Elevated inner eye pressure can cause glaucoma and vision loss, but not in all patients, according to a new study in the Journal of Clinical Medicine.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a general term for a family of diseases that damage the optic nerve and can cause permanent vision loss. The most common type of glaucoma is primary open-angle glaucoma. In this type, the channels that drain the eye's fluid become gradually obstructed, causing the pressure within the eye (intraocular pressure) to rise.
In angle-closure glaucoma, fluid builds up suddenly and causes dangerous pressure spikes.
Open-angle glaucoma has few symptoms, so it is essential to detect glaucoma in the early stages to prevent irreversible eye damage. Once symptoms are present, vision loss has already occurred.
In most patients with glaucoma, elevated intraocular pressure would prove to be quite dangerous. However, according to a new study from LSU Health New Orleans Neuroscience Center of Excellence and the University of Copenhagen, a subset of glaucoma patients does not have this same sensitivity: those with ocular hypertension.
Why do patients with ocular hypertension not have the optic nerve damage that is glaucoma? After all, ocular hypertension is when intraocular pressure is higher than what is in the "normal" range.
The study found patients with ocular hypertension possess "increased antioxidant capacity and higher levels of anti-inflammatory, omega-3 derived chemical messengers involved in sustaining cell function in their plasma compared to patients with normal-tension glaucoma and age-matched controls."
Having an increased amount of omega-3 fatty acid chemical messengers seems to lower oxidative stress in the eye and prevent the optic nerve's deterioration.
This new research could provide exciting new therapies for glaucoma patients: "The study opens avenues of therapeutic exploration highlighting the significance of the omega-3 fatty acid chemical messengers' antioxidant capacity as a potential diagnostic biomarker and as a novel treatment to prevent glaucomatous neurodegeneration," notes Dr. Nicolas G. Bazan, Boyd Professor, Ernest C. and Ivette C. Villere Chair of Retinal Degeneration, and Director of the Neuroscience Center of Excellence at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine (Medical Xpress).
Facts about Glaucoma
This study's results are exciting, but the fact remains that glaucoma is a complex disease that can affect anyone. Here are some essential facts about glaucoma:
- Glaucoma is the second-leading cause of blindness in the world.
- Glaucoma affects more than three million Americans, but over half are unaware they have the disease.
- African Americans are 15 times more likely than Caucasians to have glaucoma-related vision loss.
- Risk factors for glaucoma include being over age 60, having diabetes, having a family member with glaucoma and being severely nearsighted.
Call Your Ophthalmologist
You can protect your vision by making annual appointments for a comprehensive eye exam. During your exam, your eye doctor can test your inner eye pressure and tell you whether you have ocular hypertension or are at risk for glaucoma.
Early glaucoma detection can help preserve your eyesight so you can maintain an active, independent lifestyle. Call an ophthalmologist today to schedule your annual eye exam.