Glaucoma education

  • The IGA welcomes new eye test which can detect earliest signs of glaucoma

    Chief executive, Karen Osborn comments on the new test developed by researchers at University College London (UCL) and the Western Eye Hospital:

    "This is an exciting trial for people with glaucoma, as early diagnosis is critical to help prevent avoidable sight loss. This latest test could help clinicians to diagnose and treat glaucoma when the loss of sight from glaucoma is at its earliest stage".

    Press release

    EMBARGO: 00.01 BST Thursday, 27th April 2017

    New eye test detects earliest signs of glaucoma

    A SIMPLE eye test could help solve the biggest global cause of irreversible blindness, glaucoma.

    In clinical trials, the pioneering diagnostic - developed by researchers at University College London (UCL) and the Western Eye Hospital - allowed doctors to see individual nerve cell death in the back of the eye.

    Glaucoma affects 60 million people in the world, with 1 in 10 suffering total sight loss in both eyes.

    Early detection means doctors can start treatments before sight loss begins. The test also has potential for early diagnosis of other degenerative neurological conditions, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis.

    Results of first clinical trials with glaucoma patients are published today (28/04/17) in the journal BRAIN.

    Professor Francesca Cordeiro at UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, who led the research, said: “Detecting glaucoma early is vital as symptoms are not always obvious. Although detection has been improving, most patients have lost a third of vision by the time they are diagnosed. Now, for the first time, we have been able to show individual cell death and detect the earliest signs of glaucoma. While we cannot cure the disease, our test means treatment can start before symptoms begin. In the future, the test could also be used to diagnose other neurodegenerative diseases.”

    Loss of sight in patients with glaucoma is caused by the death of cells in the retina at the back of the eye. This cell death is called apoptosis.

    As with other neurodegenerative conditions, more and more nerve cells are lost as the disease progresses.

    Professor Philip Bloom, Chief Investigator at Western Eye Hospital, part of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, added: “Treatment is much more successful when it is begun in early stages of the disease, when sight loss is minimal. Our developments mean we could diagnose patients 10 years earlier than was previously possible.”

    The technique developed is called DARC, which stands for detection of apoptosing retinal cells. It uses a specially developed fluorescent marker which attaches to cell proteins when injected into patients. Sick cells appear as white fluorescent spots during eye examination. UCL Business, the commercialisation company of UCL, holds the patents for the technology.

    The examination uses equipment used during routine hospital eye examinations. Researchers hope that eventually it may be possible for opticians to do the tests, enabling even earlier detection of the disease.

    The research is funded by Wellcome Trust.

    Bethan Hughes, from Wellcome’s Innovation team said: “This innovation has the potential to transform lives for those who suffer loss of sight through glaucoma, and offers hope of a breakthrough in early diagnosis of other neurodegenerative diseases. Loss of sight as you age is an incredibly difficult disability, impacting quality of life and independence.”

    Initial clinical trials were carried out on a small number of glaucoma patients and compared with tests on healthy people. The initial clinical trials established the safety of the test for patients.

    Further studies will now be carried out to into DARC and how it can be used not only to diagnose and treat glaucoma patients but also for other neurodegenerative conditions.

    ENDS

    Link to paper: The following link will go live at the time the embargo lifts: https://academic.oup.com/brain/article-lookup/doi/10.1093/brain/awx088
    For embargoed copies of the BRAIN paper and for media enquiries please contact Maggie Stratton: m.stratton@wellcome.ac.uk +44 (0)20 7611 8609/ +44 (0)787 211 2656
    For further information about DARC technology please contact Emma Alam: e.alam@uclb.com +44 (0)207 679 9000/ +44 (0)7896 058667
    About UCL Business

