Women’s Eye Health

With this being Women’s History Month, we thought it appropriate to discuss women’s eye heath. Your vision is one of the most important things in your life. Vision loss can make everyday tasks more difficult, impede your work and lead to depression.
women's eye health
According to Prevent Blindness America (PBA), 66% of people who are blind or visually impaired are women. This is primarily due to the fact that women have more risk factors for vision loss than men. Sadly the same study also revealed that only 9% of women realize this. Early intervention can help prevent blindness in many cases. Many blinding eye diseases can be treated to prevent blindness and almost all eye injuries can be prevented.

Here is a closer look at why women are affected more than men, and what condition they need to be aware of for early diagnosis and sight-saving treatments.

Why Women Lose Vision

  • They live longer than men and many eye diseases are age-related. Examples are cataracts, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. The rates of these diseases are increasing as the baby boomer population ages.
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  • Some eye diseases are intrinsically more prevalent among women, like dry eye syndrome which is believed to be linked to hormones. It is 2-3 times more likely in women than men. Hormonal changes can influence vision changes across the life span of a woman, from pregnancy to post-menopause.
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  • Women have higher rates of autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. The serious side effects of these conditions can affect your eyes, causing vision loss.
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  • Social and economic factors can access to health care for women restricting early detection and treatment which could prevent or limit vision loss.
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  • While behavioral and environmental factors are not restricted to women, poor nutrition and obesity can cause diabetes and subsequent diabetic retinopathy; while smoking is also a proven risk factor for eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration. Women under 23 are the fastest growing segment of new smokers.

women's eye health
Eye Conditions More Prevalent in Women

  • Cataracts are the world’s leading cause of blindness. They are the result of a clouding of your eye’s normally clear lens. They can be treated with cataract surgery, where the cloudy lens is replaced with a clear synthetic lens.
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  • Glaucoma is the second-leading cause of blindness in the Us. It is called the silent thief of sight because there is no warning. It happens when pressure in the eye — intraocular pressure or IOP — is too high, damaging the optic nerve which sends vision signals to the brain. Open-angle glaucoma, the most common type, affects men and women equally. But women are 2-4 times more likely than men to get closed-angle glaucoma. One of the possible reasons for this is that the front chamber between the iris and cornea is shallower in women than men and can block fluids from draining out of the eye, thus increasing pressure. Glaucoma is also genetic, meaning you are at higher risk if someone in your family has had glaucoma. When caught early, there are treatments that can help control your IOP. If it is not controlled early, blindness can result and it is irreversible.
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  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the number one cause of vision loss in people over 40 in the US. One of the reasons women are at higher risk is because they tend to live 5-7 years longer than men. AMD gradually destroys the central part of your sight that helps you read or drive. There are two types of AMD. Dry AMD, which occurs when drusen accumulate under the retina. There is no treatment for dry, yet accounts for 90% of the cases. Wet AMD occurs when new blood vessels grow and leak between the retina and eye’s outer layer. There is a treatment of anti-VEGF injections for this version of AMD. The earlier the disease is diagnosed and treated, the better the results. Like glaucoma, it is an inherited eye disease.
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  • Diabetic retinopathy is a result of diabetes. When blood sugar levels are too high, the vessels that feed the retina weaken and eventually leak, which cause the macula to swell. In its most dangerous form the retina may detach from the back of the eye leading to blindness. Diabetes is also hereditary, but controllable with early diagnosis and treatment.
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  • Dry eye syndrome occurs when your eyes produce too few tears. Your eyes may burn, sting or feel gritty, making your vision blurry or you may blink more. Contrary to the name, you may appear weepy as the dryness may stimulates more tear production. Thanks to hormones, women are more susceptible. In postmenopausal women, the shift in balance between estrogen and progesterone can be responsible.
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  • Pregnancy-related eye changes, like menopause, are caused by hormone shifts and can cause several temporary eye conditions, such as dry eye and corneal swelling.

