Vision Awareness Segment on the O.P.T. Network

Recently some of our doctors were featured on the O.P.T. Network to share information about vision awareness! Watch the segment here or read the transcription of the segment below.


Video Transcription:

Some links have been added to provide additional resources for information.

Carlette Christmas (00:00):

Welcome back everybody to the OPT Network. This morning we’re talking about the importance of eye health and what we all need to understand. Many of you may not know that March is eye awareness month or vision awareness month and here to talk about the importance of our vision and what we need to know and understand is Dr. Patrick Redmond, he is from Louisiana Eye & Laser Center. He is a board certified ophthalmologist and we welcome him for the very first time to the OTT network. Dr Redmond, good morning and welcome.

Dr. Patrick Redmond (00:31):

Thank you, good morning.

Carlette Christmas (00:32):

And so we’re all connected. We need our eyes obviously. We know we don’t really understand how our eyes deteriorate or eyesight deteriorates over time as we age, but we’re all connected to some sort of screen.

Dr. Patrick Redmond (00:51):


Carlette Christmas (00:51)

What is that doing to our eyes?

Dr. Patrick Redmond (00:54):

Well of course we use our eyes on a daily basis more so than we can ever imagine. It’s just something we take for granted. It’s not until we have a problem with our eyes that we really think about really the amazing nature of an eye and the fact that it works as well as it does without any input from us. But these screens that we’re using all the time in today’s world, especially phone screens, I would say it’s just always connected to us. They definitely have an impact on our eyes. One thing that happens when we’re looking at screens a lot, we’re concentrating on that screen. There’s all kinds of distractions on it. There’s things that are really grabbing your attention and you’re not blinking as much and that’s a main problem when you’re looking at screens, just because your eyes are focused on it, trying to figure out what’s going on and the blink reflex of your eyes is very, very important.

Dr. Patrick Redmond (01:39):

It’s what produces your tears to help lubricate your eyes. You have a tear pump essentially that is activated by blinking and when you’re looking at a screen, you blink about a third as much as you’re supposed to. So you’re not producing the number of tears or the amount of tears that you’re supposed to and the tears that you do have in your eyes are evaporating. Just because your eyes are open. You’ve got probably a fan or vent or air conditioner blowing on you or maybe even in your car. And so you’re losing more and more of those tears and you’re already producing fewer of them because you’re not blinking as much. So in general, people lump that into a problem called dry eye syndrome.

Carlette Christmas (02:14):

Well let’s don’t leave blinking first because I never really knew that blinking was important. Are there a certain number of times that we should be blinking?

Dr. Patrick Redmond (02:25):

Yeah. On average we’re supposed to blink about 15 times a minute. And so that’s not anything you and I think about and we’re not supposed to think about blinking.

Carlette Christmas (02:33):

I’m thinking about it now.

Dr. Patrick Redmond (02:34):

Now you are, now that I bring it to your attention.

Carlette Christmas (02:35):

Yeah, I want to blink.

Dr. Patrick Redmond (02:36):

But reading and not only screens but just reading too or watching TV, anything where you’re really focused and concentrating, we know that you blink a half to a third as much as you otherwise would. And so it’s that lack of blinking that causes more and more trouble with your eyes. And so it’s recommended that whenever you are concentrating on a screen or you’re reading a lot, that you do take breaks where you consciously remember to blink every 15, 20 minutes or so. There’s actually something called the 20, 20, 20 rule where every 20 minutes for 20 seconds, it’s a good idea to look at something 20 feet away.

Dr. Patrick Redmond (03:11):

So you just change your focal point from up close to somewhere in the distance and it gives your eye muscles a little break and then you consciously blink and relax your eyes, maybe close them for a couple minutes if they’re feeling a little dry or scratchy, put an artificial tear in there and these are just over the counter lubricant drops that are good to just add a little extra moisture to your eyes when they need it. So that’s a good rule of thumb is the 20, 20, 20 rule to help protect your eyes when you’re having a lot of screen time.

Carlette Christmas (03:40):

So for those people that are constantly on their phones and their computers and people who their job literally surrounds a screen, are they doing harm to their eyes?

