Eye care: After the half century

BANGALORE: The visual sense is among the most important for the normal daily activities of the elderly. Some type of sight-threatening eye problem affects one in six adults aged 45 and older. And the risk for vision loss only increases with age. Many older people don’t realize how untreated, age-related eye changes can harm vision and, eventually, their entire quality of life.

Regular eye exams are the best way to make sure you maintain healthy vision for a lifetime, even as you grow older. Majority of the visually disabled older people enter their retirement years with no more than presbyopia. This is an age related loss in near focusing ability noticed in the 40s. For seeing the close or intermediate distance the person would require bifocals and progressive lenses in their spectacles.

Presbyopia along with preexisting long sight (hyperopia), short sight (myopia) and astigmatism account for almost 40 per cent of visual diseases in the elderly. Common causes of vision loss in the elderly can be classified into acute and chronic. Acute causes include retinal detachment and occlusion of the blood vessels in the retina. These could have early symptoms of spots and floaters in your field of vision, a dark curtain has settled across your field or even blind spots. This is a medical emergency and an early eye examination by an ophthalmologist is a must.

Cataract:  is one of the most common treatable causes of gradual visual impairment in the elderly throughout the world. A clouding of the eye’s natural lens causes a gradual diminution of vision. A phacoemulsification surgery with an intraocular lens implant enables almost full recovery of the vision.

Age-related Macular Degeneration: Also known as AMD or ARMD, is the next leading cause of vision loss and blindness. AMD is degeneration of the macula, which is the part of the retina responsible for the sharp, central vision needed to read or drive. Because the macula primarily is affected in AMD, central vision loss may occur. About 1.75 million US residents currently have advanced age-related macular degeneration with associated vision loss, with that number expected to grow to almost 3 million by 2020. There is as yet no outright cure for age-related macular degeneration, but some treatments may delay its progression or even improve vision.

Glaucoma: It is a category of eye disorders often associated with a dangerous buildup of intraocular pressure (IOP), which can damage the eye’s optic nerve that transmits visual information to the brain. Much like blood pressure glaucoma can only be controlled with medicines, surgery or laser. With untreated or uncontrolled glaucoma, you might eventually notice decreased ability to see at the edges of your vision (peripheral vision). Progressive eye damage could then lead to blindness.

Dr Y Umesh, Chief Medical Officer, Sankara Eye Hospital

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A vision of convenience: New bifocals automatically focus between near, far

A vision of convenience: New bifocals automatically focus between near, far

FARGO – Those who wear bifocals and have difficulty adjusting their vision now have another option: eyeglasses that focus electronically.

The new glasses, now available at several local optical shops for $1,199, use invisible liquid crystals inside the lenses to focus electronically for all ranges of sight.

The glasses, enabled by technology called emPower, can be activated to focus automatically by tapping the right side of the eyeglasses frame.

The glasses come with a small battery, with a life of two or three days, that can be recharged, much like a cellphone.

“Most people can get along with a bifocal pretty well,” said Blaine Zieman, an optometrist at Sanford Health. “There are those who have trouble adapting. This is another option.”

Standard bifocals cost roughly half of what the electronic glasses cost and typically range from $450 to $500, Zieman said.

The special glasses, available in 36 frame styles, have just become available in the Upper Midwest.

“There’s been a lot of interest in country,” Zieman said of the new electronic bifocals. “The bifocal hasn’t changed in a long time.”

The emPower electronic focusing eyewear also is available locally at Eye Care Associates and Eyes on 43rd in Fargo.

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Reading in the New Millennium: Forward to the Past?

Reading in the New Millennium: Forward to the Past?

I’m a bibliophile of the first water. I have spent what seems half my life in bookstores all over the world. Some readers praise the creamy texture of a well-bound volume published on good paper. But it is less noted that old books smell—of the places they’ve been, of dust, molds and fungi, of the hand sweat of former owners. Opening one is sort of like lifting the lid on a tantalizing curry still being cooked. But I am making the switch to e-books even so, and they are changing the way I read and even what I read.

For those baby boomers in their 60s, old-style books do have substantial drawbacks. Print books are often big and heavy. I’ve had back problems and find it difficult to sit for hours with a doorstop in my lap. Carrying a tome on an airplane is literally a pain. As you age, your vision declines, and all the bifocals in the world won’t necessarily let you read small type comfortably. And then, the bane of the bibliophile is the bulkiness of the thousands of volumes you accumulate in a lifetime. You run out of room at home, or at least room your spouse will let you dedicate to yet more bookcases. Some collectors may be so obsessive that they carefully catalog their own private libraries at home, but mine is strewn haphazardly across bookshelves purchased over 30 years, and I can’t always find what I’m looking for.