3/10/16

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

4 Super Greens for Better Sight

A healthy diet not only helps your heart, but also your eyes. Your diet should include lots of fruits and vegetables to provide you with a natural source of nutrients to help protect your sight. As wonderful as supplements are, eating the actual foods is always better. Some of the best vegetables for you are the dark, leafy greens that are rich in valuable vitamins and nutrients. These are the super greens for better sight.

With the US experiencing bitter, freezing temperatures on the East Coast, while the West Coast is having summer in February, with record-breaking hot temperatures, I thought it would be interesting to see how you could enjoy those super greens, no matter what the temperature is outside. Below is a quick look at four dark leafy greens that are a great addition to a healthy diet, watercress, arugula, spinach and kale. For each vegetable I have included a recipe that is served hot, along with one that is served cold.

Here is what you need to know about super greens for better sight.
super greens
WATERCRESS

Watercress is a cruciferous plant and part of the brassica family, like arugula and kale. It contains vitamins A, B6, B12, C, K, iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, lutein and zeaxanthin. In fact, weight for weight, watercress contains more vitamin C than an orange, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach and more folate than bananas. Watercress has the highest amount of nutrients for the smallest amount of calories.

The health benefits of watercress include boosting immunity, cancer & diabetes prevention, reducing cognitive decline, thyroid support, better cardiovascular health and stronger bones. As for your eyesight, it can help prevent or slow the onset of age-related macular degeneration and possibly cataracts.

Watercress is most commonly enjoyed fresh in salads, but can also be use in pastas, casseroles, soups and sauces. Choose watercress with deep green, crisp leaves, with no signs of wilting. Trim the stems, rinse the greens in cold water and dry. It is best if used immediately, but can be store for up to four days in the refrigerator.

Watercress Soup by William Anatooskin

Watercress and Grapefruit Salad by Martha Stewart
super greens
ARUGULA

Arugula is also known as a salad or garden rocket. It is a small low growing herb that is packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It is rich in folates, vitamin A, B-complex, C and K and has copper, iron, calcium, potassium, manganese and phosphorus.

The health benefits of arugula include a lowered risk of cancer, healthy bones, strengthened brain function, improved mineral absorption and it boosts the immune system. Because of being a source of carotenoids, it also helps to slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration.

Arugula is popular in salads, used with milder greens to add a peppery flavor. But it can also be used in pastas, casseroles, pizzas, soups and sauces. Choose arugula that is crisp with green young leaves. Avoid the flowered harvest as those leaves are tough and have a bitter taste. Wash leaves in a bowl of water, swishing thoroughly to get rid of all sand and soil. Drain and pat dry before storing in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator for no more than a few days.

Grilled Stuffed Swordfish by Stormy Scarlett

Pasta Salad with Goat Cheese and Arugula by Martha Stewart
super greens
SPINACH

Spinach is a very popular leafy green vegetable, with two common varieties cultivated for food; the savory-type with dark green crinkled leaves and the flat-leaf type with smooth surfaced leaves. Spinach contains vitamin A, B-complex, C and K, along with lutein, zeaxanthin beta-carotene, potassium manganese, magnesium, copper and zinc.

The nutrients in spinach help improve blood glucose control in diabetes, lower the risk of certain cancers, reduce blood pressure, increase bone health and help iron deficiency. The lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene help to potentially prevent and slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration. Lutein also works to protect the eye from free radical damage by helping filter out damaging blue and ultraviolet light.

Spinach is a universally popular vegetable, used around the world in a variety of ways, including salads, soups, noodles, pies, casseroles, dips, sauces, etc. Look for leaves that are dark green in color, crisp and not dull or yellow and spotted. Wash thoroughly to remove sand and soil, dry, trim away tough stems and store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Turkey-Spinach Meatballs from Bon Appètit

Spinach Salad with Dates from Bon Appètit
super greens
KALE

Kale is a member of the mustard and cabbage families and has more nutrients than spinach. Less than ½ cup has 333% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin A, 587% RDA of vitamin K and 200% RDA of vitamin C. This frilly-leafed vegetable also has vitamin B-complex, lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, copper, calcium, sodium, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.

