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Mitochondrial Revolution: New Hope for AMD and Aging Diseases

How many times have we heard: “This field has been thoroughly studied, and we know all there is to know; there is no reason to continue investigating, because there is nothing more to find out on the subject”? This has been the attitude of some researchers with respect to the importance of mitochondria and diseases. For more than 50 years, we have known that mitochondria, which are the “batteries” of the cell, are critical for energy production. But many believed they did not have other major roles in the health of the cell, so when it came to developing drugs against diseases, mitochondria were overlooked.

That idea has now been turned on its head.
Led by Discovery Eye Foundation (DEF) Research Director Dr. Cristina Kenney, the Mitochondria Research Group believed that, to really discover something new, you have to look in novel areas. This group has done just that. Using the transmitochondrial cybrid model, which are cell lines with identical nuclei, but with each line containing mitochondria from a different person, they have shown that the mitochondria have major regulation powers over cell behavior and expression of disease-related pathways. This is significant, because the mitochondria then become a target for therapies to combat diseases.

Kenney’s group is investigating various drugs and substances that will keep the mitochondria healthy and, ultimately, improve the health of the retinal cells in age-related macular degeneration (AMD). But it does not stop there. This same approach to developing mitochondria-targeting drugs is being pursued for drugs to treat Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, leukemia, various cancers, heart failure, thrombosis, stroke, diabetic retinopathy, Leber hereditary optic neuropathy, and even liver toxicity from acetaminophen.

The continued support from DEF, especially in the early stages of the mitochondria research, has fostered a new area to be opened up, specifically for AMD and diabetic retinopathy. In turn, this has allowed new collaborations among Kenney and researchers from the eye field, and laboratories studying the brain and neurodegeneration, cardiology, cancer therapies and methods to reduce side effects from cancer drugs. Kenney’s discoveries using cybrids have revolutionized the field of mitochondrial research, showing that mitochondria have wide-ranging biological effects never imagined and opening up the field of mitochondrial therapy to careful investigation.

You can help make a difference by supporting DEF’s sight saving research. Help our researchers advance AMD research by donating today!


mitochondrial-revolution-new-hope-for-amd-and-aging-diseases-1.jpgLauren Hauptman
Lauren Hauptman Ink


Those Taking Oral Steroids are at Increased Risk of Developing Cataracts

Oral Steroids and Cataracts

About 22 million Americans have cataracts, a clouding of the normally clear lens of your eye. The biggest risk factor is age. It’s one of the most common eye conditions for Americans older than 40. About half of those 80 and older have, or have had, cataracts. But age isn’t the only factor in developing cataracts.



If you have a cataract seeing through cloudy lenses can be like looking through a fogged-up window or piece of wax paper. Cataracts can make it harder to read, see a computer screen clearly or drive a car safely (especially at night). Symptoms include,

  • Blurred or dim vision,
  • Night vision problems,
  • Sensitivity to light and glare,
  • The need for more light to read,
  • Appearance of “halos” around lights,
  • Quickly deteriorating vision,
  • Fading or yellowing of colors, and,
  • Double vision in a single eye.

The cloudiness impacting your sight may start with a small part of the eye’s lens so you may not be conscious of vision loss. As the cataract grows, more of your lens becomes cloudy and it distorts the light passing through it. Symptoms become more noticeable. Over time cataracts will interfere more and more with your vision.

When you first become aware of the problem better lighting and brighter lights may be enough to get you through. It’s just a matter of time before you will probably need surgery, but it’s generally a safe and effective procedure.

Long term or high dose use of corticosteroid drugs, such as cortisone, hydrocortisone and prednisone, can increase the chances you’ll develop cataracts. Prednisone, for example, is used to treat arthritis, blood disorders, breathing problems, severe allergies, skin diseases, cancer, eye problems and immune system disorders. It suppresses your immune system’s response to reduce swelling and allergic-type reactions.

Corticosteroids copy the effects of hormones you produce in your adrenal glands. If you’re using doses that exceed your body’s normal levels, corticosteroids suppress inflammation. This can lower the symptoms of inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and asthma. Those who suffer auto-immune disorder may also use corticosteroids because it may prevent or lessen the patient’s immune system’s attack on the person’s own organs.

