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'Doggles' help Bella to see again

Bella, a beautiful 2 year-old black Labrador, was referred from a neighbouring practice for further investigation of an unusual visual problem.

Bella’s owners were concerned, from a relatively early age, that her vision was not quite what it should have been. She had started to bump into one or two obstacles and also experienced an accidental fall whilst on a beach walk. Unexpectedly, her vision was at its worst when Bella was playing in the sunshine, but appeared to improve when she came inside especially if the lights were dimmed.


Bella’s worried owners brought her to one of our ophthalmologists for an eye examination. However, the initial thorough eye test failed to show up any problems - there was no sign of a cataract and Bella’s eyes appeared normal! Additional tests were subsequently scheduled and, initially, an electroretinogram (ERG) was performed.

In the same way that an ECG tells us how well our hearts are working, an ERG tests how well the retina (a part of our eye) is working. To allow the information from Bella’s eye to be recorded, small clips were attached to her head. In addition, a special contact lens was placed on the surface of her eye (using sedation).  The results of the ERG showed that Bella’s retina was not working in the correct way. In particular, the ‘cones’ (the cells in the retina that respond to bright light and give us colour vision) were not working. In contrast the ‘rods’ (the cells in the retina that allow us to see in the dark) were working well.

Based on the ERG result, a rare genetic disorder was suspected as the cause of Bella’s day blindness (= Achromatopsia Type 1) and was later confirmed with a blood test (available from the Optigen genetic lab in the States). This disorder is inherited as an autosomal recessive trait, meaning that two copies of the genetic mutation are required for disease to occur. A similar disease also exists in man causing decreased vision, light sensitivity and the absence of colour vision. 

Happily, there were a couple of options to help Bella’s vision during outside play including 'Doggles' and tinted contact lenses - both of which would reduce the intensity of the light entering Bella's eyes. After a training period and dedication from her owners, Bella now wears her 'Doggles' with pride. This has made a real difference to Bella's quality of life, as you can see from the photos of Bella enjoying the sunshine - very cool!

Thank you to Bella's owners for allowing us to share her story. 

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