A new service which treats an eye condition which is the most common cause of blindness has been launched in the Waveney Valley.
The James Paget University Hospitals’ ophthalmology team are now performing a procedure at Beccles Hospital which combats the effects of wet Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), which causes rapid loss of vision if it is not treated.
The team is working out of new Eye Clinic facilities at the hospital, which include a treatment room where patients receive the injections into the eye ball which combat wet AMD.
Wet AMD affects the macular, which is the central part of the retina that allows people to see by detecting light. It is caused by scar tissue which is created as part of an out of control healing process when tiny blood vessels grow and leak at the back of the eye.
Symptoms include distortion of vision, which means that straight lines look bent, and leads to blindness within five years without the injection treatment, which only became available10 years ago.
JPUH Consultant Ophthalmologist Professor Ben Burton, who specialises in the treatment of AMD, said that the injections were helping save patients’ sight when previously they would have gone blind.
“AMD tends to affect older patients, who may need treatment for the rest of their lives once the condition is diagnosed – and with a population that is ageing, demand is only going to increase,” he said.
“Since these injections were introduced, we have seen rates of blindness halve, which is amazing,” he added.
More than 2000 patients are currently receiving the injections at the JPUH’s Eye Clinic – with three new patients being referred for the treatment every week.
The creation of the Eye Clinic facilities at Beccles Hospital will help meet growing demand while providing a service closer to home for residents in Beccles, Bungay, Halesworth and the villages of the Waveney Valley.
Consultant Ophthalmologist Tom Butler, who has overseen the creation of the new facilities, said they represented a significant expansion of the eye services offered at Beccles.
“We now have a treatment suite which has been purpose-built and its high specification means we can offer the wet AMD treatment and not just consultation, which we have been doing at the Beccles site now for 15 years,” he said.
“This is an exciting development which is increasing the accessibility of a sight-saving procedure, carried out in new, modern facilities.”
Cath Byford, director of commissioning with NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We are pleased that we have been able to work with our partners at James Paget University Hospitals to begin offering these vital injections closer to home.
“Providing this important service at Beccles Hospital means that fewer patients will need to travel to the main hospital campus in Gorleston to receive treatment, in turn bringing added convenience and improving their experience when receiving care.”
The facilities include a consultation room which has a new state-of-the-art eye scanner, funded by the Friends of Beccles Hospital.