Friday, March 26, 2010

EYES: WINDOWS TO ONE'S HEALTH

Human eye cross-sectional view. Courtesy NIH N...Image via Wikipedia
The Eye Care Revolution: Prevent and Reverse Common Vision ProblemsA news article taken form TODAYOnline.com, Tuesday, 23-Mar-2010

-----------------------------
SINGAPORE - The eye says a lot about the body. For example, damaged blood vessels in the retina can warn of damage in the brain, heart or kidneys.

In a few months, four polyclinics will use a retina imaging service - taking a picture of patients' eyes - to screen for conditions like diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and heart diseases.

The three are in Outram, Bukit Merah and Clementi, while the fourth will be made known later.

Cholesterol and diabetes levels have traditionally been key indicators of cardiovascular diseases. But these methods fail to detect half the patients who are at high-risk.

This is set to change, however, with the pilot project which will focus on glaucoma.

Glaucoma is one of the more important diseases to be picked up, as 90 per cent of the people who have it are not aware of it, said Professor Wong Tien Yin, director of the Singapore Eye Research Institute.

The imaging technology has shown that it is able to pick up glaucoma between 80 and 90 per cent of the time, he said. In future, there will also be more "accurate information" so that doctors can decide whether surgery should be done.

The information will also be useful for patients who can decide what they should do.

An initial 3,000 patients will be selected for the retina imaging service when they go for their normal health screening.

Their eye images will be sent to the new Singapore Advanced Imaging Laboratory for Ocular Research (Sailor) for analysis.

The preliminary screening will catch those who are at high-risk, but have not yet been detected, said Prof Wong, who is also Sailor's co-director.

The retinal image at the polyclinics will cost between $6 and $15 compared to "hundreds" at a specialist. The advantage of the service is that it is low cost, uses readily-available technology and can serve as a "first round" of detection for those who might need further tests or specialist care, said Prof Wong.

There are also plans to tie up with healthcare clusters and to take this model abroad although a cost-effective study has to be done before the programme is expanded.

More than 3 per cent of the population aged 40 and above are diagnosed with glaucoma, a group of disorders which have in common an increase in the pressure inside the eye. Too high a pressure damages the optic nerve, and blindness can occur in severe cases.

While no estimates are available for Singapore, Prof Wong said such early detection and prevention is estimated to save some US$600 million ($839 million) for the United States annually.

Sailor, which cost more than $5 million to set up, was launched yesterday at the second Asia-Pacific Ocular Imaging Symposium yesterday.

It is a collaboration between A*Star's Institute for Infocomm Research and the Singapore Eye Research Institute, and is the third centre for eye research in the Fusionopolis-Biopolis science hub.
----------