Get Eye Smart: Protecting Eyes Today, Saving Sight in the Future

Ultraviolet Awareness Month is sponsored by Prevent Blindness America to increase awareness of how UV rays can damage your eyes, increase your risk of cataracts and cancers of the eye especially in high-risk patients. UV protection with sunglasses is recommended in everyone, not only those that work outside, and can be preventative.

As summer draws near north of the equator, many people long for the warmth of the sun after a long winter (at least in New England!) and plan for the outdoor activities we love. Unfortunately, the impacts of all that fun-in-the-sun on the eyes must be kept in mind.  Most people do not realize that 20% of all cataracts are the result of UV ray exposure, and that number has been dramatically increasing in recent years.

But what is this invisible threat exactly?  And how does it impact us? Ultraviolet radiation is measured in nanometers (nm). It is categorized in three basic terms and classified by the strength of the UV ray:

  • UVC: These rays are below 280 nm. The upper atmosphere absorbs these, so they do not reach us, therefore protection from these rays is not overly necessary.
  • UVB: These are between 315 – 380 nm. These manage to make it to the earth’s surface and are notorious for damaging sight. They can cause snow blindness but are notably responsible for sunburn and several types of skin cancer. Research has shown that these rays are strongest during the summer and at higher altitudes.
  • UVA: These are the most dangerous being 315 – 380 nm. They are known for causing chronic eye damage. Studies have indicated that these rays get absorbed by the lenses of our eyes leading to damage of the retina. They contribute to the occurrence of cataracts, are also a major cause of aging and unfortunately can pass through clouds, glass, water and clothing.

What are the risks for prolonged UV exposure?

Prolonged UV exposure has numerous immediate and deleterious negative impacts. Many skin cancers can occur on the eyelids and external features of the eye.  Additionally, while ocular melanoma is rare, it is the most common eye cancer in adults.  Melanoma is an aggressive cancer that forms in the cells responsible for skin pigmentation through the production of melanin. Since your eyes also have melanin-producing cells, melanoma tumors can form in various parts of your eye. Although the choroid layer is the likely site for ocular melanoma, the conjunctiva ciliary body, the iris, orbit and eyelid are other parts of the eye that may also be affected. While an exact cause of melanoma is unknown, sources describe ocular melanoma as a DNA error that prevents cells from shedding in their typical life cycle. Cells grow uncontrollably and mutated cells accumulate rather than dying off and form melanoma. Despite the notion that it caused by a problem with DNA, there are risk factors that may increase the odds of contracting the disease such as sun exposure, eye color, skin conditions related to pigmentation or excessive mole growth and Caucasians tend to be more susceptible.

Because of the increasing number of UV related cataracts and eye cancers; Prevent Blindness, and many other organizations, strongly recommend that everyone utilize UV Protection eyewear, not only those who engage in outdoor disciplines and recreation. It is recommended that sunglasses and UV treated daily wear should be 100% UV absorbing for UVA and UVB light.

Caught up in the activities and outdoor fun, we often overlook the simple proactive measures that we can take to protect against vision loss and UV related eye damage and even life-threatening ocular cancers.  In addition to taking a few extra moments to protect yourself and your loved ones from the sun, it is imperative that we take the time for annual eye exams.

An optomap screening is an excellent, expedient way to get a comprehensive view of the retina and to gain essential information about ones ocular health. optomap is the only proven, clinically-validated, ultra-widefield retinal image that can capture 82% or 200⁰ of the retina, which can reveal incredibly subtle changes from the central pole to the far periphery of the retina in a single capture – and in a fraction of a second – so you can get out and enjoy that summer sun.

OD Spotlight on Screening: Increasing optomap Acceptance Rates

Our eye care partners generally include optomap, the only single-capture ultra-widefield retinal image, as part of their standard comprehensive eye exam in order to facilitate early detection from vision impairment, blindness, and other systemic diseases. Retinal imaging elevates the standard of care but often requires patient consent and an out-of-pocket fee. By way of effectively educating the clinical benefits to the added screening, most patients accept the fee. Eric White, OD, explains how his practice has achieved a 90 percent acceptance rate for optomap imaging.

