Skip to main content
Accessibility  |  Contact  |  Privacy  |  Terms of Service

Rare Eye Retinal Disorder Treatment Success

  • Published: 2009-04-14 (Revised/Updated 2018-03-15) : Press Release by University of Michigan Health System
  • Synopsis: Patients with a rare blinding eye disease saw their vision improve after treatment with drugs to suppress their immune systems.

Main Document

Patients with a rare, blinding eye disease saw their vision improve after treatment with drugs to suppress their immune systems, according to researchers at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center. Because autoimmune retinopathy (AIR) is difficult to diagnose, the biggest challenge now is to find biologic markers that identify patients who can benefit from treatment.

In a review of 30 patients with autoimmune retinopathy, 21 individuals showed improvement after receiving treatment with immuno-suppression therapy.

The study, reported in the April issue of Archives of Ophthalmology, is the largest review of AIR cases to date. Improvement was defined by several measures, including the ability to read a minimum of two additional lines on the standard eye chart or expansion of at least 25% in visual field size.

"The results challenge the commonly held belief that autoimmune retinopathy is un-treatable," says John R. Heckenlively, M.D., author of the report and an international expert on retinal dystrophies. In this disease, antibodies attack the retina, resulting in progressive vision loss and eventual blindness.

AIR is like other autoimmune diseases in which the immune system goes awry and begins to attack healthy tissue. The patients in the current study were treated with various combinations of immuno-suppression medications to counteract the unwanted auto-antibodies from the immune system.

"It is not easy to identify patients with AIR because the clinical symptoms are very similar to other diseases involving retinal degeneration," says Heckenlively. Typically these patients are diagnosed as having Retinitis Pigmentosa, a blinding eye disease for which there is no treatment. "When someone asks how to distinguish one group from the other," says Heckenlively, the answer often is "with difficulty."

"We do not yet have a single test to confirm a diagnosis of AIR," explains Heckenlively. "However most patients have characteristic symptoms and findings, as well as subtle abnormalities on electro-physiologic testing. All patients have anti-retinal antibodies on blood testing, but that finding alone is not diagnostic. The majority of cases have other family members with autoimmune disorders. A clear diagnosis of AIR relies on carefully weighing all these factors," he concludes.

Heckenlively observes that few reports on AIR treatment are available in scientific publications, due largely to the difficulty in establishing the diagnosis.

"It is also possible that many patients are under-treated because we do not have good markers to evaluate treatment effects," observes Heckenlively. "Now that we have evidence that immuno-suppressant therapies work, we need further studies to evaluate which medications will be effective in treating autoimmune retinopathy."


This work was supported in part by Foundation Fighting Blindness.

Reference: Archives of Ophthalmology Vol. 124, No. 4, pp 390-397, Management of autoimmune retinopathies with immuno-suppression.

Authors: Henry A. Ferreyra, M.D., Thiran Jayasundera, M.D.; Naheed W. Khan Ph.D., Shirley He, Ph.D., Ying Lu, Ph.D., and John R. Heckenlively, M.D.

Similar Topics

1 : Metabolomics - Promising Tool for Advancing in Treatment Personalization of Oncological Patients : Bentham Science Publishers.
2 : Effects of Genetic Engineering : Disabled World.
3 : Majority in Favor of Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Screening : University of Warwick.
4 : New Approach to Studying Chromosomes' Centers May Reveal Link to Down Syndrome and More : Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan.
5 : Drinking Glasses Can Contain Potentially Harmful Levels of Lead and Cadmium : University of Plymouth.
From our Medical Research section - Full List (159 Items)

Submit disability news, coming events, as well as assistive technology product news and reviews.

Loan Information for low income singles, families, seniors and disabled. Includes home, vehicle and personal loans.

Famous People with Disabilities - Well known people with disabilities and conditions who contributed to society.

List of awareness ribbon colors and their meaning. Also see our calendar of awareness dates.

Blood Pressure Chart - What should your blood pressure be, and information on blood group types/compatibility.

1 : vEAR: Why Can I Sometimes 'Hear' Silent Flashes When Viewing Animated Gif's?
2 : New Jersey Digital Art Program for Individuals with ASD
3 : 2018 Lime Connect Fellowship Program for Students with Disabilities
4 : Epihunter Classroom - Making Silent Epileptic Seizures Visible
5 : Prostate MRI Reveals More Treatable Cancers and Reduces Overdiagnosis


Disclaimer: This site does not employ and is not overseen by medical professionals. Content on Disabled World is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. See our Terms of Service for more information.

Reporting Errors: Disabled World is an independent website, your assistance in reporting outdated or inaccurate information is appreciated. If you find an error please let us know.