Eye Health

29 September 2010

World Sight Day: Biologics provide new hope

World Sight Day on 14 October 2010 is about raising awareness about that most precious sense, eyesight.


World Sight Day on 14 October 2010 is about raising awareness about that most precious sense, eyesight. A very large and diverse group of vision disorders affects young and old and people from many cultures, races and ethnicities. They are collectively known as Retinal Degenerative Diseases.

The most common of these diseases that affect the delicate layer of tissue that lines the inside back of the eye - Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and Usher Syndrome (US) - affect hundreds of thousands of South Africans and millions of others worldwide.

The non-profit organisation dedicated to finding the cause of, and treatment for retinal degenerative disorders, Retina South Africa, says retinal degeneration affects people from all racial and socio-economic groups. Of the total population of South Africa of 44.5 million [2001 census] around 2.7% have a disability, with visual disability being more common than any other.

There’s light at the end of the tunnel, though: The Biologics Working Group (BWG) says that great strides are being made in the area of visual disorders.

‘Miracle’ drugs

Says Kirti Narsai, BWG Spokesperson: “Biologics are complex ‘target-specific’ drugs whose success is principally attributed to the fact that each biologic is manufactured in a way that enables it to directly target the affected or diseased cells. They have been hailed by certain medical professionals – and many of their patients - as ‘miracle’ drugs.”

One such person is Mike Green, diagnosed with Wet AMD in his left eye in 2003. “This was prior to the availability of biologics and I eventually lost most of my central vision in that eye. Having worn sunglasses regularly since 2003, my right eye is unaffected primarily, I believe, due to the treatment I have received and continue to take.”

Green says that when he initially lost the central vision in his right eye, “I would - as I’m sure all AMD sufferers do - close my left eye to ascertain how I might manage when my left eye was also affected. The result was frightening. However, I have found that five years later I now have some central vision”. According to his specialist, this is quite normal as there may be some clearing of the damaged areas with time. For more information on Retinal vision loss contact Retina South Africa on share call 0860 595 959 (Biologics Working Group (BWG)/ September 2010)


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Megan Goodman qualified as an optometrist from the University of Johannesburg and is currently practising at Tygerberg Academic Hospital in Cape Town. She has recently completed a Masters degree in Clinical Epidemiology at Stellenbosch University. She has a keen interest in ocular pathology and evidence based medicine as well as contact lenses.

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