16,000 scientists sign dire warning to humanity over health of planet

A flooded street in Miami Beach in September 2015. The flood was caused by a combination of seasonal high tides and what many believe is a rise in sea levels due to climate change. Miami Beach has already built <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2016/02/29/opinions/sutter-miami-beach-survive-climate/index.html">miles of seawalls</a> and has embarked on a five-year, $400 million stormwater pump program to keep the ocean waters from inundating the city.

More than 16,000 scientists from 184 countries have published a second warning to humanity advising that we need to change our wicked ways to help the planet.

In 1992, 1,700 independent scientists signed the “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity.” The letter warned that “human beings and the natural world are on a collision course” and if environmental damage was not stopped, our future was at risk.
That letter made headlines 25 years ago, but the world still faces daunting environmental challenges. So environmental scientist William Ripple and his colleagues decided to create a new letter that has also struck a nerve. Since it was published in the journal BioScience on Monday, hundreds more scientists have signed on to the letter.
The letter essentially says that if there is not a groundswell of public pressure to change human behavior, the planet will sustain “substantial and irreversible” harm.
“This is not about some natural phenomenon that is removed from humans,” said Ripple, a distinguished professor of ecology at Oregon State University. “If we don’t have a healthy biosphere, as it is called, if we continue to have major environmental problems and climate change problems, then this goes directly to the welfare of humans. People need to understand that we are trying to save ourselves from catastrophic huge misery.”
Though there have been a handful of positive changes, current data show that many environmental problems have gotten “alarmingly” worse since the last letter was penned.

Climate change

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Since 1970, carbon dioxide emissions have increased sharply, by about 90%. About 78% of that comes from fossil fuel combustion, such as through the use of coal to heat our homes and driving cars that use gas, and through basic industrial processes and human activity which accounts for the majority of the total greenhouse gas emissions increase from 1970 to 2011, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
That human activity has helped raise the global average temperature. 2016 was the warmest year on record, according to NASA. In fact, the 10 warmest years on the 136-year record have occurred since 1998, according to the most recent data available.
Though the Trump administration has said climate change programs are a “waste of your money” and that climate change itself is an “expensive hoax,” the data suggest that temperature increases will probably cause a shortage in the world’s food crops. The weather will become more damaging, with more intense storms. Sea levels will rise and threaten coastal cities like Miami and New Orleans.

Dead zones

The new letter lists data showing a 75% increase in the number of ocean dead zones since the publication of the first letter. Dead zones are the areas in oceans, large lakes and rivers where marine life either dies or is driven away because the zone lacks sufficient oxygen.
Although dead zones can occur naturally, they are created largely by excessive nutrient pollution from human activities like farming and industrial pollution, according to the National Ocean Service. There are many along the US East Coast and in the Great Lakes, and the second largest in the world is in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
Scientists believe there are at least 405 dead zones worldwide, including near South America, Japan, China and southeast Australia.
That’s not merely bad news for the fish that live there; it is bad news for the humans who eat the fish and other seafood that need the fish to survive. The dead zone in the Chesapeake Bay, for instance — which measures 1.89 cubic miles, or nearly the volume of 3.2 million Olympic-size swimming pools — results in the loss of tens of millions of fish, which both humans and crabs eat. It threatens the oysters there, too.
Despite the challenges there, the proposed Trump budget would cut cleanup funds for the Chesapeake Bay, the Great Lakes and other bodies of water with dead zones.

Children still being prescribed codeine, despite warnings

Prescription and illegal opioids are commonly abused because they are so addictive. <br /><br />Opioid medications bind to the areas of the brain that control pain and emotions, driving up levels of the feel-good hormone dopamine in the brain's reward areas and producing an intense feeling of euphoria.<br /><br />As the brain becomes used to the feelings, it often takes more and more of the drug to produce the same levels of pain relief and well-being, leading to dependence and, later, addiction.

Codeine prescriptions for children who have had their tonsils and adenoids removed have decreased since the Food and Drug Administration began requiring a black box warning on the products four years ago, according to a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics. However, some children continue to be prescribed codeine, and other opioid prescriptions for children have continued to rise since then.

