• Exciting Upcoming Advancements in Ophthalmology
  • Advances in Diagnosis and Treatment of Eye Diseases
  • When is it Time to “Act on a Cataract”?

Advances in the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases

More than 285 million people around the world have vision loss and blindness. No matter what the degree, losing some or all of your sight can be emotionally devastating. It's very hard for any individuals to feel like they're losing their independence, and being able to see is a huge part of that.

But the good news is that advances are being made every day in the diagnosis and treatment of various eye diseases. This is probably one of the most exciting times in ophthalmology in terms of developing technology that can help people who were once blind be able to see again. Promising works in progress include advances in drugs, stem cell treatments, and even a bionic eye. Many of these discoveries have been made in the last decade.

Drugs/cold laser therapy for macular degeneration

One such area where treatment has come along very quickly is with macular degeneration, a disease that affects nearly 2 million Americans. It has the potential to cause partial blindness by damaging part of the retina. As it involves the center portion of the vision, the loss of vision can prevent driving and make reading and close work difficult.

Prior to seven years ago, there were no good treatments for macular degeneration. Now there are several treatments for the more-damaging "wet" form of this disease, including several drugs and a cold laser technology. Several drugs are being tested for the "dry" form, but there are no approved treatments yet.

Artificial retinas

Trials are also underway with artificial retinas – photo sensors (similar to those in a smart phone) implanted in or near the retina that are connected to a small computer. The computer interprets light signals and sends the information to the brain. For those people who grew up in the ‘70s watching The Six Million Dollar Man and were fascinated about the possibility of the bionic eye, today it's actually being done. Because computer power generally doubles every two years, the advances in this area are expected to be rapid.

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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.


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.