The health benefits of kale include healthy muscles and skin, improved blood glucose control, lower colon and prostate cancer risk, better cardiovascular health, stronger bone health, reduced neuronal brain damage and support for red blood cell formation. The advantage for your eyes comes from the lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene and vitamin A, all which work to support a healthy retina. They help protect against blue and ultraviolet light as well as the early onset and progression of age-related macular degeneration. Because of the positive impact on diabetes it also reduces the onset and progression of diabetic retinopathy.

Kale is very versatile and can be served in a variety of ways including salads, soups and casseroles. It can also be braised, broiled, sautéed and even made into kale chips by tossing them in extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkled with your choice of cumin, curry powder, chili powder, red pepper flakes or garlic powder and baking at 275 degrees for 15-30 minutes depending on how crisp you want them to be. When shopping for kale look for leaves that are crispy and crunchy with a brilliant dark blue-green color. Wash thoroughly to remove soil and sand, dry well, and remove all tough stems. It is extremely perishable, so use it as quickly as possible.

Kale and Chicken Casserole by Martha Stewart

Kale with Pomegranate Dressing and Ricotta Salata from Bon Appètit

All of these dark green leafy vegetables are not only healthy for you, but can be used in many ways to make it easy to incorporate them into your diet. Here are a few ideas:

  • Throw a small handful into your blender when making your favorite smoothie
  • Add them to your next omelet or egg scramble
  • Use them for making pesto or adding to pasta sauce
  • Sauté with a small amount of extra-virgin olive and season with freshly ground black pepper and freshly grated Parmesan cheese to serve at a topping for your baked potato
  • Add it to your wrap, sandwich or flatbread

2/17/16

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

Layers of the Retina

The retina at the back of the eye is essential for all vision. Each layer of cells in this tissue serves a specific purpose. As we prepare for Age-Related Macular Degeneration Awareness Month in February, a closer look at the layers of the retina and their function.

layers of the retina

Layers of the Retina

Choroid – This is made up of a layer of blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients to the retina. Defect in the CHM gene can cause choroideremia, leaky blood vessels can expand in the retina causing wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy.

Retinal pigment epithelium – This is a single layer of cells that provide essential nutrition and waste removal for the photoreceptor cells. Accumulation of waste can lead to AMD and Stargardt disease.

Photorecptors – This is where the rods and cones are located that convert light into electrical signals. Rods help you with night and peripheral vision. Cones are more concentrated in the macula (the central part of the retina) and proved central and color vision. Death of the rods can cause vision loss called retinitis pigmentosa, while AMD is the loss of central vision.

Horizontal cells – These cells are connect to the photoreceptors that surround the bipolar connected photoreceptor cells and help the help integrate and regulate the input from multiple photoreceptor cells, increasing your visual acuity.

Bipolar cells – The dependence of each layer of the retina on each other is exemplified here. These cells take the electrical information from the photoreceptor cells and pass it along to other retinal cells.

Ganglion cells – These cells extend to form an optic nerve that conveys information to the brain and take the electrical information from the bipolar cells and process it to determine shapes, contrast and color. Glaucoma vision loss results from high intraocular pressure that affects the optic nerve, interrupting the signals to the brain.

1/26/16


 

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

5 Elements of Accessible Web Design

A common misconception is that all you need to have a successful blog or website is good content. While content people want to read is important, if you can’t see it, or it is difficult to read, very few people are going to take the time to try. There is lots of good content to choose from.

Making your content easy to scan and read and using great graphics that can tell a story are just as important. Especially if you want to reach the millions of potential readers that are blind or visually impaired.

