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BioE’s Rakié Cham Evaluates the Impact of Central Vision Loss on Patients’ Daily Lives

Cham was awarded Pitt Seed funding to create assessment tools to evaluate how central vision loss affects patients’ quality of life

PITTSBURGH (September 6, 2018) … Individuals with low vision conditions can suffer from complications that can negatively affect their quality of life, such as balance and mobility impairments. While the future looks bright with new medical interventions for various ocular conditions, there are no standard assessment tools to evaluate the efficacy and quality of these emerging treatments on patients’ quality of life. Rakié Cham, associate professor of bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh, is one of 23 faculty and staff to receive funding from the inaugural Pitt Seed program to develop tools to assess these interventions in patients with central vision loss.

In this project, Dr. Cham is partnering with Pitt investigators and clinicians with a wide range of expertise. They include bioengineers (Dr. Mark Redfern), ophthalmologists (Drs. Andrew Eller and José-Alain Sahel), physical therapists (Dr. Patrick Sparto), occupational therapists (Dr. Nancy Baker) and qualitative research experts (Dr. Megan E. Hamm). 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one in four older adults fall each year, and vision-related impairments are among the top risk factors for falls.1

“Visual field losses are a common type of vision impairment found in age-related ocular pathologies such as glaucoma and macular degeneration,” said Dr. Cham. “Falls are a serious public health concern in adults who have such conditions so part of our research is also focused to determine the impact of visual field losses on balance and gait.”

The research team is using a patient-centered team-based approach in this Pitt Seed funded project. The Qualitative, Evaluation And Stakeholder Engagement (Qual EASE) Research Services, housed within the Center for Research on Health Care’s Data Center, will interview patients with central vision loss to gather a better understanding of their function-related needs, challenges, and barriers to independent living in their personal environment and in the community. 

Dr. Cham said, “We want to understand the patients’ perception of their function levels in various domains to get more comprehensive data about their daily lives.”

After gathering this data, Dr. Cham and her collaborators will develop a set of performance-based outcome measures that can be used to assess balance and mobility function levels, starting with established validated tools borrowed from the aging research literature.

Dr. Cham said, “Being able to understand the barriers to independence and challenges in patients’ daily lives and to identify those at risk of falling will help assess current interventions and develop new strategies. Ultimately our goal is to improve the quality of life for patients with low vision conditions.”


1 More than one in four older adults falls each year, https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html

Contact: Leah Russell