Doctors seek new hope for patients with eye stroke

Jeff Markowitz is hoping to regain the vision he's lost.

He had a stroke in the eye, which happens when blood vessels supplying nutrients and oxygen to the optic nerve become blocked. It can cause sudden vision loss and sometimes blindness.

"I noticed a shadow on my right eye," Markowitz told CBS News. "By the time I saw the doc, it was kind of like a cloud."

It's estimated that about 12,000 people every year suffer a stroke in the eye. There are currently no effective treatments available, but a clinical trial at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is testing a new experimental drug. Markowitz enrolled in the trial.

"We believe that this molecule has the ability to stop the cascade of events which leads to cell death, actually preserve vision and possibly restore some of the vision that's been lost," said Dr. Rudrani Banik, an associate professor of ophthalmology at the hospital.

The drug is called QPI-1007 and is injected into the eye three times over a six-month period. Dr. Banik says it's critical to start treatment within two weeks of experiencing symptoms.

"We think there is a window of time in which we should get the drug to the patient," she said.

Markowitz doesn't know yet if he's getting the actual drug or a placebo, but so far he says he is feeling better.

"Over the next year it will take a while to see where I end up and what my vision will be for the rest of my life," he said.

He also recently discovered he has sleep apnea, which is one of the risk factors for eye stroke. Other risk factors include diabetes, high blood pressure and smoking.

Doctors recommend annual eye exams and say you should see an eye doctor immediately if you have any vision loss.

To read full story on CBS News, click here.

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