Inherited retinal diseases are transferred through DNA, and that makes them very difficult to diagnose and treat. These disorders often result in a wide variety of visual impairments ranging from blurred vision to total blindness.
While these diseases are devastating, many specialists are excited about a new style of treatment known as gene therapy. This type of therapy won’t reverse the damage that has already been done, but it could potentially preserve a patient’s vision for years. Here is a closer look at some of the amazing breakthroughs in gene therapy.
What Exactly Is Gene Therapy?
Gene therapy gives doctors the ability to physically alter DNA. This style of therapy has been rigorously studied for many years, and it is now being used in dozens of different medical fields. For an inherited retinal disease, gene therapy might destroy some of the mutated cells that created the disorder in the first place. Once that mutated gene is destroyed, it will be replaced by a healthy new gene.
A Closer Look at Inherited Retinal Diseases
Also known as inherited retinal dystrophies (IRDs), inherited retinal diseases are disorders that impact vision and overall eye health. Unlike many other eye diseases that are the result of acute injuries or infections, these diseases are passed from parents to children. An IRD might not be caught until a patient is an adult, and that makes treatment very difficult. Inherited eye diseases often produce a wide range of unusual side effects. Unfortunately, many patients don’t even realize that they have a disease because they have lived with those side effects for so long.
Most inherited eye diseases first create minor visual problems. That includes blurred vision, floating spots in one’s vision, wavy vision, and peripheral vision loss. When these diseases aren’t treated, they almost always result in total blindness.
Gene therapy is just one of the many treatments that could help patients who have been diagnosed with inherited retinal diseases. Patients who are totally blind may be good candidates for advanced retinal implants. Retinal implants and gene therapy might soon be combined to restore vision and prevent further damage from taking place.
There is also a new methodology known as optogenetics that may soon reverse some of the symptoms of IRDs. This type of treatment allows doctors to manipulate living tissue with pulses of light. Instead of completely replacing the mutated cells, they can simply be altered so that they act like healthy cells.
Catching Retinal Diseases Early On
The key to treating many of these diseases is catching them early on. If you have recently noticed any issues with your vision, then we invite you to visit Matossian Eye Associates for a comprehensive exam. In addition to basic eye care services, our team can also screen you for IRDs and other serious eye health complications.