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New test could help prevent glaucoma and even Alzheimer’s


A report from the Independent recently discussed a ‘pioneering test’ for glaucoma, which could discover the condition before symptoms reveal it, potentially saving the eyesight of approximately 60 million people globally.

Glaucoma is the biggest cause of permanent blindness, the most prevalent eye health condition globally. Simplified, it is caused by retinal cells dying, which reside at the back of the eye. Glaucoma cannot be cured, and vision loss from the condition cannot be regained, only kept under control, so this test is truly ground-breaking.

By diagnosing patients early, Glaucoma treatment can begin and prevention is infinitely more likely. Professor Philip Bloom, from Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust is quoted saying “developments mean we could diagnose patients 10 years earlier” than they previously could.

The test is called DARC, standing for ‘detection of apoptosing retinal cells’. It is an injection which reveals unhealthy cells as white fluorescent spots during an eye examination.

Rods and cones photoreceptors in a human” (CC BY 2.0) by National Eye Institute

Statistically, most patients have lost a third of their vision by the time the condition is diagnosed. By detecting the earliest signs and earliest cell deaths, treatment can begin early.

Of course, it isn’t a cure. However, medical steps such as this mean similar conditions that do not yet have cures could also be detected at their earliest stages. The article mentions Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis as some of the conditions which could also be spotted early using a method similar to DARC, as they are similar ‘degenerative neurological conditions’.

Professor Francesca Cordeiro, also from Imperial College London, talks about the DARC method and the science behind the new ‘retinal biomarker’ and explains how it could eventually detect neurological conditions. The video explains that between 30 and 50 percent of ganglion cells can be lost before vision is impaired, which demonstrates how useful DARC could be. If the earliest dying cells could be spotted, preventative techniques and treatments could be used between this stage until the stage where vision is damaged, massively delaying a patients experience of vision loss due to glaucoma.

Unfortunately, the test is not available yet as it has to go through further tests, and many people are living with the condition glaucoma right now, and so are past the point of prevention. There are many ways this can be managed, however, and one huge life improver for patient’s with glaucoma or any eye health issue is contact lenses.

Contact Lens 2” (CC BY 2.0) by n4i.es

Unlike glasses, no one can tell if someone is wearing contact lenses. They can take basically the same time to put on as glasses can, and they can be cheap if you find a good deal. The everclear lenses sold on Vision Direct, for example, are only £7.99 now for 30 daily lenses.

Glasses are an option too of course, but for obvious reasons, they are met with a big sigh when patients think they need to wear them. They are inconvenient to carry around, they can easily break, they are expensive and many people don’t like them simply because they don’t believe they look good, or they feel uncomfortable on their face.

DARC is a groundbreaking invention and a big step forward in the eye healthcare field, as Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness.


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