Pioneer In ‘Chaos Theory’ To Talk At UH About Human, Animal Eyes

What can we learn from the way animals see? Quite a bit, according to mathematical physicist and chaos theory pioneer Mitchell J. Feigenbaum, who will give a lecture titled “Reflections on Eyes” at the University of Houston.

As part of the UH Tenneco Distinguished Lecture Series, Feigenbaum, Toyota Professor and head of the Mathematical Physics Laboratory at Rockefeller University in New York, will be speaking at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 23 in Room 130 of the Science and Research 2 building on the UH campus. The hour-long lecture is free and open to the public.

In his talk, Feigenbaum will discuss how animals possess optical systems of varying relative acuity and possess this acuity on varying surfaces of focus. He will begin his lecture by addressing how human vision is mirrorlike with a strong propensity for astigmatisms. He will then turn his focus to what a fish might see contingent upon good acuity, then determining from data just how excellent its optics prove to be. He will wrap up the presentation speaking about how land animal eyes could easily have been designed to approach those of fish, commenting on the limitations of evolution.

One of a small group of scientists who three decades ago were growing more concerned about the inability of science to explain irregular occurrences in everyday life that could be described as chaotic, such as the shape of clouds, Feigenbaum’s pioneering work in chaos theory led to an explosion of interest in the field in the late 1970s and 1980s. The scaling indices he discovered in the transition to chaos are referred to as the “Feigenbaum Numbers.”

His contributions to the field were recognized with numerous awards, including the MacArthur Fellowship in 1983 and the Wolf Prize in Physics in 1986. Other of his contributions includes novel mathematical tools that were used to redesign the Hammond World Atlas. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Mitchell J. Feigenbaum, mathematical physicist and chaos theory pioneer

Tenneco Distinguished Lecture

5:30 to 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 23

University of Houston
Science and Research 2 building
Room 130
Off Cullen Boulevard

For more information about UH, visit the university’s Newsroom at

Source: Lisa Merkl

University of Houston

Working Memory Retains Visual Details Despite Distractions

The ability to retain memory about the details of a natural scene is unaffected by the distraction of another activity and this information is retained in “working memory” according to a study recently published in JOURNAL OF VISION, an online, free access publication of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO). These results reinforce the notion that humans maintain useful information about previous fixations in long-term working memory rather than the limited capacity of visual short-term memory (VSTM).

Memory has traditionally been divided into VSTM and long-term memory (LTM). VSTM usually involves the retention of about four objects at a time. This is followed by either information loss or the transfer of this information into LTM. This study provides further evidence that an intermediary “working memory” better describes the nature of information retained while engaged in a particular task.

In the study conducted by Oxford Brookes University Professor David Melcher, participants were asked to view a photograph of a natural scene for 10 seconds. Following the initial viewing, they were asked to silently read a paragraph for 60 seconds, repeating if necessary, or view an image with five colored square for 60 seconds. The participants were then asked questions about the first scene they had viewed. The results show that the addition of the reading task had no measurable influence on the average performance for either color, shape or location questions compared to other trials which involved just a 10-second delay between the viewing and the testing.

According to Melcher, “These results provide further evidence that visual scenes are special and that memory for real scenes involves a system with different properties than that used for words or simple shapes. We are currently examining how this memory system develops in children, how it is affected by aging and how it interacts with attention and disorders of attention.”

This research was supported by grants from the British Academy and the Royal Society.

You can read this article online in Journal of Vision at journalofvision/6/1/2. Journal of Vision is published by ARVO, the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology. All articles are free and open to anyone.

Established in 1928, The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, Inc. (ARVO) is a membership organization of more than 11,300 eye and vision researchers from over 70 countries. The Association encourages and assists its members and others in research, training, publication and dissemination of knowledge in vision and ophthalmology. ARVO’s headquarters are located in Rockville, Md.

The Association’s Web site is arvo.
2006 Annual Meeting Building International Collaborations
April 30 – May 4, 2006 Fort Lauderdale, FL

Surgery For Crossed Eyes Not Just For Kids

Since she was a baby, Carleen Trautz’s left eye turned outward, rather than looking straight ahead, and it made her life miserable.

Kids teased her mercilessly. When she talked to people, they couldn’t tell which of her eyes was looking at them. As an adult, Trautz was self conscious, lacked self esteem and always tried to hide the left side of her face.

But since Loyola University Health System ophthalmologist Dr. James McDonnell performed surgery to repair the defect, Trautz’s eye has been in a normal position.

