September is Healthy Aging Month

Healthy Aging Month is an annual health observance designed to focus national attention on the positive aspects of growing older.  Aging is a process that brings many changes. Vision loss and blindness, however, do not have to be one of them. There are several simple steps you can take to help keep your eyes healthy for the rest of your life.

Eye diseases often have no early symptoms, but can be detected during a comprehensive dilated eye exam A comprehensive dilated eye exam is different from the basic eye exam or screening you have for glasses or contacts. By dilating the pupils and examining the back of the eyes, your eye care professional can detect eye diseases in their early stages, before vision loss occurs. By performing a comprehensive eye exam, your eye care professional can check for early signs of –

Here are some other tips to help maintain healthy vision and body now and as you age:

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Loading up on fruits and vegetables can help keep your eyes healthy and disease free.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight increases your risk for heart disease and diabetes. Complications from diabetes, such as diabetic retinopathy or glaucoma, can eventually lead to vision loss.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking increases your risk for age-related macular degeneration, cataract, and other systemic diseases, including cancer. Wear protective eyewear when outdoors. Protecting your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays when you are outdoors is important for your eye health. Choose sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation.

Even if you are not experiencing vision problems, visiting an eye care professional regularly for a comprehensive dilated eye exam is the most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of vision loss as you age.


Download “Everyone’s vision can change with age”
A handout with explanation on how vision can change with age.


As America celebrates its 243th birthday, I find myself thinking about what it means to be independent.  Because I was born blind, I was told early on that I would quite likely spend my life as a dependent person. I suppose it’s fair to say that I’ve proved I can be independent, and for that, I am very grateful.

I came to learn about the world as a blind person, and so I never thought very much about what I was missing without having the ability to see. In my role as the Ambassador of Vision for the Discovery Eye Foundation, I spend a lot of time talking to people who are losing or have lost their sight later in life. I am amazed to learn how truly dependent they are as they work to rehabilitate their lives after the loss of vision. They tell me that even the smallest tasks in daily life become major obstacles.

A woman recently told me, “there is a constant fear of falling, even in a familiar place like my own house.  I am just not sure of where the steps are.  I hate to have to ask people to put my clothes together in the right color combinations and learn to cook and be comfortable in my own kitchen.  It feels impossible to get anything done.”

The most touching thing I ever heard was when a loving grandfather told me that he was having trouble remembering what his grandchildren’s faces looked like.

Let me hasten to say that many people who lose their vision do make extraordinary adjustments, but for all of them, the road back to independence is difficult, arduous, and sometimes impossible. At the Discovery Eye Foundation, we remain committed to funding the research that will hopefully preserve vision and provide the independence that all of us wish for and deserve.


Tom Sullivan
DEF’s Ambassador of Vision

My Eyes on the World

As I write this blog, I’m thinking about tomorrow – one of the landmark days of my life, my 50th Wedding Anniversary.  Fifty years married to Patty, my wife, my best friend, my lover, the mother of our children, and my eyes on the world.  It’s Patty’s eyes that have navigated our live’s journey.  From describing a beautiful California sunset to deciding what I should wear to that very important meeting, Patty’s eyes have effortlessly and lovingly turned the darkness of my blindness into a life full of light, love, and joy.

Tomorrow evening we will dress for each other and as always I will feel a twinge of sadness because although in every way I appreciate Patty’s beauty and believe I have a special ability to see her inside-out, I’m sure that she wishes that I could take in the complete picture of who she is without limitation.  It’s said that the eyes are the windows to the soul.  If that’s really true, it’s Patty’s eyes that bond us together heart to heart and soul to soul.

So make sure that you take a look – a real look at the people you love and realize the importance of what it means to see.  At Discovery Eye, we are committed with your help to finding the answers that will allow people to enjoy the vision that makes every day and every anniversary worth living. 


Tom Sullivan
DEF’s Ambassador of Vision

Low Vision

Low vision is the term used to describe significant visual impairment that can’t be corrected fully with glasses, contact lenses, medication or eye surgery.  Low vision causes a person to be unable to accomplish some daily tasks due to sight impairments. Low vision occurs when an individual struggles with any of the following common activities:

  • Reading
  • Everyday tasks like personal grooming
  • Viewing photos
  • Recognizing faces

Millions of Americans experience a normal loss of vision as they get older and the number of individuals who develop vision problems due to health conditions is projected to continue to rise.