Between 2010 and 2015, doctors collected data on more than 350,000 privately insured children up to 18 years old who had undergone those surgical procedures. They monitored the children’s prescriptions for codeine and alternative opioids.
Codeine, an opioid pain reliever, came under scrutiny due to its adverse effects on children. According to the FDA, it led to serious breathing troubles, including 24 deaths, in children from January 1969 to May 2015.
In August 2012, the FDA launched an investigation into the safety of codeine use in children. Afterward, in 2013, it announced a requirement for a black box warning to be added to packaging to call attention to these risks.
FDA strengthens warning against codeine and tramadol for children
“A decreasing number of children were receiving codeine even before the FDA investigation, but once that investigation was over, there was a huge drop,” said Dr. Kao-Ping Chua, the lead author of the new study. “That’s kind of what we expect. An FDA black box warning should actually decrease inappropriate codeine prescribing.”
However, toward the end of the study in December 2015, one in 20 children was still being prescribed codeine, the researchers found.
“Five percent may not sound like a huge number, but you have to remember that the tonsillectomy and adenoid removal is the second most common surgery in children,” said Chua, assistant professor of pediatrics and communicable diseases at the University of Michigan and C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

Why codeine is dangerous for kids

Codeine itself has no effect on pain, Chua explained. It is converted to morphine by a liver enzyme, and the speed of this conversion varies from person to person.
“Approximately 1-2% of people are ‘ultra-metabolizers’ who convert codeine to morphine extremely quickly, causing a rapid spike in blood morphine levels and a resulting risk of overdose,” he added.
“Of course, no one can tell who is and who is not an ultra-metabolizer without doing expensive testing that may not come back fast enough to inform decisions about how to manage pain.”
He says that prescribing codeine to children after these surgeries is a roll of the dice, because it’s not known whether that a particular child is an ultra-metabolizer with a high risk of overdose.
“This is an unacceptable gamble given that there are better alternatives,” he added.
Dr. Kris Jatana, a pediatric otolaryngologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, believes that the study is underestimating the current codeine prescription rates for children.
Sick kids? Skip the OTC cough and cold medicine
“I think it’s been nearly two years since the end point of the study that was captured, and I think the prescribing patterns may have even changed further in the last two years to show that there is further decrease in the use of Tylenol and codeine in this patient population,” he said.
According to the study, hydrocodone and oxycodone prescriptions for children went up in the months after the FDA’s black box warning requirement.
“There has been a shift away from the codeine prescriptions because of the black box warning. But the alternative and sometimes even more potent ‘narcotic prescription’ of oxycodone and some others are still actually being prescribed,” said Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a pediatrician based in Seattle.
Chua agrees. “Some of the alternative strategies of managing pain are not perfect, because oxycodone and hydrocodone themselves have some safety concerns,” he said.
“I think the sample was pretty large, and at the end of the day, we cannot say if these findings are also true for children covered by Medicaid or the CHIP program because we were studying the commercially insured population,” he added.

Safer alternatives

Jatana said Nationwide Children’s Hospital has done a lot of quality improvement work related to decreasing opioid prescriptions as well as decreasing the number of doses prescribed.
“Through our intervention at our own hospital, where we do about 4,000 of these procedures a year, we have been able to prescribe opioids to less than one-third of the patients, where primarily we were (previously) prescribing opioids to about 85% of the patients,” he said.
“We primarily use Tylenol and ibuprofen as sort of first-line medications to alternate for pain control for mild to moderate pain. We reserve the use of an opioid for only those patients who have severe pain,” he added.
Doctors at Nationwide Children’s Hospital give prescriptions only for patients who require opioid pain medicine in the hospital, as opposed to everybody, he said. If the child doesn’t require the medicine in the hospital, he or she is
“But if they ever have severe pain, we basically send a prescription 24 hours a day to their pharmacy if they need that prescription. We typically will prescribe hydrocodone. We do not prescribe Tylenol with codeine,” he said.
The study’s take-home message is that there are safer and more effective alternatives to codeine to control pain after tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy, Chua said.
“Tylenol or ibuprofen both over-the-counter agents that have been shown to be very effective in treating post-surgical pain, and they don’t have the same sort of safety concerns as codeine,” he said.
Parents should always ask, at any place after surgery or after any procedure, how to control their child’s pain best with over-the-counter medicine, Swanson advised.
“They should review that and write down those doses with the clinician before they leave the hospital or before they leave the clinic every time so they really understand what dose and how often,” she said.

