Happy Holidays!


On behalf of Discovery Eye Foundation, we would like to wish you the best this holiday season!
New Years 201
Because this is such a busy time of the year, we will not be posting to the blog, giving you more time to enjoy your family and friends.

We will resume posting on Tuesday, January 6th.

Susan DeRemerSusan DeRemer, CFRE
Vice President of Development
Discovery Eye Foundation

Uveitis Explained


Uveitis is defined as inflammation of the uveal tissue. The uvea includes the iris, ciliary body, and the choroid of the eye. The iris is located in the anterior compartment of the eye and acts like the aperture of the camera, precisely filtering the amount of light entering the eye. The ciliary body, which is attached posteriorly to the iris, is involved in both the production of the aqueous fluid in the eye as well as the accommodation of the lens apparatus. The choroid is a dense layer of blood vessels that sits underneath the retina on the back wall of the eye, helping to nourish and remove metabolic waste products from the retina. Inflammation of any of these structures will consequently cause disruption of the visual pathway and over the long term can cause permanent visual loss. In fact, uveitis is the third most common cause of preventable blindness in the developed world.
uveitis explained
Symptoms of uveitis include blurry vision, ocular pain, photophobia, redness, and floaters. These can be acute in nature, lasting a few days to weeks, and in some cases can be chronic, lasting weeks or months. Anyone with any of these symptoms should see their eye care provider as soon as possible, as faster treatment of uveitis has shown to result in better long term visual outcomes.

Uveitis can affect virtually any part of the eye, from front to back. Anterior uveitis or iridocyclitis is confined to the iris, ciliary body, anterior chamber, and cornea. Inflammation affecting the vitreous is termed intermediate uveitis, or pars planitis, and any inflammation affecting only the retina or choroid is termed posterior uveitis. The term panuveitis may be used when multiple layers of the eye are affected.

There are many possible causes of uveitis, including infection, inflammatory diseases, autoimmune diseases, and trauma. However, the majority of cases of uveitis, approximately half, are considered idiopathic, where no etiology is ever found. Trauma is the next most common cause of intraocular inflammation, accounting for approximately 20% of all cases. The remaining cases are secondary to a systemic disorder or localized ocular condition. Systemic etiologies can include inflammatory disorders such as sarcoidosis, infections such as tuberculosis and syphilis, as well as autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

Treatment of uveitis is aimed at both blunting the intraocular inflammation as well as addressing any underlying systemic etiology. The most common treatment is the use of corticosteroids. These can be taken orally, or used topically as eye drops. In some cases, corticosteroids can be injected in or near the eye as well. If the uveitis is caused by an infection, such as tuberculosis or syphilis, the patient is also given antibiotics. Systemic corticosteroids can have major side effects when taken chronically, such as weight gain, hair loss, osteoporosis, hypertension, secondary diabetes, psychosis, and reduced growth in children. Because of these potential problems, the chronic use of systemic corticosteroids is not recommended. In cases of chronic uveitis that require long term treatment, immunosuppressive agents with less known side effects such as methotrexate, cyclosporine, and mycophenolate mofetil (Cellcept) are more commonly used. However, these biologic agents have their own set of potential side effects and therefore, it is recommended that a rheumatologist should also be involved in the care of the patient when using these agents. Topical and intraocular steroids localized to the eye can cause elevated intraocular pressure as well as cataracts. In most cases, elevated intraocular pressure can be controlled with topical glaucoma drops, but in some cases surgical intervention is required to prevent severe glaucomatous damage.

The most common type of uveitis is acute anterior uveitis or iridocyclitis. Many cases of anterior uveitis are idiopathic though almost half of all cases are associated with the HLA- B27 haplotype. Systemic diseases associated with HLA-B27 include psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, reactive arthritis, and inflammatory bowel syndrome. Signs of anterior uveitis include redness of the eye, sometimes termed ciliary flush. The conjunctiva can become extremely red, and when associated with ocular pain and photophobia, is a strong indicator of anterior uveitis. Inflammatory cells found in the anterior chamber are the hallmark of anterior uveitis, sometimes deposited on the corneal endothelium (keratic precipitates) or iris (Bussaca nodules). Patients with anterior uveitis are typically treated with topical corticosteroid and cycloplegic eye drops. A laboratory workup for systemic etiologies is usually not necessary unless the patient experiences a recurrent episode.

