Insurance Update
August 2016
Issue No. 71
In this issue

Simple tips for healthy eyes



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Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust Inc.

Church of the Brethren Insurance Services provides the following products: dental, vision, basic life and accidental death & dismemberment, supplemental life and AD&D, dependent life and AD&D, retiree life, long-term disability, short-term disability, and Medicare supplement for eligible Church of the Brethren employees .
Dental, vision, retiree life, and Medicare supplement coverage may also be available for eligible retired Church of the Brethren employees.
For eligibility information, call Connie Sandman at 800-746-1505, ext. 366, or contact your human resources representative.
Medical and ancillary plans (named above) may be available to Brethren-affiliated employer groups.
Long-Term Care Insurance is available for all members of the Church of the Brethren, their family and friends, and employees of Church of the Brethren-affiliated agencies, organizations, colleges, and retirement communities. 

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Dear ,

Have you given your eyes any thought recently, or have you been taking them for granted? Sight is such an important part of our experience. It provides a kind of metaphor for how we perceive or relate to things. When we want to be sure someone has understood us, we ask, "Do you 'see' what I mean?" When we are willing to consider something, we often say, "Okay, let me 'see' what I think of it."
Think of all the things we do that would be immeasurably more difficult if we lost our sight -- from using our smartphone or computer, to reading, to driving, to seeing the faces of our children or spouse, to something as simple and basic as following a recipe. Most of us have probably allowed ourselves an uncomfortable moment of considering what life might be like without the benefit of eyesight, but most of the time we are glad we can see and don't think any more about it. It is good to pause for a moment and reflect with gratitude on the richness that the gift of sight brings to our existence.
This month's issue is devoted to the eye, how it works, some common problems, some more serious conditions and diseases, and some thoughts about how to be sure you are giving your eyes the care they need.
So as we bring you this mid-summer issue on eye health, may you delight in all the beauty around you, enjoy the vibrant visual landscapes that warm weather brings, as well as all the sounds and tastes and warm comfort of the summer season.

Paying attention to your eyes
The eye is one of the most extraordinary and complex parts of the body. It also has great symbolic meaning. We have all heard the expression, "The eyes are the window to the soul." Of all the parts of the body, they are always ready. When we wake in the morning, the muscles of our bodies need time to get moving. Not so the eye muscles. The eye is ready for action all the time.

How the eye works
Light enters the eye through a thin film of tears lubricating the cornea, which is the "front window" of the eye, and helps focus the light. On the other side of the cornea is the "aqueous humor," a clear watery fluid that moves in the front part of the eye and maintains a constant pressure. Next the light passes through the pupil, a small opening in the colored part of the eye, which is called the iris. The iris contracts or dilates causing the pupil to be larger or smaller depending on the intensity of the light, thus controlling how much light enters the eye. Next the light goes through the lens, which focuses it by changing shape depending on whether light is being focused from near or far objects.

Finally, the focused light goes through a clear jelly in the center of the eye called the vitreous and falls on the retina, the lining in the back of the eye, where the light triggers photo receptors on the retina. There are several kinds of receptors, and they convert the light into electro-chemical signals that travel along nerve fibers to a nerve bundle called the optic nerve, which sends signals to the vision center in the back of the brain.

Some common eye conditions
Eye problems occur along this pathway of light from external object to the brain. The most common condition that almost everyone suffers as they pass 40 and begin to age, is when their ability to see close objects and small print diminishes. This has a technical name, presbyopia, and occurs when the lens loses its elasticity and is unable to focus on near objects. Most people deal with this by getting reading glasses. Another option is to have a LASIK procedure.

Many people have "floaters," tiny spots that move across the field of vision. They are noticed in bright light or outdoors on a bright day. These are normal, but they can indicate a serious problem. If you notice a sudden change in the type or number of spots or flashes, see your eye doctor as soon as possible.

Astigmatism is a condition in which there is blurred vision caused by either an irregularly shaped cornea or sometimes the curvature of the lens inside the eye. These irregularities prevent light from properly focusing in your eye.

Myopia, also known as nearsightedness, occurs when light from distant objects focuses in front of the retina instead of directly on it. Thus you cannot clearly see things in the distance.