Extreme athlete uses wheelchair to defy gravity

As CNN began setting up our on-camera interview with Aaron “Wheelz” Fotheringham, our cameraman asked, “Do your wheels lock? Just for the interview.”

The response, “brakes are for people that want to go slow,” sums up the man known as “Wheelz”: quick and always moving forward.
Aaron was born with spina bifida, a spinal defect that left him without much control of his legs. But he never let it slow him down.
“I was crawling all over the house as a little kid. I bombed down the stairs head-first just like any other kid. I just kind of skipped that whole ‘learning to walk’ stage.”
As a child, “Wheelz” started out on crutches and kept up with the other kids, even in PE class.
“When it was time to run the mile in class, I would do it on my crutches.”
But as his friends began picking up skateboards and riding bikes, Fotheringham had trouble keeping up. A wheelchair helped him pick up the pace. But he credits his unique family with making him an athlete by literally pushing him over the edge.

Taking the drop

Aaron is one of six kids in the Fotheringham family — all of them adopted.
 “My biological parents were a little worried about dealing with the kid with spina bifida,” he said. “My adoptive parents are truly champions for taking on all that responsibility.”
Although he spent a lot of his childhood in hospitals recovering from 23 surgeries, his life at home was full of action.
As a child, Aaron never let spina bifida slow him down.

“Growing up in my house, my older brother, Brian, and I, we just loved watching X Games and were big fans of all the action sports,” Fotheringham recalled. “(Brian) was a skater and rode bikes, and I always looked up to him. Eventually, he took me to a skate park and kind of peer pressured me in.”
“Dropping in” at a skate park for the first time can be daunting at any age. Fotheringham was doing it for the first time at 8 years old — in a wheelchair.
“It was it was definitely a fear that I’ve never experienced. I remember the first time I ever dropped in. I was just pretty terrified,” he said. “I remember falling on my wrists and kind of hurting those.”

‘Wheelz’ of steel

After the rough start, however, Fotheringham began nailing his drops and picking up speed. That first day at the skate park sparked what would become an “obsession.”
“When I saw that my wheelchair was kind of my mode of transportation throughout the park, it kind of ignited something in me and just made me realize, like, ‘Hey, I could do this, too.’ “
Having grown up idolizing skaters and bikers, Fotheringham began putting his own dreams into motion.
“I hadn’t seen anyone on a chair at that time,” he said. “I would just try to mimic what I saw the bikes and skateboards do.”
Very quickly, the ramps got bigger, the rides got faster, and the tricks got harder.
In 2005, Fotheringham began riding in BMX and skateboarding competitions, which helped turn his hobby into a serious athletic pursuit.
“They weren’t giving me pity points,” he said. “They knew if I was having a good riding day, and so they would judge me accordingly.”
By 2010, he landed in the Guinness Book of World Records for completing the world’s first backflip in a wheelchair.
Fotheringham is now a three-time WCMX champion, which is a mix of skateboarding and BMX riding for wheelchair users. He also travels around the world doing trick shows as a performer in the action sports collective Nitro Circus.
“My wheelchair has taken me all around the world to do competition,” he said. “With a wheelchair, yeah, there’s hard times, and there’s struggles, but it can open so many doors that weren’t there before. I’ve always said that my wheelchair has taken me further than my shoes ever could.”

Did you know you should give under-fives vitamin tablets?

mum giving daughter a vitamin tablet

Children between the age of six months and five years should take vitamin A, C and D supplements, government advice says – do you find this surprising?

If you do, it seems you’re not alone.

Researchers in Wales found only 30% of parents and carers said they had ever been given advice by a health professional about giving young children vitamin supplements.