While a person with low vision (due to age-related macular degeneration, cataracts,glaucoma or other eye diseases that are related to aging) can increase font size or graphics by enlarging them with a pinch of the fingers or scroll of the mouse, the result is often blurry and still difficult to see.

If a person is blind and using a screen reader, what they hear may not match what is written or displayed. A picture without underlying descriptive text is worthless. And when a blind person is using a screen reader to read a web site, they will often tab from link to link to scan your article, skipping over your text, to get a sense of what the options are. “Click here” says doesn’t tell the reader anything.

Here are 5 essential elements of accessible web design.

5 elements of accessible web design

12/15/15

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

#GivingTuesday – Giving For Eye Research

Medical research funding from the US government, the medical device and pharmaceutical industries, biotech and foundations has dropped 0.8% per year, every year from 2007 to 2012. Even with the economic recovery, the funding of eye research from the NIH in 2014 decreased by 17% from 2012.
giving for eye research
What makes this particularly disturbing is that the need for eye research is more important now than ever, as demonstrated by the infographic below.

Giving to eye research
This infographic by the National Institute of Health (NIH) is used with their permission.

Giving For Eye Research

The eye diseases in the above graphic are related to aging. The number of people being affected is more than doubling for each eye diseases, except for diabetic retinopathy which will increase by 47%, by 2050.

While we are more health conscious than in previous years, knowing the importance of exercise, healthy eating and not smoking, the US population is aging.

Aging baby boomers, the largest population group in US history, are creating a dramatic shift in the age composition of the U.S. population. It is projected that the entire senior population, including the pre-boomer silent generation, will reach 71.4 million people by 2029. This means that those people 65 and older will make up about 20%of the US population by 2029, up from almost 14% in 2012.

We need your help to find treatments and cures for these sight-threatening eye diseases.

December 1st will be the fourth year of #GivingTuesday. It is a global day of giving using combined power of social media and collaboration. Always the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, it has become as widely recognized as Black Friday and Cyber Monday and kicks off the philanthropic season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.

We are asking that you support eye research through the Discovery Eye Foundation this philanthropic season with a gift on #GivingTuesday. It is easy to do; you can do it from the comfort of your home – just click here.

Also share this post with family and friends so they can also give the gift of sight this holiday season.

Thank you for reading our blog and for your support.

11/24/15

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

Smoking and Your Eyes

Smoking is the single largest preventable cause of eye disease.
smoking and your eyes
On the third Thursday of November each year, smokers across the nation take part in the Great American Smokeout, sponsored by the American Cancer Society. This might be the ideal time for you to stop smoking and ACS has information and resources you may find helpful.

Here are some things you should know about smoking and your eyes.

  • Smoking at any age, even in your teens or twenties, increases your future risk for vision loss.
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  • The more you smoke, the higher your risk for eye disease.
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  • If you quit smoking, your risk for these eye diseases decreases considerably.
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  • Smoking increases your risk for cardiovascular diseases that indirectly influence your eyes’ health.
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  • Women who smoke during pregnancy increase their chance for a premature birth and a potentially blinding eye disease called retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).
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  • A smoker is two times more likely to develop macular degeneration compared with a nonsmoker.
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  • Smoking double your chance of forming cataracts and the risk continues to increase the more you smoke.
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  • Smoking doubles your diabetes risk which can lead to the blinding eye disease, diabetic retinopathy.
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  • Smokers are more than twice as likely to be affected by dry eye syndrome as a non-smoker.
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  • Second-hand smoke also makes dry eye worse, especially for contact lens wearers and post-menopausal women.
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  • If you smoke you can have a three-fold increase in the risk of developing AMD compared with people who have never smoked.
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  • Smoking appears linked to the development of uveitis with smokers having more than twice the risk of non-smokers.

If you are looking to stop smoking you may also want to check out Smokefree.gov which provides free, accurate, evidence-based information and professional assistance to help support the immediate and long-term needs of people trying to quit smoking.