When corticosteroids are taken orally they affect your entire body so this method is more likely to cause significant side effects. Possible short term side effects include,

  • Glaucoma,
  • Fluid retention,
  • High blood pressure,
  • Insomnia,
  • Mood swings, memory problems, odd behavior and other psychological effects, and,
  • Weight gain.

Long term side effects include,

  • Cataracts,
  • High blood sugar, which may cause or worsen diabetes,
  • Higher risk of developing infections,
  • Osteoporosis and bone fractures,
  • Decreased adrenal gland hormone production, and,
  • Thin skin, increased bruising and decreased ability for wounds to heal.

If you’re using corticosteroids and have questions about short or long term side effects, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. If you are having vision problems and have used corticosteroids in the past, you may have a cataract in one or both eyes. The only way to find out is to have an eye exam. If you have questions or concerns about your vision, contact the Lehigh Valley Center for Sight at 610-437-4988 or fill out our contact form so we can start the conversation and work together to protect your sight.

Houman Ahdieh, MD
Lehigh Valley Center for Sight

How to Connect with Pediatric Patients

how-to-connect-with-pediatric-patients.jpghow-to-connect-with-pediatric-patients.jpgEach patient type requires different communication styles. Pediatric patients can be some of the most challenging to really connect with. Susan Lake, OD, shared some of her tips on how she better communicates with her child patients.

How Are Pediatric Patients Different?

Dr. Lake knows that when it comes to children, they need a different approach than adult patients. They’re not veterans to going to the eye doctor; they could be a little scared, unsure of what to expect. Their comprehension is often lower than an adult patient, but beating around the bush doesn’t sit well with them. Adults may be impressed with fancy lingo, but children are usually unphased.

How Dr. Lake Connects with Her Younger Patients

Don’t lie.

Being honest is the best approach. Dr. Lake was told early in her career, “ will smell your lies every time; just be honest with them.”

Talk to them, not their parents.

The children are your patients, not their parents. Talking to them makes them feel like an important part of the appointment. While they should feel like you’re considering them a huge part of the visit, it’s still necessary for the parents to be involved and understanding what you’re explaining.

Make their experience unique.


Dr. Lake has found that having something that makes the visit to her office different has helped tremendously in encouraging her pediatric patients to return. For her office, she learned how to make balloon animals.

“The kids went crazy for it.  My returning patients ask me for one the second I walk in the exam room and most even know the drawer I keep them in.  It’s a great motivation for cooperation during the exam.”

While these are not the only tricks to working with children, Dr. Lake believes these three simple tips are a great place to start connecting with your younger patients.

Photo credit: sun dazed on / CC BY-SA

What Screen Time Can Really Do to Kids’ Brains

what-screen-time-can-really-do-to-kids-brains.jpgwhat-screen-time-can-really-do-to-kids-brains.jpgFor young children, extended screen time can have a negative, lasting impact. The time span between birth and age 3 is dubbed “the critical period” in the medical community due to the changes happening in the brain. Too much screen time during this age range can leave their still-developing brains permanently damaged. 


How Screen Time Affects Young Children’s Brains

Children between birth and age 3 are developing the “permanent foundation upon which all later brain function is built.” The brain at this age range grows quickly and is incredibly sensitive to the surrounding environment and needs specific stimuli to develop normally. If young children spend too much time in front of screens while not getting enough “real-life” stimuli, development can become stunted.

Think back to the days when you were read a story as a child. You’d have to rely on your own imagination to picture the princess in the castle or the dragon flying in the air. You would have to make a mental effort in order to follow along with the story. With tablets, children don’t need to imagine anything; not when the video is playing before their eyes. Devices think for them, making their young brains skip these crucial growing moments. It’s unfortunate because what makes digital devices so great is not what young brains need.

Making Friends Can Turn Out to Be Difficult

Social interactions, empathy, and being able to discern non-verbal social cues are all thanks to the brain’s frontal lobe. Seeing your coworker make a face after the boss walks away gives you a good indication of how this fellow employee feels toward your superior (hint – negatively). Tone of voice, physical gestures, and so many other silent communications give everyday life its color; children need to see this to learn them.

The frontal lobe develops at the “critical period,” meaning from birth to age 3. If your young children are in front of an iPad instead of talking with you or other children, their empathetic abilities could be stunted indefinitely.

