British teen goes blind after eating nothing but Pringles, fries and processed meat
A British teenager has lost his eyesight after years of subsisting entirely on a junk food-based diet, according to a new study.
The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal on Monday, reports the case of a 17-year-old "fussy eater" who spent nearly a decade eating nothing but potato chips, french fries, fried meats and the occasional slice of white bread.
According to researchers, the teen has developed nutritional optic neuropathy, a condition in which malnutrition causes a person's optic nerves to stop functioning properly. The condition is extremely rare in developed countries — it's believed to be the first case ever recorded in the U.K.
The teen first noticed the symptoms when he was 14, telling doctors he often felt tired and fatigued. He was later diagnosed with anemia and a vitamin B12 deficiency.
Doctors prescribed vitamins and also suggested ways for him to improve his diet. However, he refused to change his eating habits.
"His diet was essentially a portion of chips from the local fish and chip [french fry] shop every day," Dr. Denize Atan, one of the teen's doctors, told the Telegraph. "He also used to snack on crisps [potato chips] — Pringles — and sometimes slices of white bread and occasional slices of ham, and not really any fruit and vegetables."
By 15, the boy started to experience vision loss, and, by 17, he was deemed legally blind. He also suffered partial deafness and weakness in his bones.
The teen's mother told the Telegraph that her son's condition has "devastated his life," adding that he was forced to drop out of school due to trouble seeing and hearing.
"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," the boy's mother said.
The mother, who wished to remain unnamed, told the Telegraph that she quit her job so she could look after her son full-time.
Further research into the boy's case found that he also suffered from a rare eating disorder called avoidant-restrictive food intake disorder. The condition causes hypersensitivity to the texture and taste of many foods, which caused some of the teen's early dietary habits, doctors said.
"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 told the Telegraph.
The teenager's condition has made it difficult for him to expand his palate, his mother said. She told the Telegraph that despite his health complications, her son's diet is still mostly the same.
"When he was having counseling we managed to start him on fruit smoothies," she said, "But he's gone off those now."