And nearly two-thirds (64%) of those asked said they didn’t give their children vitamin supplements.

The Department for Health (DoH) recommends all children aged six months to five years should be given supplements containing vitamins A, C and D every day.

This advice has been in existence since the early 1990s, when it was endorsed by the then committee on medical aspects of food policy.

The DoH also says breastfed babies should be given a daily vitamin D supplement from birth.

‘Thought healthy diet was enough’

The Welsh researchers wanted to find out how well known this advice was among parents and carers.

They surveyed adults accompanying children at paediatric out-patient clinics in two hospitals in Swansea.

A total of 101 filled out questionnaires designed to test their knowledge of the guidelines.

The researchers said the most common reasons given by parents for not giving their children vitamin supplements were:

  • They were unaware that they should/had not been advised
  • They thought a healthy diet was enough

“We are concerned that the majority of carers participating in our survey do not follow guidance around vitamin supplementation for their young children,” the report says.

“Many seem unaware of recommendations, suggesting that health professionals are not providing them with information.

“We feel that action needs to be taken to raise carers’ awareness and encourage a much wider use of vitamin supplements in the under-fives, with health professionals adopting a more proactive approach.”

  • Winter vitamin D ‘advised for everyone’

Dr Bethan McMinn, paediatric registrar at the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board, said the complexity of the guidelines could be a barrier for effective information sharing between professionals and parents.

She said that while the DoH recommends all children aged six months to five years take a daily supplement, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has recently updated its advice.

It now says that all babies from birth to one year should take a daily Vitamin D supplement – but this does not apply for infants having 500ml a day of formula milk.

Dr McMinn acknowledges her research is small scale, but says it could well reflect the situation across the UK.

“Our project was conducted in Swansea, Wales so it is difficult to comment on whether our findings reflect the situation across the UK in general.

“However it would not surprise me if this were the case.”

Prof Mary Fewtrell, nutrition lead at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said the Swansea research suggested healthcare professionals were not routinely sharing the information with new parents.

“I suspect in large part this is due to the complex and conditional nature of the guidelines leading to confusion and that we would be likely to see a similar picture in other parts of the country.

“Further research is needed to establish if this is the case and, if so, how to best overcome these challenges so that our children can receive the best possible nutrition.”

Prof Louis Levy, head of nutrition science at Public Health England, said: “All children aged six months to five years should take a supplement containing vitamins A, C and D.

“This is a sensible step because growing children may not get enough of these vitamins – especially those not eating a varied diet.”

The research was presented at the Welsh Paediatric Society autumn clinical meeting.

Breast cancer ‘can return 15 years after treatment ends’

A scan of a woman with breast cancer

Breast cancer can resurface after remaining dormant for 15 years following successful treatment, a study has found.

Women with large tumours and cancer that had spread to the lymph nodes had the highest 40% risk of it coming back.

Researchers writing in the New England Journal of Medicine said extending treatment with hormone therapy could reduce the risk of it recurring.

Scientists analysed the progress of 63,000 women for 20 years.

All had the most common form of breast cancer.

This is a type fuelled by the hormone oestrogen which can stimulate cancer cells to grow and divide.

Every patient received treatments such as tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors which block the effects of oestrogen or shut off the hormone’s supply.

Although after five years of treatment their cancers had gone, over the next 15 years a steady number of women found that their cancer spread throughout their body – some up to 20 years after diagnosis.

Women who originally had large tumours and cancer that had spread to four or more lymph nodes were at highest risk of the cancer returning the next 15 years, the study said.

Women with small, low-grade cancers and no spread to the lymph nodes had a much lower 10% risk of cancer spread over that time.

‘Remarkable’

Lead researcher Dr Hongchao Pan, from University of Oxford, said: “It is remarkable that breast cancer can remain dormant for so long and then spread many years later, with this risk remaining the same year after year and still strongly related to the size of the original cancer and whether it had spread to the (lymph) nodes.”

Doctors have long known that five years of tamoxifen reduces the risk of recurrence by about a third in the five years after stopping treatment.