Hyperopia, also known as farsightedness, is a condition in which things at a distance can be seen clearly but things close up may be blurry. It occurs when light from a distant object strikes the retina before coming into focus or, in other words, focuses behind the retina.

Some people have dry eyes, which occurs when the tear glands are underproductive. On the other hand, some have too many tears, caused by over sensitivity to light, wind, or temperature. These conditions can be handled easily by your eye doctor.

How do you know whether or not your eyesight is good? A common measurement is the 20/20 test, but this checks only visual acuity - whether you can see a figure at 20 feet that most people should be able to see at that distance. This cannot measure other aspects of good vision. How well can you see objects against their background? Can you track moving objects? Can you see colors? Do you have good depth perception? How quickly can your eyes focus? Vision is more complicated and dynamic than simple acuity.

Some more serious eye problems and diseases
Cataracts are a common condition caused when cloudy areas develop on the lens, causing cloudy or fuzzy vision and sensitivity to glare. They develop slowly and there is no pain, just a gradual lessening of clear vision as more of the lens becomes cloudy. When the entire lens is white, the cataracts are "mature" or "ripe" and cause severe vision problems. They can be treated by surgery.

Glaucoma is damage to your optic nerve from increased pressure in the eye called intraocular pressure. If damage to the optic nerve, which transmits images to the brain, continues, glaucoma will cause permanent loss of vision. Without treatment, glaucoma can cause total blindness within a few years. The pressure in your eye increases because the eye fluid isn't circulating normally in the front part of the eye. Normally, this fluid, called aqueous humor, flows out of the eye through a mesh-like channel. If this channel becomes blocked, the fluid builds up, causing glaucoma. Why this blockage occurs is unknown, but doctors do know that the condition can be inherited.

There are other less common causes of glaucoma including a blunt or chemical injury to the eye, severe eye infection, blockage of blood vessels in the eye, inflammatory conditions of the eye, and occasionally eye surgery to correct another condition. Glaucoma usually occurs in both eyes, but it may involve each eye to a different extent. There is no cure for glaucoma, but immediate treatment at an early stage can delay the progression, so regular checkups are very important for diagnosing glaucoma.

Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over age 60. It occurs when the small central portion of the retina, known as the macula, deteriorates. The retina is the light-sensing nerve tissue at the back of the eye. Because the disease develops as a person ages, it is often referred to as age-related macular degeneration. Although macular degeneration is almost never a totally blinding condition, it can be a source of significant visual disability.
Diabetic retinopathy occurs when chronically high blood sugar from diabetes causes damage to the tiny blood vessels in the retina and they leak blood, distorting vision. In its most advanced stage, proliferative retinopathy, new abnormal blood vessels proliferate on the surface of the retina, which can lead to scarring and cell loss in the retina. There are no early warning symptoms, so it is crucial to have a comprehensive eye exam at least once a year. If there is bleeding, you will see these specks of blood as spots, floating in your vision. See your eye doctor immediately. Sometime the spots will clear. But bleeding can occur again. Untreated, proliferative retinopathy can cause severe vision loss, even blindness.

A detached retina occurs when the retina at the back of the eye becomes separated from its underlying supportive tissue. If it is not reattached quickly, vision may be permanently lost. The symptoms are floaters and flashes of light. Vision may become blurry. You may see a shadow or a curtain descend from the top of the eyes or across from the side.

Retinal detachment can be caused by injury. A tear in the retina can allow fluid to get behind it and cause the separation. Sometimes extreme nearsightedness can cause the retina to detach. Very nearsighted people have elongated eyeballs with thinner retinas, which are more likely to detach. On very rare occasions, the retina may become detached during surgery. Also, when new blood vessels grow as a result of diabetic retinopathy, they may push the retina away from its supportive tissue.

The retina can be reattached with laser surgery or sometimes with a freeze treatment called cryopexy, both of which "weld" the retina back into place. Ninety percent of detached retinas can be reattached successfully.

