Time

If your child doesn’t like wearing glasses or they often forget to wear them, it’s okay to take it slow. Gradually work your way up from expecting them to wear their glasses for half an hour a day to wearing them for the whole day, or start out with having them wear glasses while reading or watching TV only, then expand to wearing them all day. If they need more motivation, you could incorporate treats and prizes.

5. Don’t Let Them Slack Off!

If you’re setting glasses goals, then make sure to stick to them. You can recruit the help of your child’s teacher, but you need to be a stickler about it too! Be supportive, but hold them to those goals. If they need more encouragement, you can remind them of all the cool characters in their favorite stories who have glasses, like Harry Potter, Superman, and Supergirl!

We’re Here To Help!

Your child might not believe glasses can be cool if you’re the only one saying it, but along with fitting their glasses and helping them find the coolest frames, we can give them our professional opinion that glasses are awesome! We’re proud to be your partners in ensuring your child’s lifelong vision health.

We can’t wait to help your child see clearly!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Cataracts And Our Vision

Over 20 million adults age 40 and older and half of seniors 80 and older have cataracts, and that’s just in the US.

Because cataracts are so common, it’s important to know what they are, their symptoms, and how they can be treated.

The Basics Of Cataracts

Normally, the proteins inside the lenses of our eyes line up in a way that makes them completely transparent, but over time they can begin to clump together in a way that blocks light. This clump of proteins is a cataract. It doesn’t affect the rest of the eye’s anatomy, but it can dim or fully obscure vision. Cataracts are so common that they are the leading cause of blindness across the world.

Cataract Symptoms

Cataracts may only take up a small area of the eyes’ lenses when they first begin to form, and the effect isn’t that noticeable. However, over time, the following symptoms may appear:

  • Dim, blurry, or cloudy vision
  • Difficulty seeing at night
  • Light sensitivity and increased glare
  • Halo effect around lights
  • Frequent changes in corrective lense prescriptions
  • Fading or yellowing colors
  • Double vision in one eye

Causes Aside From Old Age

While advancing age is the most common risk factor for cataracts, plenty of people get them starting at age 40, and several things increase our chances of getting them, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Family history of cataracts
  • UV radiation
  • High blood pressure
  • Previous eye injury or inflammation
  • Previous eye surgery
  • Obesity
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Prolonged corticosteroid medication use

Now For The Good News

Eventually, glasses or contacts won’t be able to do enough to counter the effects of cataracts. Fortunately, an eye surgeon can easily remove the cataracts and restore the patient’s clear vision, and it only takes one short surgery per eye. Cataract surgery is such a low-risk, routine, and simple surgery that it is performed more frequently than any other surgery in the US — at a rate of three million surgeries per year!

Sometimes cataract surgery can even correct other vision problems, like astigmatism:

Are You Experiencing Symptoms?

If you or someone you love has been dealing with cataract symptoms, there’s no need to suffer in silence! Schedule an appointment with us so that we can start making a plan to get you or your loved one back to a life free of cloudy vision!

Thank you for being a part of our practice family!

Top image by Flickr user Adam McGuffie used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Preventing Fireworks Eye Injuries

There’s something about a fireworks display that brings out feelings of childlike wonder in all of us.

The last thing we want is for that enjoyment to be marred by eye injuries, but unfortunately, this happens far too often.

Handle All Explosives With Care

Fireworks might just seem like harmless lights and sounds to anyone who hasn’t been injured by them, but what we need to remember is that everything from Roman candles to mortars is actually an explosive. They fling tiny pieces of shrapnel in every direction at high speeds when they go off, so it’s critical to remain a safe distance away.

What about firecrackers and sparklers? Even these are far from safe to have near children’s eyes. Sparklers burn hotter than 1200°F. To minimize risk of injury, make sure any children under the age of 12 are under close supervision while using them, don’t run while holding them, always hold them at arm’s length from your body, and never use more than one at a time. And protective eyewear wouldn’t hurt!

