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Your own medicine

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Calcutta ophthalmologists have developed a simple and cheap method of treating acute dry eyes and other similar disorders. Shabina Akhtar reports

Raj Kumar Ghosh, 53, a resident of Siuri, Bolpur, West Bengal, almost lost his eyesight. Doctors diagnosed it as a case of acute viral ulcer of both eyes. The ulcer had somehow managed to disrupt the normal tear secretion, resulting in acute dryness of the eyes. The condition, however, could not be treated with the usual medicines as Ghosh’s body was reacting to chemicals present in the drugs.

Ghosh approached the Regional Institute of Ophthalmology (RIO), Calcutta, with the hope of getting back his vision. Says Dr Himadri Datta of RIO, “Both his eyes were covered with white spots (ulcers). Since he was allergic to the regular medicines, we treated him with solutions made from autologous (derived from the same individual) serum and blood from umbilical cords.” Treating a wide range of cases with these special eye drops is what they were aiming at, the ophthalmologist revealed.

Autologous serum  ” prepared from the patient’s own blood ” is effective in treating ocular surface disorders such as persistent epithelial defects or severe dry eyes intractable to conventional treatment. About 40 ml of blood is extracted and centrifuged to separate the corpuscular components from the plasma or serum. The serum is then diluted with about four cubic cm of saline solution to form a 20 per cent solution, which is stored in brown coloured bottles for protection from ultraviolet rays.

The drop is applied 6-10 times daily. One should be cautious about contamination as no preservatives are added to it. The serum can be frozen and stored for about three months as it contains albumin and globulin that can counteract the degradation of cytokines.

Till date, the best method to treat cases of acute dry eyes was keratoplasty, where a section of the cornea from the donor (generally a deceased person) was grafted onto the patient’s eye,  says Jayanta Datta, junior resident doctor, RIO. However, it has its own share of side effects like sutures   which impair vision to a certain extent, and the probability of the patient’s immune system rejecting the transplanted cells, he adds.

In contrast, the autologous serum method negates chances of allergic reactions since it is prepared from the patient’s own blood.

Ghosh was treated by both autologous and umbilical cord serums, with one being administered specifically in one eye.

“Both the methods are effective, but the response to the autologous serum was better than that to the umbilical cord serum,” says Dr Datta. “And what’s more, the therapies cost almost nothing.”

We are in collaboration with the gynaecological department of Calcutta Medical College to get the umbilical cords required for the umbilical cord serum,” says Dr Datta. The placenta blood is obtained only after the consent is obtained of the women who have just delivered, he explains. Laboratory tests for hepatitis B and C viruses and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are also done to avoid transmission of diseases.

As for Ghosh, he is still under observation. With about 70 per cent of his ulcers cured, his eyesight has been restored to a great extent, if not fully. Perhaps the day is not far when there will be light at the end of the tunnel for every such patient.

Source:The Telegraph (Kolkata,India)

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