“It turned my life around,” said Trautz, 48.

McDonnell has performed thousands of corrective surgeries in children and adults whose eyes are misaligned for various reasons. But many adults who have this defect, called strabismus, wrongly believe there’s no treatment.

When Trautz was a child, she was told to do eye exercises, which didn’t help. “No one told me it could be repaired,” she said. It wasn’t until Trautz took her mother to see McDonnell for an unrelated eye surgery that she learned from McDonnell that her strabismus could be corrected.

Strabismus “is emotionally debilitating,” Trautz said. “After the surgery, my self confidence expanded by leaps and bounds. I never dated before. Now, I’m engaged.”

She underwent the surgery 11 years ago, and the condition remains completely repaired, she said.

Patients are given many reasons why they shouldn’t get treatment: Nothing could be done after a certain age; they would outgrow the problem; they would need another surgery or if they had undergone a previous surgery nothing further could be done. Some patients are told that insurance won’t cover the procedure.

“None of these things are true,” McDonnell said. “This type of misinformation can come from friends, family doctors, and even ophthalmologists and optometrists.”

McDonnell has performed the procedure on patients ranging in age from infancy to past 90, with excellent outcomes. In addition to restoring normal appearance, the surgery also can improve depth perception and eliminate double vision or eye strain.

About half of the strabismus surgeries McDonnell performs are on adults. To correct the misalignments, he operates on the muscles that control the movement of the eyes. He uses a different technique than the techniques typically used on children. In some patients he uses an adjustable suture technique that allows him to fine-tune the eyes into the exact alignment.

“Our goal is to restore patients’ eyes to a normal functional alignment so they can use their eyes together to the best of their ability,” McDonnell said. “We want them to be able to look anyone directly in the eye and feel confident that their eyes appear normal. When you can’t look someone in the eye, it affects your fundamental ability to communicate. It can be very debilitating.”

Risks of the outpatient surgery, which are very rare, include infection and detached retina.

Many adult patients have had the condition all their lives. Others develop strabismus as a result of such conditions as stroke, tumor or brain injury. Studies show these patients think about their eyes almost every hour of every day.

“You become very self conscious about it,” said William Stofan, 59, who underwent surgery on his right eye, which drifted to the right. “I would not even think about asking a woman for a date.”

Stofan said not being able to make eye contact was horrible. “When people looked at me, I felt like a freak,” he said.

Stofan said he has had strabismus for years, but the condition became more noticeable about two years ago. He would make jokes about it, “but it got to the point where it wasn’t funny anymore.”

The surgery caused minimal pain — Stofan took just one Advil the next day. “I’m back to being the old me,” he said. “My confidence is stronger than it ever was.”
McDonnell said the surgery is very rewarding. “There are always tears of joy and relief from the patient and from me,” he said. “I’m like the town crier, but it’s just so wonderful and humbling to see each person after surgery. It’s a shame when patients wait years to correct something we can address in about 1 hour.”

Some adult patients can be treated with Botox, which temporarily weakens muscles. The drug weakens the pull of a strong muscle, allowing the weaker muscle to gain strength. When the drug wears off in about two months, proper muscle balance and eye alignment often are restored, McDonnell said.

McDonnell is a professor in the Department of Ophthalmology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Loyola University Health System

View drug information on Botox.

Race Has Role In Incidence, Survival Of Rare Brain Tumor, Mayo Researchers Find

The incidence of a rare and deadly tumor called primary central nervous system lymphoma (PCNSL) is two times higher in black Americans, ages 20 to 49, than in white Americans, according to a Mayo Clinic study published in the June issue of Journal of Neuro-Oncology. In patients older than 49, the results were reversed. White Americans were twice as likely as black Americans to be diagnosed with PCNSL.

PCNSL is a primary tumor of the central nervous system that may simultaneously or sequentially involve the brain, spinal cord, meninges (the covering of the brain and spinal cord) and the eyes. PCNSL most often affects the elderly, people who are immunosuppressed because of illness or transplant, and patients with AIDS. Though uncommon, this tumor is increasing in incidence, even in patients without known risk factors. About 1,500 new cases are diagnosed in the United States every year.

“We undertook this epidemiological study to look for clues about the cause of PCNSL,” says Brian O’Neill, M.D., a Mayo Clinic neurologist and the senior researcher in the study. Dr. O’Neill is the director of Mayo’s National Cancer Institute-designated Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in Brain Cancer.

