A Message from DrRyo.com

Readers,

After a long and thoughtful assessment, DrRyo.com has run its course.

Many thanks to the readers of DrRyo.com, which has been dedicated to keeping people informed about eye health, offering tips for healthy eyes, and sharing inspiring stories of people living with eye disease.

We will keep this blog live on the web until Friday, March 20, 2015. Until that date, below are some resources to help you stay informed about eye health:
https://www.nei.nih.gov
https://www.aao.org

Thank you for your loyal readership these past years!

Diabetes and Eye Health

Photo credit: Wendy Longo, Flickr Creative Commons

Did you know that blood sugar and eye health are connected? Diabetic eye disease includes diseases that stem from complications from diabetes: diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease and can lead to blindness.
Often, there are no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. Protect your vision and remember the following tips:

• Proliferative diabetic retinopathy can develop without symptoms. At this advanced stage, you are at high risk for vision loss.
• Macular edema (swelling of the center of the retina) can develop with or without symptoms at any stage of diabetic retinopathy.
• You can develop both proliferative diabetic retinopathy and macular edema and still see fine. However, you are at high risk for vision loss.
• If you have diabetes, it is important to get a comprehensive eye exam yearly.

Your ophthalmologist can tell if you have macular edema or any stage of diabetic retinopathy. Whether or not you have symptoms, early detection and timely treatment can prevent vision loss.

Understanding Cataracts

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The most sophisticated lens isn’t one found in your camera or glasses: it’s the lens in your eye. Your lens helps focus light—and an image—onto your retina. Once the image reaches the retina, this light is translated into nerve signals, which your brain then interprets. The lens is even able to change shape, enabling your eye to focus on objects at different distances. A healthy lens must be clear to project a sharp image onto the retina. When the lens becomes clouded, your vision becomes blurry.

A cataract is a clouding of the lens. The human lens is mostly made up of protein and water, and its structure is arranged in way that the lens is clear and allows light to pass through it. However, sometimes as we age, the proteins in the lens may start clumping together, clouding areas of the lens. As the cataract becomes denser with time, it clouds more of the lens, which makes it harder to see.
Cataracts can also gradually change the way you perceive colors. Your vision may be affected by a yellowish or brownish shade, and if you have advanced lens discoloration, you may not be able to identify blues and purples. Night vision may also deteriorate.

Cataracts are more common in older people. According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), by age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery, one of the most common operations performed in the United States. Surgery typically involves replacing the clouded lens with an artificial plastic lens. Patients who have cataract surgery often experience noticeably crisper, clearer vision. The NEI states that in about 90% of cataract surgeries, people have better vision afterward.

If you notice changes in your vision, make an appointment with your ophthalmologist. If you are diagnosed with a cataract, your ophthalmologist can help you understand the different types of cataract surgery and help determine what treatment options are best for you.

Can Your Eyes See Invisible Light?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

According to a recent article in Nature, you may be able to see light that was formerly considered outside of the visible spectrum. The human eye can see light wavelengths between roughly 400 nanometers (blue) and 720 nanometers (red).

A series of experiments now suggests we can see light with wavelengths above 1,000 nm as white, green and other colors, when pairs of infrared photons simultaneously hit the same pigment protein in the retina, providing enough energy to create chemical changes that allow us to see the light otherwise considered invisible.

Krzysztof Palczewski, a pharmacologist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, and his research team hypothesized that infrared vision is a result of a phenomenon known as two-photon isomerization: two photons each carrying half the energy – and therefore of twice the wavelength – hitting the retina together. The energies from both photons could add up and be analogous to a single photon within the visible light spectrum.

What the human eye is capable of never ceases to amaze!

Glaucoma Awareness Month

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, and it is important to increase awareness of this disease. Glaucoma gradually causes loss of vision, and people often show no early symptoms. Glaucoma affects over 4 million Americans over age 40, yet only half of those with glaucoma are aware they have the disease.

Unfortunately, there is no way to restore vision already lost to glaucoma. However, when doctors are able to diagnose the disease early, they can help slow glaucoma’s progression and minimize vision loss. Therefore, it is important to know your risks for glaucoma. Some of the risk factors include:

• Age
• Family history
• African or Hispanic ancestry
• Farsightedness or nearsightedness
• Elevated eye pressure
• Past eye injury
• Conditions that affect blood flow, such as migraines, diabetes, and low blood pressure

Along with knowing your risk factors for glaucoma, you should make an appointment with your ophthalmologist, who can determine how frequently you should receive eye exams. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that people without symptoms or risk factors receive a baseline screening at age 40, when changes in vision and signs of disease may occur. If you are over 65, you may qualify for a free eye care exam through EyeCare America.

Remember, you can do you part! Know your risk factors, get regular eye exams, and pay attention to any changes in your vision. Together, we can all raise the level of glaucoma awareness and be proactive in helping to maintain our sight.

How to Manage Dry Eye Syndrome in Winter

Photo credit: Thomas_Waldek, Flickr Creative Commons

Winter can be particularly harsh on our bodies, including our eyes. We spend time in cold, dry air outdoors and in warm, dry, heated air indoors. These environments sometimes cause eye discomfort, particularly for those with Dry Eye Syndrome. Dry Eye Syndrome is a condition where the tears are of inadequate quantity or quality to protect the eye, which is necessary for eye comfort and healthy vision.

