Category Archives: Eye Health

In recent years, many smartphone apps that are aimed at blind people have appeared.
In recent years, many smartphone apps that are aimed at blind people have appeared.

Luis Perez loves taking photographs. He shoots mostly on an iPhone, snapping gorgeous pictures of sunsets, vintage cars, old buildings and cute puppies. But when he arrives at a photo shoot, people are often startled when he pulls out a long white cane.

In addition to being a professional photographer, Mr. Perez is almost blind.

“With the iPhone I am able to use the same technology as everyone else, and having a product that doesn’t have a stigma that other technologies do has been really important to me,” said Mr. Perez, who is also an advocate for blind people and speaks regularly at conferences about the benefits of technology for people who cannot see. “Now, even if you’re blind, you can still take a photo.”

Smartphones and tablets, with their flat glass touch screens and nary a texture anywhere, may not seem like the best technological innovation for people who cannot see. But advocates for the blind say the devices could be the biggest assistive aid to come along since Braille was invented in the 1820s.

Counterintuitive? You bet. People with vision problems can use a smartphone’s voice commands to read or write. They can determine denominations of money using a camera app, figure out where they are using GPS and compass applications, and, like Mr. Perez, take photos.

Google’s latest releases of its Android operating systems have increased its assistive technologies, specifically with updates to TalkBack, a Google-made application that adds spoken, audible and vibration feedback to a smartphone. Windows phones also offer some voice commands, but they are fewer than either Google’s or Apple’s.

Among Apple’s features are ones that help people with vision problems take pictures. In assistive mode, for example, the phone can say how many heads are in a picture and where they are in the frame, so someone who is blind knows if the family photo she is about to take includes everyone.

All this has come as a delightful shock to most people with vision problems.

“We were sort of conditioned to believe that you can’t use a touch screen because you can’t see it,” said Dorrie Rush, the marketing director of accessible technology at Lighthouse International, a nonprofit vision education and rehabilitation center. “The belief was the tools for the visually impaired must have a tactile screen, which, it turns out, is completely untrue.”

Ms. Rush, who has a retinal disorder, said that before the smartphone, people who were visually impaired could use a flip-phone to make calls, but they could not read on the tiny two-inch screens. While the first version of the iPhone allowed people who were losing their vision to enlarge text, it wasn’t until 2009, when the company introduced accessibility features, that the device became a benefit to blind people.

While some companies might have altruistic goals in building products and services for people who have lost their sight, the number of people who need these products is growing.

About 10 million people in the United States are blind or partly blind, according to statistics

from the American Foundation for the Blind. And some estimates predict that over the next 30 years, as the vast baby boomer generation ages, the number of adults with vision impairments could double.

Apple’s assistive technologies also include VoiceOver, which the company says is the world’s first “gesture-based screen reader” and lets blind people interact with their devices using multitouch gestures on the screen. For example, if you slide a finger around the phone’s surface, the iPhone will read aloud the name of each application.

In a reading app, like one for a newspaper, swiping two fingers down the screen will prompt the phone to read the text aloud. Taking two fingers and holding them an inch apart, then turning them in a circle like opening a padlock calls a slew of menus, including ones with the ability to change VoiceOver’s rate of speech or language.

The iPhone also supports over 40 different Braille Bluetooth keyboards.

On all the mobile platforms, people with vision loss say, the real magic lies in the hundreds of apps that are designed specifically to help people who are blind.

There are apps that can help people see colors, so pointing their phones at an object will yield a detailed audio description of the color, like “pale yellow green” or “fresh apricot.” People who are blind say these apps open up an entirely new way of seeing the world. Light detection apps can emit a sound that intensifies when someone approaches a light source. This can be used to help people find a room’s exit, locate a window or turn off a light. There are apps that read aloud e-mails, the weather, stock prices as well as Twitter and Facebook feeds.

In the United States, one of the biggest challenges for blind people is figuring out a bill’s denomination. While coins are different sizes, there is no such differentiation between a $1 bill and a $100 bill. In the past, people with impairments had someone who could see help them fold notes differently to know which was which, or they carried an expensive third-party device, but now apps that use the camera can identify the denomination aloud.

“Before a smartphone was accessible we had to carry six different things, and now all of those things are in one of those devices,” Ms. Rush said. “A $150 money reader is now a $1.99 app.”

