Welcome to the September 2010 edition of At-A-Glance, Lighthouse International’s low vision newsletter. September is children’s eye health month. Enjoy our feature story on the correlation between oxygen saturation in the blood of premature infants and the chances of blindness.

Featured Story

Lower Oxygen Levels Decreases Blindness, Increases Death in Premature Infants

A study by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), which appears in the May issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, finds that lowering the oxygen saturation in the blood of premature infants will decrease the chances of blindness or severe eye damage, but also increases the risk of death.

Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), which consists of abnormal blood vessel development in the retina of the eye, is the leading cause of blindness in premature infants. "ROP is a devastating eye condition," said Dr. Bruce Rosenthal, Chief of Low Vision Programs at Lighthouse International. "ROP may lead to significant vision loss due to severe nearsightedness (myopia), crossed eyes (strabismus) and even blindness."

A higher level of oxygen saturation, which is given to preemies to help them breathe, has been linked to ROP. As a result, doctors have suggested lowering the levels of oxygenation.

The study, lead by Waldemar A. Carlo, the Director of the UAB Division of Neonatology, is the first to look at the range of oxygen saturation needed to minimize ROP without increasing death. "Many doctors believe that optimal oxygen saturation levels fall between 85 and 95 percent," Carlo said in a news release. "The increase in mortality is a major concern, since a lower target range of oxygen saturation is increasingly being advocated to prevent retinopathy of prematurity."

The results of the UAB study showed that more infants on the lower-saturation oxygen died than infants on the higher level (-19.9 percent versus 16.2 percent); but, of those who survived, fewer on the lower saturation developed ROP (8.6 percent compared to 17.9 percent).

"The results of our study show caution should be exercised regarding a strategy of targeting oxygen saturation levels in the low range for preterm infants, since it may lead to increased mortality," Carlo said. "Healthcare providers should try to prevent both too high and too low levels of oxygen saturation levels to optimize survival without retinopathy."

For more information on ROP, visit Lighthouse.org.

Technology Corner

Amazon Announces New Accessible Kindle

Kindle photoAmazon has announced that the third generation of the Kindle e-book reader will ship with a new voice guide that reads all menu options aloud so people who are visually impaired can properly navigate the device. The new Kindle also features an improved contrast, which is 50 percent better than before.

"The release of the Kindle with speech-enabled menus, a brighter screen and sharper fonts is another meaningful step forward in the very important movement toward universal access," says Dorrie Rush, Marketing Director of Accessible Technology at Lighthouse International. "The trend demonstrated beautifully in Apple’s wireless mobile devices - iPad and iPhone - and is clearly catching on. More and more, people with low or no vision can expect to use the same technology everyone else is using right out of the box and at the same price."

Amazon decided to include the voice guide in the new Kindle after a June 2009 lawsuit, in which a blind student sued Arizona State University for deploying Kindles as a means of distributing electronic textbooks to its students. The lawsuit was joined by the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). The lawsuit was eventually settled when Amazon agreed to include the accessible voice guide in the next generation of Kindles.

To learn more about accessible technology, read Dorrie's blog.

Lighthouse News

The Lighthouse Introduces Sleep Studies in Totally Blind Individuals

Are you blind with no light perception? Do you have problems sleeping or trouble with daytime sleepiness? Non-24-hour sleep/wake disorder occurs in some individuals who are totally blind and lack the light sensitivity necessary to reset the body clock. This can lead to problems with sleep and/or daytime excessive sleepiness.

Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders (CRSD), a group of sleep disorders, are defined as the inability to sleep at customary times. CRSD is caused by a misalignment of the sleep-wake cycle with external environmental cues and internal biological processes that promote sleepiness and wakefulness. Blind individuals lack the ability to detect environmental light/dark cues and may manifest a sleep/wake disturbance.

You can help researchers understand non-24-hour sleep/wake disorder by taking a brief phone survey. Lighthouse International, in conjunction with Vanda Pharmaceuticals, will be studying whether a compound can entrain the sleep/wake cycle of blind individuals with CRSD.

To participate in the survey you need to be over the age of 18; be blind with no light perception; and have sleep problems and/or daytime sleepiness. All of the collected information will be kept strictly confidential.

If you want to participate in the survey, please call toll-free 1-877-708-1934, Monday to Friday between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. EST.

For more information on the Lighthouse sleep study, visit Lighthouse.org.

Important Date

Lighthouse International's Double Up 4 Vision Fundraiser

Lighthouse International is proud to announce the first tandem bike fundraiser in New York. Double Up 4 Vision: Tandem Bike Ride and Walk is an event to raise awareness about vision loss and Lighthouse International's programs and services for people who are visually impaired. The event takes place on Saturday, October 23, with a 5K Tandem Bike Ride and Walk along the Hudson River. The day will conclude with a family fun festival featuring entertainment from the Lighthouse Jazz Ensemble, demonstrations of Lighthouse services, and fundraising awards. For more information on the Double Up 4 Vision: 5K Tandem Bike Ride and Walk, visit the Lighthouse International website.



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