Screen time can also become addictive for young children. In a touch screen world where instant gratification and response is granted, a child can become confused about why things in the real world don’t follow suit.

The Good News

Digital devices are not the devil. They are, when used properly, great learning tools for young children. Coordination, quick reactions, and language skills are all sharpened with touchscreen devices. Regulating and enforcing screen time for young children is vital for their current and future health.

Learn how doctors are managing their kids’ screen time here!

Manage Glaucoma With More Than Decreasing Eye Pressure – Natural Approaches to Glaucoma Care

manage-glaucoma-with-more-than-decreasing-eye-pressure-natural-approaches-to-glaucoma-care.jpgImage courtesy of
Glaucoma is an eye disease typically associated with high intraocular pressure, but managing glaucoma is more than decreasing eye pressure. Some cases of glaucoma have normal or low intraocular pressure. Natural approaches to glaucoma care, in addition to standard ophthalmology, can help reduce vision loss. The purpose of treatment is to slow down the damage. What are the symptoms of glaucoma? What causes it? How is glaucoma detected? What is the prognosis? How can decreasing intraocular pressure help? And how can you try to reduce vision loss?

Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the optic nerve. Peripheral or side vision gradually decreases. This disease can lead to total blindness if left untreated. Most glaucoma patients are seniors. Glaucoma tends to run in families. In the US, African Americans over the age of 40 are at a higher risk. So are seniors over age 60, especially Mexican Americans.

Unfortunately, glaucoma symptoms are subtle until significant damage is done. That is why glaucoma is referred to as the “silent thief” as typically there are no symptoms until one notices that there is less peripheral vision. Until this happens, only a dilated eye exam can accurately detect glaucoma. Therefore, regular dilated eye exams are crucial.

Air Puff Screening

The optician or eye doctor includes screening for glaucoma in most exams. A small puff of air into each eye measures intraocular pressure. Higher-than-normal eye pressure is a red flag for glaucoma. The doctor will follow up with regular comprehensive eye exams. If the patient has optic nerve damage, the eye doctor will most likely prescribe medicated eye drops to slow the progression. In some cases, surgery can help.

Narrow Angle – An Emergency

An uncommon but urgent type of glaucoma is called “Narrow Angle.” The angle between the iris and cornea becomes too narrow, causing significant fluid build-up. Sudden red eye, headache, visual halos, and sometimes nausea/vomiting requires an emergency room visit.

Glaucoma Suspect

A person with higher-than-normal intraocular pressure but no nerve damage is called a “glaucoma suspect.” Others may fit in this category even if the eye pressure is normal or low. For example, the eye doctor may have detected other possible symptoms such as the optic nerve looking thin or “cupped” more than normal, or if peripheral vision worsens from one exam to the next. Get regular eye exams and follow the doctor’s instructions. Glaucoma suspects can benefit significantly from our nutritional support and lifestyle changes to head off this serious eye disease.

Open Angle

The most common type of glaucoma is called “Open Angle.” The trabecular meshwork at the front of the eye becomes clogged. Fluid cannot flow out easily, and filtering is impaired. Just like a dam, the fluid pressure builds up. This leads to high intraocular pressure. Poor blood circulation and insufficient nutrition to the optic nerve may also be involved. We recommend our complementary protocol to Open Angle glaucoma patients.

Low Tension

About a quarter of glaucoma patients have normal or low intraocular pressure. However, the eye doctor can tell. Similar to Open Angle Glaucoma, low tension glaucoma leads to optic nerve damage. The problem appears to be associated with poor circulation and/or lack of essential nutrients reaching the optic nerve. The optic nerve is starved of blood and essential nutrients.

Other Types and Causes

A long list of conditions can lead to optic nerve damage. Secondary Glaucoma is a side effect of injuries, inflammation, or drugs (steroids). Some babies are born with incomplete optic drainage systems.

Controlling Eye Pressure

The medical community accepts that reducing eye pressure is key to controlling open angle glaucoma. The most common therapy for reducing IOP is glaucoma eye drops. Some patients may benefit from eye surgery, especially as the disease progresses.

