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Many people can recall the 1980s song by Thomas Dolby, that includes the lyrics,

”She blinded me with science! And hit me with technology....”

In the 21st century, it seems that the blind can now “depend” on and anticipate science to restore vision.

Scientific advancement in the arena of neuroscience and medicine have given blind people hope that they never had before. The world of science and technology is providing inroads into greater opportunities in the advancement of sight restoration and retinal prosthetics with measured success.

Global statistics show nearly 40 million people are affected by some sort of blindness, with 15 million debilitated by AMD alone. The advancement of Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) has sparked new research options for the blind, paving the way to future bionic eye treatments. Using eyeglasses with a camera that transmits images to an electrode implanted in the retina, images and movement can be detected. The Argus II, a retinal prosthesis device, is already available in the US and European markets with FDA approval in the United States.

Making a bionic eye is trickier than you think. The implant must not only respond to light, but also transmit the light to the neural pathways in the brain in order to process the light and subsequent vision.

The way our vision should work, is that light and images are processed through the, “film of the camera”, per se, called the retina. The retina relies on photoreceptors called rods and cones that take the visual image and transfer it through neural pathways to the brain, which in turn processes the vision causing us to see light, color, and images. The pathways of vision are processed through the second cranial nerve, the optic nerve. Scientists are working to restore those pathways damaged by glaucoma, stroke, head injury, and retinal disease or damage.

Advancements in this technology can lend to improvements in locating or identifying objects, orientation and mobility, detecting light and making certain household tasks easier, like locating utensils.

Although this technology is in its infancy, results are promising......and who knows, maybe in the future the Thomas Dolby song will need to be sung as “She UN-blinded me with science.”

 

References:

1. “The Bionic Eye” The Scientist, October 2014

2. Jef Akst,”Retinal Film Detects Light” The Scientist, November 13, 2014

3. www.amd.org

4. www.2-sight.eu

 

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Ask Dr. Stewart Your Eye Care Questions

What can be expected during a contact lens fitting?

A patient can expect to have a different experience when having a contact lens fitting. In addition to the eyeglass exam, questions will be asked to determine which contact lens will work best for them. Will they want to leave the lenses in their eyes overnight or will they remove them every day? Will they wear them only occasionally or will they be for everyday use? Do they want a contact lens that they throw away every day or do they want a contact lens that they have to clean and disinfect? If the patient is over age 40 and has a compromised ability to see up close, how will they see up close with their contact lenses? Will they wear readers over their distant contacts, or will they wear multifocal contacts, or will they wear monovision?

Are some people more prone to having Dry Eyes than others?

Experiencing dry eye symptoms is more common as we grow older, particularly in people 50 years of age and older. Hormonal changes in women who are experiencing menopause or who are post-menopausal. Inflammation in our body can affect the tear gland's ability to produce tears. Eye or health conditions such as glaucoma, diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren's Syndrome can be associated with Dry Eyes. Environmental conditions such as dry winter air, dry indoor heated air, working on the computer, and wearing contact lenses can cause Dry Eyes.

Are there advantages to single-use contact lenses? What are they?

Single-use daily wear contacts are convenient to the patient and a healthy recommendation from their eye doctor. At the end of the day, the patient only has to dispose of the contacts. There is no need to take the contacts out to clean and disinfect them. The patients time and money spent on solutions and caring for them are eliminated. Not to mention that the next time they wear a contact, they will be wearing a brand new contact! The single best recommendation your eye doctor can make is to recommend single-use daily wear contacts. They are the healthiest contact that can be worn. The contact lens pathology issues of wearing the same contact for two or four weeks such as neovascularization, microcystic edema, and bacterial infections are greatly reduced.

What is an eye infection?

Your eyes can get infections from bacteria, fungi, or viruses. Eye infections can occur in different parts of the eye and can affect just one eye or both. Two common eye infections are conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye) and lid styes which are swollen lid bumps that can also be painful. Common signs of an eye infection are pain, itching, or a sensation of a foreign body in the eye, photosensitivity, redness or small red lines in the white of the eye, discharge of yellow pus that may be crusty upon awaking, and tears.

What happens during a typical Diabetic Eye Exam?

Your Eye Doctor will evaluate the back of your eye called the Retina to check for leaking blood vessels. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when elevated blood sugars damage the walls of the blood vessels. The vessel walls may thicken, leak, develop clots, close off, or grow balloon-like defects called microaneurysms.

My eyes tear all the time. Why do you call it Dry Eyes?

Your eyes have extra tears because your eyes produce extra tears to combat irritation and dryness. A better way to describe Dry Eyes is tear film instability, which refers to the composition of your tears not being in the proper composition. Stopping eyes from producing extra tears is a goal in the treatment of Dry Eyes.

At what age should my child have his/her eyes examined?

If you ask 10 different Doctors you will get 10 different answers. Newborns have their eyes checked in the birthing ward for starters. From birth to age 5 their eyes are growing. At age 5 is a good time to schedule a regular eye examination, however, if any unusual eye behavior is observed under age 5 an eye exam should be scheduled at that time. Unusual eye behavior such as eye squinting, a head tilt, or having to get close to see.