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Science and your eyes; eight upcoming advancements
Tiny Diamonds Deliver Medicine
People with glaucoma rely on drops to control elevated pressures in their eyes. This pressure can, over time, lead to blindness. It can often be difficult for patients to get a true dose of the eye drops and to take them on schedule. Researchers from UCLA may have solved both problems with contact lenses made from super-tiny nanodiamonds. Coated with time-release medication, these lenses have the ability to deliver the right dose in the right place at the right time. This project will begin animal studies soon.
New Applications for HIV Medications
Talk about a new purpose -- doctors have found that drugs most often used to treat HIV and AIDS can also help with a leading cause of blindness: age-related macular degeneration. So far, the drugs -- called nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) -- have been tested only in mice, so there's a long way to go before they may be approved for this use on people. When they are, the good news is they're already on the market, they're not costly, and they're safe.
Gene Therapy Might Restore Sight
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley placed a gene into the retinas of blind mice with a condition similar to retinitis pigmentosa. Afflicting people of all ages, retinitis pigmentosa causes a gradual loss of vision, akin to losing pixels in a digital camera. Sight is lost from the periphery to the center, usually leaving people with the inability to navigate their surroundings. Some 100,000 Americans suffer from this group of inherited retinal diseases. The gene therapy allowed the animals to tell whether lights were flashing. They added a chemical "switch" to help brain cells respond to light. This technique has also helped restore sight in dogs. With luck, one day it will work in humans.
Could Your TV Diagnose Glaucoma?
Scientists at City University London mapped eye movements while people watched TV. They found that healthy eyes follow a different path than ailing ones. The study is in the early stages, but the researchers hope it will translate into easier -- and earlier -- diagnosis and treatment for glaucoma and other conditions. This technology could prove especially beneficial in places where people have limited or no access to an eye doctor or clinic, but they can sit down and watch a screen.
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When is it time to “act on a cataract”?
A cataract diagnosis does not typically mean that surgery is required immediately. Cataracts occur as part of the body’s natural aging process and may not change vision significantly in the early stages. Small cataract-related changes may be improved with prescription glasses. The cataracts will continue to mature over time and eventually may cause vision loss that interferes with one’s daily activities.
Cataract surgery is very common
The prospect of cataract surgery can be intimidating, yet the procedure itself is the most common elective surgery among Medicare beneficiaries in the United States. Multiple studies have demonstrated that cataract surgery can lead to improved quality of life, reduced risk of falling and fewer car accidents.
The following four questions can help you determine whether or not you’re ready for cataract surgery:
1. Are cataracts impacting your daily or occupational activities?
Symptoms of cataracts include dim, blurry or yellowed vision. They may even cause double vision in one eye. The lack of contrast and clarity can be difficult for those who need clear vision for work, driving or for those who enjoy hobbies like reading, cooking or sewing.
2. Are cataracts affecting your ability to drive safely at night?
Cataracts can cause halos around lights and difficulty seeing in low-light settings, which can impact the ability to safely drive at night. Advanced cataracts can even cause enough vision loss to fail the vision test required for a driver's license.
3. Are cataracts interfering with the outdoor activities you enjoy?
Cataracts can also cause increased sensitivity to glare, which can be especially troublesome for those who enjoy skiing, surfing and a number of other outdoor activities. They can also cause visual differences from one eye to the other, which can affect the distance vision required for people who play golf, tennis and similar recreational activities.
4. Can you manage your cataracts in other ways?
If you feel as though cataract-related blurred or dulled vision has begun to slow you down, cataract surgery can have a significant and beneficial impact. If cataracts aren't disrupting your life, you may elect to wait and have surgery if and when the cataracts really start to bother you.
Those who decide to put off cataract surgery can make the most of their vision with a few simple tools, such as incorporating brighter lighting and contrasting colors in the home. Polarized sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat can reduce glare, while magnifying lenses can make reading easier.
Consult your doctor at Eye Care Associates if you believe cataracts have started to negatively affect your life.