Tag Archive | sight loss

Myopia Epidemic: Get Outside and Play

This morning twitter gifted me with a fascinating study published this year in Nature magazine entitled, “The myopia boom: Short-sightedness is reaching epidemic proportions. Some scientists think they have found a reason why.”

Myopia2The study reports alarming and very dramatic increases in myopia (the scientific term for near-sightedness/short-sightedness) worldwide with Asian myopia rates now well over 90% compared to 10-20% just sixty years ago.

Intriguing in the analysis is the finding that time spent outside correlates with myopia with the highest risk for developing myopia among children and adolescents spending the greatest amount of time indoors and the lowest risk experienced by those spending the most time out of doors.  Activity level was surprisingly not a factor, but light exposure is.

Our eyes need light, especially unfiltered, natural sunlight in order to be healthy.  We need to get out of doors and play.  And on nice days we need to move our classrooms out of doors, something I am pleased to say my teachers did from time to time, especially in springtime.

So get outside — even when the weather is a less than ideal — and help preserve and protect your sight.  You deserve nothing less than healthy eyes.

‘Ice Castles’ and Sight Loss: Classic Film Confuses Neurological with Optical Blindness

May 16th, 2012

1978’s movie “Ice Castles” is one of the most iconic of films featuring figure skating. It focuses on Alexis Winston, a promising champion skater who loses her sight after suffering a serious concussion following a jump gone wrong.

As much as I love this film, I came to recently realize, as someone with substantial sight loss due to traumatic brain injury (the same cause of Alexis’ sight loss), that the film is not quite so complimentary to those with sight loss as it appears. And, as with everything else, it is in the details that the problems arise.

Watch “Ice Castles” and you spend several minutes looking through Alexis’ eyes. We see a shadowy world of a little light and shadows. This feels right to the audience and does reflect some types of blind experience-but optical blindness, not neurological!

Optical blindness is very different than neurological blindness; the experience is very different. In optical blindness, the eye develops a defect that prevents the full, normal visual signal from being transmitted through the optic nerve to the visual cortex. Optical blindness can take many different forms-from glaucoma to macular degeneration to cataracts and beyond. In each of these disorders, the eye cannot sense and/or transmit the full visual signal-in part or entirely. It is the optically blind that experience blackness or just the “light and shadows” we see Alexis experiencing in the movie. Optical white noise fills in the gaps.

Neurological blindness, typically caused by a tumor or traumatic brain injury, experiences sight loss very differently. In neurological blindness, there is nothing wrong with the eyes themselves. The problem is in receiving, interpreting, and cognitively processing the signals from the eye. The experience is an absence of sight-a void in the visual experience. Nothing fills in the gaps (not darkness, not light). An area or aspect of sight is simply not there.

In my case, nothing exists outside of what I am directly looking at, though I can sense movement near me that is not in my tunnel field of view. These movements are felt on a pre-conscious level; my eyes see it, but what they see never reaches my stream of consciousness. In my tunnel vision, my acuity is good, but not perfect; there are depth cues I have no perception of-which is why color is my primary depth cue.

Alexis Winston could not have seen light and shadows if her sight loss were brain-centric like mine. Instead, she would have felt movement, not seen it and would have lacked any conscious awareness of large sections of her visual world; it doesn’t exist in your universe after such brain injuries.

Perhaps it is time we stop our current “one size fits all” concept of sight loss and recognize that every individual experiences sight loss differently. It is time to assume ability in the blind and visually impaired. We do not all see or not see alike nor need the same things-except for confidence in our abilities to work and live independently.

An intimate look at my life as a low vision author

This is one of the few pictures of me with a white cane taken in July 2010.  I'm only a size 2 in this picture following three years at the time of taking a very strong prescription migraine medicine that nearly killed me (I weighed just 83 lbs at the time).

This is one of the few pictures of me with a white cane taken in July 2010. I’m only a size 2 in this picture following three years at the time of taking a very strong prescription migraine medicine that nearly killed me (I weighed just 83 lbs at the time).

My dear friend Alexandra Butcher interviewed me this weekend regarding the special challenges I face as a low vision author.  Since I don’t want to be typecast into people’s stereotypes of the differently-abled, I usually don’t talk about my sight loss and my books at the same time.

This is one of the most intimate portraits ever of my life.