An e-book reader such as an iPad equipped with a Kindle or Google Books app resolves many of these problems. It is relatively light and portable. Text size and brightness can be adjusted. (People who complain about iPads being backlit don’t seem to realize there is a “sepia” background and that brightness can be changed.) A couple of thousand books can be accommodated as active files on Kindle and many more can be archived. Stanza, Google Books and other applications are virtually infinite in their capaciousness. Books can be stored in the cloud when not in use. On your tablet, books can be listed by author, title or how recently they’ve been read.

But beyond solving the back, eye and space problems of the geriatric set, e-books offer interesting functionalities. You can do keyword searches. Most programs allow bookmarking and margin notes. The Kindle app even allows the collectivity of readers to underline favorite passages together. Some readers attach dictionaries, as with the Kindle app for iPads, and even foreign-language dictionaries. Looking up recondite words may become more common if it is as easy as tapping on them, and this sort of dictionary work is an aid in reading books in other languages.

The tablet book readers are only a platform. It is content that is important. But the two may work together to effect some interesting changes. Google Books are a potentially major change in our reading lives, and the Google Books app for smartphones and tablets gives the reader access to a wide range of out-of-copyright works for free.

I know many Americans do not read any books once they’re out of school or college. But some do, and what they read has been shaped not only by changing tastes but by availability. The availability consideration is being revolutionized. Moreover, the younger generation is actually made up of voracious readers on the Internet, but they favor short-form writing that is easily accessible, such as blog entries and Op-Eds. Reprints at Web anthology magazines such as Zite or Flipboard of classic essayists in easily digested excerpts is now increasingly possible, and it might take only a few passages to go viral to provoke more sustained interest in the classics.

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Any Day is a Good Day for a Red Pair of Specs. (do you agree?)

Any Day is a Good Day for a Red Pair of Specs. (do you agree?)
After years of yearning for them, I finally got glasses with red frames. Go ahead, make the Sally Jessy Raphael jokes. I like to buy at least one red piece of clothing or accessory every year. Last year, it was an awesome pair of red cowboy boots. (For the record: I am also a fan of purple, orange, green and teal.) Red signals boldness, lack of fear, power. I like those traits. When bigger frames, last popular in the ’80s, started making a comeback a few years ago, I knew it was only a matter of time before I found a pair. Most of my eyewear comes from a Danish design company called ProDesign. The looks are bold and clean but feature great attention to detail. My optometrist’s office has a small but smartly curated selection of ProDesign and other lines. My pre-red pair were a green metal with hints of gold along the modern sculpture-ish limbs. In May, a month before my 47th birthday, I noticed that I couldn’t read small print without squinting and/or taking off my glasses (I am nearsighted). Uh oh, it’s time for bifocals, I thought. I really don’t have a problem with getting older, and I’m not really vain. I just didn’t have time to adjust to a new way of looking at everything. I watch my friends practice what looks like a form of eye tai chi in an effort to get used to bifocals or reading glasses. Surely, you’ve seen the moves: The Curious Bird: Stretch neck and tilt head to back or to sides. The Long Arm: Extend the arm with an object in hand to read it (usually a phone). The Head Topper: Pushing the eyewear up to a perch on head. Most often seen with sunglasses but also is a move used by bifocal wearers. The Slide: Pulling glasses to end of the nose and peering over the top. Searcher: Frantically touching the top of the head and patting around on a desk or in a bag to find reading glasses. A few months later at my eye exam, the optometrist confirmed my suspicion. I am at the low end of the “needs bifocals” scale. Getting them comes down to how much you mind taking your glasses on and off, she said. I was already doing that, so I shrugged and said, “I’ll wait until the next pair.” Silly me. You see, I didn’t realize how much I would be taking them on and off. I used to be able to wear my glasses at work all day. Now I have to take them off when I’m at the computer and when I look at my phone. I do both of those things often. Quite often. If I don’t remove the glasses, I get really nasty headaches. Turns out it’s a good thing that I’m a fan of good design since my cool new red specs often sit on my desk or rest on top of my phone. Sometimes I feel like I look at them more than through them. You know what this means, right? A new pair of glasses next year. This time, I think I’ll go for the purple frames. With bifocals.
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