Monday 2 May 2016

MDS Talk: Benefits of chia seeds

Chia seeds, a popular health food, can help to keep your eyes healthy. It can improve dry eyes and help those with who have undergone cataract surgery. Want to know more? Attend this talk to find out from ophthalmologist Dr Daphne Han.

She will also speak on the relationship between AMD and the cardiovascular system, offer general dietary advice for AMD sufferers and share her chia seed recipe. It promises to be an educational and illuminating session. 

Speaker: Dr Daphne Han, medical director and consultant ophthalmologist at the SMG Vision Centre at Gleneagles Medical Centre

Date: May 7, 2016 (Sat)

Time: 2pm to 4pm

Venue: Fifth Avenue Condominium's Function Room, 2 Fifth Avenue, Singapore 268800

Directions: Fifth Ave Condo is located off Sixth Avenue, which is off Bukit Timah Road. The condo is a very short walk from the Sixth Avenue MRT Station along Downtown Line. 

Please sign up by calling Anne at 6238-7387, or sending an email to Places are limited because the venue is small, so please register as soon as possible!

We will be collecting the MDS subscription fee of $20 for 2016-2017 at the door. Thanks.

Monday 28 March 2016

See how chia seeds can benefit eyes

The Straits Times
March 22, 2026
By Poon Chian Hui

If you have been resisting the recent hype over chia seeds, consider this: Chia seeds can help to keep your eyes healthy. Chia seeds, which became a popular health food in the past few years, have been linked to weight loss and heart health.

But there is more. Its high omega-3 fatty acid content helps to maintain a healthy ocular surface, said Dr Daphne Han, medical director and consultant ophthalmologist at the SMG Vision Centre at Gleneagles Medical Centre.

These fatty acids can often "dramatically improve dry eye conditions" too, she added. "I highly recommend omega-3 fatty acids to many patients, particularly those who have undergone Lasik and cataract surgery."

If you are unsure how to prepare chia seeds, fret not - it does not have to be complicated.

In this chia seed dessert recipe by Dr Han, you just have to mix the ingredients and leave the mixture in the fridge overnight. The mixture then has to be chilled for at least 12 hours for the chia seeds to swell up and soften.

Almond milk is used here, but it can be substituted with milk or, for the lactose-intolerant, partially sweetened soya milk. These milk products contain vitamins A and D and calcium, which are also important for the eyes and nervous system.

"Our visual system comprises not just our eyes but also the visual pathways, such as the nerves that connect to the eyes within the brain," said Dr Han. The idea for this dessert came from her cardiologist husband, who often recommends chia seeds to his heart patients.

"What is good for the heart is generally good for the eyes," said Dr Han. Poor circulatory health can adversely impact the retina, contributing to diseases like retinal blood vessel occlusions, she explained.

Ms Jaclyn Reutens, a clinical dietitian at Aptima Nutrition and Sports Consultants, added that chia seeds promote a healthy digestive tract. "When the chia seeds become gelatinous, they help propel food along the intestinal tract, keeping your bowel movements regular." However, she noted that chia seeds are "not a definite weight loss food", despite marketing claims.

Overall, this dish is a solid source of protein and carbohydrates. It has the same amount of protein as an egg, and the same amount of carbohydrates as a slice of bread, she said. "It is very high in good fats and is an excellent source of dietary fibre, particularly insoluble fibre."

Ms Reutens noted that chia seeds have a blood-thinning effect, so people on blood-thinning medication should be aware of the possible interactions. Those with swallowing difficulties, such as dysphagia, may wish to avoid eating chia seeds.

To put your own spin on the dish, add green tea powder or substitute one-third of the milk with store-bought yuzu juice, said Dr Han. Fruit-lovers may want to swop a third of the milk with freshly blended strawberry or mango juice.

"This dessert is a breeze to make, even in large quantities," said Dr Han. "Any leftovers can double up as breakfast - just swop the berries with a banana and add a slice of toast to provide you with enough 'oomph' for an entire morning."



• 1/4 cup of chia seeds

• 11/2 cup of unsweetened almond milk

• 2 tbs of maple syrup (adjust to taste)

• 11/2 tsp of vanilla extract

• A few fresh pitted cherries or berries, for garnish (optional)

• A small handful of toasted nuts, such as almonds or crushed pistachios, for garnish (optional)


• Combine the chia seeds, almond milk, maple syrup and vanilla extract in a container that can be sealed, such as a glass mason jar. Stir well and keep refrigerated overnight.

• Top the pudding with the berries or nuts before serving chilled.


