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All posts by Marianas Eye Institute

Smartphone Blindness

A recent report of two women who temporarily lost sight in one eye after reading their smartphones while lying in bed shouldn’t cause alarm, experts say. But the incidents do point to the importance of using digital devices smartly to avoid eye strain.

The women lost vision for up to 20 minutes in one eye after reading their phones in the dark while lying in bed with the other eye covered by a pillow, researchers wrote in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr. Gordon Plant of Moorfield’s Eye Hospital in London told the Associated Press that the eye reading the phone was adapted to the light, while the covered eye was adapted to the dark. When the women put their phone down, they couldn’t see with their reading eye. “It’s taking many minutes to catch up to the other eye that’s adapted to the dark,” Plant said. People should look at their phones with both eyes, he advised.

The researchers called the condition “transient smartphone blindness.” They said that it is likely to become more common, because phone manufacturers are making brighter screens for easier reading.

Dr. Rahul Khurana, a spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, told Today he doesn’t consider this a serious problem. He noted it is not an official medical condition, and needs more study.

But there are steps you should take to protect your eyes when reading your phone. Staring at your phone can make your eyes feel dry and tired. You may develop fatigue, blurry vision or eye strain. That’s because people blink much less when using digital screen devices such as smartphones and computers.

When using a smartphone, computer or other digital device:

  • Use the “20-20-20” rule to avoid eye strain: Take a break every 20 minutes. Shift your eyes toward an object that’s at least 20 feet away. Look at the object for at least 20 seconds.
  • When your eyes feel dry, refresh them with artificial tears.
  • To make it easier for your eyes to see, adjust the lighting in your room so your screen is not much brighter than the surrounding light. Also try increasing the contrast on your screen.

(From the American Academy of Ophthalmology)

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Google DeepMind and Eye Disease Research

Google DeepMind is the promising Artificial Intelligence (AI) division of Google, and it’s first medical project is to help identify eye disease — specifically diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration.  Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in Saipan and the CNMI.  Google is partnering with the world’s largest eye hospital, Moorfields, in the UK, in this pilot study.  You’ll recognize in this video, many of the same advanced technologies that we have at our Saipan eye clinic.  At Marianas Eye Institute, we track new developments as part of our efforts to continue to bring you the very best in eye care.

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The Sun, UV Radiation, and Your Eyes

With the intensity of the sun increasing during the summer months, we advise all our Saipan eye clinic patients to take extra protection.  We’re happy to share this article from the American Academy of Ophthalmology:


Eye specialists caution us that too much exposure to UV light raises the risks of eye diseases, including cataract, growths on the eye, and cancer. Strong exposure to snow reflection can also quickly cause painful damage called snow blindness.

Growths on the eye, such as pterygium, can show up in our teens or twenties, especially in surfers, skiers, fishermen, farmers, or anyone who spends long hours under the mid-day sun or in the UV-intense conditions found near rivers, oceans, and mountains.

Diseases like cataract and eye cancers can take many years to develop, but each time we’re out in the sun without protection we could be adding damage that adds to our risks for these serious disorders. Babies and kids need to wear hats and sunglasses for this very reason. People of all ages should take precautions whenever they are outdoors.

Follow these tips to protect your eyes from the sun all year long:

  • Sun damage to eyes can occur anytime during the year, not just in the summertime, so be sure to wear UV-blocking sunglasses and broad-brimmed hats whenever you’re outside.
  • Don’t be fooled by clouds: the sun’s rays can pass through haze and thin clouds.
  • Never look directly at the sun. Looking directly at the sun at any time, including during aneclipse, can lead to solar retinopathy, which is damage to the eye’s retina from solar radiation.
  • Don’t forget the kids and older family members: everyone is at risk, including children and senior citizens. Protect their eyes with hats and sunglasses.
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Prevent Fireworks Eye Injuries

With the Liberation Day festivities on Saipan and the Fourth of July just around the corner, it’s important to know how to keep your family’s eyes safe.  Nearly every year, our Saipan eye doctors are called to the hospital to deal with eye injuries from fireworks.  Be safe!

Fireworks safety tips

The American Academy of Ophthalmology advises that the best way to avoid a potentially blinding fireworks injury is by attending a professional public fireworks show rather than purchasing fireworks for home use.

For those who attend professional fireworks displays and/or live in communities surrounding the shows:

  • Respect safety barriers at fireworks shows and view fireworks from at least 500 feet away.
  • Do not touch unexploded fireworks; instead, immediately contact local fire or police departments to help.

For those who decide to purchase consumer fireworks because they live in states where they are legal, the Academy recommends the following safety tips to prevent eye injuries:

  • Never let young children play with fireworks of any type, even sparklers.
  • People who handle fireworks should always wear protective eyewear that meets the parameters set by the American National Standards Institute and ensure that all bystanders are also wearing eye protection.
  • Leave the lighting of professional-grade fireworks to trained pyrotechnicians.

What to do for a fireworks eye injury

If an eye injury from fireworks occurs, remember:

  • Seek medical attention immediately.
  • Do not rub your eyes.
  • Do not rinse your eyes.
  • Do not apply pressure.
  • Do not remove any objects that are stuck in the eye.
  • Do not apply ointments or take any blood-thinning pain medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
(From the American Academy of Ophthalmology)
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Smart Contact Lens for Glaucoma

When a patient gets glaucoma, it can be difficult to know whether the disease will progress slowly or advance quickly, taking vision with it. A smart “electronic” contact lens could help solve this problem.