This study was conducted by reviewing the records of 2,665 patients between 1992 and 2002 in 13 U.S. communities that are part of the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program of the National Cancer Institute. This program is a repository for population-based information on cancer incidence and survival, covering 26 percent of the population and balanced for geographic, race and age differences. It has been used for etiologic cancer research for more than 30 years.

In the study, researchers found the PCNSL incidence rates for adults ages 20 to 49 (all reported with a 95 percent confidence interval) were:
Black Americans: 1.43 per 100,000 per year

White Americans: 0.72 per 100,000 per year

Incidence rates for those older than 50 were:
Black Americans: 0.56 per 100,000 per year

White Americans: 1.30 per 100,000 per year

The number of American Indians, Alaska Natives and Asian/Pacific Islanders diagnosed with PCNSL was too low to draw any conclusions about disease incidence.

Patients with PCNSL typically experience a rapid decline in neurologic function, with an average duration of symptoms of only four weeks to diagnosis. Symptoms may include headaches, confusion, language disturbance, gait and balance difficulties, personality changes and an inability to concentrate. Symptoms include floaters and blurred vision when PCNSL affects the eye.

The prognosis for PCNSL is poor and appears worse for black Americans. In this study, the 12-month survival rate for white Americans was 34 percent, compared to 19 percent among black Americans. The difference between the races narrowed over time but the mortality rate continued to be better for white Americans. At the five-year mark, 16 percent of white Americans were alive, compared to only 9 percent of black Americans.

Current treatments are slowing or stopping tumor growth, sometimes dramatically, but are not increasing the cure rate. However, significant advances in the treatment of systemic lymphoma have come from critical research on new treatments. This experience has fostered increased interest in finding the cause or causative factors for PCNSL. For patients with normal immune systems, no known risk factors contribute to this brain tumor.

This is the first study to quantify incidence of PCNSL by racial groups. The study design did not allow the researchers to identify reasons for the racial differences and why they changed with age.

“We don’t know if it’s genetic, environmental or a combination,” says Dr. O’Neill. “We don’t know if the higher incidence in younger black Americans reflects socio-economic factors, access to health care, and also the role of HIV infection in black communities.” However, the experience with other cancers such as multiple myeloma suggests that there may be a distinct genetic contribution. For example, the age-adjusted incidence of multiple myeloma is two times higher in black Americans than in white Americans. Another Mayo study demonstrated that the prevalence of a myeloma precursor condition in Ghanaian men was twice that in American men, supporting the hypothesis that race-related genetic susceptibility is an important issue to pursue.

Other researchers participating in this study include: Jose Pulido, M.D., Department of Ophthalmology; Robert Vierkant and Janet Olson, Ph.D., both in Health Sciences Research, all from Mayo Clinic; Lauren Abrey, M.D., Department of Neurology, Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; and David Schiff, M.D., departments of Neurology and Neurosurgery, University of Virginia Health Sciences Center.

Karl Oestreich

Mayo Clinic

Marked Advancement In Cataract Surgery With OptiMedica’s Catalys Precision Laser System

Global ophthalmic device company OptiMedica Corp. has announced that results from a clinical study of its Catalys Precision Laser System were published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Translational Medicine (“Femtosecond Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery with Integrated Optical Coherence Tomography,” Volume 2, Issue 58, November 17, 2010). The data showed that, when compared to manual techniques, the Catalys Precision Laser System helped surgeons achieve significant improvement in precision during several critical steps of cataract surgery.

“These study results clearly indicate that a femtosecond laser with integrated Ocular Coherence Tomography (OCT) imaging, advanced optics and control software can provide multiple benefits for cataract surgery,” said the study’s lead author Daniel Palanker, associate professor, Department of Ophthalmology and Hansen Experimental Physics Laboratory, Stanford University. “We believe the new laser-assisted technique represents a significant scientific and clinical advancement that will make cataract surgery much more precise and reproducible, and we are gratified that Science Translational Medicine has recognized its importance and potential.”

As reported in the published study, approximately one third of Americans will undergo cataract surgery in their lifetime. While advancements in surgical technique have occurred over the last several decades, several critical steps remain manual in nature and can only be performed with limited precision. OptiMedica developed the Catalys Precision Laser System to dramatically improve the cataract procedure by replacing its inconsistent, manual steps.

