Glaucoma remains the world's leading cause of irreversible blindness, but 50% of people who have this devastating disease don't know it, said Dr Clive Midgal, president of the European Glaucoma Society. In the developing world that figure is likely to be nearer to 90%. Mr Migdal emphasised the need for ophthalmologists to communicate with their patients about the risks, including family history, age and lifestyle and to urge those at risk to communicate with siblings.
As part of the World Glaucoma Day initiative on 12 March, The Royal Society of Medicine hosted a media event together with The European Glaucoma Society to explain the impact of the disease on daily life and how research is tackling the challenge of undiagnosed glaucoma.
There are 9.25 million cases in Europe, explained Dr Migdal, and with an ageing population that number is set to increase over the next ten years. Some predictions indicate that by the year 2020, 80 million people across the world will have the disease. After the age of 55 the risk of vision loss through glaucoma increases sevenfold.
Dr Gay Verdon-Roe is a senior research fellow at Moorfields Eye Hospital and is one of the team responsible for the development of the innovative Moorfields Motion Displacement Test (MDT). She explained: Anticipated to be available in 2011 the MDT is a visual field test that takes approximately 90 seconds and can be used on a laptop computer and with a collapsible chin rest is entirely portable.
Dr Verdon-Roe demonstrated the test, which consists of a computer screen with 32 line stimuli, each scaled in size by age and eccentricity they are moved randomly through varying sizes of horizontal displacement. All the patient is required to do is concentrate on a central spot and to click a computer mouse each time a line stimulus is seen to move. The graphic output is easy to interpret.
For those ophthalmologists who would like access to this new technology when it becomes available they can register their interest at www.moorfieldsmdt.co.uk
The event, organised and funded by Pfizer Ophthalmics, one of the European Glaucoma Society’s partners in education comes just as further research about the disease is emerging from the Vanderbilt Eye Institute.