Know the Score: Wearing Eye Protection Prevents Players from Getting Benched Due to Injury

Sports-related eye injuries cause an estimated 100,000 doctor visits each year. Yet, most of these injuries can be prevented by wearing eye protection. In fact, a recent study of high school field hockey players shows that traumatic eye injuries fell 67 percent after eye protection became mandatory. In support of Sports Eye Safety Month in April, the Nebraska Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons and the American Academy of Ophthalmology are offering athletes of all ages guidance on how to best protect their eyes.

Common sports eye injuries include corneal abrasions, lacerations and bleeding in the eye. Basketball players tend to get poked in the eye with fingers. Tennis and softball players more often get hit with fast moving balls. In contact sports like football and martial arts, more severe ocular injuries such as retinal detachment and orbital fracture occur. One-third of sports-related eye injuries happens to kids.

The good news is that 90 percent of eye injuries can be prevented with the use of protective eyewear. Save your vision while playing sports by following these tips:

  • Wear the right eye protection: For basketball, racquet sports, soccer and field hockey, wear protection with shatterproof polycarbonate lenses.
  • Put your helmet on: For baseball, ice hockey and lacrosse, wear a helmet with a polycarbonate face mask or wire shield.
  • Know the standards: Choose eye protection that meets American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards. See the Academy’s protective eyewear web page for more details.
  • Throw out old gear: Eye protection should be replaced when damaged or yellowed with age. Wear and tear may cause them to become weak and lose effectiveness.
  • Glasses won’t cut it: Regular prescription glasses may shatter when hit by flying objects. If you wear glasses, try sports goggles on top to protect your eyes and your frames.

“Virtually all sports eye injuries could be prevented by wearing proper eye protection,” said ophthalmologist Philip R. Rizzuto, M.D., clinical spokesperson for the Academy.

That’s why I always strongly encourage athletes to protect their eyes when participating in competitive sports.

Anyone who experiences a sports eye injury should immediately visit an ophthalmologist, a physician specializing in medical and surgical eye care.

For more information on sports eye safety, see the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeSmart® website at www.aao.org/eye-health.

Ergonomics for the Eyes: Simple Adjustments to Help Reduce Visual Fatigue

Long touted as good for backs and necks, proper desk ergonomics are also important for the health and comfort of the eyes. In support of Workplace Eye Wellness Month in March, the Nebraska Academy of Eye Physicians & Surgeons and the American Academy of Ophthalmology is offering tips to desk workers everywhere whose eyes may need relief from too much screen time.

Many people who spend long hours reading or working on a computer for their jobs experience eye discomfort. Focusing on tiny type for hours on end can cause eye strain, fatigue and headaches. Staring at screens for long periods can also leave eyes parched, red and gritty-feeling.

I have many patients who work long hours in an office setting, and it can be irritating to the eyes, causing dryness, strain, even blurriness. Luckily, changing a few simple things in your environment and on your desk can help solve some of these problems.

Natasha Herz, M.D., clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

To help avoid workplace dry eye and eye strain, follow these eye ergonomics tips from the American Academy of Ophthalmology:

  • Stay at arm’s length: The eyes actually have to work harder to see close up than far away. If you have a desktop computer, try placing the monitor 25 inches away from your face. No measuring tape? Put your screen an arm’s length away. You may need to adjust the type to appear larger at that distance.
  • Take care of glare: While many new phones and laptops have glass screens with excellent picture quality, they also produce a strong glare that can aggravate the eyes. If you use a glass screen device, try a matte filter for your screen.
  • Give your eyes a break: Just as carpal tunnel syndrome from overuse can hurt your wrists, eye strain occurs after long, continuous periods of reading paper or viewing digital screens up close. Follow the 20-20-20 rule: take a break every 20 minutes by looking at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Looking into the distance allows your eyes to relax.
  • Defy dry eye: Many newer office buildings have humidity-controlled environments that suck moisture out of the air. In winter, heaters on high can further dry your eyes. Try a desktop humidifier to add localized moisture. Keep artificial tears at hand to help lubricate your eyes.
  • Lighten up: When your screen is much brighter than your surroundings, your eyes have to work harder to see. Adjusting your environmental lighting can reduce eye strain. Also, try increasing the contrast on your monitor.

