“Our data underscores the need for patients — including pediatric patients– with sickle cell disease to get routine ophthalmic screenings along with appropriate systemic and ophthalmic treatment,” said lead researcher, Mary Ellen Hoehn, MD, professor of Ophthalmology at University of Tennessee Health Science Center.
Dr. Hoehn and colleagues also evaluated the effectiveness of different therapies for sickle cell disease. They found that hydroxyurea and chronic transfusions were associated with decreased rates of retinopathy, even when accounting for different genotypes.
To conduct the study, they evaluated records for 652 patients, aged 10 to 25 years (median age: 14) who underwent eye exams (2,240 visits) over a 12-year period. They found:
- 33 percent had nonproliferative retinopathy (NPR)
- 6 percent had proliferative retinopathy (PR).
- 33 eyes were treated with panretinal photocoagulation, most commonly for PR stage 3 (43 percent). Intravitreal anti-VEGF therapy was given to five eyes, all with PR.
- Other complications included retinal detachment and retinal artery occlusion in two patients each.
- Vision loss (final best corrected visual acuity 20/60) following complications from sickle cell disease was noted in only one patient with a central retinal artery occlusion.
“We hope that people will use this information to better care for patients with sickle cell disease, and that more timely ophthalmic screen exams will be performed so that vision-threatening complications from this disease are prevented,” Dr. Hoehn said.
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