Fireworks Eye Injury Statistics

Thousands of Americans are injured by fireworks every year. 1,300 people went to emergency rooms specifically for eye injuries in 2014 alone. The worst part is that the majority of these injuries were sustained by innocent bystanders, not careless firework operators. Just one spark or piece of shrapnel is capable of causing permanent blindness, so make sure this doesn’t happen to you or your loved ones!

Safety First!

The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to skip doing them at home and only go to professional shows. However, there are several safety rules you can follow if you do purchase fireworks to set off at home:

  • Read all the labels on your fireworks and carefully follow any safety instructions.
  • Wear protective goggles at all times. Once shrapnel starts flying, goggles can be the difference between permanent blindness and walking away with no injury.
  • Closely supervise all young children around fireworks. Ideally, you should keep children under age 12 away from all fireworks, including sparklers and firecrackers.

In Case Of Injury

Even when we follow all the rules, accidents can still happen. If you or someone you know does sustain an eye injury this 4th of July, don’t rub, rinse out, or apply pressure or any ointment to the injured eye, because this could cause more damage. Instead, go straight to the emergency room. The sooner the eye gets treatment, the better the chances are for recovery.

Stay Safe And Have A Blast!

We want everyone to have a great time celebrating Independence Day with your family, friends, food, and fireworks. Just make sure you stay safe while you’re having fun!

We wish all our patients a safe and happy Fourth of July!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Eye Color Trivia

One of the first things we notice about someone when we meet them is their eyes.

The color, the shape, the expression, the eyelashes and eyebrows. In this post, we’re just going to focus on the color, because it’s a lot more complicated than you might expect!

How Common Is Your Eye Color?

The exact statistics of human eye color are hard to pin down, but in general, brown eyes (whether light or dark) are by far the most common across the world. In northern Europe, nearly everyone has blue eyes, but that number drops dramatically everywhere else, to the point where blue eyes are practically nonexistent in South America, Asia, and Africa.

The least common eye color is green. There are many slight variations in each of these colors, and sometimes more unusual colors will appear, such as amber, gray, and, in people with albinism, pale pinkish-blue. Another rare possibility is heterochromia, or having two different eye colors. Babies are often born with blue eyes, but the color changes as the melanin develops in their irises over time.

Behind Blue Eyes: Eye Color Genetics

The color of our eyes is determined by multiple different genes, most notably OCA2 and HERC2. Because multiple genes are involved, you can’t always predict a baby’s eye color. In general, brown eyes are more dominant and blue more recessive, but blue-eyed parents will sometimes still have a brown-eyed child.

One of the most interesting things researchers have uncovered about eye color is that blue eyes are the result of a single mutation to the OCA2 gene that turns off its ability to produce brown eyes. This means that everyone with blue eyes shares a common ancestor from between six and ten thousand years ago.

The Function Of Eye Color

As interesting as it is that blue eyes all come from one person with a genetic mutation, they do come with a slight disadvantage. The absence of melanin in the irises leaves blue-eyed people more vulnerable to damage from UV rays (which means it’s extra important to wear sunglasses if you have blue eyes).

Interested In Trying Out Another Color?

Every pair of eyes is unique and beautiful, but if you’ve been wondering what a different eye color would look like on you, we can help you find the perfect pair of color contact lenses, so come see us soon!

Our patients are a sight for sore eyes!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Don’t Forget Your Sunglasses!

With summer almost here, many of us are looking forward to spending a lot of time outdoors.

Before we head out, though, we need to make sure we’re protecting ourselves from the sun’s UV rays, both with sunscreen for our skin and with sunglasses for our eyes.

Why We Need UV Protection

We all know that we can get nasty sunburns if we stay outside too long without sunscreen, but did you know that our eyes can be damaged in similar ways by too much sunlight? UV-A rays reach all the way to our retinas and can lead to macular degeneration (loss of central vision), while UV-B rays affect the cornea and lens, causing corneal sunburns and increasing the risk of developing cataracts.

