Study Reveals Glaucoma Should Be Considered A Neurological Disease
A new study published in the journal Ophthalmology, suggests that glaucoma should no longer be categorized only as an eye disease. A group of top scientists suggest that glaucoma should be viewed as a neurological disorder. Due to the fact that nerve cells in the brain degenerate, coinciding with what happens in Parkinson and Alzheimer’s disease, convinced researchers that glaucoma should be categorizes as a neurological disease. Professor Jeffrey L. Goldberg, also lead author of the study says that new treatment for glaucoma is already being administered to patients or will soon begin clinical trials.
Until now it was believed that glaucoma is caused by a high intraocular pressure. The eye condition is currently on top of the list of diseases causing irreversible blindness. Common treatment for glaucoma used to be either surgery or the prescription of medication that would help lower the intraocular pressure, which would have been previously measured using a method called tonometry. Tonometry is still used today, but it’s not the only test that patients have to take in order for the doctor to tell if it’s glaucoma or not. Other tests include gonioscopy, which examines the angle of the anterior chamber, tests that measure any changes in the shape and size of the eye and tests that assess any damage done to the optic nerve. Doctors should track the changes of intraocular pressure and see whether treatment is effective or not.
However, with all the medication or surgery that are capable of lowering the intraocular pressure, some patients still experience vision loss. Other patients develop allergic reactions to eye drops or find them disturbing. These problems are what provided the impulse needed by researchers to try to find another cause for glaucoma and develop new medication afterwards.
The study mainly focuses on the damage that the retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) suffer. These cells are essential for a patient’s ability to see and are connected through the optic nerve to the brain.
There are now new clinical trials for glaucoma medication that targets these RGCs. The new treatment is based on injecting RGC growth factors into the eye of glaucoma patients. These medications are already known to be efficient in conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. There are also a few planned clinical trials based on stem cell therapy.
“As researchers turn their attention to the mechanisms that cause retinal ganglion cells to degenerate and die, they are discovering ways to protect, enhance and even regenerate these vital cells,” said Dr. Goldberg. “Understanding how to prevent damage and improve healthy function in these neurons may ultimately lead to sight-saving treatments for glaucoma and other degenerative eye diseases.”
If these new studies and clinical trials will prove to be correct, future medication for glaucoma will also be able to restore the vision of some of the patients. Future studies on the RGCs might also prove to be effective in determining the genetic factors that make some patients more vulnerable to glaucoma than others.