Recent research has suggested that extending hormone therapy to 10 years may be more effective at preventing breast cancer recurrence and death.

Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption Breast cancer cells are stimulated to grow and divide by the hormone oestrogen

Aromatase inhibitors, which only work for post-menopausal women, are believed to be even more effective.

But there are side effects with hormone treatments which can affect patients’ quality of life and cause them to stop taking the pills.

These include menopausal symptoms, osteporosis, joint pain and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Prof Arnie Purushotham, senior clinical adviser at Cancer Research UK, which funded the study, said that since the research began, new drugs had been used to treat breast cancer and those worked in different ways to tamoxifen.

He said: “It’s vital that work continues to better predict which cancers might return.

“We also need to know what the difference for women might be in taking hormone therapies for 10 years instead of five, the side effects and how this affects patients’ quality of life.”

Sally Greenbook, from charity Breast Cancer Now, said it was essential that women discussed any changes in treatment with their doctor.

“We would urge all women who have had treatment for breast cancer not to be alarmed, but to ensure they are aware of the signs of recurrence and of metastatic breast cancer, and to speak to their GP or breast care team if they have any concerns.”

Daytime wounds ‘heal more quickly’

Treated burn

Wounds heal more quickly if they occur during the day rather than after dark, a study suggests.

It found burns sustained at night took an average of 28 days to heal, but just 17 for those that happened in daytime.

The team, at the UK’s MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, said they were astounded by the difference they saw in 118 burns patients they studied.

The effect was explained by the way body clock ticks inside nearly every human cell across a 24-hour cycle.

 

The research, published in Science Translational Medicine, examined 118 patients at NHS burns units.

It showed the average 11-day difference in healing times between people hurt at night and during the day.

Detailed lab work showed skin cells called fibroblasts were changing their abilities in a 24-hour pattern.

Fibroblasts are the body’s first responders, rushing to the site of injury to close a wound.

During the day they are primed to react, but they lose this ability at night.

Dr John O’Neill, one of the researchers, told the BBC: “It is like the 100m. The sprinter down on the blocks, poised and ready to go, is always going to beat the guy going from a standing start.”

The researchers think they could use this knowledge to improve surgery.

Some drugs, such as the steroid cortisol, can reset an individual cell’s body clock and may be helpful in night-time procedures.

And everybody’s body clock runs to a slightly different pattern or “chronotype”.

So, it might make sense to schedule operations to keep in time with the patients’ 24-hour “circadian rhythms”.

Both ideas are still untested, though.

Dr John Blaikley, a clinician scientist at the University of Manchester, said: “Treatment of wounds costs the NHS around £5bn, which is partly due to a lack of effective therapies targeting wound closure.

“By taking these [circadian factors] into account, not only could novel drug targets be identified, but also the effectiveness of established therapies might be increased through changing what time of day they are given.”

Sex unlikely to cause cardiac arrest, study finds

Couples feet in bed

Sudden cardiac arrest is associated with sexual activity far more often in men than women, research suggests.

But sex is a rare trigger for sudden cardiac arrest.

Only 34 out of the 4,557 cardiac arrests examined occurred during or within one hour of sexual intercourse and 32 of those affected were men.

Sumeet Chugh, of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, said his study is the first to evaluate sexual activity as a potential trigger of cardiac arrest.

The research was presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association.

A cardiac arrest happens when the heart malfunctions and suddenly stops beating. It causes someone to fall unconscious and stop breathing and unless treated with CPR, it is fatal.

This differs from a heart attack, where blood flow to the heart is blocked.

It is known that sexual activity can trigger heart attacks, but the link with cardiac arrest was previously unknown.


Cardiac arrest facts

  • Almost 90% of people who suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests die
  • Every minute without cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or defibrillation reduces someone’s survival chances by 10%
  • CPR, especially if performed in the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, can double or triple a person’s chance of survival
  • During CPR, you should push on the chest at a rate of 100 to 120 compressions per minute. The beat of the Bees Gees’ hit Stayin’ Alive is a perfect match for this

Source: American Heart Association


Dr Chugh and his colleagues in California examined hospital records on cases of cardiac arrest in adults between 2002 and 2015 in Portland, Oregon.

