The following information has been provided by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO):

On Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, a solar eclipse will be visible across North America (weather permitting). The whole continent will experience a partial eclipse lasting 2 to 3 hours. Halfway through the event, anyone within a roughly 70-mile-wide path from Oregon to South Carolina will experience a brief total eclipse. At that point, the moon will completely cover the face of the sun for up to 2 minutes 40 seconds.  According to NASA, the metropolitan Washington, DC area will experience a partial solar eclipse from about 79 percent of the sun obscured to more than 90 percent. The farther south you are, the more the sun will be obscured.

A truly awe-inspiring event, a solar eclipse is when the moon blocks any part of the sun from our view. The bright face of the sun is covered gradually by the moon during a partial eclipse, lasting a few hours. During the brief period of a total eclipse when the moon fully covers the sun (only a couple of minutes), the light of day gives way to a deep twilight sky. The sun’s outer atmosphere (called the solar corona) gradually appears, glowing like a halo around the moon in front of it. Bright stars and planets become more visible in the sky.

Watching a solar eclipse is a memorable experience, but looking directly at the sun can seriously damage your eyes. Staring at the sun for even a short time without wearing the right eye protection can damage your retina permanently. It can even cause blindness, called solar retinopathy.

There is only one safe way to look directly at the sun, whether during an eclipse or not: through special-purpose solar filters. These solar filters are used in “eclipse glasses” or in hand-held solar viewers. They must meet a very specific worldwide standard known as ISO 12312-2.

Keep in mind that ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, or homemade filters are not safe for looking at the sun.

Steps to follow for safely watching a solar eclipse:

  • Carefully look at your solar filter or eclipse glasses before using them. If you see any scratches or damage, do not use them.
  • Always read and follow all directions that come with the solar filter or eclipse glasses. Help children to be sure they use handheld solar viewers and eclipse glasses correctly.
  • Before looking up at the bright sun, stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer. After glancing at the sun, turn away and remove your filter—do not remove it while looking at the sun.
  • The only time that you can look at the sun without a solar viewer is during a total eclipse. When the moon completely covers the sun’s bright face and it suddenly gets dark, you can remove your solar filter to watch this unique experience. Then, as soon as the bright sun begins to reappear very slightly, immediately use your solar viewer again to watch the remaining partial phase of the eclipse.
  • Never look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars or other similar devices. This is important even if you are wearing eclipse glasses or holding a solar viewer at the same time. The intense solar rays coming through these devices will damage the solar filter and your eyes.
  • Talk with an expert astronomer if you want to use a special solar filter with a camera, a telescope, binoculars or any other optical device.

For information about where to get the proper eyewear or handheld viewers, check out the American Astronomical Society.

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(Pictured, L-R: Althea DeGree, Chair of the Eyeglass Drive Donation Program; June Wright, Eyeglass Drive Donation Coordinator; Beverly Cole, Eyeglass Drive Sponsor; Michele Hartlove; Taylor Blackwell)

In May, the Prevention of Blindness Society of Metropolitan Washington received a generous donation of 493 pairs of eyeglasses and sunglasses from a collection drive sponsored by the Coalition of African-American Regulatory Employees (CARE)! CARE is a group formed by employees of the Department of the Treasury’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

Over the course of three months, used eyeglasses and sunglasses were collected in donation boxes at District Offices across the United States.

Last year, the Prevention of Blindness Society (POB) of Metropolitan Washington’s Eyeglasses Clinic, located on Rhode Island Avenue in Washington, DC, served more than 3,700 local individuals in-need. The clinic provides new eyeglasses to low-income and homeless persons in the area who need eyeglasses but cannot afford to pay for them.

Since 1936, it has been POB’s goal to provide sight-saving services to as many of our region’s citizens as possible. More than 75 years later, we are still fulfilling that mission. From vital vision screenings to support group meetings to vision research grants and more, POB continues to make a difference in the lives of those in our local community by improving and preserving sight.

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We’ve come a long way! Until now, the only way of “home monitoring” to detect vision changes in “dry” AMD has been the Amsler Grid. If you are at high-risk for developing “wet” AMD, you may now take a more proactive approach to your eye health. We had the opportunity to learn about and experience the Medicare-covered ForeseeHome AMD Monitoring Program. This technological breakthrough can detect subtle changes in your vision between office visits and alert your doctor to those changes. Keynote speaker and AMD expert, Richard Garfinkel, M.D., was joined by representatives of the ForeseeHome AMD Monitoring Program and invited participants to “try” the system at Sibley Medical Office Building on Saturday, November 19, 2016. To learn more about this new technology, visit foreseehome.com. To subscribe to email reminders about other upcoming events hosted by the Prevention of Blindness Society of Metropolitan Washington, visit youreyes.org/modify-your-subscription.

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Do you know that vision loss is a leading cause of falls? Join Adrianna Wiseman, O.D., Low Vision Optometrist and Lind Stevens, O.T., Certified Low Vision Therapist, on Saturday, Sept. 24, 10 a.m., for a special community program, “Stand Up to Falls.”