Dr. Patrick Redmond (03:54):

None of this is any permanent harm to your eyes. Now, dry eyes potentially, as time goes on, can cause some scarring or damage to the nerves of your cornea, but overall, it’s not a permanent damage that you’re getting. It’s just more of a temporary problem that can affect the clarity of your vision, the feeling of your eyes. You can have a lot of uncomfortable symptoms in your eyes related to dry eyes, but there’s been a lot of blue light talk in the news for sure. And we’re not exactly sure how blue light affects your eyes, but we do know it probably affects your sleep patterns, especially being exposed to blue light later in the evenings. I think it’s a known thing that can affect the quality of your sleep. As far as permanently damaging your eyes, it’s probably not permanently damaging your eyes. It’s more of a temporary inconvenience and an irritant to your eyes.

Carlette Christmas (04:41):

So that 20, 20, 20 rule is something especially for people who are using screens they should practice.

Dr. Patrick Redmond (04:48):

Oh absolutely. Yeah, there’s a lot of people all around that are using a computer all day, every day. And so it’s extra important for them because they are required to do that as part of their job. So it doesn’t take long, 20 seconds is not a long time. Just take a quick break, blink a few times, bring you some tear drops to work if you have dry eyes symptoms that way if it is bothering you a lot you can put some extra artificial tears in.

Carlette Christmas (05:09):

And so will the blinking or the 20, 20, 20 rule, will it help to rectify dry eyes?

Dr. Patrick Redmond (05:17):

Absolutely. Now if you have an underlying problem of dry eyes, it’s not going to cure your dry eyes for sure. But it will basically improve your symptoms and it won’t get worse. It’ll get worse for sure. If you already have dry eyes and you’re staring at a computer all day long, that’ll definitely make it worse.

Carlette Christmas (05:32):

So the next thing we want to move to in terms of eye and eye health is glaucoma. Talk about what glaucoma is and what we need to know about glaucoma.

Dr. Patrick Redmond (05:42):

Sure, well glaucoma is a very dangerous disease of your eyes. And the most dangerous thing about glaucoma is, and probably a reason that vision awareness month is very important, is because it causes no symptoms whatsoever. There’s no way of you knowing that you have glaucoma. It doesn’t make your vision blurry, it doesn’t make your eyes hurt, you don’t see rainbows or anything, it doesn’t feel like pressure. There’s no symptom that you get from glaucoma. So the only way to detect that is to do an in depth eye exam, checking your eye pressure, which is often high in glaucoma. That’s a reading that we get when we check your eyes every time. But again-

Carlette Christmas (06:17):

Is that what the puff of air is?

Dr. Patrick Redmond (06:18):

Yeah, so there’s different methods to check your interocular pressure and a puff of air is one that everyone always remembers.

Carlette Christmas (06:24):

And you hate it because you’re just waiting for it. You’re waiting for it. You’re trying not to close.

Dr. Patrick Redmond (06:29):

Heard that complaint a lot of times we don’t typically use the puff of air much, but there’s different methods to check the pressure.

Carlette Christmas (06:35):

Is there a gold standard to check it?

Dr. Patrick Redmond (06:37):

There is, there’s something called a Goldmann Applanation Tonomotry. It’s on the little slit lant machine.

Carlette Christmas (06:42)

Oh my goodness, what’s the short version of that?

Dr. Patrick Redmond (06:45):

Is this thing that gets real close to your eye when it’s numb and you try not to blink and it gives them a pressure reading essentially.

Carlette Christmas (06:52):

And it checks the pressure and what should the pressure ideally be?

Dr. Patrick Redmond (06:55):

A normal pressure is between 10 and 21 millimeters of mercury. Now that that doesn’t mean anything to the average person. That’s just numbers that we’re getting that fall within a normal range. And there are some other factors that come into play, like the thickness of your cornea, the surface of your eye, that can affect the accuracy of the pressure reading that we get. So there’s really a lot that goes into screening you for glaucoma. It’s not just the pressure on a given day, your eye pressure changes throughout the day, much like your blood pressure, but you can’t check your eye pressure at home like you can get a blood pressure cuff and check your blood pressure at home. It’s something that we need to be monitoring, especially if you’re at increased risk for glaucoma.

Carlette Christmas (07:31):

And who is at increased risk?

Dr. Patrick Redmond (07:33):

Anybody with a family history of glaucoma for sure is at higher risk. The more birthdays you have, the higher risk you are for sure. Glaucoma tends to have a little higher rate in African Americans. There’s lots of studies on that.

