Soon eye tests could spot the early signs of dementia

 

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Scientists have announced a breakthrough with new tests that could help delay and minimise the onset of the disease.

Dementia can be spotted with a simple eye test years before people begin to lose their memory.

More than 850,000 Brits have the condition. Most are only diagnosed in the late stages of the disease when it is too late to do anything about it. But if the disease is spotted much earlier, lifestyle changes could minimise the extent of the damage.

Drugs are also being developed which experts hope will be able to ward off dementia – but again these will only work if people are diagnosed early.

The latest discovery means opticians could look for signs of dementia during annual eye checks.

Scientists explained that the back of the eye can act as a window to the brain. It displays signs of changes at the same time as they are taking place deep within the brain circuits – years before symptoms start to appear.

Two research teams told the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Toronto about their eye test discovery.

The first team, from London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital in London and Oxford University , found they could use eye scans to measure the precise thickness of a layer of neurons on the retina at the back of the eye.

Scientists measured this layer among 33,000 Brits aged 40 to 69 and also carried out tests on memory, reaction time and reasoning. They found people who had a thinner layer of neurons were more likely to perform poorly on the cognitive tests – a clear warning sign they may be undergoing the early stages of dementia.

The scanning machine is already used by many ophthalmologists and could easily be built into a standard eye exam.

A second study, by scientists at Waterloo University in Canada, found people with severe Alzheimer’s disease had deposits of a protein called amyloid on their retinas.

Amyloid, thought to be one of the key causes of Alzheimer’s, which makes up the majority of dementia cases, is often found to have formed into clumps and plaques in the brain. This is the first time scientists have found it is also visible on the eye.

Researchers examined the eyes and brains of 20 humans who had died with Alzheimer’s, along with the eyes of six dogs displaying symptoms of the disease.

The brains were full of amyloid plaques, as expected, but the researchers found they could also spot amyloid deposits in the eye using high-tech imaging. Scientists believe the technique could easily be used by opticians on living patients.

The researchers now aim to adapt standard opticians’ instruments to incorporate the imaging techniques.

Dr Clare Walton, research manager at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Changes in the brain associated with dementia can begin several years before any memory symptoms appear. This research suggests some of these changes happen in the retina of the eye too, which could give us a relatively easy, non-invasive way to spot them early.

“Eye tests are fairly common for older people, so there is great potential to incorporate additional tests into their regular check-up.

 

 

 

Eye Exercise app turns a smartphone into a vision aid

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Your vision accounts for the majority of information you experience via your bodily senses. And do you know what’s especially bad for your eyes? Staring at screens all day long! While we’ve long moved on from the era of flickering, irradiated CRT monitors that destroy our vision, screens of all kinds still give our eyes a tiring, prolonged workout every day – unless your job doesn’t involve staring at smartphones or working with a computer, which is kind of rare these days.

Surprisingly, despite firing millions of illuminated pixels at your retinas, smartphones can actually help with maintaining your eyes. The Eye Exercises app by healthcare4mobile includes a bunch of vision therapy exercises to address common eye problems and practices, such as eye relaxation, dry eye, lazy eye, and other conditions.

Featuring over 50 exercises across 10 categories, the app sets you off on the right path with 7 ready-made training plans, 12 eye tests, and 8 quizzes to check your knowledge of eye diseases, problems and care.

As if that stuff isn’t enough, the app has a fully featured learning and science section with daily tips and eye facts, healthy recipes and nutrition info. Eye Exercises is available on Android for free.

Moorfields Eye Hospital pairs with tech giant, Google, to prevent blindness

 

 

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Google has announced a project to analyse one million eye scans from NHS patients in an attempt to detect early signs of blindness.

DeepMind, a British subsidiary of the American internet giant, plans to use advanced computer learning technology to spot indicators of sight loss that have so far been undiscovered.

The company said it hoped the research would mean more people receiving early treatment to prevent blindness, amid predictions that sight loss will double in the UK by 2050.

Across the world there is an estimated 285 million visually impaired people, and 39 million of these are blind.

Conditions like age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy can be picked up is using digital screenings, which are highly complex and take a lot of time to analyse.

