Glaucoma plugs could stop the need for drops

A trial of a new method of delivering glaucoma medication by using a slow release punctum plug has started.

Glaucoma usually requires patients to permanently take drops once or twice a day to reduce pressure inside the eye. Patients often find it difficult to remember to take the drops or hard to get them int the eye and methods which overcome these issues would be very useful.

After an initial small trial in Singapore showed promise, this longer South African trial uses a punctum plug containing the popular glaucoma medication travoprost (Travatan) which is taken in drop form once a day. The plugs will be trialled over a period of 2 months with pressure being monitored regularly for any signs of change.

Punctum plugs are normally used for helping treat dry eye by blocking the tear ducts

Glaucoma genes identified

The largest study to date on the genetics of glaucoma has identified 2 genetic variations that are associated with the condition.

Over 6000 patients, half of whom had primary open angle glaucoma had their DNA analysed.  Variations were found in 2 genes which may interact with transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta), a molecule that regulates cell growth and survival throughout the body. Other genetic research into glaucoma have also pointed to a role in glaucoma for TGF-beta.

The researchers  hope that by finding the genes responsible for the condition, new genetic based preventions and treatments can be found. Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness worldwide and affects around 2% of people over 40. If you have a family history or are concerned about the condition make sure you come and see us.

High altitude could prevent glaucoma

A very interesting study using mice has found that intermittent exposure to low levels of oxygen (such as might be found at high altitude) can strengthen retinal nerve cells and prevent glaucoma.

retinaThe stress of the intermittent low-oxygen levels promoted a protective response called ‘tolerance’ which makes the nerve cells less prone to damage. Normal mice with glaucoma lost an average of 30% of nerve cells after 10 weeks with the condition, but the mice that were exposed to the oxygen stress lost only 3% of nerve cells.

This research potentially has application in other neurodegenerative conditions such as  Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Previous research we highlighted on this blog shows an increasing interest the theory of classing glaucoma as a neurodegenerative condition rather than related to decreased blood supply or mechanical pressure as traditionally thought.

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