Inflammation affecting primarily the vitreous cavity is known as intermediate uveitis or pars planitis. Inflammatory cells in the vitreous, known as vitritis, are typically bilateral, and when severe, can be found clumped in the vitreous cavity (snowballs) or deposited on the inferior pars plana (snowbanking). Intermediate uveitis is typically idiopathic though sarcoidosis, multiple sclerosis, and Lyme disease are also possible causes. Certain malignancies such as lymphoma can also ‘masquerade’ as intermediate uveitis, and when seen in older patients, should be suspected and ruled out.

Posterior uveitis involves the retina, choroid, and/or the retinal vasculature, and usually is more difficult to treat than anterior uveitis.

Uveitis Explained
This patient with Cat-scratch disease, caused by infection with Bartonella henselae, is an example of posterior uveitis. Note the characteristic star-like pattern of exudate in the macula along with optic nerve swelling.

In many cases, patients with posterior uveitis will exhibit characteristic exam findings that help narrow the differential diagnosis. For instance, an area of active retinitis next to an old pigmented chorioretinal scar is highly suggestive of toxoplasmosis. The most common symptom in patients with posterior uveitis is blurred vision. One of the more typical findings in posterior uveitis is macular edema, which is usually treated with periocular or intraocular corticosteroids.

In summary, uveitis is a visually threatening inflammatory condition that should be diagnosed and treated immediately. It is important to determine as best as possible the etiology of the uveitis and treat appropriately. In general, most patients with uveitis have good visual recovery with the proper management. However, in some cases, severe damage can occur, either due to the inflammation itself (usually chronic) or as a side effect of therapy (corticosteroids).

RichardRoeMD-ThumbnailRichard H. Roe, MD, MHS
Retina-Vitreous Associates Medical Group

7 Healthy Eating Tips for the Holidays


Every year the holidays come around to tempt us with a variety of wonderful foods. It doesn’t make any difference if its Christmas or Hanukah, food is an integral part of the celebration. And the celebrations are pretty non-stop from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. Here are seven healthy eating tips for the holidays to help you handle all the delicious temptations of the season (the average person says they gain around five pounds).
healthy eating tips for the holidays
1. Eat before you go – Have a small healthy snack before you go to the party, to help control your appetite once you get there. Some great snacks include, cut up fresh vegetables, small handful of nuts (remember to make it small as they have quite a few calories, but they are healthy and filling), low-fat string cheese, etc.

2. Select wisely – When confronted with an open bar ask for club soda, tonic water or even tomato juice. Still want that glass of wine? Add some club soda to make it a wine spritzer and cut some of the calories. Once you have your drink, walk as far away from the bar as possible. Another good reason beside calories to cut down on alcohol – you will be able to drive home safely.

3. Strive to be the last in line – This works well in two ways, first being that once the food is picked over it doesn’t have the visual impact of the buffet when everything is presented in its perfection, making your mind go into overload as you try to decide what all to pile on your plate. Second, by the time you go through not everything might be available, and what’s left might not let you take too large of a helping.

4. How to use your plate – If you have more than one size plate to choose from, select the smallest one. Also know that filling your plate does not mean you have to cover every square inch with food, nor do you have see how high you can layer food. You are better off making more than one trip. On the first trip start with vegetables and salads while you scan what else is available. Then you can go back for small portions of what you think are the three best offerings.

5. Lend a helping hand – If the pull of the buffet becomes too strong, help out your hosts by pouring drinks, taking dirty dishes to the kitchen, even helping clean dishes.

6. Leave the party empty-handed – No matter how grateful your hosts are for you attending, do not take home any of the leftovers. No matter where you hide them in the refrigerator, you will still know they are there.

7. Elastic is not your friend – As you socialize and catch up with old friends you can get distracted, making it hard to watch what you eat. You are better off wearing something fitted, or at least with a regular waistband, to remind you that you might be eating too much. Belts are great as long as you don’t adjust them after getting to the party.

