Science

A jab in the eye to prevent blindness? Possible, says NHS

By Enozia Vakil , Jun 10, 2013 10:04 AM EDT
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Retinal vein occlusion, an ocular condition that affects around 17,000 people every year, can now be prevented by a simple jab in the eye, the NHS (National Health Service) in the UK, has claimed. This new unique treatment may help eradicate blindness caused due to blood clots, in a matter of minutes.

This new procedure helps administer the drug directly into the eye, through an injection.

"This marks a significant breakthrough. Existing NHS treatments aren't suitable for all patients or carry side effects but this drug works in a completely different way. Now we can easily restore lost vision and prevent irreversible sight loss," consultant ophthalmologist at the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion, Edinburg, Peter Cackett, explained.

22-year old Lisa Greig, who received this treatment, experienced positive effects. "I've always had good eyesight," she said. "But 18 months ago, I started experiencing blurred vision. I was in the car, with my mum driving, and I suddenly realized I couldn't read the number plate on the car ahead."

She was also at a higher risk of developing glaucoma, high blood pressure and high cholesterol due to her suffering from diabetes. When her condition kept worsening over the time, she feared that she might go blind.

This new drug treatment, which involves the use of ranibizumab, works by first stopping the effects of VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor), which causes the blood vessels of the eye to dilate and cause leakage of blood and serum into the macula of the eye.

"As the macula becomes boggy it swells, leading to blurred or distorted vision. When this oedema is present for long periods, it damages the retinal cells and causes irreversible sight loss.'

This stops the blood vessels from growing, thereby stimulating the healing of the eye, and reducing the swelling naturally.

Taking a short span of just 7 minutes, this procedure uses a 0.3mm wide needle which is inserted into the eye, in the jelly-like substance between the retina and the lens, and the drug is release there, which then makes its way into the retina by diffusion.

"There was no pain," Lisa, who received the treatment, said. "I've had three injections in each eye now and need another two. But already my vision is much sharper. I can read car number plates and even colors are brighter. I'm incredibly pleased."

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