Air conditioning, what should we do?



aria_condizionata_impianto-web.jpgIrritations of the eyes and the respiratory tract, allergies and even legionella infections. These are the possible risks of an air conditioning system that is insufficiently maintained. “Health risks, which could also be serious, may be present inside your house, office, or car”: writes the Italian National Institute of National Health (Istituto Superiore di Sanità) in its summer 2018 newsletter.

Among other things, Gaetano Settimo (an expert of the Health and Environment Department of the Institute) recommends cleaning the filters at least once a year:

The correct use of natural or mechanical aeration systems is very important, as well as cooling and ventilating indoor environments with a regular air exchange. These activities depend on the size of the premises, their degree of isolation from outside, the type of activities that are carried out, any overcrowding that occurs during the day, the type of cooling system installed and the level and quality of maintenance. […] Conditioners in poor maintenance can become a significant source of pollution both from a chemical and biological point of view. […] It is necessary that a technician performs the maintenance of the air conditioning systems with the cleaning of the filters, at least once a year.
As regards to the temperature, it would be better to adjust the air conditioning between 24-25° C or 26-27° C and use dehumidifiers. The use of cooling fans, however, is not recommended above 32° C by the Ministry of Health (‘Estate Sicura Campaign 2018’ and in its accompanying bulletins on heat waves in Italy).

Sources: ALLISS (Istituto Superiore di Sanità), Ministero della Salute

An intelligent diet against retinal diseases



verdura-verde-cavolo-foto_freedigitalphotos_net.jpgThere are two natural substances that help to keep the retina in good health: lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids which are known for their protective effects on the macula. About this topic, an in-vivo study has been carried out on Nutrients: according to the authors, it demonstrates “their importance for eye health and preventing diseases such as age-related macular degeneration”. In fact, these molecules are good for our neurons, including those that are photosensitive.

The research – which was carried out at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and the University of Georgia by means of M.R.I. scans – aims to better understand the mechanisms by which lutein and zeaxanthin act on the elderly, particularly on the processing of visual-spatial information.


The study demonstrated that neural efficiency in key areas of the cerebral cortex responsible for visual-spatial processing improves proportionally to the concentration of lutein and zeaxanthin. Functional M.R.I. scans showed that in this instance (in the case of higher concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin), lower oxygen levels were needed, that is to say that the same areas of the cerebral cortex consumed less energy.

Therefore they act not only directly on the retina, but also on the cortex. According to the study, which involved 51 people aged 72 years old on average, lutein and zeaxanthin “may impact brain health and cognition in older adults by enhancing neurobiological efficiency in a variety of regions that support visual perception and decision-making.”

In order to establish this relationship, researchers initially assessed the concentration of lutein and zeaxanthin in blood serum and in the retina, “which is strongly correlated to the daily consumption of foods rich in these nutrients.”


As we know, it is important to have a rich and varied diet. In particular, we know that green leafy vegetables – such as spinach and cabbage – are a good natural source both of lutein and zeaxanthin. The latter is also contained in yellow and orange peppers, as well as in peaches, while lutein is found, for instance, in egg yolks. Therefore a key aspect to improving our lifestyle is eating healthy food. At eye health level, we also know that, besides the aforementioned food products, for example fish, blueberries, carrots, walnuts and almonds are particularly good for us.

Sources: Nutrients, Insiemeperlavista

Time spent outdoors reduces risk of short-sightedness in young people


According to the University of Cambridge, exposure to natural light reduces the risk of short-sightedness

prato-alunni-400pixels.jpgEven the best universities in the world can confirm a mother’s common sense advice. Spending plenty of time outdoors is good for the eyes too: children who grow up in natural light are less likely to become myopic. This is what the University of Cambridge affirms, after analysing the data from eight previous studies (involving 10,400 children and adolescents).

When research sheds new light

The British researchers concluded, on Ophthalmology, that myopia can, at least in part, be prevented with “adequate” exposure to sunlight: for every extra hour spent outdoor every week, the probability of being affected by short-sightedness is reduced by approximately 2%. Myopic children spend on average around two hours and 45 minutes outdoors every week, which is evidently not considered enough. However, other studies claim that 40 minutes of exposure to natural light every day, whilst doing physical activity, are sufficient (learn more).[[The average age was 6.6 years old. The three-year cumulative incidence rate of myopia was 30.4% in the group which led a healthier lifestyle, compared to 39.5% of the control group. After three years the value remained significantly lower in the aforementioned group.]]

The University of Sydney, Australia, had come to a similar conclusion (learn more). However, further studies are required to understand which factors are more relevant between training the eyes to see from a distance, doing physical exercise and benefiting from exposure to natural light.

Main sources: Ophthalmology, AAO, Bbc

Page published 25 October 2011. Last updated: 10 October 2018

Genetic editing against retinitis pigmentosa


The CRISPR technique has permitted partial recovery of retinal function in guinea-pigs or a deceleration of cellular degeneration

dna-animazio6b00-176ce.gifOphthalmology is at the forefront of gene therapies. This is confirmed by a study conducted at Columbia University (U.S.A.): a pioneering treatment for retinitis pigmentosa has just been described in the online version of Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Even if tested only on lab rats, the CRISPR correction technique – which allows an automatic replacement of faulty DNA sequences – according to the researchers “can restore retinal function” or at least slow down the degeneration of nerve cells.

