How Can an Eye Exam Detect High Cholesterol?

“Why is my eye changing color?” is a question we are asked from some patients. While there are conditions that can change the actual color of the eyes, typically the “color change” they are noticing is an accumulation of cholesterol deposits in the cornea. Yes, cholesterol!

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 27.9% of Americans have high cholesterol. Most of the time high cholesterol has no symptoms, so many people may not even know they are affected. More importantly, if people are aware of cholesterol, they seldom think about how it affects their eyes. Neither are they aware that a complete, dilated eye exam can detect signs of high cholesterol.

When Dr. Nate and I evaluate the eyes during an exam, we look for signs of high cholesterol in several places:

  • EYELIDS

Yellow fatty deposits of cholesterol can show up on the eyelids or on the skin around the eyelids, called xanthelasma (zan-the-laz-muh).

  • CORNEA

With the microscope, we look for cholesterol deposits in the cornea, called arcus. Normally the cornea is a clear tissue on the front of the eye, but when cholesterol deposits develop, it causes a white or gray ring to develop along the outer edge. The cornea is a natural place for cholesterol to accumulate over time, so this is a common finding in patients over 60 years old.

  • RETINA

A piece of cholesterol, or plaque, may be seen in the arteries of the retina after dilating your eyes. If there is a small plaque in the retinal vessels of the back of the eye, it is likely that there are larger plaques in other places of the body. Large plaques increase your risk for heart attack and stroke. This is one more reason why we encourage patients to have their eyes dilated at their annual eye exams. With both eyes dilated, Dr. Nate and I can look closely at those vessels to rule-out these kinds of concerns.

If Dr. Nate or I find any of these signs, especially if you are under 60 years of age, we may ask you more questions about your lipid levels or even recommend that you get blood tests done with your primary care doctor.

Don’t delay your annual eye exam! Getting your eyes checked should be included in your routine “appointment days.”

-Dr. Beth

Amblyopia Video Game Treatments on the Horizon

In a recent blog post on new treatments for amblyopia (sometimes called “lazy laze”), I mentioned the Tetris study from a few years ago.* When this study was done, it was exciting because it was just a hint of the possibility of treatments that lay ahead.

Well, this morning I see in the Wall Street Journal “Digits” blog a story called “To Play Ubisoft’s ‘Dig Rush,’ You’ll Need a Prescription”. It reports about a new game from a major game company where thepoint of the game is to train the eyes to work together. This approach differs from the traditional treatment for amblyopia in which the stronger eye is patched in an effort to force the weaker eye to do more work. The blog also points out that figures from the National Eye Institute reveal that approximately two or three of every 100 kids may have amblyopia.

Here are some very compelling images from the game. As you can see this is the type of red/blue therapy where one eye sees the red images, one eye sees the blue images, and both eyes see the gray images. Optometists have used this for decades, but not with such fancy graphics.

amblyopia video game

amblyopia video game

I am also very interested in a therapy game for amblyopia and strabismus call “Diplopia“. It is based on the head-mounted virtual reality display Oculus Rift.  I do not know a great deal about, other than it is being studied for use in clinics and looks AWESOME! You can see it in action in this video here.

amblyopia video game

It will be quite some time before these types of amblyopia video games are available for mainstream treatment of patients, but I think you will agree that  they are pretty exciting!

-Dr. Nate

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* Just for fun you can play a Magic Eye version of Tetris here. It is not the Tetris used in the study, but it is interesting.

Dr. Nate Talks About Vision and Reading Problems at the Healthy Family Fair

Healthy Family Fair

Bright Eyes loves to be involved in the Tampa Bay community. So when we were invited to sponsor and participate in Tampa Bay Healthy Family Fair, we jumped at the chance.

The fair is organized by the Tampa Bay Mom’s Group, an incredibly dedicated group for moms (and dads) to share information and socialize. The group regularly puts on events such as the Healthy Family Fair. The fair features all of this:

  • Goody-bags for the first 150 families
  • Free Entry into Raffles & Giveaways
  • Access to all the Museum’s open Exhibits
  • Access to a Special Limited Engagement Exhibit of The Wizard of Oz
  • Goodies, Treats, Samples & Swag from a Variety of Vendors
  • A Chance to Shop with some Great Local Businesses
  • Education & Information Sessions with Experts Available to Answer your Questions
  • 50% off Admission goes directly to support The Glazer Children’s Museum
  • And just outside the museum, The Gasparilla Festival of the Arts will be taking place!

The fair is happening at one of our favorite spots – the Glazer Children’s Museum this Saturday February 28th. You could win 4 free tickets here.

Join us at 2 pm, as our own Dr. Nate will be presenting his talk:

Kids with Reading Problems: Could It Be Their Eyes?

Most school age children have healthy eyes and 20/20 vision. But many of these same children have problems learning to read because they have a hard time moving and focusing their eyes to get the information from the page to their brain. Learn what the warning signs are for learning-related vision problems and what can be done about it. 

Here is the complete agenda for the special sessions:

agenda poster to print