Important News about Lasik

Popping up in health news at an electric rate is something called “LASIK Eye Surgery.” This article goes to the heart of this procedure to uncover the details you need to know if you are considering improving your vision. Continue reading

The Important Necessity of Eye Exams for Older Adults

Older adults are at higher risk for eye disease and vision problems, so you’ll want to take very seriously any unusual symptoms someone you’re concerned about may be having with his vision. That’s because early detection and treatment can greatly reduce the risk of partial or complete blindness. Routine eye exams are crucial, too, as some eye diseases arrive without any warning.

How often should an older adult’s vision be screened?

For those 65 and older, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends complete eye exams every year or two. If a person hasn’t seen an eye doctor recently, it’s important to schedule an appointment. Even if he isn’t having any symptoms or any trouble seeing, it’s possible to have an eye disease. There are often no obvious early symptoms of glaucoma, for example, and the disease progresses slowly. In fact, experts estimate that almost half of those with glaucoma don’t know they have it.

A person may need more frequent exams (perhaps even more often than once a year) if he has certain medical conditions, like diabetes or high blood pressure, which may put him at higher risk for some eye diseases. The eye doctor might want to see him more often, too, if he:    Continue reading

Laser Surgery for Far-Sightedness to Make History

LONDON – Conventionally, laser surgery tackles shortsightedness, but doctors are now using laser treatment to restore 20/20 vision in those suffering from long-sightedness too.

By the age of 50, most adults find they can’t read a menu, book or newspaper without holding it at arm’s length.

The deterioration results from the stiffening of the eye’s lens, which makes zooming in on close objects more difficult.

The latest research, from three laboratories in Europe and the U.S., could lead to new techniques to cure the problem.

The technique, which could cost around 4,000 pounds, involves using lasers to re-engineer the eyeball, either by cutting slits, into which tiny lenses can be inserted, or by altering the shape of its outer layer.

In one study the researchers used lasers to make tiny slits in the cornea, the transparent outermost layer of the eye, which, along with the lens, is key to focusing.

They then inserted a corneal inlay – a tiny doughnut-shaped black ring with a pin-sized hole at the centre for the light to pass through. This made it easier for light to focus on the retina at the back of the eye, making close vision sharper.

In another study, Greek researchers cut tiny pockets in the corneas of 15 patients and inserted powerful magnifying lenses.

“Ninety eight per cent of patients were satisfied with their vision; 69 per cent reported “excellent” and 30 per cent “good” near vision,” The Daily Mail quoted Dr Ioannis Pallikaris as saying.

Dr Mike Holzer, of the University of Heidelberg added. “The procedure is painless and because no tissue is removed the risk of infection is extremely low.”

David Allamby, one of the few British eye doctors already using lasers to correct presbyopia, welcomed the results, but warned none of the techniques is perfect.

Stem Cells Reverse Blindness Caused by Burns

Dozens of people who were blinded or otherwise suffered severe eye damage when they were splashed with caustic chemicals had their sight restored with transplants of their own stem cells — a stunning success for the burgeoning cell-therapy field, Italian researchers reported Wednesday.

The treatment worked completely in 82 of 107 eyes and partially in 14 others, with benefits lasting up to a decade so far. One man whose eyes were severely damaged more than 60 years ago now has near-normal vision.

“This is a roaring success,” said ophthalmologist Dr. Ivan Schwab of the University of California, Davis, who had no role in the study — the longest and largest of its kind.

Stem cell transplants offer hope to the thousands of people worldwide every year who suffer chemical burns on their corneas from heavy-duty cleansers or other substances at work or at home.

The approach would not help people with damage to the optic nerve or macular degeneration, which involves the retina. Nor would it work in people who are completely blind in both eyes, because doctors need at least some healthy tissue that they can transplant.

In the study, published online by the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers took a small number of stem cells from a patient’s healthy eye, multiplied them in the lab and placed them into the burned eye, where they were able to grow new corneal tissue to replace what had been damaged. Since the stem cells are from their own bodies, the patients do not need to take anti-rejection drugs.

Adult stem cells have been used for decades to cure blood cancers such as leukemia and diseases like sickle cell anemia. But fixing a problem like damaged eyes is a relatively new use. Researchers have been studying cell therapy for a host of other diseases, including diabetes and heart failure, with limited success.

Adult stem cells, which are found around the body, are different from embryonic stem cells, which come from human embryos and have stirred ethical concerns because removing the cells requires destroying the embryos.

Currently, people with eye burns can get an artificial cornea, a procedure that carries such complications as infection and glaucoma, or they can receive a transplant using stem cells from a cadaver, but that requires taking drugs to prevent rejection.

The Italian study involved 106 patients treated between 1998 and 2007. Most had extensive damage in one eye, and some had such limited vision that they could only sense light, count fingers or perceive hand motions. Many had been blind for years and had had unsuccessful operations to restore their vision.

The cells were taken from the limbus, the rim around the cornea, the clear window that covers the colored part of the eye. In a normal eye, stem cells in the limbus are like factories, churning out new cells to replace dead corneal cells. When an injury kills off the stem cells, scar tissue forms over the cornea, clouding vision and causing blindness.

In the Italian study, the doctors removed scar tissue over the cornea and glued the laboratory-grown stem cells over the injured eye. In cases where both eyes were damaged by burns, cells were taken from an unaffected part of the limbus.

Researchers followed the patients for an average of three years and some as long as a decade. More than three-quarters regained sight after the transplant. An additional 13 percent were considered a partial success. Though their vision improved, they still had some cloudiness in the cornea.

Patients with superficial damage were able to see within one to two months. Those with more extensive injuries took several months longer.

“They were incredibly happy. Some said it was a miracle,” said one of the study leaders, Graziella Pellegrini of the University of Modena’s Center for Regenerative Medicine in Italy. “It was not a miracle. It was simply a technique.”

The study was partly funded by the Italian government.

Researchers in the United States have been testing a different way to use self-supplied stem cells, but that work is preliminary.

One of the successful transplants in the Italian study involved a man who had severe damage in both eyes as a result of a chemical burn in 1948. Doctors grafted stem cells from a small section of his left eye to both eyes. His vision is now close to normal.

In 2008, there were 2,850 work-related chemical burns to the eyes in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Schwab of UC Davis said stem cell transplants would not help those blinded by burns in both eyes because doctors need stem cells to do the procedure.

“I don’t want to give the false hope that this will answer their prayers,” he said.

Dr. Sophie Deng, a cornea expert at the UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute, said the biggest advantage was that the Italian doctors were able to expand the number of stem cells in the lab. This technique is less invasive than taking a large tissue sample from the eye and lowers the chance of an eye injury. “The key is whether you can find a good stem cell population and expand it,” she said