Thursday 24 March 2016

Fighting Macular Degeneration

The New York Times

Science | Q&A

Fighting Macular Degeneration

By C. Claiborne Ray

MARCH 19, 2016

Q. Are there any new treatments in the pipeline for age-related macular degeneration?

A. Current treatments for the so-called wet form of macular degeneration, involving injections inside the eye, are already “very effective” compared with laser treatments, which were used before intravitreal injections, said Dr. Ronald C. Gentile, the surgeon director at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai.

But several ways to improve their results are in the works, he said.

The shots deliver drugs that fight a substance called vascular endothelial growth factor, and thus shrink the growth of what amounts to an abnormal blood vessel harming the retina. A major hurdle now involves the frequency and cost of the needed treatments.

Once the drug is inside the eye, the effects wear off and a new injection is needed, Dr. Gentile said. The shots are also less effective in some patients. Even when they work well, some people need a shot as often as every four weeks, while some can wait two or three months. If both eyes are affected and the period of effectiveness is short, doctor visits can be very frequent, so drugs that last longer in the eyeball are being pursued.

Researchers are working on slow-release medications as well as a delivery system that acts like a tiny pump in the eye, with a tank that can be refilled every six months.

There is also a new drug target: a substance called platelet-derived growth factor that causes abnormal vessel growth as well. Combination drug treatments may be more effective against macular degeneration, Dr. Gentile said.

The so-called dry form of macular degeneration, which often underlies the wet form, is harder to fight, he said, and although advances are being made, current antioxidant treatments with vitamins and minerals do not to improve vision; they just prevent it from worsening.

“There has been a lot of hype on using stem cells,” Dr. Gentile said, but added that more research was needed. Some vaunted treatments outside regular channels could be potentially harmful as well as expensive, he said.

“Such work needs to be done in clinical trials by real scientists,” he said.

Source: NYT

Tuesday 1 March 2016

7 eyecare tips for screen addicts

The Straits Times

Seven eyecare tips for those who are often glued to their computers and other devices

By Poon Chian Hui
Assistant News Editor 

People are often glued to screens these days, from mobile phones to tablets as well as television sets, laptops and computers. Indeed, some can end up gazing at a screen all day - at home, at work and even while on the move.

Whether you are a video game addict or social media maven, looking at such screens for prolonged periods of time can tire your eyes and cause vision-related problems. Some symptoms include eye pain and fatigue, blurred vision, redness in the eyes and the need to blink more or close your eyes more often.

This is known as computer vision syndrome and, despite the name, it can occur with the use of handheld devices like the mobile phone or tablet, said Dr Lee Sao Bing, medical director of Shinagawa Eye Centre at Wheelock Place.

"The level of discomfort increases with the amount of computer use or screen time...Our eyes get dry from prolonged use. We tend to blink less when concentrating on the computer or television screen."

Dr Lee gives tips on how you can avoid computer vision syndrome.


Ensure that the prescription is appropriate for close computer work. Glasses or contact lenses that are not of the correct power will cause your eyes to tire easily.


Proper lighting can help to achieve maximum comfort and, if you are at work, productivity. When in the office, for instance, try to angle your monitor away from light sources and windows so that there is no light reflecting off the screen. This can cause visual disturbances, such as glare and difficulty in seeing words on the computer screen.


Toggle the display settings of your computer or mobile device so as to achieve a similar level of brightness as your surroundings. As a guide, if you cannot read the words well, the screen may be too dim, while a screen that is too bright will feel glaring to your eyes.


Your eyes will become drier the longer you spend looking at the screen. A strong draught from air-conditioning also tends to aggravate this problem.

Take frequent breaks from the screen to prevent headaches, blurry vision and dry eyes. Look away or close your eyes every half an hour.

If your eyes are dry, consider using lubricating eye drops. These can be found at pharmacies and eye doctors' clinics.


This will help to reduce eye strain. Increasing the point size of the font may also improve your reading experience. This is helpful if you are reading long documents or have to spend hours editing on your computer or mobile device.


Wearing such lenses for a prolonged period of time, coupled with inadequate cleaning of the lenses, can lead to a variety of eye infections. Some infections may even cause blindness. Contact-lens use will dry your eyes out over time. If you are expecting a long day in front of the computer, for example, wear glasses in place of contact lenses when your eyes become too dry.


Going for eyecare examinations, either by an optometrist or ophthalmologist, will ensure that you still have the appropriate prescription for your glasses or lenses.

A doctor can also prescribe the appropriate treatment if your eyes are found to be too dry.

