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Parkinson’s Awareness Month and Your Vision

April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month in the USA and Canada, a time when those living with the disorder, their family members, friends, and community come together to raise awareness and share helpful information. People with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and their loved ones are encouraged to share their stories, struggles, and successes in order to educate and support others.

The Parkinson’s Foundation has announced this year’s theme: #KeyToPD and Parkinson Canada advocates the same involvement. What is the key to living a high quality of life while living with Parkinson’s? Patients, doctors, caregivers, and families are encouraged to use this hashtag on social media to give of their knowledge and experience.

In order to successfully manage the disorder, it’s essential to understand the disease, symptoms, and treatments. After all, knowledge is power.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s Disease is a neurological disorder that affects the brain’s ability to control physical movement. It typically affects middle aged people and the elderly. Parkinson’s causes a decrease in the brain’s natural levels of dopamine, which normally aids nerve cells in passing messages within the brain. According to The Parkinson’s Foundation and Statistics Canada, the disorder affects an estimated 1 million people in the United States, 55 000 Canadians, and 10 million globally.

What Causes Parkinson’s Disease?

Although much research has been done on the subject, the exact cause of the disease isn’t really known. What doctors and scientists do know is that certain nerve cells located in the brain somehow break down. This damage interferes with both motor and non-motor functions.

How Does Parkinson’s Affect Vision?

Parkinson’s can have a significant impact on vision and ocular health. Patients with PD often find themselves unable to control blinking. Blinking is good for the eyes as it moisturizes the surface and clears it from foreign substances. Less blinking can cause Dry Eye Syndrome, resulting in itchy, red, or gritty-feeling eyes. Other people blink too much or can’t keep their eyes open.

In more serious cases, Parkinson’s affects the nerves that help us see. Someone with PD may experience blurry vision, double vision, difficulty seeing color and contrast, problems with focus, and other visual symptoms.

In addition to the inherent impact of the disease, some of the medications used to treat Parkinson’s symptoms have known side effects including dry eyes, blurred eyesight and even hallucinations in advanced PD.

Common Visual Symptoms of Parkinson’s

Although the most recognized physical symptom is uncontrollable tremors, patients can experience other symptoms that affect their vision. These typically include:

  • Apraxia (inability to open the eyelids)
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Difficulty with balance
  • Dry eyes
  • Eye twitching
  • Focusing problems

Parkinson’s Patients and Eye Exams

Eye exams can be particularly challenging for a PD patient, so choosing the right doctor is essential. Make sure your eye doctor regularly treats patients with PD. They’ll understand your or your loved ones’ unique needs and will take the time needed.

Common Non-Visual Symptoms of Parkinson’s

PD affects other areas of the body that may or may not – depending on each patient – be related to their eye health and visual needs.

Some of the most common non-visual symptoms are:

  • Depression
  • Excessive saliva
  • Loss of smell
  • Moodiness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Slow movement (bradykinesia)
  • Stiff limbs
  • Tremors

Coping With Vision Problems From Parkinson’s

Despite the struggles caused by this degenerative disease, there is hope. Talk to your eye doctor. He or she may recommend medicated ointments or drops, injections, therapeutic lenses, visual aids, vision therapy, or a combination thereof. Additionally, a Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation doctor can provide comprehensive eye care specifically designed for neurological disorders like PD.

Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease

There is currently no cure for the disease itself, but there are options to treat the symptoms of PD. A combination of medications, physical and/or occupational therapy, support groups, and of course, top-quality vision care can give a PD patient relief for some of their symptoms and tools to help cope with the condition.

Research and clinical trials are continuing as doctors and others in the medical community work towards the goal of finding a cure for PD.

No two patients are alike, and each can experience PD differently from the other, so finding what works for you or your loved one is key. During this Parkinson’s Awareness Month, share your #KeyToPD and give your loved ones hope for a healthy and high quality of life.

At Eyeworks, we put your family’s needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 817-346-7077 or book an appointment online to see one of our Ft. Worth eye doctors.

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World Braille Day 2019

Each year during the month of January we recognize World Braille Day which gives us the opportunity to take a moment and appreciate the incredible gift that Braille has given to those who are blind or suffer from vision loss.

What is Braille?

Braille is a tactile representation of letters and numbers that can be utilized by people with vision loss to read using their fingers. The system uses combinations of six raised dots – three rows of two – that serve to represent the numbers, letters and even symbols such as music notes.

Braille History:

Braille was developed by a young Frenchman named Louis Braille and was first published in 1829. Braille invented the system at the age of 15 after he became blind as the result of an accident. The idea was originally based on night writing, a touch-based military code developed for Napoleon’s army by Charles Barbier as a strategy for soldiers to be able to communicate silently in the dark. Barbier’s code was ultimately rejected because it was too difficult to be used effectively by the soldiers. Barbier and Braille later met at the Royal Institute for the Blind in Paris and Braille was able to adapt the idea into a more functional system. In braille, the characters, or letters, are each represented by a cell or block with a particular arrangement of raised dots.

Not Just the ABC’s

While first developed for the French alphabet, braille has since been expanded for many languages including all the European-based languages, as well as Arabic and Asian languages. Even within those languages there are different forms of the system. For example, in English, there is Grade 1 braille which is composed of the representation of the 26 letters of the Roman alphabet and is primarily used for those learning to read and write the language. Grade 2 on the other hand is the type of braille you are likely to see written in public places such as menus or signs as it is more complex. Grade 2 includes higher level punctuation, abbreviations and contractions. Lastly, Grade 3 is a form of shorthand designed for personal use such as taking notes or writing letters.

In addition to the cells which represent the letters, braille may also include illustrations, graphs and symbols such as bullets or arrows. Further, a cell can also represent a number, a word or a punctuation mark. Because braille takes up more space than standard print there are many abbreviations or contractions that represent words or word sequences to save space. This also helps to improve the speed at which one can read and write using the system.

How To Write Braille

Writing braille requires some tools. To do it by hand you need a stylus, which is a metal tool that is used to create the dots, a slate, which is a type of stencil used to align the dots into neat cells and card-stock paper which is heavy enough to emboss. You can also write braille with a special braille typewriter or an electronic brailler as well as certain computer programs with a braille embosser printer.

Being able to read and write braille allows those with vision impairment to learn and express themselves in a way that they would otherwise not be able to. While newer technologies such as screen readers and other computer based programs have become more common in recent years, braille is the foundation of innovation in improving the lives of the blind and vision impaired.

At Eyeworks, we put your family’s needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 817-346-7077 or book an appointment online to see one of our Ft. Worth eye doctors.

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