David G. Birch, PhD, Chief Scientific and Executive Officer and Director of the Rose-Silverthorne Retinal Degenerations Laboratory, Retina Foundation of the Southwest discusses the current clinical trial for patients suffering from X-linked retinoschisis (XLRS).
X-linked juvenile retinoschisis is a condition characterized by impaired vision that begins in childhood and occurs almost exclusively in males. This disorder affects the retina, which is a specialized light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye. Damage to the retina impairs the sharpness of vision (visual acuity) in both eyes. Typically, X-linked juvenile retinoschisis affects cells in the central area of the retina called the macula. The macula is responsible for sharp central vision, which is needed for detailed tasks such as reading, driving, and recognizing faces. X-linked juvenile retinoschisis is one type of a broader disorder called macular degeneration, which disrupts the normal functioning of the macula. Occasionally, side (peripheral) vision is affected in people with X-linked juvenile retinoschisis.
X-linked juvenile retinoschisis is usually diagnosed when affected boys start school and poor vision and difficulty with reading become apparent. In more severe cases, eye squinting and involuntary movement of the eyes (nystagmus) begin in infancy. Other early features of X-linked juvenile retinoschisis include eyes that do not look in the same direction (strabismus) and farsightedness (hyperopia). Visual acuity often declines in childhood and adolescence but then stabilizes throughout adulthood until a significant decline in visual acuity typically occurs in a man’s fifties or sixties. Sometimes, severe complications develop, such as separation of the retinal layers (retinal detachment) or leakage of blood vessels in the retina (vitreous hemorrhage). These eye abnormalities can further impair vision or cause blindness.
David G. Birch, PhD, Chief Scientific and Executive Officer and Director of the Rose-Silverthorne Retinal Degenerations Laboratory, Retina Foundation of the Southwest; Adjunct Professor of Ophthalmology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical School; Director of Electrophysiology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical School; Center Coordinator, Foundation Fighting Blindness Southwest Regional Center