July is Firework Safety Month

July is Fireworks Safety Month

More than 6,000 Americans Spent 4th of July in Emergency Rooms Due to Fireworks-related Injuries.

While many Americans were enjoying Independence Day festivities with family and friends, in 2010 an estimated 6,300 Americans spent part of their Fourth of July holiday in the emergency room due to fireworks injuries, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Fireworks Annual Report issued in 2011.

The report also found that children under 15 years of age accounted for approximately 40 percent of the estimated injuries. And, children under the age of 5 experienced an estimated 700 injuries. For that specific age group, sparklers accounted for 43 percent of the total injuries. In fact, fireworks sometimes referred to as “safe and sane” including sparklers, fountains and other novelties, made up 2 out of 5 injuries treated in emergency rooms.

To help families enjoy a safe and happy Fourth of July, Prevent Blindness America, the nation’s oldest non-profit eye health and safety organization, is making an effort to educate the public on the potential dangers of fireworks.

Prevent Blindness America warns:

  • Fireworks are extremely dangerous
  • Do not purchase, use, or store fireworks or sparklers of any type
  • Protect yourself, your family and your friends by avoiding fireworks and sparklers.
  • Attend only authorized public fireworks displays conducted by licensed operators, but be aware that even professional displays can be dangerous.

There were more than 1,300 reported eye injuries in 2010. In the event of any eye-related accident, Prevent Blindness America recommends the following:

If there are specks in the eye,

  • DO NOT rub the eye.
  • Use an eye wash or let tears wash out specks or particles;
  • Lift the upper eyelid outward and down over the lower lid;
  • Keep the eye closed and see a doctor or go to the emergency room.

If the eye or eyelid is cut or punctured,

  • DO NOT wash out the eye with water.
  • DO NOT try to remove an object stuck in the eye.
  • Cover the eye with a rigid shield without pressure. The bottom half of a paper cup may be used. Visit a doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.

 

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Low Vision – When Glasses aren’t Enough

Low Vision – When Glasses aren’t Enough

 

There are many diseases that can affect the back of the eye, the retina, and cause permanent vision loss that cannot be fixed with glasses.  Conditions such as macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy (from diabetes) can devastate a person’s vision leaving them unable to read, write, watch TV, pay bills, drive, and many other activities that sighted individuals do every day without thinking about how their lives would be different if they could not see.

Why won’t glasses work?  The example I give my low vision patients is an analogy of the old cameras that used real film.  “The job of glasses is to focus light onto the retina, the same way the lens of a camera focuses light onto the film.  If a disease has damaged the retina, then there are no glasses that will help, just like if there is damage to the film there is no camera lens that will focus to make a good picture.”

 If there are no glasses, medications, or surgeries to fix the back of the eye then what choices are there?  Some optometrists offer low vision services which uses different devices to help low vision individuals use their REMAINING eyesight more efficiently.  We are NOT restoring vision, merely training what is left to work better.  There are three issues that must be addressed:

1.)    Contrast.  This is the difference between an object and the background around it.  The eye chart at the doctor’s office is HIGH contrast, black letters on a white background.  Human faces are considered LOW contrast.  The nose, ears, cheeks, chin are all fleshy colored and tend to blend together making faces appear to be blobs instead of well-defined individual structures.  To address the loss of contrast, we must have GOOD lighting (strong light directly on the reading material) and use filters to block certain wavelengths of light and enhancing others. 

2.)    Magnification.  When areas of the retina are damaged from disease, the images must be made larger to hit the “healthy parts” of the retina.  The amount of magnification differs depending on how bad the vision is.  We work exclusively with PRESCRIPTION MAGNIFIERS which are high quality devices that reduce the distortion and enhance images.  There are literally thousands of devices that can be used to enlarge images and it takes someone who has studied in low vision to help you choose the right device and the right power.

3.)    Learning to do things differently.  Many patient’s that suffer from low vision are elderly and have been doing things the same way their whole lives.  When explaining their condition and the possible options it is important that they understand that in order to see they may need change how they read, use different devices based on the situation, or where in the house they read. 

When different diseases damage the retina and a loss of vision follows, doctors specializing in low vision must look at contrast, magnification, and new ways to use vision in order to help the patient return to a more normal life.  Lighting, devices (filters and prescription magnifiers), and training can truly help a person with vision loss get back to performing their activities of daily living and give back the independence that has been lost.

