Baltimore Washington Eye Center, Maryland

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Laser Pointers & Eye Injury Risk

Laser pointers are popular tools for meeting presentations and in the classroom or lecture hall, but did you know that they are also sold as toys? This could be a cause for concern as the greater a laser pointer's output power, the more likely it will cause serious eye injuries. Understanding
the safety of that laser pointer in your desk drawer or in your kid's hand isn't always obvious but we can share some information that may be useful.


As power increases above five milliwatts, the time margin for safe exposure decreases and permanent eye and skin damage can occur quickly. However, the output power of laser pointers is not immediately apparent to the user. Laser pointers often lack appropriate labeling or are mislabeled, and definitive testing of individual pointers is beyond the reach of the average consumer. What we know for sure is that even the briefest exposure to high-powered blue handheld laser products can cause serious eye injuries.

Researchers reporting the results of a study in Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology found that if a laser with less than five milliwatts of output power is directed at someone's eye, that person can blink or turn away without suffering an eye injury. However, the natural protective mechanisms of the eye-such as the blink reflex -are ineffective against lasers with an output power greater than five milliwatts, and severe retinal damage may occur, even after momentary exposure.

Here's what the FDA advises:

  • Never aim or shine a laser pointer at anyone.
  • Don't buy laser pointers for your children.
  • Before purchasing a laser pointer, make sure it has the following information on the label:
  • a statement that it complies with Chapter 21 CFR (the Code of Federal Regulations);
  • the manufacturer or distributor's name and the date of manufacture;
  • a warning to avoid exposure to laser radiation; and
  • the class designation, ranging from Class I to IIIa. Class IIIb and IV products should be used only by individuals with proper training and in applications where there is a legitimate need for these high-powered products.
The problem is that many laser pointers lack labels or have inaccurate labels and the researchers found that 60 percent of the sampled laser pointer products that the FDA tests are overpowered compared with what the label says. Those pointers may be powered in the 10s or 100s of milliwatts!

How do you know if your laser pointer is overpowered?
Ideally, consumers could buy a laser pointer with the certainty that it's powered under five milliwatts but this isn’t possible based on the poor labeling and compliance.

The FDA says that if you have a laser pointer that isn't labeled or if you don't trust the labeling, consider the following:

  • If the pointer is small and runs on button batteries, its output probably is less than five milliwatts.
  • If it's pen-sized and runs on AA or AAA batteries, it's likely to be more powerful and may exceed five milliwatts.
  • If it's flashlight-sized and runs on a cluster of AA or AAA batteries or runs on lithium batteries, it likely exceeds five milliwatts.
  • Pointers sold with battery chargers probably drain their batteries quickly and are likely to be overpowered.
  • Some pointers are sold with a removable cap that spreads the beam into a pattern. If used without the cap, the beam becomes a single beam that could exceed 5 milliwatts.
  • Look for keywords that sellers might use to indicate a pointer is highly powered without saying that it's over five milliwatts: powerful, bright, ultra, super, military, military grade, super bright, high power, ultra bright, strong, balloon pop, burn, burning, adjustable focus, lithium battery, lithium powered.
  • Look for videos or photos that show the laser burning, melting, balloon popping or show a bright, well-defined beam of light
  • Look for purchaser comments on websites that tout the brightness or power of the product.
Blue & Violet Laser Pointers Are the Most Dangerous!

Blue and Violet laser pointers are the most dangerous because the human eye actually is less sensitive to blue and violet. So, while a person would react quickly to a red or green laser, that person may not blink or turn away as fast from an equally powerful blue or violet light, creating a greater likelihood of injury.

If you or someone you know is concerned about laser pointer use and eye safety, please have them call us at Baltimore Washington Eye Center by calling 800-495-3937, visiting Baltimore Washington Eye Center, Google+ or facebook.com/baltimorewashingtoneyecenter.

Baltimore Washington Eye Center is a leading eye care practice with office locations at 200 Hospital Drive, Suite 600, Glen Burnie, Maryland 21061 and River Hill Professional Center, 6100 Day Long Lane, Suite 207, Clarksville, Maryland 21029, serving the greater Baltimore and Washington, D.C. area.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Pink Eye Conjunctivitis: Do I Have It?

Many patients call Baltimore Washington Eye Center just about every day asking how they know if they have conjunctivitis or “pink eye”. Without coming in for an actual external eye exam it is difficult if not impossible to tell. But when you do come in, the doctors certainly know what to look for. There are a number of signs and symptoms that help us determine if you have “pink eye” or conjunctivitis. If you have a bacterial infection causing pink eye conjunctivitis, you will usually have very red eyes. You may find crusting on your eyelids that can make them stick together as well as a heavy, pus-like discharge from your eyes that may be greenish at times. This infection may spread to both eyes. If you have a viral conjunctivitis we often will find a very red, swollen eye, crusty eyelids and a more watery discharge. This discharge can also have strands of mucus or white, ropy strands. While many cases of viral pink eye infect only one eye, this infection can also spread to the other eye. If you have an allergic conjunctivitis and your allergies are causing your conjunctivitis, it will often look similar to viral conjunctivitis. Your eyes will be red and tearing. However, they will also be itchy. It is likely you may have a stuffy, runny or itchy nose as well.

Generally our treatment is mostly supportive. Antibiotics do not treat viral infections but do work well in treating bacterial conjunctivitis. Regardless of the cause, it is important to minimize exposure of others by washing your hands frequently and throwing away used tissues. Do not share towels or pillow cases. Consider staying home from work or school until you are symptom-free for 24 hours. If you are a contact lens wearer, you should discontinue their use and stick with glasses until your infection clears. Then start with a fresh pair of lenses and a clean lens case.