A new study appearing in the journal Ophthalmology this April shows that electronic signals from a such smart contact lens can be used to predict which glaucoma patients may have a faster advancing version of the disease.

“This could be very useful if you want to know whether a new medication is working for a patient,” said study author C. Gustavo De Moraes, M.D., MPH, an associate professor of ophthalmology at Columbia University Medical Center.  “You can see how their eye is reacting to the therapy in a much more meaningful way.”

(Although the technology is not readily available, our Saipan eye clinic continues to monitor new developments with the lens.)

Why eye pressure matters in glaucoma

Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in the United States and affects nearly 3 million people. Pressure inside the eye, or intraocular pressure (IOP), is the only known controllable risk factor for glaucoma.

Patients with glaucoma should get their eye pressure measured at an ophthalmologists office regularly.  But what happens to their eye pressure in between visits or at night remains somewhat of a mystery, one that could help unravel more about this vision-stealing disease. To help record eye pressure over time, scientists created a smart contact lens that can indirectly measure intraocular pressure continuously.

How it works

A sensor in the lens detects when the curvature changes. As eye pressure fluctuates throughout the day and night, the curve of the lens changes, generating an electrical signal sent to a wireless device that records the signals. Similar to how an electrocardiogram shows a heartbeat, the profile of signals from the smart lens indirectly shows eye pressure changes over time.

Researchers at Columbia tested the Sensimed Triggerfish® lenses on 40 patients between ages 40 and 89 undergoing treatment for open-angle glaucoma, the most common form of the disease. Over two years, scientists performed at least eight standard visual field tests on these patients. Half were classified as having slow disease progression while the other 20 had fast disease progression.

Then patients wore the smart contact lens for 24 hours, including overnight as they slept. Investigators found that patients with steeper spikes recorded overnight and a greater number of peaks in their signal profile overall tended to have faster glaucoma progression.

Using this tool, ophthalmologists may one day be able to more accurately gauge whether a patient’s glaucoma will progress quickly by looking at a readout from the smart lens.

(Adapted from the American Academy of Ophthalmology)

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Cure for Age Related Macular Degeneration?

A new clinical trial is underway to find a cure for one of the most devastating causes of blindness, Age-Related Macular Degeneration (or “AMD”).  Scientists are implanting cells behind the retina in an attempt to regenerate the layer of cells that is damaged by AMD.  If successful, the treatment could lead to cure for millions of people.  Our Saipan eye clinic will be watching these and other new developments, to bring you the best in eye care.  Read about this new frontier in AMD treatment here.

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Zika Virus and the Eye

Although Zika virus has not been identified in Saipan, it may be only a matter of time.  We do have the mosquito, and recent reports have shown the virus in the western Pacific.  Recently, a study in Brazil showed that 10 of 29 infants who had been infected with Zika virus showed signs of severe eye damage.  In this day and age of international travel, infections in one part of the world can quickly and quietly be introduced into new areas.  The doctors at Marianas Eye Institute continue to be alert to the possibility of Zika virus entering the CNMI.

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Marianas Eye Institute Makes News for Discovery of Eye Disease Gene

We’re pleased to have news of our discovery published in the Marianas Variety.  Here is the full story below.


Local Eye Clinic Discovers Gene for Saipan Eye Disease

The doctors at Marianas Eye Institute, in collaboration with U.S. researches, have discovered a new gene that is the cause of an eye disease that affects families on Saipan.


The results of their research was recently published in the scientific journal, Molecular Vision. The article by the team that made the discovery is titled, “Novel TMEM98 mutations in pedigrees with autosomal dominant nanophthalmos.”


Dr. David Khorram, the co-founder and prior ophthalmologist at Marianas Eye Institute, initiated the research over 20 years ago, when he noticed an eye disease affecting members of the same Saipan families. “It made sense that there would be a genetic basis for the disease because so many people in the family were affected,” explained Dr. Khorram, “So, with the permission of the family members, we collected blood samples and sent them to the premier genetic eye research center in the U.S.”

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Saipan Eye Clinic Makes Discovery

The doctors at Marianas Eye Institute, in collaboration with researches in the US, have discovered a new gene that is the cause of an eye disease that affects families on Saipan. The results of our research was recently published in the scientific journal, Molecular Vision. The article  is titled, Novel TMEM98 mutations in pedigrees with autosomal dominant nanophthalmos.”  It is not the most exciting reading, but the discovery of the gene sets the stage for development of gene therapy that can lead to a cure.  We’re proud to be a part of this new discovery.

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Macular Degeneration in Saipan

This isn’t a bad photo.  It’s what the world can look like if you have Macular Degeneration.  Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of blindness among older people, but new treatments have dramatically changed the course of this disease over the last 10 years, making AMD more manageable than ever before. AMD is not common in Saipan, but when it strikes, it can be devastating.  Our Saipan eye clinic is experienced in treating AMD, and if your vision is getting blurry, or distorted, it could be a sign of AMD.  Come to Marianas Eye Institute immediately to see our Saipan optometrist or ophthalmologist.  The sooner we catch the problems, the better the chances of keeping your vision.

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