15.02.2012

Twin brothers each experience sight loss within a year

Twin brothers each experience sight loss within a year

By Alexa Kaczka

Twin brothers have revealed how they both lost their sight to a rare vision disease within months of each other.

Michael and Dan Smith, 20, told the Daily Mail about how they have both been left almost blind by Leber's Optic Neuropathy, which has manifested itself while they have been at university.

The condition is a hereditary condition passed on by the mother, which affects around one in every 9,000 people and leads to optic nerve damage.

Michael first began to lose his sight shortly after starting at St Bart's and the London School of Medicine, while Dan soon followed, with his vision beginning to deteriorate while he was studying aeronautical engineering at the University of Bristol.

However, they have refused to let the condition ruin their lives, with Michael currently training to take part in the Paralympics and the pair also embarking on a 350-mile bike ride in the near future to raise awareness of the condition.

Michael told the Daily Mail that when he was first diagnosed it felt like the end of his life as he knew it.

"I could not carry on at medical school and that was incredibly distressing. In fact, it was crushing. I can never describe how devastating it was to give up on medicine.
Not only that but I couldn't go for a run on my own without it being dangerous, I could not prepare food, I did not know what I was wearing," he explained.

He added that his worst fear was that Dan would develop the condition, and this occurred the following Easter, meaning both brothers had lost their sight within months of each other.

However, Dan has continued with his course and is planning to move into investment banking, while the pair have learned to cope with their conditions.

As Michael explained to the newspaper: "Everything is through touch now, I select clothes through touch and texture and cooking is through touch and smell. I thought I would never smile again, but we wanted our lives back."

by Emily Tait


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