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Daniel Kish is using his skill of echolocation to teach others who are blind. Amazingly, he navigates the world by creating a clicking sound with his tongue and sending it out, knowing that he will gain the information needed to create a view of his surroundings–solely based on sound. According to Victoria Gill, “People who use ‘echolocation’ employ it in a very similar way to bats–producing clicks that bounce off objects and ‘sonify’ them into a picture of the surroundings.”  In her BBC News article, Gill highlights the findings concluded by Dr. Lore Thaler’s research. The skill variations of eight volunteers were studied in a controlled environment. The findings were published in the Royal Society journal Proceedings B. Daniel Kish explained echolocation to BBC News as “a bit like opening one’s eyes.”

Echolocation is an additional layer that can aid the blind in navigating their surroundings. Dr. Andrew Kolarik adds some insight by pointing out: “[The technique] can also be very useful at providing information at face or chest height, to avoid objects like low hanging branches that might not get detected by the white cane or a guide dog. . . So teaching echolocation skills could provide blind people with the means of exploring new places [through sound].”

Click here to read Victoria Gill’s article, “How humans echolocate ‘like bats.’”

If you or a loved one recently lost vision in one eye, you may assume that your sighted eye will automatically compensate and it will be life as usual. Unfortunately, a transitional period does exist in which you will need to work toward feeling more comfortable and capable of managing all daily activities while relying solely on your monocular vision. Simply put, it is quite an adjustment. It may take six to nine months to adjust, according to Diane Whitaker, OD, chief of the Duke Eye Center’s vision rehabilitation service.

Dr. Whitaker developed a protocol to jumpstart adults who have lost vision in just one eye (monocular vision loss), no matter how the vision loss came about. Dr. Whitaker explains that many eye doctors have underestimated the process of re-learning and developing new behavior to compensate for this loss. There are exercises that can build up and make you more aware of your senses, which have a cumulative effect in your performance of daily activities, like tracking an object and driving your vehicle.

Visual Training Activities:

  • Reaching for and grasping objects
  • Orientation and mobility exercises to learn how to modify behavior to be more cautious when walking
  • Taking part in a rehabilitation program to become safer drivers using training and or adaptive equipment

Tackling such a comprehensive program will speed up recovery and improve confidence, according to Dr. Whitaker.

There are local programs that focus on this type of rehabilitation, so be sure to inquire through your ophthalmologist or optometrist. Putting in the time will be a great benefit to your independence and lessen any anxiety associated with your monocular vision loss.

Contact us at 732-774-5566 for more information.

Learning To Live With One Eye,” Duke Health Blog

Yesterday we had the pleasure of participating in Hackensack Meridian Health’s Mitchell-Vassar Vision Awareness Day held at the Grand Marquis in Old Bridge. Dr. Stacy Doumas and keynote speaker Jennifer Rothschild captivated the audience with stories of inspiration and emotional harmony.

Dr. Dumas discussed “Emotional Harmony” citing various techniques to ensure that our emotions are in agreement–to secure emotional stability as we go through our daily lives. She spoke about a simple concept that is often forgotten: We have the power to change how we react to behavior. It is in our hands. Don’t be overwhelmed, know you have the strength to get through the anxiety and difficult times, even if you wind up “sitting” in that difficult, uncomfortable space for longer than you had intended. Know that you can take the time, adapt, develop a resilience, talk to people, keep perspective and, most importantly, keep a positive outlook always. As Dr. Dumas reminded us: “Tough times don’t last, tough people do.”

Jennifer Rothschild, at the young age of 15 was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative retina condition which ultimately leads to complete blindness. In Rothschild’s words “light was replaced with darkness.” Through her story we saw that this was indeed a devastating diagnosis, but she chose to change her perspective. She shared that her condition did not define her, but, rather refined her path for the rest of her life. She turned to new outlets, experiences, and challenges to express herself living each day beyond her limits. She took on challenges and fought against doubt. She chose to make blindness her ally. Throughout her engaging discussion Rothschild explained that you can be the boss, your self-imposed disability DOES NOT define you, it actually helps you to grow. The key is trading fear for faith/flight. And, above all else always say, and believe, “I Can!” This positive perspective has allowed Rothschild to enjoy a rich life filled with personal as well as professional accomplishments and has been a great source of inspiration for those who received her very poignant message.

