The effect of Ebola on the eye is on the agenda this weekend at the Tasmanian branch conference of RANZCO, the peak body for eye health in Australia and New Zealand.
Ebola, which has killed more than 10,000 people since re-emerging in Africa last year, almost always causes uveitis in sufferers, which involves inflammation of the eye.
A recent case saw Ebola remain present in the eye fluid of an American doctor who survived the disease, long after it had disappeared from his blood. One of the doctor’s eye turned from blue to green as a result.
At the conference, Dr Scott Parkes, Launceston General Hospital Director of Intensive Care, will discuss his experiences in Sierra Leone last year working at an Ebola treatment clinic for two months.
“Thankfully we appear to be winning the battle against Ebola, but for survivors there are post-disease complications to consider. There is a very high incidence of uveitis in Ebola survivors”, Dr Parkes notes.
“There is a single ophthalmologist in Freetown, Sierra Leone – he is about 80 – and he felt it was almost universal. It is very difficult to do detailed eye examinations on the patients; the exposure risk to the practitioner is too great”, he explains. Uveitis is typically treated with steroids or antibiotics.
Also in the program are case studies and debates on cataract surgery. Cataracts are one of the most common eye conditions to affect older Australians, and recent technology advances have changed the traditional status quo regarding manual cataract surgery.
“Cataract surgery is a complex procedure involving delicate incisions into the eye lens via the cornea. For this reason, it garners much attention from ophthalmologists and device manufacturers alike. The research coming out of this field is fascinating, and at times can spark opposing views from surgeons who prefer one type of surgical process over another”, says Associate Professor Nitin Verma AM, Conference Convenor and Head of the Eye Clinic at the Royal Hobart Hospital.
Another hot topic is collagen cross-linking, a technique to slow or halt the bulging of the cornea, the transparent window of the eye. It uses vitamin drops and light therapy instead of surgery to flatten the cornea in conditions where the cornea is ectatic or conical in shape.
RANZCO regularly hosts internationally-renowned ophthalmologists and researchers at its events, including state branch meetings and its annual Congress. The Tasmanian branch conference will be held on Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 June in Hobart, with details on our website.