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WORLD GLAUCOMA WEEK - SPREAD THE WORD!
World Glaucoma Week, observed this year from March 12-18, is a global initiative spearheaded by the World Glaucoma Association and World Glaucoma Patient Association. It is a call for governments, eye care professionals and patient groups worldwide to raise awareness and encourage earlier detection of glaucoma.
The observance responds to some potent statistics. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, according to the World Health Organization. Estimates put the total number of suspected cases of glaucoma at over 60 million worldwide and it is estimated that the number of people with glaucoma will increase to 111.8 million in 2040, disproportionally affecting people in Asia and Africa.
Yet, while glaucoma is the second leading cause of irreversible blindness, 90 percent of cases of blindness from glaucoma could have been prevented. The sad fact is that due to the often silent progression of the disease, at least in its early stages, up to 50 percent of affected persons in developed countries are not even aware they have glaucoma and are receiving no treatment.
The message is clear: early diagnosis and treatment are critical to managing the disease. Regular eye exams are essential to detect glaucoma and slow irreversible vision loss.
What can you do? Live the message and spread the word.
Get screened or examined. If you have glaucoma, make sure your relatives get their eyes checked as there is a hereditary component to the disease.
TGF receives many queries asking where individuals can go for free or low-cost eye exams. Here are a few suggestions. Eye Care America (www.eyecareamerica.org), a public service foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, provides eye care to eligible uninsured at-risk individuals through volunteer ophthalmologists at no cost to those who qualify. Go online for eligibility requirements and referrals.
Vision USA (www.aoafoundation.org/vision-USA), a project of the American Optometric Association, provides free basic eye health services to uninsured low-income families. Eligibility varies; volunteer doctors of optometry provide free exams.
Lions Clubs International (www.lionsclubs.org) provides varying services, including financial assistance for eye care and free vision screenings through local clubs in various locations. Check online for a local club.
Medicare (www.Medicare.gov) provides for an annual dilated eye exam for beneficiaries at high risk for glaucoma. You’re at high risk if you have diabetes, a family history of glaucoma, are African American and 50 years or older, or are Hispanic and 65 or older.
Throughout the year, many organizations, community centers, university-based medical schools and eye organizations join together to offer free glaucoma screenings. Check your local listings.
Share Your Story
One of the most popular features of TGF newsletters have been our “Lifestyle Connection/Living with Glaucoma” series, in which glaucoma patients, inspiring and often courageous, have shared their personal stories. Click here to learn from the experiences of a few glaucoma patients. We are always looking for individuals whose lives have been impacted by glaucoma and whose experiences can inform others. If you would like to share your own story, email email@example.com.
Sign up here to receive the free TGF electronic glaucoma newsletter to keep yourself informed.
Join one of TGF’s three free online support groups. The Glaucoma Foundation sponsors three free online support groups, each hosted by Yahoo! Groups. There are groups for young patients, for caregivers of young children with glaucoma, and for adult patients. One may be just right for you! Click here for more information.
Make a donation to help The Glaucoma Foundation fund innovative research to find a cure.
TURN YOUR PHONE INTO A FLASHLIGHT
On an Apple iPhone, swipe up from the bottom to reveal the Control Center. Press the flashlight icon on the bottom left to turn the light on and off.
On Android Phones, either scan the Quick Settings panel for a flashlight button, use Google Now (say “OK, Google, flashlight on”), or download a free flashlight app from Google Play.
GET INVOLVED WITH TGF
Support TGF's research and education programs and donate today.
Join a TGF glaucoma support group online to learn how other patients manage their disease.
Connect with other glaucoma patients on TGF's Facebook page.
Follow TGF on Twitter and start the #glaucoma discussion.
Share your personal glaucoma story with us.
NEW TECHNOLOGIES IN THE PIPELINE TO
HELP PEOPLE LIVING WITH
LOW VISION OR BLINDNESS
The National Eye Institute (NEI), part of the National Institutes of Health, recently highlighted a few new technologies and tools in the works to help the 4.1 million Americans living with low vision or blindness.
Low vision means that even with glasses, contact lenses, medicine, or surgery people find everyday tasks difficult. The tools needed to stay engaged in everyday activities vary based on the degree and type of vision loss. For example, glaucoma causes loss of peripheral vision, which can make walking or driving difficult.
