January is Glaucoma Awareness Month

National Glaucoma Awareness Month reminds all of us to get regular eye exams and show support for those suffering from this conditionGlaucoma is one of the leading causes of vision loss and blindness.  Glaucoma is often called “the sneak thief of sight” because glaucoma has few symptoms or warning signs in its early stages. It can be diagnosed only by a full eye exam by an eye care practitioner.

Glaucoma is a disease where pressure builds up and damages the eye’s optic nerve. Types of this disease include the common Primary Open Angle Glaucoma, which causes peripheral eyesight to slowly diminish and is age-related. Angle Closure Glaucoma, where the fluid drainage system is narrow and closed so that the aqueous fluid remains in the front chamber of the eye and intraocular pressure rises; and Low Tension Glaucoma, where the optic nerve becomes damaged in spite of the intraocular pressures being within the normal range. There’s currently no way to restore vision lost from glaucoma because once the nerve cells become damaged, they do not regenerate.


A few important facts you should know about Glaucoma in adults:

  • More patients than ever are affected – Over 3 million people in the U.S. have glaucoma, and the number is rising.
  • Glaucoma can affect people of all ages – The most common form of glaucoma, Primary Open Angle Glaucoma, becomes more prevalent with increasing age. However, glaucoma can strike anyone, even infants and children but it is rare.
  • Demographics do play a role – Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness among African Americans; it’s also highly prevalent in Hispanics over the age 65.
  • Is glaucoma hereditary? The risk of developing Primary Open–Angle Glaucoma is up to nine times more likely if parents or siblings have the disease.
  • Hope for future glaucoma patients – Although there is no cure for any form of glaucoma, early diagnosis and treatment help control the disease and slow the process of vision loss or blindness.

Newer Glaucoma Treatments 

Glaucoma treatment usually begins with the use of topical (eye drop) medications which lower the intraocular pressure. Within the past two years, two new topical medications have been approved for the treatment of glaucoma: VYZULTA® and Rhopressa®. VYZULTA® is a modification of a class of medications currently used to treat glaucoma – the prostaglandin analogs. This drug helps lower intraocular pressure by increasing the drainage of fluid (aqueous humor) from the eye.

Rhopressa® is part of a new class of drugs used to treat glaucoma called Rho kinase inhibitors. Rhopressa®, like VYZULTA®, also lowers intraocular pressure by increasing aqueous outflow. Both Rhopressa® and VYZULTA® are dosed once daily and pose few, if any, systemic safety concerns.


Using a laser to make a small opening in the iris to help with fluid drainage usually cures Angle-Closure Glaucoma.  This procedure is called a laser peripheral iridotomy.

For Primary Open Angel Glaucoma, when eye drops are not enough to reduce the pressure then a procedure called Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT) can be used. The SLT reduces intraocular pressure by stimulating increased outflow of fluid from the eye. SLT offers an improved safety profile compared to older glaucoma laser therapies and may lower eye pressure by as much as 20 to 30 percent. It is typically used as the next step in patients whose glaucoma is uncontrolled on medical therapy. Because of its excellent benefit-to-risk profile, however, SLT can sometimes be used in place of medications, especially in patients who have difficulty with their eye drops.


When other treatments fail, there are many surgical therapies to lower the eye pressure. These surgical approaches, which are riskier than medical therapy or lasers, are usually employed when non-surgical means do not work well enough to stop vision loss.


The goal of Minimally Invasive Glaucoma Surgery (MIGS) is to reduce intraocular pressure by enhancing the eye’s own internal aqueous humor drainage system. Some MIGS can be performed as stand-alone procedures, while others are typically done along with cataract surgery in patients with visually significant cataracts and mild to moderate glaucoma.

There are now a variety of recently FDA approved MIGS available for use in this country. MIGS typically are performed through a small incision in the eye with minimal tissue trauma and offer a favorable safety profile as well as more rapid visual recovery than traditional glaucoma surgery. There are many well qualified glaucoma specialists that perform the MIGS procedure.


Glaucoma Treatment Overview


National Glaucoma Awareness Month reminds all of us to get regular eye exams. Don’t let glaucoma steal your sight!  The best way to protect your sight is to get an annual comprehensive eye examination.

Thanks to funding from private philanthropists, DEF’s research continues to make great strides toward cures and treatment for glaucoma.  If you would like to support DEF’s sight saving research please donate today!



As autumn takes on the majestic beauty of its fall colors, school children remind us of the explorer Columbus on his October holiday.  We remember how much courage it must have taken for men to set sail from Spain and cross the Atlantic in search for new lands and treasure.  As the days became months, the sailors on the three small ships began to believe that they were about to fall off the face of the earth convinced that the world was flat and that monsters were waiting on the other side of the horizon.

In many ways the search for breakthroughs in vision have been just as frightening and just as surprising.  It wasn’t that long ago when cataract surgery required patients to be hospitalized for days at a time lying perfectly still while their new lenses gradually settled.  When I was a baby suffering from glaucoma, there were no drugs available to ease the crippling headaches I’ll never forget.  Diabetic retinopathy and wet macular degeneration had no possibility for control until gifted researchers began to apply stem cells, gene therapy, and nutraceuticals.  Much like the exploration of Columbus, most forms of blindness are moving toward remarkable and dynamic breakthroughs.