Catalys is designed to perform four incisions: capsulotomy (a circular incision in the lens capsule), lens fragmentation (segmenting and softening of the lens to prepare for removal), relaxing incisions (cuts to correct astigmatism), and cataract incisions (cuts to allow insertion of the surgical tools). Results of the clinical study, which compared 29 laser-treated eyes with 30 manually treated eyes, showed great improvement across these steps. Authors reported:
A 12-fold improvement in precision of sizing the capsulotomy with Catalys, as compared to the manual technique, and a five-fold improvement in the precision of the capsulotomy shape. These findings are significant, as capsulotomy shape and size are known to have a critical impact on refractive outcomes.
A more than two-fold improvement in capsulotomy strength. This has the potential to make the procedure safer by reducing the potential for lens capsule rupture.
A 40 percent reduction in the use of ultrasound energy (Cumulative Dispersed Energy) during phacoemulsification, which has the potential to simplify the process of emulsifying and removing the lens.

“The significant gains in precision we were able to achieve in the clinical study of Catalys represent an incredibly exciting development in the field of cataract surgery,” said the publication’s co-author William Culbertson, M.D., Professor of Ophthalmology, The Lou Higgins Distinguished Chair in Ophthalmology, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami. “A more precise procedure will enable cataract surgeons to more accurately position the IOL, and this is key to visual outcomes.”

Dr. Culbertson is chair of OptiMedica’s Medical Advisory Board, a group of esteemed cataract experts from around the world who have worked closely with the company during every step of the Catalys Precision Laser System’s development. Also on the list of study co-authors are OptiMedica Board of Directors member Mark Blumenkranz, M.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at Stanford University, and OptiMedica Medical Advisory Board members Neil J. Friedman, M.D., partner, Mid-Peninsula Ophthalmology Medical Group and adjunct clinical associate professor, Stanford University School of Medicine; Barry S. Seibel, M.D., clinical assistant professor of Ophthalmology, Jules Stein Eye Institute, David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA; Juan F. Batlle, M.D., Centro Laser, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; and Jonathan H. Talamo, M.D., associate clinical professor of ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School, Talamo Laser Eye Consultants.

“We are enormously proud of the precision demonstrated in the clinical study of Catalys, and we are very gratified to have the data published in the prestigious journal Science Translational Medicine,” said Mark J. Forchette, president and chief executive officer, OptiMedica. “We are privileged to partner with such an outstanding team of scientists and clinicians who have worked tirelessly with us for the last several years to bring a whole new level of innovation to cataract surgery.”

The Catalys Precision Laser System is not for sale in the United States. OptiMedica expects to launch Catalys worldwide in 2011.

Laura Nobles
Nobles Communications

Poverty – Not Sight Loss – Explains Low Quality Of Life For Visually Impaired People, Says New Research

In a startling reversal of popular assumptions new research commissioned by Thomas Pocklington Trust (1) shows that when people with sight loss suffer depression and low quality of life it is more to do with low incomes, ill health and lack of social participation, than it is to do with their loss of vision.

The study (2), conducted by researchers from the University of Manchester School of Social Sciences, investigated the factors that influence well-being among older people with visual impairment. It confirmed that there is a dramatic association between vision and poor quality of life but found that this is entirely explained by the health, economic and social inequalities experienced by people with sight loss.

“Visual impairment need not directly impact on a person’s well-being over the long-term,” said Professor James Nazroo, who led the research. “The study shows that if people have the same level of income and health they have the same quality of life whether or not they have visual impairment.”

Compared to older sighted people, older people with sight loss consistently scored lower on measures of health, social participation and economics. They were more likely:

– To have a range of additional physical health problems. Almost a third of those with poor vision reported poor health compared to only about 5% of those with good vision.

– To live in accommodation which is overcrowded, with physical problems such as damp, and where such things as vandalism and rubbish created feelings of not belonging or not feeling safe.

– To be poor in terms of wealth, renting rather than owning their accommodation and doing manual jobs.

– To have poorer quality relationships – not only with friends but also with their husbands, wives and children.

– To be less involved with social, civic and cultural activities such as voting, hobbies and leisure activities – all things known to improve health, job opportunities and feelings of belonging.

People with poor vision were three to five times more likely than those with good vision to suffer from low quality of life, poor psychological health and depression. But when the inequalities of poverty, ill health, social isolation and exclusion were accounted for in the analysis the impact of poor vision itself made almost no difference.

Said Professor Nazroo, “The research clearly shows that sight loss itself is not the major factor in a low sense of well-being. It is the differential distribution of wealth, health and social interactions that makes a difference.”

