Vision: Where is the suspected location on the body for eye conditions that lead to blindness

Could the health of the eyes be related to the functioning of the intestine? A recent study reveals a unique correlation and the role played by the gut microbiota

Recent findings create hope that antibiotics could potentially treat certain genetic diseases that can lead to blindness.

For genetic eye conditions that lead to blindness, according to a recent study published in Cell, bacteria that escape from the intestine and “travel” to the retina may also be implicated. Until recently, specialists estimated that the eyes are usually protected by a layer of tissue that bacteria cannot penetrate. Therefore, these results are “unexpected” according to Dr. Martin Kriegel, a microbiome researcher at the University of Münster in Germany, who was not involved in the study. “This is a major shift in the paradigm we knew until now,” he adds.

Inherited diseases of the retina, such as retinitis pigmentosa, affect about 5.5 million people worldwide. Mutations in the Crumbs homolog 1 (CRB1) gene are the primary cause of these diseases, some of which lead to blindness. Previous studies have shown that bacteria are not as rare in the eyes as ophthalmologists previously believed, leading the authors of the study to wonder if bacteria cause diseases of the retina, says co-author Dr. Richard Lee, an ophthalmologist then at University College London.

As Dr. Lee and his colleagues found, mutations in CRB1 weaken the bonds between the cells lining the intestine, in addition to the role they have long observed in weakening the protective barrier around the eye. This conclusion prompted the study’s co-author, Dr. Lai Wei, an ophthalmologist at Guangzhou Medical University in China, to create mice with CRB1 mutations with reduced levels of intestinal bacteria. These mice did not show signs of distortion of the cellular layers in the retina, unlike those with typical gut flora.

Twin: New exoskeleton gives mobility to people with disabilities

A new robotic exoskeleton could allow individuals who have lost the ability to move their legs to stand up and even walk again. It can also help them walk independently, guiding their movements and keeping them upright as they participate in rehabilitation therapy.

Named Twin, the exoskeleton designed in Italy for the lower body was presented at the Museum of Science and Technology in Milan. It is still in the prototype stage and is being developed by scientists from the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Italian Institute of Technology) and the Istituto Nazionale Assicurazione Infortuni sul Lavoro (National Institute for Insurance against Accidents at Work).

Designed for use by patients with reduced or absent mobility in the lower body, it moves their legs through motors located at the knee and hip joints. These motors are powered by an integrated battery, which is said to last for about four hours of use per one hour of charging. The Twin can be used in three different operating modes. In Walk mode, intended for individuals who cannot use their legs at all, the exoskeleton moves the user’s legs on their behalf and assists them in sitting and standing up. The person still needs to use crutches for balance, as with other assistive exoskeletons.

Retrain mode is for patients who still have some mobility in their lower limbs. It allows them to walk on their own to the extent they can, but provides adjustable assistance when needed. Throughout the process, the exoskeleton guides them towards a predetermined optimal trajectory of leg movement.

Finally, there is TwinCare mode, intended for individuals who have full use of one leg but not the other. In this case, the exoskeleton enhances the movement of the affected leg to match that of the healthy leg. In all three modes, a physiotherapist or the user themselves can adjust walking parameters, such as step length/type and walking speed, using a wirelessly connected Android tablet.

According to its designers, two things that make Twin stand out from similar exoskeletons are the fact that it is made from lightweight materials – aluminum alloy instead of steel, for example – and that it features an articulated design allowing for the removal of components for transport or upgrade.

The 4 early signs – sos that we suffer from vertigo and we don’t know it.

It can occur at any age. Audiologists share the red “lines” that urgently signal that we should check our ears as soon as possible

While we often believe that hearing loss is something that only happens to much older people, this is not actually true.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) in the United States, 1 in 8 people aged 12 and older has hearing loss in both ears, and approximately 28.8 million adults in the US could benefit from hearing aids. While difficulty in hearing may be the most obvious sign that we need to check our ears, it is not the only one.

