OCT on Retinas of Birdshotters

Three people from Lausanne, Switzerland, including Carl Herbort who has been very supportive of BUS, have looked at the retinas of 28 Birdshot eyes and retrospectively evaluated the OCT findings of these eyes, to see what changes there are in the retina over a long period of time.

They looked at the OCT results in early Birdshot (less than 1 year), intermediate (1 to 6 years) and late (more than 6 years).

What they found was that in early Birdshot, the retinal thickness was significantly elevated (i.e. it was thicker than usual) because of the inflammation and vasculitis.  The thickness begins to diminish in intermediate Birdshot and by late Birdshot, the retina is significantly thinned.  They also observed that 92% of these eyes had developed an epiretinal membrane by late Birdshot.  An epiretinal membrane is a thin sheet of fibrous tissue that grows over the retina.  For those of us with Birdshot, an epiretinal membrane may develop because the vitreous (the jelly inside our eyes) pulls away from the retina due to the inflammation. Epiretinal membranes can cause visual problems, although most of us with an epiretinal membrane do not even notice any issues.

The interesting thing about this research is that if some-one has had a delayed diagnosis, their OCT results may help determine approximately how long they have had Birdshot for.

For more information on this piece of research, follow the link:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22909176

New Study Links Bisphosphonates to Vision Problems Risk

We have posted before about oral bisphosphonates (including Fosamax) and emerging evidence that first-time use of these is associated with a greater risk of developing two inflammatory diseases: uveitis and scleritis.

We have also posted on the risks of bisphosphonates in relation to atypical femur fractures.

The article highlights both these risks and can be found at:

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/9/prweb9883870.htm

The important thing to remember is that you need advice about your drug regime and the interactions of each of your medications, as well as the potential benefits and risks, so you can make an informed decision.  The risks highlighted in this article may be outweighed by the benefits in individual case – only you and your consultant can decide between you.

We, with Birdshot, who take high doses of steroids need to protect our bones.  So, becoming informed about our condition, our medication regimes, interactions and risks and benefits is really important.

Worms Again!

We have posted before about helminthic therapy – worms that can modulate the immune system and prevent it from attacking the body’s own tissues and organs.

Well, the time has come for mid stage trials on this therapy.  Currently, 220 people with Crohn’s Disease in the US are being enrolled on a mid stage trial and in Europe a further mid stage trial is being started.

The drug is called Trichuris Suis Ova (TSO) and consists of thousands of microscopic parasite eggs, suspended in saline solution – the drug is swallowed just like a tablet.  The parasites are killed off in our stomachs, but the hypothesis is that, before they die off, they are able to modulate our immune systems.

If these trials go well, we are not too far off from having this new drug available on the market.

Read the full story at:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/30/us-usa-health-parasites-idUSBRE87T14720120830

Autoimmune Researcher Gets Money

At long last it looks as though the world has finally woken up to the fact that autoimmune diseases are the modern day health problem.  There are over 100 different autoimmune diseases, many of them rare, and more and more people are being diagnosed with autoimmune diseases and no-one knows why.

A researcher in Australia, Chris Goodhew has received a grant from GlaxoSmithKline and he will look at why the immune system is attacking in the first place.  He has a vested interest as his mother has an autoimmune disease, lupus!

It is really good to see a major pharma investing in auto-immune diseases.

Read the full article at

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/80000-boost-for-autoimmune-researcher-20120911-25qs6.html

Documentary on Rare Diseases

Two showings of RARE, a feature documentary that provides a closer look at the relationship between patients, advocacy groups and researchers involved in developing new treatments for rare diseases has just been aired in the US.

It is a really interesting documentary and highlights the importance of patient organisations like BUS being fully involved in the research process.  In fact, if you see the documentary, it is strangely reminiscent of the development of BUS!

If you want to see a short version of the documentary go to:

http://vimeo.com/46443548

If you want to read the article go to

http://scopeblog.stanford.edu/2012/09/07/stanford-filmakers-documentary-on-rare-diseases-to-air-next-week-on-kqed/

What your eyes reveal about your health

The Wall Street Journal published a really interesting article in August on how your eyes can reveal clues to your general health.

