Most of us were warned growing up that watching too much TV could ruin our eyes, but now it turns out that how we watch TV can be used to gauge whether we have an eye disease. Yep, British researchers discovered that they could spot glaucoma, the leading cause of blindness, by monitoring where people’s eyes moved when they watched a screen.
The scientists, from City University London and funded by the charity Fight for Sight, recruited 32 elderly people with healthy vision and 44 patients who have a glaucoma diagnosis. They then screened three TV and film clips for the study participants while a tracking device recorded their eye movements. When this data was turned into maps showing which directions the participants were looking in, Professor David Crabb, Dr Nicholas Smith, Dr Haogang Zhu and their colleagues were able to tell who had glaucoma.
That’s because the disease starts with a loss of peripheral vision, meaning it’s initially hard for people to recognise that they have a problem. If simple testing like this becomes standard, it could be spotter sooner, and could potentially save hundreds of thousands of people’s eyesight.
Glaucoma affects approximately 65 million people around the world, around half a million of them in the UK. But it’s believed that many more people don’t realise they have the disease, which gradually damages the optic nerve. Once it causes blindness, it’s irreversible, but treatments are available if it’s discovered in time.
This research is still in its early stage but the City University team believes its findings could improve the chances of early diagnosis in future. Says Professor Crabb, ‘This could make a huge difference in detecting or monitoring a disease which currently results in one in ten of all blindness registrations in the UK and about a million NHS appointments a year… Once the damage is done it cannot be reversed, so early diagnosis is vital for identifying a disease which will continue to get more prevalent as our population ages.’
Image via Wonderlane’s Flickr.
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