March 16, 1994
Media Contact: Joann Rodgers
Phone: (410) 955-8659

Scientists at Hopkins are asking about 3,000 elderly residents of Maryland's Eastern Shore town of Salisbury to help them develop strategies for preventing blindness.

The Hopkins project also is designed to continue studies of previous findings that excessive sunlight exposure and lack of certain nutrients contribute to cataract and macular degeneration. Cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye; macular degeneration is a deterioration of the most light-sensitive part of the retina. The original findings are based on studies also done on the Eastern Shore.

'The primary importance of this major project is to help us understand how vision changes with age, and- how impaired vision affects the ability of older people to carry out daffy activities," says Sheila West, Ph.D., associate professor of ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute and senior investigator of the Salisbury Eye Evaluation (SEE) project. "We will look at such components as peripheral vision, and the ability of people to concentrate on one object when they are distracted by other visual stimuli."

SEE also will study the types of vision loss that may cause a loss of balance and falls. Results may explain the between vision loss, loss of independence, loss of mobility, and the need for nursing home care.

"By participating in this study, older residents of Salisbury can make a real contribution to improving the quality of life for all older Americans," says Matt Lynch, the director of the SEE project.

The names of more than 3,000 Salisbury residents, ages 65 to 84, have already been selected at random by a computer to receive a letter from West. Subjects will be contacted at home by a specially trained SEE worker who will collect information about residents' health and vision.

"The information will help us to identify those kinds of preventive services that would be helpful for older people," says Pearl German, Sc.D., professor of health policy and management at The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and a member of the SEE team. All information collected by SEE will be kept confidential, but win be available to the participants and to their doctors. However, the project does not replace a person's regular visits to their usual eye care professional, according to West.

Residents of Salisbury who wish further information, or who wish to learn if they have been selected to participate in the study should call Matt Lynch at 546-5390.

-- JHMI --
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