Carlette Christmas (07:45):

Do we know why?

Dr. Patrick Redmond (07:47):

There’s not a really good reason why. We just know there’s been lots of glaucoma studies over the years in different countries and locations and an overarching theme is that African Americans have a little bit higher risk of glaucoma.

Carlette Christmas (08:00):

What are the dangers of not being diagnosed?

Dr. Patrick Redmond (08:03):

The dangers are, the problem that glaucoma is causing is nerve damage. There’s one nerve that connects your eye to your brain. It’s called your optic nerve. And you can think of that nerve as the extension cord connecting your eye to your brain. If your extension cord is not plugged in or is getting frayed, somebody’s little rat chewing on your extension cord, you’re going to lose the ability for your eye to communicate with your brain even if everything in your eye is perfect. And so that’s the problem with glaucoma is that it causes nerve damage to where your eye, even if it’s perfect, can’t tell your brain what it’s seeing, and that’s permanent damage. There’s nothing in the world that can fix optic nerve damage. It’s a nerve damage that cannot be repaired by any means. So it’s something that we want to catch early on to be able to prevent damage as opposed to reacting to it.

Carlette Christmas (08:49):

Okay, so if I have a family history of glaucoma, I should be getting checked how often?

Dr. Patrick Redmond (08:53):

Once a year, for sure. Now, I think everybody’s should probably have an eye exam no matter what their age is, just to establish a baseline and see if they do have risk factors for glaucoma or any of the other eye diseases out there. But once you start getting some more birthdays on you, like 40 and up, you probably ought to be getting an eye exam every year just because the incidence of these things goes up with time.

Carlette Christmas (09:14):

Now is glaucoma in any way connected to diabetic retinopathy?

Dr. Patrick Redmond (09:21):

There is a rare form of glaucoma that you can get due to uncontrolled diabetic retinopathy. In general, that’s a more rare but very severe version of glaucoma. There’s actually quite a few different types of glaucoma that you can get, but diabetic retinopathy is another thing that is very important for us to screen for and anybody that even might have diabetes, sometimes you have borderline diabetes for a few years, well you can actually still get damage to your retina and the retina is the film of your eye, analogous to the film of a camera. It’s taken the picture of the light entering your eye and you get these little aneurysms, little spots of bleeding and hemorrhages in the retina that can lead to blindness. It’s one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States of America is diabetic retinopathy.

Carlette Christmas (10:06):

Do we know why diabetes is so hard and harsh on the eyes?

Dr. Patrick Redmond (10:14):

Well, you have all these… If you think of your retina, it’s really acting as the film of your eye and it’s essentially brain tissue in your eye. It’s very specialized tissue that’s like an extension of your brain and it’s very susceptible to damage from a lack of oxygen or a lack of blood flow and you’ve got these little bitty blood vessels within your retina that are specifically damaged when it comes to uncontrolled diabetes. All those little sugars floating around in your bloodstream and attaches to the blood vessels in your retina and it damages the lining of the blood vessel which causes them to start becoming leaky blood vessels or they’ll bleed into your retina. Your kidneys are also affected quite a bit in the same way because they have the same size blood vessels in your kidneys as you do in your retina. So that’s why you get screened for kidney trouble too.

Carlette Christmas (11:00):

And so for those people who are diabetic and at risk, should they too have their eyes checked?

Dr. Patrick Redmond (11:08):

Mandatory for sure. Once a year you have to get a dilated eye exam, so you don’t just go to Walmart and they check you for glasses. They may not be able to dilate your eyes in that setting just due to the restrictions of types of equipment they have there. So you need a dilated eye exam where we’re specifically looking for diabetic retinopathy and anybody who has diabetes for sure.

Carlette Christmas (11:29):

Absolutely. Dr Redmond, we want to thank you. We want to thank Louisiana Eye & Laser Center and we’re going to have a series this month that is going to help us better understand our eye and our eye health, what we’re at risk at and what we need to know and how to get help before it’s too late. Stay on point, we’re back after this. Welcome back everybody to the OPT network. As we continue our series on vision awareness month, it is critical that we understand the nuances. Of course we couldn’t totally understand, but Louisiana Eye & Laser Center is here to help us break down the importance of eye care and eye health. Dr. Patrick Redmond joins us again to talk about cataracts. Now they were featured in a national magazine and Dr Redmond was one of the leading and first people in our area to use something called panoptic lenses or panoptic lens. So tell us what that is.