    UCL Business PLC (UCLB) is a leading technology transfer company that supports and commercialises research and innovations arising from UCL, one of the UK’s top research-led universities. UCLB has a successful track record and a strong reputation for identifying and protecting promising new technologies and innovations from UCL academics. UCLB has a strong track record in commercialising medical technologies and provides technology transfer services to UCL’s associated hospitals; University College London Hospitals, Moorfields Eye Hospital, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and the Royal Free London Hospital. It invests directly in development projects to maximise the potential of the research and manages the commercialisation process of technologies from laboratory to market. For further information, please visit: www.uclb.com Twitter: @UCL_Business

    About UCL (University College London)

    UCL was founded in 1826. We were the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to open up university education to those previously excluded from it, and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. We are among the world's top universities, as reflected by performance in a range of international rankings and tables. UCL currently has over 38,000 students from 150 countries and over 12,000 staff. Our annual income is more than £1 billion. www.ucl.ac.uk | Follow us on Twitter @uclnews | Watch our YouTube channel YouTube.com/UCLTV

    About Imperial Hospitals NHS Trust/Western Eye Hospital

    Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust is one of the largest hospital Trust’s in England, providing acute and specialist healthcare for a population of nearly two million people. The Trust has five hospitals – Charing Cross, Hammersmith, Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea, St Mary’s and The Western Eye – as well as community services.

    The Western Eye Hospital is a specialist eye hospital in West London with a 24/7 accident and emergency department. The hospital’s facilities also include outpatients, inpatients, day case and inpatient surgery.

    About Wellcome

    Wellcome exists to improve health for everyone by helping great ideas to thrive. We’re a global charitable foundation, both politically and financially independent. We support scientists and researchers, take on big problems, fuel imaginations and spark debate.

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  • New self-advocacy pilot launches to help prevent sight loss for eye patients

    14 March 2017

    Patients are being helped to take care of their sight under a new pilot scheme to end cancelled, delayed or missed eye clinic appointments.

    RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) is trialling a patient self-advocacy project in partnership with the Macular Society, International Glaucoma Association, and The Royal College of Ophthalmologists.

    Ask & Tell empowers patients to ask their eye doctor when their next appointment should be, and to tell reception staff so it is kept. It creates awareness with reception and administration staff in eye clinics about the importance of follow up appointments to avoid preventable sight loss. Ask & Tell also aims to encourage patients to not miss their appointments.

    During the six month pilot, patients can access a range of Ask & Tell resources and information online and in the eye clinic to support them to look after their sight.

    Around 20 patients a month in England experience sight loss as a result of hospital-initiated appointment delays, according to The Royal College of Ophthalmologists’ research ‘Surveillance of sight loss due to delay in ophthalmic treatment or review: frequency, cause and outcome’1.

    Fazilet Hadi, Director of Engagement at RNIB, said:
    “We’re delighted to be running the Ask & Tell pilot in partnership with the Macular Society, International Glaucoma Association, and The Royal College of Ophthalmologists.

    “We know it’s vital for patients to attend their eye clinic appointments and to have timely access to effective diagnosis and treatments. Delaying, cancelling or missing an appointment can lead to loss of sight, which could have been prevented.”

    Cathy Yelf, Chief Executive of the Macular Society, said:
    “Understandably, patients get very frightened when their appointments are delayed or cancelled because they know the consequences. We look forward to piloting Ask & Tell and hope it will mean more patients get access to the timely treatment they need.”

    Karen Osborn, Chief Executive of International Glaucoma Association, said:
    “We know from our helpline and from our own research that delays to hospital appointments are increasing. Callers are anxious and stressed about the impact this will have on their condition. We are delighted to be working with RNIB, the Macular Society, and The Royal College of Ophthalmologists to highlight this issue and believe this campaign will have a positive impact on patients".

    Professor Carrie MacEwen, President of The Royal College of Ophthalmologists, said:
    “The Ask & Tell initiative is a great example of providing patients with tools that encourage them to manage and understand the importance of keeping their scheduled eye appointments as advised by consultants.”

    RNIB will use feedback from the pilots to inform a roll out of Ask & Tell across England later this year.