Here's a look at a few NEI-funded technologies under development that aim to lessen the impact of low vision and blindness.
While existing GPS-based assistive devices can guide someone to a general location such as a building, GPS isn't much help in finding specific rooms, said Cang Ye, Ph.D., of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Ye has developed a co-robotic cane that provides feedback on a user's surrounding environment.
Ye's prototype cane has a computerized 3-D camera to "see" on behalf of the user. It also has a motorized roller tip that can propel the cane toward a desired location. Along the way, the user can speak into a microphone and a speech recognition system interprets verbal commands and guides the user via a wireless earpiece. The computer analyzes 3-D information in real time and alerts the user of hallways and stairs.
Robotic glove finds door handles, small objects
In the process of developing the co-robotic cane, Ye realized that closed doorways pose yet another challenge. To help someone with low vision locate and grasp small objects more quickly, he designed a fingerless glove device.
The glove guides the user's hand via tactile prompts to the desired object. "Guiding the person's hand left or right is easy," Ye said. "An actuator on the thumb's surface takes care of that in a very intuitive and natural way." Prompting a user to move his or her hand forward and backward, and getting a feel for how to grasp an object, is more challenging.
Ye's colleague Yantao Shen, Ph.D., University of Nevada, Reno, developed a novel hybrid tactile system that comprises an array of cylindrical pins that send either a mechanical or electrical stimulus in a pattern indicating that the hand should move backward or forward. Meanwhile, a larger electrotactile system on the palm uses a series of cylindrical pins to create a 3-D representation of the object's shape.
Smartphone crosswalk app
Street crossings can be especially dangerous for people with low vision. James Coughlan, Ph.D., and his colleagues at the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute have developed a smartphone app that gives auditory prompts to help users identify the safest crossing location and stay within the crosswalk.
The app harnesses three technologies. A global positioning system (GPS) is used to pinpoint the intersection where a user is standing. Computer vision is then used to scan the area for crosswalks and walk lights. That information is integrated with a geographic information system (GIS) database containing a crowdsourced, detailed inventory about an intersection's quirks, such as the presence of road construction or uneven pavement.
High-powered prisms for severe tunnel vision
People with severe peripheral field vision loss can have a residual central island of vision that's as little as 1 to 2 percent of their full visual field. Eli Peli, O.D., of Schepens Eye Research Institute, Boston, has developed lenses constructed of many adjacent one-millimeter wide prisms that expand the visual field while preserving central vision. Peli and colleagues have developed a prototype of a high-powered prism that achieves a 45-degree visual field. Their next step is to work with optical labs to manufacture a cosmetically acceptable prototype that can be mounted into a pair of glasses.
FINDING A CURE FOR EXFOLIATION SYNDROME
It was exactly 100 years ago, in 1917, that a young Finnish ophthalmology researcher, John G. Lindberg, published his findings about a new phenomenon, exfoliation syndrome, as his thesis at the University of Helsinki. Several years ago The Glaucoma Foundation made exfoliation syndrome/glaucoma the focus of its grants program. Since that time, The Foundation has funded 16 projects that aim at better understanding and finding a cure for exfoliation syndrome. Three projects were funded in the final grants cycle of 2016.
Exfoliation syndrome (XFS) is the most common cause of identifiable open angle glaucoma worldwide. It is caused, at least in part, by genetic variants in an enzyme called lysyl oxidase-like 1 (LOXL1). R. Rand Allingham, MD, of the Duke Eye Center in Durham, North Carolina received a grant to study how some rare variants of LOXL1 reduce the effectiveness of LOXL1 function.
Barbara Wirostko, MD, at the University of Utah, will utilize a Utah Population Data Base (UPDB) containing over 8 million lives, to determine the impact XFS has on lifestyle and death. To date, there has been no report of increased mortality in people with XFS in specific populations.
A third grant was awarded to Ursula Schlötzer‐Schrehardt, PhD, at the University of Erlangen‐Nürnberg in Germany. This project aims to uncover the pathomechanisms associated with dysregulation of LOXL1 that result in the development of exfoliation glaucoma.
The Glaucoma Foundation's International Scientific Think Tank will continue its focus on exfoliation at its 2017 meeting in New York in June.