Month: September 2018

The Emergence of The Bionic Eye

The Hargrave Eye Center’s latest post:

It is estimated that around 36 million people are legally blind, and an additional 217 million have moderate or severe impairment to their vision. Though it’s believed that a significant amount of impairment can be prevented, there is no known cure for blindness; bionic eyes may provide a means of redefining what it means to see.

Prosthetic eyes, often known as “glass” or “artificial” eyes, only replace the eye physically to mimic the appearance of the removed part, whereas bionic eyes grant the wearer the ability to perceive their world without replacing the existing physical structure. There are, of course, significant limitations to the capabilities of such technology, but the bionic eye is a great step towards restoring sight in those who experience some form of low vision or blindness.

Existing Developments

So far, only one model of bionic eye, the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System created by California-based company Second Sight, has been approved by the American Food and Drug Association (FDA). This bionic eye cannot help everyone, however. The effectiveness of the apparatus is dependent on the cause of blindness. The bionic eye has been designed mostly for treating Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), a fairly rare group of genetic disorders that leads to the deterioration of cells in the retina but leaves the connected nerves intact. Work is being done to treat more common causes of blindness, like degenerative conditions, but current technology limits what is possible.

The bionic eye is not designed to cure blindness; rather, it provides a means for those affected by severely impaired vision to navigate the world through recognizable light patterns that depict movement and shapes.

How It Works

The Argus II is composed of a retinal implant, a pair of glasses with a camera, and a video processing unit (VPU). The implant is surgically placed on the retina, and it features 60 micro-electrodes that stimulate nerve reactions which no longer occur naturally. The camera communicates electrical signals to the implant, which then stimulate the connected nerves. The resulting pattern of light produced by the relay of information between the nerves and brain replicates the images a fully-functional eye would perceive.

The facilitated “vision” is not identical to average sight, however. While the technology is far from perfect, and in order to replicate “normal” vision the device would need a significantly higher number of electrodes (a number estimated to be around one million), the advancement in restoring or replicating sight is astounding.

Testimonial

James Kelm, one of the world’s first people to receive the Argus II implant, described his new vision as “chaos,” but he was amazed that for the first time in more than two decades, he was able to make out moving shapes and identify his wife, whom he had never seen. He compared the flashes of light to a night sky full of stars, and that learning to understand the patterns is comparable to “learning how to identify the different constellations.

There is still room for improvement, but the existing bionic eye is certainly an indicator of significant technological development in regards to the treatment of blindness. Presently, there are many limitations to what the Argus II and other bionic eyes in development can do and how much more progress can be made on the project. Still, the success so far suggests that science and technology are moving in a direction where those without sight will soon be able to navigate the world with more ease.

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Things To Consider Before Getting Laser Eye Surgey

The Hargrave Eye Center’s latest post:

If your vision is impaired and you must wear corrective lenses or contacts, you may have considered laser eye surgery as an alternative. As of mid-2016, LASIK, the most common form of laser eye surgery, had a patient satisfaction rate of 96%, and 99% percent of patients were left with 20/40 vision or better. However, laser eye surgery is not meant for everyone, and there are bound to be a number of misconceptions regarding the process. Before deciding on the surgery, there are a few things you need to consider.

Preparation

Prior to getting the surgery, you must adhere to the doctor’s instructions in order to avoid complications. You will not be permitted to wear contacts for a few weeks leading up to the surgery. Contacts change the shape of the cornea, and it’s important that the eye has returned to its natural shape by the time you arrive. You are able to wear glasses in that interim, so this is usually not an issue, but understanding this requirement is important before you make your decision.

You should also avoid wearing makeup and facial lotions for around a week before the surgery in order to reduce the risk of infection following the procedure.

Costs

Many insurances don’t cover LASIK because it is deemed elective and cosmetic. Some offices have payment plans that are adaptable, but you should consider your financial situation and willingness to pay out of pocket for the procedure.

Additionally, you will be required to purchase things like eye drops to use both before and after your procedure. These are often not included in the price of the surgery.