Dr. Patrick Redmond (12:36):

Sure, so just a little background information. Cataracts are a very common problem that you get as we get older that everyone is going to get.

Carlette Christmas (12:43):

Everybody’s going to get cataracts?

Dr. Patrick Redmond (12:45):

For sure, everybody gets cataracts. And that’s just a clouding of the clear lens of your eye. You start out with a clear lens, as we get older it gets a little bit cloudy.

Carlette Christmas (12:53):

And that’s what cataracts-

Dr. Patrick Redmond (12:54):

That’s the the cataract. So you’re just looking through a dirty windshield all the time. It’s a gradual process so you don’t just wake up not able to see, but eventually you get to the point that driving at night becomes a big problem. You get a lot of glare or halos around headlights and in general, the quality of your vision is not as good. You can’t see those details in the distance. You can’t see the Tiger’s score when they’re winning by a hundred, so these fine detail things in your vision, you just lose the ability to see that.

Carlette Christmas (13:20):

And we’re all going to get it?

Dr. Patrick Redmond (13:21):

All going to get it for sure. So at the point that it’s starting to impact your life and you’re having symptoms from those cataracts, we do cataract surgery. It’s the most common surgery that we do and all that we’re doing is removing the cloudy lens from your eye and we’re replacing it with a clear lens. So it’s like windshield exchange surgery.

Carlette Christmas (13:39):

A literal lens?

Dr. Patrick Redmond (13:40):

The lens. It’s made of a plastic light material and it sits in your eye, it’ll outlast you and me. It’s a great advancement basically in the field of ophthalmology over the last 30 years.

Carlette Christmas (13:50):

Were people losing their eyesight before?

Dr. Patrick Redmond (13:52):

Well, it used to be that you only had cataract surgery if you were pretty well blind because it was a much higher risk surgery that you’d have to stay in the hospital for and need to have a bunch of stitches in your eyes. The way that we do it now, there’s much upgraded and technologically advanced ways of doing the surgery where we’re even using a laser to perform a customized surgery based on the shape and measurements that we get of your eye beforehand to try to give you the best result we can not only just removing the cloudy lens but also trying to fine tune your vision to where you may not need glasses after surgery. Now in general, the lens that we put in your eye is made of a plastic light material that we try to focus in the distance so that your distance vision is as clear as we can get it with the smallest left over glasses prescription. And there are ways to adjust astigmatism with an astigmatism correcting lens so that you don’t need glasses for the highest quality distance vision.

Carlette Christmas (14:44):

Let’s tell people who are not eyeglass or contact wearers what astigmatism is.

Dr. Patrick Redmond (14:48):

Sure, so astigmatism is just a slightly irregular shape to the surface of your eye. An ideal surface of your eye is shaped perfectly around like the top of a basketball, focusing the light only at one point in the back of your eye. But astigmatism means that the surface of your eye is shaped more like a football than a basketball, little steeper in one direction. And it just means that it’s focusing light in two spots in the back of your eye instead of one which results in blurred vision. So nowadays, if we’re doing a surgery on your eye, we can also correct astigmatism with a special astigmatism correcting lens just to make you not have a meaningful leftover glasses prescription after surgery so that your distance vision is very clear without glasses.

Carlette Christmas (15:28):

So do cataracts come at different times for different people?

Dr. Patrick Redmond (15:33):

Exactly, you can have a family history of early cataracts, diabetes can cause worsening cataracts at a younger age. There are reasons or trauma getting hit in your eye. There are reasons that you can get cataract sooner. Most commonly, people just get the age related cataracts in their fifties, sixties ,and seventies that is just the normal part of the aging process.

Carlette Christmas (15:53):

Now let’s talk about this so called premium lens versus the other lens.

Dr. Patrick Redmond (16:00):

Right, so some of these lenses, like the toric lenses, that’s the name of the type of lens that corrects astigmatism, are not necessarily covered by your insurance because it’s a cosmetic surgery on top of treating the medical problem. You’re removing the cataract, so that’s all covered by your insurance. But if we’re trying to get you out of glasses, most insurance companies don’t care if you’re wearing glasses or not because they don’t pay for your glasses.

