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Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

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Host: Scott LaMar

Radio Smart Talk: Blindness Awareness Month

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Oct 9, 2012 1:52 PM

Radio Smart Talk for Wednesday, October 10:


Some 314 million people are visually impaired and 45 million are blind, according to the World Health Organization.  Eighty percent of those who lose sight could have prevented it.

Cataracts cause almost 40% of the blindness worldwide and the biggest reason nothing is done about it is  poor access to care.  Not surprisingly, most visually impaired people live in developing countries.  However, eye care and disease detection is improving in those countries while more Americans are reporting sight-related health problems.

October is World Blindness Awareness Month when word is spread to bring attention to eye care, prevention of blindness and eye examinations.

Joining us on Radio Smart Talk will be the Execuitive Director of the Tri-County Association for the Blind Danette and optometrist Jennifer Galbraith.

Do you have a question about your sight?

Listen to the program:

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  • Natalie Hahn Seitz img 2012-10-10 07:30

    I have a question regarding where to seek eye care.I wear both contacts and glasses and have my annual eye exam through a LensCrafters.However in this past year I have had a couple of issues with my eye,unrelated to vision, and have gone to the same Physician for care.This past week I was diagnosed with inflamation in one eye and I was prescribed eye drops.My question is-Am I receiving the same quality of care as if I were to go to an independent eye care provider?
    Also,just for clarification-what is the difference between an ophthalmologist and an optician?

  • Daila Ippolito img 2012-10-10 07:35

    I wear contacts all the time and I was sleeping in them. I just recently went to the eye doctor because my left eye got very irritated and I notice that when I took the contacts out and put my glasses I noticed I was a little dizzy. I closed my left eye and I was able to see fine out of my right eye. I closed my right eye and everything was very blurry in my left eye. I went to the eye doctor and they could not get my vision to 2020 in my left eye. The eye doctor said that my cornea was dying because of the lack of oxygen it was getting. She has my taking eye drops only in my left eye. Is this something that is reversible or will I forever have this blurry vision in my left eye?

  • Peggy Neely Davidson img 2012-10-10 08:15

    I notice my eyes are slow to adjust back to a normal view after looking at my iphone for a while. I'm wondering if lutein vitamins really do have a positive effect on elasticity and would help. About me: I'm in early 50s and don't wear prescription glasses, just cheater/readers at 2.0 very often for all reading/computer/close work.

    • DrJenOD img 2012-10-10 09:51

      Peggy, I answered your question below.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2012-10-10 08:27

    Email from Listener 1,

    I wear contacts all the time and I was sleeping in them. I just recently went to the eye doctor because my left eye got very irritated and I notice that when I took the contacts out and put my glasses I noticed I was a little dizzy. I closed my left eye and I was able to see fine out of my right eye. I closed my right eye and everything was very blurry in my left eye. I went to the eye doctor and they could not get my vision to 2020 in my left eye. The eye doctor said that my cornea was dying because of the lack of oxygen it was getting. She has my taking eye drops only in my left eye. Is this something that is reversible or will I forever have this blurry vision in my left eye?

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2012-10-10 08:27

    Email from Sam,

    I am 40 year old female and I notice in last 3 years a clear bubble on the white part of my eye. What is it? What causes it? Does it go away?

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2012-10-10 08:28

    Email from Manuel,

    From time to time, I see advertisements for devices which promise to help correct near/far sightedness without surgery. Are these gimmicks, or do any of them actually work?

    Does exercising the muscles of the eyes do anything to assist in vision correction?

    What are the dangers of Lasik or other corrective surgeries as we age?

    • DrJenOD img 2012-10-10 09:51

      See answer below

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2012-10-10 08:28

    Email from Madison,

    I am wanting to get laser surgery to improve my eyes, but my eyes change a decent amount every time I get pregnant...I am currently 25 and was wondering if I get the surgery done and end up pregnant again is there a good chance my eyes will change yet again?