Now Google‘s DeepMind Health is teaming up with a Moorfields Eye Hospital in London to investigate how machine learning could help analyse these scans efficiently and effectively.

At the moment, eye health professionals rely on digital scans of the eye to diagnose and determine the correct treatment for common eye conditions such as age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

The scans are highly complex and traditional analysis tools have been unable to explore them fully.

It also takes eye health professionals a long time to analyse eye scans, which can have an impact on how quickly they can meet patients to discuss diagnosis and treatment.

DeepMind, which Google paid £400 million to acquire two years ago, hopes to use artificial intelligence to advance medical and climate research after its software defeated the world champion at the ancient Chinese board game Go.

The collaboration hopes this will lead to earlier detection of common eye diseases.

 

 

 

Domiciliary eye care services put to test

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Optician Magazine Editor, Chris Bennett, writes the story below detailing his experience of an eye test at home from The Outside Clinic:

Not everyone is able to visit a high street optician but often these are the people who need eye care more than most.

The Outside Clinic celebrates its 30th anniversary later this year so when it suggested sending an optometrist around to conduct a home visit eye exam, Optician was happy to accept. The company manages its visits through a national control centre and clients are made aware of the service through various marketing and advertising routes.

The central hotline takes the call, checks for eligibility and arranges for an OO covering that area to visit at an agreed morning or afternoon slot, the patient is sent a number of reminders in the days preceding.

Optician was visited by OO Rachael Huang who arrived bang on the appointed time on just the kind of rainy morning when no-shows tend to spike. She said about an hour was allocated for each of her seven or so daily visits and she phoned ahead to let her next patient know when to expect her and to collect any necessary paperwork in readiness.

Huang’s range of equipment was impressive and included a hand held focimeter, a hand held Nidek VersaCam fundus camera and an iCare contact tonometer among her armoury.

Visiting OOs have to be ready for everything and she said it was not unusual to conduct an examination for a patient who was in bed. In this case the curve ball was a lack of curtains in the main room. She easily set up her equipment in a cramped study that had the necessary blinds. The computerised chart was placed on top of the case used to carry the 400-500 frame options and the three-metre viewing distance was measured. The current spectacles were checked on a focimeter to attain the lens power, as many clients do not know their current prescription.

The exam itself would have been comfortable and familiar to any elderly patient – a thorough, yet friendly and efficient refraction using a trial frame and lenses. Very much like an eye examination in a practice, without phoropter heads.

Director Nicolas Winding Refn has his eyes tested by The Outside Clinic

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Director Nicolas Winding Refn has his eyes tested by The Outside Clinic whilst filming a video and talks about turning weaknesses into strengths.

In the latest short by director Toby Amies, Refn gets a long-overdue optical check-up as he riffs on his creative process, being from the future, and the power in embracing our weaknesses.

Nicolas Winding Refn’s intense use of color in films comes as a result of an optical condition – he is color blind. Unable to see mid-tones—he can only see extreme differences in color— Refn has developed a style favoring high-contrast shots, seen in his films including DriveOnly God Forgives and The Neon Demon.

Sit in on the Danish directors eye test while he talks about his creative process, being from the future, and the power in embracing our weaknesses here (contains strong language)

Diabetes patients urged to get their eyes tested this Diabetes Week

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A nationwide survey reveals that over 50 percent of respondents had sight complications linked to their diabetes.

The survey was carried out by healthcare marketing communications agency Onyx Health.  Results revealed that even with the real risk of diabetic retinopathy and other sight problems, 17 percent of diabetes patients hadn’t had an eye test for over a year. This was despite 40 percent of all respondents being very, or extremely, concerned about their eye health.

Of those surveyed, 47 percent said they would be willing to pay for a new and proven treatment for diabetes related sight conditions, whilst 40 percent would prefer to wait until a treatment became available on the NHS.

Two in five patients revealed they were receiving treatments for diabetic retinopathy – normally either laser eye surgery or invasive injections into the eye. Surgery is also carried out in severe cases to clear blood, repair detached retinas and remove scar tissue.

