East Kent Hospitals is taking part in national research into eye disease – with the vital help of local patients.
Led by Moorfields Eye Hospital, the research works is focusing on a disease called Central retinal vein occlusion (CRVO), which occurs when occurs when there is a blockage in the vein that takes blood away from the retina in the eye.
Pamela Carr from Stelling Minnis near Canterbury is one of the east Kent patients who is taking part in the trial.
Former Chairman of Shepway District Council, Pamela (75) has been taking part in the trial since June 2016 after experiencing CRVO.
Pamela said: “I had a big bleed in my right eye but wasn’t aware what it was until I was diagnosed. But it did affect my vision at time.”
Pamela – who had high blood pressure at the time – received swift and appropriate treatment at the time and was told about the possibility of joining the trial.
“Before becoming involved, the team had to carry out various tests to make sure that I was suitable,” she said.
The tests included colour photographs of the retina and an assessment of the health of the retinal blood vessels.
But Pamela (who used to hold a private pilot’s licence) describes herself as “incredibly fit and active” has always relished a challenge and was keen to help the NHS and other patients. And she’s always been confident that she’s in safe hands.
“The hospital team look after you so much,” she said, “and they’re so caring.”
She added: “I receive the injections when I go to the hospital, but before retirement, I used to be a renal nurse, so I’m familiar with many medical routines.”
Pamela has to attend the hospital on a regular basis until her two-year trial ends in June 2019. After that, she’ll resume her usual course of treatment.
“But when I have the injections, I never know what particular drug is being given to me, because that’s all part of the trial and avoids bias,” she said.
East Kent Hospitals is leading on research to tackle an eye disease that can damage people’s vision – and in the worst cases, even cause blindness.
Ophthalmology research nurse, Sarah Stirrup said: “The retina is a light-sensitive layer of cells at the back of the eye, and these cells receive light that is interpreted as sight via the optic nerve.
“The retina is divided into two parts – one of which is responsible for night and side vision, and one part known as the macula. The macula enables us to see distances and also reading vision.”
Sarah explained: “Sometimes a blockage can occur in the central vein that takes blood away from the retina. When this happens, fluid leaks on to the macula – and we call this ‘macula oedema’.
“We’re not sure why this happens, but it usually occurs in people who are aged over 50 – but it can happen in younger people. And it does tend to be more common in patients with high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, diabetes, and glaucoma than in other people. It usually affects one eye but can affect both.”
But the pioneering research into drug treatment for the disease is taking place across the world, with four local patients, including Pamela, volunteering for drug trial that could go on to save the sight of many patients.
Sarah said: “We’re very proud of the research work that we carry out in East Kent Hospitals, and it’s wonderful to know that our clinicians’ work is contributing to a greater pool of knowledge.
“But we’re even more proud of our patients who help us so much with our work. Without our patients we’d never be able to conduct the research and learn about the best way to tackle many diseases.”
For Pamela, being involved in the trial has enabled her to contribute the NHS and feel part of something that will have a positive impact on other people’s lives.
She said: “When you have the opportunity to go on a research trial at East Kent Hospitals, it’s good to remember that you’ll be helping other people.”