In his practice, Dr. White includes optomap screening as part of the pre-testing process and continues patient education in the exam room while requesting patient approval to review the images. By including the image as a part of the pre-test process, it is a “no-brainer” when its significance is explained. Prior to this method, Dr. White would forego taking the image during pre-testing and would wait until the process was explained in the exam room, if agreed, the patient would then be sent back to the pre-test area for the images to be taken. This was not only inefficient but patients would often rather not go back for yet another pre-test. Once Dr. White implemented this small change, the practice saw a huge increase in acceptance rates for optomap imaging.

For Dr. White, patient education happens before they even step through the door, and he utilizes different means by which he provides details of the optomap imaging process, beginning with their practice website. The site explains the process, how it benefits the patient and the way it aids the doctor in detecting diseases such as diabetes and macular degeneration. Dr. White feels that it is important to fully explain the medical benefit of optomap since there is going to be an out-of-pocket expense associated.

“Explaining the tests you are performing, including high-level testing like the optomap, that come with an out-of-pocket expense, need not add significant time to pre-testing. Our pretest is designed for 20-30 minutes total, of which, the optomap image and the explanation generally take around 30 seconds. For that small amount of time and effort, you get a patient who fully understands the service you are providing–and doesn’t mind paying a little extra for it. When you effectively present the clinical benefits, 90 percent of patients accept the added fee.”

Optos strives to provide our partners with the keys and tools to succeed. We encourage our partners to log into CustomerCentral  to access documents that can assist you to increase screening acceptance in your practice. We are committed to solving any questions, quickly and accurately, and assist you to market optomap to your patients. Do you have a success story around optomap utilization in your practice? We want to hear from you, tell us your story today!

Spotlight on Practice Efficiency: UWF in Eyecare Settings

Ultra-widefield (UWF™) technology supports and enables practice efficiency for eyecare professionals across all settings. The integration of optomap technology as a routine diagnostic and screening tool has shown to improve workflow and increase service capacity within a very short time, according to many eyecare professionals. optomap can facilitate timely referrals for clinical opinions, supporting earlier treatment interventions and promoting collaboration between a variety of healthcare professionals and eyecare professionals alike. These all equate to improved patient workflow, clinical accuracy, and timely diagnosis and treatment for patients. Its ease of use makes for a smooth implementation process, optomap has been found to add clinical value as documented in over 900 peer-reviewed papers. These all equate to improved patient workflow, clinical accuracy, and timely diagnosis and treatment for patients.

Practice Efficiency in Eyecare Settings

Many eyecare professionals comment on the ease of use of optomap imaging. Operating the technology requires minimal training, and images can be captured quickly and efficiently and then immediately ready to be reviewed.

When Dr. Wes Shealy and his business partner Dr. Joe Pitcavage (Lowcountry Eye Care, South Carolina) opened their first office, they both knew that offering optomap UWF retinal imaging technology was essential in order to provide the highest caliber of care to their patients. The doctors both quickly realized the improved efficiency the technology brought to their offices. Shealy explains that for those populations difficult to image, or refused to be imaged, the technology facilitates an otherwise unobtainable comprehensive retinal exam and expedites the entire exam process. “Without a doubt having optomap in our practices has improved efficiency and patient flow and we are able to see more patients. We easily went from 30 minutes per patient to 20 minutes,” explains Shealy. Each of his four (4) locations now see approximately 90 patients a day. optomap imaging also allows for a much more efficacious communication process between doctor and patient, eliminating the need to try and explain an intangible.

In an attempt to improve patient flow in his practice, optometrist David Anderson (Miamisburg Vision Care, Ohio) invested in a Daytona and found his expectations exceeded for efficiency and as a diagnostic tool.
Dr. Anderson noticed that the addition of the optomap allowed for more proficient patient service, from start to finish. Dr. Anderson and his team encourage all patients to have optomap imaging. His practice has a 92% opt-in rate, which has had a significant, positive impact on patient flow, boosting practice capacity an extra five patients per day. With this increase in patient flow, there has been a correlated rise in pathology detection, particularly in asymptomatic patients.

Although in the midst of uncertainty, eye care remains a top priority, and it’s important to continue to provide patients the technological advancements available with optomap. Increase patient throughput and practice efficiency in less than half a second.  Visit our website to learn how to implement optomap in your clinical setting and increase your practice efficiency.

