Tag Archives: blindness

FDA Approves First Bionic Eye

The FDA approved Second Sight’s “bionic” eye. While actually more of a retinal prosthesis, the implant is designed to assist patients with retinitis pigmentosa. The Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System has a resolution of 60 pixels. The device will not provide the HD type of vision that our eyes are capable of; however, more importantly, this technology will greatly aid a blind patient’s mobility and is a revolutionary step forward.

The system consists of a wireless retinal implant that rests on the retina. The patient will wear special glasses that see the image. The image will be sent to a visual processing unit that is worn on the patient’s hip. Once the data is processed it is sent back to the glasses which wirelessly transmit this data to the retinal implant. The implant electrically stimulates the photoreceptors simulating a coarse image. The patient learns how to interpret these light and dark images allowing them to navigate around and among obstacles.

The device was approved for use in Europe last year. Check out the video below from the European branch of the medical device company.

New iPhone App for the Visually Impaired

EyeNote™ LogoThe US Bureau of Engraving and Printing has developed EyeNote™  a free, new iPhone app to aid the visually impaired or blind in identifying US paper currency. Essentially, the app is designed to allow the user to hold the bill in one hand and the iPhone in the other while scanning the paper currency. After a few seconds the iPhone will tell the user the denomination of the currency in English or Spanish. EyeNote™ can also operate in privacy mode with a different number of beeps signaling the value of the currency.

The app runs independent of a data connection. EyeNote™ can not differentiate between genuine and fake currency.  EyeNote™ works on the following devices

  • iPhone 3G
  • iPhone 3Gs
  • iPhone 4
  • 4th Generation iPod Touch
  • iPad2EyeNote QR Code URL

Scan the QR code to the right with your iPhone to go to the iTunes EyeNote™ page.

World Glaucoma Awareness Week is March 7 to March 13

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

COLLEYVILLE, TEXAS – March 6, 2010 – In honor of World Glaucoma Awareness Week (March 7 to March 13, 2010), Total Eye Care will be offering free Glaucoma Screenings on World Glaucoma Day, March 12, 2010 at the Colleyville office located at 6114 Colleyville Blvd. from Noon to 2pm.

“Early detection and awareness are crucial to limiting vision loss from glaucoma.  The purpose of Glaucoma Awareness Week is to get the word out and prompt patients to seek an evaluation from their eye doctor.  At Total Eye Care we would like to make it easier for patients to learn about glaucoma by offering a free screening ” says Dr. Richard Driscoll, clinical director at Total Eye Care.  Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide, not because of lack of effective methods for diagnosis and treatment, but due to insufficient information available to the public and low awareness of the implications of the disease.  Glaucoma is asymptomatic in its early stages, while the patient’s vision suffers irreversible and cumulative damage. Visual disturbances are noted by the patient during the later stages on the way to blindness, whereas timely diagnosis and therapy could have prevented this degradation.

“We have so many advanced medications and diagnostic instruments available to us that the detection and treatment of glaucoma has been greatly advanced in the last 10 to 15 years” says Dr. Alycia Green.  A glaucoma awareness questionnaire is available on the Total Eye Care website along with detailed handouts for patients on glaucoma and many other eye diseases such as macular degeneration and keratoconus.

Total Eye Care participates in Glaucoma Awareness Week, the complete press release.

About Total Eye Care

Therapeutic Optometrist and Optometric Glaucoma Specialist Dr. Richard Driscoll has been serving the eye care needs of Colleyville, Texas since 1995.  Dr. Alycia Green brings over 10 years of experience to Total Eye Care, specializing in pediatrics.  The Colleyville office is located at 6114 Colleyville Blvd.  Total Eye Care’s Keller office is located at 1834 Keller Parkway. More information can be found on The Eye Doc Blog or the Total Eye Care website at www.TotalEyeCare.com

Contact Information

Dr. Richard Driscoll
Total Eye Care
6114 Colleyville Blvd.
Colleyville, TX 76034
817.416.0333

Preventing Vision Problems in Children Must Become a Priority in The US

That is the opinion of The National Commission on Vision & Health, in a new report entitled “Building a Comprehensive Vision Care System“, found that 25% of school age children have undiagnosed vision problems and that correcting this must become a national health care priority.

91837233_f94352da20_mSome of the vision problems cited in the literature review included undiagnosed nearsightedness, farsightedness, amblyopia, retinoblastoma, congenital defects, and strabismus.  The report went on to state that a vision screening was not a substitute for an eye exam and that eye exams from an optometrist or ophthalmologist were a very effective way to detect vision problems in children.

In 2004 The Vision council of America estimated that the rate of undetected vision problems in children to be 25%.  The 2010 National Health Objective 28-4 to reduce blindness and visual impairment in children and adolescents has experienced little progress in it’s goal to reduce childhood blindness.

In 2002 the American Public Health Association (APHA) issued a statement supporting regular eye exams in children to improve the detection rate of vision problems instead of regular screenings.  APHA recommended eye exams at age 6 mos, 2 years and 4 years.  A failure of the current screening program is the lack of follow through for children when problems are detected.  “Most forms of vision loss in children are preventable.  Improving the access to eye care for children should be as important as are our current childhood vaccination programs” said Dr. Richard Driscoll.

Sixteen states do not require any vision assessment prior to a child entering school.  The remaining states require some for of vision assessment prior to a child entering school, however only five states require a follow up examination to the screening.  Screenings are clearly not effective if the results are not acted upon.  Only three states, Illinois, Kentucky and Missouri have legislated mandatory eye exams prior to a child entering school.

Cost was found to be an issue with getting visual assessments for children.  Uninsured children did not receive a well child visit 54% of the time.  Often a well child visit includes a visual assessment.

