Teen 'First in UK' to Go Blind, Deaf After Being on Junk Food Diet for 10 Years: Report
(Representational photo: AFP)
The teen suffered from a rare eating disorder called avoidant-restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) since primary school, which, he told doctors, made him averse to the texture of fruits and vegetables.
- Last Updated: September 03, 2019, 11:48 IST
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In the first case of its kind in the UK, a teenager is likely to go blind and deaf because of his unhealthy diet comprising solely of junk food.
For about a decade, the unidentified 17-year-old was sustaining himself on chips, white bread and processed meat, a report said.
He suffered from a rare eating disorder called avoidant-restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) since primary school, which, he told doctors, made him averse to the texture of fruits and vegetables.
His poor diet, therefore, resulted in several vitamin deficiencies, eventually leading to nutritional optic neuropathy (NON). While the condition is prevalent among malnourished children in developing countries, developing NON in the West is little heard of.
The optic nerve is damaged, leading to sight loss, and if untreated, even blindness. The patient had also developed hearing loss and bone weakness.
The author of the report citing the teen's example which was published in Annals of Internal Medicine, Dr Denize Atan said that there was a lack of awareness among healthcare professionals and the public about the repercussions of poor diet on the eyesight.
“What’s unusual about this case is the extreme picky eating and the fact it had gone on for quite some time, that the diagnosis had been missed and the visual loss had become permanent,” Dr Atan was quoted by The Daily Telegraph.
“The link between poor nutrition and vision has been known about for quite some time, at least among specialists in neuro-ophthalmology. The problem is that awareness among other health professionals isn’t quite so high."
Red flags have been raised by scientists in the past warning that British diets are becoming comprised of poor quality, processed foods.
The University of Sao Paolo in a study of 19 countries found that British families purchase more ultra-processed food than any other European nation, with 50.7 percent of their diets being comprised of the same.
On his first trip to a general physician at the age of 14, the boy was labelled a "fussy eater". He had complained of tiredness, but was healthy and took no medication.
However, blood tests revealed that he had anemia, caused by B12 deficiency and was treated with vitamin injections.
When he was 15, the boy's hearing and sight began to deteriorate, but an MRI scan showed no structural damage to his ears.
He lost his vision progressively for two years, now measuring 20/200, making him legally blind.
By 17, the vitamin B12 injections had lapsed, and doctors discovered he also had low copper and vitamin D levels, as well as poor bone mineral density.
He was then diagnosed with NON, but Dr Atan said despite his sight “stabilising” his central visual field had been ruined beyond repair., most likely because of a lack of vitamin B and copper.
His bone weakness was probably caused by not consuming oily fish, cheese and eggs - which contain vitamin D.
The boy’s mother said the condition has “devastated his life”, as he has dropped out of college due to impairments and she has quit her job to care for him.
The woman, who did not want to be named, said: “His sight went downhill very fast - to the point where he is now legally blind.
"He has no social life to speak of now. After leaving school he got into college to do a course in IT. But he had to give it up because he could not see or hear anything.
"He would love a job - but he has not been able to find anything he can do. I had to quit my job in a pub. I now look after him full-time.
"He is taking vitamin supplements - but his diet is still pretty much the same.
"When he was having counselling we managed to start him on fruit smoothies. But he's gone off those now."