Two-minute 'cure' for glaucoma
Published 06/07/2011 | 13:45
A two-minute 'cure' for glaucoma that uses intensely focused beams of ultrasound has been unveiled by scientists.
Most cases of glaucoma, the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness and affecting 70m people, are caused by a build-up of pressure in the eye. This can damage the optic nerve and, in time, lead to loss of vision and even blindness.
At the moment those with mild to moderate glaucoma tend to be treated with eye drops which relieve some of the pressure.
Those with more serious cases undergo surgery to unblock thin tubes which normally drain away an eye liquid called aqueous humour.
Now French scientists have come up with a technique using focused ultrasound, which enables them to heat up and kill cells in the tiny gland that produces aqueous humour and stop it secreting so much.
Prof Philippe Denis, an ophthalmologist in Lyon who has undertaken pioneering surgery with the technique, said: "We turn off the tap, and reduce the pressure in the eye".
Fabrice Romano, chief executive of EyeTechCare, which came up with the procedure, said it was safe and painless, more reliable than both traditional and laser surgery - and quicker.
"It can be done in less than two minutes," he said.
He stressed that, like all treatment, it could at best stop damage caused by glaucoma, and not reverse that already sustained by the optic nerve.
The company, which is presenting results from its first 20 patients at the World Glaucoma Congress in Paris this weekend, hopes the procedure will be available in Britain early next year.
It is likely to cost about £500 per eye, but the firm hopes it will be available on the NHS in time.
David Wright, chief executive of the International Glaucoma Association, a London-based charity, welcomed the technique.
He said: "The EyeTechCare development of high frequency ultrasound to treat glaucoma is an interesting innovation which, should wider and longer term clinical trials show the same results as those already carried out, would be a most welcome and useful addition to the current range of glaucoma management techniques."