Smartphone scanner seeks to reduce preventable blindness

Since the launch of the first portable eye examination kit in 2013, many poorer countries have used it to great effect, diagnosing eye conditions in remote areas. The organisation behind it, Peek Retina, is now in the news looking for funding for its latest innovation – an adaptor which can be clipped on a smartphone, allowing health professionals to see inside the eye.

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It could become an invaluable tool help the millions people across the globe who suffer from preventable blindness. There is no need for retinal cameras to be so expensive and bulky when you are just screening eyes and this new scanner will allow non qualified staff to capture images which can be assessed by someone remotely. This could make a real difference for people living in isolated areas in poorer countries where the healthcare infrastructure is inadequate.

Our retinal scanners are large and very expensive, and they aren’t meant to be portable. The images they produce are incredibly detailed and cover the whole eye, surrounding nerves and blood vessels. So they give an incredibly detailed and accurate image of the health of the eye. This scanner is more comparable to a handheld direct ophthalmoscope and provides a good image of the optic nerve but does not cover the majority of the eye.
Sadly this app will never replace the high tech cameras we are fortunate to use in the UK, however it is a fantastic screening tool and I hope it gets the funding and is developed quickly as the battle to reduce the levels of preventable blindness in the world continues.

Changing to Avastin could save NHS £100m a year

The drug Avastin has been in the newscalling for its use in the UK in a bid to save millions each year.

eye-care

Popular in the US, Avastin is used for patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). It has been on the market for years, gone through all the testing and has been proven to be as effective as Lucentis, the NHS approved drug for the same condition. The difference is cost. Lucentis typically costs around £700 per treatment, compared to Avastin which is about £70. Yet red tape seems to be halting its use.

It is currently unlicensed in the UK so should anything go wrong with its use, the practitioner may not be legally covered. However, in times of austerity and it is perhaps time for the NHS to move forward and license its use.

Feast your eyes cookbook

As part of National Eye Health Week, which took place last month, the organisers created a cookbook containing a collection of recipes packed full of essential nutrients for good eye health. We have a pile of them in reception and it has been so popular I thought I’d share it. The super sight saver smoothie is a personal favourite and I’m looking forward to knocking up the sea trout with a crab cigar this weekend!

It is encouraging to see patients taking note of the fact that a good diet really can benefit not only your waistline, but your eyes too.

The recipes feature ingredients proven to help maintain good eye health including some of the following:

Dark green, leafy vegetables – Eating spinach and kale for example, could help avoid macular degeneration. They contain lutein and zeaxanthin; two important nutrients that have antioxidant functions in the body and help prevent cell damage. Lutein helps protect the retina, much like sunglasses.
Bright orange fruit and vegetables – The likes of sweet potatoes have a rich source of beta-carotene, a natural precursor to vitamin A, the vitamin most commonly associated with healthy eyes. And fruits like oranges and papaya are a great source of vitamin C which evidence has suggested may slow the affects of macular degeneration and the formation of cataracts.
Beans and eggs – Adding zinc to your diet by eating zinc-rich foods such as beans, lentils, eggs and turkey will help the liver release vitamin A.
Oily fish -Fish such as salmon and tuna are rich in source of omega-3, which studies have found may also help protect eyes from age-related macular degeneration and dry eyes.
Wheat germ, soy and sunflower seeds – Great sources of vitamin E, which can help protect the eyes from free radical, damage.

Please feel free to pop in to the practice to pick up a free hard copy of the cookbook before they are all gone.
As part of National Eye Health Week, a fellow independent optometrist who was a former Masterchef finalist, also created a range of recipes, from smoothies to fish dishes. Worth a watch if you’re looking for inspiration and a step-by-step guide.

World Sight Day calls for no more avoidable blindness

Thursday will mark World Sight Day, a global initiative co-ordinated by Vision 2020. This year the campaign will focus on avoidable blindness and the organisers have highlighted worrying statistics with approximately 285 million people worldwide living with low vision, 39 million of those are blind. Yet 80% of visual impairment is avoidable, meaning it is treatable or preventable.

World Sight Day 2014

Cataracts and trachoma are the two main causes of avoidable blindness in the world. Thankfully in the UK trachoma is very rare and a course of antibiotics usually deals with it, however this bacterial infection remains the leading cause of infectious blindness worldwide.

