Glaucoma early detection test will help prevent blindness

10 March, 2008

Scientists in the United Kingdom are developing computer software that would facilitate early detection of glaucoma – dubbed the “silent blinding disease.”

Diagnosing glaucoma can be difficult, as patients are often not aware of the symptoms until considerable sight has been permanently destroyed.

Statistics says that Glaucoma affects about 67 million people worldwide but only half that number are diagnosed.

Around 500,000 people in the United Kingdom suffer from Glaucoma. Asians are more prone to develop angle-closure glaucoma. Women are three times more likely than men to develop acute angle-closure glaucoma owing to their shallower anterior chambers.

If diagnosed in time, glaucoma can be easily treated with eye drops. Glaucoma damages the optic nerve that carries visual information from the eye to the brain and is untreatable once the optic nerves are damaged.

The researchers at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, say that the test has the potential to prevent many patients going blind.

To carry out the Moorfields Motion Detection Test (MDT) to assess the field of vision, the software is downloaded to a laptop computer. A central white spot and several white lines are displayed on a grey background. Then, the patient has to focus on the central spot and to press the mouse each time a movement in the lines is perceived.

The lines move at the same speed but move different distances as the test proceeds, helping experts detect the degree of visual loss.

The researchers at Moorfields say that the test is affordable, portable, quick, and has the potential to spot glaucoma earlier than conventional tests, and with greater accuracy.

BBC online quoted Professor Vis Viswanathan, a consultant surgeon in glaucoma at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, who developed the system, as saying, "Conventional tests – which concentrate on the ability to see light – fail to pick up a patient’s ability to detect movement. However, the ability to perceive motion is one of the first things to vanish in people suffering glaucoma. A better test would be based on the ability to perceive motion and that is how this test came about. In general terms, if somebody is perceiving very small amounts of motion, they are in pretty good shape.”

From April 2008, clinics in Toronto, Rome, Africa and Singapore will be testing the software aimed at independently verifying how effective it is, BBC online reported.

In 2009, researchers hope to make available the software across the United Kingdom.




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