World Glaucoma Week 2021

It’s World Glaucoma Week (7 – 13 March 2021), an initiative of the World Glaucoma Association (WGA). The aim is to raise awareness of this potentially devastating eye condition which is one of the leading causes of blindness.

Over half a million people in the UK have glaucoma. For more information about its symptoms, diagnosis and treatment please read our glaucoma factsheet.

The earlier glaucoma is diagnosed, the more sight is likely to be preserved. Moore Barlow (Moore Blatch and Barlow Robbins merged May 2020) have between them successfully represented a number of patients who lost some or even all of their sight due to delays in diagnosis of glaucoma. One example involved a £3.2 million pound settlement for a young mother.

Such was the firm’s concern about that particular client that we publically called for greater support of ophthalmology patients. It is fundamental to our work that, as well as getting the best result for each and every one of our clients, we endeavour to address the structural issues that caused the problem in the first place. The case was referred to the Health Service Investigation Branch (HSIB) which is tasked by the Government with conducting independent investigations into patient-safety concerns in NHS-funded care. A full investigation was carried out which made a number of recommendations for improvements in NHS funded ophthalmic care in the UK. You can read more about this here.

In 2017, Anne Cassidy reported on an exciting development in the fight against glaucoma. Researchers at UCL had developed a new kind of eye examination that might spot glaucoma a decade before symptoms appear. The test used a fluorescent dye injected into the blood stream that sticks to the cells in the retina that are about to die due to increased pressure. Read more here.

Since Anne’s article, further exciting work has continued to be carried out into glaucoma testing, diagnosis and treatment. You can read below about some of the developments, much of which are sponsored by charities such as:

The Pandemic has made it particularly difficult for vulnerable elderly people to access monitoring of progression of their glaucoma. Research is now going into developing ways for glaucoma patients to assess their own vision at home using digital technology.

A new test is also being investigated which may identify, 18 months earlier, which people with glaucoma are most at risk of rapid progression to blindness. The test again involves injecting a florescent dye into the blood stream.

Trials are also currently underway to assess the efficacy of laser treatment for lowering eye pressure which would reduce the need for daily eye drops which some patients find difficult. Drugs are also being investigated which reduce the risk of side effects from current treatments.

Especially exciting is research currently under way into gene therapy. This technique alters genetic information when transferred into eye cells using a harmless virus. This switches off a gene in eye cells and prevents the increase in eye pressure which damages the optic nerve in glaucoma.

Genetic risk profiling may also allow predictions to be made of an individual’s future risk of glaucoma.

Other research involves ‘scaffolding molecules’ to prevent or repair damage to retinal cells. This may be able to halt or reverse damage caused by glaucoma and even help a transplanted eye grow connections to the brain through the optic nerve.

There is not currently a screening programme for glaucoma in adults. The tests currently available may not be accurate enough to be used to screen the general population. Therefore regular testing is key. Glaucoma is usually picked up during a routine eye test, often before any symptoms appear. Everyone should have an eye test at least every two years, more frequently if you have a close relative with glaucoma.