British researchers have just uncovered a major link between near-sightedness (aka myopia) and glaucoma. Scientists involved in this study say differences in protein collagen deposits are to blame for myopia patients' higher incidence of glaucoma.
Dr. Craig Boote, a senior optometry lecturer at Cardiff University, used a synchrotron machine to x-ray sample eyes with myopia and normal vision. Boote was especially interested in what differences he could see between the collagen proteins in these eyes.
For those who don't know, a synchrotron is a machine that can spin electrons at close to light speed. Basically, a synchrotron is a massive particle accelerator.
Synchrotrons accelerate electrons until they become beams of light that technicians direct into their working lab. Estimates suggest a synchrotron machine is 10,000 times more powerful than a benchtop instrument.
After carefully studying a few x-rays, Dr. Boote realized that people with myopia have different collagen protein structures in the back of their eyes. He said that the collagen in myopic eyes were more uneven than in people with normal vision.
Boote believes there's a direct link between these abnormal collagen formations and myopia patients' increased likelihood of developing glaucoma. In an interview with the press, Dr. Boote suggested, "It may be by studying myopia we can get a handle on both diseases."
Eye doctors have known for some time that myopia patients have a higher incidence of glaucoma. What's new about Dr. Boote's study is that it's the first to isolate the protein that's different between people with average vision and those with myopia.
Patients with mild myopia have a 2-fold higher risk of developing glaucoma than people with normal vision. Sadly, severe myopia patients have a 14-fold higher likelihood of getting glaucoma than the normal public.
Dr. Boote's research is extremely critical today because of the global "myopia epidemic." More children than ever before are being diagnosed with myopia in almost all developed countries.
While the "myopia boom" is affecting Western countries, it's hitting East Asian nations particularly hard. Well over 80 percent of children in countries like Japan, Singapore, and China wear glasses for near-sightedness.
There are many reasons why myopia is affecting more children in today's world. A few of the major contributing factors include staring at electronic screens, lack of sunlight, and diets without enough omega 3 fatty acids.
Eye doctors are reminding the public that myopia isn't just an inconvenience. Children with unaddressed myopia tend to do poorly at school, develop anxiety disorders, and, as Dr. Boote's study shows, have a higher incidence of blinding diseases.
It's important for parents to send their children for a routine eye exam. Typical warning signs of myopia include frequent headaches, difficulty reading, and complaints of eyestrain.
Myopia is extremely common around the world. Estimates show that almost one-third of the global population has some form of myopia.
Optometry Today published a video interview with Dr. Boote concerning his discoveries online. Anyone can watch this informative video by searching for "Cardiff lecturer uses particle accelerator to study diseased eyes" on YouTube.
The UK's synchrotron is located at a non-profit called Diamond Light Source in Oxfordshire. People can find out more about the experiments going on at Diamond Light Source by checking out the website.