National Diabetes Month

Since November is National Diabetes month, I figured there would be no better time to talk about the effects that diabetes has on the eyes.  According to the American Diabetes Foundation, 26 million people in this country currently suffer from diabetes, and 79 million adults are “pre-diabetic” and will have type 2 diabetes in the next couple of years.  Most diabetic patients know about the health issues associated with their disease, but many people do not know that diabetic eye disease is the leading cause of adult onset BLINDNESS in theUnited States. 

Diabetes is a disease that occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin, which is responsible for maintaining sugar levels, or parts of the body become desensitized, or ignore, the insulin.  When this happens the glucose or “sugar” levels in the blood start to go up.  The extra glucose in the blood damages the blood vessels all over the body and can lead to foot damage, skin damage, heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and several other complications including BLINDNESS. 

How does diabetes affect the eye?

The blood vessels in the retina are small and fragile, and over time they begin to weaken, swell, and eventually they will start to leak.  The weak and damaged vessels do not get enough blood to the retina and ultimately the retina will start to grow new blood vessels to help the eye.  That’s great, right? WRONG!!  The new blood vessels are fragile and inefficient and can leak blood into the vitreous (the jelly substance that fills the eye).  When there is blood in the eye it is very hard to see through and vision can drop quite drastically. 

When the new blood vessels die and scar over there is a “pulling” on the retina and patients are at risk for a retinal detachment.  If the retina becomes detached from the back of the eye the patient will see a lot of flashing lights and they may see a curtain come down over the vision.  If the detachment is not handled quickly the loss of sight or blindness will be permanent so call your eye doctor as soon as these symptoms arise. 

How do I prevent these problems?

The only way to avoid these problems is to control blood sugar with diet, exercise, and medication.  It is imperative that diabetic patients monitor their sugar levels daily and see their primary care doctor or endocrinologist at recommended intervals.  Yearly dilated eye exams are crucial to monitoring diabetic changes, not only in the eye, but the rest of the body as well.  The eye has very small blood vessels that can be easily seen with dilation and many times they get damaged first before the larger blood vessels and other organs in the body.  Your eye doctor is an important part of the health care team to help manage and control diabetes and dilated eye evaluations provide information on the effectiveness of treatment.

Dr. Jonathan Reddell’s Road to Leavenworth

A T-shirt with a picture of the federal penitentiary and a caption that read “Welcome to Leavenworth…a Gated Community,” was my first encounter with this amazing town and its people.  Born and raised 10 miles north of Atlanta, GA and after spending 4 years in Memphis, TN, I assumed that I would spend the rest of my life in the South and never imagined that theMidwestwould be my new home.  But after surviving my first “real” winter and my first season as a Kansas City Chiefs fan I’m starting to see why this part of the country holds a place in the hearts of so many. 

I was born in Kennesaw,GA (just north of Atlanta) where I lived through my high school years.  I am the only child of two school teachers, so good grades and hard work were part of my life at an early age.  I have been playing basketball since I was 4 years old and was able to earn an athletic scholarship at Berry College in North Georgiawhere I earned my undergraduate degree in Business Management in 2005.  While wrapping up my education, I starting looking for jobs and sending out my resume and realized that I did not like the impersonal aspects of the jobs I was applying for.  I wanted to have more interaction with people and knew that I had to seriously re-evaluate my plan. 

After spending some time with several people in different professions, a good family friend (who happens to be an optometrist) invited me to shadow him for a few weeks to see what I thought.  After watching his one-on-one interactions with numerous patients I fell in love with optometry and knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. 

My second optometry school interview was in Memphis, TN at the Southern College of Optometry where I was stunned by the clinic and the faculty and was ready to spend the next four years there.  During orientation I met a third year student and was head over heels in a matter of weeks.  After dating for a couple of years we got married in May of 2010. 

As my life seemed to be shaping up the way I wanted it my new wife, Dr. Ashley Reddell, threw me a curveball.  She had found a job opportunity in Leavenworth, KS with a couple of doctors named “Norris and Kelly” and she claimed that it was one of the most amazing practices she had ever visited.  Not really thinking that we would ever end up in Kansas I agreed to humor her and take a visit to this “military town with all the prisons.” I quickly realized that it was so much more. 

After spending only 24 hours in Leavenworth and meeting a handful of the residents I knew that we had found our home.  My wife began at the new Family EyeCare Center in the summer of 2010 and to our amazement I was approached that November with an opportunity to join the practice with an emphasis in geriatric and low vision care.  I look forward to getting started this summer and becoming a part of the Leavenworth/Lansing communities.