If you or someone you know is concerned about pink eye or conjunctivitis you are encouraged to schedule an eye examination at Baltimore Washington Eye Center by calling 800-495-3937, visiting Baltimore Washington Eye Center, Google+ or facebook.com/baltimorewashingtoneyecenter.

Baltimore Washington Eye Center is a leading eye care practice with office locations at 200 Hospital Drive, Suite 600, Glen Burnie, Maryland 21061 and River Hill Professional Center, 6100 Day Long Lane, Suite 207, Clarksville, Maryland 21029, serving the greater Baltimore and Washington, D.C. area.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Eye Movements & Early Alzheimer’s Disease

The NIH National Institute on Aging, estimates that more than 5 million people may have Alzheimer Disease. Developing better methods of intervention to detect, diagnose and treat Alzheimer’s Disease is an important national healthcare priority.

According to researchers reporting in Investigative Ophthalmology & Vision Science a subtle change in eye movements may provide a useful diagnostic tool for the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease. In general, eye movements follow a reproducible pattern during normal reading. Each eye movement ends up in a fixation point, which allows the brain to process the incoming information and to program the following movements. The researchers found that Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) produces eye movement abnormalities and disturbances in reading with those patients with early AD displaying abnormal fixation patterns. So we now know that evaluation of eye movement behavior during reading might provide a useful tool for a more precise early diagnosis of AD and for monitoring the progress or stability of Alzheimer’s Disease.


 If you or someone you know is concerned about Alzheimer’s Disease you are encouraged to schedule an eye examination at Baltimore Washington Eye Center by calling 800-495-3937, visiting Baltimore Washington Eye Center, Google+ or facebook.com/baltimorewashingtoneyecenter.


 Baltimore Washington Eye Center is a leading eye care practice with office locations at 200 Hospital Drive, Suite 600, Glen Burnie, Maryland 21061 and River Hill Professional Center, 6100 Day Long Lane, Suite 207, Clarksville, Maryland 21029, serving the greater Baltimore and Washington, D.C. area. 


Friday, September 4, 2015

Eye Health & Vision: Lifestyle & Choices

Patients always ask us how they can take good care of their eyes and prevent eye health problems and vision loss. Everyone can contribute to their own eye health and vision by following some basic tips and guidelines.  

Have Regular Comprehensive Dilated Eye Exams
Making sure to schedule regular dilated eye health and vision exams-at intervals your eye doctor recommends-is the first step to maintaining eye health and good vision. Early detection, diagnosis and treatment when necessary allows us to find eye diseases, conditions and problems so that we can address them before they are sight threatening. Many eye diseases do not have early warning signs, but signs and symptoms can be identified during a comprehensive dilated eye exam.


Know Your Family History of Eye Problems
Many eye health and vision problems and eye diseases tend to run in families. This suggests that if an eye disease is present in any family member it may put you at greater risk of that eye problem. This is particularly the case for eye diseases such as glaucoma and age related macular degeneration (AMD). Stay abreast of the eye diseases and conditions as they exist in your family, AND BE SURE TO TELL US ABOUT THEM WHEN YOU COME IN FOR AN EYE EXAM.

Nutrition and Diet Affect Eye Health & Vision
Make sure to pay attention to what you eat and try to include a steady diet of foods high in important nutrients that support good vision, such as the following:
  • Vegetables: collard greens, bell peppers, broccoli, tomatoes and dark, leafy greens, such as kale and spinach
  • Nuts: sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts and peanuts
  • Fruits: strawberries and blueberries
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: tuna, halibut and salmon
  • Beans: chickpeas, kidney beans and legumes

Watch Your Weight & Exercise
Being overweight exposes you to a greater risk of diabetes. In fact there is an epidemic of diabetes in the U.S. today. Diabetic eye problems include a greater risk of glaucoma, cataracts and sight threatening diabetic retinopathy. Exercise-even moderate amounts of daily exercise reduce your risk of developing MANY eye diseases and problems.

Wear Protective Eyewear
Eye injury prevention is relatively easy-if you wear the appropriate protective eyewear when taking part in sports or home activities that expose you to risk. It is estimated that some 90% of eye injuries can be prevented by taking a minute to review the need for protective eyeglasses before doing home projects, trimming branches or shrubs, using saws, tool or weed whackers-and on and on. In addition, when spending time outdoors or near the water, wear sunglasses designed to block out 99 to 100 percent of the sun’s UV-A and UV-B rays.
Be smart and be safe.

Stop Smoking
Not only does smoking cause a host of cardiovascular and systemic vascular problems, but smoking is now recognized as increasing the risk of cataracts, macular degeneration and, all of which could lead to vision loss. We also now know that if you do smoke, there is considerable benefit in stopping!

Avoid Computer Eyestrain
CRT or video display terminals used for computers are well known to expose you eye fatigue, headache and more troubling-dry eye problems. When working on the computer or using a smartphone or tablet, practice the 20-20-20 rule to reduce eyestrain-that is, every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for about 20 seconds. If you have any sensation of dryness, grittiness or “something in your eyes”, use an eye surface lubricant or eye drop to replenish your tears.

If you or someone you know wish to learn more about eye health and vision you are encouraged to schedule an eye examination at Baltimore Washington Eye Center by calling 800-495-3937, visiting Baltimore Washington Eye Center, Google+ or facebook.com/baltimorewashingtoneyecenter.

Baltimore Washington Eye Center is a leading eye care practice with office locations at 200 Hospital Drive, Suite 600, Glen Burnie, Maryland 21061 and River Hill Professional Center, 6100 Day Long Lane, Suite 207, Clarksville, Maryland 21029, serving the greater Baltimore and Washington, D.C. area.