In a breakthrough development, the visualization of individual nerve cell death in patients with Glaucoma has been achieved for the first time. All thanks to a simple yet effective diagnostic tool.
Loss of sight in patients with glaucoma is caused by the death of cells in the retina. During clinical trials, the pioneering diagnostic - developed by researchers at University College London (UCL) and the Western Eye Hospital - allowed doctors to see individual nerve cell death in the back of the eye.
Earlier detection allows doctors to start treatments before sight loss begins. Doctors are also investigating the potential to use the same test for other neuro-degenerative conditions, such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and multiple sclerosis.
Glaucoma affects 60 million people in the world, with 1 in 10 suffering total sight loss in both eyes.
"Treatment is much more successful when it is begun in the early stages of the disease, when sight loss is minimal,” says the lead researcher at UCL and continues,
“The technique developed uses a specially developed fluorescent marker, which attaches to cell proteins when injected into patients. Sick cells appear as white fluorescent spots during eye examination.”
Researchers hope that eventually it may be possible for opticians to do the tests, enabling even earlier detection of the disease.
Whilst we look forward to the future of this new research, current equipment (such as the Optical Coherence Tomography) already offers highly detailed analysis of the back of the eye.
“Detecting glaucoma early is vital as symptoms are not always obvious. Loss of sight as you age is an incredibly difficult disability, impacting quality of life and independence,” concludes Mr Lakhani.
Regular eye examinations by your specialist Optometrist are important, especially as the risk of Glaucoma increases as we get older and in those with a family history of the disease.