by Ashley Barker
Faculty members at the Storm Eye Institute (SEI) spent part of Tuesday, Oct. 30 speaking to members of the South Carolina Lions Club about the latest in care and research in ophthalmology for the third S.C. Lions Vision Symposium.
The symposium featured 15-minute presentations from 10 clinicians and vision scientists, who discussed scleral contact lenses, new research on the retina and the risks of lipofuscin accumulating in the back of the eye causing vision degeneration.
Left photo: PlusoptiX President Cyd McDowell shows South Carolina Lions Club members the plusoptiX S09. The screener, above, takes a picture in less than one second from a distance of 3.3 feet. The Storm Eye Institute received a $62,000 grant from the Lions Clubs International Foundation to help pay for an Optos-TX, a sophisticated camera and computer that does retinal imaging.
Associate professor Mae Millicent Peterseim, M.D., who happens to be a Lion, shared her research on new equipment that detects risk factors for amblyopia, or lazy eye, in children.
Amblyopia occurs when vision doesn't develop properly in one eye. The condition occurs in 2 to 4 percent of children, but it's responsible for vision loss in more children than all other causes combined, she said.
About 80 percent of cases can be successfully treated. The problem is the lack of vision screening in young children, which is necessary to detect the disorder. Schools in South Carolina only have recommendations for vision screenings in children, not requirements.
"They don't know any better. I've had 8-year-olds and 9-year-olds say to me, 'Oh I thought everyone had one good eye and one bad eye.' Those are the ones who we are trying to pick up because we can treat it," said Peterseim. In order for the treatment to work, patients have to be identified before age 9.
Peterseim has been doing research comparing equipment to help detect risk factors for amblyopia, such as eye misalignment, cataracts and droopy lids, as well as a need for glasses.
PlusoptiX has a vision screener that takes a picture in less than one second from a distance of 3.3 feet. The picture is used to estimate prescriptions for glasses. The computer also instantly provides a "refer" or "pass" result. Refer patients are encouraged to go to a doctor for a more in-depth exam; no problems were identified in patients who receive a pass result from the screener.
Peterseim said the scanner works well on uncooperative children because no physical contact is required. When the trigger of the scanner is pulled, a "sound target" attracts the eyes and the picture is taken.
"PlusoptiX worked well as a screener and as an auto-refractor," said Peterseim, who has been conducting a study at MUSC on the various scanners on the market. Her staff has been looking at preliminary data and using the screener in the Charleston County school system in conjunction with the Association for the Blind. The MUSC study has more than 200 children enrolled.
"We felt good about the way that it worked in the schools," Peterseim said. "We liked the change in referral criteria because then you're not doing exams on all the children—you're just kind of narrowing in on those that you really need to see."
Cyd McDowell, president of plusoptiX, explained that the idea for the equipment originally came from work to measure refraction in chimpanzees before and after Lasik eye surgery. "(the plusoptiX founder) had said, 'If we can do this for chimpanzees, let's do this for little kids. Chimpanzees can't read an eye chart, neither can a 2-year-old. Let's actually start catching amblyopia when we can.'"
The approximately 75 Lions who attended the symposium represented all four districts in S.C. They were treated to a demonstration of the plusoptiX S09 and were shown the future model, which is powered by rechargeable batteries, has a screen similar to an iPhone and will be released in January 2013.
In addition to learning about the importance of vision screening in children, the Lions were taught about new advances in the treatment of dry eye syndrome, the process of taking a new drug to the marketplace, advancements in ocular-plastic surgery, and how scientists are using human skin cells to regenerate the retina in the SEI laboratories.
The group was invited to the symposium to be thanked for the financial support of research at the SEI and to learn about how their gifts are being used.
"The Lions of South Carolina and Lions Clubs International have been very supportive of the Storm Eye Institute since the 1970s," said Toni McHugh, SEI's director of development. They donated $750,000 in the 1990s to help build the top three floors of the SEI, and they go out into their local communities to educate residents about the Storm Eye facilities.
SEI recently received a $62,000 grant from the Lions Clubs International Foundation to help pay for an Optos-TX, a sophisticated camera and computer that does retinal imaging, according to McHugh.
For more information about the S.C. Lions, visit www.SCLions.org. To read about Lions Club International, visit www.LionsClubs.org.