Keeping your eyes healthy: common sense, nutrition, and eye exercise
Regular checkups are the best defense against eye problems and diseases. In a comprehensive eye examination, your doctor may use eye drops to see inside your eye more clearly and examine your retina and optic nerve. If you have a particular concern about your eyes, take a friend or relative along on your visit to the eye specialist to listen and to help you with questions. Be sure to take notes. Click here for a comprehensive list of more than 20 questions you might want to ask. Be persistent with your questions. If the eye exam shows something serious, don't hesitate to get a second opinion.

Here are four common-sense things you can do to keep your eyes healthy. 
  • Get a comprehensive eye screening regularly after the age of 40.
  • Avoid extended eyestrain.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Get exercise.
Eat foods that provide nutrients that are good for the eyes:
  • Dark leafy greens. These are sources of lutein and zeaxanthin. Lutein concentrates in your macula and protects your central vision. Zeaxanthin is found in the retina. Both help lower the risk of cataracts and advanced macular degeneration. The best sources are kale and spinach; also Swiss chard, collard greens, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
  • Carrots. These contain beta carotene, a type of vitamin A, which helps the retina and other parts of the eyes function smoothly.
  • Orange peppers. These are supposed to have the highest concentration of zeaxanthin found in fruits and vegetables. Zeaxanthin cannot be made by your body, so you have to get it from what you eat.
  • Salmon (or other fatty fish). Salmon is rich in omega-3s. The omega-3 fat DHA concentrates in the retina and provides structural support for cell membrane. Eating food rich in these fats seems to slow macular degeneration. The anti-oxidant astaxanthin is also found in salmon and brings anti-inflammatory protection to the eye.
  • Citrus and berries. These are good sources of vitamin A and reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.
  • Black currants. These are rich in fatty acids with anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Oil supplements. Fish oil supplements will give you omega-3s, as will black currant seed oil or flaxseed oil.
  • Almonds. These are filled with vitamin E, which slows macular degeneration.
  • Tomatoes. These contain carotenoids including lycopene, which helps prevent light-induced damage to the retina.
  • Other foods. The following are also recommended by various sources: legumes such as kidney beans, black-eyed peas and lentils; whole grains; bilberry; sunflower seeds; yellow corn; and pistachio nuts.
Eye exercises
There is some controversy about what eye exercises can accomplish. Be wary of claims that a certain course of exercise will improve your eyesight. Many vision experts contend there is little scientific evidence to support this. You will find a good discussion of this on the All About Vision website.

The eye is a remarkable -- you might almost say miraculous -- organ. Our eyes work so well and with so little attention that we practically take them for granted. For those who do suffer from eye injuries, it is nice to know that eyes have an extraordinary capacity to heal. And with just a little attention and foresight (no pun intended), we can keep them in good working order and enjoy the pleasure of good eyesight throughout a long life.