We asked audiologists to share the main signs that it’s time to check our hearing. Here’s what they had to say:

Number 1: We struggle to follow conversations.

If we constantly find ourselves saying “what?” during conversations, it’s probably time to check our ears.

“Terry Zwolan, director of Audiology Access & Standard of Care for Cochlear Americas, says, ‘Making an effort to listen when we talk to others or to continue a conversation is very important. This may include struggling to hear when there is background noise and regularly asking people to repeat what they have said or often mishearing.'”

Number 2: We need to increase the volume of the sound on the television.

Whether others regularly tell us to turn down the volume of the television or we are surprised by the number we see on the volume control, this can be a sign that it’s time to check our hearing.

“We may find ourselves turning up the volume on the television or radio to a level louder than others prefer, or feel that people are mumbling (because of it),” he says.

Number 3: Our ears are ringing.

While ringing in the ears (or tinnitus) isn’t always a sign of hearing loss, it certainly can be at times. “Some people may experience persistent ‘ringing,’ buzzing, pain, or pressure in one or both ears,” says Zvolan. “Also, difficulties hearing from one ear may arise, it may be challenging to distinguish where sounds are coming from, or our own voice may sound different.”

Katie Campbell, an audiologist and Senior Director of Audiology at HearingLife Canada, emphasizes that experiencing symptoms like ringing in the ears is a good reason to consider getting a hearing test. “Ringing in the ears, or tinnitus, is usually associated with situations of hearing loss,” she states. “If it persists for an extended period, it’s a good idea to arrange for a hearing test.”

Number 4: We may struggle to hear the sounds of nature.

If we suddenly find it difficult to hear the sounds of nature, such as birds chirping or rainfall, this could be a red flag, according to Zvolan.

“Lazy eye” may be responsible for metabolic syndrome in adult life, study finds

A pediatric ophthalmic condition may jeopardize health in adult life, according to a recent study.

Amblyopia, also known as “lazy eye,” manifests during childhood, and its impact could extend into adulthood, causing various dysfunctions. Specifically, children who experience this condition are more likely to develop hypertension, obesity, and metabolic syndrome in adulthood, as well as an increased risk of heart attack, according to a recent study by researchers at University College London.

However, in their publication in eClinicalMedicine, the authors emphasize that although they identified an association, their research does not demonstrate a causal relationship between amblyopia and adverse health outcomes in adulthood.

The road to elections is full of obstacles for people with disabilities.

Respecting the rights of people with disabilities starts with each one of us, and primarily with the state itself. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, among other things, addresses the issue of accessibility. While the word “accessibility” usually brings to mind sidewalks, ramps, etc., these days, our thoughts turn to polling stations and voting booths.

Respect for persons with disabilities entails measures that allow every citizen to participate unhindered in electoral procedures. However, while in other countries there is the possibility of electronic voting, exercising the right using sign language, and ballots in Braille, in Cyprus we are far behind in this regard!

By Konstantinos Zachariou

Significant obstacles must be overcome by people with disabilities in order to exercise their voting rights, as the state limits itself to very basic provisions regarding the necessary accommodations for ensuring equal access for all citizens. In contrast, other EU countries provide significant facilitations, as evidenced by a report prepared by the relevant service of the European Parliament.

More specifically, in Cyprus, the physical presence of the voter at the designated polling station, determined by the competent state authority based on their residential address, is required. In contrast, in many EU countries, other options are available (either to all citizens or specifically targeted at people with disabilities), such as postal voting, the possibility of exercising voting rights in advance, voting by proxy, and electronic voting.

Additionally, the only tools utilized in Cyprus, which can be considered as supportive for people with disabilities, are those applicable to all voters: large print ballot papers, easy access to polling stations, and the freedom to choose the assistance needed by each individual.

In other countries, many more tools are utilized to provide assistance to people with disabilities, such as different standards for printing ballot papers depending on the type of disability, the use of magnifying lenses, ensuring adequate lighting, audio description of the ballot, the option to use sign language, printing of ballot papers in Braille, exercising the electoral right through mobile units, and the choice of a different polling center from the one designated by the competent government agency.

