Analyzing eye movements can predict glaucoma risk
Researchers at City University of London have found a connection to how the eye responds while watching television and one of the leading eye diseases. Study leaders say they could identify diseases such as glaucoma by looking at maps of people’s eye movements while they watched a film or a show.
The study examined a group of 32 elderly people with healthy vision to 44 patients with a clinical diagnosis of glaucoma. After both groups received an eye exam along with a more detailed exam for those who had the condition, they were shown three original TV and film clips on a computer. An eye tracking device recorded their eye movements and focused primarily on the direction their eyes moved.
The paper, which was published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, details how the group was able to map out the results and show a clear distinction of the group who had degenerative eye diseases and the healthy group of their peers.
“Any research dedicated to glaucoma prevention is relevant. Most research endeavors take years to provide medically relevant data, but that does not decrease its validity,” says Dr. Dovilan Wyatt, ophthalmologist at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago. “I applaud and anticipate any methods that help us with early detection of open-angle glaucoma which disproportionately affects African Americans.”
While researchers believe the results are early, it could make a substantial difference in detecting or monitoring a disease which currently affects tens of millions of people. When it comes to significant eye damage such as blindness, it is a condition that can’t be reversed so any early identification is critical.
Glaucoma affects around 65 million people worldwide and is one of the leading causes of blindness. Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve and can result in vision loss and blindness. The vision loss happens slowly before deteriorating. However, with early detection and treatment, you can often protect your eyes against serious vision loss, according to the National Eye Institute.
“Early diagnosis and treatment can stop people from losing their sight, so we’re very pleased that this proof-of-principle eye movement study opens the door to developing a new clinical test for glaucoma,” says Dr. Dolores M Conroy, director of research at Fight for Sight, a nonprofit organization in the United States which funds medical research in vision and ophthalmology and funded this research.
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