Following Up: The Annual Eye Exam

Like any thoughtful healthcare organization, we like to follow up on the wellness of our patients.

When was the last time you went to your local optometrist? If your answer is, “I see fine” or “I have never encountered any problems with my sight, so why should I have to go” then you may be ignoring complications unbeknownst to you. Eye exams are not just for correcting refractive error (i.e. nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism). An exam may find that you are not seeing as well as you believe, but a vital part of this assessment is to seek out conditions and diseases that are frequently silent. This means symptoms of eye disease go unnoticed or unrecognized.

When you go for an eye exam, your eye specialist will evaluate a number of conditions in a relatively short amount of time. After the doctor checks your visual acuity and your prescription, the doctor will look for a condition known as Amblyopia. Amblyopia occurs when your brain is not communicating with one eye correctly resulting in vision impairment in that one eye. Strabismus (crossed-eyes) can cause Amblyopia. This can lead to impairment in both visual development and life development, especially in adolescents. Eye exams are imperative for children as they are constantly learning their environment and receiving an education at an extremely impressionable age. The last thing any parent wants is hampered development because of troubled vision.

The most important part of your eye exam is the assessment to seek out silent killers known as eye disease. Eye disease is often symptomless in the early stage and untreatable when diagnosed in the later stages. Common diseases include macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of blindness. This is why getting an eye exam often and early is imperative.

Fortunately, half of all blindness can be prevented. Prevention relies heavily on completion of your annual eye assessments. If conducted, there is a much higher chance that your eye doctor diagnoses an eye disease like diabetic retinopathy in an early stage, which can lead to treatment and prevention of blindness. In some cases, an eye exam could even detect the incidence of diabetes before your general practitioner. According to the American Diabetes Association, African Americans are 1.7 times more likely to have diabetes than non-hispanic whites. This is exceptionally important, especially in Georgia, because according to the 2010 US Census African Americans make up 30% of our entire population. Comprehensive eye exams can be life changing and it is imperative to seek out these diseases before blindness is certain.

The CDC reports that people who take adequate care of their eyes and vision have a lesser chance of heart problems, high blood pressure, strokes, poor hearing, poor development in adolescents, and diabetes. It is imperative to make an appointment every year, not just for eye health but as an indicator for your overall wellbeing. Like Transformers, there’s more than meets the eye.

September is National Fruit and Veggies-More Matters Month!

Here at the Georgia Lions Lighthouse Foundation we are hard at work to improve the level of independence and freedom by providing sight saving vision surgeries and eyeglasses but I bet you are wondering where a healthy diet and National Fruit and Veggies-More Matter Month comes into the picture.

Did you know that your diet has a huge impact on your vision health? New medical studies have shown that fruits and veggies have a bigger impact on your vision health than you think.

With just about everyone and their mother looking for the next miracle diet, healthy buzzwords like super-foods, antioxidants, beta-carotene and polyphenols, have been have been tossed around like a salad during National Salad month, which is during the month of May– if you were wondering.

These health food buzzwords are part of a family of chemicals found in plant foods like, veggies, fruits, beans and grains, called phytochemicals, which is the common name for a wide variety of plant-produced compounds.

Foods such as kale, broccoli, carrots, spinach, collard greens, and peaches are known to carry certain phytochemicals like beta-carotene and lutine. These naturally occurring chemicals have been shown to promote good eye health, lower risk of cancer and a healthy heart. Studies have shown, eating a balanced diet with these sorts of foods can provide your body with a natural energy boost, help you lose weight and even prevent serious diseases like diabetes or cancer.

So, next time you are at the farmer’s market, community garden or grocery store, an easy way to tell if something is rich in eye-healthy beta-carotene is by color. Try to remember orange and leafy dark veggies–hence Carrots (beta-CAROTENE).

Next time you shop, make sure you keep your eyes in mind, and stock up on those phytochemicals essential to eye health!

Volunteer Spotlight: Gary

“To serve is beautiful, but only if it is done with joy and a whole heart and a free mind.”
-Pearl S. Buck, writer, Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winner

At the Georgia Lions Lighthouse Foundation, this principle is what defines our dedicated volunteers. We are grateful for the tremendous support we have, and we would like to share a little bit about some of the individuals and groups who consistently shown their commitment and dedication to our cause. These people come in with a smile on their face, giving their time to help us help Georgians in need.

One individual is Gary Vaughn. Mr. Vaughn first heard about the Lighthouse Foundation when he came with a church group to clean eyeglasses. His interest in vision care and optometry sparked his desire to continue his involvement in the Lighthouse organization. He has since been coming in every week.

Through his experience, what he has enjoyed the most is the opportunity to do different tasks during each visit. This has included preparing a guide for non-medical mission groups to help them fit glasses, reconditioning and documenting thirty-five eye screening instruments, conducting eye screenings at health fairs, fitting glasses and entering prescriptions at clinics, manning the booth at a community awareness event, reading prescriptions of donated eyeglasses, and replacing bulbs in lighting fixtures around the office.