    For more information about Ask & Tell, please visit: www.rnib.org.uk/askandtell

    Notes to editors
    The hospitals taking part in the Ask & Tell pilot are:
    • Manchester Royal Eye Hospital
    • Royal Blackburn Hospital
    • Salisbury District Hospital
    • West of England Eye Unit at Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital
    • Great Western Hospital, Swindon
    • Moorfields Eye Hospital, Old Street site, London
    • Heartlands Hospital, Birmingham

    1. BOSU Study: Authors B Foot and C MacEwen ‘Surveillance of sight loss due to delay in ophthalmic treatment or review: frequency, cause and outcome’ http://www.nature.com/eye/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/eye20171a.html

    All media enquiries to Anabel Unity Sale on 020 7874 1360 or anabelunity.sale@rnib.org.uk. Or, for urgent enquiries out-of-hours, please call 07968 482 812.

    About RNIB
    Every 15 minutes, someone in the UK begins to lose their sight. We are the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and we're here for everyone affected by sight loss – that's over 2 million people in the UK. If you, or someone you know, has a sight problem, RNIB can help. Call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or visit www.rnib.org.uk

    About the Macular Society
    The Macular Society is a leading UK charity that aims to reduce the fear and loneliness of sight loss and funds medical research to find a cure for macular diseases. We have around 340 Macular Society support groups, and a range of other services, including patient advocacy, so no one has to face macular disease alone. Our helpline is 0300 3030 111.

    About the International Glaucoma Association
    1. The International Glaucoma Association (IGA) is the charity for people with glaucoma. Its mission is to raise awareness of glaucoma, promote research related to early diagnosis and treatment, and to provide support to patients and all those who care for them. For more information, please visit: www.glaucoma-association.com
    2. Set up in 1974, it is the oldest patient based glaucoma association in the world and it is a registered charity in England and Wales, and also in Scotland.
    3. As part of its support services, the IGA operates the Sightline (telephone helpline) and provides free information on any aspect of glaucoma.
    4. For more information about glaucoma, contact the International Glaucoma Association (IGA) Sightline on 01233 64 81 70 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am–5.00pm).
    5. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland close relatives of people with glaucoma who are aged 40 plus can have a sight test and examination by an optometrist which is paid for by the NHS, and everyone aged 60 and over is entitled to free testing In Scotland, the NHS will pay for glaucoma examinations offered by optometrists, regardless of age.

    About The Royal College of Ophthalmologists
    The Royal of Ophthalmologists (RCOphth) is the professional membership organisation for eye doctors. We champion research, the science and practice of ophthalmology through training, assessment and continuing professional development. We advocate the timely diagnosis and treatment of patients to preserve sight and prevent avoidable blindness.
    www.rcophth.ac.uk

    Anabel Unity Sale
    Senior PR Officer

    RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People)
    105 Judd Street, London WC1H 9NE

    t: 020 7874 1360 Out of hours press line: 07968 482 812
    e: anabelunity.sale@rnib.org.uk

    w: www.rnib.org.uk

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    Help us to ensure that blind and partially sighted people can access vital vision rehabilitation services. For more information, go to www.rnib.org.uk/seeandplan
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  • Specsavers and IGA partnership to raise glaucoma awareness

    PRESS RELEASE
    17 February 2017

    Specsavers and the International Glaucoma Association (IGA) are joining up in a million pound health information campaign to raise awareness of glaucoma and encourage people to have regular eye examinations.

    Glaucoma – often described as the ‘silent thief of sight’ due to its gradual onset – causes damage to the optic nerve. It affects 600,000 in the UK and more than 64 million people worldwide making it the leading cause of irreversible blindness globally .

    The campaign begins by highlighting research findings that men are at greater risk of losing their sight than women because they ignore warning signs and do not seek medical attention. The research, which focused on glaucoma, was carried out by City University and showed that men are 16% more likely than women to suffer advanced vision loss on diagnosis of the condition.

    Timed to coincide with World Glaucoma Week , which runs from 12 to 18 March, the campaign will include TV and national press advertising, online activity and posters and health information in Specsavers’ 770 stores nationwide.

    Welcoming the partnership, Karen Osborn, CEO of the IGA, says: ‘Glaucoma is found in 2% of the UK’s population aged over 40 . Most of those people have a slow developing form of the condition and we estimate that half of all cases – that’s over 300,000 people – remain undiagnosed and are unaware that they are slowly losing their sight.

    ‘Research shows more men than women are expected to be in this group because they simply do not seek medical treatment as readily as women.

    ‘The health awareness campaign the IGA is working on with Specsavers will educate about the importance of regular eye examinations before significant sight is lost. Once sight is lost, it cannot be recovered..’

    The Specsavers IGA partnership follows a similar agreement between Specsavers and Royal National Institute of Blind People announced last August. The logos of all three organisations will appear at the end of the Specsavers TV ad which airs from Sunday onwards.

    Sally Harvey, Chief Executive of RNIB, says: ‘We welcome any initiative that encourages people to look after their eye health.

    ‘Regular eye tests and early detection on the high street, followed by timely intervention and management of eye health conditions, could help save your sight.’

    Doug Perkins, Co-founder of Specsavers and an optometrist for more than 50 years, is delighted by the partnerships with the IGA and RNIB.

    He says, ‘Working together with people who are so committed to eye health and do such amazing work is a real privilege. I am looking forward to a long and fruitful relationship with them.’

    Following Specsavers’ drive last year for all its optometrists to be Level 2 accredited in minor eye conditions, the focus has switched to glaucoma accreditation. By World Glaucoma Week, every Specsavers store will have at least one optometrist who has completed the WOPEC (Wales Optometry Postgraduate Education Centre) Level 1 glaucoma accreditation, reinforcing their skills in detecting glaucoma and monitoring the signs of its progression, with Level 2 set to be achieved by all optometrists by September.

    - ends -

    Image – Optometrist performs glaucoma assessment

    About the International Glaucoma Association:
    • The International Glaucoma Association (IGA) is the charity for people with glaucoma. Its mission is to raise awareness of glaucoma, promote research related to early diagnosis and treatment, and to provide support to patients and all those who care for them. For more information, please visit: www.glaucoma-association.com
    • Set up in 1974, it is the oldest patient based glaucoma association in the world and it is a registered charity in England and Wales, and also in Scotland
    • As part of its support services, the IGA operates the Sightline (telephone helpline) and provides free information on any aspect of glaucoma.
    • For more information about glaucoma, contact the International Glaucoma Association (IGA) Sightline on 01233 64 81 70 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am–5.00pm).
    • In England, Wales and Northern Ireland close relatives of people with glaucoma who are aged 40 plus can have a sight test and examination by an optometrist which is paid for by the NHS, and everyone aged 60 and over is entitled to free testing. In Scotland, the NHS will pay for glaucoma examinations offered by optometrists, regardless of age.

    Specsavers notes to editors:
    • Specsavers is a partnership of almost 2,000 locally-run businesses throughout the world -all committed to delivering high quality, affordable optical and hearing care in the communities they serve.
    • Each store is part-owned and managed by its own joint venture partners who are supported by key specialists in support offices.
    • More than 31 million customers used Specsavers in 2016 and the partnership had a turnover of more than £2bn.
    • More than one in three people who wear glasses in the UK buy them from Specsavers.
    • Specsavers is a champion of the National Health Service – of its 19.2m customers in the UK, 60% are from the NHS and the company is the largest provider of free NHS digital hearing aids.
    • Specsavers supports several UK charities and is in partnership with RNIB for a public awareness campaign to transform the nation’s eye health.