To get a better idea of how it works, it’s as if a word typed incorrectly was replaced throughout a text with the correct word through the tool “find and replace”. However, there is also the potential risk that genetic sequences, which do not cause retinal pathology could modified; therefore the side effects of CRISPR will have to be further evaluated. The same genetic therapeutic strategy can be used for hundreds of other pathologies (such as Huntington’s disease, Marfan syndrome, corneal dystrophy).

The American Academy of Ophthalmology write:

Retinitis pigmentosa is a group of rare inherited genetic disorders caused by one of more than 70 genes. It involves the breakdown and loss of cells in the retina, the light sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye. It typically strikes in childhood and progresses slowly, affecting peripheral vision and the ability to see at night. Most will lose much of their sight by early adulthood and become legally blind by age 40. There is no cure. It is estimated to affect roughly 1 in 4,000 people worldwide.

At Columbia University researchers are studying how to treat the autosomal dominant form of retinitis pigmentosa. It is believed that different types of genetic mutation can lead to the same ocular pathology. For instance, any mutation of the rhodopsin gene (an indispensable molecule for the correct functioning of the retina) can cause retinitis pigmentosa). Using two guide RNAs instead of just one increased the probability of replacing defective genes from 30 to 90 percent, always using the flu virus (adenovirus) preventively rendered harmless. The results were then evaluated with an electroretinogram, which can be considered the analogue of a retinal “electrocardiogram”.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology explain:

Previous CRISPR studies for retinal diseases have relied on a less objective measure that involves evaluating how often the mouse turns its head in the direction of a light source. Dr. Stephen H. Tsang used electroretinography to show that retinal degeneration slowed in treated eyes compared with untreated eyes.

Sources: AAO, Ophthalmology

Donate your 5 x 1000, save sight


Support the prevention of blindness with IAPB Italy with your tax return. You will also support the National Centre for Visual Rehabilitation

Look at 5 x 1000: you have an opportunity to save sight. You can fight blindness by donating it, with your tax return, to the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness-IAPB Italy, indicating the fiscal code 80210310589. You will also support the National Centre for Visual Rehabilitation.Your donations will help us provide free periodic eye examinations on board the mobile Ophthalmic units of IAPB Italy onlus, consultations with ophthalmologists available thanks to a toll-free number (800-068506 [available from Italy only. If you are calling from abroad please dial +39 06 36004929 and ask for an ophthalmologist from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. (CET)]]), on our website [Forum or via e-mail (writing to, and awareness and prevention campaigns in schools. You can also help us purchase an Eye-Tracker, a device used to monitor eye movements. It will be used at the National Centre of Services and Research for the Prevention of Blindness and Rehabilitation of the Visually Impaired to rehabilitate visually impaired people.There are many activities promoted by IAPB Italy to which you can contribute by donating your 5×1000, without charge. Give your support now, please help us fight sight diseases!> Print or save your memo (in Italian) > Watch the video appeal in Italian

Attached documents

The surge of diabetes

Fondo oculare di persona affetta da retinopatia diabetica

Diabetics in Italy have doubled in 30 years . I.B.D.O. report: 22% of diabetics suffer from retinopathy

report-2017-copertina.pngWe are witnessing an explosion in the number of diabetics, a trend assisted by unhealthy habits, such as sedentariness and unhealthy eating. In Italy alone, the number of diabetics has almost doubled: in 2015, 3.27 million people, corresponding to 5.4% of the population, were declared to be suffering from diabetes, whereas 30 years previous, the percentage stood at 2.9%. This illness, caused by high blood sugar levels, can also jeopardize our sight, since it can damage the retina (diabetic retinopathy).

A report presented on April 17th 2018 in Rome emphasized the presence of a large gap between the North and the South of Italy. The number of diabetics is higher than the national average in Calabria, Basilicata, Sicily, Campania, Puglia, Abruzzo and Lazio, whereas the lowest concentration is found in the autonomous provinces of Trento and Bolzano and in Liguria. This divide is similar to the one between rural areas and urban centres. This research was conducted by the Italian Diabetes & Obesity Barometer Report, which was written by I.B.D.O. Foundation and the University of Rome Tor Vergata.

Fondo oculare di persona affetta da retinopatia diabetica
Fondo oculare di persona affetta da retinopatia diabetica
According to the WHO, there are 422 million diabetics in the world. Nine diabetics out of ten are affected by type 2 diabetes, which doesn’t require the administration of insulin. The figure for adult diabetics has risen globally from 4.7% in 1980, to 8.5% in 2014.

Diabetes is a chronic illness and early diagnosis is important. Blood sugar tests are essential as high sugar levels over an extended period of time can damage various organs. The I.B.D.O. report explains:

Diabetes is also the first cause of cardiovascular and kidney diseases, illnesses of the eyes and of the lower limbs. Fifteen percent of people with diabetes suffer from coronary artery disease, 22% suffer from retinopathy that can cause blindness, 38% have renal impairment […] that can lead to dialysis and 3% have problems to their lower limbs that can lead to amputation.

