Qld's leading eye health hub needs you to help

Queensland eye health research hub fundraiser for new machine

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QEI's lead clinical scientist Timothy Stark demonstrating the electroretinogram machine with Max Thomson and his mum Alanna.

QEI's lead clinical scientist Timothy Stark demonstrating the electroretinogram machine with Max Thomson and his mum Alanna.

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Global blindness and severe vision impairment are predicted to double by 2050. One Queensland institution is trying to change all that with important new technology but they urgently need your help.

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Global blindness and severe vision impairment are predicted to double by the year 2050.

And with more than 90 per cent of vision loss being treatable, one Queensland institution is trying to prevent that prediction - but they urgently need your help.

Queensland Eye Institute is the only service in Queensland that provides comprehensive eye testing for patients of all ages, providing urgent diagnosis with their electroretinogram machine.

Demand for the machine is incredibly high, with QEI receiving referrals for patients from right across Queensland, the Northern Territory and northern New South Wales.

The advanced testing takes takes approximately 3.5 hours, meaning that only two patients can be seen each day.

That's less than 400 tests which can be carried out each year.

Queensland Eye Institute executive director and chief executive officer Professor Mark Radford said that a new machine will halve the waiting list and that when it comes to vision loss, time is the only thing in your favour.

"Early diagnosis can mean the difference between total blindness or life-long vision for many people," Prof Radford said.

"The eye is a very complex organ.

"While ophthalmologists and optometrists know when something isn't working, only visual electrophysiological tests allow us to clearly delineate which layers of the back of the eye aren't functional and hence provide a definite diagnosis."

QEI's lead clinical scientist Timothy Stark said that he sees a patient from regional and rural Australia every other day.

"The access is limited, we don't get a lot of government funding for the equipment so we're relying on a limited technology to treat most of Queensland," he said.

"Often I'll see patients who have been losing their sight for ten years, and it is often because they didn't know about the technology we possess at QEI."

Sixteen-month-old Max Thomson is one patient who has benefitted from the technology that the electrodiagnostic unit at QIE offers.

"At Max's 12-week check-up, I told my GP what I had noticed," Max's mum Alanna said.

"Two days later we saw a paediatrician.

"Two hours after that and we were being seen by an ophthalmologist

Last week, QEI launched 'Max Day' in a bid to raise funds to help purchase an additional electroretinogram machine for QEI.

After electroretinogram testing at QEI, Max was diagnosed with suspected Lebers Congenital Amaruosis.

Electroretinogram is an important means to diagnose LCA and it's completely non-invasive.

As LCA symptoms are similar to many other types of eye conditions, as well as syndromes affecting other parts of the body (such as the kidneys), LCA diagnosis also meant that Max was spared further invasive tests. The psychological impact was also significant.

"Having a diagnosis was a huge relief," Alanna said.

"For us it also meant that we could take the next step and have genetic testing done to see if Max had the type of LCA for which there is currently a treatment."

Sadly, this was not the case for Max. However, LCA diagnosis also allowed for early intervention to treat Max's condition and improve his quality of life.

"We won't know if he has any vision at all until he is old enough to tell us," Alanna said.

"If he does have even the slightest amount, we want him to be able to see as much as he can, and learn as much as he can, before his vision totally deteriorates."

Apart from LCA, electroretinograms can be used to diagnose many other eye conditions which other tests cannot.

In most cases, patients suffering conditions do no go blind immediately, meaning that early intervention strategies can be life-changing.

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