Research

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.

2006-9

Ridley Eye Foundation funded a 3 year study into Behcets Disease

2000-3

Funded a study into Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD)

200

Harold Ridley treated over 200 released allied prisoners of war in Rangoon and Singapore

Ridley’s Research

During the Battle of Britain, in World War II Ridley was posted to Emergency Medical Services in South East England to treat injured RAF personnel. During this period he treated Flt Lieut ‘Mouse’ Cleaver of 601 Squadron RAF whose injuries included ophthalmic shrapnel, leading him to discover that the plastic particles of aircraft canopies that lodged in the eye did not adversely affect the body’s immune system. This inspired him to design an ‘intraocular’ lens (IoL) in the cure of cataract blindness. View Video

In 1941 Ridley was commissioned into the Royal Army Medical Corps and posted to West Africa and later to South East Asia. While in West Africa, Ridley led important research into onchocerciasis (River Blindness) when he was stationed in the Gold Coast, (now Ghana,) where he met Brigadier G. M. Findlay, AMS, who stimulated Ridley’s interest in the endemic disease that affected large parts of West Africa.

Ridley travelled to Funsi where he had been  informed that a missionary doctor attended to numerous blind or poor sighted patients. He examined these patients with a slit-lamp powered by his vehicle’s 12-volt battery, to find that most (90%) had severe onchocerciasis; and 10% were blind because of it.

Ridley recorded his observations of the parasitic worm of the retinal fundus and, according to David Apple, his biographer, “The attention he called to this disease constitutes one of Ridley’s major contributions to ophthalmology. His monograph “Ocular Onchocerciasis”, published in 1945 in a supplement of the British Journal of Ophthalmology, was a landmark.”

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.

Nutritional amblyopia

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.