The Medical Retina Industry and Developments
The retina is the very sensitive and delicate part of the eye. It is responsible for receiving and processing light and movement to convert these into neurological signals, which are then sent via the optic nerve to the brain where it is appreciated as vision. There are many disorders which relate to retinal health and include, most commonly, age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, macular oedema, macular hole, retinal degeneration, infectious retinitis, etc.
Most types of retinal disorders cause visual symptoms. For instance, in age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness amongst people over the age of 50, symptoms can be the distortion of central vision in one eye before distortion in both eyes. Diabetic retinopathy is another major retinal disease which results as a complication of diabetes where diabetes has damaged the blood vessels of the retina and blood, and fluid starts to leak out of these damaged blood vessels and cause retinal swelling from oedema (water logging). The patient notices this as blurring of their central vision in one or both eyes. Other retinal conditions affect the vision by general or focal blurring if it is at the macula. With a retinal disorder, the patient can notice a shadowing, visual distortion or just feel that the vision is not as good as it used to be when in certain lights.
The ophthalmology sub-speciality dealing with medical problems of the retina is called medical retina, and there are two medical retina specialists at Clinica London. Mr Jaheed Khan and Professor Michel Michaelides devote the majority of their time looking after patients who have medical problems with their retina. Parallel to this, there is a big industry, which is, in fact, a global industry, developing new retinal drugs and biologics. This market is growing worldwide. It first arose in response to the increasing incidence of eye diseases related to age, particularly age-related macular degeneration. There are various innovative products in the form of biologics and drug-releasing implants as a result of global research development and efforts to invent new treatment alternatives.
An example of a biologic drug is Lucentis which is also known as Ranibizumab. This is a prescription only medicine, which is used by retinal specialists and has been approved for the treatment of wet AMD by the FDA since 2002. It is used as an anti-VEGF drug. The VEGF in the eye is a protein, which contributes to the leakage of small retinal blood vessels which then cause swelling of the various layers of the retina and lead to changes in the vision. At Clinica London, both Mr Jaheed Khan and Professor Michel Michaelides are leading experts in the use of biologic treatment for medical retinal disease including Lucentis, Avastin and Eyelea.