    About RNIB
    • Every 15 minutes, someone in the UK begins to lose their sight. We are RNIB (The Royal National Institute of Blind People) and we're here for everyone affected by sight loss – that's over 2 million people in the UK.

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  • IGA Response to Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) Driven to despair, “How drivers have been let down by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency”, 20 October 2016

    Comments Karen Osborn, Chief Executive International Glaucoma Association

    “The IGA welcomes the findings and recommendations in the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) report, and in particular the need for clear evidence-based standards to assess whether people with glaucoma are fit to drive.

    The IGA has been alerted to many of the issues covered in this report by our members. This has led to a positive relationship being developed with the DVLA Drivers Medical Group, resulting in improvements around administration and communication. There is now clearer information about the tests and testing conditions that drivers with glaucoma should expect when visiting the DVLA approved Specsavers store, when a person can seek a second opinion if a licence is revoked (and the process for this), as well as a named contact at the DVLA for people with glaucoma to approach about their application.

    But more scientific research and evaluation is needed to decide whether one of the standards used to assess the ability of people with glaucoma to drive safely, called the visual field test, is fit for purpose.  When a decision to revoke a licence is life-changing, the applicant must have confidence that the test being used is appropriate, robust and equitable.

    We are concerned that statistics from the DVLA show that 62 per cent of car drivers and 35 per cent of bus, lorry and coach drivers’ who contest the original revocation decision, are subsequently found safe to drive. If the Government and the DVLA were to invest in more realistic tests of visual function, this would benefit not just drivers with glaucoma but patients with, or at risk of all types of visual disability.

    If anyone feels that a driving licence revocation has been made that does not reflect their own understanding of their safety to drive, we urge them to discuss this with their own optometrist and then talk to the DVLA. Our helpline, Sightline can provide details of the process”.

    The International Glaucoma Association is the charity for people with glaucoma, providing a free helpline and patient literature. Call 01233 64 81 70 or email: info@iga.org.uk. www.glaucoma-association.com

     Click here for a copy of the report.

    -ends-

     

    Notes for editors:

    • *references available

    For further information or to interview an IGA spokesperson, please contact: Karen Brewer, Head of Communications on: 01223 64 81 69 or email k.brewer@iga.org.uk

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  • IGA and SeeAbility introduce new eye drops for glaucoma fact sheet

    The International Glaucoma Association (IGA)  and the charity SeeAbility have introduced a new easy to read fact sheet. It shows how to put eye drops for glaucoma into the eye correctly. The fact sheet contains clear photographs and descriptions of how to use the eye drop bottles and how to place a drop in the eye. It also covers what devices are available to help, and where to go for further help and advice.

    Karen Brewer, Head of Communications at IGA, said: "We hope that the fact sheet will be useful for a wide range of audiences. This includes anyone who needs eye drops for glaucoma, or people who care or work with someone who needs assistance.

    "One of the most common reasons for people defaulting from glaucoma treatment, is due to difficulty in using their eye drops. As it is the eye drops which are helping to control the pressure in the eye, this can mean that damage from glaucoma will continue, which can cause further loss of sight. There are many different aids that are available. The IGA Sightline can help advise on the correct aid for each particular drop. You can just call 01233 64 81 70. You can also visit our website shop where all the aids are available to view and purchase.

    eye drops for glaucoma After using the eye drop, close your eye gently and press softly on the inside corner of your eye for 1 minute.

    SeeAbility registered charity

    SeeAbility is a specialist national registered charity enriching the lives of people who have sight loss and other disabilities, including learning and physical disabilities, mental health difficulties, acquired brain injury and life limiting conditions.

    You can download a copy of the SeeAbility and IGA glaucoma fact sheet.

     

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  • IGA response to Royal College of Ophthalmologists increasing demand on hospital eye services

    People with glaucoma are increasingly being let down by eye clinic departments with cancelled appointments as they are being overwhelmed by an increase in the number of patients being diagnosed and living with glaucoma. The impact this can have on a person with glaucoma is significant. Glaucoma often occurs because of raised pressure in the eye, which leads to damage to the optic nerve, causing sight loss. Once sight is lost from glaucoma, it cannot be recovered. Life-long treatment, often in the form of eye drops, is needed in order to control eye pressure.