Adapted from articles at,,, and
Interesting facts about the eyes
  1. If you have blue eyes, you share an ancestor with all other blue-eyed people across the world. All humans originally had brown eyes. Blue eyes appeared as a mutation about 6,000 years ago.
  2. Your eyes start to develop two weeks after you are conceived.
  3. Newborns don't produce tears. They make crying sounds, but the tears don't start flowing until they are between four and 13 weeks old.
  4. Some people are born with eyes of two different colors. This condition is called heterochromia.
  5. Your eyeballs stay the same size from birth to death, while your nose and ears continue to grow.
  6. Everyone has one eye that is slightly stronger than the other.
  7. An eye is composed of more than 2 million working parts.
  8. Your eyes contain around 107 million light-sensitive cells, which come in different shapes. There are 7 million "cones" which help you see color and detail, and 100 million "rods" which help you see shapes and see better in the dark.
  9. The human eye weighs approximately 1 ounce and is about an inch across.
  10. An eye cannot be transplanted. More than 1 million nerve fibers connect each eye to the brain, and doctors are currently not able to reconstruct those connections.
  11. A fingerprint has 40 unique characteristics, but an iris has 256, which is one reason retina scans are increasingly being used for security purposes.
  12. Corneas are the only tissues that don't contain blood.
  13. Eyes are the second most complex organ in the body (after the brain).
  14. Each of your eyes has a small blind spot in the back of the retina where the optic nerve attaches. You don't notice the hole in your vision because your brain uses the information from each eye to fill in the blind spot on the other.
  15. Eyes are protected by their position in a hollowed eye socket, with eyebrows above to prevent sweat from dripping into them, and eyelashes lining them to keep dirt out.
  16. The muscles that control your eyes are the most active muscles in your body.
  17. Your eye is the fastest muscle in your body. This is why when something happens quickly, we say it happened "in the blink of an eye!"
  18. While it takes some time for most parts of your body to warm up to their full potential, your eyes are on their "A game" 24/7. The human eye can function at 100 percent at any given moment, without needing to rest.
  19. Only one-sixth of the human eyeball is exposed.
  20. Tears can form if you are crying, yawning, or if something is irritating your eye. The composition of your tears changes, however, depending on the cause of the tears.
  21. Eyes heal quickly. With proper care, it takes only about 48 hours to repair a minor corneal scratch.
  22. Eighty percent of our memories are determined by what we see.
  23. Eighty percent of what we learn is through our eyes.
  24. Seeing is such a big part of everyday life that it requires about half of the brain to get involved.
  25. Your retinas actually perceive the outside world as upside-down; your brain flips the image for you.
  26. Your peripheral vision is very low-resolution and is almost in black-and-white.
  27. There are about 39 million people around the world who are blind, and roughly six times that many have some kind of vision impairment.
  28. 80 percent of vision problems worldwide are avoidable or even curable.
  29. If you are blind but were born with sight, you probably still see images in your dreams.
  30. Color blindness is more common in males. 
  31. "Red eye" occurs in photos because light from the flash bounces off the back of the eye. The choroid is located behind the retina and is rich in blood vessels, which makes it appear red on film.
  32. Your eye can distinguish between 50,000 shades of the color grey.
  33. Our two eyeballs give us depth perception; comparing two images allows us to determine how far away an object is from us.
  34. In the right conditions and lighting, humans can see the light of a candle from 14 miles away.
  35. Scientists have shown that the average person blinks 15 to 20 times per minute. That's up to 1,200 times per hour and a whopping 28,800 times in a day.
  36. The average blink lasts for about one-tenth of a second.
  37. The entire length of all the eyelashes shed by a human during his life is more than 98 feet, with each eye lash having a life span of about five months.
  38. It's impossible to sneeze with your eyes open.
  39. We all have unseen (and harmless) microscopic creatures living in our eyelashes.

 Adapted from,,, and
Brain Puzzles
The staff of Insurance Update is excited to bring you a new, regular monthly feature -- BRAIN PUZZLES!

Bus driver
You are a bus driver. The bus starts out empty. At the first stop 4 people get on. At the second stop, 8 people get on and 3 get off. At the third stop, 2 people get off and 4 get on. The question is, what color are the bus driver's eyes?

Click here for the answer.

Moving eye illustions 
Here are some static images that will look like they are moving if you concentrate on the photo. 

Can you see the waves moving? If not, move your head around or scroll.

Illusions come from
 LTCILong-Term Care Insurance
Brethren Insurance Services offers Long-Term Care Insurance
Editor's Note: In the July issue of Insurance Update, it was implied that long-term care insurance is a solution for expensive prescription drugs costs. This is not necessarily the case. We apologize for any misunderstanding our headline may have caused.
Eligibility for long-term care insurance benefits is determined by the inability to meet at least two of these six activities of daily living -- bathing, eating, dressing, toileting, continence, or transferring. Cognitive impairment can also trigger benefits.
It's difficult to think about the fact that a debilitating condition or a disabling injury might leave you unable to care for yourself, or that when you reach your twilight years, the time will come when you will need some extra care. Long-term care insurance makes sure that you will get the care you need. It assures that the cost of your custodial care will not eat up your savings. Finally, and this is one of the best things about LTCI, it can help protect your children and other relatives from having to use their resources to care for you.
Brethren Insurance Services offers Long-Term Care Insurance for all members and employees of the Church of the Brethren and their family and friends; and also for employees of Church of the Brethren-affiliated agencies, organizations, colleges, and retirement communities and their families and friends.
If you are interested in obtaining this coverage, contact Brethren Insurance Services at or 800-746-1505 for a free, no-obligation proposal or  click here to request more information.