About 38 million Americans have eye diseases such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration and cataracts – common causes of vision loss, low vision and blindness. As Baby Boomers age, the numbers are expected to double in the near future.

Individuals with low or no vision sometimes feel they have reached the end of the road with their vision problem because their sight cannot be restored, but it is essential that they continue to see an eye doctor regularly and that they are informed advocates for their own eye health.

Summerfield 3 blOn July 23, ophthalmologist Michael Summerfield spoke at “Eye Care is for Everyone,” a free public event at the Seabury Resources for Aging Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Washington, D.C. He encouraged attendees, many of whom live with impaired or no vision, to continue to visit an ophthalmologist regularly for six important reasons:

1)      All vision is worth saving

Individuals living with limited vision learn to make use of what sight they have, and even a very small amount of sight is worth a lot. Even if it isn’t possible to improve visual acuity or regain sight, if that small amount of vision can be maintained, it can still be useful vision. Continual care is essential to maintaining small amounts of vision that can make a tremendous difference in the life of the patient.

2)      Other diseases can be picked up through eye exams

Health conditions that have nothing to do with vision can often be detected through eye exams with an ophthalmologist. Small changes in the blood vessels in the eyes can help doctors detect even subtle forms of hypertension; inflammation in the eye can be evidence of systemic inflammation conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and sarcoidosis; and evidence of diabetic retinopathy can be an early indicator that a patient has diabetes.

3)      Continual eye care can be vital for maintaining comfort

Even if a doctor can’t bring back vision, there are still things he or she can do to keep the eyes comfortable. When an eye doesn’t see anymore, it can experience a chronic, aching pain that the patient might assume is unavoidable. Other times, the ocular surface of the eye may become dry, scratchy and irritated. Pain and discomfort can be alleviated by ophthalmologists with the right treatment.

4)      Eye doctors can help with patients’ cosmetic goals

It’s common for eye diseases and conditions that impair vision to affect the appearance of the eyes, and it’s not superficial or vain for a patient to want to address this. Patients shouldn’t be afraid to ask their eye doctor about their personal cosmetic goals with their eyes, because often there is something doctors can do to help.

5)      New research and therapies are constantly being conducted

The amount of new information that comes out about eye diseases on a regular basis is growing exponentially. New technologies, assistive devices and therapies are continually being created and tested. A patient’s eye doctor might know something now that didn’t exist a year ago that can improve the patient’s life.

6)      Patients can teach their doctors

Patients with vision loss have unique insight into the personal experience of living with low or no vision. In most cases, eye doctors haven’t experienced these conditions themselves. When patients share this information with their ophthalmologists, it creates a richer and more complete understanding of the experience of the condition that doctors may be able to use to help other patients.

Michael Summerfield, M.D., is the director of the MedStar Georgetown University / MedStar Washington Hospital Center Ophthalmology Residency Program.

“Eye Care is for Everyone” was co-sponsored by Seabury Resources for Aging, the Prevention of Blindness Society of Metropolitan Washington (POB), the DC Office on Aging and MedStar Health.

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For proper protection, sunglasses should offer the following:

• Ability to absorb and block 99-100 percent of UVA/UVB light

• Sufficient size to shield eyes, eyelids and surrounding area

• A close fit and UV-protective side shields are ideal

• Durability and impact resistance

• Polarized lenses to eliminate glare, especially if driving, in the snow or on the water.

For more information about protecting your eyes from the sun, visit www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection

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Department of Justice unveils new online Americans With Disabilities complaint form

The Department of Justice recently announced that individuals wishing to file ADA complaints with the Department will be able to fill out the form and submit it completely electronically. Filers will also immediately receive a “reference number” that can be used whenever contacting the Department about that complaint. Please visit www.ada.gov to view the new electronic form. As of March 15, e-mail complaints are no longer accepted by the Department. However, complaints are still accepted by U.S. mail. Contact the Department’s ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (voice) or 800-514-0383 (TTY or Text Telephone) to receive a paper complaint form by mail.

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Company offers voice-controlled TV remote plus audio-described programming

Comcast announced the consumer launch of its new remote with voice control, which lets viewers search for networks, shows and movies; set DVR recordings; navigate Xfinity On Demand and more. For more information, call 1-800-COMCAST (266-2278) or visit www.Xfinity.com/VoiceRemote.

