A Pocket-Sized Revolution in Eye Care

A pocket-sized device made with spare parts of phones and computers ordered online for under $200 could hold the future of eye care.

According to a recently published article in NBCNews, the device acts essentially as a retina camera with the ability to take images of the inside of an eye.

A pair of the researchers responsible for this advancement, Dr. Shizuo Mukai and Dr. Bailey Shen, are claiming that this technology can hopefully soon replace eyecare practices of late where patients are subjected to strong eye drops to dilate the eye in order for an ophthalmologist to be able to properly examine the health of the eyes. The new device will cut the eye drops from current practice and simply use infrared light focused on the back of the eye to snap an image of the entire eye without the pupil constricting.

However, before excitement takes hold that this product may soon be on the market, there is still a lot of work to be done. In fact, Dr. Mukai, an ophthalmology professor at Harvard, and Dr. Shen, an ophthalmologist with UIC College of Medicine, are making the prototype available to tech experts and doctors for further testing and design insight. By doing this, the researchers behind this new device hope to gain more sophisticated software to improve the images taken by the retina camera, which will ultimately lead to stronger diagnoses.

The most exciting aspect of this device is the possibilities it brings. For one, the prototype cost only $185, and was constructed from a combination of cellphone parts, LED lights, and pieces from a computer kit. Once a scalable model is created, prospects are high that this device could be mass produced at a low rate, making it more accessible globally as well. Aside from relieving the pain and inconvenience of eyedrops, Dr. Rahul Khurana, the clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, has hopes that this technology can be used in poorer countries where access to healthcare is not as prevalent.

Because the device doesn’t require the eye to be dilated, patients who are unable to have their eyes dilated will be able to be screened for eye health concerns that were not able to be examined before. As Dr. Shen stated in a Harvard Medical School article on the findings, “…As residents seeing patients in the hospital, there are often times when we are not allowed to dilate patients–neurosurgery patients for example.” With its convenient and portable size, Dr. Shen hopes the device can be used to cut down on the amount of time it can take to give an eye exam, especially in hospitals, stating, “…there are times when we find something abnormal in the back of the eye, but it is not practical to wheel the patient all the way over to the outpatient eye clinic just for a photograph.”

By making eyecare more accessible, the possibilities of mastering eye health throughout the world become more attainable. While this prototype is not the first to make a breakthrough on retina camera technology, it does offer a wider spectrum of vision in the lense for clearer and more precise imaging. The development of these discoveries can only grow from here, giving researchers in ophthalmology something very special to look forward to–soon, they hope, with perfect vision.

Could 3-D Retina Transplants Put a Stop to Degenerative Blindness?

More than two million Americans suffer from age-related macular degeneration (AMD). While AMD does not result in total blindness, it is the leading cause of vision loss among Americans age 50 and above, and it causes sufferers to slowly lose central vision and interferes with an individual’s ability to drive, read, write, recognize faces, and more. There is no cure for AMD, although doctors can prescribe treatments in an effort to slow its progression.

AMD is only one of several degenerative eye conditions that lead to vision loss for which there has been no cure since it is caused by the actual decay of structures within the eye. However, this may soon change thanks to a groundbreaking advance in medicine: the development of transplantable 3-D retinas.

A team of researchers at California-based AIVITA Biomedical led by CEO Hans Keirstead, PhD have successfully used human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) to develop a 3-D “retinal organoid” made of laminated retinal progenitor cells and retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). In preclinical studies, the researchers showed that, when injected into the eye, the organoid was able to form synaptic connections with existing tissue and thus restore vision.

“The cause for hope for transplanting a 3-D retina has never been greater,” Keirstead told Modern Retina. “We have been on a relatively long journey, but are now at a point where we will be walking along a well-articulated path that will lead us to the beginning of our first in-human study.”

Keirstead, who suspects that a clinical research phase for the 3-D retinas may be as soon as two years away, explained that AIVITA’s target population is patients with degenerative disease of the outer retina, like AMD or retinitis pigmentosa. The 3-D retinas can be transplanted in the patient’s eye to replace the diseased or non-functional photoreceptors and RPE and establish new, functional connections with the inner retina and restore lost vision.