There are many things that can cause low vision, including:

A few simple approaches can be:

  • Getting an eye exam
  • Update your reading glasses
  • Use bright light for reading

If these do not work for you, ask your eye care professional for help or ask for a referral to a low vision specialist.

Low Vision Technology 

Individuals with eye disease related to age, or vision compromised due to injury, may benefit from the usage of low vision devices.

There are two primary categories for low vision devices: Magnifiers for viewing things and objects that are close to you (magnifying lenses or machines), and magnifiers used for viewing objects and images at a distance (telescopic lenses). Many lighted magnifiers for close objects improve readability by increasing illumination.  With the advances in technology, many low vision devices are available to provide multiple function (near and distance) magnification and visual aid.

Technology is advancing to meet the growing needs of people with low vision impairment. There are a number of products that can help individuals with low vision. While considering the correct vision enhancer, keep in mind a few objectives:

  • What is the visual ability of the individual? Low vision aids are created with different options for specific low vision needs.
  • What tasks will the visual enhancer be used for? Find out what each product is best used for to decide if it will meet the needs of the individual.
  • Is the device easy to use? The right device should be easy for you to use.
  • How much does it cost? The cost of low vision aids can vary depending on a number of factors.

Popular products include:

Portable magnifiers and lighted magnifiers- offer magnified reading on the go. Perfect for menus, shopping lists, label reading, and more, portable magnifiers can fit in your pocket, purse, or be worn on the belt for quick, easy use.


Wearable magnifiers – wearable technology is the future for those with low vision who live an active lifestyle.  Wearable options make it possible to see and take part in everyday tasks, such as reading and recognizing faces.


Transportable magnification screens are perfect for close up viewing as well as distance viewing. These great viewers offer great flexibility, from watching TV to using the mirror image feature for self-viewing. There are APPS for smart phones that can be used to magnify reading material.


Desktop devices for reading books, bills or letters – these have large, bright screens. A reading table offers visual aid for reading books, optional computer connectivity and more. This family of portable magnification units offers up to 75x magnification.



Consult a Low Vision Specialist–Consider making an appointment with a trained low vision specialist if you have specialized needs. They are available in larger cities or can be found by contacting The Braille Institute or by an internet search. Talk with your low vision specialist to find out which is right for you and where you can find them.

In addition to low vision devices and good lighting, inexpensive non-optical adaptive aids can assist with routine daily activities. These devices include:

  • Large-print cookbooks
  • Large-numbered playing cards, clocks, telephones and watches
  • Electronic “talking” clocks, kitchen timers, thermometers, blood pressure meters and even pill bottles
  • Large felt-tip pens and wide-lined paper for writing notes
  • Color-coded pill boxes
  • Signature guides help in writing your signature in the correct place

Many of these items can be found at your local drugstore, discount store or bookstore. Your low vision specialist can recommend retail sources for non-optical adaptive aids.

Vision loss can definitely be alarming but learning how to adapt, with the aid of low-vision specialists, can result in continued independence.  As low vision aids are tools focused on helping with the physical aspect, it is also important to seek the help of a counselor for psychological counseling if needed or join a support group, that may provide the help you need. Finally, maintaining a social network and asking for help will enrich your life, and help maintain your independence and quality of life.








There is an old Irish ditty I often heard as a little boy.  It goes something like this:

“One bright and guiding light that taught me wrong from right I found in my mother’s eyes. Those baby tales she told of roads all paved with gold I found in my mother’s eyes”.

As a blind child there was so much I found in my mother’s eyes.  From as early as I can remember, she read me stories that spanned from Robert Lewis Stephenson’s adventures like “Treasure Island” to the book that always made both of us cry – “Black Beauty.”

As a teenager and young adult, her eyes made it possible for me to venture into the world knowing as she liked to say…”dressed to the nines.” And then, when I married my wife, Patty, my mother had strong opinions about the choice of tuxedo I should wear on our wedding day.  I can still remember hearing her talk about how much she loved to see the first smiles on the faces of our children, Blythe & Tom. 