The recommendations of the study to improve access to eye care for children  included funding national campaigns to educate the public regarding the need to seek care for their child, setting up national standards to be adopted by all states, assure adequate vision coverage by all public and private insurers.

For more articles written on The Eye Doc Blog on vision problems in children see

Gene Therapy Restores Vision

Gene Therapy SurgeryScientists at the University of Florida Restore Some Sight to Three Adult Patients with Congenital Vision Loss

One year ago the retina of two men and one woman in their 20s were injected with a harmless virus that contained vision correcting genes.  All three patients lived with severe vision loss from a congenital problem call Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis Type 2.  A gene responsible for a necessary protein used in the visual process is defective, gene therapy fixes the failed gene.  One year after the gene therapy treatment these patients reporting being able to see light which was a significant improvement in their vision.  One of the patients reported that she was able to see her parents clock, she had never been able to do this before.  The study has two more years to run and it is likely that more patients will be added.

This is a very exciting medical development and shows that gene therapy holds great promise.  There are so many genetic conditions, not only in the eye but the entire body, that can benefit from this type of treatment.  Much research still needs to be done, however this lays the groundwork for promising future development. The exciting thing about this discovery is that it shows that it is possible to fix bad genes and improve people’s lives.

Firefox Browser Tips and Addons for Low Vision Patients

lowbrowse-icon

I started to write this post to inform patients with low vision about the added utility of using Firefox to make the screen more readable.  Very simply you can magnify the Firefox window by holding down the CTRL key and then hitting the + key or the – key as appropriate to make the entire Firefox screen change size.  The post then grew to including useful Firefox addons, which will be our next blog post.   However, in researching other Firefox addons for low vision patients I came across LowBrowse™ and I am very glad I did.  It is a great program for patients with limited vision from diseases such as macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa or glaucoma.

First of all the easiest way to get LowBrowse™ is directly from its developer, the Lighthouse International.  The step by step instructions are very detailed and easy to understand.  LowBrowse™ was developed in the Arlene R. Gordon Research Institute by vision scientist Aries Arditi, Ph.D. under a research grant from the National Eye Institute.  Dr. Arditi has also developed larger mouse icons which are very essential to increasing a computer’s usability for patients with low vision as well as improving the functionality of LowBrowse™ for the severely visually impaired.

Installation was easy and no different than any other Firefox addon.  Once the browser restarted a window appeared just above the Firefox tabs and below the toolbars.  This window is where the magnified text appears and is referred to the reading window.  Below the reading window is the normal Firefox browser window which is referred to as the global window.

The reading window is configurable as to the size of text, font and color.  The default color of the reading window is white print on a black background.  Initially the reading window was blank for me.  I discovered that the Firefox extension “Tab Mix Plus” was interfering with LowBrowse™.  Once I disabled the offending extension and restarted my browser my magnification window, or reading window as it is referred to in the help file, displayed text that was about 2 inches tall.

LowBrowse-Screen-Capture

Once you place your cursor over any text in the global window, the text in that paragraph will be available in the reading window by scrolling through it with the left and right arrow keys.  If the LowBrowse™ extension is enabled you can not use the left and right arrow keys for navigation in the large global screen, they are only available for scrolling text in the reading screen.

LowBrowse™ also has a text to speech function that was developed in cooperation with Charles L. Chen.  I found the text to speech function to work very well and was quite accurate on my Windows Vista PC.  The speech function worked very much like the magnification window.  You place your cursor on the text you want to read in the global window and it reads the paragraph.

I found LowBrowse™ to be a great addition to our inventory of options available for patients with low vision.  When combining Firefox’s inherent ability to magnify the webpage in the larger navigation window with the speech function and greater magnification capacity of LowBrowse™ it truly opens up the Internet to patients with low vision.

Another device we have reviewed and found useful for some low vision patients is the Amazon Kindle, for more information see our review.  Also see our review of the 10 must have Firefox Addons.

Cool Technology – Stem Cell Treated Contact Lens Reduces Blindness

This is great stuff.  A contact lens was applied to a patient’s eye to treat a corneal problem, reducing the patient’s blindness.  Contact lenses will soon be used to administer allergy and glaucoma medications.  Our state legislature, here in Texas, last month approved eye doctors to fit the medication delivery contact lenses.  Optometrists and ophthalmologists will be able to begin fitting them when the FDA gives the new drug delivery contact lenses their final approval.  Check out the stem cell video below.   A medical school in Australia is pioneering this important technology.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYDSPFuWFDM]

How Does Glaucoma Damage the Eye?

We are frequently asked to explain how glaucoma causes blindness. Glaucomatous damage to the eye is caused when the pressure within the eye is greater than the optic nerve can tolerate. How does the pressure cause blindess? The simple answer is we don’t know exactly, however there are two main theories as to why the damage occurs. Neither theory fully explains how the optic nerve damage occurs in the different types of glaucoma.

The Vascular Theory of Glaucoma

The premise of the vascular theory is that high pressure inside the eye restricts blood flow to the optic nerve causing the optic nerve to slowly die from lack of oxygen and nutrients.

The Mechanical Theory of Glaucoma

Physical damage is the underlying hypothesis of the mechanical theory of glaucoma. It is thought that the high pressure damages the optic nerve fibers.

So Which One Is It?

That’s a good question the leading researchers can make a convincing case for both theories and neither theory, by itself can completely explain how glaucoma damages the eye. In reality both probably play a role in how an eye is damaged by glaucoma.

Stumble It!

Q: If My Blood Pressure is High Does That Mean the Pressure in My Eye is High Too?

A: This is a great question that gets asked a lot. The pressure inside your eye is completely unrelated to your blood pressure. The intra-ocular pressure system and the blood pressure are completely separate systems and fluid is not exchanged between them. Therefore, if you have high blood pressure you won’t necessarily have glaucoma.