Dr. Patrick Redmond (16:23):

But it really enhances the quality of your life not to have to wear glasses. So that’s where these special lenses come in, designed to do different tasks. That toric lens corrects your distance vision by correcting your astigmatism. But there’s also lenses that can make you see up close, intermediate distance and far away all without the use of glasses. Because normally after cataract surgery, we’re putting essentially a plastic lens in your eye that if we set for distance vision will not change shape within your eyes to focus in and out. So you are relying on reading glasses up close after cataract surgery in most cases until they came along with these new lenses that they’re called multifocal lenses, meaning they have multiple points of clear focus so that you don’t have to have reading glasses to read the ingredients on something in the grocery store, you have this lens in your eye that’s capable of focusing up close, computer distance and far away all at the same time to give you a broad range of vision that’s clear with minimal dependence on glasses.

Carlette Christmas (17:22):

So at what point when you are diagnosed with cataracts, at what point should you be looking at surgery? I mean, should it be initially or should it be over?

Dr. Patrick Redmond (17:34):

Normally if you’re getting checkups like you’re supposed to, you’re going to know that you have cataracts for a long time before they’re ripe, so to speak. Now when we say they’re ripe, we just mean that they’re big enough that they’re decreasing your vision enough that it makes it worthwhile to do a surgery on your eye to remove the cataract. And most of that is symptom dependent. So just because you have cataracts, that doesn’t mean that you need surgery. We wait until you tell me that I’m really having a problem. I don’t want to go to dinner anymore because it might get dark and I can’t drive after dark because the lights bother me so much.

Carlette Christmas (18:06):

What’s the most important thing before we leave cataracts that you want people to understand?

Dr. Patrick Redmond (18:11):

I think cataracts have come a long way and some people are real scared of having cataract surgery and it may make them put off even getting an eye exam. So I think the most important thing is not to be scared of cataract surgery. It’s a routine common surgery. And the great thing about it is with today’s technological advancements, you don’t have to think of it as a problem to have surgery. It’s really an opportunity. It’s a great-

Carlette Christmas (18:33):

Love it, not a problem, an opportunity.

Dr. Patrick Redmond (18:35):

Nobody else that’s 65 years old can see up close and far away all at the same time without glasses. So it’s an opportunity to return your eyes to a youthful state by using one of these premium IOL or interlocutor lens technologies. So I’d say it’s a good thing to have cataracts.

Carlette Christmas (18:49):

There you go. Dr Patrick Redmond, Louisiana Eye & Laser Center. It’s all about vision awareness. Stay on point. We’re back after this. Welcome back everybody to the OPT network. This morning we’re going into talk about contact lenses and as we are changing seasons, what we all need to know and understand and here this morning to join us to talk about this very important conversation is Dr. Richard Walters. He’s an optometrist from Louisiana Eye & Laser Center. Dr. Walters, good morning and welcome.

Dr. Richard Walters (19:28):

Good morning, glad to be here.

Carlette Christmas (19:30):

So many of us I can speak for myself, I’ve worn contact lenses for many, many years. Let’s talk about the most important thing that we need to understand about contact lenses and the care and how they affect our eyes or if they affect our eyes over time.

Dr. Richard Walters (19:51):

Contact lenses provide a great option for patients to be able to be independent of glasses during the day and many patients prefer that option. We have lots of products available for spherical astigmatism patients, multifocal lenses for older patients, but even with the new products we have on the market that provide great health for the eye, it still comes down to the basics. You still have to remember to follow your doctor’s recommendations and you have to remember to follow good care regimens and providing good health to the eye.

Carlette Christmas (20:21):

Now you said some things like spherical and some terms like that. What do those mean to the person? The lay person who’s wearing contact lenses?

Dr. Richard Walters (20:31):

Spherical lenses are designed for the patient who does not have a significant amount of astigmatism. Astigmatism is a type of prescription where the focus is different in different meridians and so we have to put different power amounts in different meridians of the prescription. The astigmatism correction-

Carlette Christmas (20:48):

And what are meridians, what are meridians?