Eye research into the condition is being carried out by the UK’s main eye research charity, Fight for Sight. Dr Dolores Conroy, Director of Research, at the charity said: “Diabetes is a growing concern and with the numbers expected to rise this unfortunately means more cases of diabetic retinopathy. We’re investing £1.2m into a number of different projects across the country, which will help to further our understanding of the mechanisms underlying the condition and develop new treatments.”

Several potential therapies are being developed to prevent and treat the complications caused by diabetic retinopathy, including a type of light therapy that aims to reduce leakage of fluid in the central retina.

When asked which treatment patients most prefer, the popular choice, for those who answered, was light therapy using a sleep mask. Such as the Noctura 400 sleep mask, which uses light technology to prevent or treat retinopathy at any stage of its development.

CE marked and recently launched for sale at less than £3 per day, the mask could provide a viable early-stage therapy, or adjunct to established treatments, for the 47 percent of UK diabetes patients willing to pay to save their sight.

A number of patients with diabetic retinopathy have been using the Noctura 400 mask for over a year. One such patient is Sue Wales from Farnham, in Surrey. Having lived with type 1 diabetes for 32 years, she was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy at a routine eye screening four years ago. “I received over a dozen sessions of laser therapy at the eye hospital, but as a keen gardener, new bleeds kept on occurring every month whenever I did something strenuous like digging,” explains Sue.

In October 2014, Sue started to use the Noctura 400 sleep mask, as one of the first pilot patients, and found an improvement immediately. In the first 6 months of wearing the mask every night she did not have a single retinal bleed.  At her last eye check-up in January 2016, it was confirmed that for the first time in over two years, both her retinas were stable once again, with no signs of any small bleeds at all.

“I have been able to maintain my eyesight. I still have my driving licence, work full time and am enjoying a full and active life without the fear of my eyesight getting worse. I would recommend anyone with retinal damage to take action before it’s too late,” comments Sue.

This advice may prove to be a wake-up call for the 13 percent of survey respondents who said they were either slightly or not at all concerned about their eye health.

 

Get on your bikes and Cycle for Sight

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Cycling for Sight is a fundraising initiative that was founded five years ago by students at Bradford University to raise funds for Optometry Giving Sight. Over the past five years, the event has seen a remarkable growth in the number of participants cycling all over England to raise vital funds to help some of the world’s poorest people see their way to a brighter future.

As well as many local cycle challenges, Vision Aid Overseas and CET provider Eyecare have partnered to organise the third annual Cycling for Sight charity bike ride in the Lake District on Sunday August 28.

Participants can choose from three routes – two on the road and one mountain bike challenge. Both road routes start from Keswick, with the longer route covering 87 miles and the shorter option covering a distance of 45 miles.

The mountain biking option covers ancient woodland, steep mountain crags and lakeside bays along its 17-mile route.

All routes will depart from Keswick with staggered starts intended to get everyone back to Keswick at around the same time. The event will support World Sight Day 2016 and all funds raised through the challenge will support the Vision Aid Overseas’ projects aimed to develop the skills of the Optometry Profession in Africa. The £40 entry fee covers your evening meal, a cycling top, a goody bag, guides for the mountain bike route, vehicle support for the road ride and (for those who are opticians) that all-important CET point from a Poster Quiz at the end of the ride. Any fees left over will be donated, along with any funds you raise to Vision Aid Overseas to help fight poverty by transforming access to eye care. Last year our event raised £7000 which went directly to Optometry Giving Sights’ eye care projects overseas.

Event sponsors have been confirmed as Rodenstock, Zeiss, Topcon and Essilor. Click here www.eventbrite.co.uk  for more information on the Lake District event.

Alternatively you can take part in the Cycling for Sight Challenge 2016 anywhere in the UK by organising your own challenge, for more information visit www.visionaidoverseas.org

RNIB tackles follow-up appointment delay

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Vision charity the RNIB launched an initiative to help patients get timely follow-up appointments for eye conditions during the Royal College of Ophthalmologists Annual Congress this week.

Eye care professionals were encouraged by RNIB to join forces on a new patient-self advocacy project.