So grateful to The Mitchell-Vassar Bright Future Legacy and all the organizers at Hackensack Meridian Health who made this very special and educational day possible. The event, in loving memory of Janice Mitchell-Vassar, provided a poignant pep-talk for all attendees.

This year’s mission trip to the DR was another wonderful success, thanks to all the amazing volunteers that pitched in at every level. Drs. Ralph and Robyn Del Negro were accompanied by their youngest daughter, Isabella, and were very proud to join this amazing team of professionals.

Eye physicians and surgeons performed 400 surgeries including:

  • 166 cataract procedures
  • 8 Pterygium
  • 87 strabismus
  • 23 plastics
  • 38 SLT (selective laser trabeculoplasty)
  • 13 YAG capsulotomy
  • 3 dermatology OR
  • 62 minor procedures

In addition to the above surgical procedures, 1,214 primary eye care consultations took place, and a number of ocular prosthetics were used to replace the absence of a person’s natural eye, making a huge impact.

Here are some pictures from this year’s VHP DR Mission:

March is Save Your Vision Month! Your vision is important all year round, but it is nice that during March we can celebrate and really spread the importance of a dilated eye exam and being pro-active about your eye health. Hopefully, this will have a trickle-down effect in that your ears will perk up when someone admits, “My vision isn’t what it used to be,” or “My vision has been bothering me lately.” You can then confidently say, “You should schedule an eye exam to eliminate any concern.”

Of course there can be a number of complaints, but it always returns to the sage advice: “Get it checked out.” This applies to yourself, a friend, or a loved one. A dilated eye exam can uncover issues with high cholesterol, diabetes, glaucoma, retina, as well as other conditions, and can ultimately save your sight.

A visit to the ophthalmologist or optometrist will set you on track to maintaining your current vision. Unfortunately, not every vision loss can be reversed. This is why a dilated eye exam is priceless–and should be scheduled every one-to-two years, depending on what your ophthalmologist or optometrist recommends.

There you have it–feel free to spread the word that your eyes are worth a second look. After all, you use them from the moment you wake up until your lids close at night.

Be in the know when it comes to your vision.

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What is AMD?
Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a deterioration or breakdown of the macula and is one of the most common causes of poor vision in people over age 60.

How do the Retina and Macula relate to AMD?
The inside layer of the back of the eye is called the retina. The retina is like the film of a camera. The central 10% of the retina is called the macula. The macula is responsible for sharp, central vision required for “straight ahead” vision activities, such as driving, reading, recognizing faces, and performing close up work.

What are the Symptoms and Risk Factors of AMD?
The visual symptoms of AMD involve the loss of central vision (reading, recognizing faces, etc.), while peripheral vision is unaffected. While age is the most significant risk factor for developing AMD, heredity, blue eyes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and smoking have also been identified as risk factors.

Click here to learn more.

If you have concerns about your vision and would like to speak to one of our doctors, call us today to schedule an appointment.

Individuals with diabetes should be aware that they may experience signs of MGD (Meibomian Gland Dysfunction) at a greater rate than the average person, according to a recent article in Ocular Surgery News. As we approach Diabetic Awareness Month, it is important to take note that MGD “was found to be more severe in patients with diabetes, possibly contributing to a greater prevalence of dry eye disease in these patients.”

According to Patricia Nale’s article, Johanna Garzon, PhD, and colleagues in Colombia formulated this conclusion based on a study of 37 patients with type 2 diabetes and 36 healthy controls used to assess the Meibomian glands, ocular surface, and tear function of its participants. The standout finding was that “if the blood glucose is higher, the symptoms [of MGD] are worse.” Diabetes affects so much, including MGD and dry eye, even if this is not one of the more prevalent discussions for those diagnosed with the disease.

“In the group with diabetes,” Garzon explains, “major changes in lids and tear function correlated with meibomian gland inflammation and obstruction.” Furthermore, “in both groups, 71% of participants presented with MGD: 76% in the diabetes group and 67% in the control group.” Even with the best of intentions to keep blood glucose levels in check with daily medication, diet, and exercise, chronic MGD and dry eye still responds best to a tailored regimen to prevent flare-ups.

