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Posts Tagged ‘lazy eye’

Not in my name!

Those of a sensitive disposition may not want to read the links in this post, as they deal with recent research at Cardiff University into amblyopia, an eye condition also described as “lazy eye”. Their research involved the use of animals in a way that I feel is little more than animal cruelty. I’m not going to detail the research itself, but the fact of its existence has angered me.

I first heard about this story when a friend posted a link to the following story on Twitter:

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/kitten-experiments-cardiff-university-researchers-1156779

I’d hoped that the actual research had merely been misrepresented, until a link to the Huffington Post’s write-up was posted:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/07/24/ricky-gervais-appalled-by-kitten-research-at-cardiff-university_n_1697057.html?just_reloaded=1

closely followed by Cardiff University’s own statement on the research:

http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/news/mediacentre/mediastatements.html

The reason for my anger is that I actually have amblyopia – or, at least, a condition that closely matches it from the definitions I’ve seen. When I was just a baby, my eyes didn’t align properly and as a result my left eye failed to develop. Several operations to correctly align them failed, and my parents and I suspect that incorrect advice was given over the application of eye patches.

As a child, it led to a few limitations: I was particular poor at sports involving anything fast or airborne, simply because I had no point of reference to judge their speed by. I also had, and still have, constant double-vision with a strong image from my right eye superimposed upon a less distinct image from my left.

But as an adult? I’ve learnt, over time, to adjust:

  • The left-eye image is still present, but my brain ignores it most of the time (unless I need to use it, for example to glance at something in a rear-view mirror).
  • I can’t read through my left eye, as the vision through it is on a par with peripheral vision, but for eye tests I can simply tell the optician which row is the last in focus.
  • If something is thrown to me, and I know its size, I can use that to judge how close it is.
  • Driving has never caused me any problems. Cars have this nice habit of being on roads, which gives me the point of reference I need.

(Some of you may be reading this thinking “but, I do that as well, and my eyesight is fine”. Ok, well, I didn’t know that that’s how “normal” vision works, did I? Nobody ever documents what normal eyesight looks like!)

In fact, the only thing I can recall recently having difficulty with is bursting bubbles floating around my garden. Which isn’t a major problem, as my 3-year-old son prefers to pop them himself.

Cardiff University have sought to justify their research, in their statement above, with phrases such as:

“The condition can also be frightening and upsetting for the children who suffer from it. Moreover, severe amblyopia persisting in adulthood is a significant risk factor for blindness in the case of an individual losing sight in the good eye.”

and

“This ultimately leads to extremely poor vision or even clinical blindness in one eye for the sufferer. The condition affects binocular vision and depth perception, harming quality of life.”

I don’t recall ever being “frightened” by my eyesight, as I never knew any different. If I was upset, it would have been due to difficulties in simple tasks such as trying to learn how to catch – but the wonderful thing about the human brain is that it adapts. Severe amblyopia may be a significant risk factor for blindness, but without any information on the relative risk between amblyopics and non-amblyopics this is a meaningless phrase.

Yes, of course it affects binocular vision and depth perception, the same as closing one eye does for someone with two that work. The difference is, these are problems that a person can adapt to.

Their final words:

“While a treatment for older children may be some time away, Cardiff University believes this research raises the prospect of markedly improving the sight of sufferers of this serious condition.”

My final words: this research was cruel, unneccesary and appears to have been performed by people with little or no experience of the condition that their scaremongering words describe.