An ophthalmologist, Dr David Ingvoldstad from Midwest Eye Care in Omaha, Nebraska regularly alerts his patients to possible autoimmune diseases they may be at risk from or have, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.  He does this through their vision changes, or through the state of health of their eyes.  He has even been able to monitor the progression of a patient’s diabetes through their eyes, and once alerted a patient to the fact that they had a brain tumour, based on the changes in their vision.

He is able to do this because the body’s systems are interconnected, and changes in the eye can reflect changes in the vascular, nervous and immune system.

The article suggests that, with regular monitoring, ophthalmologists can be the first to spot certain medical conditions and can ensure that patients receive early care and treatment.

We, with Birdshot, are regularly monitored!  One benefit of having Birdshot.

Read the full article at:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444184704577587211317837868.html

Digital Dogooders supporting Birdshot Uveitis Society

Six individuals from the online retail and digital industry, known as DIGITAL DOGOODERS are taking part in a tandem sky dive in aid of BUS.  They are helping us to create awareness and publicize the work of  BUS  and also helping us sell tickets for the Winter Benefit on the 3rd November to their colleagues and friends.

The fool hardy folks of Digital Dogooders are – Leon Bailey Green, Jonathan Hall, Gabrielle Hase, Helen Colclough, James Gurd and Fergal O’Mullane.

If you would like to support their jump you can make a donation to BUS  through their Bmycharity page http://www.bmycharity.com/birdshotwinterbenefit

This a great intiative and we are very grateful to this intrepid team for supporting us and helping us in this way.  We hope it will be the first of many adventures!

Thank you so much to the “Digital Dogooders” for your support!

A patients perspective – does anyone want to tell their story?

BUS have been contacted by NB Magazine (the RNIB eye health and sight loss magazine for professionals), and asked if we have any member who might be interested in writing a short article about their experience of Birdshot Uveitis (just 800 words).    This regular column features  the experiences of people with sight loss, covering a different eye condition each time, and describing what it’s like to live with the condition, the support (or otherwise) they have met with along the way, including solutions they have found helpful and what constitutes an ‘ideal world’. It is also an opportunity to feature the work of self-help groups (ie will provide publicity for Birdshot Uveitis Society) .

If there are any members of BUS who would like to do this please get in touch with us as soon as possible.  Ideally they are hoping it can be done for 11th September deadline which is short notice!   info@birdshot.org.uk

Supplements to help with Birdshot Uveitis and Eye Health

This is  the 3rd post on the subject of nutrition supplements and eye health from BUS member Nick Bucknall.  Here he talks about supplements that he believes are helping his eye health and Birdshot Uveitis.  To back up his ideas he provides links to related research papers.

“A balanced diet rich in fresh ingredients should provide most of the vitamins, minerals and trace elements needed for good health. But some of us are getting older or recovering from an illness, or have a natural imbalance, and we also have to deal with the side effects of medication, so if you wish to supplement your diet, here is a list of supplements I have tried and found to be beneficial.

NOTE:  The process of extracting the active ingredients from natural sources in order to manufacture dietary supplements may reduce their efficacy so make sure they are as fresh as possible.

Saffron

Saffron is widely used in some parts of the world to treat a variety of eye conditions. I find it gives a rapid improvement, reducing floaters and blurring within hours! It can be added to food as a cooking ingredient or added to tea or coffee. Put a little in the bottom of the cup and soak for a minute or two in hot water before pouring tea. Saffron is expensive but you only need a pinch in each cup – a gram (about £4.50) should last up to 2 weeks.

Here are links to 3 research papers about the benefits of Saffron for the retina – the part of the eye which is damaged by Birdshot.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20688744

http://www.iovs.org/content/49/3/1254.abstract

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20951131

Tumeric

Turmeric (Curcumin) is a traditional remedy for uveitis and can either be used as an ingredient in cooking or can be taken in a capsule. It takes a few weeks to produce results but is very cheap.

For research, see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18421073 and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17569223

Psyllium husk

Psyllium husk is a natural product derived from plantain and is a dried source of fibre which slows digestive transit, protects the stomach lining and improves digestion. It can be taken as a food additive or in a drink – I take it with fruit squash and aloe vera juice. Some anecdotal evidence has suggested that gastric problems may be a trigger for Birdshot and this has also been mentioned by my eye specialist.