    Increasingdemand

     

    Patients will be under the care of an Ophthalmologist (Eye care Consultant) at the hospital to monitor and treat their condition. This often involves changes to eye drop medication, and can lead to laser or surgical treatment. Without appropriate and timely care, a glaucoma patient can irretrievably lose sight having a significant negative impact on their quality of life.
    Comments Russell Young, CEO IGA: “We know from our helpline, and from our own visits to hospital departments, a significant number of patients suffer from delayed or postponed appointments on a regular basis. This is unacceptable. People with glaucoma are often elderly, and feel uncomfortable about challenging the health system. We urge them to act, and to either contact the eye health department themselves or request a friend or relative to do so on their behalf. It is vital that appointments are made and kept”.
    The IGA is a member of the Clinical Council for Eye Health Commissioning Group which provides recommendations to the NHS about how services can be re-organised to ensure patients are cared for correctly and appropriately. The IGA supports the Royal College of Ophthalmologists in the need for better data collection, better monitoring of eye health services and better use of qualified staff. This includes optometrists, ophthalmic nurses, ECLO’s, orthoptists and pharmacists who can all play a vital role in supporting people who have been diagnosed and living with glaucoma.

    -ends-
    For further information about IGA and glaucoma, contact: Karen Brewer, 01233 64 81 69 or email: k.brewer@iga.org.uk

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  • Professor of Ophthalmology for Glaucoma and Allied Studies takes up position as European Glaucoma Society Vice President

    Professor David (Ted) Garway-Heath, the IGA Professor of Ophthalmology for Glaucoma and Allied Studies, has been appointed Vice President of the European Glaucoma Society (EGS) and takes up his full position in 2016. His first meeting as Vice President of the EGS takes place at the annual meeting in June 2016.

    Glaucoma research professor

    Professor Garway Health is based at University College London (UCL) and is Theme Leader for Vision Assessment and Imaging at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre based at Moorfields Eye Hospital and University City London Institute of Ophthalmology.

    In addition to his clinical work, Professor Garway-Heath's research focuses on the development and evaluation of techniques for effective diagnosis, monitoring and management of glaucoma, the identification of risk factors for glaucoma progression and decision-support systems for healthcare delivery services.

    He is the author of over 180 peer-reviewed publications. Professor Garway-Heath was bestowed the prestigious Alcon Research Institute Award for "outstanding contributors to ophthalmic research" as well as the World Glaucoma Association Research Recognition Award. He was also cited as one of the 100 most influential people in ophthalmology worldwide in 2014 in The Ophthalmologist magazine power list.

    For more information on Professor Garway-Heath's achievements.

    For more information on registration to the European Glaucoma Society 2016 annual meeting.

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  • How visual conditions affect sight: Living with glaucoma

    The International Glaucoma Association (IGA) provided advice and comment on what London looks like through the eyes of someone living with glaucoma.

    Here is the full article where you can see how glaucoma affects sight.

    Regular eye health checks are vital to detect glaucoma which often has no symptoms in the early stages.

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  • Glaucoma and relatives, help to save sight

    “Family Foresight” Raising awareness of glaucoma amongst relatives and the need for regular health checks

    This year’s National Glaucoma Awareness campaign (6-12 June 2016) focuses on the need for regular eye health checks for parents, children, brothers and sisters, if glaucoma has been diagnosed in the family. Close relatives are four times more likely to develop the condition, when compared to someone without a family history. We believe that everyone should have regular eye health checks, at least every two years and will be working with optometrists, eye clinic staff, voluntary groups and people across the country to help prevent people losing sight unnecessarily.