Sunglasses Have Come A Long Way

The earliest form of sunglasses were flattened walrus ivory with slits across the front, made by the Inuit people to protect against glare from the snow. They worked pretty well, and the same principle is used in modern polarized lenses. Non-polarized sunglasses became popular thanks to early film stars, but polarized lenses weren’t developed until the mid-1930s.

Over the decades, sunglasses have gone through numerous different styles. The cat-eye frame was made popular in the 1950s by Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn, the ’60s saw the big bug-eyed frames take off because of Jackie Kennedy, and so on. These days, everyone has a unique style, taking inspiration from many of the past decades. And while we always like to look cool in our shades, the most important factor should always be that they do an effective job of protecting our eyes from the sun.

Finding The Right Pair

The first thing to look for when choosing new sunglasses is UV protection. When you buy sunglasses, make sure the label says they block at least 99 percent of UV rays. The next thing to look for is the size. Although most sunglasses are chosen for their style, opting for a style that has wider frames will allow more coverage and protection. Choosing frames that sit closer to the eyes will help to make sure you get more coverage too!

Another variable to consider apart from style is the color of the lenses, because different colors provide different benefits. Yellow and amber lenses filter out blue light, which makes them great for sports, while rose and purple lenses increase contrast against blue and green backgrounds, which makes them great for hunting and water skiing. Whatever color you choose, though, polarized lenses will give you the best glare reduction.

Come Try On Our Shades

If you’re still not sure which sunglasses are right for you, don’t stress. Come see us and we can help you pick out the perfect ones to suit your style and protect your eyes. We can fit them to you as well and make sure you’ll get the most UV protection possible!

We can’t wait to see you in your shades!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

How Exercise Benefits Our Eyes

Exercising for good health is a top priority for many people.

We exercise to build strength, stay fit, and feel good. Staying active is crucial to overall health, including lowering our risk of chronic health problems like type 2 diabetes, heart conditions, and high blood pressure, but did you know that exercise can specifically benefit the health of your eyes? Let’s take a look at some of the ways we can maintain good vision health through exercise!

Our Eyes Without Exercise

Studies have shown that a sedentary lifestyle can leave a person at greater risk of vision loss as they age than a more active lifestyle. This is because many of those chronic diseases that impact our overall health can take a toll on our vision. Type 2 diabetes, for instance, is a major risk factor for several sight-threatening conditions, including diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, cataracts, and glaucoma.

Reducing Your Risk Of Eye Disease

When we say that exercise is good for your eyes, we don’t mean you won’t need glasses anymore if you work out, but eating healthy and exercising regularly are the best ways to prevent developing these chronic and sight-threatening conditions. Exercising at least three times per week can make you 70 percent less likely to develop wet age-related macular degeneration, and it can drop your chance of developing glaucoma by 25 percent!

Exercise Tips For Eye Health

We know it isn’t always easy to find time in your busy schedule for a trip to the gym, but that’s not the only way you can stay fit, and you don’t need to become a bodybuilder in order to stay healthy. Simply taking regular walks around your block, going for light jogs, and even doing yoga can significantly decrease your risks for developing sight-threatening conditions. Just make sure you’re doing these things at least two to three times a week!

Here’s a cardio workout you could squeeze into just a few minutes of free time:

Regularly Scheduling Check-ups

Along with making time for a regular exercise regimen, it’s important to continue scheduling eye exams! Exercise will do you a world of good, but it isn’t a cure-all. That’s why we’re always here to make sure your eyes are staying healthy, so keep scheduling times to see us and keep exercising! Your eyes will thank you for both!

Keep up the good work in keeping your eyes healthy!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Women’s Vision Health

Men and women have plenty of differences, but did you know that some of them have to do with eyesight and vision health?

While men are more prone to eye injuries for various reasons, women are more susceptible to eye diseases. So what problems should women be on the watch for?

