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Help CERA improve vision of glaucoma patients

There are over 300,000 people in Australia with glaucoma and around half don’t even know they have the condition.

That’s because in its early stages, glaucoma — a deterioration of the optic nerve which first affects peripheral vision — often has no symptoms and is sometimes known as ‘the silent thief of sight’. Vision can become slightly blurry at the periphery, but this might not be noticed until central vision is affected. By then it’s often too late to reverse the damage.

Glaucoma is the most common cause of irreversible blindness in the world, but fortunately blindness from glaucoma can often be prevented with early treatment.

Professor Keith Martin, CERA’s new Managing Director and Ringland Anderson Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Melbourne, is  leading research to protect and restore vision in people with glaucoma.

“There is an urgent need for new treatments that can prevent blindness in those most severely affected by glaucoma and restore some useful vision to those who have lost their sight due to the disease, including people like Desmond De Klerk, who is helping with one of our latest clinical trials.”

Trial patient Desmond De Klerk with CERA’s Senior Study Coordinator Thuy Chau

Desmond arrived from South Africa, over 35 years ago, with his wife and four of his eventual five young children, to make a new life in Australia. On a routine eye care check up about 10 years ago, Desmond had an eye test and was told he had glaucoma. Up until this point he had no symptoms.

Desmond was prescribed eye drops to manage the glaucoma and whilst the drops were effective, Desmond experienced a lot of pain in his right eye – he also has very limited sight in this eye. Desmond is currently taking part in one of our clinical trials of an implant which releases a drug to lower his eye pressure directly into his eye for several months, reducing the need to remember to take eye drops.

This is the first trial in the world to deliver the most commonly used eye pressure lowering drug in a completely new way. The implant has significantly eased his pain, and whilst his vision remains poor in his right eye, the medication has halted the deterioration of his sight in his left eye.

The trial is still in its early stages, but our researchers are hopeful that, if successful, the implant will assist those living with glaucoma and reduce the burden of administering eye drops which are often required multiple times per day.

Desmond says, “I am very grateful to our clinical trials team and I am determined to continue living a full and independent life for as long as possible.”

The challenges for people with glaucoma are great, but the rewards are potentially life-changing for patients like Desmond.

“I strongly urge you to book in with your eye care professional for a full eye exam and to encourage anyone in your circle of family and friends over the age of 40 to do the same. This is especially important if there is a history of glaucoma in your family,” says Professor Martin.

Through CERA’s ground-breaking research, researchers are starting to learn how to restore function to the injured optic nerve. While the work is at an early stage our techniques to regenerate the optic nerve are rapidly evolving.

“I believe in a future where we will be able to reverse the impact of glaucoma and improve the sight of millions of people worldwide,” says Prof Martin.

Your support of our glaucoma research is so vitally important for people like Desmond and as well as future generations of people who may be affected by the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world. Together we can find critical new ways to reduce the impact of this debilitating disease and create a brighter future for all glaucoma sufferers. Donate today.