Researchers at QEI have developed a new treatment for floppy eyelid syndrome (FES), a condition related to obstructive sleep apnea – a sleeping disorder characterized by paused or shallow breathing during sleep.
Floppy eyelid syndrome is a common eye condition when the eyelid of one or both eyes loses elasticity and becomes rubbery, lax and it is easily everted or turned upward. FES is caused by the changes in the structure and organization of the connective tissue that forms the rigid part of the eyelid, known as the tarsal plate. “FES can cause eye irritation, inflammation, and eyelid sagging, and may become a blinding condition if not treated” - says Dr Tai Smith, QEI’s oculoplastic surgeon and the originator of the project.
The presence of FES is associated with obstructive sleep apnea, a potentially serious condition that can lead to an increase in the risk of heart attack or stroke, as well as glaucoma. The symptoms of FES are currently managed by using eye shields and ointment during sleep or surgical procedures, but recurrence of symptoms are common. If left untreated, FES can lead to vision loss.
The eye condition is now one step closer to having a treatment strategy, after researchers at QEI have developed a successful new technique. “When the tarsal plate, was soaked in a vitamin B2 solutions then exposed to UV light, the tissue became consistently stiffer” – says Professor Traian Chirila, Chief Scientist at QEI. “This process can prevent further degeneration in the eyelid and the advancement of FES” – Professor Chirila continues. The next stage in the development of this new technique is to trial it on human eyelid tissue.
The research, published in the Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery journal, was based on a proposal by Dr Tai Smith, QEI’s Ophthalmologist specialized in eyelid, orbit and lacrimal surgery, and investigated experimentally by a core research team including Professor Traian Chirila and Dr Shuko Suzuki, Senior Research Officer at QEI. This world first research is only possible through the support of the community and the Queensland Eye Institute Foundation.