Does Low Birth Weight = Age-related Vision Loss?

A recent study suggests doctors may need to pay close attention to vision concerns in patients born with a low birth weight.

Medical researchers at the University of Alberta recently published findings of their study on rats with restricted growth in the womb, causing them to be born with low birth weights.  The study showed those rats were most susceptible to developing age-related vision loss, compared with rats born within the normal range of birth weight.

Additional work needs to be done to see whether this same link exists in people. If it does, doctors will need to incorporate better vision monitoring in adults who were born with a low birth weight.

Although most age-related eye diseases or vision loss can result from many different factors, this study may indicate that low birth weight could be an additional factor to consider.

The low birth weight rats in the study had overall poorer vision as they aged, they also had poorer night vision.  While it is normal for night vision to be slightly affected with age, the night vision loss was worse than normal in the test subjects as they aged.

Now all of this begs the question: How do they know what a rat can or cannot see and the degree of the difference??

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Tetris – A Cure for Lazy Eye Disorder?

Researchers use the popular puzzle video game Tetris  to treat adult amblyopia or lazy-eye.

By distributing information between the two eyes equally, the video game trains the eyes to work together, which is the opposite of previous treatments for the disorder (e.g. patching).

This study provides direct evidence that forcing both eyes to cooperate, increases the level of plasticity in the brain and allows the amblyopic brain to relearn. The research is published in the prestigious journal Current Biology.

Amblyopia or lazy-eye is the most common cause of visual impairment in childhood, affecting up to 3 out of every 100 children. Caused by poor processing in the brain, the weaker eye is suppressed by the stronger eye. Previously treatments for the disorder have focused largely on covering the stronger eye in order to force the weaker eye to work harder, proved only partially successful in children and have been ineffective in adults.

For adults a study was created that set up conditions that would enable the two eyes to cooperate for the first time in a given task.

The adult human brain has a significant degree of plasticity which provides the basis for treating a range of conditions where vision has been lost as a result of a disrupted period of early visual development in childhood.  Researchers examined the potential of treating amblyopic adults using the video game Tetris, which involves connecting different shaped blocks as they fall to the ground.

By using head-mounted video goggles the game was displayed dichoptically, where one eye was allowed to see only the falling objects, and the other eye was allowed to see only the ground plane, resulting in the eyes being forced to work together.

The study used 18 adults with amblyopia. Nine participants played the game monocularly with the weaker eye, while the stronger eye was patched; the other nine played the same game dichoptically, where each eye was allowed to view a separate part of the game. After two weeks, the group playing the dichoptic game showed a dramatic improvement in the vision of the weaker eye as well as in 3-D depth perception.   When the monocular patching group, who had showed only a moderate improvement, was switched to the new dichoptic training, the vision of this group also improved dramatically.

The suitability of this treatment in children will be assessed later this year in a clinical trial across North America.

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Eyeball licking can be dangerous…you’re kidding!

Eyeball-licking fetishism, also known as “oculolinctus” or “worming”, is gaining popularity as a way of expressing affection or inciting sexual arousal in Japan. With the increase of this activity, doctors are warning that there is a linkage to serious risk of virus conjunctivitis, other eye infections, and even blindness.

The oculolinctus craze in the country among young lovers has resulted in a significant increase in eye-infection cases. When the tongue makes contact with the eye, the eye is exposed to all kinds of infections and eye damage.

The trend of eyeball-licking was first documented when a Japanese school noticed that children were coming into class wearing eye patches. Apparently, one third of all the twelve-year-old children at the school had engaged in oculolinctus. This questionable trend was inspired by a Japanese emo band called “Born” in one of their music videos.

When interviewed by the Huffington Post on this phenomenon, ophthalmologist David Granet said “Nothing good can come of this. There are ridges on the tongue that can cause a corneal abrasion. And if a person hasn’t washed out their mouth, they might put acid from citrus products or spices into the eye.”

There is a very real risk of transmitting viruses. If the one who does the licking has herpes and/or a cold sore, there is a risk of human transmission via oculolinctus. If the licker suffers from halitosis (bad breath), they are more likely to have massive amounts of harmful bacteria in their mouth and on their tongue. Allowing such an individual to lick your eyeball (which has an absorbing membrane) puts you at risk of developing an infection.

Dr. Phillip Rizzuto, a spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology said there is even a risk of eventual blindness. “The bacteria in the mouth are nothing like the bacteria in the eyeball, which is why we no longer recommend people lick contact lenses to moisten them.”

Animals use their tongues for personal hygiene (watch any pet cleaning itself). And in some cases, humans do the same (licking your thumb to remove a spot from your body). However, the tongue and mouth are designed to deal with a wide variety of pathogens that our eyeballs are not designed to deal with.  There are many practices in the animal world that do not translate well to the human world. I think I can safely say that we all prefer our traditional handshake to the traditional method of introduction in the dog world.

If you want to show someone affection, hold their hand, give them a kiss or a hug. But PLEASE don’t lick their eyeball!

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