October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women (behind skin cancer).  More than a quarter million new cases are diagnosed each year.  This year more than 40,000 women are expected to die of this disease.  My mother was one of them.

Fortunately, the death rate from breast cancer has been declining due to advancements in treatment and early screening.  Self examination and mammography are used to detect cancer early.



Diabetes is a disease where the blood sugar becomes elevated.  It affects nearly 30 million Americans and nearly a third of  these people don’t know they have the disease. 

Diabetes can affect every part of the eye.  The most serious threat to vision occurs when diabetes causes damage to blood vessels in the retina.  This is called retinopathy.  The damaged blood vessels can leak fluid and blood.  When this happens the retina does not receive the nutrients and oxygen it needs.  The retina responds by releasing a hormone that causes new blood vessels to grow. 

Summer is finally here and it is time to celebrate the birth of our great nation.  That means enjoying fireworks.

Unfortunately, fireworks can be associated with eye injuries.  In 2014 there were 1,300 eye injuries from fireworks that required emergency treatment. That’s double the number from two years earlier.

Fireworks can result in burns, rupture of the eye and retinal detachments.  These can all lead to permanent vision loss. 

I hope everyone is enjoying the great weather we’re having.  Although we love these sunny days, there are some ways in which the sun and other forms of light can be damaging to the eyes.

One form of damage is called solar retinopathy.  It occurs when someone looks directly into the sun.  This can also happen when viewing an eclipse or when taking a picture of the sun through a camera.

Symptoms can occur within hours.  The symptoms include a loss of central vision.  One can also experience blurred vision, distorted vision and aching around the eyebrow.

This week’s topic is ocular injuries.  Over 2 million eye injuries occur each year. Nearly half of these occur in or around the home.

Eye injuries occur in a variety of ways.  They can range from mild to severe and blinding.  Nearly eighty percent of injuries occur when no eye protection is used.


This week’s topic is vascular occlusions (blood clots) in the eye.  The eyes, like the rest of the body, have arteries that bring oxygen and nutrients.  They also have veins that remove waste.  Both the arteries and the veins can suffer blood clots. 

The first type of clot I will describe are clots of the arteries of the eye.  This is the same process that is called a heart attack if it happens in the heart and a stroke if it happens in the brain.  Most commonly it is caused by a clot of blood or plaque getting lodged in the artery. 

Eyelashes, why do we have them? Do we ever lose them?  Can you have too many?  Can they affect vision?  Can they harm the eyes?

Eyelashes are hairs that grow from the upper and lower edges of the eyelids.  Their main function is to protect foreign objects from getting into the eyes.  Eyelashes are similar to hairs found elsewhere on the body.  They grow on skin and have oil glands that help to lubricate them. 

Usually there is one row of eyelashes on each eyelid.


A patient once joking asked if I could change her eyes to green.  Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.  Well, I couldn’t change her eyes to green, but it is interesting to discuss eye color and how that color can change.

The colored part of the eye is called the iris.  The iris is composed of two muscles.  The pupil is the hole in the center of the iris.  One of the iris muscles opens the pupil and the other constricts it.  The muscle is usually blue to gray in color.

 When I first arrived in Helena I began writing the Vision of Health.  This series of articles has been going for over 12 years now. I have written on nearly every subject that I have encountered in ophthalmology training.  This week’s article is the one that I knew would be very difficult to write.  Now it is time.  This week’s article is about why I practice ophthalmology and what keeps me motivated to provide a vision of health.

This week’s article starts in the 8th grade when I got my first “C’ in geometry.

This week’s topic is laser surgery for eyes.  Lasers have many uses in the treatment of eye disease and vision correction.

One of the most popular uses of lasers in eye surgery is the excimer laser.  This is the laser used to perform LASIK surgery.  This powerful laser is used to reshape the surface of the cornea.  This improves the focusing power of the eye and allows many patients to go without glasses. 

Another laser used in eye surgery is the Yag laser.  This laser is often used to remove scar tissue that can form on lens implants after cataract surgery.