For Chris Allen, a recent diagnosis of Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration (Wet AMD) struck him with fear as he learnt he could go on to lose his sight.
However, experts at specialist ophthalmic group Optegra Eye Hospital Manchester, were able to offer him a brand-new treatment, which means excellent outcomes and fewer ongoing visits to hospital – and early results are very promising.
AMD is caused by chemicals in the eye which build up and cause leakage from blood vessels – this goes on to distort vision and cannot be stopped without treatment. Unlike alternate AMD injection treatments, Vabysmo has been designed to target two chemicals within the eye, rather than one. This effectively means double the treatment all in one go, which works to stop the vessels growing and also stops them leaking and bleeding.
As a semi-retired coach driver Chris, 71, was eager to protect his sight and be able to continue driving for a local school. Having only needed reading glasses for the past 10 years, his sudden changes in vision came as surprise. He first noticed that straight lines in his vision appeared wavy. And within just days he was referred by his local optician for specialist care.
He began his treatment at Optegra in August 2022 and has had two injections to date. He said: “This is a brand-new drug that I was receiving, but I am, by nature, a pragmatist. So my view was let’s get on and let’s see…and I am delighted with the outcome already.
“My sight is improving – things that should appear straight are less ‘wiggly’ now and I feel so reassured that we are taking the steps to prevent vision loss in the future. Without this treatment, heaven knows what would have happened.
“I’m a fairly young pensioner so was very worried about the impact this condition could have, the fear of losing my sight. And if I could not continue to drive I would lose by income also. But now it’s remarkable how much my confidence has come back, and I know there is so much to look forward to.”
His consultant at Optegra Eye Hospital Manchester, Ms Habiba Saedon, recommended new treatment Vabysmo – only recently approved by NICE for use in the UK. Regular AMD injections need to be repeated every four weeks, which is not only a burden and inconvenience for patients, but a huge pressure on the NHS. This new treatment is more likely to need to be repeated only every 12 – 16 weeks – whilst preventing the patient’s vision further deteriorating and maintaining or even improving current levels of sight.
The treatment is available on the NHS and is administered at Optegra’s specialist eye hospital, which provides AMD and cataract treatment services to NHS patients. It works by reducing the effect of chemicals that build up in the eye and cause blood vessels to grow abnormally; these can bleed and cause fluid build-up the retina which damages the vision without treatment. Vision becomes distorted – such as for Mr Allen, straight lines appearing wavy – as the fluid build-up in the eye means the retina loses its smooth profile. The new treatment with its dual mode of action, treating two chemicals rather than one, helps clear the fluid, smooth out the profile of the retina and hence improve vision. It also has a longer-lasting effect hence injections are not needed as frequently.
Mr Mahmood, the clinical lead at Optegra, explains: “We are excited that we can offer this new treatment. Medical advances mean that we can now extend the time between injections, possibly up to four months (after the first four monthly injections) which is much more pleasant and convenient for patients and importantly, cost-saving for the NHS.
“The only treatment for Wet AMD – which is the form of the condition that Mr Allen has – currently requires more regular visits to the hospital for injections in the eye. Such treatments are effective but can be a burden on patients and their carers; plus the NHS all around the UK has difficulty with meeting the demand.
“Vabysmo has the potential to be as effective as current treatments but have a longer lasting effect between injections which means fewer visits to the hospital. Early diagnostic tests on Mr Allen show improvements already so we are excited to continue this treatment.
“Optegra is fully dedicated specifically to ophthalmic treatment and has a research division Optegra Eye Sciences, which means we can really be leaders in the field and adopt the latest treatments, once we are all satisfied they are medically sound and clinical outcomes will be excellent. This means our patients can receive new treatments sooner and reap the benefits.”
Chris enjoys watching rugby and football on TV as he feels too old to play anymore. He likes reading and socializing in his local community. He was also eager to protect his qualifying eyesight to enable him to continue to work as a coach driver.
Regarding his treatment he says: “The treatment at Optegra is second to none. Every member of staff has been so informative and reassuring, really quite laid back about it and so thorough. I was nervous to say the least at the thought of injections in the eyeball. Yes, I was a little unnerved but the closer to getting the treatment, the more I knew and the less nervous I felt. Now I’ve experienced it I am not worried about it at all!
“I was told there would be a little discomfort – not pain – at first but overnight, that was gone. I am perfectly happy and excited for the future!”