UK teen loses eyesight/hearing after eating French-fries, Pringles for years
In a bizarre piece of news, a teenager from the United Kingdom has lost his vision and hearing after surviving on a diet of French fries, Pringles, white bread, etc., for many years. The 17-year-old, who cannot be named, had visited a doctor three years ago for "tiredness," but due to poor nutrition, developed severe vitamin deficiencies and bone damage. Here are more details.
A case study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine revealed that the boy first consulted his general physician at age 14, and was diagnosed with vitamin B12 deficiency and macrocytic anemia. He received B12 injections and "dietary advice," however, the boy maintained his poor diet. Over time, his sight and hearing began to fail, but doctors couldn't figure out why.
At 17, he was taken to the Bristol Eye Hospital as his eyesight and hearing continued to get worse. Apart from low B12 levels, the doctors also found a deficiency of other vitamins and minerals- copper, selenium and vitamin D. He had also lost minerals from his bones (unusual for his age). The damage had gotten so severe that he was declared "legally blind."
Notably, Dr. Denize Atan, who treated him at Bristol Eye Hospital, told BBC, "He had blind spots right in the middle of his vision. That means he can't drive and would find it difficult to read, watch TV or discern faces." "He can walk around on his own though because he has got peripheral vision," added Dr. Atan, also the lead author of the Annals study.
The condition, Dr. Atan said, is called nutritional optic neuropathy. It's treatable if diagnosed early, but the damage can be irreversible if it's left untreated for long. For now, he has been referred to a dietitian and a specialist mental health team for an eating disorder- Avoidant-Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). ARFID is associated with aversion to certain food textures and fears of choking/vomiting.
Dr. Atan told BBC, "His diet was essentially a portion of chips from the local fish and chip shop every day. He also used to snack on crisps and sometimes slices of white bread and occasional slices of ham, and not any fruit and vegetables."
Meanwhile, the boy's mother, who is in her 40s, told The Independent, "The first we knew about it was when he began coming home from primary school with his packed lunch untouched." "His brother and sister have never stopped eating. They love everything. But he was just as fit and healthy as them," she said, adding that he never had weight concerns.
In a University of Bristol news release, Dr. Atan, who's a consultant senior lecturer at the University's Bristol Medical School, noted that the boy had a normal BMI, and otherwise did not look malnutritioned. She said, "This case highlights the impact of diet on visual and physical health, and the fact that calorie intake and BMI are not reliable indicators of nutritional status."