New Australian Study For Early Detection of Glaucoma
A recent Australian study showed that the observing thickness of the blood vessels in a person’s eyes can help medical professionals predict a person’s risk of developing glaucoma.
Researchers were able to use a computer imaging tool to observe blood vessels and established a correlation between blood vessel size (study subjects with the narrowest blood vessels were four times more likely to develop the disease) and a glaucoma diagnosis within ten years after the study began.
While eye experts caution that there are other factors that can contribute to blood vessel size, this study may be able to help doctors develop additional testing procedures that facilitate early detection of glaucoma, something that is crucial in improving the outcomes of glaucoma patients.
According to PubMed Health, glaucoma is a “group of eye conditions that lead to damage to the optic nerve.” This damage can lead to permanent vision loss and, making things worse, vision loss is often a late-stage symptom of open-angle glaucoma (the most common form of the disease). This means that by the time a person notices vision loss, the disease has progressed to an advanced state making early detection of glaucoma very important. Once the condition is identified, the course of treatment will depend on the type of glaucoma he or she has. Open-angle glaucoma is often treated with special eye drops and medication, though surgery may be necessary if the drops and medications prove ineffective.
The best strategy for preventing vision loss due to glaucoma is undergoing regular eye exams. As noted above, the most common form of glaucoma is often asymptomatic in the beginning and the only way to diagnose early-stage open-angle glaucoma is through medical testing. Eye exams are often relatively inexpensive, though people who have difficulty paying for eye screenings can sometimes find help through local community health care agencies as well as local Lions Clubs chapters.
The Glaucoma Research Foundation recommends regular eye exams that include screening tests for glaucoma. Adults with high risk factors for the disease, which include hypertension and steroid use, should undergo eye exams every one to two years after they turn 35, or as directed by their physician.
While certain types of glaucoma are caused by genetic factors, eye trauma and medication, the causes of open-angle glaucoma are not so well-understood. The condition is the result of fluid build-up in the eye which causes damage to the optic nerve, but it isn’t entirely clear why some people develop the condition while others don’t. While it is possible to identify high risk groups, such as African Americans, people over 60, older Latinos and people who use high levels of inhaled steroids, this knowledge doesn’t actually prevent glaucoma. Instead, people who are aware of their risk for the condition, and their doctors, can take steps to ensure that they receive regular screenings that can lead to early treatment of the disease if it ever develops.