What applies in other countries

The accommodations provided to people with disabilities in other countries are as follows:

Lithuania: There is the option of postal voting, as well as the possibility of exercising the voting right in advance. Additionally, tools are provided such as using different ballot templates depending on the type of disability, using magnifying lenses, audio description of the ballot, using sign language, and exercising the voting right in mobile units that come to the voter’s location.
 

Belgium: There is the option of postal voting and proxy voting, as well as tools for using different ballot templates and magnifying lenses, and audio description of the ballot.

Spain: There is the option of postal voting. Additionally, tools are provided for using different templates and magnifying lenses, audio description of the ballot, using sign language, and using ballots in Braille.

Ireland: Tools are provided for using different templates, using Braille ballots, and voting in mobile units.

Netherlands: There is the option for proxy voting. Additionally, tools are provided for using magnifying lenses and sign language.

Estonia: There is the option of electronic voting, as well as advance voting. Additionally, tools are provided for using magnifying lenses and sign language, as well as voting in mobile units.

Croatia: Tools are provided for using different templates depending on the type of disability, audio description of the ballot, using sign language, and voting in mobile units.

Hungary: There is the option of postal voting. Additionally, tools are provided for using different ballot templates, using Braille ballots, and voting in mobile units.

Luxembourg: There is the option of postal voting. Additionally, tools are provided for using different templates, audio description of the ballot, using Braille ballots, and voting in mobile units.

Slovenia: There is the option of postal voting and advance voting. Additionally, tools are provided for using different templates and voting in mobile units.

Austria: There is the option of postal voting. Additionally, tools are provided for using different templates and voting in mobile units.

Germany: There is the option of postal voting. Additionally, tools are provided for using different templates, using sign language, and choosing a polling station.

Denmark: There is the option of advance voting. Additionally, tools are provided for using magnifying lenses and voting in mobile units.

Finland: There is the option of postal voting and advance voting. Additionally, tools are provided for using different templates depending on the type of disability, using magnifying lenses, and voting in mobile units.

Czech Republic: Tools are provided for audio description of the ballot and voting in mobile units.

France: There is the option of postal voting, proxy voting, internet voting, and audio description of the ballot.

Latvia: Tools are provided for audio description of the ballot and voting in mobile units.

Poland: There is the option of postal voting, proxy voting, and using different templates.

Portugal: There is the option of proxy voting. Additionally, tools are provided for using different templates, using Braille ballots, and voting in mobile units.

Sweden: There is the option of postal voting and proxy voting. Additionally, tools are provided for using magnifying lenses, using Braille ballots, and voting in mobile units.

Bulgaria: The option of voting in mobile units is available.

Italy: The option of voting in mobile units is available.

Malta: There is the option of advance voting. Additionally, tools are provided for using different templates and using Braille ballots.

Romania: There is the option of postal voting and voting in mobile units.

Slovakia: The option of voting in mobile units is available.

Greece: There is no option other than physical presence, and the only tools provided for people with disabilities are the minimum requirements applicable in all countries, concerning easy access to polling stations and booths. It is the only country, along with Cyprus, where almost no facilitation is provided for people with disabilities to exercise their voting rights.

Vacation Subsidy Scheme for Persons with Disabilities for 2024

The Holiday Subsidy Scheme for People with Disabilities, approved by the Council of Ministers on 10/05/2022, for vacations to be taken within 2024, will operate for 2024, according to the Department of Social Integration of Persons with Disabilities (DSIPD).

According to the department’s announcement, the application submission will start from March 11, 2024, and will last until November 30, 2024, or until the fund for this Scheme is exhausted.

Interested parties can obtain the guide of the Holiday Subsidy Scheme for People with Disabilities as well as the application form from the department’s website: www.dmsw.gov.cy/dsid and from the Assessment Centers for Disabilities of the DSIPD: in Nicosia, Archbishop Makarios III Avenue 67, 2220 Latsia, in Limassol, Apostolou Andrea 11, Hyper Tower, Shop 1, 4007 Mesa Geitonia, and in Larnaca, Akropoleos 25 & Chaniwn, 7000 Menoú. They can also get them from Citizen Service Centers in all cities.

