Tag Archives: eye problems

Telemedicine – A Revolutionary Blindness Screening Tool?

Telemedicine can be useful for various types of screening and monitoring of diseases (for example Telestroke monitoring), but unfortunately both doctors and patients are slow-moving to embrace such a convenient answer to health issues that can be caught early and fixed, like diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease associated with diabetes that causes progressive damage to the retinas, often leading to total blindness if left undetected or untreated. Diabetic retinopathy affects up to 80% of diabetics who have had the disease for longer than a couple decades, however, with early detection and regular check-ups, medications and lifestyle changes, retinopathy can be slowed or even stopped. The problem is detecting it in the first place. Many people don’t get the opportunity to regularly (if ever) visit an eye doctor, and the problem is so gradual that some people don’t realize just how bad their eyes have gotten until it is too late to reverse damage.

A Potential Fix?

Recently in Engliand, the implementation of a nationwide telehealth program utilizing mobile blindness and retinopathy screening units has caught thousands of cases early enough to treat, effectively neutralizing diabetic retinopathy as England’s leading cause of blindness. Such a program in the United States could achieve similarly impressive results, if the American populous continues on to better embrace telemedicine.

Telemedicine and Retinopathy of Prematurity

While diabetes eye screening is just an idea so far in America, a relatively new telemedicine system has been actively preventing newborn blindness here, targeting and helping prevent the terrifying condition retinopathy of prematurity (RoP). Sadly, few are aware of the serious blindness risk faced by premature babies born under 2 pounds. They face this devastating type of retina destruction unless it is detected and treated within their first month of life. Thanks to telemedicine, necessary screening is becoming more available to help detect this vision problems of babies.

Last Look at Telemedicine for Eye Care

Telemedicine eye screening could be revolutionary when it comes to providing cost effective screenings to diabetic patients who can’t otherwise access eye care, rural patients, those without health insurance or those in nursing homes. Assistant professor of ophthalmology at Kellogg Eye Center, Dr. Maria Woodward says of telemedicine for eye screenings “Telemedicine has been shown to be a safe method to provide monitoring for diabetic eye care.” However, in a recent study only about 4% of people polled even heard about telemedicine – so there certainly needs to be more awareness to increase acceptance and demand so these services can become available to the general populace. So hopefully, we will begin to see more support and demand for a service similar to England’s which can revolutionize diabetic retinopathy just like it has started to do for RoP.

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A Peek at Pinkeye (Conjunctivitis)

Conjunctivitis (commonly known as ‘pinkeye’), is a condition whereby the thin layer covering the white of the eye and the tissue in the eyelid becomes inflamed. Conjunctivitis can have several different episodic causes, or can be a recurrent symptom of a larger underlying condition.

What Causes Acute Conjunctivitis?

There are various potential causes of pinkeye, some of which are contagious and some are not. Causes of isolated cases of pinkeye include:

  • Bacterial infection – common among small children (usually daycare and primary school aged), pinkeye infection is very contagious, often spreading through groups of children rapidly. It is caused by harmful bacteria such as E. Coli which a child may come in contact with and accidentally introduce to their eye causing an infection.
  • Viral conjunctivitis – causes similar symptoms of bacterial pinkeye but may last a little longer and cannot be helped by antibiotics. It usually affects people of all ages.
  • Irritantbased conjunctivitis – when a foreign object like a contact lens or chemical substance (such as shampoo) is introduced to the eye it can cause a type of reaction resulting in conjunctivitis.

What Health Conditions Are Associated with Conjunctivitis? 

Sometimes conjunctivitis is caused by, or associated with other health conditions. Some health conditions that may cause recurrent conjunctivitis include:

  • Allergies
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Dry eye
  • Certain types of arthritis (such as rheumatoid arthritis)
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases
  • Untreated sexually transmitted diseases
  • Rocky mountain spotted fever (RMSF)

What Are The Symptoms?

Symptoms of conjunctivitis may vary depending on the cause, but most often it causes:

  • Itching
  • Discomfort or pain
  • Redness and irritation
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Crusty discharge
  • Unusually watery eyes
  • Minor swelling

What is the treatment?

Some types of pinkeye can be treated and others cannot. If the infection is bacterial antibiotics or drops may be given in moderate cases. In the case of dry eye or allergies an optometrist can prescribe special drops based on your condition. In cases of chronic inflammatory illnesses that cause pinkeye, your doctor may change up your medication or prescribe steroid drops for the eyes. Be careful about using OTC eye drops, as some types contain ingredients that actually irritate the eye more.

Pinkeye Prevention

To prevent contracting contagious viral or bacterial pinkeye you should maintain good hygiene and avoid touching your face in public areas where contaminants are all around. Wash hands or sanitize before eating or touching your face and encourage your child to do so as well. Do not share makeup, and be sure to replace eye make up every few months to avoid old bacteria entering your eye. Wash pillowcases in hot water and detergent to ensure they are bacteria free. You should also wash your eye out right away if you get something harmful in it.

 

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