by Matt Windsor

Ernest Murry saw glaucoma steal his mother’s vision, just as it had robbed sight from many other family members. There was a time when it seemed the same might happen to him. “When I went outside to walk, I would have to pat in front of me to keep from falling,” he says.

After several surgeries and intensive treatment from physicians in the UAB Callahan Eye Hospital Clinic, Murry’s vision loss has been arrested. “Now I’m doing wonderful,” says the 68-year-old Bessemer resident. “I have my own apartment and can do for myself.”

Advances in glaucoma therapies, including powerful eye drops and minimally invasive laser surgeries, mean few patients today would lose their vision if they were treated in time. But “many people don’t notice they are losing vision until it’s too late,” says Murry’s physician, Lindsay Rhodes, M.D., an assistant professor in the UAB Department of Ophthalmology. “Glaucoma is a disease that affects the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain,” Rhodes explains. The nerve deteriorates over decades, starting at the periphery of sight and slowly severing the eye-brain link.
There is no way to reverse this deterioration. “That’s the hardest part about glaucoma, and something we always emphasize with patients,” Rhodes says. “We can never recover what they’ve lost. The goal of treatment is to not lose more.”
Race Against Time
Despite more than a century of research, the underlying causes of the nerve damage in glaucoma are still a mystery. So is the strong racial disparity to the disease: People of African descent, such as Murry, are up to five times more likely to suffer from glaucoma than people of European descent. But a major research effort from the Department of Ophthalmology is uncovering intriguing new clues to these riddles. Using high-tech devices and innovative outreach programs, UAB teams are pioneering fresh approaches to an age-old problem of old age…….
Source: Medical Xpress