Can Your Eyes Reveal Your Health?

Research suggests eyes predict disease development

You’ve heard your eyes are the window to your soul, but they can also reveal a great deal about your overall health and the potential to develop serious health conditions later in life. In fact, researchers at Cedars-Sinai Regenerative Medicine Institute recently discovered that some abnormalities in the eye may uncover early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, which is a loss of memory and decline in mental abilities. This is a progressive disease that causes problems with memory and thinking and can ultimately prevent someone from performing daily tasks. More than 26 million people are affected and that number is expected to quadruple by 2050. There is currently no cure for the disease. Current treatments slow the progression of the disease and improve day-to-day life.

The researchers considered the eye a window into brain function and activity, and the study allowed them to see how changes in the eye can reflect a decrease in brain function. The findings could eventually help doctors to identify early symptoms of Alzheimer’s sooner and provide treatment earlier.

Using high-resolution imaging techniques, animal models and donated human retinas from patients who suffered from Alzheimer’s, researchers were able to study changes in the eye and visual acuity and understand how those changes indicate the presence and development of the disease. The researchers monitored tissue degeneration and the decline in visual function. Both of these indicators are strongly associated with developing Alzheimer’s.

Alexander Ljubimov, PhD, is the director of the Eye Program within the Regenerative Medicine Institute and is co-author of the study. Regarding the study, he stated in a recent Science Daily article: “Greater magnitude in these eye abnormalities may mean a greater chance of a patient having Alzheimer’s disease. These findings may be used to study Alzheimer’s disease mechanisms and test potential drugs.”

While more studies are needed to confirm this initial research, it is fascinating to understand how much the eyes can reveal about disease development and the potential for patients to develop debilitating diseases in the future. The full study may be accessed online here.

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New Study Published in Ophthalmology Finds Correlation between Smoking, Drinking and Physical Activity and the Development of Visual Impairment

link between visual impairment and drinking

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health studied the relationship between the prevalence of visual impairment and smoking, drinking alcohol and physical activity (like exercise). Their findings were recently published in Ophthalmology.

According to an article, the number of people suffering from visual impairment in the US is anticipated to reach at least 4 million by 2020, which is a 70% increase from 2000. This drastic increase is because of the growing population of older citizens and a greater prevalence of age-related disease.

The research ultimately discovered that, over the course of 20 years, visual impairment developed in 5.4% of the population and varied based on the incidence of physical activity (or lack thereof), smoking and consuming alcohol.

The study found that sedentary persons were nearly 5% more likely to develop visual impairments than those who were physically active. In addition, after adjusting for age, the study also found that people who were more active were 58% less likely than sedentary individuals to develop visual impairment.

For heavy drinkers and smokers, the potential to develop visual impairment was higher than non-drinkers and non-smokers but the study found the difference was not statistically significant.

For occasional drinkers, however, the study discovered a surprising trend. Occasional drinkers — individuals who reported an average of one serving per week — developed less visual impairment over 20 years. 11% of non-drinkers developed visual impairment while only 4.8% of occasional drinkers developed impairment.

Age is a common factor associated with visual impairment and the development of eye diseases. Lifestyle behaviors can be altered, and the study helps to illustrate how three significant and common behaviors affect vision as a person ages. While there is some correlation between certain lifestyle choices and visual health, researchers note that the data itself does not prove that these behaviors are directly responsible for increased risk.

Photo credit: © Lisa F Young/Photoxpress

June is Child Vision Awareness Month

how to protect your child's visionSchool’s out for summer! While kids are enjoying time away from whiteboards, classrooms and homework, now is the perfect time to assess your child’s vision and schedule an exam with an eye doctor.

Vision is integral to a child’s brain development and growth. Babies learn to use their eyes — from focusing to movement and using both eyes as a team — over time, just like they learn to walk and talk. As an infant grows, the brain is also learning how to use visual information sent from the eyes. Undiagnosed vision conditions or impairments affect how the brain uses the eyes to see; the longer the problem goes on, the more a child’s brain learns to accommodate the problem. Uncorrected vision can create social, academic and even athletic barriers throughout a child’s life.

Since vision develops over time and is so important to helping a child fully develop and interact with the surrounding world, identifying any potential visual problems as early as possible is absolutely vital.

During infancy, signs of possible eye or vision problems including eyes that appear to constantly turn in or out, excessive tearing, red or encrusted eye lids, sensitivity to light or appearance of a white pupil — especially in flash photography where an eye would normally appear red.

Vision problems can affect a child’s performance and enjoyment at school. A child does as much as 80% of his or her learning through the eyes. Children who suffer from eye problems may avoid reading or other visual work, may strain or squint to see the chalkboard, or complete work with a lower level of comprehension. Straining and squinting can cause fatigue and headaches and discomfort. Undetected vision problems have similar behaviors and symptoms normally associated with learning disabilities like ADD or ADHD.