Research supported by Discovery Eye Foundation is now on the cutting edge of unlimited possibilities that someday may dynamically improve the vision and the lives of patients and their families.  Our work can only continue with your support.  Please join us as we explore and discover new worlds of vision and hope.


Tom Sullivan
DEF’s Ambassador of Vision


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.

Children’s Eyes

It’s said that the “eyes are the windows to the soul.”  If that is true, looking into the eyes of a child, it’s easy to see the beauty and innocence that all of us wish could be more a part of the world they will live in.

I’ve also heard that there is a wonder found in those eyes – a curiosity that opens the child’s brain and heart to all of life’s joys and potentials. 

The thought that those eyes could be threatened through accident or disease is a painful reality that all of us at Discovery are working to prevent through all of our cutting-edge research with your on-going support.

All too often I have been present in an ophthalmologist’s office when a caring doctor is forced to tell a family that there is a major problem with their baby’s vision.  Diseases of the retina such as glaucoma, or retinitis pigmentosa, are joined by diseases of the cornea like keratoconus.  It’s even worse when a family has to hear the diagnosis is retinoblastoma – or a cancer of the eye.  In these personal and painful moments, a family’s entire life is forever changed and their child’s struggle with vision will remain on-going and difficult.

August is “Children’s Eye Safety” month, and I can’t think of anything else more important to protect.  The eyes of a child are beautiful, full of innocence and love.  So, let’s make sure that they will continue to see the world with beauty and clear vision. 

The Discovery Eye Foundation is committed to finding the answers that will preserve the vision of millions of people.  Our groundbreaking research needs your help to move forward! 

To learn how you can help, click here Ways to Help DEF or click the button below to donate online. 

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

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.

Glaucoma – Are You At Risk?

January is Glaucoma Awareness Month and the perfect time to raise awareness for this disease. Early on there are no symptoms.  In fact, half of the people with glaucoma don’t even know they have it. Learn about glaucoma and the steps you can take to reduce your risk of vision loss.

There are several types of glaucoma, although the most common type of glaucoma is Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma, it begins at the peripheral working inward to weaken the central vision, this could lead to tunnel vision. It can cause irreversible and gradual damage of the optic nerve and vision.

You can prevent glaucoma with regular eye exams (with a visual field test) by an eye care professional and also by looking out for these subtle warning signs:

  1. Eye Pain
  2. Night Halos
  3. Tunnel Vision
  4. Blurred Vision
  5. Eye Swelling and Redness
  6. Nausea
  7. Sudden Visual Disturbance
  8. Severe Headache

Are you at risk?

Anyone can get glaucoma, but certain groups are at higher risk. These groups include African Americans over the age of 40, all people over the age of 60, and since it is hereditary, people with a family history of glaucoma, and people who have diabetes.

There are many steps you can take to help protect your eyes and lower your risk of vision loss from glaucoma. 

  1. If you are in a high-risk group, get a comprehensive dilated eye exam to catch glaucoma early and start treatment. Prescription eye drops can stop glaucoma from progressing.
  2. Even if you are not in a high-risk group, getting a comprehensive dilated eye exam by the age of 40 can help catch glaucoma and other eye diseases early.
  3. Open-angle glaucoma does not have symptoms and is hereditary, so talk to your family members about their vision health to help protect your eyes and theirs.
  4. Maintaining a healthy weight, controlling your blood pressure, being physically active and avoiding smoking will help you avoid vision loss from glaucoma.

Stay aware of the risks and symptoms and remember an annual comprehensive eye exam is key for early detection of glaucoma and other eye diseases.

Click here to learn more about Glaucoma.

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


Our Greatest Fear

The most intimate moment in the life of a parent happens as darkness overcomes the day and you tell your children a bedtime story, tuck them into bed, and kiss them goodnight.  For years, our son Tom needed a night light to eliminate his fear of the dark and allow him to sleep.

The other day I had the privilege of referring our friend Suzanne Thornton to Dr. Sameh Mosaed, a researcher and practicing physician at the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute (GHEI) with a special interest in glaucoma. Over lunch our friend Suzanne candidly talked about her overwhelming sense of fear at her loss of vision, the recent falls she had taken, and the steps up or down she couldn’t see.  Thankfully Dr. Mosaed is very confident in Suzanne’s prognosis based on the cutting edge improvement in surgical outcomes for glaucoma due to her research at GHEI.

For 8 years I served as a member of the Academy of Ophthalmology’s Foundation Board.  In that time we conducted a number of studies in all areas of vision preservation.  The one that I believe was most meaningful occurred when we asked thousands of people to express what frightened them most in life.  Frankly, I was really surprised at the results of the study.  I was sure that people would say maybe stage four cancer, or ALS, or some other terminal disease would be the thing that would frighten them the most.  I would have imagined that they might talk about the loss of a loved one or even the fear of a natural disaster.  The results of the study were very clear.  62% of all the participants said that the loss of vision was the single most frightening possibility they would ever have to face.

The Discovery Eye Foundation is committed to relieving people of their greatest fear by supporting the research that someday may eliminate most forms of blindness.  We remain grateful for all of your support as we strive to overcome people’s greatest fear, the loss of sight


Tom Sullivan
DEF’s Ambassador of Vision