Happy October, everyone! In this blog, I want to share two interesting topics I learned about this September. They are very different subjects (one science, one philanthropic), but both involving the eyes!
I recently attended a lecture at Boston University that discussed evidence of another systemic disease presenting with ocular findings. We already know we can observe our patients’ retinas and tell them if they have signs of high cholesterol, hypertension, or even increased cranial pressure. Now we may soon add the 6th leading killer in the US to the list—Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). With this recent lecture, I learned that the eye could be a significant resource for detecting early (very early) Alzheimer’s.
The lecturer was Lee Goldstein, MD, PhD, who collaborates with many departments at BU, Harvard, and even internationally to conduct his research. Dr. Goldstein stressed that when Alzheimer’s presents as patient symptoms, it is much too late for therapeutic treatment to save them. Alzheimer’s patients need treatment before they have full-blown AD because once the damage is done to their central nervous system, those cells are dead and there’s no bringing them back. This is why early intervention is the key and why the lens discovery is so exciting. In the near future, doctors may be able to screen patients using a laser device to detect AD proteins in the lens, which are present much earlier than AD symptoms. If you know someone affected by AD, I’m sure you know how exciting this diagnostic tool could be in the future.
Other great information that I want to help spread the word about is World Sight Day on October 11th, 2012. WSD is a day meant for everyone to recognize the visually impaired, blind, and especially those in developing countries who are unnecessarily visually impaired. Developing countries contain 90% of the world’s visually impaired people and the majority of those people need a simple refractive correction to gain their sight back.
NECO students are fundraising right now to contribute to World Sight Day and more specifically to help provide eye care in the country of Mali, West Africa. In Mali, there is ONE eye doctor to give vision care to 14 million people. Therefore, NECO’s student council has decided to focus its fundraising efforts in this area. Even a $5.00 donation makes an impact—$5.00 provides an eye exam and a pair of glasses to one person in Mali. Our goal is to raise $2,500 by WSD and we have already raised close to $1,000!
It feels great to be able to impact a developing country in the area of health that our school cares about the most. I find it also satisfying to just learn that there is a country in West Africa called Mali that needs a whole lot more eye doctors. I get so involved in my immediate surroundings and responsibilities that sometimes I forget just how fortunate I am to be living in Boston and attending optometry school. Student organizations like VOSH are great reminders of what you can do to give back. Maybe I’ll end up in Mali on an international VOSH trip one year. If you want to support our cause, please visit: