Innovations in glaucoma treatment hit the market last year. As 2020 unfolds, even more advances in glaucoma research are showing real promise in treating the disease and restoring sight. Behind the scenes, these changes reveal a bigger shift in the scientific understanding of glaucoma as a disease process.
Battle Against Glaucoma
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness and vision impairment around the world. It targets the optic nerve, which is the part of the eye responsible for transferring visual information to the brain. If left untreated, this damage can lead to a complete loss of vision. It is estimated that the prevalence of glaucoma will increase to 112 million people by 2040. The effects of this disease are avoidable with early diagnosis, lifelong treatment, and adequate follow-up.
Since it has no symptoms in the early stages, glaucoma is also called the ‘silent thief of sight’. Usually, be the time you notice the impact of this disease, the damage is already irreversible. Unfortunately, no treatment restores sight once the optic nerve once has been compromised. The good news is that with early detection, there are many things specialists can do to help manage your condition and save your vision.
Why More People Go Blind From Glaucoma
The disease is frequently undiagnosed. There are many factors to consider in the early screening, including your family history. The most important risk factor for glaucoma is high intraocular pressure. It’s also worth looking at the optic disc carefully.
Once diagnosed, most patients will undergo treatment for glaucoma. However, in many cases, the optic neuropathy of the disease is overtreated, undertreated, or if treated at all may raise some therapeutic problems. It is a chronic disease, so follow-up appointments are crucial to manage and track progression.
In places where glaucoma is extremely prevalent, like Africa, the lack of equipment and problems with compliance and adherence to treatment options pose challenges. The high cost of care and lack of awareness among patients also play a role in worse outcomes.
Eye Checks Are Essential
Regular eye checks help your eye doctor pinpoint any problems with your vision as early as possible. Anyone who is overdue for an eye exam should make an appointment as soon as they can do so. It can save your sight.
According to the World Health Organization’s World Report on Vision, about 90 percent of vision loss and blindness develops in low and middle-income countries. However, even in a wealthy country like Australia, inequality, vast distances, and a shortage of eye care specialists in remote places prevent people from getting eye care that they need.
The Role Of Artificial Intelligence In Glaucoma Diagnosis
Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to the capability of a machine to imitate human intelligence. It automates many things in our daily lives, from tagging of faces on Facebook to driverless cars. It is projected that AI would play an essential part in the early diagnosis of glaucoma.
Glaucoma diagnosis is dependent on the skills of a trained specialist. This has made screening limited in its cost-effectiveness due to its labor-intensive nature. AI, using deep learning algorithms and automated computer vision image interpretation, offers a new way of diagnostic imaging.
Researchers around the world have been looking at learning models for the diagnosis of glaucoma using available data such as optic disc characteristics, visual fields, demonstrated excellent sensitivity, and optical coherence tomography (OCT). At the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA), a project is focused on developing screening tools that are affordable, easy to use, and can be delivered by health workers other than eye care specialists.
There’s also a trial of artificial intelligence in remote indigenous communities to detect four common blinding eye diseases, including glaucoma. The computer uses a software program that analyzes the photo of the back of the eye in just seconds. The healthcare worker can then refer the patient with recognized symptoms to a specialist. This technology could be a real game-changer for eye screening solutions around the world.
Successful Treatment With Gene Therapy
The University of Bristol conducted a research showing that glaucoma could be treated successfully with a single shot using gene therapy. This innovation could improve treatment options, effectiveness, and quality of life for many patients. A team from the Bristol Medical School: Translational Health Sciences tested a novel method that could provide additional treatment options and benefits.
Scientists target the ciliary body, which generates the fluid that keeps the normal pressure within the eye. Through the latest gene-editing tool called CRISPR, a gene named Aquaporin 1 in the ciliary body was inactivated. This approach reduced eye pressure.
While there’s still no cure for glaucoma, the research team hopes to advance towards clinical trials for this new technology in the near future. Its success could allow long-term treatment of the disease with a single eye injection, saving patients time and money, and improving their quality of life.
Diet Change May Affect Glaucoma Risk
Eating green leafy vegetables is linked to a lower risk of primary open-angle glaucoma. This study used data from 100,000 participants. The people who ate most leafy greens in their diet were 48 percent less likely to have low pressure or normal-tension glaucoma and 18 percent less likely to develop any form of open-angle glaucoma.
A diet rich in leafy greens result in lower blood pressure and better vascular health. In addition to prescription medicine, patients with glaucoma are advised to discuss nutritional and cardiovascular health.
In the past, the prospect of regenerating the optic nerve seemed impossible. However, in the 2020s, the idea that sight could be improved or even restored is proving to be a realistic premise. New glaucoma treatment innovations are entering the marketplace this decade. Hopefully, these new additions help with early disease intervention and management.
If you have not seen an eye doctor in years or are experiencing symptoms of glaucoma, now is the time to act. Call Arizona Retinal Specialists today at 623-474-3937 (EYES) for a consultation. We are the most trusted provider of medical, retinal, and surgical care for the eyes of clients in Sun City and the surrounding areas.