As she grew older, it was her eyes that kept her connected to the world.  Every morning, she read her Boston Globe from cover to cover, and on afternoon television she never missed her Soap Operas – “The Guiding Light,” and “Search for Tomorrow.” And then, there was the NBC Nightly News with her on-going crush on Tom Brokaw.

April is Women’s Eye Health Month along with celebrating the need for Sports Eye Safety.  I can still remember my mother crying when she watched Cleveland Indian’s left-handed pitcher Herb Score hit with a line-drive costing him his sight.  Research goes hand in hand with eye-safety to preserve vision.  The Discovery Eye Foundation is committed to finding the answers that will preserve vision and allow women and mothers the blessing of seeing the smiles on the faces of the children they love.


Tom Sullivan
DEF’s Ambassador of Vision


Why Lutein & Zeaxanthin are vital for healthy vision.

Good nutrition is important to keep your eyes healthy.  Researchers have linked two very important eye nutrients that play a key role in healthy vision.  Lutein (LOO-teen) and Zeaxanthin (zee-ah-ZAN-thin), both are potent antioxidants and are best known for protecting your eyes and may reduce your risk for macular degeneration and cataracts.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are two types of carotenoids (kuh-RAH-teh-noids), which are yellow to red pigments found widely in vegetables and other plants and lutein is a yellow pigment, in high concentrations it appears orange-red.

Both lutein and zeaxanthin can also be found in high concentrations in the macula of the human eye.  The macula is essential for vision. Lutein and zeaxanthin work as important antioxidants in this area by protecting your eyes from harmful free radicals. It’s thought that a reduction of these antioxidants over time can impair eye health.  Along with other natural antioxidants, including vitamin C, beta-carotene (vitamin A) and vitamin E, these important pigments guard the body from damaging effects of free radicals, which are reactive molecules that can destroy cells and play a role in many diseases.  It is also believed that lutein and zeaxanthin in the macula block blue light from reaching the underlying structures in the retina, thereby reducing the risk of light-induced oxidative damage that could lead to macular degeneration (AMD).

Unfortunately, the human body does not naturally make the lutein and zeaxanthin it needs. This is why getting daily amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin through your diet or nutritional supplements can help maintain good eye health.


Foods that Contain Lutein and Zeaxanthin

Diets rich in these two nutrients may help hold off age-related eye diseases. The best natural food sources of lutein and zeaxanthin are green leafy vegetables and other green or yellow vegetables. Among these, cooked kale and cooked spinach top the list.

Key sources of these carotenoids include kale, parsley, spinach, broccoli and peas. Orange juice, honeydew melon, kiwis, red peppers, squash and grapes are also good sources of lutein and zeaxanthin.

In addition, egg yolk may be an important source of lutein and zeaxanthin, as the high fat content of the yolk may improve the absorption of these nutrients.

For eye healthy recipes visit Eye Cook

Lutein and Zeaxanthin Supplements

Because of the benefits of lutein and zeaxanthin, many nutritional companies have added these carotenoids to their multiple vitamin formulas. Others have introduced special eye vitamins that are predominantly lutein and zeaxanthin supplements.

Some popular lutein and zeaxanthin supplements include:

  • MacuHealth with LMZ3 (MacuHealth LLC)
  • EyePromise Zeaxanthin (Zeavision)
  • ICaps Eye Vitamin Lutein & Zeaxanthin Formula (Alcon)
  • Macula Complete (Biosyntrx)
  • MacularProtect Complete (ScienceBased Health)
  • MaxiVision Ocular Formula (MedOp)
  • OcuGuard Plus (TwinLab)
  • Ocuvite (Bausch + Lomb

The source of lutein in many lutein supplements is marigold flowers, while for zeaxanthin it is often red peppers. If you choose a lutein and zeaxanthin supplement, make sure it’s a high quality product from a reputable dietary supplement company.

Be sure to keep in mind that individuals sometimes react differently to certain supplements, which can have unintended effects such as adverse reactions with medications. Consult with your physician or eye doctor before trying any vision supplements.

For Eye Healthy Recipes visit Eye Cook

Remember that taking dietary supplements does not replace a healthy diet. Eating a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables usually is the best way to get the important eye nutrients you need.