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera juice is another natural anti- inflammatory. As well as helping digestion, it is also good for skin problems, digestive irritation and indigestion, all of which are common side effects of prednislone.

Omega-3 fish oil

Omega-3 fish (EPA) offers a range of benefits including skin, nerve function and is a powerful anti-inflammatory. If you eat oily fish regularly, you should be getting enough of this but taking it as supplement does no harm and may be helpful if you don’t like oily fish! Also, it’s a good source of vitamin D. For research, see: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20664801

Glucosamine, Chondroitin & MSM

This anti inflammatory combination is often taken by arthritis sufferers but may also help with other inflammatory conditions like Birdshot. For research, see:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18719082

Vitamin D

Recent research has shown vitamin D to be helpful in treating uveitis. We normally ingest it partly through eating the right foods (oily fish, almonds and green vegetables) and partly through sunlight which our bodies convert to vitamin D. It regulates levels of calcium and phosphate in the bloodstream and is closely linked to bone health. Recent research about the benefits of vitamin D for Birdshotters was discussed at the Birdshot Patient’s Day in March, and can their research paper can be found at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22217419

Pycnogenol

Pine bark extract is a powerful anti-inflammatory which has been shown to protect the retina. For research see:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19916788

NB also see comments below.

Benfotiamine

Vitamin B1 has been shown to be helpful in treating uveitis. For research see:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=benfotiamine%20uveitis

Lutein

Lutein is a caratenoid found in green vegetables and is known to be good for the eyes. For research see

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22465791?dopt=Citation

I take all these on a daily basis and feel that the results make it worth the trouble and expense – I have been in remission without any medication for nearly 2 years. But I still pay close attention to my diet – supplements cannot be a substitute for a good diet.

 

How to make your diet less inflammatory

This is the 2nd article in a series of 3 about food and supplements by BUS member Nick Bucknall.

Below he lists some tips on how to make your diet less inflammatory.

  • Try to eat more fresh fruit & vegetables, whole grains like brown rice, wholemeal bread, fish and seafood, nuts & seeds. Broccoli, spinach and kale are very beneficial as are sweet potato, onion, garlic and ginger
  • Try to buy organic – insecticides, preservatives and other food additives may be inflammatory or even trigger Birdshot. Besides, organics taste better!
  • Avoid red meat and processed meat like bacon, sausages and salami. Cheap or takeaway chicken is likely to contain growth hormones and antibiotics – best avoided
  • Oily fish like wild salmon, mackerel or sardines are rich in omega-3 oils and are very beneficial as well as being a tasty alternative to meat
  • Choose fresh food over processed food, brown bread over white, hard cheese over soft
  • Drink green tea or filtered water rather than fizzy, sugary drinks and milky hot beverages
  •  Your choice of cooking oil can make a big difference – olive, rapeseed and grapeseed oils are all helpful, while sunflower, corn and groundnut oils are generally considered inflammatory
  • Most sources choose red wine over other alcoholic drinks, dark chocolate over milk chocolate, and low fat versions of all dairy products.
  • Foods best avoided altogether include fizzy drinks, crisps, processed meats, sweets and deep fried, fatty foods.
  • Some people benefit from excluding ‘nightshade’ vegetables (potato, tomato, aubergine, peppers). Tomatoes in particular can be inflammatory. Others feel better if they exclude all dairy products – milk doesn’t agree with me. No two people are the same and it certainly pays to experiment.
  • Note: Different foods and ingredients can be described as having a positive or negative Inflammation Factor. This is a way of judging which foods are more likely to cause inflammation and which are more likely to prevent it. Some foods vary in this respect according to how they’re prepared. For instance, garlic is very anti-inflammatory eaten raw but must be crushed to release the beneficial parts. However it’s much less beneficial after cooking.

Further information can be found on the   Inflammation Factor website, www.inflammationfactor.com.

You may also find  “Dr Weil’s  Anti-inflammatory Food Pyramid” of interest. http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART02995/Dr-Weil-Anti-Inflammatory-Food-Pyramid.html

Nick’s third post follows.  It is about supplements that might improve eye health