Patients with higher-than-normal intraocular pressure (IOP) slow down glaucoma’s progress by reducing their IOP. This makes complete sense due to the following:

  1. The eye has a high pressure reading
  2. Apply therapies such as special eye drops and surgery
  3. The eye pressure reading decreases
  4. The rate of optic nerve damage decreases
  5. Glaucoma is controlled

What about glaucoma patients with normal intraocular pressure? An important 1998 study on normal-tension glaucoma patients1 compared reducing IOP to no treatment. Normal-tension glaucoma patients who received treatment to reduce IOP had less nerve damage progression over time.

Therefore, both of the most common types of Open Angle glaucoma respond to the same treatment: reduce IOP.

Natural Approaches to Reducing IOP

The eyes do not exist in isolation. Their health reflects overall health. The retina is, in fact, neural tissue — an extension of the brain. The eye is the most nutrient-hungry organ, proportional to its size, in the human body.

Nutritional Support

Eating a healthy diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, provides the eyes with essential nutrients. Oxidative stress and free radical damage are especially harmful to the tiny structures of the eye. The trabecular meshwork and retinal ganglion cells need antioxidants to stay healthy.

Nutrients that support the optic nerve include taurine (an amino acid), essential fatty acids, bioflavonoids, glutathione, and n-acetyl-carnosine. Additionally, gingko biloba, alpha lipoic acid, magnesium, maritime pine bark, and vitamins C, E, and B12 are important. Food sources of these nutrients include walnuts, broccoli, salmon, leafy green vegetables, and eggplant.


Eating a fully glaucoma-fighting diet is impractical for many. Supplements are helpful. Grape seed extract is a concentrated and convenient source of nutrients for optic nerve health. Krill oil provides essential fatty acids to reduce inflammation in the eye. ACG Glutathione spray in the mouth quickly helps control free radicals. Vitamin C protects the trabecular meshwork from clogging2.

At Natural Eye Care, we have developed Optic Nerve Support Packages. It includes Viteyes Optic Nerve Support, Advanced Eye and Vision Support Formula, Dr. Grossman’s Herbal Coleus Ultra Formula 2 oz, and Revision Formula. We also have homeopathic glaucoma tablets.

If you are concerned about glaucoma or intraocular pressure, please schedule a free phone consultation with one of our specialists. We can recommend specific supplements for your needs.

Lifestyle Habits

The stereotypical couch potato is basically asking to get eye disease – and more! Lack of exercise and a low-nutrient, high-calorie diet are clearly linked to many types of disease.

  • Bad diet and little exercise lead to diseases that are risk factors for open-angle glaucoma
  • Poor blood circulation is likely at the root of normal-tension glaucoma
  • High blood pressure can cause a retinal vein occlusion, increasing the risk of getting glaucoma
  • Inflammation appears to play a role in glaucoma
  • Heavy computer users have a higher risk
  • Excessive homocysteine3 in the blood is a risk factor for heart attacks and glaucoma. Excessive meat and insufficient fruits and leafy vegetables increase homocysteine.
  • Obesity increases intraocular pressure, possibly leading to glaucoma in the future.
  • Smoking cigarettes increases your risk of optic nerve disease by 16 times. Note: Smoking marijuana appears to lower IOP, but only temporarily.

The antidote is to maintain an appropriate weight, exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet.


If you have developed open-angle or low-tension glaucoma, add natural approaches to your doctor’s regimen of eye drops. Eat plenty of produce, take glaucoma supplements, and get regular exercise. Glaucoma suspects should not wait to become glaucoma victims. Clean up your diet, avoid smoking, and stay active. Ingesting glaucoma-fighting nutrients may reduce free radical damage and inflammation in the eyes.

Sources: See our Research on Glaucoma

Retinitis Pigmentosa Gene-Editing Studied on Human Embryos


The genetic eye disease Retinitis Pigmentosa is the target of gene-editing research on human embryos by Dr. Dietrich Elgi at Columbia University. National Public Radio reported on this research1 shortly after a Chinese scientist announced he had created the world’s first two gene-edited babies.2 Both scientists use the CRISPR tool to genetically modify human embryos. However, the experiments at Columbia are for research purposes only. These embryos are destroyed within one day for study.


Creating genetically modified human babies is illegal worldwide. The edited genes will be passed down to future generations. Genetic modifications could have dangerous or even lethal side effects. Also, “designer babies” would start a competition to build ideal humans, modified for non-medical reasons such as strength or intelligence.