Surgery Procedure

The actual surgery does not take much time; most procedures take less than ten minutes. The surgery itself entails a process of cutting a flap on the eye and reshaping the cornea. It is a simple process, resulting in the short estimation of its duration.

Even though the surgery affects one of the most sensitive parts of the body, patients are not given anesthesia to put them to sleep. Instead, anesthetic eye drops are applied to numb the eye so that the patient feels no pain. This means that patients are awake while the surgery takes place. Doctors are permitted to give mild sedatives to patients who are anxious, but the procedure is quick and painless.

Following the surgery, it is advised the patient take plenty of time to rest and keep their eyes closed as much as possible. As laser eye surgery is an outpatient surgery, patients are sent home that same day of the procedure. Patients will usually have to return to the office within a day or so to assess the healing process.

Possible Side Effects & Complications

No surgery is completely without risk of side effects. Some patients who undergo laser eye surgery experience some side effects, often in the form of dry eyes, bursts of light or haziness, or eye infections. Rarer complications include undercorrections and overcorrections, where surgeons remove too much or too little tissue from the eye resulting in nonoptimal vision correction.

Is It Right For You?

As mentioned previously, laser eye surgery is not the solution to all cases of impaired vision. You may want to reconsider getting laser eye surgery if:

  • You have a disease that will lead to the progressive deterioration of your eyes.
  • You have a condition like dry eyes, large pupils, glaucoma, or cataracts.
  • Your vision is not bad enough to warrant the use of glasses at all times. If you wear glasses part time or only for certain activities, the surgery may not be worth the risk.
  • You actively participate in contact sports like football, boxing, or martial arts. Anything with a high risk of facial or head contact might deter you from deciding on undergoing the surgery.

It is important to understand that there is no guarantee of perfect vision with laser eye surgery; many patients who have undergone the surgery still need glasses for certain activities like reading or low-light conditions. Understanding the process and the potential outcomes of the surgery should play into your decision.

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Understanding The Signs Of Myopia

The Hargrave Eye Center’s latest post:

Better known as nearsightedness, myopia is among the most common refractive errors of the eye. Myopia is believed to affect 30-40 % of adults in Europe and the United States, and closer to 80% of adults in Asia. While the condition is common, that does not mean it isn’t dangerous; there are risks of developing additional eye issues if myopia is not diagnosed and appropriated treated. Understanding the signs of myopia can help you get proper treatment and can also help prevent any further complications.

Causes

The most common cause of myopia is the elongation of the eye, which makes the eye lens concentrate perceived images in front of the retina, whereas a normal eye will focus the image on the retina. Myopia can also be caused by a cornea that is too curved or a lens that is too thick for the eye. Regardless of the exact cause, myopia makes it difficult for people to perceive that which is far away, but it does not usually affect their ability to see things nearby.

It is believed that excessive screen time and spending too much time indoors can accelerate the development of myopia, so taking precautions to limit the amount of time you spend using electronic devices and remaining inside can help prevent the condition from worsening.

Signs of Myopia in Children

The most effective means of identifying the signs of myopia in children is for them to undergo an eye exam, but there are other recognizable behaviors that can indicate the onset of nearsightedness. If a child insists on sitting close to a television or near the front of the class, it may be because they are unable to see the screen or front of the classroom from a distance. If they squint while looking at distant objects, complain of frequent headaches, or hold books and other objects close to their face, it is possible they are suffering from myopia.

Scheduling an eye exam will confirm whether or not they are nearsighted, and if they are, corrective lenses will be the simplest way to correct their vision and remedy their symptoms. As myopia is most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 8 and 12, it is important to observe children and address any concerns regarding their vision as early as possible.

Myopia Severity

There are roughly three categories of myopia severity ranging from mild, moderate, and high myopia. They are organized by a degree of nearsightedness, measured in diopters, and the higher the number, the more severe the myopia. It is important to understand this categorization because of the potential health risks and complications that can result from myopia; though mild myopia does not often pose an increased risk of developing eye conditions, both moderate and high myopia are associated with cataracts, glaucoma, and retinal detachment.