Sexual activity was associated in fewer than 1% of the cases. The vast majority were male and were more likely to be middle-aged, African-American and have a history of cardiovascular disease.

The study also found CPR was performed in only one-third of the cases, despite them being witnessed by a partner.

  • Mum saves daughter’s life with CPR after cardiac arrest
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  • Pop star tells pupils how CPR saved his life after cardiac arrest

Dr Chugh said: “These findings highlight the importance of continued efforts to educate the public on the importance of bystander CPR for sudden cardiac arrest, irrespective of the circumstance.”

He said it shows the need for people to be educated about how to administer CPR.

Another study presented at the conference showed children as young as six can learn it.

After a heart attack or surgery, the British Heart Foundation suggests patients should typically wait four to six weeks before resuming sexual activity.

‘Urgent need’ for football header research

Alan Shearer heading a ball

Scientists investigating links between heading footballs and dementia say there is an urgent need for more research.

It follows the screening of a BBC documentary “Dementia, football and me”, featuring Alan Shearer.

Last year, scientists at Stirling University found just one session of heading a ball could lead to an immediate decrease in brain function.

They said more work was needed to assess long-term effects.

The academics have called for funding for further studies looking at the risks of heading footballs.

The BBC documentary, which was screened on Sunday night, heard from current and retired professional footballers, the relatives of former players diagnosed with dementia, the Football Association (FA), the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) and scientists in sports medicine.

Many of those interviewed raised concerns that there could be a link between heading the ball and brain health but said that more research was required.

Image copyright Stirling University

The documentary included footage of former England international Shearer undergoing tests in a lab at Stirling, where academics have, for the first time, found direct evidence of brain changes immediately after heading a ball.

The FA and PFA have commissioned research into whether the degenerative neurocognitive disease is more common in ex-professional footballers than the rest of the population.

But cognitive neuroscientist Dr Magdalena Ietswaart and Dr Angus Hunter, reader in exercise physiology, said more funding was needed for scientific studies that would provide understanding of the risks associated with heading footballs.

‘Definitive answers’

Dr Ietswaart said: “We do not yet know whether there is a definitive link between football and dementia. This can only be discovered by carrying out research in this area.

“Scientific developments open up a new approach that is achievable but requires a robust funding drive. If you want real answers, you need to understand what is happening in the brain; what is cause and effect, the approach we use here at Stirling.

“Until now, we did not have sensitive or direct ways to identify how moving a ball with your head can impact brain health.

“However, we now have stronger neuroscience emerging that can look directly at what goes on in the brain as a result of heading the ball.”


She added: “We have applied these techniques here at Stirling but there is a lot more that we, and others, can do to give definitive answers on the dangers of heading.

“Current neuroscience has substantial promise in providing the evidence-base on the effects playing football has on brain health that is currently lacking.”

The tests undertaken by Shearer showed immediate brain changes after heading the ball – the same changes observed in participants who took part in the landmark study.

The research, published in EBioMedicine, is the first to show direct evidence for short-term sub-concussive changes in the brain following any sport-related impact.

After meeting the Stirling team, Shearer said: “Football should be encouraging these universities to do as much research as possible but, like everything else, these universities need funding.

“There’s enough money around nowadays in football but not enough of it is being given to research. It is about time we had more definitive answers.”

Dr Hunter said: “As conveyed by the BBC documentary, our study is the first to show changes in brain function after heading the ball.

“Combined with the anecdotal evidence, our research and this documentary should provide the stimulus for further scientific research to be carried out in this area.”

The research was funded by the National Institute of Health Research.

Drivers ‘should have compulsory eye tests’

Hands on a steering wheel

Drivers should have compulsory eye tests every 10 years, the Association of Optometrists has said.

One in three optometrists say they have seen patients in the last month who continue to drive with vision below the legal standard, their association said.

Motorists must read a number plate from 20m (65ft) in the practical driving test, but there is no follow-up check.

The Department for Transport said changes to eyesight should be reported by motorists to the DVLA.