“It is the responsibility of beneficiaries to ensure that hotels/tourist accommodations are approved by the Deputy Ministry of Tourism and that they charge the usual fees for the period. The Department will conduct checks in case of significant deviation from the usual charging rates for the period and will adjust the payment amount accordingly,” it is added.

No payment will be made to a bank account other than that of the direct beneficiary or their guardians in the case of a minor beneficiary.

For more information, interested parties can contact, depending on their province of residence, the following contact numbers: 22815015/082 for the Nicosia Province, 25729131 for the Limassol and Paphos Provinces, and 24205975 for the Larnaca and Famagusta Provinces.

Katerina Saranti: ‘I say it with pride that I belong to the disability movement

In today’s episode of “When Life Gives You Lemons,” I host champion para-triathlete Katerina Saranti, who was born with a partial development of both tibias, as during embryonic development, her legs developed incompletely from the knees down. From infancy until the age of 18, she underwent dozens of surgical procedures.

Katerina Saranti was born and raised in Rhodes, Greece, and from a young age, she had a passion for sports. In school, a gym teacher advised her to get exempt from Physical Education classes because it would lower her overall grade average. At the age of 17, after a trip to Finland, she realized that she could participate in any sport she wanted, just like everyone else.

 
 
 
 
 

Today, she is studying Medicine and is a champion para-triathlete. She dreams of a world and a Greece with facilities and accessibility for people with disabilities, just like in major European cities.

Katerina Saranti: “Going out on the streets in Greece with a wheelchair is a Golgotha with obstacles.”

How should people refer to her and to other people with disabilities?

“Many people perceive our rights as a luxury; it is the obligation of a state of equality to provide them to us.”

“The linkage of disability benefits with the Minimum Guaranteed Income creates distortions,” says the Commissioner for Administration.

“Public services should reach reasonable solutions and avoid any inconvenience to citizens.”

The linkage of the disability benefit with the minimum guaranteed income creates distortions,” notes Commissioner for Administration Maria Stylianou Lottides in her report, while also emphasizing that public services, particularly those dedicated to serving vulnerable population groups, should, within their discretion, seek reasonable solutions and avoid any inconvenience to citizens.

Specifically, as reported, ‘XX, on July 28, 2022, lodged a complaint against the Social Welfare Benefits Management Service (SWBMS), regarding failure to make a decision on her application for Minimum Guaranteed Income (MGI) – Disability Benefit.

In the findings of the report, it is mentioned that the spouse of the complainant, who is suffering from cancer with a highly burdened health condition, submitted an application for MGI on December 15, 2020. The application was rejected thirteen months later. An objection against the rejection was not examined because it was deemed time-barred.

Meanwhile, an application for MGI was also submitted by the complainant herself, within the framework of which the complainant was referred to the Medical Board for Disability Assessment and was deemed a person with a disability entitled to MGI and disability benefits. However, it appears that the said application was never examined by the SWBMS, nor did the complainant or our Office receive any relevant information.

“And even if it had been examined, it might have been rejected for the same reason as her husband’s application was rejected, namely due to the alienation of immovable property, which was not deemed necessary or essential by the SWBMS.”

However, it is noted in the report that the alienation concerned the terrace of the complainant’s residence, which was transferred to her daughter for the purpose of building her own residence, and not for any other reason or benefit.

It is evident that if the complainant had not proceeded with the said donation to her daughter with the permit for construction, the immovable property she would have possessed would still have been solely her main residence, given that the terrace does not constitute a separate immovable property, and therefore, the complainant would meet the conditions of the legislation regarding the provision of MGI.

“From the above, it primarily emerges that the SWBMS violated its legal obligation to examine the complainant’s application, and moreover, within a reasonable time, which entails a failure to take due legal action, and consequently, a violation of the principle of legality.”

