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Ultraviolet Radiation Damage Can Have Long Term Consequences For Your Eyes

If you were invited to be part of a nuclear radiation clean up crew, I bet you’d want to wear protective gear. Not just the white hazmat bunny suit, but the gloves, goggles, mask and booties as well, right?  But when it comes to ultraviolet radiation exposure, we often put on “half a suit” as it were. We cover our skin with sunscreen (maybe) but we don’t regularly protect our eyes. I’m not sure why we forget this step, but it’s time to get serious about eye protection.

In a recent interview with dermatologist, Dr. Jeanine Downey, and optometrist, Dr. Stephen Cohen, we discussed the long term damage that UV radiation can cause to the skin and eyes. I hope you’ll listen to our entire conversation here:

Sun damage of the skin has a familiar appearance – dark spots, wrinkles, thinning, and enlarged pores.  UV radiation causes visible damage to the eyes as well – yellowish corneas (the “whites” of the eyes), scars (called pterygia), and crow’s feet. Over time, eyelid skin can become cancerous from sun exposure, while eyeballs develop cataracts and macular degeneration (which can lead to blindness). The risk of these diseases and conditions can be greatly reduced with sun protection measures. And it’s not that hard to do…

Some quick tips to protect your eyes:

1. Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face and eyes from the sun.

2. Wear wrap-around sunglasses that absorb at least 99 to100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays for maximum eye protection.

3. If you wear contact lenses, ask your eye doctor about whether or not your lenses have UV protection. ACUVUE® OASYS® Brand Contact Lenses offers the highest level of UV blocking available, blocking at least 90 percent of UV-A rays and 99 percent of UV-B rays. Although UV-blocking contact lenses provide important additional protection for wearers, they do not completely cover the eye and surrounding area, and should not be considered as a substitute for UV-blocking sunglasses. For maximum protection, UV-blocking contact lenses should be worn in conjunction with high-quality, wrap-around, UV-blocking sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat.

4. Remember that UV rays are more intense when reflected from water and snowy surfaces. Just because it’s the winter time doesn’t mean you don’t need to wear your sunglasses.

So next time you reach for your sunscreen, please remember to take your hat and sunglasses with you too! Fortunately, bunny suits and booties are still optional for UV radiation protection. 😉

Disclosure: Dr. Val Jones is a paid consultant for VISTAKON® Division of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc.

Contact Lenses That Darken In Bright Light

Researchers have been trying to coat contact lenses with light sensitive dyes to have them turn dark during bright lighting conditions. Glasses with this property have existed for decades, but the same coating methods are not applicable to contacts.

Technology Review reports on work by the Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) in Singapore to use the entire volume of the lens to contain the dye: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

Study Shows That Our Brains, Not Eyes, See Color

Even though we intuitively think that a particular color looks the same to different people, researchers from The University of Chicago and Vanderbilt University have uncovered that the brain plays a critical role in color perception. The brain actually assigns colors to objects and with a bit of tinkering one can fool the brain to assign the wrong color to an object being viewed. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

The Eyes Have It

I was coming to the end of my ER shift and realized that a fairly large list of patients still waiting to be seen. I scanned the chief complaints listed on our white triage board to see if there was a straight forward case that I could handle quickly before I went home. Since it was early in the morning, we had the typical extremes of patients – those who were badly injured (drunk driving is more common in the wee hours) and those who were really weird.

ER nurses are amazingly adept at capturing the seriousness of a complaint with their choice of words. Reading between the lines is a bit of an art form – and part of the natural communication in a busy ED. I understood the art fairly well, though this night I missed a big clue. Here were some of the chief complaints that I could choose from:

1. Crushing substernal chest pain x1hour

2. Butt twitching x3 months

3. Head vs. light post

4. Ear pain x2 days

First of all I made sure that a colleague was with patient #1, which left me a choice between patient #2 – clearly weird and doubtful that I’d be able to resolve his problems any time soon, patient #3 – probably going to take a lot of sutures and more time than is left in my shift, and patient #4 – a fairly innocuous-seeming issue, probably otitis media.

Needless to say, I chose patient #4… though I hadn’t recognized the subtle distinction between “ear pain” and “ear ache.” I was about to figure this out the hard way.

As I drew back the curtain to patient #4’s room, I saw a tall, thin man sitting bolt upright in the chair next to the stretcher. He was polite and respectful – but there was something odd about him. A few minutes into our interview about his ear pain, I finally put my finger on it. The guy never blinked.

After several more minutes of what could only be described as fairly straight forward answers to medical history questions – and a fully negative review of systems – I had this sneaking feeling that Patient #4’s pain wasn’t otitis media.

“I’d like to ask you a question that might seem kind of strange…” I said, peering intently at his face.

“Ok,” said the young man.

“Have you ever thought that your pain is related to a transistor radio of some sort in your ear?”

His eyes grew as large as saucers.

“Yes! How did you know?!”

And there it was – a young man with schizophrenia, experiencing his first psychotic break. It took me a few hours to get him a full work up and a discharge plan to the inpatient psych unit… and I was very late getting home from this shift. So much for a straight forward case…

I wonder what would have happened if I’d chosen patient #2?

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