Protecting Vision: A Gaze into Women’s Eye Health

Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month is observed in April and designed to educate women about the steps they can take to help stop vision loss. This is in response to increasing evidence that women are affected by blindness and visual impairment to a much greater degree than their male counterparts. It is important that women stay educated about taking the proper steps today, to help preserve their vision in the future.

Data from the Prevent Blindness study, “The Future of Vision: Forecasting the Prevalence and Costs of Vision Problems,” found that women make up the majority of the 4.4 million Americans age 40 and older who are visually impaired or blind. More women than men have age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma. These numbers will only continue to increase in the years to come. Women are also at higher risk of developing sight-threatening autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.  Although some of these diseases have no known cure, many of the effects may be lessened through early detection and treatment.  A Prevent Blindness survey found that:

  • Less than 10% of American women realize that women are at a greater risk of suffering permanent vision loss than men
  • 86% believe that men and women are at equal risk
  • 5% believe that men are at greater risk

What should women know?

  • More women than men are at risk for vision loss from eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration. According to the National Eye Institute, more than 3 million women and more than 1.5 million men have dry eye. Dry eye is more common after menopause and women who experience menopause prematurely are more likely to have eye surface damage from dry eye.
  • Keeping a healthy lifestyle helps keep the eyes healthy, including exercising regularly, not smoking and following a healthy diet. Additionally, make sure to always wear UV eye protection when outdoors.
  • Pregnancy can cause vision changes including refractive changes, dry eyes, and puffy eyelids. Expectant mothers may also experience vision effects from migraine headaches, diabetes and high blood pressure. 

What can women do to prevent vision loss?

A comprehensive eye exam should include a thorough examination of the retina, including an optomap, which is complementary to a DFE and an excellent tool for screening and for patient education. Because an optomap image can be obtained in less than ½ second, it leaves ample time for the practitioner to educate on eye health.

Other tips include removing contact lenses prior to taking a shower, going swimming or any activity that involves your eyes contacting water. Dispose of contact lenses and buy a new pair if water comes in contact with the eyes while wearing them. This will help prevent acanthamoeba keratitis resulting from exposure of contacts and eyes to water that is contaminated with the amoeba Acanthamoeba. Washing hands prior to putting on eye makeup is critical to proper eye hygiene. Keep all applicators clean and in good condition. If possible, do not reuse old applicators and opt for disposable types instead. Most importantly, do not ever sleep with eye makeup on. It’s also important to protect your eyes when doing those DIY home projects. Women are as prone to eye injuries from DIY projects as men. Protect your eyes with safety goggles. One little slip-up could scratch your cornea or lacerate the entire surface of your eye, causing permanent damage. You may need surgery, could lose your vision, or, worst case, lose your eye entirely. If your kids are helping out, they should wear protective eyewear too. Women experiencing blurry vision, eye pain or loss of vision, are urged to make an eye appointment as soon as possible.

“Above all else, the most important message we want to send is that first step for everyone, no matter what age, is to get a comprehensive eye exam by an eye care professional,” said Hugh R. Parry, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness.  “By taking care of vision today, we can all help to keep vision healthy in the future.”

Recognizing Leaders in Optometry for World Optometry Week

Today marks World Optometry Day which is also the official kickoff to World Optometry Week. The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) marks this day as an opportunity to draw the spotlight on a key eye care profession and create awareness about optometry and its practices around the world. In these uncertain times, it’s more important than ever to recognize all of the ways the profession of optometry helps patients maintain good vision. Let’s celebrate this week and continue to raise awareness on the importance of family vision care and overall eye health.  

Optos is dedicated to enabling eye care professionals across the globe to provide the quality eye exams necessary for good vision. Starting today, and all week, Optos will be highlighting Optometrists worldwide who embrace utilizing optomap® ultra-widefield retinal imaging for their patients.

With over 16,000 devices installed across the globe, there are countless stories to be told regarding how optomap has saved sight and saved lives in all eye care settings. Tell us your story. Optos wishes all optometric eye care professionals a happy, healthy, and safe World Optometry Week. #TellUsYourStory