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Two national conventions held in July offer valuable information and resources for the visually impaired

If you have never been to a gathering of more than 2,000 people living with all levels of vision impairment, consider making your summer plans around one of the following consumer conferences. These events are organized with many purposes in mind. People living with sight impairment ranging from mild to profound can learn about public policies, participate in social events, workshops for personal and professional growth and acquire knowledge of new technologies and products to enhance daily life. Consider one of the following adventures this summer – and of not this year hopefully in the future.

JULY 3-11 • DALLAS, TEXAS

American Council of the Blind, 54th Annual Conference and Convention The Council of Citizens with Low Vision International will meet at this event. For more information, visit www.acb.org.

JULY 5-10 • ORLANDO, FLORIDA

75th National Federation of the Blind Annual Convention For more information, visit www.nfb.org/convention.

 

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Vision Matters Community Day

More than 30 million Americans over the age of 40 will have cataracts by the year 2020. Are you aware of what you should know before cataract surgery? Don’t miss an opportunity to learn the causes, types, prevention and state-of-the-art treatments of cataracts, and more at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital on June 23. The prestigious Brady Lecture will feature expert keynote speakers Rachel Bishop, M.D., Ph.D., from the National Eye Institute (NEI), NIH and Stephen Pappas, Jr., M.D., from the Center for Retinal Diseases and Surgery. Visit exhibits of local vision support resources and receive eye health education materials, as well. This free event includes a complimentary light lunch and parking. Everyone is welcome!

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2015 Technology Petting Zoo – Thursday May 14

With today’s emphasis on technology, it is important to find the best solutions for staying connected. Attend the Low Vision Resource Group meeting at Charles E. Beatley, Jr. Central Library on May 14 for a showcase on how tablets and e-readers can enhance reading opportunities for people with vision impairment.

Attendees can have hands-on experience with iPads, Kindles, iPhones, NOOKs and other e-readers. Kevin Osborne, Adult Services Manager, and Kym Robertson, Librarian I and Talking Book Service Manager, will be our guest presenters. Learn how accessible technology can expand your world!

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Learn about current efforts for a cure

If you have been told you have age-related macular degeneration, join this special program and hear from Catherine Cukras, M.D., Ph.D., Ophthalmologist and Retina Researcher at National Eye Institute (NEI), NIH. Learn how you can become part of future NIH sight-loss solutions. Dr. Cukras will provide an overview of the AMD public health threat the United States is facing as baby boomers age. It is predicted that people at risk of developing this sight-threatening disease will more than double by the year 2030. Learn about current studies designed to help us better understand the progression and impact of AMD and other eye disorders.

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March 8 event was a banner day for POB

Kudos to Drs. Suleiman Alibhai, Donald Gagliano and Michael Summerfield for their realistic, hopeful and candid presentations at the March 8 Vision Rehab Town Hall Meeting. Take-home messages from the event included important information about state-of-the-art rehab opportunities for U.S. Military Veterans as well as a new training emphasis on low vision care for all current ophthalmology residency programs throughout the country.

In the District of Columbia metropolitan area, POB is proud of the progress and growing commitment the ophthalmology community is making to offer patient education and vision rehabilitation referrals. A lively discussion at the Town Hall meeting included concerns about new therapies and low vision procedures that require many months of adaptation and training with questionable outcomes. Thanks to POB’s co-sponsors Sibley Senior Association, The Beacon Newspapers, numerous exhibitors and most importantly the 85 attendees who provided this event with a spirited audience and great participation. Follow up on this event’s topics with information on empowering macular degeneration resources at this month’s Macular Degeneration Network meeting.

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Learn sun safety facts with two Lunch & Learn Events

For most of us, the eyes are the most cherished of our senses. Yet we could be exposing them to danger every time we go outside.

Over time, the sun’s rays can seriously damage the eyes and surrounding skin, potentially leading to vision loss, conditions such as cataracts, and eye, eyelid and intraocular cancers. Simple daily protective strategies will help keep your eyes and the sensitive skin around them healthy. Join POB for two informative Lunch & Learn events in May called “Sunlight and Your Eyes,” at MedStar Washington Hospital Center and Friendship Heights Village Center. Learn the facts and myths about UVA and UVB light rays, high-energy visible light, who is at risk, how sunlight damages the eyes and what defenses are available to protect your sight. Please register for these programs to receive light lunch.

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