Of course, there are still a number of challenges ahead of the researchers, and the retinas are still years away from becoming commercially available for patients. But the possibility that 3-D retinas could be viable for use in patients opens the door for millions of patients, potentially, to get their sight back.

Are Eye Transplants on the Horizon?

The human body is incredibly resilient, and even after parts of it have been destroyed, it can accept foreign tissue via transplants–in certain circumstances–and continue to function as if nothing ever happened. Doctors today can transplant organs such as hearts, lungs, kidneys, and others from one person to another; there’s even a doctor who wants to perform a head transplant by next year. One organ that still cannot be transplanted is the eye, but thanks to a team of doctors and researchers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that may not be the case for very long.

Dr. Kia Washington, a plastic surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, is leading a research team with the goal of performing the first successful human eye transplant. She hopes that the procedure will be ready within the next 10 years.

In the United States, over one million people have vision impairments as a result of injuries. In fact, traumatic eye injuries are the fourth most common cause of combat injuries for American soldiers, which is why the Department of Defense is sponsoring Washington’s research: If she discovers a procedure for eye transplants, then it will go a long way toward treating soldiers, as well as the thousands of civilians who have impaired vision or no vision at all due to injuries.

Of course, this is all much easier said than done. A successful eye transplant would require, for one, a way of keeping the optic nerve alive during the procedure and reattaching it to the new host’s brain. Normally, upon removal, the cells in the optic nerve die immediately, thus rendering the eye useless; even if they didn’t, the new optic nerve would need to grow from the eye all the way back to the brain, which is no small feat.

However, one of Washington’s colleagues recently published a paper indicating that a cocktail of drugs, including the multiple sclerosis drug 4-AP, could help blind mice regrow their optic nerves and regain their sight after injury. This procedure, if replicable in humans, could lead to successful eye transplants. Although it is a “moonshot,” transplanting eyes in the next 10 years would be an incredible achievement that would help to treat cases of injury-related vision loss.

Pokemon Go and Eye Health

There are risks that go along with playing Pokemon GO nonstop.  That expanded time spent gazing at screens can have long-haul consequences for eye and vision wellbeing. Remember that computerized wireless screens transmit blue light radiation called High Energy Visible Blue Light, which can throw off your rest and, over time, might damage photoreceptors in the eyes.

With too much mobile screen time, there’s also a potential for digital eye strain brought on by an excessive amount of blue light radiation. This exposure can cause tiredness and alter sleeping patterns, not to mention causing hazy or unfocused vision, and dry eyes, sensitivity to light, headaches, and even myopia as children age.

Here’s an excerpt from a recent story, “Two Unexpected Ways Pokemon GO Can Affect Eye Health,” in Parent Herald: 

With users spending an average of 26 minutes a day using the app, Dr. Mark Jacquot, Clinical Director, LensCrafters, explains, “people, and parents of young children and adolescents in particular, should be aware of their overall screen time. In order to continue enjoying the game while minimizing the impact of mobile phones on vision, be aware of how much time you or your children are spending in front of screens each day and take regular breaks using the 20-20-20 rule by taking a break every 20 minutes to look 20 feet away for about 20 seconds. Perhaps check out each PokeStop or Pokemon GO gym for a few minutes to give your eyes a break and take in some new scenery before continuing on in pursuit of a Dragonite.”

Continue to make your eye health a priority, even in gaming season and as you’re chasing Pokemon characters with your friends. It’s August, which means children’s eye health and safety month so it’s especially important for kids to practice safe screen time and make sure that they’re being wise about how they interact with electronics.

3 Eye Signs You Shouldn’t Ignore

As I often say, your eyesight is one of your most precious resources. It’s imperative to be vigilant about protecting your eyes and getting regular checkups. In between checkups, you still want to keep an eye on your eyes. Today.com published a useful roundup of “5 eye symptoms you should never ignore.” Here are the three of the symptoms that were mentioned and why they’re important to pay attention to.