The initiative, jointly run by RNIB, The Royal College of Ophthalmologists, Macular Society and International Glaucoma Association, encouraged patients to inform their eye department if their appointment is delayed beyond the timeframe requested by their doctor.

A number of new materials have been developed to help ECPs educate and inform patients.

Steve Winyard, head of policy and campaigns at RNIB, said: ‘Self-advocacy is an important skill in today’s complex and over-stretched NHS. RNIB is calling on eye departments to support the joint initiative so they can help ensure their patients are seen and reviewed based on the timeframe recommended by their clinician.

‘We are working with The Royal College of Ophthalmologists, Macular Society, and International Glaucoma Association to encourage patients to have the confidence to advocate for themselves. This is especially important where vital timely eye appointments may be cancelled or delayed by the hospital.’

Fodo calls for better use of community eye care resources

 

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Optical body Fodo called on health commissioners to better utilise community eye care services at its annual general meeting last week.

Fodo chair Lynda Oliver said the challenges for the vision sector were well set out in the Foresight Project Report by the Optical Confederation earlier this year.

She said: ‘At Fodo, we take these challenges and opportunities with deadly seriousness. They are the harsh realities – and opportunities – of where we will be able to be of value to society in the future. And, on behalf of the sector, we are not about to let that go.

‘This will involve moving rapidly to different models of practice and to wider and higher skilled clinical roles for optometrists and opticians based on a different form of education. What was once the limited preserve of hospital optometry needs to move at scale and pace into the community, with hospital optometrists and others in the hospital eye service taking on roles that ophthalmologists currently perform.

‘It is shaming for the NHS and society when we read media headlines such as “Patients are going blind – because the NHS delays vital follow-up appointments” and to hear public pleas for help by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists – and then to see commissioners looking the other way and whistling while, all the while, resources in the community go under-utilised and, in some cases, are disparaged by medical colleagues.’

Fodo also launched the first in a series of peer discussion training resources on areas of highest risk in front-line clinical practice at the AGM.

Fodo professional advisor Professor Steve Taylor designed the first pack, on flashes, floaters and retinal detachment. He said: ‘Although actual incidents are few, a small number of missed retinal detachments is unfortunately a recurring theme in front-line practice.’

Oliver added: ‘There is plenty of CET and CPD around which is already very good and we have no desire to replicate that. Our aim is to innovate and to enhance learning.

Eyesight checks a must to help improve road safety

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Drivers of all ages must ensure that they take regular eye tests to help improve road safety, says motoring organisation The Guild of Experienced Motorists (GEM).

With police having the power to require any driver to undertake an eye test in good daylight – and a maximum penalty for driving with defective sight of £1,000, three penalty points or a discretionary disqualification – GEM is calling for all drivers to follow five simple tips.

1. Take an eye test. Guidelines suggest that everyone should take one every two years until the age of 70 is best (and annually after this age). Eye tests are free for anyone aged over 60.

2. Wear glasses for driving if you have been advised to do so. If you don’t, not only are you and those around you at higher risk, but your insurance could be invalidated if you’re involved in a crash.

3. Carry a spare pair. Always ensure that you have a back-up pair of specs, especially when setting off on a long journey or when driving abroad (in some countries, it’s a legal requirement).

4. If driving at night is uncomfortable, take an eye test: this might detect a number of conditions and diseases, including cataracts, which can contribute to poor night vision.

5. If night-time glare causes discomfort, don’t wear sunglasses or tinted lenses: instead, try adjusting the height of your seat and avoid staring into the headlights of oncoming traffic.

GEM chief executive David Williams MBE said: “Our eyes are the most important sense we have when it comes to driving. Around 90% of the information we process is visual, so what we see is a fundamental element of our decision making.

Many of us take our eyesight for granted, so the tendency is to ignore eye health, and changes in our vision can be slow, so we may not notice subtle differences.

“GEM has long argued the case for compulsory regular eyesight testing for drivers of all ages.

“The present situation relies on individual drivers taking responsibility for their own eye health.

“That’s why it’s so important to get regular checks.