The International Glaucoma Association (IGA) announces five new joint research projects during National Eye Health Week* (21-27 September) in a bid to improve treatments and quality of life for glaucoma patients.
A two year joint study with the UK and Eire Glaucoma Society is being conducted by Robert Harper, Optometrist Consultant of Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, to evaluate patients’ and clinicians’ experiences of virtual monitoring clinics in the UK.
The past decade has seen different measures to monitor glaucoma patients with a number of NHS Trusts using ‘Virtual Clinics’ as part of the solution, where data is collected on the day a patient visits either a hospital or a community clinic, often using electronic patient records which are then analysed by an expert clinician without the patient being there. Very little is known about patients’ experiences and perceptions of virtual clinics, or about clinicians’ opinions of them and the Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust study will investigate this through online surveys, focus groups and interviews.
Commenting on the study, Robert Harper of Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust says: ‘It is so fundamental to collate both the patient and practitioner viewpoints to inform the way in which we run our clinics and this virtual clinic research aims to address key deficiencies in information in this respect.’
A joint research study with the Royal College of Nursing is being run by Professor Heather Waterman of the University of Manchester to better understand how people living with dementia manage a sight threatening condition such as glaucoma. About one in four people who have severe visual impairment from glaucoma also have a diagnosis of dementia. It is more difficult to assess and treat glaucoma when people also live with dementia and together they compound feelings of distress and disorientation.
This study aims to support the development of clinical guidance on how glaucoma services can be improved to meet the needs of people living with dementia.
The IGA and the UK and Eire Glaucoma Society (UKEGS) is funding research by Dr Neeru Vallabh of the University of Liverpool to understand the role mitochondrial defects and mutations play in the development of the commonest form of glaucoma: primary open angle glaucoma (POAG).
A few studies have detected evidence of mitochondrial gene defects in glaucoma. New gene sequencing techniques have emerged which lend themselves to the study of mitochondrial genetics. A pilot study in 30 glaucoma patients which has just been published used this technology to detect disease causing DNA mutation in 50% of the patients. The new IGA and UKEGS study aims to build on this work and investigate the effect these mutations have on the development of glaucoma.
Dr Vallabh explains: ‘Our lack of understanding of the causes of glaucoma is a major obstacle to the development of new therapeutic approaches for this significant condition. Identifying the role of mitochondrial defects and mutations in the development of glaucoma will increase our understanding of this common, sight-threatening condition.’
The IGA and the UK and Eire Glaucoma Society (UKEGS) is funding research by Professor King of the Nottingham University Hospital to profile the quality of life of glaucoma patients at different stages of treatment. The study will look at whether patients’ personalities affect the outcome of their glaucoma treatment and will allow comparisons between alternative glaucoma approaches. This will enable clinicians to include accurate information in discussions about surgical options available and in patient information about proposed treatments.
Professor King explains: ‘Quality of Life is a measure of the patient’s health and this is affected by the medical conditions from which they suffer and the treatments they experience. In glaucoma many patients require glaucoma surgery, and, in addition to undergoing an operation, this also results in frequent hospital visits and often a very intensive eye drop regime. Understanding the way glaucoma interventions impact on a patient’s quality of life and the different impacts of the various available interventions would be helpful in counselling patients prior to surgery and informing their expectations.’
Risk of visual impairment from glaucoma is greatest in those patients detected at a late stage of the disease. Also patients living in the most deprived areas of the UK, as estimated by postcode data, are predicted to be diagnosed with twice as much vision loss compared to those from the least deprived regions. The IGA together with the College of Optometrists is funding an 18 month research project in association with Deanna Taylor and Professor David Crabb of City University London, to hold pop up glaucoma testing clinics, to identify people with raised eye pressure, one of the indicators of glaucoma, to see if public engagement or detection rate of suspect glaucoma is greater in ‘deprived’ areas, compared to more ‘prosperous’ areas.
Professor Crabb of City University London comments ‘Retail pop up booths in high streets and in shopping centres are common – we propose one for glaucoma! The idea is to move glaucoma detection to communities that we think are hard to reach. The IGA funding allows us to pilot the feasibility of glaucoma testing on the high street – literally!’
Commenting on the new research projects, CEO of the IGA Russell Young says, ’We are delighted to be announcing these pioneering research projects during National Eye Health Week, which will help improve the management and daily lives of glaucoma patients. Each research project will add a different level if understanding of the experience of glaucoma patients and will help inform development of new treatments. ’
Glaucoma is the name given to 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.
National Eye Health Week is an annual event where eye care charities, organisations and health professionals from across the UK join together to promote the importance of eye health and the need for regular sight tests for all.
**The survey was commissioned by the IGA through Red Dot Research on 14-19 May 2015 among more than 1,000 people over the age of 45 nationwide.
* available on request.
For further information or to interview an IGA spokesperson, please contact:
Annabel Hillary, 07884 430862, firstname.lastname@example.org
or Mary-Jane Greenhalgh, 07866 722051, email@example.com
or Karen Brewer on: DD: 01233 64 81 69; M: 07976 08 52 40; firstname.lastname@example.org,
For more information about glaucoma, visit: www.glaucoma-association.com