Turning Hope Into Reality—Vision Research at the VA
Washington, DC (April 29, 2009) /PRNewswire/ — Vision loss is a high priority area for VA Research. Among VA's research projects in the exciting domain of vision restoration for Veterans are the development of an artificial retina to restore vision to those affected by macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa; the design and improvement of assistive devices for those with visual impairments; and the development of more accurate and efficient methods of vision testing.
"The more success we have in our research, the more likely it is that Veterans can keep their own life, do the tasks, do the hobbies that they like to do," says Ronald Schuchard, Ph.D., director of the Rehabilitation Research and Development Center of Excellence in Atlanta. "Being able to play golf, being able to play cards, being able to do the things that we all love to do in our every day—you don't miss them until you can't do them, and then you really miss them."
In a recent VA study, the antioxidant lutein was shown to improve several symptoms in those with age-related macular degeneration. For those with this condition or another major cause of vision loss, retinitis pigmentosa, VA researchers in Atlanta are now working in the laboratory on retinal chips for implantation in the eye. The retinal prosthetics aim to give Veterans functional vision to get around and accomplish everyday activities without relying on someone else.
In another example of pioneering research, experts at the Palo Alto (Calif.) VA are studying vision disorders in Veterans with posttraumatic disorder (PTSD), and in those with both PTSD and mild traumatic brain injury, with the goal of understanding any associations among the health problems.
In the realm of evaluating how well Veterans are able to see—including patients who rely on existing assistive tools—VA facilities go beyond the visual testing conducted at a typical clinic, to an assessment that simulates the real world: How well can a Veteran find an object, especially in a lifelike cluttered environment? The tests aim to give researchers "a better handle," explains Schuchard, "on whether we're doing a good job at giving those kinds of everyday tasks back" to Veterans.
Visit VA's Research and Development site at http://www.research.va.gov.
For information about the Department of Veterans Affairs, please visit http://www.va.gov/.
For updates on the work of VA Research, please visit http://www.research.va.gov/resources/pubs/factsheets.cfm.
For a program overview of the VA Research program, go to http://www.research.va.gov/resources/pubs/docs/Overview-of-ORD.pdf.