    • DrJenOD img 2012-10-10 09:55

      See reply below.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2012-10-10 08:31

    Email from Avid listener,

    I have a history of a lazy eye or amblyopia.

    I have completed vision therapy in the past with some positive effect, however aside from wearing a patch over my eye all the time it there anything that I can do to reverse or alter the progression of this disease. i.e. surgery?

    My fear is that if something traumatic happens, I will be left with very limited sight.

    • DrJenOD img 2012-10-10 09:51

      See answer below.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2012-10-10 08:35

    Email from Melina

    My Grandfather had macular degeneration. My mother has poor vision as do I and my children; we primarily have near sighted with astigmatism. I have a color difference in my right eye vs my left eye. Meaning when I close my right eye the colors are more vibrant with the left vs the right. When I asked my doctor regarding this, I was told one eye is dominant and see colors stronger. Is this a symptom of macular degeneration also is macular degeneration hereditary?

    • DrJenOD img 2012-10-10 09:47

      Hi Melina and Cindy, Yes, color vision does get affected by macular degeneration, however a lot of other things such as optic nerve function, lens function, and eye dominance can also affect perception or brightness of color. Macular degeneration will likely happen to everyone as we age, but genetics plays a big role in how old we are when we get macular degeneration. Eye color (blue), gender (female), smoking, and ultraviolet light exposure also are risk factors for macular degeneration. Given that the number of baby boomers with macular degeneration is going up, there is a lot of research going on in the field, so yes, I would expect there to be eventual treatments for the dry form. A great web site to keep up on ARMD research in language that is normal English, not doctor-ese is To the person that called in about Pattern Dystrophy, that web site does have some information on there that would affect you as well.

      Doug... Nasonex is a similar answer to the caller that asked about Simbicort. Both are steroids. About 30% of the population is what we call a 'steroid responder', meaning that eye pressures can increase while on a steroid and contribute to the formation of glaucoma. Steroids also accellerate cataract formation. It is important that patients educate themselves about the risks and benefits of any medication that they take, whether over the counter or prescription, even vitamins, so that they can make an educated assessment of whether the risks outweigh the benefits. That's why it is so important to have doctors that are willing to take time to answer questions. Having a good primary care physician, eye care provider (whether OD or MD), and dentist that you see regularly and answer all questions you may have is absolutely crucial. Remember that as doctors, we are on your payroll.

      Chad, I absolutely love you and thank you for the encouragement today. I am always your girl.

      Slyboots, Your doctor saw what is called corneal arcus. Lipid deposits around the perimeter of the cornea. Roughly 60% of the time, this is associated with high cholesterol, which is why we recommend getting it checked if the patient has arcus. 40% of the time, it's normal for the patient. It does nothing to the vision, just one of the many systemic factors that we check for in the course of checking the eyes (and why yearly eye exams are so important). The fact that you are young and healthy is exactly why you should be getting annual physicals including bloodwork with your primary care doc on a yearly or so basis. If your primary care doc does not know what your individual 'normals' are, it makes it much more difficult to truly diagnose problems in the future. Scarring from old corneal abrasions do not look like arcus. Great question though, I'm glad you brought this up!

      Michel, there are pros and cons to the multifocal implants, and there are several manufacturers out there. It is a great lens for the right candidate and in the hands of a good surgeon!

      WRS yes, retinal photos can be important parts of eye exams in some patients, however medical insurances do cover these photos in the event of any eye disease (floaters, diabetes, etc). Not all doctors participate with medical insurances, which is why you may be charged for the Optomap at some facilities and not others. For a patient with no ocular disease, it is nice to have at least one set of retinal scans, as comparing your eye today with a scan from several years ago can help us detect subtle changes, including those that go along with glaucoma.

  • Cindy img 2012-10-10 08:38

    My grandmother had macular degeneration and my mother currently has this, wet in one eye and dry in the other eye. Any information about a genetic component to this disease? Also, any treatments on the horizon for dry macular degeneration?

    • DrJenOD img 2012-10-10 09:52

      See above reply.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2012-10-10 08:42

    Email from Doug, Red Lion PA

    Recently, television adds for Nasonex mentioned a possible side effect of Glaucoma. (I stopped using it, but I had used it for about ten years).

    Should primary care doctors pay more attention to the long term use of common medications which can have serious side effects?

    'Your thoughts?

    • DrJenOD img 2012-10-10 09:53

      Hi Doug, I answered your question in the reply above here.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2012-10-10 08:43

    Email from Chad

    Can doc Jen explain to me when I look at her I think she is so beautiful?
    I know my eyes are great since she is my eye doctor and my wife.

    • DrJenOD img 2012-10-10 09:54

      I love you, hon :-)

  • slyboots5 img 2012-10-10 08:44

    i had corneal abrasions periodically in both eyes throughout my childhood. otherwise my vision was great. after being poked in the eye recently i suspected an abrasion and went to an optometrist. he immediately asked whether or not i have high cholesterol saying that he could see it on my corneas. should i be worried about high cholesterol or could he have been seeing scaring from past abrasions? i am young enough that i do not get regular blood work and do not know of any issues with cholesterol in the past. thanks.

    • DrJenOD img 2012-10-10 09:56

      See reply above.

    • DrJenOD img 2012-10-10 09:57

      See above reply.

    • DrJenOD img 2012-10-10 09:58

      See above reply.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2012-10-10 08:49

    Email from Michel
    I love the intraocular lens, no glasses, well worth the $1,000.

    • DrJenOD img 2012-10-10 09:55

      See above reply

  • wrs img 2012-10-10 09:24

    Age 73 - wear bifocal glasses

    On my annual eye check up they always want to do a couple of test that my insurances do not cover (e.g. optomap Retinal Exam) are these extra test needed?

    • DrJenOD img 2012-10-10 09:53

      See above reply.

  • DrJenOD img 2012-10-10 09:28

    Hi All! Thank you for all the comments and calls today. I'll try to answer some of the questions on here too :-) Some of you got yours on the air, so won't repeat answers here, but if you have follow ups, I'm happy to answer.

    Peggy... you are noticing the decrease in elasticity of the natural lens of the eye, unfortunately at this time there is nothing you can do to change that. Lutein is great for macular health, as it contributes to the protective pigmentation over the macula, it just won't do anything about the elasticity of the eye.

    Manuel... Yep, the ads you see are gimmicks. Generally, they won't hurt you, but they also won't help. Near/farsightedness is based on the size and shape of the eye, not a muscle. It's an optics/physics issue, not a health or muscle issue. There is Vision Therapy that does help with some eye conditions (eye teaming, convergence, etc), but not the prescription. Regarding dangers of refractive surgery... every surgery has it's risks. With LASIK for example, it can be glare, dislocation of the flap, dry eye, etc. The safety profile is quite good for the right candidate with reasonable expectations, so it's important to discuss the pros and cons with the eye doctor that knows your eyes and goals.

    Hi Madison, typically we like to see your prescription fairly stable over a two year period. Small refractive shifts are not a problem, and 25 is a great age to consider refractive surgery. Yes, pregnancy can shift prescription (I've picked up pregnancy twice in patients that had no idea they were pregnant), but often shifts back, and it's generally not a huge change. It's a great conversation to have with your eye doc.

    Avid Listener: Amblyopia does not progress. Amblyopia means that the brain did not get a clear image when you were a baby/young child, so did not learn how to see properly at a very young age. The younger the patient, the better the prognosis with regard to amblyopia treatment and ideally prevention, however even adults can have improvement. If you lost your dominant eye to injury or disease, even as an adult, your brain would learn how to see better with your amblyopic eye. Vision therapy is an option, as are Atropine eye drops (which a lot of docs are using now instead of patching the dominant eye, depending on the patient). I would suggest getting ahold of the book Fixing My Gaze by Susan Barry, PhD, an adult who underwent treatment for her amblyopia and lack of stereoscopic vision. A very good read.

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