Just because a food is healthy, it doesn’t mean that it is low in calories. As you fill your plate, select foods that “bright and colorful.” These will generally be healthier options with a lower calorie count, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. But remember that fruits, because of their higher sugar content, will have more calories. Also the “bright and colorful” approach won’t work at the dessert table with brightly-decorated cookies, cakes and pies.

Here is a color palate to get you started:

RED – tomatoes, red peppers, kidney beans, strawberries, cranberries

ORANGE/YELLOW – pumpkin, butternut squash, yellow peppers, citrus fruit

GREEN – kale, spinach and other green leafy produce, broccoli, asparagus, apples, green peppers

BLUE/PURPLE – purple cabbage, eggplant, blueberries, plums, blackberries

Two bonus tips:

1. Shopping is stressful – Even when you are shopping you will be surrounded by food, especially at the mall where food courts and food kiosks offer a variety of “quick” snacks and meals. Plan ahead. You know what your shopping area has for you to eat. Find a healthy option that offers you good fiber and protein and plan to go there for lunch. Taking a lunch break will keep you from snacking all day and help you power through an afternoon of shopping. If you need snacks, pack something healthy in your purse.

2. Moms and baking go together – There is something about the holidays that brings out the baker in every mom. So when you go home, or even if mom arrives at your house, you will be presented with baked goods filled with love . . . and calories. Here is where avoidance won’t work, you need to rely on strategic moderation. Choose just a few samples to keep and enjoy, then either take the rest to the office, or make goodie gift bags for the mail or UPS delivery person, your manicurist, paperboy, etc. Mom will be pleased that you want to share her baking expertise.

And if you are the mom making these baked goods – try making fewer in December and spread them throughout the year. Less stress for you, and whom wouldn’t want to eat a spritz cookie in July?

Susan DeRemerSusan DeRemer, CFRE
Vice President of Development
Discovery Eye Foundation

Can Keratoconus Progression Be Predicted?


This article on keratoconus progression is from the National Keratoconus Foundation’s monthly e-update. To receive this valuable source of KC information to your inbox, you can subscribe here.

Neutrophil-to-lymphocyte (NLR) ratio is a new potential predictor of systemic inflammation in several diseases. The aimed of this study, conducted by a group of researchers in Turkey, was to evaluate NLR ratio in patients with keratoconus.
research keratoconus progression
The study included 54 patients with keratoconus and 25 age- and sex-matched control subjects. All participants underwent a detailed ophthalmological examination and corneal topography. The KC patients were divided into progressive and non-progressive keratoconus groups on the basis of topographic parameters. Serum samples were obtained from all subjects, and the NLR ratio was calculated.
The study authors reported that the NLR ratio was 3.27 ± 1.37 in the progressive keratoconus group versus 1.87 ± 0.39 and 1.87 ± 0.52 in the non-progressive and control groups, respectively (p<0.01). They also observed that there was a positive correlation between the NLR ratio and progression (p<0.05). In the receiver-operating characteristic analysis, an NLR ratio ? 2.24 predicted the presence of progression with 79% sensitivity and 81% specificity.

The NLR ratio is a simple and inexpensive marker of systemic inflammation. The NLR ratio was found to be higher in patients with progressive keratoconus than in the non-progressive group and controls.

SOURCE: Neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio may predict progression in patients with keratoconus. By Karaca EE1, Ozmen MC, Ekici F, Yüksel E, Türko?lu Z.
Cornea. 2014;33(11):1168–1173.

CathyW headshotCatherine Warren, RN
Executive Director
National Keratoconus Foundation
A program of the Discovery Eye Foundation

Hadley’s Online Education for the Blind and Visually Impaired


The Hadley School for the Blind (www.hadley.edu) is the world’s largest educator of people who are blind or visually impaired as well as the world’s largest Braille educator. The school’s curriculum has always been delivered completely through online education, meaning students can study from anywhere at any time. Hadley serves nearly 10,000 students in all 50 states and approximately 100 countries. Hadley serves adult students, age 14 and over. Our mission is to promote independent living through lifelong, distance education programs for individuals who are blind or visually impaired, their families and blindness service providers.
Hadley School
Hadley courses are tuition-free for people who are blind or visually impaired and their family members; there is modest tuition for professionals. Students study at their own pace and receive personalized, one-on-one instruction from their instructor by phone, email, virtual “office hours” or mail.

