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.

Kids and Sunglasses: Why it’s important!

Due to widespread awareness about the dangers of ultraviolet (UV) rays, most parents have been very cautious about protecting kids’ skin with sunblock, hats and clothing. However, what is usually overlooked is a good pair of sunglasses. 

Children are more susceptible to damage from UV exposure, which can penetrate deep into the eye and can increase the onset of eye problems in the future.  It’s really important we protect their vision, especially because kids spend lots of time outside and their eyes haven’t fully developed yet. More importantly, sunglasses may save their skin and eyes later in life by blocking the sun’s powerful UV rays.  Children under age 10 are at a high risk for skin and eye damage from UV exposure. The skin on their eyelids and around their eyes is more delicate and vulnerable than adult skin. 

UV ray damage builds over time, so the sooner you start protecting your children’s eyes from the sun, the lower their risk will be of ever developing future eye problems.

Here are a few tips to follow to help you find the right sunglasses for your kids:

  • UV Protection – Sunglasses for children should block 100% of UV radiation as well as between 75 – 90% of visible light. Any sunglasses you buy should have this information provided in the packaging 
  • Durability – Kids run, trip and fall. Their sunglasses should match this active lifestyle. Lenses should be made of a high impact material such as polycarbonate to prevent any breakages or scratches. Frames should be bendable but unbreakable. Make sure the glasses fit snugly, close to the face.
  • Spring hinges – Hinges that extend beyond 90 degrees and have a spring action to keep the fit of the frame snug will decrease the risk of your child’s sunglasses falling off or getting damaged during sports and other play.
  • Let them choose – You’re not the one who has to wear the glasses or hear other kids’ comments on them. Children and especially older kids/teens – are likelier to actually wear them if they select them themselves.
  • Fit & Comfort – Children’s sunglasses should offer good eye coverage and fit comfortably. Allow your child to try on various pairs to find something that is comfortable and fits correctly.
  • Set an Example – Kids at a young age look up to their parents so set a good example! Ensure you’re wearing your sunglasses every time you go outside if you want your child to do the same.

If your child has prescription sunglasses, be sure they are made with UV blocking clear lenses. You can get them a second pair with tinted polycarbonate lenses, or you can get photochromic lenses that change from light to dark to avoid having two pairs.

Sunglasses do not have to be expensive.  Many inexpensive children’s sunglasses provide excellent UV protection because they include polycarbonate lenses which blocks 100 percent of UV.

Beware because some cheap brands of sunglasses for children can include an unacceptable level of lead and usually are not durable or as high-quality as other sunglasses.

Start with an eye exam – because children’s eyes change so rapidly, make sure your child is seeing well.  Children who do not need vision correction should have an eye exam at least every two years.  Children who need glasses or contact lenses should have an eye exam annually or as recommended by your eye doctor.


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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.







Too Much Screen Time:  Is it bad for kids?

Children and their phones, iPads and gaming devices are inseparable today. Most are growing up with a wide selection of electronic devices at their fingertips. They can’t imagine a world without the internet, smartphones and tablets.  Although, all that reading and playing games on their handheld devices may be harmful.  But it’s not just kids who are getting too much screen time. Many parents struggle with over use of screen time themselves.  So it’s important to understand how too much screen time could be harming everyone in the family.

Children can experience at least one of the following symptoms after being exposed to more than two hours of screen time per day:

  • Headaches
  • Neck/shoulder pain
  • Eye strain, dry or irritated eyes
  • Reduced attention span
  • Poor behavior
  • Irritability

Any of these symptoms could potentially affect academic performance and social interactions.

The worldwide rapid rise of nearsightedness has been linked to increased use of and exposure to electronic devices. However, spending more time outdoors, especially in early childhood, can decrease the progression of nearsightedness.

Blue Light can be harmful

The LED screens of computers and portable digital devices emit a broad spectrum of visible light. Most of these light rays are harmless, but a portion of the light emitted by these screens is relatively high-energy visible light called “blue light.”

Blue light has shorter wavelengths and higher energy than other visible light rays. Some laboratory research suggests certain bands of blue light may be harmful to the light-sensitive retina of the eye over time.

Blue light also plays an important role in regulating our body’s circadian rhythm. This basically is an internal clock that’s running in our brain and cycles between alertness and sleepiness at regular intervals over a 24-hour period.