Sources: IBDO, Regioni

Glaucoma: searching for its genetic causes

Visual field reduction in a person affected by glaucoma (Source: Scientific Reports)


Visual field reduction in a person affected by glaucoma (Source: Scientific Reports)
Visual field reduction in a person affected by glaucoma (Source: Scientific Reports)
Thanks to a genetic test, the risk of developing glaucoma – an illness which is often linked to high eye pressure – will be maybe predicted in the future. A study carried out by several university researchers on Nature Genetics has claimed that it could be possible with a 75% accuracy rate. The genetic study was conducted on a large database of nearly 140 thousand people.

British and American scientists have identified 133 genetic variations of the most widespread type of glaucoma (also known as open-angle glaucoma), some of which are entirely new. In fact this disease is hereditary: people with relatives affected by glaucoma should see an ophthalmologist regularly.

Dr. Pirro Hysi (King’s College, London, UK) who directed the research, declared:

Knowing someone’s genetic risk profile might allow us to predict what risk of [developing] glaucoma he or she carries so that in the future we can focus scarce health care resources on those most at risk.

Since glaucoma is a serious cause of irreversible blindness globally (it affects 55 million people), the aim is to prevent the damage it may cause to the optic nerve. Thanks to an early diagnosis, patients can receive a timely therapy to reduce high eye pressure (usually by means of specific eye drops). Glaucoma can currently be diagnosed only through an ophthalmologic examination, which includes a measurement of the tone of the eye (tonometry). In short, we must never lose sight of prevention!

Sources: Nature Genetics, King’s College London, Pop. Science

About 1,500 free eye examinations performed in Togo


More than 400 pairs of glasses were donated, while 130 people are in need of eye surgery. The FON.T.ES. campaign is supported by IAPB Italy

togo-campagna_fontes-2-copertina-web-2.jpgFree eye examinations, followed by a donation of glasses and medicines, were performed during a mass screening for eye diseases in Togo, from 7-11 May 2018. The campaign was conducted by the nonprofit organization “FON.T.ES.-SO.T.ES.-Togo”, thanks to a project supported by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness-IAPB Italy.

The Association Fondation-Solidaire Terre of Esperance Togo, in collaboration with Togo’s Ministry of Health and the national program for the prevention of blindness, aims to improve the living conditions of poor and vulnerable people.

Thanks to news of the initiative being spread by word of mouth, it was also possible to examine many people who had travelled long distances, so the whole northern area of Togo benefited from the eye examinations, not just the population of the Grand Bassar, as originally expected. A total of 1,500 people were examined.

togo-campagna_fontes-screening_giovane-web.jpgNot only were 407 pairs of glasses distributed, but cataracts were diagnosed in more than 100 people. So far, 20 of the 130 surgical interventions deemed necessary have been planned. Eye illnesses were diagnosed in 29 people, while a foreign body was found in the eyes of 13 other people (the object was removed during the examination). Five people were urgently operated on and visual disabilities were diagnosed to nine children.

After a visual acuity measurement, followed by an ocular fundus examination and a check up with the slit lamp, the people affected by the most serious problems were referred to ophthalmic centres in nearby cities, such as Kara and Sokodé, since Bassar is not equipped with suitable ophthalmic services.

togo-campagna_fontes-160_pixel.jpg“We have planned other projects – Association FON.T.ES. writes – and we would like to extend free eye mass-screenings like the ones we have carried out these days to other countryside areas of Togo. Many people are requesting us to do so and many are in need of it.”

Moïse A. Tchapo, President of FON.T.ES., at the end of the mass-screening week in Kpatchilé, on 11th May, declared:

We take the opportunity to express great and sincere thanks to our generous partners: the association Gruppo St. Francesco di Assisi Onlus and its President, who have supported us for two years; the Pastoral Unit of Barbarano and Mossano and IAPB Italy, which have financed this campaign. It is thanks to them that it was possible to organize this campaign, together with all the individuals and the associations that have helped us by sending glasses and medicines.

Source: FON.T.ES – SO.T.ES – TOGO

The importance of carotenoids


They possess antioxidant functions and can contribute to eye health, but their effects of supplements are controversial

carotenoidi-web.jpgThere are some nutrients that our body cannot synthesize and their intake through nutrition is essential. Among these are carotenoids [including beta-carotene, an important precursor of vitamin A], natural pigments that are found in most fruit and vegetables (especially those that are yellow-orange-red in colour), in plants and algae.

A new Swiss-Dutch study focuses on their potential benefits for human health, particularly on the protective effects of lutein and zeaxanthin (two types of carotenoids), which can help protect the retina from age-related macular degeneration, “an intake recommendation would help to generate awareness in the general population to have an adequate intake of lutein rich foods”, the authors write in Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics.

In addition to benefiting eye health, carotenoids are thought also to improve cognitive functions and cardiovascular health and may even help prevent some forms of cancer. However, according to researchers, at present, studies on their potential benefits through the intake of food supplements have produced controversial results. Therefore further scientific studies will be necessary in this direction.

Source: Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics