Google Glass – friend or foe?

Publication1One of the newest trends in technology is wearables. Some of these devices like the Fitbit help you keep in shape by keeping track of how many steps the wearer takes and how well they sleep. Others like the Samsung Gear 2 allow you to check email, listen to music and do myriad tasks while looking like a normal watch. But, the most interesting wearable for optometrists is Google Glass.

As of a few weeks ago, Google Glass was only available for beta testing through its explorer program which allowed for only an elite group of tech-savvy individuals to purchase it ($1500). However, as of May 15th, anyone can purchase Glass and even obtain prescription eyewear that hosts the Glass computer. As such, some practices, including my own, have signed up to be Glass experts who can work with the approved frames.

So, what does Google Glass do and what makes it interesting to medicine? Well, for starters, Glass can take pictures and record video with voice commands. These applications can be extremely useful for hands free recording of surgical procedures. This can assist in educating health care providers, can serve as a permanent record in case complications arise, and allow for patients and doctors to communicate effectively even if they are not in the same city.

And what about day-to-day activities? Well, while using the recording device may unnerve people due to privacy concerns, I can certainly imagine recording video of my kids or maybe my favorite band at a concert. Glass can also translate words you see, help you with directions, and allow you to look up information. It can even help measure distances on a golf course and track the miles you run.  One detractor, some complain about eye pain after wearing the device for a number of hours.  Google has acknowledged this as a possible side effect of wearing Glass and can be due to unnatural eye movements like looking up for a long period of time.

As you can imagine, myriad applications are being developed to maximize this piece of technology. Also, other companies have developed similar devices. So, what do you think about Google Glass? Do you have privacy concerns? Do you think that this is a cool trend, or do you think Glass is lame and pretentious? Let’s discuss!

~David Ardaya, OD
California Optometric Association
http://eyehelp.org
http://www.coavision.org

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My eye doctor prescribed spending time outside

We have all heard about how much time kids spend inside watching TV, studying, and playing video games. My seven-year-old son is addicted to rainbow looms, and could loom all day if I let him. New studies have indicated that the amount of time children spend outside may decrease the risk of developing myopia.

What is myopia?

Myopia, or nearsightedness, is a vision condition in which close objects are seen clearly but far objects appear blurred. Nearsightedness is a very common vision condition, affecting nearly 30 percent of the US population, and up to 90 percent of developed East and Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore, Taiwan, China, Japan and Korea. Myopia typically presents in school age children. Because the eye continues to grow as children grow, myopia may progress until approximately age 21.

Photo Courtesy of Shirley Binn

Photo Courtesy of Shirley Binn

Recent studies have indicated that more time spent on near work, less time spent outdoors, higher educational level and parental history of nearsightedness are risk factors for developing nearsightedness. Spending time outdoors plays a crucial role in myopia development and can slow its progression.

A recent study presented at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) 2014 Annual Meeting demonstrated the importance of time spent outdoors in order to control nearsightedness. The study evaluated visual acuity (vision) and axial length (length of the eye) of 6690 multiethnic children at 6 years of age. Axial length was significantly longer in children who spent less than one hour per day outdoors than in those who spent more than 2 hours outdoors.
Jan Roelof Polling, at the University of Applied Sciences Utrecht, lead investigator of the study recommended “Children with an increased risk of near-sightedness, such as those from a near-sighted family, should be prompted to spend at least 15 hours a week outside and should avoid spending long hours doing near work, even when they are very young.”

Photo Courtesy of RavEytan

Photo Courtesy of RavEytan

How does spending time outdoors help with myopia progression?

The protective effect of being outdoors is not well understood. Researchers suspect that bright outdoor light helps children’s developing eyes maintain the correct distance between the lens and the retina, keeping vision in focus. The intensity and / or specific spectral distribution of outdoor lighting may be beneficial. Indoor lighting that is dim does not provide the same kind of feedback. Therefore, when children spend too many hours inside, their eyes fail to grow correctly and the distance between the lens and retina becomes too long, causing far-away objects to look blurry. Hormonal changes associated with outdoor activities may also be beneficial.

Encouraging children to spend more time outdoors can be a simple and cost-effective way to improve their vision and general health. Head outside and enjoy the summer! Just remember to keep spending time outside when school resumes.

Melissa Barnett, OD, FAAO

California Optometric Association

Detecting Eye Cancer in Children

You know the saying, “It’s rare until it happens to you.” Well, if it does happen, your life is turned upside down and you do all that you can to fix it. NPR recently wrote an article about a young chemist named Bryan Shaw whose son was diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer, retinoblastoma. This can often present itself as a white pupil reflection called leukocoria, especially noticeable in photos. What he found remarkable was that the white reflex was present in photos of his son as early as 12 days old. The father has now switched careers to develop a software program that would automatically recognize leukocoria in photos and to alert users to have this examined.

Photo Courtesy of Bryan Shaw

Photo Courtesy of Bryan Shaw

It’s an interesting concept, ingenious really. How many eyes and lives can be saved this way? If even one is saved, then it is worth it. I hope to see this software developed and implemented soon. But in the meantime, should we all start scouring through photos of our kids? That’s not a bad idea, but there may be a better solution.

Over a decade ago, President Carter approached the American Optometric Association about developing a program to detect eye diseases and conditions in children at no cost. This was after discovering that two of his grandchildren suffered from amblyopia or lazy eye, which if detected early could have been prevented or treated effectively. From there, the American Optometric Association developed a public health program called InfantSee.

InfantSee provides an infant eye assessment between 6 and 12 months of age as a no-cost public service. Doctors across the nation donate their time to examine infants in their practice settings. The assessment allows us to screen for excessive amounts of nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism, check eye teaming and movement ability, and detect eye diseases including retinoblastoma.

Courtesy of PhotoFlurry on Flickr

Courtesy of PhotoFlurry on Flickr

For almost a decade, I have been examining infants in my office through referrals from pediatricians to the InfantSee program. The majority of the infants are fine. I have come across a couple with a high prescription or an eye turn that requires monitoring. I have found a cataract in an infant who eventually underwent cataract surgery as a child in order to maintain good vision. I haven’t seen a retinoblastoma yet and hope to never tell a parent I see one in her child’s eye.

I look forward to seeing if Bryan Shaw’s software is created and used routinely on Instagram or Facebook. But even then, I still want to see the infants in my exam chair because I’m checking for more than a white pupil.

 

Cindy P. Wang, OD, FAAO

California Optometric Association

www.coavision.org

www.eyehelp.org

 

 

Sunglasses- not just a style choice, but a vision-saving device

Photo courtesy of Steven Depolo on Flickr

Photo courtesy of Steven Depolo on Flickr

Not just a style choice

What do you think of when you see someone in sunglasses? Among the most common responses I hear from my patients when I ask them about sunglasses is “fashion.” And while your Michael Kors sunglasses can be an excellent fashion accessory, they can also be a tool well suited to add to your arsenal of eye protection.

Sunglasses are protection

The next question I hear when discussing sunglasses with my patients is “protection from what?” Sunglasses can help provide protection from damaging UV rays of the sun, serve as a barrier for ocular allergens to help reduce allergic conjunctivitis in patients who have eye allergies, and protect the surface of your eyes if you are a patient with tear film insufficiency or dry eyes.

Watch out for UV rays

Damaging Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can cause indirect DNA damage and contribute to skin cancer. It can also cause changes to the health and structure of your eyes. UV ray exposure has unfortunately been linked with a higher incidence of macular degeneration, certain forms of cataracts, and pterygiums (those fleshy growths on the white of the eye that can grow to cover your pupil).

UV radiation from the sun comes in three forms- A, B and C. UV C is the most mutagenic, which means it is the most damaging of the three. Fortunately, our planet’s ozone layer absorbs most of this type of radiation so that it never makes it down to us. UV B is the form of radiation from the sun that causes sunburns, and sunscreens that are labelled with SPF numbers describe how well they block UV B. UV A unfortunately also damages the DNA in your skin and eyes. New full-spectrum sunscreens and sunblocks can help protect your skin from both UV A and UV B radiation. Similar to a full-spectrum sunblock, sunglasses with UV A and UV B protection can help prevent your eyes from exposure to 99.9% of UV A and UV B rays. 

Allergy protection

For patients who suffer from seasonal allergies, especially contact lens wearers, wearing a large pair of sunglasses can be an ideal barrier for potential ocular allergens. Whether they are sport sunglasses or the larger fashion sunglasses, having larger lenses and a bit of face wrap, or curves to fit the front of your face, allow sunglasses to block a lot of the pollens, dust and spores that can trigger eye allergies.

Similarly, for patients who suffer from tear film insufficiency or dry eye, having a large barrier in front of the eyes to protect from the elements encountered outdoors can make treatment and management of this eye disease much easier. 

Sunglasses are always going to be seen as a fashion accessory, but try not to forget how beneficial they can be for eye protection. And remember – there is nothing wrong with looking good while taking care of your eyes! 

~Ranjeet S. Bajwa, OD, FAAO
California Optometric Association
http://eyehelp.org
http://www.coavision.org