In this blog post, we find out what medical retinal ophthalmologists do and what are inherited retinal diseases.
Jane Olver: Although I want to ask you more about your research, my first question here since we are talking about patients, is what do patients want when they come to see you? What are they after mainly? What is that you offer them that is unique? How, as a medical retinal expert on inherited retinal disease, can you help them? What is inherited retinal disease? These are many questions which I know patients will want to know the answers to!
Professor Michel Michaelides: This is all obviously going to sound a little bit pompous, a bit full of oneself, but it is very common that people come to see me as a medical retinal specialist for another opinion. They have been told they have one diagnosis or other, or their prognosis is such and such, and they come to hear what my opinion is and because I have really focussed…. honed down into a group of retinal conditions…
Jane Olver: What do those retinal conditions include… which conditions are they?
Professor Michel Michaelides: I mean it is retinal disease, so medical retinal disease, so non-surgical retinal disease. I have got a lot of experience in common diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and retinal vascular occlusions, but really what I have published most extensively in is inherited retinal disease or IRD. In fact, I think people are increasingly coming to understand that these are a group of over 300 different conditions, so if AMD is one condition or at least two conditions, inherited retinal disease is 300 conditions and obviously, that is a very specialist area. So I have managed to amass a lot of understanding and experience over the last fifteen years in inherited retinal disease, and so it is not uncommon that when patients come to see me, the diagnosis or the prognosis or the management is very different to that which they have been told in advance.
Jane Olver: What does inherited retinal disease mean? Does it mean that you have got it when you are born or you get it later or do you just see children or adults, how does it work?
Professor Michel Michaelides: I think that is one of the many reasons why I really love treating inherited retinal disease because there are conditions that present in childhood, either right from birth or the first decade of life, right through to patients presenting in early adulthood through to later adulthood. So inherited retinal disease actually affects the entire age spectrum. It is also either isolated to the eye or can have extraocular, so non-eye conditions, so it is really extremely variable and challenging, and you see something different every clinic because a genetic disease is so variable. In the same way that there are 7 billion people on the planet and you would have thought there must be a few Jane Olvers around and there is not. There is only you and there will only ever be you.
Jane Olver: There is only one that is an ocuplastic surgeon!
Professor Michel Michaelides: Yes! But it is just our genes allow for an unlimited amount of variability, so you are always seeing something new in inherited retinal disease which is really fascinating.
Jane Olver: Never boring.
Professor Michel Michaelides: It is never boring.