Given, indeed, it should be noted that the complainant is a person with disabilities, the failure to examine and evaluate her application for financial support from the state entails a violation of her right to an adequate standard of living and social protection, as enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

“I consider it appropriate, at this point, to reiterate my position that linking the payment of disability benefits to the minimum guaranteed income creates distortions, as evidenced in the present case, and often leads to depriving people with disabilities of a basic level of protection that would help them enjoy a comparable standard of living to those without disabilities and protect them from poverty and social exclusion,” stated the Commissioner for Administration in her report.

Accordingly, I expect,” she adds, “that with the legislation currently being prepared by the Ministry of Social Welfare, in consultation with the Cyprus Confederation of Organizations of the Disabled, the creation of a new framework will be ensured to guarantee and protect to the maximum extent the rights of people with disabilities to a sufficient level of life and social protection.

With regard to the fact that the transfer of the complainant’s rooftop to her daughter was deemed by the Ombudsman as an unnecessary/alleged alienation of immovable property and considered as a reason for rejecting her husband’s application, ‘on the one hand, a misguided perception is evident as to what constitutes the alienation of property since the rooftop is not separate from the rest of the property, especially when it is granted as consent for the construction of a residence by the beneficiaries (daughter) of the owner. On the other hand, it constitutes a particularly strict interpretation of the relevant legislation, which violates both the spirit of the Minimum Guaranteed Income Law and the General Law on Social Benefits, aimed at supporting socially vulnerable groups, as well as the principles of good governance, which require administrative bodies to act in accordance with the sense of justice, so that when applying the relevant legislative provisions in each specific case, unfair and unjust solutions are avoided.'”

“I reiterate what was indicated earlier, that if the complainant had not proceeded with the said donation, the immovable property she would possess would still be only her main residence, given that her rooftop does not constitute a separate immovable property, and therefore it would meet the requirements of the legislation regarding the provision of the Minimum Guaranteed Income,” noted Ms. Lottides.

Furthermore,” she adds, “it is a common practice in Cypriot reality for the rooftop of a house to be granted by parents to their children for the construction of a residence, and it is very rare for it to be sold to third parties

“In light of the above, I deem it appropriate to emphasize that public services, especially those tasked with serving the vulnerable groups of the population, should, within the scope of their discretion, seek reasonable solutions and avoid any inconvenience to citizens. They should apply the law on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the real circumstances of each case for the benefit of citizens,” she notes.

In this particular case,” she notes, “the Department failed to meet the above criteria, as it did not take into account the actual facts, namely that the ‘alienation’ of property is not essentially an alienation but a transfer to the couple’s daughter of the ‘terrace’ for the construction of her own residence, acting under a misconception.

The Commissioner recommends that within one month, any misconceptions and injustices regarding the application of the complainant and her spouse for Minimum Guaranteed Income, Disability Allowance, and Care Allowance be reviewed or re-reviewed, taking into account the above findings, with the aim of providing them with the allowances they are entitled to.

She emphasizes that this is a couple where the husband is suffering from cancer with severely compromised health, while the wife has a serious mobility impairment, certified by the Department of Social Inclusion.

“It is therefore evident that they have both increased financial needs and a need for home care services,” it is stated.

Source: Cyprus News Agency (KYPE

They will study the recognition of parents as caregivers of people with disabilities

The state will study the proposal for recognizing parents as caregivers of children with disabilities, under conditions and specific criteria, according to the Minister of Labor, Giannis Panagiotou. Children with disabilities who are beneficiaries of the Minimum Guaranteed Income (MGI) and care allowance from the MGI are not entitled to declare their parents as caregivers. In most cases, one of the two parents does not work because they are responsible for caring for their child.

Andreas Apostolou, MP of EDEK, submitted a question to the Ministry of Labor whether there is an intention to revise this regulation. In response, the minister notes that the issue falls within the Minimum Guaranteed Income and General Laws on Social Benefits (Needs for Home Care of Persons with Disabilities) decree of 2017 (L.D.P. 365/2017).