11/19/15

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

Technology for Vision

In just over 10 years, the technology that has been developed to help people see has been amazing. While medical research continues to move forward to find treatments and potential cures of the future, those with the technological know-how have created ways for people to see NOW. Here is a very brief look at some of these technologies.

Technology for Vision

Second Sight and the Argus II

One of the pioneers in the field of vision technology, Second Sight started in 1998, and they are now currently producing the second version of their device. It is made up of two parts:

The Implant: Requiring a 4-hour surgery, a device is surgically implanted in the eye on top of the retina, and along the outside of the eye. It includes an antenna, an electronics case, and an electrode array.
technology for vision
The External Equipment: It includes glasses, a video processing unit (VPU) and a cable.
technology for vision
In a healthy eye, photoreceptors (rods and cones) in the retina convert light into tiny electrochemical impulses that are sent to the brain, where they are translated into images. If the photoreceptors don’t function correctly your brain can’t produce images. The Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System (“Argus II”) is designed to bypass the damaged photoreceptors.

A miniature video camera housed in the patient’s glasses captures an object. The video is sent to the small VPU that the patient wears. It is then processed and transmitted back to the glasses via a cable. This information is sent wirelessly to the antenna in the implant and signals are sent to the electrode array, which emits small pulses of electricity. These pulses bypass the damaged photoreceptors and stimulate the retina’s remaining cells. The visual information is then sent to the brain to create the perception of patterns of light which patients can learn to interpret as objects. Significant training is required to use the system.

The implant is designed to give you a visual field of about 3.5 inches by 6.5 inches at arm’s length; however, the actual size of light you see may be larger or smaller. Since it is strictly based on light, there is no color perception.

eSight

Another system that relies upon the user wearing glasses is eSight which started in 2012. While the Argus II is for people that have very little or no vision, the eSight is for people with low vision or that are legally blind. eSight glasses require the individual to have a certain degree of sight remaining to be successful. If you can only see shadows you probably don’t have enough remaining sight for the glasses to work for them.

This system is also composed of two parts, but it does not require any surgery:

The Headset: It contains a high-definition camera, OLED screens, and the ability to capture and display a real-time video feed. The headset is mounted on carrier frames, which enables eSight’s “bioptic tilt” feature so the user can shift between viewing modes and engage their peripheral vision.
technology for vision
The Controller: A small, lightweight processing unit that adjusts every pixel of the video in real time. It also houses the battery, which powers eSight.
technology for vision
Because most legally blind individuals retain limited sight concentrated in their peripheral vision, their eyes do not receive an adequate signal for the brain to recognize what is being seen. This can create blind spots, blurriness, inability to detect contrast, and other symptoms that reduce vision. eSight is able to significantly corrects these issues by using a high-speed camera, video processing software, a computer processor and the high quality video OLED screens to project a real-time image on the inside of the glasses, allowing people to see.

eSight requires considerably less training than the Argus II. It is intuitive, but as with learning anything new, the more you use it the easier it is to use. It is best to practice on a daily basis.

CentraSight from VisionCare Ophthalmic Technologies

The CentraSight uses a tiny telescope that is implanted inside the eye. The telescope implant was created to improve for people with end-stage age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The tiny telescope – about the size of a pea – is implanted inside one eye, behind the iris and is barely noticeable in your eye.
technology for vision
In end-stage AMD, the macula, where central vision occurs, is degenerated in both eyes without any healthy macular areas left for detailed central vision. There is no way for the individual to see around the central blind spot in their vision. It does not affect peripheral vision, which is blurry so you can’t use it to read, but you can use it to detect objects and movement.
technology for vision
Once implanted inside the eye, the tiny telescope works like a telephoto lens of a camera. It magnifies images onto the healthy areas of the retina to help improve central vision. Because the image is enlarged it reduces the effect the blind spot has on central vision. The surgical procedure is only performed on one eye because the peripheral (side) vision will be restricted in the eye with the telescope implant. This means the peripheral vision in the untreated eye will need to work in conjunction with the implanted eye. “A person uses the eye with the telescope implant for detailed central vision (such as reading “WALK” signs at a crosswalk). The other eye is used for peripheral vision (such as checking to see if cars are coming from the side).