Friday 12 February 2016

In search of genetic link in eye diseases

The Straits Times

Feb 12, 2016
By Carolyn Khew

Dr Khor Chiea Chuen was well on his way to becoming a doctor but had a eureka moment during his final year in medical school. While undergoing medical training at local institutions in 2008, he realised that about 90 per cent of the patients would get well on their own - probably even if they had not gone to hospital.

"These were the elderly or young children who had spiking fevers, coughs and colds, for instance, and doctors wanted to be careful," he explained. But it was the remaining one in 10 patients who intrigued him. This group would die without proper treatment. So he decided to turn his attention to developing the best cures for them. "If you intervene well, you can help them... I really wanted to help this 10 per cent and to know more about why they suffered certain diseases," he said.

Since the time he found his calling, Dr Khor has not looked back. After graduating from medical school, he immersed himself in research. The senior principal investigator with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research's (A*Star) Genome Institute of Singapore has been trying to find out how major eye diseases like glaucoma and macular degeneration could be hereditary - the first step towards learning how to cure these debilitating diseases.

For his work, Dr Khor has won many awards, including most recently becoming the first Singaporean to clinch the EMBO Young Investigator Programme Award in November last year. He is among only five scientists from Singapore who have won the prestigious European award since it was launched in 2000, and will receive €15,000 (S$23,500) to further his research.

Dr Khor said that, in the eyes of his colleagues, friends and collaborators, choosing to find out if there was a relationship between genetics and eye diseases like glaucoma was a "brave" thing to do. "People were thinking, why study genetic predisposition in diseases which occur in the elderly? Most of the time, such research is done on the younger population."

But he noted that ageing would be a major medical concern in the coming years. "The world's population as well as Singapore's is ageing. Strikingly, there are genetic conditions which manifest after people turn 50, and, collectively, they affect a large number of people."

It was a meeting with Professor Aung Tin from the Singapore Eye Research Institute in 2010 that led Dr Khor to suspect that glaucoma could be hereditary. Back then, Prof Aung had observed clusters of glaucoma patients in families. Dr Khor said: "It made me think: Could there be a genetic predisposition? If we could find out those who are at risk genetically, we could pick it up earlier and monitor their eyes for nerve damage."

Glaucoma, dubbed the thief of sight, affects about 3 per cent of Singaporeans aged 50 and above, and accounts for 40 per cent of blindness here. Most patients, however, do not know they have the disease until it is too late as it does not cause pain or dark spots in vision.

In 2012, Dr Khor was part of an international team comprising researchers from countries such as Britain and China which discovered three genes - PLEKHA7, COL11A1 and PCMTD1 - that were very strongly associated with increased risk of the disease. It was the first time that such a connection had been proven scientifically. Further work is needed but this initial research paves the way for identifying future drug targets.

Now, the researcher is working to better understand the mechanism behind the genetic mutations and how they cause glaucoma. These findings should be out in about two to three years, he said. Dr Khor is also doing work on exfoliation syndrome, known to cause glaucoma through a build-up of whitish material made up of protein deposits on the iris.

Studies have shown a strong association between the mutation of certain genes and the exfoliation syndrome but Dr Khor is trying to pin down the mechanism behind it.

"The key is to aim for primary prevention - don't even let the disease come up... There's this great idea that if we know about the genetics, it can help in the primary prevention, together with whatever else we know about the disease," said Dr Khor.

Work aside, he also loves nature, and takes a walk at Bukit Batok Nature Park near his home every day after work. "I like being in quiet solitude. It makes me think about things that I have not done well during the day, and I can improve on them," said Dr Khor.

Nothing excites him more than his quest for scientific knowledge. "The amazing treatments and good outcomes you see in Singapore now are because the generation of doctors before us did a lot of research to find the best standard of care. So if my generation rests on its laurels, we would still be using the old treatments years from now," said the 37-year-old, who is single. "I'm married to science - for now."

Wednesday 10 February 2016

Happy Year of the Monkey

To all Chinese members of MDS, we wish you a Happy Year of the Monkey! Here's to good health and bright vision in the new year. :) 

Tuesday 2 February 2016

Man diagnosed with eye cancer

A 40-year-old man was diagnosed with eye cancer with pinkeye.

There are many scientific studies indicate that green light from mobile screen can result in death of human’s retinal cells, affect our vision. When we use mobile phone in dim light condition for a long time, electron beam will shine directly into our eye, it will make conjunctival become prolonged dry, cause eye cancer and blind.

This unnamed 40-year-old man visited the doctor when he couldn’t see clearly, albumen turned red because of serious injuries. Whereby, he always use mobile phone for 30 minutes in the dark before going to sleep. It was prolonged, made his macular’s eye degraded, lead to impaired vision and signs of eye cancer.

Click here to read more.