My latest medical shoot took place at Steve Lyhne Optometrists in Meadowridge, Cape Town - just a stone’s throw away from my previous medical photoshoot - where I captured some images for Steve Lyhne's marketing team. Eye-tests, a patient consultation, and a better way of diagnosing Ocular Disease - from the Anterior Segment to the Choroid. Stay with me...
Seriously, I seem to enjoy every medical shoot more than the last; they’re always super interesting. And what was really interesting (and also heartwarming) was how Steve Lyhne offered all affected firefighter’s free corneal checks for thermal burns after they’d been battling the heat during the #12ApostleFires which raged through Table Mountain National Park in mid-October last year.
An ember storm can appear in seconds... ...When winds are gusting at over 50kmph, it becomes extremely unpleasant as larger burning sticks and twigs get carried in the wind. ...VWS firefighters push through the storm defending a fire break just meters away from the #12apostleshotelandspa in Camps Bay, South Africa.
What does receiving a thermal burn to the eye mean exactly?
Yup, it’s pretty much what you think it is.
Eyeballs... super cooked. Seriously ouch. Not good.
Thermal burns can cause significant corneal damage due to excessive thermal radiation. Not surprisingly, eyelid burns are the most common complication and in some cases, patients can develop eyelid contractures.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, “The depth of burn depends on the intensity of heat exposure, the duration of exposure, and the thickness of epidermis and dermis. Eyelid skin is thin [and] that leads to deeper burns than a similar exposure to skin elsewhere.”
However, with prompt treatment and early intervention, thermal burns generally have good visual outcomes. Finally, some good news! And that’s where optometrist Hester Slabbert and her team at Steve Lyhne Optometrists come in.
I'll be honest here, I think that regular checkups are super important, but they’re even more so if you’ve been... let’s say… fighting great big walls of billowing fire! Or welding a lot (more on that a bit later) or, if you seem to be having trouble seeing, blurry vision, sore eyes, or similar.
This wasn’t the typical Optometry photoshoot… Mainly because I had the opportunity to photograph their new - and uber-fancy - OCT machine! Yes, you guessed it, that stands for something cool.
Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) has changed the way eyecare professionals get to analyze your retina, optic disc, and anterior segment structures. Some super-cool eye investigation stuff going on right there! And the Optovue OCT apparatus (I always wanted to type out 'apparatus' on the blog) is as cool as it looks. Maybe even more so.
Ken: So Hester, did you have any firefighters take you up on your offer of a free corneal check?
Hester: Yes! We did have a someone come in, and thankfully everything was okay. What’s also really good about the check-up with the OCT machine, is that we can often pick up if the patient has any other problems, areas of concern, or optical issues we need to address. Specifically, things we might not have picked up if we had not used the OCT machine.
Ken: Okay, that’s pretty neat!
Ken: So, thermal burn checkups aside, and without getting too technical, what else would you use the OCT machine for exactly?
Hester: Our OCT machine actually has a broad range of applications. Basically, OCT technology generates high-res, cross-sectional and 3D images of the retina, optic disc, and anterior segment; all valuable info that helps me to diagnose and manage a range of ocular diseases.
Ken: Very cool.
Hester: Yip and each scan include super dense 3D cubes of data that we actually dissect in order to visualize individual retinal layers in a surgical-like view while placing those against a normative comparison.
In short, we get to take a closer yet non-invasive look at the health of the eye in extreme detail. The OCT helps us to diagnose with increased confidence as well as enabling us to monitor a patient's response to treatment during follow up appointments.
Ken: Besides using the OCT for the casual check-up or thermal-burn scare, where else has it come in handy?
Hester: It’s really been useful, especially when dealing with patients you have been welding either at work or during some weekend DIY. I get to monitor the extent of the damage (if any) in detail using the high-resolution images made possible with the OCT and advise on treatment accordingly.
In most cases, retinal injuries are able to heal spontaneously without loss of vision, but severe burns of the macula (the central area of the retina) may lead to permanent or partial loss of central vision. My advice is that it’s always best to get your eyes checked regardless of how severe one thinks the injury might be.
Ken: Okay, wow. And what are your suggestions to welders or supervisors in terms of prevention?
Hester: Preventive strategies should include making use of good welding equipment, good environmental background lighting, compulsory eye protection, and training of workers. Workers should be adequately informed about the danger of welding too close to the eyes and of looking around the side of the visor, even for a very short period - especially trainees or workers with little to no welding experience.
Ken: Sound advice!
Thanks to Hester and the team for getting in touch with me and booking this shoot.
In case you missed it the first time around, you can find the friendly and professional team at Steve Lyhne Optometrists in the Park ‘n Shop' Shopping Centre in Cape Town’s southern suburbs.