Too much exposure to blue light at the wrong time of day can disrupt a person’s normal sleep/wake cycle, which can have serious health consequences.  Sleep disruption can be especially problematic for children, leading to daytime drowsiness and poor performance in school. Some authorities feel that disruption of the sleep/wake cycle also can eventually lead to weight gain and obesity-related health problems.

Research has shown that people who experience disrupted 24-hour cycles of sleep and activity also are more likely to have mood disorders, lower levels of happiness and greater feelings of loneliness.

How to cut back on screen time

  • Set a limit on daily screen time. Make it clear to your kids and stick to it.
  • Encourage your child to spend some of that screen-free time outdoors while it is still light.
  • Establish screen-free zones: For example, no smartphone use for anyone in the family in the car,  at restaurants, or at the dinner table.
  • No screens in the bedroom when it is time for bed. No exceptions.
  • As parents you can be a model for moderate screen use. Show your children, with your own behavior, how to live a rich, varied and healthy life where all habits are practiced in moderation.

It is also very important to teach your child good eye habits, below are few tips from experts:

  • You can set a kitchen timer or a smart device timer to remind them.
  • Alternate reading an e-book with a real book and encourage kids to look up and out the window every two chapters.
  • After completing a level in a video game, look out the window for 20 seconds.
  • Pre-mark books with a paperclip every few chapters to remind your child to look up. On an e-book, use the “bookmark” function for the same effect.
  • Avoid using a computer outside or in brightly lit areas, as the glare on the screen can create eye strain.
  • Adjust the brightness and contrast of your computer screen so that it feels comfortable to you.
  • Use good posture when using a computer and when reading.
  • Encourage your child to hold digital media farther away, 18 to 24 inches is ideal.
  • Create a distraction that causes your child to look up every now and then.
  • Remind them to blink when watching a screen.

Finally, it is very important to make sure your child gets a regular eye exam by a pediatric ophthalmologist or optometrist.  This will help monitor your child’s vision and eye health.

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.

I Can Only Imagine

I can only imagine my wife’s beautiful face.  Oh sure, I’ve touched it and kissed it many times.  I’ve felt the lines with the tips of my fingers, tracing our lives together, and I’ve heard her smile.  I understand that’s not really seeing it.  It’s not seeing her eyes as they sparkle with something funny I said; or, when she looks at me with love reserved only for those who are truly in love.

She’s often tried to explain the flash and colors of a sunset and the cotton softness of clouds as they drift across the sky.  And, what about a rainbow made up of all the colors that somehow promise all of us that things in the world will get better. 

How amazing it would be to see my daughter Blythe skiing her favorite Colorado Mountain trail or my son Tom riding a California wave, both so secure and happy enjoying the sports they love. 

There is so much more I wish I could see, but it’s not going to happen because I am blind.  I am left with only imagining what it’s like to have the gift of sight.

I can only empathize with how a person feels when their vision is threatened by glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy, retinitis pigmentosa, and the most devastating of all, macular degeneration.

At the Discovery Eye Foundation (DEF) our researchers are working every day to overcome the loss of vision and preserve your ability to treasure all the beauty that surrounds you.  I’ve heard it said that the eyes are the windows to the soul.  I don’t know if that’s true, but I am sure that they are the single most important sense in the group of five, and that saving vision is a cause that must be supported.

DEF is committed to that mission, and with your help, answers to all forms of eye disease will be discovered.  It’s up to all of us to support the research that’s bringing us ever closer to those solutions.

If you want to help, please click the button below or download donation form to donate by mail, click here: DEF donation form




Tom Sullivan
DEF’s Ambassador of Vision

Beware of Costume Contacts

Costume Contact Lenses such as cat eyes or zombie may make your Halloween costume a bit more frightful although wearing those lenses without a prescription can be more terrifying, as it could result in vision loss or even blindness.

You can buy contact lenses, including decorative contact lenses, from your eye doctor or on the Internet.  It’s very important that you only buy contact lenses from a company that sells FDA-cleared or approved contact lenses and requires you to provide a prescription.  Even if you don’t wear corrective lenses you still need to get fitted properly.

Remember — Buying contact lenses without a prescription is dangerous!

Right now there are a lot of products that you can buy without a prescription but they may not be safe or legal.

You should NEVER buy lenses from:

  • street vendors
  • salons or beauty supply stores
  • boutiques
  • flea markets
  • novelty stores
  • Halloween stores
  • convenience stores
  • beach shops
  • internet sites that do not require a prescription

Know the Risks –

Wearing costume contact lenses can be risky, just like the contact lenses that correct your vision. Wearing any kind of contact lenses, including costume lenses, can cause serious damage to your eyes if the lenses are obtained without a prescription or not used correctly.