    1. When You See Floaters Accompanied by Flashes of Light Generally speaking, eye floaters aren’t indicative of anything wrong with your eyes. You know eye floaters when you see them, WebMD describes them as “small moving spots that appear in your field of vision…[that are] especially noticeable when you look at something bright, such as white paper or a blue sky.” But if you see floaters while also seeing what appears to be a lightning streak in your peripheral vision, then see your ophthalmologist. It might be that you’re experiencing posterior vitreous detachment (PVD), which is typically a benign condition. The National Eye Institute says, “Although a vitreous detachment does not threaten sight, once in awhile some of the vitreous fibers pull so hard on the retina that they create a macular hole to or lead to aretinal detachment. Both of these conditions are sight-threatening and should be treated immediately.” The good news is that your eye doctor can diagnose the cause of the problem–and, if necessary, begin early treatment–with a comprehensive dilated eye examination.
    2. When Contact Wearers Have Red, Teary Eyes An eye infection of the cornea known as keratitis can cause redness, pain, inflammation and discharge in the eye. This condition is common with contact wearers who sleep in their contacts–which you should never do, even if they’re labeled extended wear.
    3. When One of Your Pupils Looks Larger Than the Other The condition of having unequal pupils, which is called anisocoria, can be purely physiological or it can be a sign of a neurological issue (i.e. aneurysm, tumor, a brain infection or a sign of a stroke). If the difference in pupil size is something you’ve never noticed before, and you haven’t recently used eye drops which could be causing your pupils to react, then call your doctor.





What is a Corneal Abrasion?

The Cornea

The Cornea

76er’s Hollis Thompson just got a corneal abrasion during a preseason game. Thompson was hit in the left eye during the game couldn’t play for the rest of the game. But what is a corneal abrasion?

All of the patients we see at the Hargrave Eye Center are there for eyesight issues, but sometimes they are recovering from an injury. A corneal abrasion is the most common eye injury and the problem is that it often goes untreated. It happens because of a disruption of the corneal epithelium or often, and in the case of Thompson, the surface of the cornea is scraped away as a result of external forces. 

The good news is that corneal abrasions heal rapidly so Mr. Thompson shouldn’t worry about getting back to the court but he also shouldn’t take the injury lightly. Deep corneal involvement may result in facet formation or even scar formation. Corneal abrasions can occur in other situations as well. Corneal or epithelial disease, also known as dry eye, other ocular injuries, and contact lens wear are all other common causes of corneal abrasion. Less frequently it is a result of recurrent corneal erosion syndrome.

Abrasions by foreign bodies are defects in the corneal epithelium and are left behind after spontaneous dislodgement of a corneal foreign body. Foreign body abrasions are often caused by a piece of wood while woodworking, glass or plastic, or even vegetable material that is embedded in the cornea. Contact lens abrasions are defects in the corneal epithelium that might remain after removing improperly cleaned, or improperly fitting contact lens’. Spontaneous defects in the corneal epithelium happen without injury or foreign body. The eyes of people that have suffered a previous corneal abrasion or eyes that have a defect in the corneal epithelium often have this issue.

The treatment to cornel abrasions is pretty straightforward, and pain relief is given.

What you need to know about the Methodist-Mayo Clinic Collaboration

By clicking on the links below you will be directed to all of the relevant information about the new collaboration between the Methodist Health System and Mayo Clinic.

MCCN Physician Acknowledgement Form

MCCN Guide brochure

Patients FAQs Phys Pack

Finding Other Diseases

hargraveeyecenter_examIn a recent article by The Miami Herald, eyes and vision are discussed. We all know eyes are an important part of our body because they help us see the world around us. However, what some people might not realize about our eyes is that they could help detect serious health concerns. A routine eye exam could even save someone’s life- like six year old Grace Carr. Grace suffered from frequent migraines and vomiting. When her parents would take her to the doctors, they couldn’t seem to figure out what was wrong with her. One day, her parents noticed that Grace’s eyes were misaligned and they took her over to the Joe DiMaggio Memorial Children’s Hospital. At the hospital, doctors were concerned because they could see themselves that Grace’s optic nerve was swollen and her intracranial pressure was elevated. These type of symptoms could be due to a possibly brain tumor, according to the doctors.

