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Atlanta VA Health Care System

 

State of the Art Technology in Eye Care

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Friday, July 29, 2011

How often have you noticed your neighbors doing yard work without wearing protective eye wear? Or maybe you have begun a DIY (Do-it-yourself) project and failed to protect your vision. When you least expect, a small projectile speeds toward your eye and causes an eye injury. For these reasons, July is officially recognized as Eye Injury Prevention Month.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, more than two-million eye injuries occur each year in the United States and 48 percent of these injuries happen in the home. While smaller percentages happen in the work place, the majority of injuries to the eyes are preventable.

For most outdoor activities, Dr. Steven Urken, Chief of Ophthalmology at the Atlanta VA Medical Center, recommends a pair of sunglasses with standard UV protection be worn. However, when participating in activities which may present a risk of flying debris or hazardous chemicals, goggles approved by ANSI (American National Standards Institute) should be worn at all times.

"During the summer months, we see a prevalence of corneal abrasions, ocular surface irritations, and conjunctivitis," said Dr. Urken. "It is important to know that the first line of treatment following a chemical splash to the eye is rinsing of the affected area with copious amounts of normal saline or another non toxic, unpolluted solution. For blunt trauma injuries or injuries involving high speed projectiles, such as metal from grinding, the best course of action is to cover the eye with glasses, avoid putting pressure on the eye, and seek immediate medical attention. Following an eye injury by any mechanism, patients should be aware of a decline in their vision, marked redness, edema, significant pain or discharge. If any of these should occur, they should seek treatment as soon as possible."

Trauma to the eye can sometimes occur when people least expect. Dr. Urken recalls an operation he performed on a gentlemen who had been kicked in the face by his horse while cleaning the stable. The trauma ruptured the eye and caused a laceration which was repaired during a two hour surgery to redeposit the contents of the eye.

Atlanta VAMC has state of the art equipment to detect and treat eye problems and diseases. Ray Reil and the other certified ophthalmic technicians, operate the 3D Ocular Coherence Tomography, which scans the layers of the retina and optic nerve to help diagnose and treat macular diseases and injuries. The ocular ultrasound machine is also used in the eye clinic to help track the location of foreign bodies within the eye. Dr. Purnima Patel and the other Ophthalmologists use a guided laser to treat retinal tears, diabetic abnormalities, as well as many other ocular conditions.

In addition to the high tech equipment used in the care of patients, the Eye Department has an Optical Shop which supplies more than 300 pairs of prescription eyeglasses per week. Michael Schrage, Certified Ophthalmic Medical Technologist (C.O.M.T.) and supervisor of the Optical Shop, said, "We provide needed prescriptions to our veterans, and have a particular concern for the monocular (loss of vision to one eye) veterans. Their loss of vision makes protecting their remaining eye even more important. We recommend these patients always wear safety glasses."

There is another very important element of the Eye Department, the Advanced Low Vision Service which is headed by Donna Loupe, also a C.O.M.T. The members of this team provide a wide range of training and services for our low vision and blind veterans. Examples include training in the use of a closed circuit television, providing devices such as talking watches, or visiting the veterans’ homes to help maximize the function of their activities of daily living.

The importance of protecting our eyes from trauma is paramount, but we also must provide daily care. Remember to wash your hands before applying and removing contacts, use artificial tears as a lubricant for dry eyes and for eye wear choose plastic lens instead of glass, which can be easily shattered.

Eye exams should be performed every 1-5 years, and if you have abnormal issues with yours please consult a physician. And remember safety glasses are not protecting you if they are not covering your eyes.

The Eye Clinic, Advanced Low Vision Services and Optical Shop are located in different areas on the first floor of the main building of the hospital. Staff is certified by the American Academy of Ophthalmology and State Medical Licensing boards, Joint Allied Health Personal in Ophthalmology and the American Board of Opticians.

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