A charity which has funded ground-breaking research into sight loss is hosting an advice event in Donegal for the first time.
Fighting Blindness is holding the event in Letterkenny next week which will focus on rare genetic conditions that cause severe vision impairment, such as retinitis pigmentosa (RP), Usher syndrome, Stargardt disease, and many others.
There are almost 8,000 people in Donegal living with severe vision impairment and this event came about after the charity, which was founded 30 years ago by a group of patients, was approached by local ophthalmologist Dr Joanne Kearney.
In 1989, researchers in Trinity College Dublin, funded by Fighting Blindness, located the first known gene responsible for causing retinitis pigmentosa.
Since then a further 200 genes have been discovered for RP and other retinal degenerations. Today the charity funds research in Dublin, Cork and Belfast and links in with scientists all around the world.
Speaking to the Donegal Democrat, Caitríona Dunne, Communications and Advocacy Executive with Fighting Blindness, who herself suffers from Stargardt disease, said the charity is aiming to find a genetic diagnosis for every person who suffers from a genetic condition. “We are trying to find out a genetic diagnosis for people so that when clinical trials become available or treatment becomes available, people are prepared and they know what their diagnosis is.”
As well as funding research, the charity provides counselling. It has a base in Dublin and centres in Cork and Limerick. “We want to move further north and north west. We a telephone counselling service for people who cannot attend in Dublin and we are expanding it. Anyone in Donegal who wants support or counselling, the telephone service is there for them and their families. It is there for anyone who needs help coming to terms with sight loss or living with it on a day to day basis.”