To keep these frustrating symptoms at bay, feel free to schedule a dry eye evaluation any time. Our eye doctors will customize a program that works for your particular situation, which may include LipiFlow®, an in-office treatment designed to remove blockages from the Meibomian glands, allowing them to properly function and produce the oils that make up the top protective lipid layer of the tear film.

Be proactive, not reactive, and live your best life — free from the irritation and annoyance of this chronic disease.

October is our favorite time of year – we get to enjoy the colorful foliage, football, comfort food, and our annual pumpkin decorating contest. It also presents us with the perfect opportunity to educate our patients and the public on the dangers that exist when purchasing decorative contact lenses. At Halloween time, specifically, people tend to make one big mistake when purchasing the finishing touches to their costume. To save yourself pain, discomfort, and possibly an irreversible issue with your vision, NEVER purchase non-prescription lenses or lenses not regulated by the FDA. In fact, it is illegal to purchase any contacts without a valid prescription.
A recent AAO.org post educates to this point by publishing guidelines that should be followed to safely wear costume contact lenses for Halloween or any time of year:
  • Get an eye exam from a licensed eye care professional, such as an ophthalmologist or optometrist  — an eye medical doctor — who will measure each eye and talk to you about proper contact lens care.
  • Obtain a valid prescription that includes the brand name, lens measurements and expiration date.
  • Purchase the colored contact lenses from a retailer who asks for a prescription.
  • Follow the contact lens care directions for cleaning, disinfecting and wearing the lenses.
  • Never share contact lenses with another person.
  • Get follow-up exams as directed with your eye care provider.
If you notice redness, swelling, excessive discharge, pain or discomfort from wearing contact lenses, remove the lenses and seek immediate medical attention from an ophthalmologist or optometrist. Eye infections can become serious very quickly and sometimes the damage is not reversible.

It is with heavy hearts and great sadness that we mourn the loss of a member of the Del Negro & Senft Eye Associates’ family. Priscilla Del Pizzo’s loyalty, hard work, dedication, and friendship truly made a mark on the practice and our lives. Over the course of her 23 years as our billing manager, Priscilla touched the lives of many patients with whom she developed a strong bond.

Although Priscilla retired in May of 2015, we continued to feel her presence. She came back to visit often and continually checked in to update us on her life after retirement, as well as, exciting family happenings. She had celebrity status in our office, whether walking through the halls or taking a seat in her spot at the lunch table while talking over a cup of coffee. We will miss her terribly, but she will forever have a place in our hearts. She truly was family.

Priscilla is survived by her loving family: son Tony, daughter-in-law Cleo, and grandchildren Gina and her husband Mike, and Danielle.

Nina Avramova’s CNN article brings to light findings from a new study by researchers of the University College London. It is significant because it established that the number of cases of a rare infection, Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK), have nearly tripled in the southeast of England since 2011.

The study found that “ninety percent of Acanthamoeba keratitis cases in the UK are discovered in contact lens wearers, due to most risk factors being related to lens hygiene,” according to researcher Dr. John Dart. Symptoms: “Infection with Acanthamoeba keratitis, a cyst-forming microorganism, causes an inflammation of the cornea. Symptoms include excessive pain and compromised vision.” Dart points out that “only 70% of patients were cured within 12 months. For the remaining 30%, the treatment took over a year.” So treatment is unfortunately not a quick fix.

Dart explains that 90% of cases in the UK can be traced to hard-water areas. Do not introduce tap water to your lenses, EVER. Other risk-factors associated with infection for disposable contact lens wearers, highlighted in Avramova’s article, are that “people who did not wash and dry their hands before handling their lenses, those who used disinfectant products containing Oxipol (now phased out by the manufacturer), and people who wore their lenses in swimming pools or hot tubs. Showering and face-washing while wearing contact lenses are also likely to be risk factors, the study found.”

The takeaway here is that having proper contact lens hygiene is non-negotiable. Being a responsible contact lens wearer can literally save your sight. If you ever experience any pain or discomfort, do the right thing and schedule an appointment to see your eye doctor right away. Time is of the essence with any eye infection, and, even more so with a rare microorganism as powerful and as infiltrating as AK.

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