A drug commonly taken to prevent seizures in epilepsy may also protect the eyesight of people with multiple sclerosis (MS), an auto-immune disease in which the body seemingly attacks itself, says a new study by an Indian-origin doctor.
The epilepsy drug phenytoin can help prevent nerve damage and blindness in MS, the findings showed.
“About half of people with MS experience at some point in their life a condition called acute optic neuritis, in which the nerve carrying vision from the eye to the brain gets inflamed,” said study author Raj Kapoor from the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London, England.
“The condition can cause sudden total or partial blindness, foggy or blackened vision and pain. Even though eyesight can recover eventually, each attack still damages the nerve and the eye,” Kapoor explained.
For the study, the researchers randomly selected 86 people with acute optic neuritis within two weeks of having symptoms to receive either the epilepsy drug phenytoin or a placebo for three months.
The study found on average that the group who took phenytoin had 30 percent less damage to the nerve fiber layer compared to those who received the placebo.
The volume of the macula, the most light-sensitive part of the retina, was actually 34 percent higher in those who took phenytoin than those who received the placebo.
“If this finding is confirmed by larger studies, it could lead to a treatment that may prevent nerve damage and blindness in MS,” Kapoor noted.
The findings will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 67th annual meeting in Washington, DC.(IANS)