Students can take courses in four formats: large print, Braille, audio or online. Since we began offering courses in an online format in 2002 as part of our eHadley initiative, more than 13,000 students have completed one or more online courses. 89 of our approximately 100 courses are offered in an online format, and 20 new online courses were introduced in 2014. Most of our online courses also are now accessible on mobile devices, so that students can literally study on the go if they choose.

If you’re not familiar with blindness, you may be asking yourself how a blind person can take courses online. The answer is through adaptive technology, such as screen magnifiers or screen readers. A screen reader is a software application that converts text on a screen to speech. One of the most popular is called JAWS. If a student doesn’t know how to use a screen reader, Hadley has a series of courses to teach them how to use this technology!

While many students come to us to learn to read and write Braille, we offer much more than just Braille education. In addition to Braille, some of our most popular areas of study include access technology, independent living skills, employment skills and recreation. These courses fall within Hadley’s Adult Continuing Education Program, which represents the largest number of students at Hadley. Some examples of ACE courses include:

Independent Living Series: This series of two-lesson courses focuses on a variety of topics central to the tasks of daily living. When individuals lose their sight, it can be overwhelming. They must relearn key daily living skills, such as cooking, dressing themselves and getting around. These courses give our students the tools they need to retain their independence and lead productive lives. The individual course topics include: orientation and mobility basics; clothing care and dressing confidently; socializing and dining; and cooking.

Self-Esteem and Adjusting with Blindness: Whether a student was born visually impaired or lost vision later in life, this course will help them understand the adjustment to life’s demands. Maintaining self-esteem with the changes and adaptations that come with blindness are discussed in-depth and illustrated with quotes from many blind persons.

Human Eye 1 and 2: These courses explain the parts of the human eye, how it works and how corrective lenses work. They enable the student to describe the basic anatomy, routine examination procedures and some common conditions of the human eye. Hadley also offers courses on some of the specific conditions that can lead to vision impairment, including: macular degeneration, diabetes and glaucoma. These courses are designed to help students living with these conditions to better understand them and how to manage them.

Developing Your Technology Toolkit: Technology plays a significant role in how people interact with each other, and most will likely encounter some aspect of technology in their everyday life. This course presents a variety of prominent desktop and mobile solutions. It also discusses how adaptive technology solutions provide access to mainstream hardware and software. In addition, it focuses on proprietary, adaptive technology products designed to be used specifically by persons who are visually impaired.

Enjoying Bird Songs: Listening to birdsongs helps people reduce stress, improve cognition and memory, interact with nature and even have spiritual experiences. This course guides students through the many bird songs presented in Hadley student John Neville’s audio CD set Beginner’s Guide to Bird Songs of North America. This course helps students become able to appreciate nature and birdsongs, as well as reflect on their experiences with birdsong.

Also part of the ACE program is the Forsythe Center for Employment and Entrepreneurship (FCE), designed to address the 70 – 80% un- and underemployment rate among people who are blind or visually impaired. The FCE is not an academic, college-level business program, but instead was designed to provide the requisite computer training; relevant social security, tax, accounting, legal, marketing, management and communications information; and content specific to the needs and concerns of visually impaired individuals who want to launch and grown their own businesses. All FCE courses are online, and many are just one-lesson modules, which makes learning quick and easy. Some examples of modules include: The Marketing Plan, The Business Plan, Forms of Ownership and Networking Skills.

Since the 1930s, The Hadley School for the Blind also has offered a nationally-recognized, accredited High School Program, available to students with visual impairments age 14 and up who live in the United States. Students may transfer credits from courses taken at Hadley to their high school to graduate locally. Students may also earn their high school diploma directly through Hadley. Frustration with local schools not offering quality vision services or accessible formats, difficulties passing the state-required exit exam for graduation or inability to travel long distances have prevented many of our students from earning their diploma in the past, so the Hadley High School Program is a much-needed “second chance.”