Those experiencing consistently dry red eyes or eye pain should visit an ophthalmologist, a physician specializing in medical and surgical eye care.

For more information on computers and eye strain, see the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s public information website at www.aao.org/eye-health.

Love Your Eyes: Ophthalmologists Remind Older Americans to Protect Themselves from the Leading Cause of Blindness

Seniors are at heightened risk for age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness among older Americans. The disease damages central vision, limiting a person’s ability to read and recognize faces. Approximately 2.1 million Americans had AMD as of 2010. This number is expected to double to more than 5.4 million by 2050. Meanwhile, fewer people are aware of the disease compared to other eye diseases such as cataracts and glaucoma.

To help raise awareness of AMD as Valentine’s Day approaches next month, the Nebraska Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons and the American Academy of Ophthalmology are reminding seniors that their eyes need love, too. There are steps they can take to take better care of their eyes and protect themselves from AMD-related blindness.

Here are five eye-loving tips from the Academy and the facts behind the advice:

  • Get regular comprehensive medical eye exams. AMD often has no early warning signs, so getting regular comprehensive eye exams from an ophthalmologist – a physician that specializes in the medical and surgical treatment of eye diseases and conditions – is critical to diagnosing and treating AMD in its early stages. The Academy recommends that people over age 65 get an exam every one to two years, even if they have no signs or symptoms of eye problems.
  • Quit smoking. Numerous studies have shown smoking to increase risk of developing AMD and the speed at which it progresses. If you smoke, you are twice as likely to develop macular degeneration compared with a nonsmoker.
  • Know your family’s eye health history. If you have a close relative with AMD, you have a 50 percent chance of developing the condition. Before you go in for your next eye exam, speak with your family about their eye health history. Sharing this information with your ophthalmologist may prompt him or her to recommend more frequent eye exams. The earlier AMD is caught, the better chances you may have of saving your vision.
  • Eat a diet rich in omega-3s and low in cholesterol and saturated fat. A number of studies have shown that people who had a reduced risk of AMD had diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish. In one study of patients who were at moderate risk for AMD progression, those who reported the highest omega-3 intake (not in the form of a supplement) were 30 percent less likely to develop advanced AMD after 12 years. In another study, an increased risk of AMD was found in individuals who had a higher intake of saturated fats and cholesterol and in those with a higher body mass index.
  • Exercise regularly. Many studies have shown that getting regular exercise can benefit your eyes. One study found that exercising three times a week reduced the risk of developing wet AMD over 15 years by 70 percent.

There is still a worrying lack of awareness when it comes to AMD, despite it being the number one cause of blindness in seniors,” said Rahul N. Khurana, M.D., a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “Older Americans who are unaware of the disease may be putting themselves at risk by not taking early steps to care for their vision. The good news is that they protect their sight from AMD-related blindness by showing their eyes some TLC with regular eye exams and lifestyle changes.

Seniors concerned about their risk of AMD may qualify for EyeCare America, a public service program of the American Academy of Ophthalmology that offers eye exams and care at no out-of-pocket cost for eligible seniors age 65 and older. Thousands of Academy members nationwide volunteer their time to serve their communities through EyeCare America. Visit www.eyecareamerica.org to see if you are eligible.

UV Rays and Eye Safety

June 18th 2012

UV Rays and Increase Risk for Eye Diseases like Cataracts, Macular Degeneration

Nebraska Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons Offers Tips for Safe Fun in the Sun

Lincoln, NE – It’s summertime, which means the days are longer and people are enjoying more time outdoors. But, along with risks to your skin, UV rays can be dangerous for your eyes. Studies show that exposure to bright sunlight may increase the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and growths on the eye, including cancer.

The good news is sunglasses, hats, and a little bit of knowledge can go a long way to protect your precious vision. That’s why the Nebraska Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons is reminding the public of the simple tips to protect their precious vision this UV Safety Awareness Month.

“UV radiation, whether from natural sunlight or indoor artificial rays, can damage the eye’s surface tissues as well as the cornea and lens,” said David Ingvoldstad, MD “Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the dangers UV light can pose to their vision, and this can lead to potentially blinding eye diseases.”