The study was based on data from The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) (3). Most research to do with sight loss focuses only on people who are registered as visually impaired, but ELSA is a random study of a representative sample of the English population aged 50 and older.?� It includes both registered and non registered people and provided a unique opportunity for the research team to compare people with all levels of vision. This is the first time this has been done in such a robust way and it has answered some unresolved questions. For example, previous research suggested that social relationships may be unaffected by vision status, but the new study reveals that although people with poor sight have the same amount of social contact, the quality of their relationships is a great deal poorer.

“Our study shows that older people with sight loss suffer a clear pattern of disadvantage,” said Dr. Angela McCullagh, Research and Development Director, Thomas Pocklington Trust. “It is the inequalities in poverty, health and exclusion that need to be addressed in sight loss policy. The research shows that if they can be dealt with there is no reason why living a poorer quality of life should be an inevitable consequence of sight loss.”


1. Thomas Pocklington Trust is a charity which aims to improve the quality of life of people with sight loss. It is a leading provider of housing, care and support services for people with sight loss in the UK, and is a major research and development body.

2. Social inclusion, social circumstances and the quality of life of visually impaired older people, a Thomas Pocklington Trust Occasional Paper No.27. This research study by Professor James Nazroo and Dr. Anna Zimdars of the School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester is based on data from waves 1 and 2 of ELSA which were conducted over 2002-3 and 2004-5 respectively.

3. The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) was designed to collect data on health, disability, economics and social participation and networks from a representative sample of the English population. It provides unique coverage of biomedical, genetic, performance and psychosocial measures and covers those aged 50 and older living in private households.


Thomas Pocklington Trust

In The Blink Of An Eye Our Vision Changes

Eyelids do a whole lot more than hold up our eyelashes and keep the sun out, a Queensland University of Technology PhD optometry researcher has found.

A study by Scott Read of the QUT School of Optometry found the upper eyelid’s pressure and shape of its opening work to change the shape of our eyes throughout the day.

Dr Read found the biggest changes were amongst people who maintained a downward gaze for a long time while reading or doing close work.

“The first study found that there were highly significant changes to the contours of the cornea (the eye’s front surface) throughout the day when we tested at 9am, 1pm and 5pm over three days of the week,” Dr Read said.

“The study found horizontal bands of distortion appeared on the cornea where the eyelid would have been sitting and that this increased during the day but went back to normal by the next morning.

“As these changes appear to be related to forces from the eyelids themselves and were more marked in people who spent a lot of time reading in downward gaze it is certainly one reason why people’s vision may be slightly worse at the end of the day or after doing a lot of close work.

“It suggests that people should take a short break from reading or close work at least every hour.”

Dr Read said some changes were also found in corneal astigmatism (which can lead to distortion of vision due to irregularities of the cornea), a condition that affects up to 60% of people.

In a second study on 100 normal-sighted young subjects, Dr Read described the shape of the eyelid opening at different angles of gaze and compared this with the contours of the cornea to find out how eyelid characteristics and corneal shape affected each other.

He found significant associations between the angle, shape and size of the eyelids and the shape of the cornea.

“It appears eyelids do play a part in determining the shape of the cornea. One explanation is that pressure from the eyelids is involved in the cause of corneal astigmatism.

“As yet we have no concrete evidence on what causes astigmatism but this helps us move towards finding a cause.”

His findings would provide the groundwork for new understanding about astigmatism in children and in older age.

“Children are born with a high degree of astigmatism and the cornea changes shape rapidly in the first four years of life, so the study’s findings could shed light on how some people go on to develop astigmatism,” he said.

“Astigmatism also changes in older age, so this may help to explain some of these changes that happen to our vision in older age.”

Dr Read’s research would also open our eyes to new areas of research on accurately measuring pressure from the eyelids, and how these corneal changes may affect the development of short sightedness.

Contact: Niki Widdowson

Queensland University of Technology

People With Diabetes Cutting Back On Care During Recession

People with diabetes increasingly are cutting back on doctor visits, treatment and testing during the economic recession, thus risking complications like amputation, vision loss, stroke and death, according to an Associated Press analysis, the AP/New York Daily News reports.

According to the analysis, physicians have seen a decrease in appointments by people with diabetes, and some patients never return. In addition, sales of popular medications and other products that treat and monitor the disease have decreased, the analysis found. Many people with diabetes are choosing cheaper insulin injections rather than more costly drug therapy, according to the analysis (AP/New York Daily News, 4/13).

