According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, over 3 million Americans have glaucoma. Because this optic nerve disease often goes untreated, it causes blindness in 120,000 people. Second only to cataracts, glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the world.
There are two types of glaucoma: open angle and closed angle glaucoma. Open angle is the most common form and comprises 90% of all cases. The drainage canals of the eye gradually become blocked, causing an increase in intraocular pressure and eventually damaging the optic nerve. Typically, patients who have open angle glaucoma have their eye pressure monitored through comprehensive eye exams, but a recent new technology could make monitoring even easier.
Dr. C. Gustavo De Moraes, an associate professor of ophthalmology at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) in New York, NY, and colleagues developed a contact lens called a “smart” lens that can help predict the risk of glaucoma progression. This special lens is called the Sensimed Triggerfish.
The problem with routine eye exams is that eye pressure tends to rise at night, and an eye exam provides only a snapshot of intraocular pressure. The Sensimed Triggerfish is made of silicone and is embedded with a micro-sensor that can detect changes in lens curvature, an indicator of eye pressure. The sensor monitors eye pressure 24 hours a day and can send a signal to a patient’s doctor’s Bluetooth.
De Moraes and his team conducted a study involving 40 patients aged 40-89 who were undergoing treatment for open-angle glaucoma. Over a period of 24 months, each patient had 8 comprehensive eye exams to help determine glaucoma progression. At the conclusion of the study, 20 patients were identified as having slow disease progression and 20 patients were identified as having fast disease progression.
The patients also wore the smart lens 24 hours a day. The research team found that patients who had the highest peaks in lens curvature at nighttime and had an overall greater number of peaks in a single transfer had the fastest glaucoma progression. The team concluded that the Sensimed Triggerfish could be an extremely effective tool to assist ophthalmologists in identifying glaucoma patients who are at higher risk for glaucoma progression.
Dr. De Moraes responded to the study by saying, “What we see in these measurements is a signature that indicates which glaucoma patients will get worse and which are relatively stable which you can’t do with a one-time eye pressure measurement” (Source: Medical News Today).