The Nebraska Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons offers these tips to protect your eyes from the sun:

  • Wear sunglasses that offer 100% UV protection. Regardless of the cost or color of your shades, make sure they block 100 percent of UV-A rays and UV-B rays and wear them anytime you are outside or driving during the day.
  • Choose wrap-around styles: Ideally, your sunglasses should wrap all the way around to your temples, so the sun’s rays can’t enter from the side.
  • Wear a hat: In addition to your sunglasses, wear a broad-brimmed hat to protect your eyes.
  • Don’t rely on contact lenses: Even if you wear contact lenses with UV protection, remember your sunglasses.
  • Protect your eyes during peak sun times: Sunglasses should be worn whenever outside. It’s especially important to wear sunglasses in the early afternoon and at higher altitudes, where UV light is more intense.
  • Don’t be fooled by clouds: The sun’s rays can pass through haze and clouds. In fact, sun damage to eyes can occur anytime during the year, not just in the summertime.
  • Don’t forget the kids: Everyone is at risk, including children. Protect their eyes with hats and sunglasses. In addition, try to keep children out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s UV rays are the strongest.

“The longer you are outside in bright light, the greater the risk for eye damage,” says Dr. Ingvoldstad “Don’t forget that UV rays can cause eye damage year-round as well, regardless of whether it is sunny or cloudy.”

Excessive exposure to UV light reflected off sand, water or pavement can damage the eyes’ front surface. In addition to cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, sun exposure can lead to lesions and tumors that may require surgical removal. Pinguecula, tiny yellow bumps on the eye, are common from too much UV exposure. They begin on the white part of the eye and may eventually disrupt your vision.

Damage to the eyes from UV light is not limited to the outdoors; it is also a concern with indoor tanning beds. Tanning beds can produce UV levels up to 100 times what you would get from the sun, which can cause very serious damage to the external and internal structures of the eye and eyelids.

For more information on keeping eyes healthy or to find an ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) in your area, visit www.geteyesmart.org.

About

The mission of the Nebraska Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons is to promote the highest quality medical and surgical eye care through public and professional education, membership services, and legislative advocacy

Iowa Eye Association Annual Meeting

Save the Date! – The Iowa Eye Association Annual Meeting will be held June 22-23, 2012 at  The University of Iowa Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences Iowa City, Iowa

Join colleagues for a continuing education conference featuring leaders in the field of Ophthalmology. This year’s agenda will focus on Retina, Cataract/Comprehensive Ophthalmology, and Pediatric Ophthalmology. Join us for stimulating lectures, interesting case discussions, and interactive workshops.

For more information contact Joe Schmidt at: 319-384-8529 or joe-schmidt@uiowa.edu or visit: http://webeye.ophth.uiowa.edu/rounds-calendar/iowa-eye-meeting

Vigorous Exercise May Prevent Vision Loss

Vigorous Exercise May Prevent Vision Loss

Exercise may have yet another benefit – vision protection. In a recent U.S. study, researchers found that vigorous exercise reduced the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.  The study tracked approximately 41,000 runners for more than seven years. It suggested that people can possibly lessen their risk for these eye diseases by taking part in a vigorous fitness regimen. On average, running 2 to 4 km (1.2 to 2.5 miles) a day reduced the risk by 19% and running more than 4 km a day reduced the risk by 42% to 54%, compared with those who ran less than 2 km a day. It seems exercise could provide similar protective benefits for the eyes as it does for the heart and other bodily systems.

A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s naturally clear lens, your eye becomes like a window that is frosted or yellowed. Cataracts are a leading cause of vision loss, especially as we age. Age-related macular degeneration reduces vision in the central part of the retina. Macular degeneration can cause sudden, severe loss of vision in the middle of your visual field. For more information on these and other eye diseases, visit http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/diseases/

This article reprinted with permission from the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeSmartTM campaign (www.geteyesmart.org).

Eat for Eye Health

Eat for Eye Health

The old adage that eating carrots will improve your vision is not entirely true. It is actually vitamin A, a nutrient found in carrots, that helps protect your eyes; this is the same nutrient that is found in many other vegetables including leafy greens, spinach, broccoli and sweet potatoes. The important thing is to make sure to include a variety of vegetables in your diet for good eye health.

Want to learn more about eye-healthy foods, including delicious recipes from celebrity chefs? As part of its National Give the Gift of Sight campaign, EyeCare America is offering a free, colorful recipe book, called Feast Your Eyes on This! The cookbook makes for a wonderful gift filled with eye-healthy dishes and can be printed out at www.eyecareamerica.org.