    It is estimated that there are 600,000 people in the UK with glaucoma, but half have not been diagnosed. Globally, it is the leading cause of irreversible blindness and the number of people with glaucoma is increasing [64 million people today, rising to 76 million by 2020].

    In the UK, glaucoma is the most common cause of preventable blindness, yet many people are unaware that the condition has no symptoms in the early stages.. But, if left untreated glaucoma can lead to serious loss of vision, with up to 40 per cent of sight being permanently lost before the effects are noticed. Once sight is lost it cannot be recovered.

    Eye health checks if you have relatives with glaucoma

     

    Close relatives in England, Wales and Northern Ireland can have a sight test and examination by an optometrist which is paid for by the NHS if they are aged over 40, and everyone is entitled to free eye tests over the age of 60. In Scotland, the NHS will pay for examinations offered by optometrists, regardless of age.

    The IGA funds pioneering research into the detection, management and treatment of glaucoma, and provides free patient information, literature and advice.

    For more information about the week, or get receive a pack of information please contact: marketing@iga.org.uk; or call: 01233 64 81 64.

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  • Tiny tube made of jelly to stop you losing your sight: Implant could help thousands who have glaucoma

    • A gelatine tube that's injected into the eye could help thousands 
    • May be more effective at draining away fluid than other procedures
    • Glaucoma, a condition that affects 600,000 people in Britain
    • Cathy Gosling, 65, from London, had it fitted in March

    It is triggered by fluid building up in the eye, and can lead to blindness if left untreated.

    This new implant - which is 6mm long and the width of a hair - helps drain away the excess liquid.

    As the 15-minute procedure doesn't involve any incisions or stitches, patients are said to recover faster, with less risk of infection than with standard surgery.

    Cathy Gosling, 65, was diagnosed with glaucoma in 2010 during a routine eye check

    Furthermore, the gelatine tube may be more effective at draining away fluid than other minimally invasive procedures. The eye naturally produces a watery fluid that fills the space between the lens and the cornea (the clear dome at the front of the eye), giving the eye its shape and providing it with nutrients. The fluid should drain away through tiny channels.

    However, these channels can stop functioning effectively, though it's not exactly clear why. As a result, fluid can't drain away and pressure builds up inside the eye.

    Over time this pressure damages the optic nerve that transmits visual images to the brain.

    Glaucoma develops slowly, so there may be no noticeable symptoms, but regular eye tests mean it can be detected and treated early to prevent lasting damage.

    Once diagnosed, patients are prescribed eye drops to reduce the pressure, for example by slowing down the production of fluid.

    But drops can stop working as the disease becomes resistant to their effect, meaning alternative treatment is necessary.

    The 'gold standard' procedure is a trabeculectomy. With the patient under anaesthetic, the surgeon cuts into the eye wall to create a new opening - or channel - allowing fluid to drain out.

    But this carries the risks associated with surgery, such as bleeding and infection, and recovery of up to three months.

    There are also treatments where doctors insert a metal tube, or stent, into the eye's existing drainage channel.

    She had the implant fitted in her left eye in March at the same time as having cataract surgery

    She had the implant fitted in her left eye in March at the same time as having cataract surgery

    This form of minimally invasive glaucoma surgery is quicker to perform and non-invasive compared to a trabeculectomy, so has a quicker recovery time (four weeks) and less risk of infection.

    The new Xen Gel stent combines the benefits of trabeculectomy with those of minimally invasive surgery.

    The implant - a small tube - is injected via hypodermic needle to sit just under the skin at the base of the cornea. This gelatine tube is similar in size to the metal tubes already used (which range in size from around 6.35mm to 8mm).

    But unlike a metal stent inserted into an existing drainage channel, this hollow tube forms a new channel for fluid to drain through.

    And because it is made of gelatine, it is better tolerated by the body and less likely to irritate the eye than metal or synthetic materials.