After an MRI test that day, the results showed that Grace did indeed have a benign tumor in her cerebellum. Because of the tumor, the normal flow of spinal fluid was blocked to her optic nerve. Ultimately, the doctors were able to remove the tumor and Grace is now recovering in physical therapy. In Grace’s case, her condition is not the only thing an eye exam can unearth. Eye exams could also reveal that people are suffering from certain issues such as diabetes, allergies and eye cancer. Grace’s parents noticed that their daughter’s eyes were not normal and that they had started drifting when she was six months old. However, now that the tumor was caught early, Grace can now focus on correcting her vision. Without the diligence of her parents in addition to the eye exam, who knows what would have happened to Grace’s vision. Again, this stresses the importance of eye exams for children.

Corneal Transplant Case

Corneal transplants are very important and it is great to hear a story from individuals about when the transplant successfully improves lives.  The Aberdeen News, from Aberdeen, South Dakota, reported of such a case and the summary is below.

In 2012, Terry Mages, an organ donor, could not give her organs when she passed away because she had cancer.  However, her corneas could be used, since blood does not run through them.  Another Aberdeen resident, Bob Karst, received a corneal transplant from a 44 year old Nebraska man who was on life support.  Before receiving the transplant his vision has been deteriorating each year because of a disease and it had gotten to a point where he could barely tell light from dark.  However, since the transplant, he said his vision has been near normal.

hargraveeyecenter_diagramKarst was concerned that the disease would spread to the other eye but was lucky that it didn’t.  He had been on the waiting list for three months before he received the call that they had found a match for him.  Karst still worked normally and drove a car, relying heavily on his good eye before the transplant but afterward his range of vision was greatly increased.

Terry Magnes’ husband Randy is a former surgical technologist at Avera St. Luke’s Hospital in Aberdeen and he mentioned that there are many reasons a cornea can begin to fail.  The damage could result from an eye injury, a virus or bacteria can make the eye cloudy because of a clear shield developing over it, or a disease could mis-shape the cornea which restricts the vision or eliminates it entirely.  Although Karst found out who the donor was for his new cornea, typically the recipient of the donation doesn’t find out who it’s from for privacy protection.  There is also a small amount of transplants happening because, although people are organ donors, they don’t realize that the corneas can be donated.  It is something that St. Lukes’ Hospital hopes will be realized with the cornea transplant technology increase.

Renovations allow for more corneal transplants

1,000 corneal transplants are looking to happen in a newly renovated eye bank in Kettering, Ohio this year, reports the Dayton Daily News.  The amount of transplants will be a 25 percent boost to the numbers from 2013, writes Drew Simon.  The Lions Eye Bank of West Central Ohio moved from its Southtown Boulevard building and is now located at 3309 Office Park Drive.  An open house was held for guests on May 3rd to see the renovations.

hargraveeyecenter_cornealtransplantOpening in 1982 originally, the Lions Eye Bank performed 72 corneal transplants in its first year.  Now, having performed 800 in 2013, the renovations which were donated through transplant partners of the local Lions Clubs, will allow the eye bank to break the 1,000 mark.  $200,000 were spent on the renovations which have offered 10,000 square feet to the new location, which is double the size of its predecessor.

Corneal transplants have increased throughout the years and there are more and more organ donors.  This increases the cornea donation level, increasing the demand for more facilities that can stand up to the challenge.  These findings are from Donate Life and Donate Life Ohio, as they mentioned that numbers have grown significantly over the past decade.

Chief executive officer of the Lions Eye Bank of West Centeral Ohio, Angela Burnham mentions that her staff has been diligent and hardworking to bring better vision to the community in Kettering and around the world.  In the past 15 years alone the eye bank has gone from 350 transplants a year to the goal of 1,000 in 2014, says Burnham.  This is largely in-part to the dedicated workers at the eye bank, which added three new full-time employees bringing their number to 14.  A statistic from the article shows that the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) reported 46,196 corneal transplants took place around the country in 2011.