Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June is Cataract Awareness Month

Hello everyone,

June is Cataract Awareness Month. There are many different types of cataracts, which can arise from many contributing factors: trauma, long term steroid use, high-risk medications and health conditions, such as diabetes. However, the most common cataracts are due to increasing age.

Cataracts are a very common eye condition that becomes even more likely to occur as an individual gets older. People are living longer lives these days, so cataracts are becoming more prevalent.

According to the World Health Organization, cataracts are responsible for 51% of world blindness, affecting about 20 million people. In 2008, the National Eye Institute and Prevent Blindness America said in the United States, nearly 22 million Americans age 40 and older have cataracts. At age 80, more than half of those Americans have cataracts.

Don't let cataracts get this bad. This is a fairly dense cataract.

A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens. At birth, the lens is crystal clear. As one gets older, the lens becomes cloudier, and visual complaints of decreased vision and glare become more apparent.

Cataracts can be prevented to some degree. The Mayo Clinic suggests having regular eye exams, as directed by your eye doctor, which can help detect cataracts and other eye diseases at their earliest stages. Smoking has been linked to cataract progression. The cessation of smoking, as well as maintaining a healthy weight and eating a healthy diet, can help reduce the risk of cataract progression.

Probably the easiest thing a person can do to help prevent cataracts is to wear UV-blocking sunglasses. UV radiation has been linked to the development of certain types of cataracts, as well as macular degeneration. Wearing sunglasses should start at a young age, because approximately 50% of our lifetime UV exposure will occur before the age of 18.

The progression of a cataract is typically a slow, gradual change. Some patients are very susceptible to changes in their vision. However, many patients don’t realize there is a vision problem until they are evaluated at an eye exam. Most likely, this is because a patient is always using both eyes together, and typically do not notice vision changes if only one eye is getting worse. When the quality of life is affected by poor vision, and that vision cannot be improved by updating the patient’s eyeglasses prescription, then cataract surgery is warranted.

 No cataract on the left. Cataract on the right scattering light,
causing glare, light sensitivity and blurred vision.

I have seen patients wait a bit too long for fear of cataract surgery. Their vision progressively gets worse despite recommendations to have the surgery performed. There are risks to any surgery, but the risks of major complications of cataract surgery in the hands of a skilled surgeon are very low.

Some of those risks include increased pressure in the eyes, inflammation, and infection. However, any patient undergoing cataract surgery is monitored closely in the post-operative period by the surgeon or co-managing optometrist, and given anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial eye-drops to facilitate the healing process.

Usually when a patient has surgery in one eye, their first question is, "How soon can I get the other eye done?" When the surgeon removes the cloudy cataract and replaces it with a clear intra-ocular lens, the reported brightness of colors and image quality by the patient is astounding.

In individuals over the age of 60, the American Optometric Association recommends an annual eye exam, including dilation of the eyes, to evaluate the vision and to check for cataracts and other ocular conditions. Since cataracts can occur at any age, it's important to get regular eye exams for all individuals young and old, even if one's vision seems adequate.

Dr. Weaver

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Glasses that help you lose weight?

Hello everyone,

I must admit that I constantly check the Internet for all of my news gathering. I can't remember the last time I've watched a televised news program. As for newspapers, I read the Sunday edition of the Reading Eagle...and when I mean "read," I mean skim over the titles and reading only one or two articles that interest me. The Internet provides me with news instantly, rather than learning about it on TV or print many hours later.

Well, I read an article on Yahoo about something called Diet Glasses. From The Herald Sun, "Tokyo University professor Michitaka Hirose (R) and his team developed a camera-equipped special goggle, which makes cookies bigger to help users' diet at his laboratory in Tokyo on June 2, 2012. Hirose conducted an experiment, asking examinees to eat as many cookies as they want with and without the glasses. The results showed they ate 9.3 percent less on average with the goggle showing cookies 1.5 times bigger than they actually are and ate 15 percent more with cookies looking two-thirds of their real size."

This Oreo looks humongous! Chomp, chomp, chomp, chomp...can I have another, please?

I had just written a blog post about the Project Glass by Google with augmented reality glasses to add information to one's perception. However, these glasses designed by Hirose augments reality by "fooling" one's perception. The computer attached to the special goggles keeps the individual's hand size the same, while increasing or decreasing the size of the object they are picking up.

Hirose is interested in the study of virtual reality, where reality is perceived by the mind. His science team created a device that fooled the brain by changing the image one would normally see. The device is not for commercial use, but they are considering using such a device to help individuals lose weight my changing their perception: making the food look bigger so that the individual would eat less without the use of diet-modulating drugs.
Red pill, blue mean I'm a human battery?

It's like an optical illusion. For example, when a full moon is very low on the horizon, it also looks humongous! But try taking a picture of the moon when it's at that low position on the horizon. The moon isn't actually bigger, it's the same size as when it's high in the sky...the photograph will reveal this. Check out Wikipedia for more information on the Moon Illusion.

So, what's next for augmented reality glasses? Project Glass, Hirose's Oreos, and then what? I hope the major food manufacturers don't try to get all of us to wear the Hirose goggles so that they can make their food in smaller portion sizes. I'm already getting only 10 chips in a large bag of Lay's in the first place.

And Nabisco, don't even think about making the Oreo's smaller...bigger would be okay, though. Maybe moon-sized?

Take care,
Dr. Weaver