She added: “These devices are a game-changer. They have created the era of inclusion.”

While some app makers have made great efforts to build products that help people with impairments, other developers overlook the importance of creating assistive components.

Mr. Perez said what he could do now with his smartphone was inconceivable just a few years ago. But even well-known apps like Instagram, which he uses to share some of his photos, do not mark all of their features.

“When some developers design their apps, they don’t label all of their buttons and controls, so the screen reader just says, ‘This is a button,’ but it doesn’t say what the button actually does,” Mr. Perez said. “That’s an area where we need a lot of improvement.”

Fine Eyewear and Eyecare optometrists provides advanced vision care to the families of Austin, Cedar Park, Leander, Georgetown, Round Rock and surrounding communities. Stop by and check out our world class optical studio.  Our mission is to help you look and see your best!  More info can be found at www.FineEyewear.Net

Protecting Eyes From ‘Bad’ Blue Light

Blue_Light_parent_diagram2

The world can be a dangerous place, especially if viewed through the naked eye. Ocular hazards resulting from both natural and artificial light are everywhere.The threat posed by exposure to ultraviolet light is well known to eyecare professionals, and a growing number of consumers are becoming aware of it as well, thanks to advertising by sunglass companies and a new public awareness campaign that’s being undertaken by the Vision Council. The campaign’s message to consumers is simple and direct: Protect your eyes with sun lenses wear lenses that block UV rays up to 400 nanometers, or else you risk retinal damage and other serious eye injuries when you’re outdoors.Now a new ocular threat has emerged in the form of High Energy Visible (HEV) light. HEV is prevalent not just outdoors, but indoors as well. The indoor threat is posed largely by digital devices such as computer screens, tablets, smartphones and televisions, particularly the new flat screen models with OLED screens.

As with UV radiation, the damaging effects of HEV are cumulative over the course of a lifetime. Therefore, older people are more likely to show its effects. As Mark Mattison-Shupnick, ABOM, and John Lahr, OD pointed out in a recent article in 20/20 Magazine about the impact of UV and HEV on the aging eye, “Newer research about the effects of HEV, in particular the wavelengths centered around 430 nm (±20 nm) also show that…blue light plays a role in the incidence and severity of AMD (age-related macular degeneration). In both cases, free radical damage to the cells of the retina by UV and HEV is suggested.

Blue_Light_parent_diagram1

“While the aging retina is more susceptible to this damage, the yellowing of the lens and the absorption of some of the blue might help reduce blue light exposure. However, oxidative damage of the retina continues to occur with aging and its own protective mechanisms become less effective with age. Fluorescent phototoxic chromophores accumulate in the retina; blue light reacts with them, stops the regenerative process and kills the cells that nourish the cones. The result is a graying, then total loss of central vision.”

Fine Eyewear and Eyecare offer many fine sunglasses options to protect against harmful blue light including Oakley and Maui Jim. Our eye doctors also provide advanced vision care to the families of Austin, Cedar Park, Leander, Georgetown, Round Rock and surrounding communities.  Visit our main website for a preview of Oakley and Maui Jim and read more about our sunglasses collections : Fine Eyewear Sunglasses Collection

Study finds, that regular eye exams saves on total health care costs

Rancho Cordova, CAApril 5, 2011 – VSP® Vision Care, an industry leader in the delivery of eyecare and eyewear, released the findings of a new study showing $4.5 billion in savings for its clients – for profits, not-for-profits and government organizations – through the early detection of chronic diseases via eyecare and vision exams covered by VSP vision insurance.

The study, conducted by Human Capital Management Services Group (HCMS), a national human capital consulting firm, found that for every $1 invested in VSP exam services – which include comprehensive, annual eye exams – during an employee’s first year with the benefit, employers can expect an average two-year total return of $1.27 in long-term healthcare savings. These savings are a result of avoided medical costs and increased employee productivity.
“With healthcare costs spiraling out of control, these new findings showing $4.5 billion in savings clearly demonstrate the importance of stand alone eyecare benefits,” said Rob Lynch, chief executive officer of VSP Global. “Preventive eye exams support overall wellness and are much more than a means to receive prescription eyewear.”
The HCMS study further revealed that VSP clients experienced 7 percent less absenteeism, 4 percent less employee turnover and savings on insurance and workers’ compensation costs. Early detection of chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension also increased the likelihood employees would be proactive with their healthcare and more likely to see a medical doctor to receive follow-up care.
“Individuals who have a VSP vision plan are three times more likely to get an annual eye exam than a routine preventive physical,” said Susan Egbert, director of eye health management, VSP Vision Care. “This means VSP providers are more likely to detect the first signs of common chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension.”
Cedar Park Eye Doctor