These risks include:

  • A cut or scratch on the top layer of your eyeball (Corneal Abrasion)
  • Allergic reactions like itchy, watery red eyes
  • Decreased vision
  • Infection
  • Blindness

Signs of possible eye infection:

  • Redness
  • Pain in the eye(s) that doesn’t go away after a short period of time
  • Decreased vision

If you have any of these signs, you need to see a licensed eye doctor (optometrist or ophthalmologist) right away!  An eye infection could become serious and cause you to become blind if it is not treated.

This Halloween season DEF wants to remind you of the importance of eye safety and to make sure to take the proper steps in ensuring the proper contact lenses. 

September is Healthy Aging Month


Today, people are living longer than ever before so it’s important to be proactive and take responsibility for your health as you age.  

Like any other organ in your body, your eyes do not stay the same as you get older. Vision changes are normal with age but vision loss and blindness are not.  Older adults are at higher risk for certain eye diseases and conditions, including age-related macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, dry eye, and low vision.  To continue to enjoy healthy vision as you advance in years, it’s important to have a comprehensive dilated eye examination with an ophthalmologist or optometrist on a regular basis.

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

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Fruits and vegetables can help keep your eyes healthy. Visit our website for healthy eye recipes, click here Eye Cook.



  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight increases your risk for diabetes. By exercising regularly, you can help keep your body healthy and prevent vision loss. 




  • Don’t smoke. Smoking increases your risk for age-related macular degeneration, cataract, and other eye diseases and conditions that can damage the optic nerve.




  • Wear protective eyewear when outdoors. Protecting your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays when you are outdoors is vital for your eye health.  Wearing sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation.



  • Know your family history.  Talk to your family members about their eye health history. It’s important to know if anyone has been diagnosed with a disease or condition since many are hereditary, such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetes . This will help determine if you are at higher risk for developing an eye disease or condition.


  • Consider a multivitamin. Vitamins C, E and the mineral zinc have been shown to promote eye health.  Vitamins with Lutein and Zeaxanthin have been known to help patients with moderate to severe age-related macular degeneration.


  • Give your eyes a rest.  If you spend a lot of time at the computer or focusing at any one distance, you sometimes forget to blink, resulting in dryness and eye fatigue.  Every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds. This can help reduce eyestrain. Consider using a lubricant eye drop during long periods of intense eye use and rest your eyes for 5 minutes.


You can’t stop time, but you can take care of your eyes so that they remain healthy as you age. Having a healthy vision can be possible at any age! 

A Second Vision

Kristin McDonald

For the last few years Kristin McDonald, a former actress and television spokeswoman, has been applying her make-up without the aid of her eyes due to retinitis pigmentosa, a condition that reduces a person’s peripheral vision until all that is left is a pinpoint of sight.

Today, she is in a first stage study that is offering her and others hope that the injection of stem cells might be the mechanism that could slow, and maybe even halt the effects of this horrible disease. Discovery Eye Foundation helped support many of the preliminary translational studies necessary to bring the clinical trial to the FDA and get this exciting, novel approach to the patients.

I am Tom Sullivan, Ambassador of Vision for the Discovery Eye Foundation, and I was rocked when my phone rang recently and I heard the sound of my friend Kristin crying.

“What’s the matter?” I asked with real concern.

Her tears were quickly replaced by laughter, joyous laughter.

“It might be working,” she said, “I mean, the cells just might be having an impact.”

“Meaning your feeling change in your vision?” I asked. 

“Tom,” she went on, “you won’t believe it. This morning when I was getting dressed and putting on my make-up, I saw my mascara in the mirror. Listen, I am not trying to tell you I can see, but since the cells were injected, I can focus on a light and even begin to notice shadows.”

“And, now,” she laughed again, “maybe I can put my mascara on straight!”

Kristin has no illusions about how far the injection of cells will take her; but, she is encouraged, as are many of the other patients who are part of Dr. Henry Klassen’s clinical study helped by DEF’s early stage funding.  Maybe the old phrase really does apply – you probably know the one I mean – “hope springs eternal in the human breast.” That goes for the researchers, the patients, and all of us who treasure the gift of sight.

To read more about Kristin McDonald, visit her website at


Tom Sullivan
DEF’s Ambassador of Vision