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All Posts in Category: Eye Disease

Saipan Women Face Higher Risk of Blindness Than Men

Saipan Women Face Higher Risk of Blindness Than Men

American Academy of Ophthalmology urges women to make eye health a top priority

Studies show there is a gender gap in eye disease. Women are more likely than men to suffer from sight-threatening conditions such as age-related macular degeneration(AMD), cataracts and glaucoma. In support of Healthy Vision Month in May, Marianas Eye Institute and the American Academy of Ophthalmology remind women to make vision a top priority.

Women make up 65 percent of macular degeneration cases; 61 percent of glaucoma and cataract patients are women, and 66 percent of blind patients are women. Why the inequity? There are a few theories. On average women live longer and many eye problems are age-related. Some eye conditions, such as dry eye, are more common in women, young and old. Social and economic factors affect women’s access to eye care, especially in developing countries. Whatever the cause, there are a few unique vision problems women need to watch out for more than men. Dry eye occurs at double the rate in postmenopausal women. In general, women are more susceptible to autoimmune diseases than men, many of which affect vision, such as lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome and hyperthyroidism. Also, pregnancy can cause vision changes due to the hormones pregnant women experience.

The good news is most vision loss is preventable. Marianas Eye Institute and the Academy offers five simple steps to take control of your eye health today:

  • Get a comprehensive medical eye exam at age 40. Early signs of disease or changes in vision may begin at this age. An exam by one of Marianas Eye Institute’s specialists is an opportunity to carefully examine the eye for diseases and conditions that may have no symptoms in the early stages.
  • Know your family history. Certain eye diseases can be inherited. If you have a close relative with macular degeneration, you have a 50 percent chance of developing this condition. A family history of glaucoma increases your glaucoma risk by four to nine times. Talk to family members about their eye conditions. It can help you and your eye specialist evaluate your risk.
  • Eat healthy foods. A diet low in fat and rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, benefits the entire body, including the eyes. Eye-healthy food choices include citrus fruits, vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains, dark green leafy vegetables and cold water fish.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking increases the risk for eye diseases such as cataract and age-related macular degeneration. Smoking also raises the risk for cardiovascular diseases which can indirectly influence your eye health. Tobacco smoke, including second-hand smoke, also worsens dry eye.
  • Wear sunglasses. Exposure to ultraviolet UV light raises the risk of eye diseases, including cataract, fleshy growths on the eye and cancer. Always wear sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection and a hat while enjoying time outdoors.

“Eye exams aren’t only about checking a person’s visual acuity or sharpness, but also determining the overall health of their eyes,” said Rebecca J. Taylor, M.D., clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “We encourage women as well as men to get regular eye care. By making vision a priority today, we can help protect our sight as we age.”

“We know that women in the CNMI drive most of their family’s healthcare decisions. They are often the leaders in their families,” said Russ Quinn, CEO of Marianas Eye Institute. “Yet the statistics clearly show that women are at higher risk for eye disease, and we encourage them all the CNMI’s women to make sure their own care receives priority,” he said.

Marianas Eye Institute is known as a regional leader in eye care, providing total eye care for the family, including express glasses, contact lenses, medical eye care, surgery and laser. Marianas Eye Institute is staffed by Dr. Dennis Williams, who has been listed in “America’s Top Ophthalmologists”, and Dr. Mark Robertson, a magna cum laude optometrist, along with eight other highly talented and nationally certified eye care ophthalmic technicians, opticians, and contact lens technicians. Located on Beach Road in Garapan, across 13 Fishermen Monument, Marianas Eye Institute is open Monday through Saturday and accepts new patients as well as walk-ins. Anyone interested in women’s eye health can call 235-9090.

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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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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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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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Can Computers Hurt Your Eyes?

Staring at your computer screen, smartphone, video game or other digital devices for long periods won’t cause permanent eye damage, but your eyes may feel dry and tired. Some people also experience headaches or motion sickness when viewing 3-D, which may indicate that the viewer has a problem with focusing or depth perception.

What causes computer-use eyestrain?

  • Normally, humans blink about 18 times a minute, but studies show we blink half that often while using computers and other digital screen devices, whether for work or play.
  • Extended reading, writing or other intensive “near work” can also cause eyestrain.

What to do:

  • Sit about 25 inches from the computer screen and position the screen so your eye gaze is slightly downward.
  • Reduce glare from the screen by lighting the area properly; use a screen filter if needed.
  • Post a note that says “Blink!” on the computer as a reminder.
  • Every 20 minutes, shift your eyes to look at an object at least 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds: the “20-20-20” rule.
  • Use artificial tears to refresh your eyes when they feel dry.
  • Take regular breaks from computer work, and try to get enough sleep at night.
  • If problems continue, it could be something more serious. Come to Marianas Eye Institute to  see our Saipan optometrist, Dr. Mark Robertson, who can help you.

(Information from the American Academy of Ophthalmology)

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Eye Injury Facts & Myths

  • Men are more likely to sustain an eye injury than women.
  • Most people believe that eye injuries are most common on the job — especially in the course of work at factories and construction sites. But, in fact, nearly half (44.7 percent) of all eye injuries occurred in the home, as reported during the fifth-annual Eye Injury Snapshot (conducted by the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Ocular Trauma).
  • More than 40 percent of eye injuries reported in the Eye Injury Snapshot were caused by projects and activities such as home repairs, yard work, cleaning and cooking. More than a third (34.2 percent) of injuries in the home occurred in living areas such as the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, living or family room.
  • More than 40 percent of eye injuries every year are related to sports or recreational activities.
  • Eyes can be damaged by sun exposure, not just chemicals, dust or objects.
  • Among all eye injuries reported in the Eye Injury Snapshot, more than 78 percent of people were not wearing eyewear at the time of injury. Of those reported to be wearing eyewear of some sort at the time of injury (including glasses or contact lenses), only 5.3 percent were wearing safety or sports glasses. (From the American Academy of Ophthalmology)

The key to preventing eye injuries is to wear eye protection (safety glasses).  If you have an eye injury, come in immediately.

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