Cataracts, however, are a very real problem in the UK. A condition that usually develops in older age, cataracts affect millions of people in the UK. Blurred or clouded vision is the most common symptom of cataracts, however an optometrist has the technology available to identify the very early stages of the condition even before the early signs noticed by the individual. This is one of the reasons we are so keen that people make a point of having a regular eye test. Even if you think your eyes are fine and your vision hasn’t changed, we encourage all our patients to make sure they see us at least every two years, ideally every year for those over 65.

The treatment of cataracts is usually a very straightforward operation however if they are left untreated they can result in permanent loss of vision.

We are very fortunate that we live in a country with very advanced eye care. So many in poorer countries do not have the expertise, diagnosis and treatment available. In the UK it is available so we need to make sure awareness improves so preventable blindness is prevented.

Police Scotland relax ban on officers with colour deficiency

Ian Cameron was asked on to BBC Radio Scotland to discuss Police Scotland’s decision to reverse its ban on recruiting officers with colour deficiency. The change in policy was a result of a legal bid by one potential recruit. You can listen to the piece here.

Ian discussed the eye examination that anyone entering the police force can expect to go through, including a test of visual acuity: how far you can read down standard chart, a visual field: testing peripheral vision, as well as a colour vision test. Ian highlighted that colour deficiency was a very hard condition to quantify as the test is not very accurate and there are such varying degrees of the condition.

Putting it in the context of the police force, Ian discussed how officers with colour deficiency, may find it harder to pick out an individual in a crowd based on the colour of clothes he was wearing. Their judgment may also be put under more scrutiny, say under cross-examination.

It is certainly an area that would benefit from more research that could result in better testing to identify a scale for the condition rather than relying on a degree of subjectivity.

Caring for your lenses

World renowned Moorfields Eye Hospital has recently launched a campaign to encourage contact lens wearers to ensure they take care of their eyes. The hospital has seen a marked increase in cases of eye infections relating to contact lens wear. Most worryingly an increase in an infection called acanthamoeba keratitis which can be extremely difficult to treat and in the most serious cases, can see the patient require a corneal transplant.

Tiny parasites called acanthamoeba can live in water so should your lenses come in contact with water the parasites can take up residence in your eye. If they aren’t killed through thorough cleaning, this serious infection can develop. This is a serious yet thankfully uncommon infection, however with cases of it on the increase, now is a good time to remind yourself of some basic guidance which applies to all lenses.

• Always wash and dry your hands thoroughly before handling your lenses.
• After removing your lenses, clean them immediately. Don’t store them without cleaning them first. Cleaning will remove mucus, protein, make up and debris that naturally build up on the surface during the day.
• Never use tap water (or saliva!) to rinse your lenses or case. Microorganisms can build up in water, even distilled water, and can cause infections or even sight damage.
• Ensure your lens case is kept clean. Replace your case every time you open a new bottle of solution.
• Use clean solution every time. Don’t reuse or top up.
• Do not sleep in your lenses unless advised by your optometrist.
• Ideally lenses shouldn’t be worn when swimming but if you do wear them make sure you wear goggles to reduce the chance of contact with pool water.
• Follow the cleaning guidelines you were given, using the recommended products. Doing this will reduce the chance of picking up a nasty eye infection.
• Insert your lenses before applying make up.
• Have an up to date pair of spectacles on hand should you pick up an infection. Many treatments require you to stop wearing your lenses for the duration of the treatment so don’t be caught without a backup.
• Don’t use any eye drops without advice from your optometrist.

Remember these three simple questions:

• Do my eyes feel good with my lenses? You have no discomfort.
• 
Do my eyes look good? You have no redness.
• 
Do I see well? You have no unusual blurring with either eye.

If the answer to any of these questions is no, take out your lenses and consult us straight away.

Here’s a helpful video produced by Moorfields to guide you through the process for soft contact lenses and one for gas permeable lenses

Lenses for occasional wear

We’re supplying a patient with free lenses ahead of their participation in the Spartan Race in Edinburgh later this month. She’s running, as well as tackling various obstacles and mud, in aid of Downs Syndrome Scotland so we’re delighted to help out. She’s a glasses wearer but obviously glasses and muddy, wet obstacle courses don’t go too well together. The point of this blog is to highlight that lenses don’t have to be a fulltime commitment. You can dip in and out as you please.

The great thing about most lenses on the market is they don’t actually take much getting used to, especially daily disposables which are what we usually recommend for occasional use. Sometimes there is a bit of trial and error before we find you the perfect pair, but because we know our patients’ eyes so well we almost always find them the right pair first time.

