Optometrist Working to Cure Leading Cause of Blindness

Press Release – SpecSavers

Tony Han, optometrist from Specsavers Mt Maunganui is about to start trials on a potential treatment for age-related macular degeneration. If the trails are successful, the new treatment could be a breakthrough in managing New Zealand’s leading cause …MEDIA RELEASE
24 January 2012

Mt Maunganui Optometrist Working to Cure Leading Cause of Blindness

Tony Han, optometrist from Specsavers Mt Maunganui is about to start trials on a potential treatment for age-related macular degeneration. If the trails are successful, the new treatment could be a breakthrough in managing New Zealand’s leading cause of blindness in the over 50’s[1].

Mr Han said, “Age-related macular degeneration is a disease that affects one in seven people over the age of 50. It occurs when the central part of the retina – the macula – is damaged, causing difficulties reading, recognising faces, driving and seeing colours clearly.”

Mr Han is trialling the natural herbal supplement Vinpocetine as a part of his Masters thesis, along with a research team at the University of Auckland, and said it was exciting to be involved in such ground-breaking research.

“If this supplement works, it will really change a lot of lives because instead of living in blindness, at-risk people will have their vision preserved in their older years. It means people don’t need to accept difficulty with their vision as just a part of getting older.

“I’m really thrilled at the prospect of helping people take it for granted that they can see well enough to read the paper, knit a scarf, play golf and keep living their lives the way they want to for much longer than they can right now,” he said.

Mr Han will be trialling the effects of Vinpocetine on 50 Bay of Plenty residents over the next two years.

Vinpocetine is a synthetic compound made from the leaves of the lesser periwinkle plant. Developed in the late 1960s, it has proven to dilate blood vessels, enhance circulation in the brain, improve oxygen utilisation and make red blood cells more pliable.

Mr Han says that while the treatment could preserve the vision of many, early detection is still crucial.

“Like many eye diseases, the effects of age-related macular degeneration can potentially be greatly lessened with early detection. Eye tests are really important because the disease can be detected in an eye examination long before a patient even notices anything wrong with their vision.”

The trials will test the effect of Vinpocetine on the progression of the dry form of age-related macular degeneration and will commence in February 2012.

Specsavers recommends that everyone should have an eye test at least every two years. For more information about the Age-Related Macular Degeneration Study or to book an eye examination, get in touch with your local Specsavers store.

ENDS

About Specsavers:
Specsavers was founded by Doug and Dame Mary Perkins in 1984 and is now the largest privately owned optical retailer in the world and the third largest in New Zealand. The couple still actively run the company today, along with their three children. Specsavers has about 1,600 stores in ten countries worldwide and 53 stores in New Zealand.
Bringing value to the eye wear market, Specsavers offer ‘2 pairs of glasses for 1 low price’ on all glasses $169 and above, with designer ranges starting at two pairs from $299. High quality, standard single vision PENTAX lenses are always included in the price. Specsavers stores offer a wide range of designer glasses including Gok Wan, Alex Perry, Karen Millen, Quicksilver, Roxy, Jasper Conran, Red or Dead and Tommy Hilfiger, as well as Osiris, the biggest selling frame range in Europe, which is exclusive to Specsavers.

[1] Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind: http://www.rnzfb.org.nz/learn/blindness/clear-focus/frequency-and-causes-of-vision-loss-and-blindness

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