0201 GMT July 20, 2019
Iran can produce radioactive plaques, currently imported, domestically at any moment it decides to do so, said a member of the board of director of the Iranian Society of Ophthalmology.
Radioactive plaques are used for treating eye tumors, added Hossein Mohammad-Rabi’, also an ophthalmologist and a professor at Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, speaking to Iran Daily.
Elaborating on brachytherapy, he said this form of therapy involves treating eye tumors using radioactive plaques prepared in nuclear institutes.
“These plaques are exposed to radioactive ray and prepared for being used in the treatment process. The plaques have limited durability. Since they have been exposed to, and thus, absorbed the radioactive ray, the plaques are required to be kept in special centers. Iran is currently an importer of such plaques. Brachytherapy is currently given by two or three centers in the country.”
Iran is capable of producing radioactive plaques as the country has developed nuclear technology domestically, he said.
“However, the process of producing the plaque has not been practically initiated yet in the country.”
If any disruption occurs in importing these plaques, he said, domestically producing them will naturally be possible for Iran, he assured.
Due to certain foreign currency-related problems, the process of importing the plaques is currently facing obstacles, Mohammad-Rabi’ noted, adding these problems are, however, not such grave to push Iran toward manufacturing them domestically.
In addition, the plaques imported earlier are not yet past their expiration date, he said.
“Using nuclear technology in this field is not prohibited. However, to produce them domestically there are certain considerations regarding the issue of economic viability. At present, domestic demand for these plaques fails to be high, which makes their production in the country uneconomical.
“Brachytherapy has been given to patients in Iran since five years ago, he said, adding the method involves making a plaque, the same size of the tumor, and placing it inside the eye. After a while, the plaque is removed. These plaques help locally treat the tumor, preventing damage to other parts of the eye.”
He said using brachytherapy, eye tumors can be completely and definitely treated.
“If the tumor has already damaged the patient’s vision, its removal will fail to improve eyesight. However, in case the individual’s vision has not been impaired yet, the supplemental therapy will help treat the tumor completely.”
Previously, the eye was enucleated to remove the tumor if its size was big, which led to a vision loss, he noted.
“This negatively impacted patients’ beauty as well. Later on, when radiotherapy and chemotherapy were given to patients to treat tumors, again, the eyesight was damaged as the eye is a small and very sensitive organ. Being exposed to rays causes damages to the cornea, lens and retina and leads to dry eye.”
Despite harming patients’ eye health, giving these two therapies was a common practice for a while as they prevented the tumor from spreading to other organs and thus eliminated death risk, Mohammad-Rabi’ said.
The ones who underwent either of the therapies, however, could lose their vision or have their eyes enucleated, he regretted.
Commenting on eye tumor symptoms, the ophthalmologist said infants may have the tumor at birth, the signs of which are the pupils looking whitish or abnormal alignment of the eyes (strabismus).
“If diagnosed and treated immediately [after birth], the individual’s eyesight will not be harmed. There are, of course, tumors which are located in certain parts of the eye whose detection requires careful examination.”