Stroke of the eye is a frightening condition that causes people to lose half their vision in a matter of hours or days. It strikes up to 6,000 people a year in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health, and doctors have never been able to successfully treat it.
But a new drug may change that.
Steve Carson was 45 years old when the peripheral vision in his left eye started to go.
"It wasn't completely gone, but it was muddy. I couldn't really make anything out," Carson said.
His eye was dilated, which hid his condition. Then he was misdiagnosed and treated with steroids.
"After that treatment, my eyesight got worse and it crossed over the center of my eye and continued all the way up to the top," Carson said.
By the time he was diagnosed with nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy, the vision in his eye was gone. Blood flow had been cut off to the optic nerve, causing swelling and vision loss. There's no standard treatment for the condition, but now Dr. Peter Quiros, associate professor of ophthalmology and neuro-ophthalmology, Doheny Eye Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, is part of a study on QPI1007, a drug that's injected into the eye.
The drug blocks a messenger that tells troubled cells to die.
"So it blocks that signal, that death signal, and so the hope is that we can block the signal long enough, the cells will eventually recover from being swollen, and instead of dying they'll go back to recovery and functioning," Quiros said.
Phase one trial patients had no bad reactions and slightly better results than the control group did.
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"In the best of all possible worlds, we'd like to reverse some of the vision loss. We may not be able to reverse all of it, but it would be nice if we could even get some improvement because up to now, we have no improvement," Quiros said.
Carson is watching closely, as there's a 15-percent chance of this happening to his other eye.
Doctors don't know exactly what causes stroke of the eye, but they say obstructive sleep apnea, hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol may be factors. To qualify for the QPI1007 trial, you must be 50 to 80 years old, have had no treatment for the episode, and have the onset of symptoms in the last 14 days.
There are 89 study locations all over the world.
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