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By John Schieszer
Medical Minutes 

Smart glasses, marijuana for sleep, benefits of CPAPs

Medical Minutes


August 1, 2019

Smart glasses may help replace need for progressive lenses

Just as motion-detection technology is changing how cars are designed, the same is occurring with eyeglasses. Using eye-tracking technology, engineers now have created a prototype for ‘autofocals’ designed to restore proper vision in people who ordinarily would need progressive lenses. Presbyopia plagues many adults starting about age 45, as the lenses in our eyes lose the elasticity needed to focus on nearby objects. For some people, reading glasses suffice to overcome the difficulty, but for many people the only fix, short of surgery, is to wear progressive lenses.

“More than a billion people have presbyopia and we’ve created a pair of autofocal lenses that might one day correct their vision far more effectively than traditional glasses,” said electrical engineer Gordon Wetzstein, who is with Stanford University, Stanford, Calif. For now, the prototype looks like virtual reality goggles but the team hopes to streamline the product.

Autofocals are intended to solve the main problem with today’s progressive lenses, which require the wearer to align their head to focus in a narrow area. The prototype works much like the lens of the eye, with fluid-filled lenses that bulge and thin as the

field of vision changes. It also includes eye-tracking sensors that triangulate where a person is looking and determine the precise distance to the object. The team did not invent these lenses or eye-trackers, but they developed the software system that harnesses this eye-tracking data to keep the fluid-filled lenses in constant and perfect focus.

To validate the approach, the researchers tested the prototype in 56 adults with presbyopia. Test subjects said the autofocus lenses performed better and faster at reading and other tasks. Wearers also tended to prefer the autofocal glasses to the experience of progressive lenses. The next step will be to downsize the technology. Wetzstein thinks it may take a few years to develop autofocal glasses that are lightweight, energy efficient and stylish. But he is convinced that autofocals are the future of vision correction. “This technology could affect billions of people’s lives in a meaningful way that most techno-gadgets never will,” said Wetzstein.

Cannabis-based sleeping relief

A new study is suggesting that cannabis could be an effective treatment option for both pain relief and insomnia for those looking to avoid prescription and over-the-counter pain and sleep medications.

The study, published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, looked at 1,000 people using legalized marijuana and found that among the 65% of people taking cannabis for pain, 80% found it was very helpful or extremely helpful. This led to 82% being able to reduce, or stop taking over-the-counter pain medications, and 88% being able to stop taking opioid painkillers.

In this study, 74% of the 1,000 interviewees bought it to help them sleep. Among these individuals, 84% said the marijuana had helped them, and 83% said that they had since reduced or stopped taking over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids. The study suggests that cannabis could lower opioid use. However, the researchers caution that more research needs to be done to understand the potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis.

“Approximately 20% of American adults suffer from chronic pain, and one in three adults do not get enough sleep,” says Dr. Gwen Wurm, who is with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, Florida. Smoking marijuana can also come with side effects and it can lower blood pressure. Older adults on high blood pressure medicines should discuss smoking marijuana with their physicians, according to experts.

Currently, there is a problem because consumers have no good resources available to them to determine how much marijuana may be ideal and which strains may be best for their medical problem.

“The challenge is that health providers are far behind in knowing which cannabis products work and which do not. Until there is more research into which cannabis products work for which symptoms, patients will do their own ‘trial and error’ experiments, getting advice from friends, social media and dispensary employees,” said Dr. Wurm.

CPAP may help with depression

Researchers have found that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can improve depression symptoms in patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases. Using data from the Sleep Apnea Cardiovascular Endpoints (SAVE) trial, the new study has found a significant decrease in cases of depression after patients received CPAP treatment for their sleep apnea.

This study included 2,410 adults and is by far the largest trial of its type and one of very few studies reporting such an effect, according to Professor Doug McEvoy from Flinders University in Adelaide Australia. Prior studies investigating the effect of CPAP on mood has shown mixed results.

“Patients who have had a stroke or heart attack are prone to suffer from low mood and are two to three times more likely to develop clinical depression, which then further elevates their risk of future heart attacks and strokes,” said SAVE principal investigator Professor McEvoy.

The research found that after following the patients for an average of 3.7 years, CPAP provided significant reductions in depression symptoms compared with those who were not treated for OSA. In addition, the improvement for depression was apparent within six months and was sustained.

John Schieszer is an award-winning national journalist and radio and podcast broadcaster of The Medical Minute. He can be reached at

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John Schieszer is an award-winning national journalist and radio and podcast broadcaster of The Medical Minute.

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