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Glaucoma: Are You At Risk?


Glaucoma - Are You at High Risk?
OSU Researchers Developing New Tests to Determine Risk Level

Increased pressure inside of the eye is one of the risk factors for developing glaucoma, a potentially blinding condition.  Doctors use a series of intraocular pressure (IOP) measurements taken in the office to track glaucoma progression.  Unfortunately, the factors influencing fluctuations in IOP and disease progression are not well-characterized.  Determining who is at higher risk can be difficult.

A new National Institute of Health funded study, with OSU researchers Dr. Paul Weber (left), Dr. Jun Liu (right), Dr. Richard Hart, and Dr. Xueliang Pan, is looking into how ocular biomechanics are involved in risk levels for glaucoma.

“Doctors need to be able to tell which patients they need to aggressively treat,” said Dr. Liu, “and which patients you can just monitor.”

Dr. Liu and Dr. Weber hypothesize that the mechanical properties of the eye affect the progression of disease. For example, a patient with large variations in IOP and a compliant eye will soften the fluctuations better than a patient with a stiff eye.  Absorbing IOP spikes might reduce damage to the delicate optic nerve and slow glaucoma progression.

In addition, they are developing noninvasive procedures to measure these biomedical properties of the eye using ultrasound-based techniques.

Ultrasounds are typically used for imaging the structures (qualitative) of the eye, but not the functional aspects (quantitative)—showing the geometry and the size, but not whether the piece of tissue is stiffer or more compliant.  Instead of looking at the ultrasound images, Dr. Liu and Dr. Weber obtain the raw radial frequency data and utilize the software they are developing to analyze the data.

Utilizing engineering equations, measurements, and equipment, Ohio State researchers have already made significant progress measuring ocular biomedical properties.  They have already published a number of papers on their findings.  The next step will be to look at aging—how the properties of eyes change over time.

In addition, another project is being planned to utilize the quantitative ultrasound software and techniques for cornea conditions.  Researchers met with Chairman Dr. Thomas Mauger to discuss the development of a method for predicting ectasia (cornea thinning) risk, for the Lasik patients.  This is a real challenge, since it is commonly accepted that mechanical properties play a role, but currently, there is no way to measure them.

“I think it’s going to add important information to understanding which eyes are more susceptible to glaucoma damage,” said Dr. Weber, “and potentially come up with some novel new diagnostic tests and potential treatments for glaucoma and maybe cornea conditions too. “