This article reprinted with permission from the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeSmart Campaign (www.geteyesmart.org).

Proposed Medicare Physician Fee Schedule for 2012 Released

Proposed Medicare Physician Fee Schedule for 2012 Released-Confirms 30% SGR Payment Reduction
2012 ASC Rule with New Quality Reporting Program/Penalties Also Released

As expected, the proposed 2012 Medicare physician fee schedule – released today by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) – includes a 30 percent reduction in payments due to continuation of the flawed sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula. The ongoing, SGR-driven uncertainty around what physicians will be paid is bad for everyone involved. Tell your member of Congress that physicians need stability and a Medicare program partnership that they can rely on.

CMS anticipates that the conversion factor will be 23.96 in 2012, as compared to 33.97. The final rule due later this year may make significant changes to that amount, depending on what happens in any SGR legislation considered this year.

If the SGR cut is halted as in similar years, ophthalmology payments in general would increase by 2 percent in 2012, according to CMS.  As an example, the payment for cataract procedures (66984) would increase to $753.67 in 2012, up from a 2011 rate of $742.38.

Additionally, CMS has proposed that the AMA Specialty Society Relative-value Update Committee (RUC) do an extensive review of the Evaluation and Management codes, citing a belief that the work and intensity of those services when provided by primary care physicians has increased. Further, CMS is calling on the RUC to include several other high-volume services that have not been RUC reviewed since 2006. There are several eye codes on that list, including 66982 complex cataract, 92083 visual field and 92235 fluoroscein angiography.

Finally, the rule includes proposed quality and cost measures that would be used in establishing a new value-based modifier that would reward physicians for providing higher quality and more efficient care. There is one eye care related measure included:  Measure 13: Diabetes Eye Exam. The Affordable Care Act requires CMS to begin making payment adjustments to certain physicians and physician groups on Jan. 1, 2015, and to apply the modifier to all physicians, including ophthalmologists, by Jan. 1, 2017.

CMS has fact sheets available on the 2012 proposed rule.

Regarding the ASC rule and new quality reporting requirements, more details will follow in next week’s Washington Report Express. Note: the proposed ASC payment update for 2012 is 0.9 percent.

Notable Proposed Changes to PQRS and E-Prescribing

The Academy is pleased to announce that CMS has included a new Academy-advanced cataract measure group in the proposed 2012 schedule. Although ophthalmology was one of the top three performing specialties in the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) in 2009, we have been working to improve success rates. We believe the measure group will facilitate greater ophthalmology success in 2012.The measure group includes:

  • Measure 191: Cataracts: 20/40 or Better Visual Acuity within 90 Days Following Cataract Surgery
  • Measure 192: Cataracts: Complications within 30 Days Following Cataract Surgery Requiring Additional Surgical Procedures
  • New: Cataracts: Improvement in Patient’s Visual Function within 90 Days Following Cataract Surgery
  • New: Cataracts: Patient Satisfaction within 90 Days Following Cataract Surgery

If the measure group is finalized by CMS, ophthalmologists who choose to report the group will qualify for the PQRS incentive by reporting the measure group for 30 patients over the course of the year. Final specifications for the group reporting will be available later this year.

E-Prescribing

Under current CMS rules, ophthalmologists are required to e-prescribe 25 times during the 2011 calendar year in order to avoid a 1.5 percent payment adjustment/penalty in 2013. CMS has announced changes to the 2013 and 2014 Medicare e-prescribing penalties that will allow physicians more time to avoid penalties in 2013 and 2014. CMS also proposes to include prescriptions electronically transmitted in conjunction with all Medicare Part B services provided during the reporting period, whether or not the service is included in the e-prescribing measure denominator. This change will allow surgeons who prescribe medications outside of the office visit to successfully e-prescribe.

CMS has also proposed to eliminate discrepancies in the system requirements for e-prescribing and meaningful use. Physicians with a certified electronic health record (EHR) system would be allowed to use their EHR system to e-prescribe and avoid future penalties, even if the certified EHR does not meet the CMS system requirements for the e-prescribing program. A similar change was proposed for 2012 e-prescribing earlier this year but has not been finalized.

If you have questions, contact the Academy’s Governmental Affairs office at 202.737.6662.