Scientific research is subject to ethics oversight. The Chinese genetic researcher, He Jiankui, acted independently and without approval. He believed that engineering resistance to Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) outweighed any ethical concerns.

The scientific community disagreed. He was put on unpaid leave by the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen. A local medical ethics board is investigating.

Retinitis pigmentosa is relatively rare, affecting 1 in 3,700 people. The cause is one of a host of over 100 different genetic mutations. The problem may lie with the genes that affect rod and cone photoreceptors (particularly the rods essential for side and night vision), retinal pigment epithelium mutations, or abnormalities in the retina. Symptoms include gradual vision loss, poor adaptation to light changes, difficulty seeing at night, limited peripheral vision, and certain types of color blindness.

People who have a mutated gene for retinitis pigmentosa would welcome giving birth to children who are neither afflicted nor carriers. Treatment options for this eye disease are limited. (Editor’s Note: Please see our page on natural support for Retinitis Pigmentosa)

Dr. Elgi’s research at Columbia is carefully approved and monitored by a panel of bioethicists and other scientists. In the future, he plans to allow the embryos to develop further. However, the embryos are not intended for implantation. They are not meant to develop into a full-term baby.

Genetic research is underway for several other clearly genetic eye diseases, including Fuch’s Corneal Dystrophy, Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy, and Leber Congenital Amaurosis. The majority of eye diseases, such as cataracts, macular degeneration, and glaucoma, are influenced more by lifestyle than any genetic predisposition.

What to Do About Excessive Screen Time

what-to-do-about-excessive-screen-time.jpgwhat-to-do-about-excessive-screen-time.jpgWith the possible physical and mental impact of screens, you may be thinking that the best option is to cut them out of the picture altogether. Knowing that’s NEVER going to happen, here are some helpful tips to share with patients concerned with the effects of excessive screen time.


A term probably overused when it comes to lifestyle modifications, but undoubtedly important when it comes to time spent on digital devices. Setting limitations can be difficult, especially if children, teens, adults, etc. are used to freely scrolling on their devices without restriction. Beginning a schedule for screen time is best when implemented young, think 3-5 years old.


The most important limit to set might be the limit before bed. Sleep is so important to overall health, and screens have been linked to less and worse sleep. Turning off the devices 2 hours before bed can have a positive impact on the amount and the quality of sleep patients get. For older children and teens with their own devices, parents can use screen-time-tracking and parental-control apps that can help monitor and limit what their kids have access to and for how long. A few apps include:

Other limits that can be set include no screens until homework is completed, until rooms are clean, until chores are done, etc. For adults, no screens until dinner is cooked and eaten, until laundry is complete, until the floors are swept, etc. For children ages 2-5, it is recommended they get no more than an hour of screen time per day.

Allow for Binging

While moderation is the best way to tackle the screen time dilemma, some sites suggest allowing at least 1 binge day where the schedule goes out the window. The key is for patients to have planned activities to help distract themselves or their kids from technology. Encourage patients to brainstorm a list of things to do so they don’t have to turn to screens.

Get Involved

Having planned events work as great screen-time distractions. Many experts stress the importance of children, families, and people in general getting involved in some kind of activity. Whether it’s a religion, sports, or hobbies, being in a group setting or dedicated to an activity helps to fill time usually given to screens and build social skills and relationships that may be damaged due to excessive screen time.

Making time for family can also be a great way to fill screenless time and help reduce the mental impact of digital devices. Suggest parents schedule screen-free playdates or “old school” family game nights with board games or cards. During the evening hours before bed, parents and children can read books together or parents can tell stories.


These may seem like simple suggestions, but as with any lifestyle change, it takes time and discipline. Patients must understand that improvements will not be immediate, and they may not even notice the differences. It’s important to stick to these modifications for the benefit of mind, body, spirit, and most importantly, eyes!


  1. Wahi G, Parkin PC, Beyene J, Uleryk EM, Birken CS. Effectiveness of Interventions Aimed at Reducing Screen Time in Children: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2011;165(11):979–986. doi:10.1001/archpediatrics.2011.122
  2. Twenge, Jean. “New Findings Add Twist to Screen Time Limit Debate.” Medical Xpress, Science X Network, 6 Nov. 2018,
  3. Gagne, Claire. “4 Parent-Tested Systems You Can Use to Limit Screen Time.” Today’s Parent, Rogers Media, 4 June 2018,