Fine Eyewear and Eyecare is a full service eye care facility.  Our eye doctors employ state of the art eye diagnostic equipment to provide you with advanced eye care with a personal touch. Our eye doctors provide advanced vision care to the families of Austin, Cedar Park, Leander, Georgetown, Round Rock, Lago Vista and surrounding communities. To read more about our eye care facilities : Eye Care in Cedar Park and surrounding communities

Nutrients May Help Provide Eye Health In Aging Individuals

Medscape  (4/18, Hitt) reports, “Several nutrients, including zinc, vitamins C and E, lutein, zeaxanthin, and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, help promote eye health in aging individuals, according to a statement from a roundtable of experts convened by the Ocular Nutrition Society (ONS).” The expert panel, “led by Jeffrey Anshel, OD, president of the ONS, included eight experts in ophthalmology, optometry, diet and nutrition, and primary care.” Members of the “roundtable concluded that the displacement of ‘nutrient-dense foods by processed foods in the Western, or American, diet is disconcerting, as is the lack of awareness of key nutrients and other modifiable risk factors that impact eye health,’ and they encouraged eating a healthy diet rich in nutrients.”

Aging Eyes Associated With Disturbances In Body’s Circadian Rhythms

The New York Times (2/21, D5, Tarkan, Subscription Publication) examines the hypothesis that “the aging eye filters out blue light, affecting circadian rhythm and health in older adults.” Studies suggest that the “gradual yellowing of the lens and the narrowing of the pupil that occur with age disturb the body’s circadian rhythm, contributing to a range of health problems.” That is because “as the eyes age, less and less sunlight gets through the lens to reach key cells in the retina that regulate the body’s circadian rhythm, its internal clock.” In a recent study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, researchers “estimated that by age 45, the photoreceptors of the average adult receive just 50 percent of the light needed to fully stimulate the circadian system. By age 55, it dips to 37 percent, and by age 75, to a mere 17 percent.”

Interesting…..  Just another reason of the many, to wear proper sunglasses that provide 100% UVA/UVB protection, eat your veggies, and enhance your diet with good supplements!

Fine Eyewear and Eyecare optometrists provides advanced vision care to the families of Austin, Cedar Park, Leander, Georgetown, Round Rock and surrounding communities. Stop by and check out our world class optical studio.   Our mission is to help you look and see your best!  We have one of the largest selections of fabulous sunglasses in Central Texas. More info can be found at www.FineEyewear.Net

Scientists Argue Sugar Should Be Regulated Like Alcohol, Tobacco.

In a front-page story, the San Francisco Chronicle  (2/2, A1, Allday) reports, “Like alcohol and tobacco, sugar is a toxic, addictive substance that should be highly regulated with taxes, laws on where and to whom it can be advertised, and even age-restricted sales, says a team of UCSF scientists” in a commentary published in Nature.

The Los Angeles Times  (2/2, Kaplan) “Booster Shots” blog reports that, according to the authors, “For both alcohol and tobacco, there is robust evidence that gentle ‘supply side’ control strategies which stop far short of all-out prohibition  taxation, distribution controls, age limits  lower both consumption of the product and the accompanying health harms.” They add, “Consequently, we propose adding taxes to processed foods that contain any form of added sugars.”

ABC News  (2/2, Gann) “Medical Unit” blog reports, “Increased control is necessary, they say, because efforts to keep excessive sugar out of the American diet have failed.”

CBS News  (2/2, Jaslow) “HealthPop” blog reports that the authors “said that over the past 50 years, sugar consumption has tripled worldwide. That’s also helped contribute to the obesity epidemic – so much so that there are 30 percent more obese people in this world than there are malnourished people.”

MedPage Today  (2/2, Fiore) reports that the authors “called sugar ‘toxic,’ particularly in excessive amounts, noting that it poses dangers similar to those of alcohol. Fructose, specifically, can harm the liver, they wrote, and overconsumption has been linked with all the diseases involved with metabolic syndrome: hypertension, high triglycerides, insulin resistance, and diabetes.” Also covering the story are BBC News  (2/2, Briggs), the UK’s Daily Mail  (2/2, Macrae), and WebMD  (2/2, Doheny).

