Halloween came and went, and of course eye care professionals are on high alert, warning our friends and family to go through the appropriate channels to acquire costume contact lenses. We all know too well how quickly a medical emergency can arise from a contaminated or ill-fitting contact lens. While I admire the artistic detailing that goes into designing these colored lenses, to be honest, this year my thought process took a hard pivot. I started to think about corneal dystrophies and how cosmetic or prosthetic contact lenses are an emotional solution for patients.
When it comes to air pollution and health, we most often think of its effects on our respiratory system, but consider that the eye is an organ with a surface constantly exposed to the environment. According to The Adverse Effects of Air Pollution, “Exposure to polluted outdoor air has been proven to be harmful to human eyes. On the other hand, indoor air pollution from environmental tobacco smoking, heating, cooking, or poor indoor ventilation is also related to several eye diseases...” (Lin CC, Chiu CC, Lee PY, et al. The Adverse Effects of Air Pollution on the Eye: A Review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022;19(3):1186. Published 2022 Jan 21. doi:10.3390/ijerph19031186)
The recent Presidential pardon of people convicted of marijuana possession under federal law and the call for an administrative review of whether marijuana should continue to be a Schedule 1 drug, the same classification as heroin and LSD, may prompt more questions to eye care professionals about its use for treating glaucoma. Recreational marijuana use is now legal in 19 states, Washington, D.C., and Guam. Cannabis use for medical purposes is legal in 37 states, four U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. The combination of better availability, increasing patient interest in alternative treatments, and the marketing campaigns of the expanding marijuana industry have more glaucoma patients asking whether it may be a therapeutic option.
We humans have three types of tears: basal tears that lubricate and protect our eyes, reflex tears stimulated by irritants (dust, wind), and emotional tears when we cry in response to feelings of joy, empathy, sorrow, compassion, and even physical pain. But what’s the difference among the three types of tears, and what do they do?
Color vision perception is an amazing and complex process involving the eye and the brain, and recently, researchers at the National Eye Institute (NEI) have decoded brain maps of human color perception. The brain uses light signals detected by the retina’s cone photoreceptors as the building blocks for color perception. Three types of cone photoreceptors detect light over a range of wavelengths. The brain mixes and categorizes these signals to perceive color in a process that is not well understood. However, a recent study opens a window into how color processing is organized in the brain, and how the brain recognizes and groups colors in the environment.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects approximately one in 44 children. ASD is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. People with ASD often have problems with social communication and interaction, and restricted or repetitive behaviors or interests, characteristics that can make life very challenging. As with other developmental issues, early detection and intervention can make a lifetime of difference. Currently, the average age for ASD diagnosis is 4 years of age, but researchers at Washington State University may have a noninvasive way to detect ASD in children younger than 2 years. (Washington State University. "Eye test could screen children for autism, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 August 2022. < www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/08/220822091047.htm >.)
Estimates are that 12.7 million people worldwide are blind due to corneal disease, yet only one in 70 who need corneal transplants from a human donor receives them, most likely because donated human corneas are scarce in countries where the need for them is greatest. A recent study had promising results, however, using a bioengineered implant as an alternative to the transplantation of donated human corneas. (Linköping University. "Bioengineered cornea can restore sight to the blind and visually impaired: Bioengineered corneal tissue for minimally invasive vision restoration in advanced keratoconus in two clinical cohorts." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 August 2022. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/08/220811135339.htm>.)
Tears are best known as an expression of emotion, both happy and sad, but as a fluid secreted by the body, tears contain specific proteins that can be early indicators, or biomarkers, of systemic disease in other body parts. Researchers have found biomarkers in tears for diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s diseases. A study published earlier this year by Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI), Tears as the Next Diagnostic Biofluid: A Comparative Study between Ocular Fluid and Blood, compared proteins found in blood plasma with those found in tears.
A research study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience revealed more about the eye-brain connection. Fifty subjects viewed optical illusions that evoked the perception of an expanding black hole, as compared to those that appeared in a previous study as an increase in brightness and tracked pupillary responses. (Front. Hum. Neurosci., 30 May 2022 Sec.Sensory Neuroscience, https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2022.877249)
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