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Simple colour test could detect most common cause of visual impairment in the UK

Palestine Eye Care Project

27 August 2014

A simple colour test that could detect the early onset of a condition which accounts for over half of visual impairment certifications in the UK is being researched by scientists at Aston University.  

Dr Frank Eperjesi, an optometry specialist at the School of Life & Health Sciences at Aston University, will lead the study into whether neovascular age-related macular degeneration (nAMD), a common condition affecting 321,000 people in England, Scotland and Wales, can be identified before patients begin to show symptoms of having the disease. 

The study could have a lasting impact, particularly as the number of cases of nAMD in the UK is set to rise by almost a third by the year 2020 as the average age of the population increases. 

If left untreated, nAMD can lead to bleeding, leaking and scarring of the eye and often irreversible vision loss. Existing diagnosis techniques detect nAMD only once there is noticeable structural damage to the eye, but this study hopes to diagnose the condition at an earlier stage using colour contrast sensitivity testing (CSS) that can spot slight changes in cells of the inner eye. 

The test works by measuring the eye’s ability to distinguish between different colours and varying shades of the same colour. People who struggle to recognise the differences are thought to be at risk of developing nAMD or may have an early form of the condition. Once detected using CSS, sufferers would be able to start treatment before any structural damage to the eye has occurred, allowing vision to be maintained for longer. 

Dr Eperjesi said: “This condition is the most common cause of visual impairment in the UK, so it’s great to be able to say we’re working on a way to help people detect it before they suffer irreversible damage. 

“If it’s not caught early it can have a huge effect on people’s eye health, but also knock-on effects on mental health – a recent study reported that even those with mild sight impairment experience a 17% decrease in quality of life.”

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For further media information, please contact Jonathan Garbett, Aston University Communications on 0121 204 4552 or j.garbett@aston.ac.uk    

Notes to editors

The CSS test was first developed by Dr Geoff Arden and Chris Hogg at Moorfields Eye Hospital. Chris is a collaborator for this study.

The School of Life and Health Sciences at Aston University is acknowledged as UK-leading, with an outstanding reputation for teaching and research. It was rated ‘best for subjects allied to medicine’ in the 2014 Sunday Times University Guide. The School prides itself on its excellence in research which is integrated into lectures, both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, giving students the distinct advantage of access to the latest trends, thinking, issues and research in their particular field. Further to this, we have invested significantly in well-equipped laboratories providing excellent facilities for teaching and research. For more information visit: http://www.aston.ac.uk/lhs/ 

About Aston University: Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston is a long established research-led University known for its world-class teaching quality and strong links to industry, government and commerce. Professor Dame Julia King became Vice-Chancellor of the University in 2006. Aston has been a leading university for graduate employment success for over 25 years. The University is currently ranked 8th overall for graduate employment in the 2013 Sunday Times University Guide. The School of Engineering & Applied Science, with its tradition of quality and reputation for cutting edge research, offers students excellent opportunities to join in the process of discovery and creativity, and prepare for an increasingly diverse and technological world.

Employable Graduates; Exploitable Research