Mitochondrial Revolution: New Hope for AMD and Aging Diseases

How many times have we heard: “This field has been thoroughly studied, and we know all there is to know; there is no reason to continue investigating, because there is nothing more to find out on the subject”? This has been the attitude of some researchers with respect to the importance of mitochondria and diseases. For more than 50 years, we have known that mitochondria, which are the “batteries” of the cell, are critical for energy production. But many believed they did not have other major roles in the health of the cell, so when it came to developing drugs against diseases, mitochondria were overlooked.

That idea has now been turned on its head.


Led by Discovery Eye Foundation (DEF) Research Director Dr. Cristina Kenney, the Mitochondria Research Group believed that, to really discover something new, you have to look in novel areas. This group has done just that. Using the transmitochondrial cybrid model, which are cell lines with identical nuclei, but with each line containing mitochondria from a different person, they have shown that the mitochondria have major regulation powers over cell behavior and expression of disease-related pathways. This is significant, because the mitochondria then become a target for therapies to combat diseases.

Kenney’s group is investigating various drugs and substances that will keep the mitochondria healthy and, ultimately, improve the health of the retinal cells in age-related macular degeneration (AMD). But it does not stop there. This same approach to developing mitochondria-targeting drugs is being pursued for drugs to treat Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, leukemia, various cancers, heart failure, thrombosis, stroke, diabetic retinopathy, Leber hereditary optic neuropathy, and even liver toxicity from acetaminophen.

The continued support from DEF, especially in the early stages of the mitochondria research, has fostered a new area to be opened up, specifically for AMD and diabetic retinopathy. In turn, this has allowed new collaborations among Kenney and researchers from the eye field, and laboratories studying the brain and neurodegeneration, cardiology, cancer therapies and methods to reduce side effects from cancer drugs. Kenney’s discoveries using cybrids have revolutionized the field of mitochondrial research, showing that mitochondria have wide-ranging biological effects never imagined and opening up the field of mitochondrial therapy to careful investigation.

You can help make a difference by supporting DEF’s sight saving research. Help our researchers advance AMD research by donating today! 



Lauren HauptmanLauren Hauptman
Lauren Hauptman Ink

My Best Gift!

The other day my daughter Blythe asked me which Christmas I consider to be my favorite.  I had to think a minute, because as a family, the Sullivan’s have had some great ones.  I was about to say the first time you and your brother Tom were old enough to really get into Santa, being absolutely sure that the fat man brought your presents right down the chimney.  I was about to say that, and then I remembered. 

The greatest Christmas I ever enjoyed was a ski trip in Winter Park, Colorado, when our children were teenagers and our friend, the marvelous Betty White, joined us for a Christmas Eve sleigh ride none of us will ever forget.  The night was perfect.  It had snowed earlier that day, and the air had a feeling of Christmas that you could almost taste.  Oh, sure, it was cold, but we were bundled up under tons of blankets as two beautiful Clydesdale horses with bells jingling took us through the woods to a magical barn where dinner would be served and carols sung. 

It was on the way home that my Christmas was made complete.  We had stopped to let the horses breathe, and everyone was quiet, just allowing the feeling of togetherness envelope us in that special night.  It was Betty who broke the silence. 

“Tom,” she said almost to herself, “I wish I may, I wish I might, let you see the stars tonight.  I feel like we could almost reach up and touch them.  That’s how bright and close they are.  I guess when you’re this high in the Rocky Mountains, it just feels like they’re right here.”

I could hear how much my friend wanted me to see such a heavenly display, but we both knew that could never happen.  I have no complaint about being blind, no one could have a better life, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit at this holiday season that I’d love to be able to take it all in, all the special sights of Christmas. 

Every day in laboratories around this country, researchers are working to solve the multiple eye diseases that make it impossible for millions of people to see the joys of Christmas.  At this holiday season, my best gift would be that all of us donate to the Discovery Eye Foundation with its goal to preserve vision and eradicate blindness around the world.  During this season of giving, may your hearts be light and your sight be bright. 

Merry Christmas!

Tom Sullivan
DEF’s Ambassador of Vision


Keep Your Eyes Comfortable During the Cold Winter Months

Harsh weather conditions can reduce the natural moisture in your eyes and the irritation usually results in a burning or itching sensation that often leads to rubbing or scratching your eyes which can worsen the symptoms. Sometimes it feels like there is a foreign object in your eye and for some, dry eyes can even cause excessive tearing, as your eyes try to overcompensate for their lack of protective tears. Prolonged, untreated dry eyes can lead to blurred vision as well. Between the harsh winter winds outside and the dry heat radiating inside, our eyes are very quickly irritated and dried in the winter months.  The result is itchy, dry eyes that may cause pain, blurred vision, a burning sensation, or even watery vision as our eyes try to compensate for the dryness.

