Press Room – 2012

July 28, 2012

Preventative Measures 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Many people slather on sunscreen before hitting the waves but don’t give a thought to eye protection while in the water.

Chronic sun exposure can lead to a common eye condition called pterygium, a noncancerous growth on the cornea that can affect vision.

Surfers and others who spend a lot of time outdoors and in the ocean have a greater potential for developing eye problems, according to Dr. Michael Bennett, founder of the Retina Institute of Hawaii and an active waterman himself. Water can reflect up to 100 percent of damaging ultraviolet light from the sun.

Pterygium is like a callous on the hand. It can be brutally painful,” he said.

“This is a big problem for surfers, windsurfers, fishermen and guys on the water here. They need to be wearing some sort of protection that prevents this,” Bennett said.

Pterygium can grow over the entire eyeball, causing a substantial loss of vision. The main symptom is an area of raised white tissue, which can become inflamed and cause burning, irritation or a feeling of having a foreign particle in the eye.

Surgery can be done to remove the scar tissue from the eye if vision is impaired, but there is a chance it will return. Once diagnosed, the most important course of action is to try to contain the damage and not let it get worse.

Goggles, sunglasses and tinted sports contact lenses that filter UVA and UVB light all work well as means of eye protection, but there are trade-offs, according to Bennett.

“It’s easiest to wear glasses, but they are the easiest to lose in the water. Polarized glasses provide water clarity and help with UV blockage,” he said. “Goggles stay secure but fog with great frequency, especially if you heat up and the water and air temperature remains relatively cool.”

Australian Jamie Mitchell, winner of eight consecutive Molokai-to-Oahu paddleboard races, wears polarized sunglasses while on the water.

“When I’m paddling I always wear sunglasses. I am lucky I am sponsored by Kaenon Polarized,” he said. “I feel it’s important to save your eyes from the sun, glare and elements as much as possible. Without our eyesight we have nothing, so I definitely like to protect my eyes.”

Seventeen-year-old Connor Baxter of Maui, who competes around the world in windsurfing, stand-up paddling and surfing, also believes that sun protection is of the utmost importance.

“I’m normally in the ocean from sunup to sundown,” he said.

Baxter uses tinted contacts by Nike, one of his sponsors, for sun protection. In general the specialized contacts range in price from $33 to $39 a pair and require a fitting from an eye doctor. The lenses that Baxter wears reduce glare and filter out 95 percent of UVA and UVB light. (A Nike spokes­man said the lenses are no longer on the market while the company is changing manufacturers.)

“I try to use them as much as possible,” said Baxter, adding that the lenses begin to lose their polarization after a few weeks.

“I can wear sunglasses when I paddle for an hour. But when I’m paddling 32 miles for a race, it’s a real benefit to have the contact lenses. You get polarization and no glare, which is so helpful,” he said. “It definitely gives me an edge on the competition.”

Whether one prefers sunglasses, goggles or contacts, Bennett said “all are infinitely better than nothing at all.”

“I have tried them all and they all have their places — it’s up to the individual. Just like sunscreen and seat belts: trade-offs and hassles are a part of living.”

» For sports-tint contact lenses, check with an eye doctor or check online, including at and other websites.

» Kaenon Polarized sunglasses are sold in surf shops; find locations at

Hawaii’s First IMT Patient Receives the Gift of Sight

Thursday, Mar 29, 2012

On January 10, 2012, Merrill Smith underwent the first IMT surgery in Honolulu, Hawaii. Since then, he has been working on his vision and training with Dr. Kellen Kashiwa bi-weekly in Hilo on Hawaii’s Big Island. Prior to receiving the telescope implant, Smith was nearly blind. His vision has improved remarkably from 20/200 to 20/80 and his quality of life has increased dramatically. Where he was once unable to see faces and could barely read, Mr. Smith can now decipher faces, read with glasses, see movement and watch television. His vision began improving immediately after surgery and with continued training with Dr. Kashiwa, his complete treatment time is anticipated to be about three months.
Watch IMT segment on KHON

Patient Receives Hawaii’s First Telescope Implant for Macular Degeneration by Retina Institute of Hawaii

January 18, 2012

A team of surgeons from Hawaii, Dr. Michael Bennett of Retina Institute of Hawaii and Dr. Michael McMann of McMann Institute, has successfully implanted the FDA-approved eye telescope, a first in Hawaii, at one of the leading medical centers in Honolulu. The first-of-kind telescope implant is integral to CentraSight™, a new patient care program for treating patients with end-stage age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most advanced form of AMD and the leading cause of blindness in older Americans. It is the only medical/surgical option that improves visual acuity by reducing the impact of the central vision blind spot caused by end-stage AMD.

Smaller than a pea, the telescope implant uses micro-optical technology to magnify images, which would normally be seen in one’s “straight ahead” or central vision. The images are projected onto the healthy portion of the retina not affected by the disease, making it possible for patients to see or discern the central vision object of interest.

Patients with end-stage AMD have a central blind spot. This vision loss makes it difficult or impossible to see faces, read, and perform everyday activities such as watching TV, preparing meals, and self-care. The telescope implant has been demonstrated in clinical trials to improve quality of life by improving patients’ vision so they can see the things that are important to them, increase their independence, and re-engage in everyday activities. It also may help patients in social settings as it may allow them to recognize faces and see the facial expressions of family and friends.

“After decades worth of research and development, we finally have technology capable of restoring sight and visual function for patients suffering from chronic macular degeneration,” says Dr. Michael Bennett, Retina Institute of Hawaii. “This is a very exciting breakthrough both in medical history and for patients who never thought they would see again.”

The treatment program is generally coordinated by retina specialists who treat macular degeneration and other back-of-the-eye disorders. The treatment program focuses on comprehensive patient care, requiring prospective patients to undergo medical, visual, and functional evaluation to determine if they may be a good candidate. A unique aspect of the evaluation is the ability to simulate, prior to surgery, what a person may expect to see once the telescope is implanted to determine if the possible improvement will meet the patient’s expectations.

Dr. Bennett and Dr. McMann, a cornea eye surgeon, are one of the first teams to perform the surgery nationwide. As long time friends and colleagues, Dr. Bennett and Dr. McMann were both trained at Emory University, one of the pioneering Phase I and Phase II surgical centers for the implantable device. Their natural union combines the best of their collective retinal and cataract refractive skills. The telescope procedure is performed on an outpatient basis and is covered by Medicare. Post-implantation, the patient will learn how to use their new vision in everyday activities by working with Dr. Kellen Kashiwa, the regional CentraSight visual rehabilitation provider.

Patients and physicians can find more information about the telescope implant and related treatment program at or by calling (888) 999-4134.