Hormone Produced By Exercise May Help Control Obesity, Blood Sugar Levels

The San Francisco Chronicle  /Bloomberg News (1/12, Lopatto) reports a study in Nature showing that irisin, “a hormone naturally found in muscle cells…rises during exercise, converting white fat into brown fat, a substance whose primary function is to generate body heat.” When irisin was injected “into obese, pre-diabetic mice, the animals lost weight and their blood sugar levels improved.” Researchers suggested that this finding “may lead to treatments for obesity and diabetes, as well as other disorders where exercise may benefit patients who are too weak to engage in it.”

The New York Times (1/12, Reynolds) “Well” blog notes that activity increases the protein “PGC1-alpha, which is produced in abundance in muscles during and after exercise,” which then stimulates “the expression of a protein known as Fndc5,” which then “[breaks] into different pieces,” generating irisin. “Follow-up experiments with muscle cells from human volunteers who’d completed a controlled, weeks-long jogging program found that they had much higher levels of irisin in their cells than before the exercise program began.”

The Boston Globe  (1/12, Johnson) “White Coat Notes” blog reports, “A Boston startup company, Ember Therapeutics, has already licensed the technology and is working to develop a form of the hormone that could be used as a drug that would mimic some of the benefits of exercise.”

The UK’s Daily Mail  (1/12) notes, “Those who like a toned physique may still have to make the odd trip to the gym, as irisin does not appear to strengthen muscles.” The NPR  (1/12, Chappell) “The Two Way” blog and the UK’s Telegraph  (1/12, Hough) also cover the story.

Fine Eyewear and Eyecare optometrists provides advanced vision care to the families of Austin, Cedar Park, Leander, Georgetown, Round Rock and surrounding communities. Stop by and check out our world class optical studio.  Our mission is to help you look and see your best!  More info can be found at www.FineEyewear.Net

 

Sodium-Potassium Ratio May Be More Important Than Total Sodium Intake

The New York Times  (12/26, D7, Brody, Subscription Publication) reported in “Personal Health” that research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine “found that while a diet high in sodium — salt is the main source — increases your risk” of heart disease, “even more important is the ratio of sodium (harmful) to potassium (protective) in one’s diet.” One of the study’s authors, Dr. Elena V. Kuklina, a nutritional epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said, “We controlled for all the major cardiovascular risk factors and still found an association between the sodium-potassium ratio and deaths from heart disease.” The Times points out that “according to an Institute of Medicine report on sodium released last year, ‘No one is immune to the adverse health effects of excessive sodium intake.'”

Examination May Help Rule Out Eye-Related Links To Behavior, Learning Problems

In the syndicated Parent to Parent column appearing in the Charlotte (NC) Observer (8/16), Betsy Flagler asks, “Is your child headed back to school with an inability to pay attention? Have his eyes, ears and teeth checked by specialists to rule out any health-related links to behavior problems” or difficulties learning in the classroom? While children “generally don’t complain about their eyes…parents need to be aware of symptoms that may indicate a vision problem, experts say.” According to the American Optometric Association, “even though a child may have 20/20 vision, the following habits also can signal less obvious vision problems: loses place while reading, avoids close work,” and “holds reading material closer than normal.”

AOA Survey: Most Teachers Say Vision, Learning Are Interdependent. The News Record (8/15) reported, “A visit to the eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam is an important part of overall health,” and is especially important for youngsters about to return to school. In fact, “according to an American Optometric Association survey of K-12 teachers, 81 percent believe vision and learning are interdependent.”

Diet Poor In Vitamin C Associated With Increased Risk For Cataracts.

Reuters (7/15, Norton) reports that, according to a study published online June 27 in the journal Ophthalmology, seniors whose diets are poor in vitamin C appear to have a higher risk for cataracts. After assessing some 5,600 seniors in India over the age of 60, researchers found that the risk for cataracts was lower in people with greater blood levels of vitamin C. The findings held true even after investigators adjusted for confounding factors. Reuters quoted senior study researcher Astrid E. Fletcher, of the UK’s London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, as saying, “Laboratory and animal studies show vitamin C plays a very important part in defending the lens of the eye against oxidative stress.”