Courses are supplemented by Seminars@Hadley, free 60 to 90-minute webinars that are available to the public. These seminars are designed to bring together our blind and visually impaired students from around the world to discuss various topics in a virtual conference room with a panel, moderator and guest speakers. Participants listen to the seminar from their computer and post questions electronically. They also ask questions and/or make comments using a microphone. Seminar topics are timely, practical and determined by what our students tell us they need. Some of our most popular seminars include: Learning to Put the “You” in YouTube, Simplifying Internet Searching and Crafting with Vision Loss. Some seminars are approved for Continuing Education Credits (CEUs).

Hadley also offer a series of instructional videos on YouTube called iFocus (www.youtube.com/hadleyschool). These videos explain how to use the vision accessibility features on iDevices (Apple products such as the iPhone and iPad). Each video focuses on a specific task on iDevices, such as sending a text message or creating a calendar event . There are now 25 videos in the series, and they have been viewed nearly 10,000 times!

For more information about Hadley or to enroll, visit our website at www.hadley.edu, call our Student Services Department at 800-526-9909 or send an email to student_services@hadley.edu.

Kate Streit Hadley SchoolKate Streit
Media and Marketing Specialist
The Hadley School for the Blind

Drugs to Treat Dry AMD and Inflammation


Below is an article from the monthly Macular Degeneration Partnership E-Update on potential drugs to treat dry AMD and inflamation. To learn more about dry AMD, including stem cell treatments, go to AMD.org. You can also subscribe and have the monthly newsletter delivered to your inbox.clinical trials for drugs to treat dry age-related macular degeneration

There are many causes of age-related macular degeneration and any of them may prove a good target for treatment for dry AMD. A long list of these was discussed at the recent Academy of Ophthalmology meeting. They were divided into the types of drugs being studied. We’ll look first at inflammation and the complement factor system, which is part of the immune system.

Inflammation is known to be associated with macular degeneration. The target may be the inflammation itself, or the cause of the inflammation.

Lampalizumab (or anti-Factor D) is a drug that is injected into the eye. In earlier Phase II trials, it was shown to reduce the area of the geographic atrophy by 20%. A Phase III clinical trial is now underway for individuals with geographic atrophy from dry AMD. Several research sites are actively recruiting now and many others will start recruiting in the near future. For more information and a list of participating centers, visit Clinical Trials.

LFG316 is also an antibody and an injection. This Phase 2 study is a randomized clinical trial of a drug that targets the C5 complement pathway (part of our immune system). It is designed to test the safety and efficacy of different doses of LFG316. There are three arms in the study: one group receiving a higher dose of the drug; one group receiving a lower dose of the drug; one group receiving a sham injection (no drug). These are successive monthly injections for people with geographic atrophy (GA). It is taking place in multiple locations throughout the U.S. and is sponsored by Novartis. For more information and a list of participating centers, visit Clinical Trials.

Oracea is a pill for dry macular degeneration, now in Phase II/III clinical trials around the U.S.. The pill contains doxycyline, which suppresses inflammation. Participants will be randomly assigned to either receive the drug or a placebo. More information at Clinical Trials.

Zimura by Ophthotech has been tested as a drug for wet AMD, but also seems to affect the drusen of dry AMD. Zimura targets the complement pathway plays a significant role in dry AMD. A Phase 2/3 clinical trial investigating ZimuraTM for treatment of geographic atrophy, is in the planning stages.

Eculizumab was also presented. This intravenous treatment for dry AMD did not show the desired effect in clinical trial, so no further development is planned at this time.

POT-4 is another drug that targets the complement factor system involved in inflammation. It is delivered through injection into the eye. The Phase I trial is completed and a Phase II clinical will be announced soon.

Iluvien is a drug delivery system that has been used in patients with diabetic retinopathy. A Phase II clinical trial for dry AMD is underway, though it is no longer recruiting patients. This is an implant inside the eye that releases fluocinolone acetonide. For more information, see Clinical Trials.

Judi Delgado - age-related macular degenerationJudith Delgado
Executive Director
Macular Degeneration Partnership
A Program of the Discovery Eye Foundation