“All drivers are required by law to make sure their eyesight is good enough to drive,” a spokeswoman said.

Data from the Department for Transport shows seven people were killed and 63 were seriously injured in accidents on Britain’s roads last year when “uncorrected, defective eyesight” was a contributory factor.

‘Outdated laws’

Nine out of 10 optometrists believed the existing rule – that put the onus on motorists to report themselves to the DVLA if they develop eyesight problems – is insufficient.

When drivers pass the age of 70, the emphasis changes a little. Drivers must actively make a declaration every three years that they are fit to drive. As part of that they must confirm that they meet the minimum eyesight requirement.

Brenda Gutberlet, whose 28-year-old niece Natalie Wade was killed in 2006 by a 78-year-old driver who was blind in one eye, says she wants the “outdated laws on drivers’ medical fitness” changed.

  • ‘Blind’ driver kills bride-to-be
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  • Drivers aged over 90 top 100,000

Ms Gutberlet, from Canvey Island, Essex, said her niece died just months before her wedding and that she does not want other families “to go through what we have”.

Optometrist Dr Julie Anne-Little said Britain “falls behind many other countries” because of the initial number plate test and the self-reporting of eyesight problems.

“Because sight changes can be gradual, often people won’t realise that their vision has deteriorated over time,” she said.

Emotional toll of diabetes ‘needs more recognition’

girl with diabetes injecting insulin

Many people living with diabetes are struggling with related emotional problems – an issue that needs support and recognition, a charity says.

Diabetes UK surveyed 8,500 people about diabetes and how it affected their daily life.

Three in five said their condition made them feel down.

Of those in employment, 16% felt discriminated against at work – and 7% had not even told their employer about their diabetes.

Clare (not her real name), 26, says she had to quit her job as a management consultant as a direct result of her diabetes.

She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 13.

Despite being one of 4.5 million people affected by the condition in the UK, she says the “lack of understanding” she encountered in the workplace left her feeling “frustrated, anxious and stressed”.

“I was constantly undermined and told that my diabetes wasn’t that serious,” says Clare.

“This included being told off for having medical appointments during the day, and being made to feel bad for talking about my diabetes.

“I don’t want to be treated differently, but sometimes I need to be treated differently,” she tells BBC News.

“You’re young and in your 20s and people on the Tube look at you and ask, ‘Why do you need a seat?’

“No-one knows I have an insulin pump attached to my bra, my blood sugars are being monitored and I am constantly thinking about food.”

She says her employers “never sat down and talked to me about it”.

In an appraisal, she was told she needed “to manage her health anxiety”.

“Eventually, I decided that enough was enough, and I quit my job so I could spend some time taking care of myself,” she says.

She says diabetes “is not a dirty secret – it’s part of my life”.

“There needs to be more talking in the workplace – and more flexibility.”

Life-changing

The number of people diagnosed with diabetes – type 1 and type 2 – is on the rise.

According to Diabetes UK, about 700 people are diagnosed every day.

And it’s a life-changing diagnosis.

Those affected often have to check their blood sugars up to 10 times a day and plan their meal breaks – and what they will be eating – factoring in any exercise they may be doing.

Trips to the toilet can break up a night’s sleep.

And then there can be hypos – when blood sugars drop dangerously low.


Diabetes

Diabetes is a condition that causes a person’s blood sugar to become too high.

  • Type 1 can develop at any age, but often begins in childhood. It is not related to diet or lifestyle
  • Type 2 is far more common than type 1, but is still rare in childhood. It is usually seen in adults and is often associated with obesity
  • It is important to keep blood sugar under control to prevent health complications
  • Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include – feeling very thirsty, passing urine more often than usual, particularly at night and feeling very tired

The latest research – published to mark World Diabetes Day – cites six areas where Diabetes UK believes treatment could be improved, including:

  • better access to specialist healthcare professionals
  • broader emotional support following a diagnosis

“Effective diabetes care requires that a person’s emotional needs are taken into account alongside their physical care needs,” said Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK.

“We want to see a system where specialist support – from people who understand diabetes – is made available to those who need it.”

Healthcare professionals can provide help and support.