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Woman with glassesBEAVER DAM – What began 20 years ago as a focused study gathering information on eye health has now become three studies with thousands of participants spanning multiple generations.
The Beaver Dam Eye Study (BDES), first begun in 1987 with 4,926 Beaver Dam residents, has generated information described in more than 200 original publications and has had worldwide implications for the eye care community. The study is credited with linking genetic factors to cataract, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.
The importance of longitudinal data such as that acquired in the Beaver Dam studies is very clear even though it requires a long-term commitment on the part of investigators as well as participants.
“We knew at the beginning that to get the data regarding age-related macular degeneration, which is a slowly evolving condition that is uncommon in young people but very common in older people, we’d need at least 15 to 20 years to understand its natural history,” says Barbara Klein, MD, MPH, co-director of the Beaver Dam Eye Study and University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences.
Two offshoots of the Beaver Dam Eye Study are the Epidemiology of Hearing Loss Study (EHLS) and the Beaver Dam Offspring Study (BOSS), both are directed by Karen Cruickshanks, PhD, a University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and Population Health Sciences.
The EHLS, which has involved the same cohort of participants as the Beaver Dam Eye Study for the past 14 years, examines not just hearing, but also olfaction (smell), cognition, reported physical function and quality-of-life. Comparisons over time have revealed that age-related hearing loss may be associated with a family history of hearing loss, being male, having atherosclerosis or diabetes, smoking, obesity and head injury.
The BOSS investigates vision, hearing, olfaction, taste and vascular health on a multi-generational level. The offspring, aged 21 to more than 80 years of age, are children of participants in the BDES and EHLS.
Examinations for this study started in June 2005 and will continue until about June 2008. Over 2000 offspring have participated to date.
As a thank you to the participants and community, The Beaver Dam Studies Appreciation Celebration will take place on Tuesday, August 14 at 6:30pm. The celebration will be held at the Beaver Dam High School Auditorium and is open to all study participants, community supporters and the public. Drs. Karen Cruickshanks, Barbara Klein and Ronald Klein will present a brief overview highlighting important findings and current initiatives. A reception will follow.

Date Published: 08/10/2007

News tag(s):  eyes

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