Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can damage the eye's optic nerve. It often results in vision loss and blindness. Glaucoma occurs when the normal fluid pressure inside the eyes slowly rises. However, recent findings now show that glaucoma can occur with normal eye pressure. Glaucoma can steal sight without warning signs or symptoms. Patients can often protect their eyes against serious vision loss by treating the disease in its early stages. According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, more than 4 million Americans have glaucoma, but only 50% know they have it. The suspected number of cases of glaucoma worldwide is 65 million.
In response to these statistics, McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine
faculty member Joel Schuman, MD, the Eye & Ear Foundation Professor and Chairman, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Pittsburgh, the Director, UPMC Eye Center, and a co-Director of the Louis J. Fox Center for Vision Restoration, and the team of researchers at the Fox Center’s Ophthalmic Imaging Research Laboratory are working to:
• improve detection and progression of glaucoma through the use of ocular imaging devices
• develop ocular imaging devices hardware and software for improved diagnostic performance
• enhance the understanding of the ocular pathophysiology, and
• train future vision scientists leaders in ocular imaging.
Dr. Schuman and his colleagues were the first to identify a molecular marker for human glaucoma, as published in Nature Medicine
in 2001. He has been continuously funded by the National Eye Institute as a principal investigator since 1995. He is also the principal investigator of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to study novel glaucoma diagnostics. He is co- investigator of NIH grants for research into novel optical diagnostics, short pulse laser surgery, and advanced imaging in glaucoma. Dr. Schuman is an inventor of optical coherence tomography (OCT), used world-wide for ocular diagnostics.
The Ophthalmic Imaging Research Laboratory specializes in the development and testing of cutting edge ophthalmic imaging devices. These devices can assist in the early detection and diagnosis of glaucoma and retinal diseases.
The ophthalmic imaging devices provide highly detailed images of ocular structures at micron scale. These devices assist also in the quantification of ocular structures. The Laboratory focuses on the use of ophthalmic imaging devices for glaucoma assessment. Micron-scale imaging leads to an earlier diagnosis and a higher sensitivity in detecting the progression of the disease. These techniques can improve the patient’s management of the disease and maintain his/her functional vision.
Recently in OSNSuperSite’s Ocular Surgery News U.S. Edition,
Dr. Schuman explained his treatment of patients with glaucoma once they are diagnosed. He tells his patients that there are different ways of treating their condition. His first option is eye drops, which have low risk but need to be used every day for the rest of their lives. The most commonly used first-line medication does not have many systemic effects, but it has side effects that are unusual and affect only the eye; these changes may reverse if they were to stop taking the drug.
Dr. Schuman’s second option is to use laser therapy. There are risks with this approach as well. Laser therapy works for about 70% of people for at least 1 year, for about 50% of people for 5 years, and for about 30% of people for 10 years. It can be repeated if necessary. Risks include inflammation and swelling of the eye, the pressure can go up instead of down, and there can be scarring in the tissue that is treated. The chance of any of those complications is low, but they can occur.
Glaucoma is mostly an asymptomatic blinding disease. An early and accurate diagnosis is essential to reduce morbidity.
Illustration: National Eye Institute.
OSNSuperSite Ocular Surgery News U.S. Edition (10/25/10)
Bio: Dr. Joel Schuman
UPMC Eye Center
Louis J. Fox Center for Vision Restoration
Ophthalmic Imaging Research Laboratory