Dr. Richard Walters (20:50):

Meridians have to do with the position of the power in the eyeglass prescription. So for example, 180 would be the horizontal meridian. 90 would be the vertical meridian. So a patient with astigmatism might have one power in the 180 meridian and a different power in the 90 meridian. And the difference between those two powers is actually the amount of astigmatism. For patients who wear contact lenses, if they have no significant astigmatism, then a regular spherical contact land, which is the simplest form that we have, is good to correct their vision. If they have an astigmatism correction, a regular spherical lands actually rotates on the eye a small amount all day long when they blink, the toric lens has to be weighted at the bottom so that we reduce the amount of rotation and that allows us to put different powers in the different meridians and correct their vision.

Carlette Christmas (21:45):

Wow, so for people like me who one eye is stronger than the other, the other is weaker. I’m going to have a different prescription for each eye?

Dr. Richard Walters (21:58):

You will have a different prescription for each eye and oftentimes if there is a significant difference between the eyes, it’s uncomfortable to wear that prescription in glasses and contact lenses will often eliminate that problem.

Carlette Christmas (22:12):

What about bifocals? People at a certain age that still wants to wear contact lenses?

Dr. Richard Walters (22:16):

Bifocals create a unique challenge because in today’s situation, patients want to be able to see at multiple distances. They need to be able to see up close, they need to be able to see at distance, at arms length, and with the multifocal contact lenses, we’re a little bit limited compared to glasses. Where glasses we have what we call progressive addition lenses and progression addition lenses give us a variety of focuses from arms length all the way up to up close. With the multifocal contact lens, it’s a little more limited than that. We have a smaller zone that we can get the vision properly in focus, so it’s a little more of a challenge, but some of the multifocal lenses actually work quite well.

Carlette Christmas (22:57):

So let’s talk about the care. Contact lenses have come such a long way from 20 years ago. Now we can sleep in the contact lenses more, but are there dangers?

Dr. Richard Walters (23:11):

There are dangers. With the advancement of newer contact lenses, we have materials that provide more oxygen to the cornea, which allows us to wear them longer periods of time. There are some lenses on the market that are approved for 30 days continuous wear. I don’t really recommend 30 days continuous wear because I think that’s a little bit too much. I usually recommend patients be a little more conservative. If they’re going to wear extended wear lenses, I usually recommend no more than a week at a time. Take them out and clean the lenses overnight and then put them back in the next day and then I usually recommend discarding the lenses anywhere from two weeks to four weeks depending on the manufacturer’s recommendation.

Carlette Christmas (23:48):

Well, let’s talk about cleansing the lenses because I’m never really certain if I’ve done a good job.

Dr. Richard Walters (23:56):

Cleaning the contact lenses is one of the most important steps because with cleaning the contact lens, you’re removing protein that’s accumulated on the lens from your tears and that protein can accumulate on the contact lens if it’s not properly removed and can cause an allergic reaction to the eye. That allergic reaction to the eye can cause a variety of issues that can end up knocking patients out of contact lenses for weeks and weeks at a time trying to calm the eye down. The best recommendation for cleaning the contact lenses is to follow your doctor’s guidelines. One of the things that was done a number of years ago and it’s all directed toward patient convenience. Some of the solutions on the market came out with a comment on the front of the bottle that says no rub and that’s right, and that’s strictly a convenience thing for patients, but it really doesn’t work that well. Even with a no rub solution, I still recommend that you rub the contact lens with that solution, rinse it properly, because you’re mechanically removing extra proteins from the lens.

Carlette Christmas (25:03):

Show us, so you’re rubbing it with your-

Dr. Richard Walters (25:03):

You place the contact lens in the palm of your hand and then you put some solution on it and you rub the surface, you flip the lens over and rub the other side. So you have to do both surfaces and then you rinse it off, put it in your storage case and add fresh solution.

Carlette Christmas (25:17):

Okay, with the coming of spring and all of the pollen in the air, does that affect our contact lenses at all?

Dr. Richard Walters (25:25):

It does, it produces more tearing and discharge with patients who have significant allergies during the peak allergy season. There are drops that we can use either before or after we put in the contact lands, typically once a day, a topical and the histamine drop, that helps reduce that reaction and helps make contact lenses more comfortable.

Carlette Christmas (25:44):

And how often should we replenish? Because I know that I’m guilty. I don’t change my contact lenses probably as much as I should. I keep cleaning, keep cleaning and keep wearing. Is there a rule of thumb?

