Scientists at the University of Iowa have found a new inherited eye disease that affects the macula, which is part of the retina.
With the findings, which have been reported in the Nov. 9 issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology, researchers are hoping to increase understanding of more common retinal diseases.
The macula, located within the retina, is an area of high-resolution central vision that is needed to read or drive, for example. This area is damaged in more common retinal conditions such as macular degeneration and can be damaged by diabetes.
"It is rare to find a new inherited eye disease that affects the macula. We thought we had seen them all," said the study's lead author Vinit Mahajan, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.
"This newly found retinal disease causes abnormal blood vessels in the macula, and these vessels are prone to bleeding. This causes swelling or scars that 'black out' or blur parts of the field of vision," said Mahajan, who also is a retinal specialist with University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
The finding came about when one person in a family in the United States sought care for eye problems.
"If a doctor saw just one family member, they would probably call this macular degeneration. We knew there was something different, and we had to examine the rest of the family," Mahajan said.
The team assessed 20 extended family members who were not blind but had visual problems of different severities. Some family members also had areas of central vision loss, and some family members had strabismus, a disorder in which the eyes are not aligned.