    Because the implant is soft it should cause minimal damage to the cornea - a research paper published in the Journal of Cataract and Refractive Surgery last year concluded that it caused little disruption to the conjunctiva, the tissue covering the front of the eye.

    'The new implant is the first time that we're able to do something as good as the gold standard, but quicker and safer and more comfortable for patients,' says Vik Sharma, a consultant ophthalmologist at the Royal Free Hospital, North-West London, and clinical director at the London Ophthalmology Centre.

    Another advantage over metal stents, he says, is that the implant creates a new channel in the eye. 'If you're putting a pipe into a channel that's already blocked then studies show this doesn't work effectively,' says Mr Sharma, who has treated more than 60 patients privately with the new implant.

    'With this new way you're not relying on the natural drainage system - you're making a new channel, but without invasive surgery.'

    I was very nervous as it was done under local anaesthetic, but it didn't hurt and I was home within two hours

    Around a third of patients who have the Xen Gel implant will not need eye drops afterwards, compared with half of those who undergo a trabeculectomy, say surgeons.

    Cathy Gosling had the implant fitted in her left eye in March at the same time as having cataract surgery.

    The 65-year-old, who works in publishing, was diagnosed with glaucoma in 2010 during a routine eye check.

    Though she did not have any symptoms and her vision wasn't affected, the check revealed her eye pressure was getting high. A reading of 12 to 22 is normal - Cathy's was 24 to 25.

    Her optician referred Cathy, from East Finchley, North London, to Mr Sharma and the condition was managed for four years with eye drops.

    However, six-monthly check-ups found the pressure was not consistently low enough, which meant that her optic nerve was becoming damaged. A trabeculectomy was not possible because Cathy was on drug-thinning drugs for an unrelated health problem, so couldn't undergo surgery because it raises the risk of bleeding. Mr Sharma suggested the Xen Gel stent.

    After the procedure (which costs £6,000 per eye), Cathy was sent home with eye drops and an eye patch, which she wore for a day. She was back to work within three days.

    'I was very nervous as it was done under local anaesthetic, but it didn't hurt and I was home within two hours of the operation,' says Cathy.

    Glaucoma s triggered by fluid building up in the eye, and can lead to blindness if left untreated (file photo)

    Glaucoma s triggered by fluid building up in the eye, and can lead to blindness if left untreated (file photo)

    'I felt discomfort in my eye for the rest of that day, but took paracetamol and by the following day the pain had subsided.

    'I couldn't see out of my left eye at first, but by the next day my vision was getting back to normal and within a couple of days I could read normally. I can't feel the stent in my eye.'

    Her eye pressure is now normal (15 to 16). Though she is still using eye drops to ensure the pressure doesn't rise again, it is only once a day compared with twice a day before.

    Keith Barton, a consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London says the new jab is quicker, more comfortable and less invasive than a trabeculectomy, but won't be the best option for all patients.

    'It's not suitable for patients with advanced glaucoma - implant-type procedures are not as effective as a trabeculectomy at lowering eye pressure,' says Mr Barton, who performs the new implant procedure privately and on NHS patients.

    'They only lower it to around 15, and patients with advanced glaucoma need much lower eye pressures because of the damage already caused to the optic nerve.

    'But for others it is the first treatment that offers an alternative to the gold standard.'

    Helen Doe, a nurse from the charity the International Glaucoma Association, welcomed the new procedure, but said it wasn't a 'cure'.

    'Stents are still relatively new, though they're less invasive than a trabeculectomy, so mean a faster recovery time. The question is, what is their longevity?

    'If you're diagnosed at 40, then you could live for another 40 years. Their effects may not last this long.

    'And not all glaucoma is triggered by increased pressure - there are patients who suffer damage to the optic nerve, but tests show their eye pressure is normal - so we need more research into what exactly are the causes behind it.

    'However, the fact it is made of gelatine rather than metal means it is more biocompatible and won't harm living tissue.'

    The International Glaucoma Association helpline is 01233 648170, glaucoma-association.com

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