By David Saunders, Health Editor | UPDATED: 08:28, 05 June 2020
An innovative new way of detecting glaucoma, using artificial intelligence (AI), could ensure that thousands of patients save their sight.
The new technology, announced during this year’s National Glaucoma Week, has been developed by researchers at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, DeepMind Health and University College London Institute of Ophthalmology and can recommend the correct referral decision with 94% accuracy.
This could help doctors and other eye health professionals spot glaucoma earlier and prioritize patients who urgently need treatment, whilst preventing unnecessary use of medication for others.
Karen Osborn, Chief Executive of the IGA, comments “Glaucoma progresses slowly and, typically, there are no symptoms, which can lead to 40% irreversible loss of vision without the person even noticing. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world and it is predicted that 80 million people will have the disease by 2020. Early detection and timely intervention are crucial in the clinical management of glaucoma and this breakthrough technology could see us reduce the number of people whose sight is lost due to this disease.”
GLAUCOMA – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions in which the main nerve to the eye (the optic nerve) is damaged where it leaves the eye. This nerve carries information about what is being seen from the eye to the brain and as it becomes damaged vision is lost.
Glaucoma is more common in people over the age of 40.
There are often no early symptoms of glaucoma.
Glaucoma is known as the “silent thief of sight” for a good reason, as the brain fills in the missing parts of vision and it isn’t until there is significant sight loss that a person thinks to visit an optometrist who can help to detect what is happening. A significant amount of vision can be lost, and once lost it cannot be recovered
Symptoms of advanced glaucoma include missing, patchy vision and even serious loss of vision
If left untreated glaucoma can lead to serious loss of vision, with up to 40% of sight being permanently lost before the effects are noticed
GLAUCOMA – EYE TESTS
The IGA believes that everyone should have regular eye health checks, at least every two years (or every 1-2 years for over 40s). Glaucoma tests are quick, simple and convenient. A visit to your local high-street optician is all that is needed to see if you are at risk of glaucoma. There are three simple tests which include:
1. Looking at the appearance of the main nerve in the eye, called the optic nerve
2. Measuring the pressure in the eye, often referred to as the air puff test
3. Checking the field of vision. In Scotland there is a fourth test which measures the corneal thickness.