How eye disorders may have influenced the work of famous painters

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Visual art invites us to view the world seen through the eyes of the artist or creator. This concept is very familiar to us with modern art, there is a role for interpretation. However a few hundred
years ago, the artists of the day were typically creating more real life images of their subject matter.

There is a long history of scientists and clinicians arguing particular artists were affected by vision disorders, based on signs in their works. Included is the hypothesis that leaders of the Impressionist movement were short- sighted, for instance, and that their blurry distance vision may explain their broad, impetuous style.

The fact that Claude Monet had cataracts is well documented and seen in the changing colours of his paintings. In other cases supporting evidence of such disorders and their influence on artworks is often speculative, and hampered by a lack of clinical records to support the diagnosis. There is still fun in speculating, did El Greco suffer from astigmatism? Perhaps Australian painter Clifton Pugh had a colour vision deficit?

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What is an OCT and do I need to have one?

OCT stands for Optical Coherence Tomography. This scanning technology allows us to ‘see’ tissue behind the visible retina inside the eye. In the past 5 years OCT has changed the way we
can assess eyes, becoming invaluable in management of conditions such as Macular Degeneration (MD) and Glaucoma.

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When we see signs of MD in a regular examination we can take an OCT scan to ‘see’ what is happening in the underlying retina. In particular we want to spot Wet MD which can cause more devastating vision changes. When there is fluid  accumulating in the macula the OCT shows us where this is - very important to make timely referrals for treatment.

The detailed measurements of the nerve fibre layer in the retina are particularly helpful when we are looking for Glaucoma. Starting with signs in a routine examination, OCT is often the next step. Careful monitoring over time allows us to see changes, possibly before these have caused any vision loss, which is early detection.

But OCT is not a magic bullet, and it cannot stand alone. It’s a tool and interpreting the results needs careful consideration along with all other clinical findings. Recently there has been promotion of OCT at every examination and the benefits this will bring. At the end of the day an OCT scanner is not an optometrist. Scans should be recommended when they will provide useful additional information.

We are committed to using all our available diagnostic tools and we strongly believe the best place to start is our comprehensive eye examination. The simple, vital step of spending time to collect relevant history, which requires careful listening and no technology, guides us to the best combination of diagnostic testing needed including OCT.

Ortho-K lenses deliver clear result on the touch field

Rodney College student Georgia Brierly has just returned from a touch competition in Europe, where she represented the NZ Barbarians U18 Girls Sevens team against club sides from Sweden and the Netherlands.

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Conveniently Georgia has been able to ditch her glasses thanks to her orthokeratology (Ortho-K) lenses that correct her eyesight as she sleeps. Advances in Ortho-K, mean Georgia no longer has to wear glasses or contact lenses during the day.

Ortho-K involves gently reshaping the cornea of the eye to temporarily modify or eliminate refractive error - including short sightedness or myopia.

While the process has been practised for almost 40 years, results were quite variable and unpredictable. However, in the last 10 years new technology has become available to accurately map the corneal shape and manufacture lenses that will achieve a controlled and precise correction in the eye. In addition, new developments in lens materials have been made that enable safe overnight wear to be possible.

Optometrists fitting Ortho-K soon realised that young people wearing these lenses to correct short- sightedness didn’t progress or get worse like those who wore regular glasses or soft contact lenses. Numerous studies confirmed that wearing Ortho-K lenses stopped or slowed kids from getting more short-sighted.

“Rates of short-sightedness have been increasing worldwide; in the US rates of myopia (short-sightedness) have increased from 25 per cent to 42 per cent in 30 years and by 2050 it is predicted that 50 per cent of the population will be short-sighted, doubling what the rate was in 2000,” Claire McDonald says.

“Our concerns are also the more short-sighted you become, there is more risk your eyes will develop cataracts, retinal detachments, macular degeneration and glaucoma. So Ortho-K offers both short term and long term benefits”.

Ortho-k is now a safe, viable and reversible alternative to refractive surgery. The cornea, while being mouldable, will return to its original shape if lens wear is stopped.

“You simply sleep in your lenses, then wake up and remove them, and enjoy clear vision all day.”

Georgia said she enjoys playing touch while being able to see clearly without having to think about using corrective contact lenses, and her mum, Rachel, tells us “Ortho-K has changed Georgia’s life”.

Meditation Linked to Helping Glaucoma Patients

We are always keen to hear ways our lifestyle can positively benefit our health, read on. A study by doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has found that lowering eye pressure in people with glaucoma can be achieved by meditating.

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Glaucoma, a disease which damages the optic nerve of the eye, is the leading cause of blindness in India, impacting over 12 million people.

“Lowering eye pressure is the only proven therapy for glaucoma and this is currently achieved with eye drops, laser therapy or surgery. Like all medications, eye drops have a cost and side effects, and many struggle with drops as a lifelong therapy,” said Dr. Tanuj Dada, Professor of Ophthalmology at the RP Centre, AIIMS.

90 glaucoma patients were selected and randomly divided into two groups. One group was required to perform meditation and breathing exercises, as instructed by a yoga instructor, for an hour each morning over 21 days as well as take their glaucoma medications. The second group only took glaucoma medications.

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After three weeks the results showed significant reduced eye pressure (mean pressure falling from 19 mmHg to 13 mmHg) in the meditation group. Changes to stress hormones and improved wellbeing were also recorded for this group.

Positive changes were also seen in the expression of retinal ganglion cell and optic nerve genes, which could potentially protect the eye from future damage and blindness.

“We know that glaucoma patients have high levels of anxiety and stress as they suffer from a potentially blinding disorder. We also are aware of the fact that stress leads to elevation of blood pressure but seldom think about its impact on eye pressure,” said Dr. Raj Kumar Yadav, Professor in-charge of Integral Health Clinic, Department of Physiology at AIIMS.

“This is the first study in the world which offers robust scientific evidence for lowering eye pressure with meditation, by targeting the brain and improving both the eye condition as well as general health of the patients,” he said.

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The meditation technique is simple and can be easily learnt by all glaucoma patients. It is important to remember that patients should not stop using their glaucoma medications, and regular eye checks should continue as usual.

The study was funded by the Ministry of AYUSH.

Don't flush your contact lenses down the sink! Contact lens plastics could be dangerous to aquatic life?

Researchers are advising us to stop flushing used contact lenses (CLs) down the sink. Instead put them out with other solid plastic rubbish.

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In the US it is estimated that around 15-20% of the 45 million American contact lens (CL) wearers flush their lenses down the sink or toilet. The result - anywhere from 6 to 10 metric tons of plastic CLs end up in wastewater treatment plants.

CLs are unlike other plastic waste (often made with a combination of polymethylmethacrylate, silicones, and fluoropolymers), so the effect of wastewater treatment on CLs was unknown. This sparked Professor Rolf Halden and colleagues from Arizona State University to find out how CLs break down and whether they pose a threat to aquatic life.

They exposed polymers found in CLs to anaerobic and aerobic micro-organisms (which would be present at wastewater treatment plants).

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They reported, “When the plastic loses its structural strength, it will break down physically, leading to smaller plastic particles which would ultimately lead to the formation of microplastics. Aquatic organisms can mistake microplastics for food and since plastics are indigestible, this dramatically affects the marine animals’ digestive system. These animals are part of a long food chain. Some eventually find their way to the human food supply, which could lead to unwanted human exposure to plastic contaminants and pollutants that stick to the surfaces of the plastics.”

The researchers have also called on CL companies to address the way their products are ultimately disposed.