Training with a CentraSight low vision specialist will be needed to develop the skills you need to use your new vision, such as how to switch your viewing back and forth between the eye with the telescope implant and the eye without the implant. You will still need to wear eye glasses and may need to use a hand-held magnifier with the telescope-implanted eye to read or see fine details clearly. However, in general, less magnification will be needed.

Ocumetics Bionic Lens

After eight years of research, a Canadian optometrist, Dr. Gareth Webb, has invented a tiny bionic lens that is able to enhance eyesight so that an individual can see three times better than the sharpness of 20/20 vision. The Ocumetics Bionic Lens is a button-shaped lens that can be injected into the eye in eight minutes in a procedure identical to cataract surgery.

As people get older, the lens inside the human eye becomes cloudy over time, causing blurred vision, known as cataracts. The Bionic Lens would be inserted, replacing the person’s clouded lens, similar to the intraocular lenses currently used in cataract surgery.

The Bionic Lens features a patented Ocumetics camera optics system, which is a tiny bio-mechanical camera that is able to shift focus from a close range object to optical infinity – as far as the eye can see – much faster than the human brain.

This device is still not available to the public, but Webb is hopeful that clinical trials will start soon. Depending on regulatory processes in each country, Webb hopes the Bionic Lens will be commercially available by 2017.

11/10/15


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

The Importance of An Eye Exam

Why You Need An Eye Exam

The end of the year is fast approaching – when was the last time you had an eye exam? Was it a comprehensive eye exam?
eye exam
To keep your eyes healthy and maintain your vision, the American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends a comprehensive eye exam every two years for adults ages 18 to 60, and annual exams for people age 61 and older. However, if you have a family history of eye disease (glaucoma, macular degeneration, etc.), diabetes or high blood pressure, or have had an eye injury or surgery, you should have a comprehensive exam every year, unless otherwise indicated by your doctor.
Also, adults who wear contact lenses should have annual eye exams.

An important part of the comprehensive eye exam is the dilated eye exam to look inside your eye. Drops are placed in each eye to widen the pupil and allow more light to enter the eye. This gives your doctor a clear view of important tissues at the back of the eye, including the retina, the macula, and the optic nerve. This allows for early diagnosis of sight-threatening eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, etc.

To better understand the importance of the dilated eye exam, here is a video from the National Eye Institute (NE) that explains what to expect.

At the end of your comprehensive eye exam your doctor should raise any concerns he has with you. But it is up to you to be prepared to react and ask questions for peace of mind and to help save your vision.

Questions To Ask After Your Eye Exam

It is always important to know if anything about your eyes have changed since your last visit. If the doctor says no, then the only thing you need to know is when they want to see you again.

If the doctor says the have been some minor changes, you need to know what questions to ask, such as:

  • Is my condition stable, or can I lose more sight?
  • What new symptoms should I watch out for?
  • Is there anything I can do to improve or help my vision?
  • When is the next time you want to see me?

If the doctor sees a marked change in your vision or give you a diagnosis of eye disease, you would want to ask:

  • Are there treatments for my eye disease?
  • When should I start treatment and how long will it last?
  • What are the benefits of this treatment and how successful is it?
  • What are the risks and possible side effects associated with this treatment?
  • Are there any foods, medications, or activities I should avoid while I am undergoing this treatment?
  • If I need to take medication, what should I do if I miss a dose or have a reaction?
  • Are there any other treatments available?
  • Will I need more tests necessary later?
  • How often should I schedule follow-up visits? Should I be monitored on a regular basis?
  • Am I still safe to drive?