Eye diseases such as glaucoma, cataract, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, as well as normal age-related vision changes, can cause vision problems that include: blurring or distortion; glare; difficulty seeing objects, edges, changes in surfaces and at night; and difficulty judging depth and distance. These facts represent a major source of potential disability and can lead to prolonged recoveries and lengthy stays in hospitals and long-term care facilities.

The GOOD NEWS is: Falls can be prevented! View more event details at www.youreyes.org/events/details/380-stand-up-to-falls

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Each year on July 1, a new group of doctors begin a three-year ophthalmology residency program. POB is privileged once again this year to work with MedStar Georgetown/ Washington Hospital Center Eye Clinic’s new ophthalmology residents.

The Low Vision Group meets the second Tuesday of each month from September to December of 2016 at the WHC Eye Clinic Conference Room. Eye health topics are discussed by physician speakers with a lively and interactive group of regular and first-time attendees. Visit POB’s calendar of events at www.youreyes.org/events to view upcoming low vision support meetings.

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If you are having difficulty accomplishing usual activities of daily living because of vision changes, or if you have been diagnosed with an eye disorder that threatens your sight, the Low Vision Center (LVC) in Bethesda is a community resource you do not want to overlook! LVC offers displays of lighting and assistive devices to enhance your daily activities and has been offering free hands-on information and resources since 1979. If you have a question, they have an answer. For more information, call 301-951-4444 or go to their website at www.lowvisioninfo.org

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NIH-funded study shows less diabetic retinopathy progression among those who underwent intensive glycemic control

People with type 2 diabetes who intensively controlled their blood sugar level during the landmark Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes (ACCORD) Trial Eye Study were found to have cut their risk of diabetic retinopathy in half in a follow-up analysis conducted four years after stopping intensive therapy. Investigators who led the ACCORD Follow-on Eye Study (ACCORDION) announced the results today in New Orleans at the American Diabetes Association annual meeting. The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health’s National Eye Institute (NEI).

“This study sends a powerful message to people with type 2 diabetes who worry about losing vision,” said Emily Chew, M.D., deputy director of the NEI Division of Epidemiology and Clinical Applications and lead author of the study report, published online today in Diabetes Care. “Well-controlled glycemia, or blood sugar level, has a positive, measurable, and lasting effect on eye health.”

A complication of diabetes, diabetic retinopathy can damage tiny blood vessels in the retina—the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye. ACCORDION is a follow-up assessment of diabetic retinopathy progression in 1,310 people who participated in ACCORD, which tested three treatment strategies to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease among people with longstanding type 2 diabetes. ACCORD tested maintaining near-normal blood sugar levels (intensive glycemic control); improving blood lipid levels, such as lowering LDL “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides and raising HDL “good” cholesterol; and lowering blood pressure.

The treatment phase of the glycemic control portion of ACCORD had been planned to last 5.6 years but was stopped at 3.5 years due to an increase in death among participants in the intensive glycemic control group. The blood pressure and blood lipid portions of ACCORD continued. Tight control successfully reduced glycemia to an average 6.4-percent A1C—a measure of average blood glucose—compared to 7.7 percent among participants on standard glycemic control therapy.

Although it failed to reduce cardiovascular disease risk, such as heart attack and stroke, the researchers found that the therapy had cut retinopathy progression by about one-third by the end of ACCORD. Investigators considered progression to have occurred if a participant required laser surgery for diabetic retinopathy, required a vitrectomy—a procedure used to remove the gel-like fluid of the eye—or advanced three or more steps on the Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study (ETDRS) Severity Scale. The ETDRS Severity Scale uses photographs of the retina to rate disease severity from 1 (no disease) to 17 (high-risk for progression in both eyes).

ACCORDION re-assessed diabetic retinopathy about four years after the intensive glycemic control portion of the study had ended—eight years after enrollment in ACCORD. By then, average A1C was nearly the same: 7.8 percent for the intensive therapy group and 7.9 percent for the standard therapy group. However, diabetic retinopathy had advanced in only 5.8 percent of participants in the intensive therapy group since enrollment in ACCORD, compared to 12.7 percent in the standard therapy group.

“Despite this equalization of glycemic control in the two groups, there continued to be an approximately 50-percent risk reduction of further retinopathy progression, a phenomenon termed metabolic memory,” said Frederick L. Ferris III, M.D., NEI clinical director, who was not involved in the study.

Other clinical trials have reported the phenomenon, also known as the legacy effect. Participants with type 1 diabetes who received intensive glycemic therapy in the 10-year-long Diabetes Control and Complications Trial on average had 50-percent less progression of diabetic retinopathy three decades later. A similar trend was seen in the United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Project, a study of people with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes.

