Photodynamic Therapy Shows PromiseSponsored By University of Miami Health System

(Courtesy: University of Miami Health System)

Dr. Guillermo Amescua is an ophthalmologist at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, part of UHealth – University of Miami Health System. To find a doctor or make an appointment visit the Bascom Palmer website or call (305) 243-2020. For more medical news and research, click here for the University of Miami’s health news blog.

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Photodynamic therapy is the use of chemicals and light to cure infection and strengthen the main structure of the eye, called the cornea. Fungal infections can be caused by humid climates, dirty contact lenses, and trauma to the eye. There are higher rates of fungal infection in places like South Florida with tropical climates.

When Dr. Guillermo Amescua was a medical fellow at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute almost a decade ago, he noticed that fungal eye infections were problematic for a large number of his patients. As the eye infections worsened, it increased the chances of a tear in the cornea, which requires transplant surgery. However, outcomes from the transplant surgeries were not always successful because the eye was inflamed due to infection, causing the immune system to reject the transplant.

Frustrated by this conundrum, Dr. Amescua turned to a team of biomedical engineers at Bascom Palmer’s Ophthalmic Biophysics Center. Photodynamic therapy had already been in use in other areas of ophthalmology, but the standard combination of riboflavin and UV light used to strengthen the cornea was not effective at killing tough strains of bacteria and fungi.

After five years of cross-disciplinary work in the lab, the engineering team determined that the chemical stain rose bengal in combination with green fluorescent light could effectively eliminate the fungal infection. Dr. Amescua has used this new approach to photodynamic therapy to treat a small group of Bascom Palmer patients with fungal infections. On average, the infections were cleared after two treatment sessions lasting less than an hour each. “It’s exciting to take something from the lab, apply it to clinical practice, and to see patients getting better,” says Dr. Amescua.


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Patients with fungal eye infections that are not responding to standard treatment and/or whose last resort for treatment is corneal transplant surgery can explore the option of photodynamic therapy by contacting Dr. Amescua at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.


Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, a University of Miami Hospital and Clinic, is ranked the nation’s best in ophthalmology by U.S. News & World Report, an honor it has received for the 16th time; and by Ophthalmology Times.  In addition to its international reputation as one of the premier providers of eye care in the world, Bascom Palmer is the largest ophthalmic care, research and educational facility in the southeastern United States.  Each year, more than 250,000 patients are treated with nearly every ophthalmic condition and more than 18,000 surgeries are performed. With five patient care facilities in Florida (Miami, Palm Beach Gardens, Naples, Plantation and Coral Gables at the Lennar Foundation Medical Center), the Institute serves as the Department of Ophthalmology for the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, part of UHealth-University of Miami Health System.


Focusing on You: Innovations in Modern Medicine is a series of healthcare-related stories airing regularly on CBS-4. For more stories like this one, visit YouTube channels for Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and UHealth, University of Miami Health System.

Above content provided by Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, UHealth, University of Miami Health System, and Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.

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