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Glaucoma is an eye disease that causes an irreversible loss of vision by slowly damaging the optic nerve over time. It is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States and is particularly common in older persons. Glaucoma is commonly caused when the pressure within the eye, known as intraocular pressure (IOP), becomes elevated due to a build up of fluid within the eye. Elevated IOP damages the optic nerve over time, and in most cases is the major risk factor for glaucoma. Current glaucoma treatment is based on finding ways to reduce elevated IOP through the use of drugs, laser treatment, or surgery.
But IOP is a poor gauge for the diagnosis and monitoring of the disease, since IOP alone cannot consistently identify the level of disease progression. Whereas one person with elevated IOP may not experience any vision loss at all, another person with normal IOP may lose vision because their optic nerve is more vulnerable to damage. Thus, the diagnosis and management of glaucoma remains a difficult art.
Most forms of glaucoma are chronic, with the loss of vision slowly occurring over many years. Loss of eyesight first begins to occur in the peripheral visual field, where changes can often be very difficult to notice. The early detection and tracking of glaucoma can lead to better treatment and to prevention of the eventual complete loss of vision. The AIG study aims to develop and test advanced digital imaging technology that can to help to determine which subjects either have glaucoma, or which glaucomatous eyes are likely to develop further loss of vision.
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