True or False–Sunscreen Can Keep Even the Middle-Aged Younger Looking.

TRUE – A 2013 human trial study published in the American College of Physicians’ Annals of Internal Medicine showed conclusive evidence that regular use of sunscreen can keep you younger looking. Researchers compared 900 men and women from Australia over a four-year period and found that daily sunscreen use significantly reduced wrinkles and dark spots, even in middle-aged men and women when compared to participants who did not regularly use sunscreen.

The Dry Eye Capitol of the World

Here is a heads up to all dry eye patients who want to visit, or are considering moving to, Calgary, Canada. The city of Calgary is considered the “Dry Eye Capital of the World.” I have heard of Las Vegas being the “Dry Eye Capital of the United States”, but as a dry eye expert, I would have never known to pick Calgary for the world title.

If you go by humidity alone, Albuquerque or Santa Fe, New Mexico could qualify for the world title (what mayor would want their city known as the Dry Eye Capital of the World). It is actually the combination of dry air and constant windy conditions outside, and the need for heat most of the time indoors, that creates the type of environment inside and out that can give anyone a dry eye, or two. I love Canada and have enjoyed visiting during the Calgary Stampede, so I am not suggesting that you avoid going there. I do want you to be prepared so you can enjoy your visit. Take plenty of preservative free tears, protective eye wear and sleep goggles. The most dry eye friendly environment would be a near a large body of water, moderate temperature and soft breezes.

Any island in the Mediterranean would be perfect for dry eyes, but if a trip or relocation to Malta is not on your “to do” list you can create your own dry eye friendly environment at home. Keep the temperature moderate. Do not overly cool or heat. Keep the ceiling fans on low and direct the air vents away from sitting and sleeping areas. Keep the humidity moderate, about 30-60%. If you are not ready for the expense of a whole house humidifier, consider a small ultrasonic room humidifier. These room humidifiers are widely available at stores like Wal-mart or Target, and are a fraction of the cost. Not only will your eyes be more comfortable, but also your nose, throat, and skin, all are susceptible to overly dry conditions.

You may ask “Why work so hard to improve indoor air quality when it is so beautiful outside in Florida this time of year?” One reason… tree pollen. Even if you are lucky enough not to be allergic, just the irritation from so much particulate debris blowing around can be very aggravating to dry eyes. Thanks for reading my blog, and your dry eyes will thank you the next time you visit Calgary.

By Richard Hector, MD

Stem Cells and Your Dry Eyes

Beautiful color eye

This week a couple of patients came through that have suffered severe damage to one of their eyes and asked about a transplant. Can we transplant an entire eye? The answer is no. It has been tried with 100% failure. The biggest obstacle is getting the nerve tissue to start functioning again. The large nerve that connects the brain to the back of the eye, the optic nerve, is really over a million nerve fibers bundled together.

The good news is stem cell research has been successful in re-populating damaged nerves with new functioning nerve fibers! So far there have only been animal studies on the optic nerve, but they are using the same techniques that have been successful in spinal cord injuries. The new studies will include a few human beings.

How does this relate to dry eyes?  Healthy nerves are needed to keep the front part of the eye, the cornea, well protected, which includes stimulating adequate tear production. Stem cells have recently been used to re-populate a damaged cornea with healthy corneal cells that have the ability to reproduce. That is how a corneal abrasion will usually heal in a day or two. Unhealthy corneas (dry eye corneas) lose the ability to heal properly or sometimes will not heal at all. The ability to re-populate an eye with healthy corneal cells by applying stem cells to the front of the eye is very exciting!