A study in the UK could change the way in which people with glaucoma is assessed and treated, it has been claimed.
The results of the research, published in the Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science journal, could alter the way that healthcare professionals measure eye pressure and allow them to assess the risk of glaucoma with greater accuracy, the study authors claim.
Glaucoma is currently the second most common cause of irreversible loss of vision worldwide, and the new study examines the long-held belief that the clinical methods of assessing eye pressure have often being liable to inaccuracies, specifically as a consequence of the physical properties of the cornea.
However, the EPIC-Norfolk study presents the first large-scale population-based measures of corneal biomechanics, in which author Dr Paul J Foster, from the University College London Institute of Ophthalmology, looks to the future of glaucoma detection.
"Previously, a rather crude measure - central corneal thickness - was used as an index of corneal biomechanics. We used a device which generates measures of corneal biomechanics in conjunction with intraocular pressure (IOP) and attempts to "correct" IOP for corneal physical properties," he explained.
The EPIC-Norfolk cohort was made up of approximately 25,000 predominantly Caucasian men and women aged 40 to 79, recruited between 1993 and 1997.
Over a four year period, a health examination was carried out to objectively assess various physical, cognitive and ocular characteristics of participants, with the research team using a non-contact tonometer known as a Ocular Response Analyzer to obtain eye pressure and corneal biomechanical data from 4,184 study participants.
Dr Foster said the accurate measurements of IOP and interpretation of the results in terms of what is seen in the "normal" population are "cardinal pieces of information" when healthcare professionals conduct routine eye examinations.
He added: "We will be using our results to assess the validity of current glaucoma treatment guidelines, with respect to levels of risk attributed to specific levels of IOP."
by Martin Burns