What Are The Symptoms?

  • Uncomfortable, stingy, burning or scratchy feeling.
  • Stringy mucus in or around your eyes
  • Increased eye irritation from smoke or wind
  • Eye fatigue
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Eye redness
  • A sensation of having something in your eyes
  • Difficulty wearing contact lenses
  • Periods of excessive tearing
  • Blurred vision, often worsening at the end of the day or after focusing for a prolonged period


Whatever the symptoms, dry eyes can cause significant discomfort during the long winters and relief can seriously improve your quality of life.

  1. To keep eyes moist, apply artificial tears/eye drops a few times a day. If you have chronic dry eyes, speak to your eye doctor about the best product for your condition.
  2. Drink a lot of fluids – keeping your body hydrated will also help maintain the moisture in your eyes.
  3. If you spend a lot of time indoors in heated environments, use a humidifier to add some moisture back into the air.
  4. Try to situate yourself away from sources of heat, especially if they are blowing. While a nice cozy fire can add to the perfect winter evening, make sure to keep your distance so dry eyes don’t ruin it. 
  5. Staring at a computer or digital device for extended amounts of time can further dry out your eyes. If you spend a lot of time staring at the screen, make sure you blink often and practice the 20/20/20 rule – every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Use artificial tears often to lubricate eyes during long periods of using your eyes.
  6. Avoid air blowing in your eyes. Don’t direct hair dryers, car heaters, air conditioners or fans toward your eyes. In your car, direct heat to floor vents and away from your eyes once your windshield is defrosted.
  7. Stop smoking and avoid smoky environments.
  8. Don’t rub your eyes! This will only increase irritation and can also lead to infections if your hands are not clean.
  9. Give your eyes a break and break out your glasses. If your contact lenses are causing further irritation, take a break and wear your glasses for a few hours or days. Also talk to your optometrist about switching to contacts that are better for dry eyes.
  10. Protect your eyes. If you know you are going to be venturing into harsh weather conditions, such as extreme cold or wind, make sure you wear protection. Try large, 100% UV protective eyeglasses and a hat with a visor to keep the wind and particles from getting near your eyes. If you are a winter sports enthusiast, make sure you wear well-fitted ski goggles.

If you find that after following these tips you continue to suffer, contact your eye doctor.

The Human Drama

All of us are players in the human drama, and there are moments when we get to observe it up close and very personal. I was in Chicago, preparing to speak in an ophthalmology practice. As I often do, I arrived early to sit in the waiting area and work to get a feel for the energy and style of the practice. I didn’t mean to overhear their conversation, but as I listened, I was deeply touched by their love and in that moment, their fear.

I learned that Charlie was 88 and Rose was 86. I am sure they were holding hands as Rose was saying “Oh, Charlie, I am so sorry about the falls I have had. I just can’t see the step from the kitchen into the family room.”

Charlie tried to comfort her. “It’s alright Dear, the Doctor will give us the answers, and I am sure you’ll be better.”

I didn’t speak to Charlie over the next 40 minutes believing that I would be intruding but sure that he was living every second of the exam going on just a few steps away.

When Rose exited the Doctor’s office, she was supported by the Doctor and a Tech who must have been holding her up because she collapsed into her husband’s arms.

“I’m sorry,” she kept saying.  “I am sorry Charlie. It’s Macular Degeneration.  And, the Doctor says there’s very little he can do for me.”

I could hear Charlie rubbing his wife’s shoulders and telling her that everything would be alright. But, Rose kept saying “I know we’ll have to sell the house and move into something smaller, and I am going to be blind Charlie. Blind.”

Moments like this are happening across the country in ophthalmology and optometry practices every day. 30% of adults, age 60 and older, suffer from this horrible disease, and only through research will answers be found.

The Discovery Eye Foundation is committed to finding those difficult answers and making it possible for people like Rose to see the faces of loved ones for many years to come.


Tom Sullivan
DEF’s Ambassador of Vision