New technique restores pensioner’s eyesight

Ruth Walker-Mahmood (right) and her mum, Shirley Walker
Ruth Walker-Mahmood (right) and her mum, Shirley Walker
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PIONEERING eye surgery carried out by a Yorkshire specialist has restored the sight of a 78-year-old woman who is back behind the wheel of her car.

Pensioner Shirley Walker was unable to drive or read due to a genetic eye condition called Fuchs’ Dystrophy but now enjoys driving again after a procedure replaced damaged cells in both corneas.

It was carried out on the NHS by Fayyaz Musa, a consultant ophthalmologist at Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, who is among a small number of surgeons internationally using the technique, called Descemets Membrane Endothelial Keratoplasty, or DMEK.

This is a treatment for sufferers of Fuchs’ Dystrophy and means that only the damaged layer of cells in the cornea is replaced instead of patients undergoing a full corneal graft, a procedure which carries considerable discomfort.

Mrs Walker, who lives in Roberttown, West Yorkshire, says her eyesight has never been better.

Her condition, which is not uncommon, had been painful and she was losing her independence.

“Swelling had been building up which was causing the vision loss and the disease was taking a hold quickly, necessitating a corneal graft,” said Mrs Walker. “My sister had undergone the full version in the past and I knew only too well that the rehabilitation period was a long one and it was a big intervention.

“With the procedure which Mr Musa offers, within just 10 days my vision was better than it had ever been in my life and I could read letters on the chart that I had never been able to see before.

“It wasn’t long until I was back behind the wheel of my car and also using my computer for doing online banking and internet shopping.

“We are so lucky to have Mr Musa here in Yorkshire as he is one of only a select number of surgeons in the world to carry out this state of the art surgery. He inspires every confidence and is truly amazing - he has literally given me my life back.”

Her daughter, Ruth Walker-Mahmood, 57, who has the same condition and may need surgery, said the procedure had “transformed” her mother’s life.

“Immediately, she could see so much more. Her eyesight is better than it has ever been, even when she was at school.”

Mr Musa, who lives in Huddersfield, said the condition caused the inner layer of cells in the cornea to quickly degenerate.

“This layer, called the endothelium, is responsible for maintaining the proper amount of fluid in the cornea and keeps it clear for good vision by pumping out excess fluid that could cause corneal swelling. The disease usually affects both eyes and causes a gradual decline in vision due to corneal oedema (swelling) and clouding. As the disorder progresses, swelling of the cornea can cause blisters on the front of the cornea known as epithelial bullae.”

The new procedure, he said, involved a partial-thickness corneal graft in which only the innermost layers are replaced.

“DMEK replaces only the Descemet’s membrane and endothelium, and leaves the patient’s cornea much closer to its original condition than other transplant techniques. This offers improved optical quality, fast and often complete visual rehabilitation.”