Reprinted with kind permission from kaisernetwork. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork/dailyreports/healthpolicy. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

© 2009 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

In The Brains Of The Blind And The Sighted, Tool Manipulation Is Represented Similarly

Blind people think about manipulating tools in the same regions of the brain as do people who can see, according to a new study. The researchers say this adds to evidence that the brain has a fairly defined organization, while still being able to adapt to unusual conditions, such as not having any vision.

When you look at a glass in front of you on the desk, it sets off a lot of reactions in your brain. Part of your brain categorizes it: “That’s a glass!” Another part of the brain thinks about the glass’s shape and size, its exact location, and what you would have to do with your hand and arm if you were going to reach out and grab it. All that activity goes on even if you just look at the glass. This is a complicated set of thoughts, linking visual information and motor control. A few years ago, Bradford Z. Mahon, Jens Schwarzbach, and Alfonso Caramazza of the University of Trento in Italy investigated the first part – categorizing the item – and found that blind people did this in the same part of the brain as people with vision, even though it seems on the surface to be linked directly to visual information.

For the new study, the researchers wanted to see if the same was true of the second part – thinking about how to manipulate the object. To do that, they scanned the brains of blind and sighted volunteers while they thought about tools and other objects. Each person laid in an MRI scanner while they heard a set of words from a category – either tools, like saw, scissors, and fork; animals, like butterfly, turtle, and cat; and objects you don’t manipulate, like bed, fence, and table. Functional MRI scanning showed which parts of the brain are active when the volunteer heard each word. Blind people, even people who were born blind, tended to think about a tool in the same part of the brain as a sighted person. And, like visual people, a non-tool like a cat or a fence generally didn’t spark those same regions of the brain. The research is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“I think the exciting implication is that the way that our brains process the world may be less dependent on our experience than previously thought,” says Mahon. “It doesn’t mean experience is not important. Experience is critical for providing all of the content that we represent about the world. But how that content is organized in our brain seems to be highly constrained, and the interesting possibility is that those constraints are built in by genetics.”

Catherine Allen-West
Association for Psychological Science

Glaucoma Takes Sight Without Warning: Optometrists Offer Advice To Help Protect Against Vision Loss

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), early detection and treatment is critical to maintain healthy vision and protect the eyes from the effects of potentially blinding diseases, such as glaucoma. Studies show that over the next ten years the number of Americans diagnosed with glaucoma will increase by more than one million, yet Americans are still not doing as much as they should to help protect their vision.

Although glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the U.S., awareness of the disease is relatively low. According to data from the AOA’s latest American Eye-Q® consumer survey, less than a quarter of all Americans know glaucoma causes damage to the optic nerve. The survey also indicated six in ten Americans incorrectly believe glaucoma is preventable.

While the disease is not preventable, it is treatable, and regular, comprehensive eye exams play a critical role in successful outcomes for patients. Unfortunately, the Eye-Q® survey also found 20 percent of adults who do not wear glasses or contacts have never been to an eye doctor. The AOA recommends eye exams every two years for adults under age 60 and every year thereafter. Eye doctors may recommend more frequent appointments based on an individual’s overall health, risk factors or family history.

“Those individuals who do not visit their eye doctor on a regular basis are putting their vision and quality of life at risk,” said Dr. Kerry Beebe, Chair of AOA’s Clinical and Practice Advancement Group Committee. “Glaucoma is often referred to as ‘the sneak thief of sight’ because it can strike without pain or other symptoms. Vision lost to glaucoma cannot be restored, so early detection and treatment is paramount.”

Americans also are not aware of the factors that put them most at risk for developing glaucoma. Only 20 percent of those surveyed indicated knowing that race or ethnicity may increase their risk. According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, African Americans ages 45 to 65 are 14 to 17 times more likely to go blind from glaucoma than Caucasians. Other risk factors include people who have a family history of glaucoma, are over age 60, or have had severe eye trauma. Some studies suggest high amounts of nearsightedness, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes may also be risk factors for the development of glaucoma.

To find a doctor of optometry in your area, or for additional information on glaucoma and other issues concerning eye health, please visit aoa.

About the survey

The fourth annual American Eye-Q® survey was created and commissioned in conjunction with Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates (PSB). From May 21 – 24, 2009, using an online methodology, PSB interviewed 1,000 Americans 18 years and older who embodied a nationally representative sample of U.S. general population. (Margin of error at 95 percent confidence level.)

American Optometric Association (AOA)