Dr. Richard Walters (25:59):

There is, and it really depends on the manufacturer’s recommendation. On certain brands, they are designed to be a two week replacement lens. Now those lenses don’t wear out in two weeks, but their best performance is during the first two weeks and I encourage patients to replace those lenses every couple of weeks. There are other products that have a better performance profile that actually work well as a monthly replacement lens and patients can change those lenses once a month. I usually don’t recommend longer than once a month for most patients to replace their contact lenses.

Carlette Christmas (26:31):

Very good. Dr. Walters, we want to thank you for the great information and really helping us understand and reminding us how to take better care for those of us who are contact lens wearers.

Dr. Richard Walters (26:43):

Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to come and visit with you.

Carlette Christmas (26:46):

Indeed, stay on point. We’re back right after this. Welcome back everybody to the OPT network. Well of course March is vision awareness month. It’s also women’s history month and we are rounding out vision awareness with none other than Dr Karren Laird Russo. She has been in ophthalmology at Louisiana Eye & Laser Center. She’s been practicing for well over two decades and we welcome her to the OPT network.

Dr. Karren Laird Russo (27:20):

Thank you, I’m very happy to be here.

Carlette Christmas (27:22):

Welcome back.

Dr. Karren Laird Russo (27:23):

Thank you very much.

Carlette Christmas (27:24):

We met a long time ago on this journey and I was really inspired by you and by your story that you had started out on this journey to be an ophthalmologist but it wasn’t a traditional journey. Tell me about it.

Dr. Karren Laird Russo (27:40):

Well, I started out when I graduated from college, I started out as a medical technologist and i practiced as a medical technologist for several years. I got my masters and then I decided I wanted to do more and I was working the night shift and there was another young lady who was working the night shift and we got together and we started thinking, “Yeah, we’d like to go to medical school.” And so we started studying for the MCAT and we ended up taking the MCAT and both being accepted into medical school in New Orleans at the same time. So it was quite wonderful.

Carlette Christmas (28:14):

But at that time, you’re how old?

Dr. Karren Laird Russo(28:17):

I was 27 almost 28 years old when I finally got accepted.

Carlette Christmas (28:20):

So does doubt creep in?

Dr. Karren Laird Russo (28:25):

I wasn’t worried honestly because it was something that I was hoping would happen, but I wasn’t going to be devastated if it didn’t happen. I was working really hard for it to happen and I just had faith that it would happen. I never had too much worry about it.

Carlette Christmas (28:42):

And then so you take the MCAT, you get accepted. Do you fall in love with ophthalmology?

Dr. Karren Laird Russo (28:51):

Not initially. Initially you do general studies in medicine and I honestly loved everything. I loved pediatrics, I loved the emergency room, surgery, medicine, every aspect of medicine except OBGYN. I wasn’t in love with that one. I knew I wasn’t going to do that, but other than that, I did love all of it. And my sister married into a family of ophthalmologists and when it came time to decide on what specialty I wanted to go into, Reggie Wheat wrote me a letter, he was an ophthalmologist in [inaudible 00:29:32]. It was a beautiful letter and what he said was ophthalmology is a wonderful profession, particularly for women, because you can treat the young, you get to treat the old, you can do surgery, you have clinic work, and in general the call isn’t too bad.

Dr. Karren Laird Russo (29:49):

And so I was like, “That sounds good.” And so I applied for ophthalmology and I was blessed again. Sometimes I think God was guiding my path because honestly some of it was just dumb luck. I applied to a number of ophthalmology programs and was accepted into University of Miami, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, which is the number one ophthalmology program in the country.

Carlette Christmas (30:15):


Dr. Karren Laird Russo (30:15):

It was pretty shocking.

Carlette Christmas (30:16):

And so when you get that honor, what do you think?

Dr. Karren Laird Russo (30:24):

Well I felt blessed and excited and it was just a wonderful journey being there, honestly. Miami is a beautiful city and getting to meet a whole different group and culture that I wasn’t used to, learning to speak a little bit of Spanish and then being able to study with some of the most brilliant minds in ophthalmology was fantastic.