Common Vision Problems For Women

The least serious vision problem that disproportionately affects women is simply needing corrective lenses. However, women are also more susceptible to dry eye, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and glaucoma. Chronic dry eye can result in blurred vision, irritation, redness, and pain. Eye drops can help, but it’s important to come see us so we can determine the underlying cause.

AMD (gradual loss of central vision) and glaucoma (increased eye pressure that damages the optic nerve) are both serious sight-threatening conditions, and the reason they affect women more than men is that women tend to live longer! The best way to fight both is with early detection from regular eye exams.

Eye Disease Risk Factors 

There are several risk factors associated with developing vision problems (aside from age). The biggest (and easiest to fix) is neglect. Since women are typically the primary caregivers for their families, their health often gets pushed to the back burner while they tend to everyone else’s needs. With so much to do, it becomes easier to forget to schedule eye exams for themselves, and emerging problems might go unnoticed until more serous stages.

Pregnancy, birth control, and menopause are also risk factors because they create significant hormone changes. Dry eye is common under any of these circumstances, and birth control may increase the likelihood of developing cataracts.

The Female Perspective

Aside from susceptibility to eye disease, men and women actually have slight differences in how their eyes work! Studies have shown that while men’s eyes are better at tracking movement, women are better at distinguishing between different shades of colors, and not just because it’s much rarer for women to be color blind than men.

This could be tied to women’s roles from when our ancestors lived as hunter-gatherers. Being able to identify the right shade of red in the berries you’re picking could be the difference between a tasty treat and a deadly poison. Just think; arguments between married couples over paint swatches might be the result of evolution!

A very small number of women might even be tetrachromates, meaning they’re able to see colors the rest of us can’t imagine!

The Role Of Your Optometrist

There are several things you can do to help keep your eyes as healthy as possible. These include eating a nutritious diet, quitting smoking, and, of course, scheduling regular eye exams! And even if we saw you recently, whenever you notice a change in your vision, you should come in for an appointment right away.

We love helping you keep your eyes healthy!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Where Online Eye Exams Fall Short

Over the last couple of decades, the internet has changed just about every aspect of our lives.

From the way we shop to the way we gain information to the way we connect with friends, the Information Age is a very different world. The internet has made so many things easier, but sometimes that convenience comes at the cost of quality. This is definitely the case for so-called “telemedicine” solutions like online eye exams.

What Is An Online Eye Exam?

The purpose of an online eye exam is to give the user their prescription for corrective lenses from the comfort of their own home. Some tests can even include exams for color blindness and contrast sensitivity. Many of these sites will have licensed eye doctors verify the results, but these the results aren’t always accurate. In fact, the exams are so rudimentary compared to in-person comprehensive eye exams that the FDA might not continue to allow websites offering this service to use the phrase “eye exams” to describe what they do.

Online Eye Exams Leave You Vulnerable

Most online eye exams do little more than check for visual acuity—in other words, they do just enough to get you a prescription. But problems with visual acuity aren’t the only things that can go wrong with your eyesight or with the health of your eyes. Anyone who relies solely on online eye exams might be able to keep their glasses prescription up to date, but they won’t know if they’re developing any sight-threatening eye conditions, such as retinal detachment, glaucoma, or macular degeneration.

The Advantages Of An In-Person Exam

So what do optometrists do that an app or website can’t? In-person eye exams come with the benefit of having an experienced medical professional right there with you in a fully equipped exam room. We don’t simply update your prescription, we make sure your eyes are healthy. Your eyes are also the window to your overall health. This means that when we look at your retinas, we can see the signs of health conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.

Schedule Your Next Exam Today!

If you’ve taken an online eye exam to get a quick prescription update, that’s okay. Sometimes it can be difficult to make room for an in-person eye exam in a busy schedule. Just remember that an online eye exam is not an effective substitute for a comprehensive eye exam from us, and we strongly recommend that you continue to schedule yearly appointments.

We’ll be seeing you soon!

Top image by Flickr user Elvis Batiz used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.