Our eyes require different types of care throughout the changing seasons. If you suffer from Dry Eye Syndrome, follow these tips from the American Academy of Ophthalmology to help alleviate your symptoms. Hopefully, they will allow you to embrace the winter season as we begin a new year!

14-Year-Old With Usher Syndrome Campaigning to End Blindness

Photo credit: Foundation Fighting Blindness

Jacob Rider is 14 years old. He goes to high school. He loves soccer and track. He plays videogames. Jacob was also diagnosed with Usher Syndrome, a rare, degenerative disease that affects both hearing and vision, when he was only 6.

Although his Type II diagnosis is a less severe type, he still needs to take special precautions. Jacob takes a flashlight outside, even if it’s not particularly dark. He also works with an orientation-and-mobility specialist, so he’s better able to move around in the dark and avoid mishaps. His family has learned tips and tricks to help Jacob, such as walking through his school before the year starts, so he can anticipate any uneven or dark places.

To raise awareness for Usher Disease and help others, Jacob and his mother Jessica started his own personal fundraising page under the Foundation’s My Campaign to End Blindness website. He’s already raised $1,500 toward his $5,000 goal. Jacob’s mother helped her son start his own Campaign to End Blindness for three reasons: 1) the money raised goes directly to fund treatment for vision loss; 2) it brings awareness to diseases that aren’t as well-known, such as Usher Syndrome; and 3) it gives her family hope there will be a cure.

Although his reduced vision and hearing will create challenges as he grows older, Jacob looks forward to going to college—and to contributing to the Foundation Fighting Blindness when he has greater capacity to donate.

Jacob and his family are an inspiration to those coping with eye disease, and their loved ones. May he have continued success in his fundraising efforts, and a bright future ahead.

Computer Game Helps Scientists Understand How the Retina Functions

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Photo credit: hobbs_luton, Flickr Creative Commons

Can playing a computer game help scientists learn more about neurons in the retina? Dr. Sebastian Seung, Professor of Computational Neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), thinks so.

EyeWire, a project developed by Dr. Seung, allows players to fill in 3-D images of neurons on a computer with color, which reveals the shape of that cell. By coloring in these shapes, the players help identify specific neurons that constitute retinal cells. This process then helps scientists map the connections between neurons in the retina, which can lead to a greater understanding of how vision works.

This is no small undertaking. According to Amy Robinson, Creative Director of the Seung Lab at MIT, it takes 50 hours to map one neuron, and there are 85 billion neurons in one human brain. To analyze the structure of these neurons, it’s necessary to examine a lot of images. However, computers can’t analyze these images: only human eyes—and human intelligence—will suffice. That’s why EyeWire is calling on the public, and fortunately, people are eager to help. By playing EyeWire, the public can become citizen scientists—even without a medical degree in ophthalmology or a background in neuroscience. By playing the coloring game, these intellectually curious gamers are helping scientists learn more about the eye, while having fun and connecting with others in this citizen science community.

To play EyeWire and learn more about the project, click here. Kudos to both the team at Seung labs at MIT and these citizen scientists for helping to further eye research!

Have a Happy and Safe Holiday!

There are many time-honored traditions during the holiday season, but perhaps none so special as watching our children scramble to open their gifts with joy and excitement. A lot of preparation goes into making those magical moments come to life, and amidst the chaos of getting ready for holiday festivities, we always want keep our loved ones safe—especially our kids.

Below are some tips from Prevent Blindness to help you pick safe, age-appropriate toys for the holidays.

Keep The Child’s Age In Mind

• Ask yourself or the parent if the toy is right for the child’s ability and age.
• Consider whether other smaller children may be in the home who might play with the toy.
• Don’t give toys with small parts to young children, who tend to put things in their mouths: it increases the risk of choking.
• If any part of a toy can fit inside a toilet paper roll, the toy is not appropriate for children under the age of 3.

Make Sure The Toys Are Safe

• Avoid purchasing toys with sharp or rigid points, spikes, rods, or dangerous edges.
• Buy toys that will withstand impact and not break into dangerous shards.
• Avoid toys that shoot, or that include parts that fly off.
• When giving sports equipment, also provide protective gear—such as a basketball along with eye goggles, or a face guard with a new batting helmet for baseball or softball.

You can find the full list of tips on the Prevent Blindness website.

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Photo credit: JD-Hancock: Flickr Creative Commons

The holidays should be joyous and fun for everyone, especially little ones. I hope these tips help ensure your entire family has a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season.

Wishing you a joyous end to 2014 and a Happy New Year in 2015!

How to Take Care of Your Contact Lenses

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Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

If you’re one of the over 30 million Americans who wears contact lenses, they can be a convenient, effective way to correct your vision. However, it is also important to remember that contact lenses are medical devices that require proper care and handling. The American Academy of Ophthalmology has developed helpful guidelines for caring for your contact lenses, in partnership with the Contact Lens Association for Ophthalmologists, the Cornea Society, and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery.

Regardless of the type of contact lens you have, proper care and handling of your contact lenses and contact lens solution are essential. Follow these guidelines to avoid eye infections and keep your eyes in good health.