Carlette Christmas (30:51):

And then you put all that together and then you come back to-

Dr. Karren Laird Russo (30:54):


Carlette Christmas (30:55):


Dr. Karren Laird Russo (30:56):


Carlette Christmas (30:57):

And you start to practice, what then do you bring to the practice because it’s not just the work and the knowledge, but you bring so much of yourself, your love, your kindness, your warmth. And that’s what everybody says about you.

Dr. Karren Laird Russo (31:15):

Well thank you. I do try to… When I look at a patient honestly, I just think of them as my sister, my brother, my mom, my dad, uncle, grandfather. As I get older, it’s more of my sister, my nieces and nephews and I do try to treat them as I would want another physician to treat my family and try to bring that into my practice.

Carlette Christmas (31:47):

And one of the things that you see a lot are dry eyes. Let’s talk about what dry eyes are and how they can affect all of us.

Dr. Karren Laird Russo (32:00):

They affect a good number of people, a lot of people. It can affect very young people, older people, people who wear contact lenses. As women go through menopause and their hormonal changes, they are particularly affected. Different people who have auto immune disease, rheumatoid arthritis, all of those diseases definitely predispose you to having dry eyes.

Carlette Christmas (32:24):


Dr. Karren Laird Russo (32:26):

Well, it can affect your production of tears. And also it can cause inflammation of the eyelids, which can affect the oil production in your tear film, which is very important to stabilize the tear film.

Carlette Christmas (32:40):

So how do we treat dry eyes?

Dr. Karren Laird Russo (32:44):

So initially you would treat it with artificial tears, ointments, that sort of thing. But then going above and beyond that, there are prescription drops. There’s different drops, one’s called Restasis, there’s Cequa, Xiidra. So there are some prescription drops that can help. Punctal plugs where we actually put a little plug in the tear drainage duct of the eye to help preserve the tears in the eye and increase your tear film.

Carlette Christmas (33:10):

Preserve the tears.

Dr. Karren Laird Russo (33:11):


Carlette Christmas (33:12):

You know I never thought that we might be able to cry so much or produce so many tears that there would be no more.

Dr. Karren Laird Russo (33:20):

No, no, it’s just that maybe you’re not producing as much as you need to. So instead of the tears, because they’re produced over here in the lacrimal gland, they go into your eye and they drain out of the eye through the [inaudible 00:33:32], right here in your eyelid. So if you plug the [inaudible 00:33:36], then the tears that are going in stay in your eye a little bit longer before they drain out.

Carlette Christmas (33:43):

Wow, so with all the talk about the Coronavirus and now people are… I know everybody, I know I’m fighting. Don’t touch your face, don’t touch your eyes. What do we need to know about that?

Dr. Karren Laird Russo (33:57):

Well right now, I’m not aware of any manifestation of Covid-19 to the eyes, but it wouldn’t be surprising if there was a conjunctivitis that could be associated with it.

Carlette Christmas (34:10):

And what does conjunctivitis mean?

Dr. Karren Laird Russo (34:12):

Conjunctivitis is inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is the white part of the eye. It’s pink eye, commonly known as pink eye. Pink eye is a viral conjunctivitis. It is caused by a virus. There are a number of viruses that can cause pink eye. There are also viruses that can cause keratitis or inflammation or infection of the cornea, and so those are things we would watch for with any virus.

Carlette Christmas (34:41):

And so if we have a virus, those are just things that can attach from the virus to our eyes, I guess.

Dr. Karren Laird Russo (34:52):

Right, right. The actual viral antigens can go into the cornea and the conjunctiva and then they elicit immune response, which causes inflammation.

Carlette Christmas (35:02):

What’s the most important thing that you want everybody watching, not just in the month of March, vision awareness, but what is the most hygienic thing, if there’s one thing, that we can all do for our eyes?

Dr. Karren Laird Russo (35:20):

Wash your hands and keep your hands out of your eyes. And if you do wear contact lenses, make sure you’re washing your hands before you take them in and out.

Carlette Christmas (35:30):

There you go. Wash your hands before you touch your contact lenses and before you touch your eyes. Dr. Russo, thank you so much for just sharing your story and allowing us just a little bit more information about good eye health.

Dr. Karren Laird Russo (35:49):

Well, thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Carlette Christmas (35:51):

Indeed. Our guests this morning, Dr Karren Laird Russo, Louisiana Eye & Laser Center. Stay on point, we’re back after this.