Participating in a sporting event is an obvious time where glasses wearers can struggle. Whether on the ski slopes, to partake in some holiday snorkeling or when running a marathon, glasses are just not the practical option. Or maybe it’s a vanity thing – nothing wrong with that! You perhaps don’t want to wear glasses to attend a stylish black tie do. Occasional contact lens wearing is perfectly possible. Once you’ve tried them, you won’t look back.

Worrying figures show reluctance to get an eye exam

Spectrum Thea produced an interesting piece of research which showed two thirds of optometrists have seen an increase in the number of younger patients presenting with eye problems. It points to the increased use of PCs and deteriorating health of a generation as possible factors. This is certainly something that we as an industry need to try to tackle, however the part of the research I found most worrying, was the fact that still one in ten would only have an eye exam if they were experiencing problems.

Cameron Optometry has a strong focus on expertise and the use of the most advanced technology. This isn’t because we like to show off with the latest piece of kit. It is because our technology allows us to pick up issues in the very early stages. At the point when we can hopefully do something about it, either with treatment to eradicate the issue or by devising a programme of treatment to ensure the progression of the condition is slowed. If we only see people when they identify issues themselves then it could well be too late to halt the condition’s progression.

Eye exams must be seen as part of maintaining general health and as such we must ensure people have their eyes examined at least every two years, more frequently if they have any vision issues.

I was also concerned to read that still two thirds of Brits would go to a doctor with an eye infection with only a fifth opting to visit their optometrist. Yet, it is an optometrist who will have the correct equipment to undertake a thorough eye examination required and a prescribing optometrist will also be able to give you an NHS prescription if required, same as a GP.

Another worrying figure was a massive 90% of optometrists surveyed felt that they don’t think people take their eye health seriously or look after their eyes as much as they should. In addition, less than half of patients say they would get checked out if they had blurred vision after spending time in front of a screen and a third wouldn’t visit an optometrist even if they were unable to read small print. Worryingly for road users only 55% of those surveyed would visit an optometrist if they struggled to read road signs.

Clearly as an industry we still have a battle on our hands when it comes to communicating the importance of looking after ones eyes. I would say that Cameron Optometry patients are generally better ‘trained’ in the importance of good eye care having had it drummed into them over the years but how many times do I have to say to people, you only get one set of eyes so look after them?

Corrective tablet screens good news for some

Another BBC article that caught my attention this week, this time about a VDU that can correct vision problems to negate the need for glasses or contact lenses. In short, because it is very technical, the technology is powered by software and algorithms that change the light that a screen emits to distort the image a user sees to their prescription.

When the article talks about one in three people suffering from some form of myopia (short-sightedness), the fact is the vast majority of these people need corrective lenses or glasses for more than just using a tablet. For these people this piece of technology is unlikely to be of any use.

However, there is a very small group who could find this technology hugely beneficial. Even with the most sophisticated contact lenses or glasses, some people with conditions such as keratoconus still see halos and ghosting when looking at VDUs. My hope is that it is that this group that may benefit from this specialist technology. Keratoconus can affect people from a relatively young age, people for whom computers an integral part of their lives both in the work place and at home, so hopefully for this group, this technology could make a real difference.

Watch out for sun damage

I was pleased to read an article on the BBC website raising awareness of sun damage and the eyes yesterday. Rightly so, the importance of protecting the skin from the harmful effects of UV rays is well documented. People now take the issue seriously piling on sunscreen, ensuring everyone in the family is covered. However often the eyes are overlooked.

b- sunburn

Perhaps it’s the fact that you can’t see the burn. If you forget to wear sunglasses you don’t wake up the next morning with red, sore skin. But your eyes are also burning, you just can’t see it but the damage that is being done.

As discussed in the article, there are a number of serious conditions associated with exposure to UV rays like cataract and macular degeneration. All develop slowly over time and the effects will be felt as the body’s ability to repair diminishes. Ultimately in later years, the various conditions could cause serious vision problems and in some cases a total loss of sight.

Something that always surprises me is that parents don’t always think of sunglasses for their children. I think it’s an awareness issue. I know keeping sunglasses on a toddler is not easy but getting them used to wearing sunglasses and a hat from an early age, could help prevent them developing these serious eye conditions in years to come.

I wrote a blog back in May on selecting sunglasses. If you’re planning to buy a new pair, familiarise yourself with considerations when making your purchase.

When you think suntan lotion, think sunglasses as well.

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