In addition to squinting or experiencing frequent headaches, these additional symptoms can indicate a vision problem:
• Rubbing their eyes
• Blinking frequently
• Squinting or straining to see
• Covering one eye
• Tilting head to one side
• Holding materials close to the face in order to read
• An eye turning in or out

Children may not tell you there’s a problem because they might believe that how they see the world is how everyone sees.

Vision changes frequently during school years through the age of 18; mild vision changes may continue into adulthood. Regular eye exams and eye care are important to detect and treat vision problems. If you notice these or other vision-related problems, contact your eye doctor to schedule an exam.

How Old Do I Have to Be to Get LASIK?

how old do i have to be to have lasik surgery

It’s graduation season! In addition to cards filled with cash, we can think of no better gift to give than perfect vision. High school and college graduates are both eligible candidates to have LASIK, provided they meet a few simple requirements.

18 years old is the minimum age to have LASIK. While LASIK has been performed on children with severe vision problems, most surgeons recommend waiting to have the surgery performed because eyes tend to change and continue growing into early adulthood.

Adults in middle age may need reading glasses or develop presbyopia, a condition where the eye loses the ability to focus on close objects. LASIK does not cure presbyopia. Many patients with presbyopia opt to have monovision. This procedure allows for blended vision in which patients have good distance vision and still can maintain their reading vision at the same time.

There is no real age limit to have LASIK, as long as the patient is in good health with healthy eyes and meets other criteria. After age 60, vision continues to change and there is an increased risk to develop cataracts. Cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye that affects vision. Cataracts are treated with a different type of eye surgery. LASIK can be performed after cataract surgery if the patient desires not to wear glasses.

If you or a graduate is 18 or older and interested in having LASIK surgery, please schedule a consultation to meet with Dr. Ashraf. The team at Atlanta Vision Institute will discuss your vision needs and determine if you’re a good candidate for laser eye surgery. Call us today!

Photo Credit: © Guiseppe_R/Photoexpress

6 Quick Tips For Eye Safety

how to protect your eyes when playing sports

When you think of hard-hitting sports, you may think only of pads and gear or masks and mouth guards, but sports safety should also always include protecting your eyes. Each year, more than 40 percent of eye injuries reported occurred during sports play or other recreational activities. Ophthalmic injuries sustained during sports can have long-lasting and damaging repercussions.

Warmer weather and sunshine bring springtime sports. April is Sports Eye Safety Month, so we’re shining the spotlight on vision safety with 10 quick tips to keep your eyes safe during practice and play.

  1. Your normal eyeglasses just won’t cut it out on the court. Wear goggles or other protective eye gear. Looking a little bit silly is a small price to pay for safe and healthy eyes. Protective gear has the added benefit of keeping out things that may irritate your eyes and take you out of the game like dust, dirt or even bugs.
  2. Invest in sport-specific eyewear. If you need to wear eyeglasses during game time, purchase a pair that is specific to sports. These glasses have lightweight, flexible frames and shatterproof lenses made from poly-carbonate. Wear an eyeglass cord or pick a pair of frames that wrap around your head to prevent them slipping or falling off your face.
  3. Wear soft contact lenses and always have a backup. When playing sports, there’s always a possibility that you’ll be hit in the face with a fly ball or opponent’s elbow. Be prepared to lose a contact lens in the field and have a replacement lens or pair of eyeglasses on hand.
  4. Treat injuries immediately and see an ophthalmologist. Even if you think the injury you sustained was minor, a quick visit to the eye doctor is recommended to ensure the problem isn’t more serious. Procrastinating could lead to permanent eye injury or even blindness depending on the severity of your injury. If you are injured while playing sports, take the opportunity to discuss other safety options available to you.
  5.  Consider having LASIK. If you are over the age of 18, LASIK is an option regardless of whether you play professionally or recreationally. In addition to improving your vision overall, LASIK offers additional benefits. If you normally wear glasses or sports goggles, LASIK may increase your peripheral vision and boost hand-eye coordination. Wearing contact lenses may dry out your eyes, causing you to blink more frequently and miss some of the action. In this case, LASIK may help to reduce dry eye symptoms.
  6. Safety first. Whether you have already had LASIK surgery or plan to have it in the future, wearing protective eye gear after surgery is essential to protecting your corneas. Any hard or abrupt impact by another player or a ball can damage the cornea or cause the corneal flap (an essential part of LASIK) to become dislodged, which will damage your eyesight.


If you’ve had LASIK and are concerned about your eye safety when playing sports, please contact Dr. Ashraf for a consultation.

Photo credit: © Glenda Powers/Photoxpress