Retinal Detachment

Though not exactly common, retinal detachment can occur as a complication of myopia. Experiencing a sudden influx of floaters—which are small specks or shapes that seemingly drift across your field of vision and quickly move away if you try to directly look at them—, flashes of light, or an abnormal shadow are indicators that you should see a doctor. If left untreated, retinal detachment can result in a loss of vision.

Though myopia can be a serious condition, it is very much treatable. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of myopia is crucial to getting proper treatment and addressing any potential risk for the development of additional, more severe health conditions and complications.

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Helping Protect Your Children From Eye Injuries

The Hargrave Eye Center’s latest post:

As a parent, you want to ensure your children are as healthy as they can be, but eye health may not be the first thing on your list. Being aware of potential conditions that could affect your children’s eyes and taking precautionary measures to prevent or treat them can help you protect your children from injuries and keep them generally healthy. Listed below are a few things to consider when caring for your children’s eye health.

Diet

While it’s a common belief that consuming carrots will improve your vision, the truth is that the key to healthy eyes is a little more simple and attainable. A healthy, balanced diet will provide your body with the proper nutrients to maintain its health; things like vitamin E, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and lutein have been connected to eye health, so promoting a diverse diet will help attain good nutrients for you and your children in general, which is the best way to protect your eyes.

Technology

Because of the prevalence of smart devices and computers, especially for recreational use, eye strain and other conditions resulting from too much screen time are increasingly common. Children may develop computer vision syndrome (CVS) which can result in tired or dry eyes, vision problems, and discomfort.

Technology has become a functional part of the modern age and is used for fun and education alike, so it is unlikely that eliminating use entirely will be an option. In order to combat injuries caused by strain and exposure to excess blue light that is emitted from digital screens, encouraging breaks from screen time can help alleviate discomfort and fatigue; promoting the exercise of looking at something farther away than the digital screen for a period of time during these breaks can also help relax eye muscles and prevent myopia progression.

Protection

Thousands of eye injuries occur each year due to sports-related incidents, and it’s estimated that around 90% of these injuries could be preventable. For activities like contact sports, making sure your child wears the appropriate gear (such as helmets or masks) will help prevent any serious eye injuries from occurring. Children who wear glasses regularly should wear sports glasses which are designed to be more secure and resilient, and for other activities that might involve powerful equipment or a potential hazard, they should wear safety goggles over their glasses.

Avoiding UV light by wearing sunglasses will also limit the damage caused by sunlight, and children who go swimming, especially young children or those wearing contacts, should use watertight goggles to prevent infection. Taking precautionary measures and informing your children of the importance of protection will help reduce the risk of eye injury.

Observation

Pay attention to your children’s eyes. If you notice anything abnormal like haziness around the pupil or crossed eyes, you should schedule an appointment with an eye doctor. These could be indicators of serious conditions like nystagmus or cataracts respectively. Being proactive and taking note of any physical abnormalities in your children’s eyes will help ensure that you are able to get an early diagnosis and take actions for treatment if necessary. A change in the eye may not always signify something is wrong, but it is better to get the opinion of a specialist to be certain.

Eye Exams

Scheduling regular comprehensive eye exams will help guarantee any changes in your children’s eyes don’t go unnoticed. There are also a few ways you can test your vision at home, but this is a supplemental measure, not to be used as a replacement for the official eye exams which involve assessment of the eye itself rather than just vision. Muscle strength, color vision, and glaucoma screening are all potential components of a thorough eye exam, and because most of these cannot be properly completed at home, you should schedule professional eye exams when your children are between the ages of 3 and 5, and fairly regularly throughout their school years. It is advisable to take the advice of your doctor regarding the frequency of eye exams for your children.

Accidents happen, but preventative measures exist to limit the risk of eye injury. Make sure you care for their eyes when they are young to prevent any future issues, as well as to treat any existing conditions before they worsen. Being proactive and considering the items on the list above will help you protect your children from eye injuries and keep them both healthy and whole.

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