Following the example set by Sir Harold, the Foundation has funded two major pieces of research into blindness.
Between 2000-2003 we funded a study into Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD). This research was carried out by Professor David Wong at the Royal Liverpool and Victoria Hospital in Liverpool. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common condition that affects the middle part of your vision. It usually first affects people in their 50s and 60s.
From 2006 to 2009 we funded a 3-year study into Behcets Disease in conjunction with the St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital in East Jerusalem. Behçet’s disease, or Behçet’s syndrome, is a rare and poorly understood condition that results in inflammation of the blood vessels and tissues.
Snake venom ophthalmia
Writing as Major Harold Ridley, he published in 1944 a short paper in the British Journal of Ophthalmology on spitting snakes and an account on the composition and action of snake venom in general. From his own experiences in the Gold Coast, Ridley described snake venom ophthalmia in a 30-year-old labourer named Gogi Kumasi who was cutting grass when a Black-necked cobra raised its head from the grass and forcibly spat venom toward the man’s right eye from a distance of four or five feet. Ridley treated the man and followed his case until the eye had fully recovered, after about a week. After discussion on the therapeutic uses of snake venom, he conjectured that in the future diluted venom or a constituent of venom might be used as a powerful anaesthetic in some cases of ophthalmic surgery.
After completing 18 months in Ghana, in 1944 Ridley was transferred to India and then Burma, where he studied and treated malnourished former prisoners of war. His biographer David Apple reports Ridley’s own words: “I was transferred to Rangoon, Burma, where life began again. I treated over 200 released allied prisoners of war in Rangoon and Singapore who suffered from nutritional amblyopia while Japanese prisoners of war. Many of the prisoners had worked on the Burma Railway. Starved and ill treated, they had developed sudden central scotoma, relieved by good diet if available. Some developed optic atrophy, some of whom made a partial recovery within six weeks of release. However, the advanced cases, though given a vitamin-rich diet were irreversible. I subsequently wrote an article on the topic of nutritional amblyopia.” The therapy he used anticipates the use today of multivitamins in ARMD patients. A logical therapy since the problems arise from malnutrition. Ridley used multivitamin therapy, returned them to a normal diet and then noted improvement in the prisoners’ condition. The Burma theatre of war permitted the first large population study of individuals with nutritional amblyopia: a total of over 500 returned prisoners within his region of whom about 200 he personally examined and treated.