Results from ACCORDION suggest that lowering blood glucose can reduce progression of retinal disease relatively late in the course of type 2 diabetes and that even short-term changes in glucose have an effect. The findings add to mounting evidence that tight glycemic control has positive, long-lasting effects on small blood vessels. Other follow-up studies of ACCORD participants have observed a legacy effect similar to ACCORDION in kidney and peripheral nerve health, which also involve small blood vessels. But the benefits of intensive glycemic therapy must be weighed against the potential risks—most notably the increased risk of death observed in ACCORD. Investigators have been unable to determine a cause for the increase, which was not seen in other trials.

Results also point to a possible role for ongoing use of fenofibrate to treat diabetic retinopathy, if taken regularly. The blood lipid and blood pressure portions of ACCORD concluded at 5.6 years. Neither strategies reduced cardiovascular disease. However, fenofibrate, a drug that raises HDL cholesterol, decreased diabetic retinopathy progression by about one-third during ACCORD. ACCORDION investigators found fenofibrate had no lasting benefit 3 years after the drug was discontinued.

But based on ACCORD findings, fenofibrate might be worth taking to control diabetic retinopathy progression. Other countries, including Australia, have approved fenofibrate for treating diabetic retinopathy but not the U.S., said Chew. The NEI-funded Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research Network is currently planning a clinical trial to further explore ongoing use of fenofibrate to control diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetic retinopathy affects about 7.7 million Americans and is the leading cause of vision loss among working-age Americans. Diabetic retinopathy can cause blood vessels to swell and leak fluid, sometimes distorting vision. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy, an advanced stage of the disease, occurs when abnormal blood vessels appear on the surface of the retina. These abnormal blood vessels are prone to bleeding and lead to the formation of scar tissue, sometimes causing retinal detachment and permanent vision loss.

The NEI provides information about diabetic retinopathy at http://www.nei.nih.gov/health/diabetic/.

View an NEI video about how diabetic retinopathy can be detected through a comprehensive dilated eye exam at http://youtu.be/sQ-0RkPu35o.

ACCORD was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI); National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK); and NEI.

ACCORDION was funded through NHLBI contract HHSN268201100027C.

The ACCORD Eye Study is registered as NCT00542178 at ClinicalTrials.gov.

References:

Chew, EY, et al. Persistent Effects of Intensive Glycemic Control on Retinopathy in Type 2 Diabetes in the Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes (ACCORD) Follow-on Study. Diabetes Care. 2016; 39:1-12. DOI: 10:2337/dc16-0024.

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Part of the National Institutes of Health, NHLBI plans, conducts, and supports research related to the causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart, blood vessel, lung, and blood diseases; and sleep disorders. The Institute also administers national health education campaigns on women and heart disease, healthy weight for children, and other topics. NHLBI press releases and other materials are available online at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov.

The NIDDK, a component of the NIH, conducts and supports research on diabetes and other endocrine and metabolic diseases; digestive diseases, nutrition and obesity; and kidney, urologic and hematologic diseases. Spanning the full spectrum of medicine and afflicting people of all ages and ethnic groups, these diseases encompass some of the most common, severe and disabling conditions affecting Americans. For more information about the NIDDK and its programs, visit http://www.niddk.nih.gov.

NEI leads the federal government’s research on the visual system and eye diseases. NEI supports basic and clinical science programs that result in the development of sight-saving treatments. For more information, visit http://nei.nih.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.

NIH…Turning Discovery Into Health®

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Who is at risk for glaucoma?

Anyone can develop glaucoma! Those who are at highest risk and should have a dilated eye exam at least every one or two years include:

• African Americans over age 40
• Everyone over age 60
• People with a family history of glaucoma
• Individuals who have had a serious eye injury
• People with diabetes (Get a dilated eye exam every year)

Although a cure for glaucoma has not been found, early detection and treatment can usually preserve vision. Vision loss from glaucoma cannot be restored. It is important to become your own advocate. This can begin by signing up for a FREE POB glaucoma screening at one of the sites on the June glaucoma screening schedule.

View POB’s Calendar of Events for upcoming free glaucoma screenings.

Learn more about glaucoma.

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It has been said that technology has made the world smaller, but for people who are visually impaired, smart devices are opening up a whole new world.

The iPhone has become a great equalizer for people with vision loss. App accessibility is very empowering, for it opens doors for people with vision loss or other challenges to do things they would not otherwise be able to do.

Mark your calendar for POB’s Macular Degeneration Network meeting on Sunday, June 12, at Sibley Medical Building. Bring your devices, or bring someone who has one if you don’t, and join POB in this most enlightening and eye-opening event.

Learn more about this event.

 

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The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) continues to caution that too much exposure to UV light raises the risk of eye diseases including cataracts, growths on the eyelids and cancers. Growths on the eyes can appear in the late teens and early 20s, especially for those who have spent long hours under the midday sun. Diseases like cataracts and eye cancers can take many years to develop.

If you are concerned about keeping your eyes safe from the sun, check the Calendar of Events for programs on June 14 at MedStar Washington Hospital Center and June 16 at Friendship Heights Village Center, which will feature eye health professionals, resource information and a light lunch.

Learn more about this event at MedStar Washington Hospital Center or at Friendship Heights Village Center.

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