He feels that his volunteer work here has been rewarding, knowing that he is doing something to help people. He is also glad he can answer the concerns of people in the clinic and in the eye screenings. Mr. Vaughn enjoys working with the staff, and he continues to be a kind and dedicated member of our community.



Connecting the Dots: Hearing Loss and Dementia


Recent studies have indicated a link between hearing loss and dementia. Approximately 48 million Americans have hearing loss, and most have sensorineural hearing loss in which the hair cells in the inner ear are damaged. About one-third to two-thirds of adults ages 70 and older have hearing loss, but only 15% reportedly get hearing aids. Furthermore, about 7 million people in the US have some form of dementia, and numbers are expected to double every 20 years.[1] Dementia includes many diseases of mental decline with Alzheimer’s disease accounting for 60-80%. More than 5 million Americans are affected by Alzheimer’s, and it is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S.

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19 Years Later: A Story of Charity and Thanks

At the age of 25, my lifelong battle against a rare, genetic and brutally painful eye disease finally took its toll and rendered me almost legally blind. My young son, who was just a year old at the time, was also experiencing episodic bouts of pain and severe sensitivity to light which meant he too had inherited the dreaded disease. Each erosion or, scratch across our corneas, occurred for any number of reasons; simply upon opening our eyes from sleep, or a wisp of hair across the eye, or for no known reason at all. Each erosion caused a lattice work pattern of abrasions to appear across the surface of the eye. Each and every time my infant son or I experienced an erosion, we were confined to bed. The extreme photophobias meant those days in bed were spent in utter darkness. Not a candle, not the flicker of a television, not a ray of sunlight could be tolerated. My son was so young that scarring of his cornea had not yet become a concern. The horror of the pain in someone so young? Yes. Blindness not yet. For me though, the recurrent corneal erosions and central corneal clouding had finally disabled me.

I had no insurance, could not allow myself to continue to drive, correcting my vision with glasses was not a reality and faking it at work was out of the question. Between his bouts and mine it was pretty hard to hold down a job for long. On good days when I could see it was a challenge. Without vision at least some of the time, we were done for. I was alone and I was scared. I knew I needed a cornea transplant. My Mother had one with moderate success and an Aunt and Grandfather had also been helped by the operation to some degree. Because I had been dealing with my disease, I mean just living with it and all its consequences as a part of my reality since birth, missing school, losing jobs, learning how to handle pain I did with no doctor I could call on. Continue reading

The Gift of Sound

Richard’s situation is similar to the majority of hearing clients we see at the Lighthouse. The Lighthouse Foundation Hearing Program serves Georgians of all ages; however, most are retired or disabled and living on a fixed income of Social Security and perhaps a little pension. The copayment Richard paid for his hearing aids did not just simply cover the aids themselves; that $170 paid for two custom digital in-the-ear hearing aids, a three year service warranty on those aids, and 4 visits to a Lighthouse partner hearing provider. The application process is simple and the process time takes just a few short weeks. The application and list of required supporting documents can be found on our website or by calling 404-325-3630 (or 800-718-7483 outside of the metro Atlanta area).

A Daily Dose of Goodness

Working at the Lighthouse restores my belief in the best in people on a daily basis. I have been with the Lighthouse for over a year now; I started as an AmeriCorps service member in the vision clinic and I was recently became the hearing services program manager. I don’t think that I ever lost my belief in humanity or the goodness of people – I’ve pretty much always believed that people are intrinsically good and want to do good – but working at the Lighthouse really does give me daily reminders of that goodness.

The clients themselves remind me of this. While I don’t get to meet face-to-face with the hearing clients like I did with the vision clients, I do speak with them on the phone and get to know them and their stories. The majority of the hearing patients are retired and on fixed incomes, though we also serve Georgians under 21 years of age. These are good, grateful people who become part of the Lighthouse family.

Client families and friends also impact me. They can be amazingly strong advocates for their mothers, fathers, friends, aunts, uncles, children, and grandparents. Their persistence reminds me of what a little bit done by one person can do. I hope someone would be just as persistent on my behalf if I needed it, and I hope I can be that kind of advocate for someone else.   

And last – but most definitely not least – are our partner hearing professionals. These caring individuals go above and beyond to care for Lighthouse patients. One of our audiologists in the metro Atlanta area expanded her work hours to accommodate more Lighthouse patients. Another of our hearing professionals refuses his reimbursement fee; he asks that it simply go back into the budget to help more people receive hearing services. Time and time and time again when I call upon this group of trained individuals, I find generous souls who gladly accept patients fully knowing the level of reimbursement they will receive for their services.

Among the difficult parts of life, I find examples of goodness everywhere I go – and especially at the Lighthouse. I am proud to be part of an organization whose mission is to increase the independence and quality of life for each person we see. And I am even prouder of the wonderful people who come to us, either as patients or as partners.

– Anna Knippel, Hearing Services Program Manager