Your vision is a terrible thing to lose, but with proper diet, exercise and no smoking, along with regularly scheduled eye exams, you improve your chances of maintaining your sight.

11/5/15

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

Diabetic Eye Diseases

November is National Diabetes Month. Diabetes is a controllable condition that is growing in the US. In adults 20 and older more than one in 10 people have diabetes, while in seniors (65 and older) that number increases to more than one in four.

Diabetic Eye Diseases

One of the eye diseases that can result from diabetes is diabetic retinopathy, which will affect approximately 11 million people by 2030. Check the infographic below to learn more about diabetic eye diseases.

diabetic eye diseases

11/3/15

NEI LogoCourtesy of the National Eye Institute (NEI), a part of NIH.

Carrots For Healthy Eyes

Carrots forHealthy Eyes
Lately we have heard quite a bit about carrots and the positive effects they can have on your vision, such as slowing the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This is because carrots contain pigments called carotenoids. These pigments also give vegetables their colors, in this case orange. But carrots weren’t always orange.

The beginnings of carrots can be tracked back to the dry, hot lands of Iran and Afghanistan in 3000 BC, when the root vegetables were black, white, red and purple. They were bitter and used as a healing remedy for many illnesses, as well as an aphrodisiac.
carrots for healthy eyes
The vegetable grew in popularity because it was still edible even after months of being stored in a variety of conditions. Carrot seeds were soon picked and sold to neighboring Middle Eastern, African and Asian populations. This is when the crossbreeding started and new types of carrots were created.

Across centuries and continents, the carrot evolved, improving the composition, look, flavor and size. After years of selective breeding, in the 17th century a Dutch yellow carrot was engineered to get rid of the bitterness, increase sweetness and minimalize the wooden core. This appears to be the origin of the orange carrot we enjoy today.

Americans didn’t fully use carrots until after World War I when soldiers returning home told about French and other European cuisine which included the carrot. However, it didn’t really become popular until World War II, when England actively encouraged home growing of carrots while the US was engaged in cultivating “Victory Gardens.”

Today the carrot is found around the world in temperate regions. They have a high nutrition value, presence of ?-carotene, dietary fiber, antioxidants, minerals and ability to be prepared in a wide variety of recipes. They have become a staple in many countries.

Currently, the largest producer and exporter of carrots in the world is China. In 2010, 33.5 million tons of carrots and turnips were produced worldwide, with 15.8 million tons from China, 1.3 million tons each from the US and Russia, 1 million tons from Uzbekistan and less than a million from Poland, the United Kingdom and Ukraine.

Because of the popularity and health benefits of carrots, they are now enjoyed in a variety of ways – beyond the simple salad. Here are some recipes you might find interesting to try:

carrots for healthy eyesCrab Toast with Carrot and Scallion – Forget your traditional bruschetta, wow your guests with the appetizer.
 
 
 
 
 

carrots for healthy eyesPotato-Carrot Latkes with Lemon-Raisin Topping – Seems perfect with Hanukkah just around the corner.
 
 
 
 
 

carrots for healthy eyesRoasted Carrot, Squash and Sweet Potato Soup – This is a more traditional carrot recipe, it is not that hard to find a carrot soup, but this one also has squash and sweet potatoes which are also eye healthy!
 
 
 
 
 

carrots for healthy eyesCarrot Farfalle Pasta with Lemon and Herbs – Not only are carrots good for flavor, but they add a nice color to this pasta that could be the base for any number of pasta dishes.
 
 
 
 
 

carrots for healthy eyesCarrot Ginger Layer Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting – Most carrot cakes have no frosting or a traditional cream cheese frosting. The idea of an orange frosting makes this cake special.
 
 
 
 
 

carrots for healthy eyesCarrot, Ginger, and Lime Juice – Refreshing and healthy.
 
 
 
 
 

10/22/15

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