Specifically, he informs that the provider or providers of home care services are chosen by the beneficiary, according to their individual needs and preferences. Therefore, he points out, in the letter sent by the Department of Social Integration of Persons with Disabilities to the citizen for home care, it is mentioned that the beneficiary may choose the care provider who can be:

  • an approved home caregiver who is registered or will be registered in the Preliminary Catalog or Registry of Approved Home Caregivers of Social Welfare Services (YKE),
  • a domestic worker (foreign caregiver).

According to the minister, since relatives of the 1st and 2nd degree are not allowed to register as caregivers in the preliminary YKE list, the assumption of care for children by parents is made by exception with the approval of the Deputy Minister of Social Welfare.

It is noted that there are several cases where a parent has been declared as the caregiver of a child with disabilities and the relevant allowance is paid by the Social Welfare Benefits Management Service to the parent approved as the caregiver.

According to Mr. Panagiotou, in the context of preparing new legislation for social benefits and services for people with disabilities by the Ministry of Social Welfare, concerning the funding of home care services, the possibility of recognizing informal care will be studied and subject to consultation, under conditions and specific criteria.

It is noted that the recognition of the father or mother of a child with disabilities (who, due to the nature of the child’s disability, cannot work) as the caregiver of the child itself was proposed by AKEL, causing various reactions.

Cyprus’ Participation in the 62nd Session of the United Nations Commission for Social Development in New York

The Deputy Minister of Social Welfare, Ms. Marilena Evangelou, participated in the 62nd Session of the United Nations Commission for Social Development (UN) in New York.

The Deputy Minister emphasized, within the context of the National Statement of the Republic of Cyprus, the urgent actions and reforms that must be undertaken to achieve the implementation of the UN’s 2030 Agenda with fair, effective, and inclusive social policies.

Reference was made to the broader social protection policies of Cyprus, such as, among others, the EEE, the Minimum Wage, the General Health System, the Long-term Care Services, as well as to the modernization of services to respond to the green and digital transition.

Emphasis was placed on the recent reforms of the Deputy Ministry of Social Welfare in the EEE, particularly on strengthening the Social Intervention Mechanism, which aims to activate beneficiaries by integrating them into the labor market through training programs or psychosocial support.

Emphasizing the importance of policies for reconciling family and professional life, so as to facilitate parents both in their work and in the care of their children, Ms. Evangelou presented the benefits arising from the Childcare and Education Subsidy Scheme for children up to 4 years old of the Deputy Ministry of Social Welfare. Reference was also made to the parental leave allowance and the expansion of paternity leave coverage to all fathers regardless of family status.

Within the context of social inclusion of individuals with disabilities, reference was made to the “National Strategy for Disability 2018-2028.”

On the margins of the 62nd Session of the United Nations Commission for Social Development, the Deputy Minister of Social Welfare had a meeting with the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Mr. LI Junhua, during which they exchanged views on the challenges at the international level regarding the implementation of the Social Agenda 2030 and the Social Development Goals. Ms. Evangelou informed Mr. Junhua about the social policy implemented by Cyprus, while the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs emphasized the importance of Cyprus’s participation as a member state of the European Union (EU) in the Commission’s work.

Ms. Evangelou also conducted bilateral meetings with the Minister of Labor, Welfare, and Social Protection of Portugal, Ms. Ana Mendes Godinho, the Deputy Minister of Multilateral Affairs of Costa Rica, Mr. Alejandro Solano Ortiz, and the Deputy Minister of Social Development of Jordan, Mr. Barq Al-Dmour, during which they agreed on the exchange of best practices on issues related to broader social policy.

During her stay in New York, the Deputy Minister of Social Welfare met with Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, as well as Mr. Kyriakos Papastylianou, the President of the Federation of Cypriots in America, and members of the Cypriot Diaspora, with whom they discussed the social challenges faced by the Diaspora, as well as ways for further cooperation.

(MTH/GS/NZ)