Imaging the eye to spot the early signs of glaucoma

Research details

  • Type of funding: Fight for Sight Small Grant Award
  • Grant Holder: Dr Julie Albon
  • Institute: Cardiff University
  • Region: Wales
  • Start date: March 2015
  • End Date: February 2016
  • Priority: Early detection
  • Eye Category: Glaucoma


Current treatments for glaucoma focus on reducing high pressure in the eye in order to prevent further sight loss. But diagnosis usually happens after a substantial number of optic nerve cells have already lost their connection to the brain. The optic nerve is the only way for visual information to get from eye to brain and sight loss from glaucoma is permanent.

The research team has previously shown that looking at a part of the eye called the lamina cribrosa could be a good sign of optic nerve damage. The lamina cribrosa gives structural support to the optic nerve. They used advanced imaging and found changes in tiny sections of the lamina cribrosa. The changes appeared more often in tissue from people with glaucoma than in healthy tissue.

This discovery could make a useful test for picking up glaucoma early on, before the brain connections are lost, because the changes can happen even without much raised eye pressure. But it’s not possible to use the previous imaging technique in living people.

So in this project the team will use a standard clinical eye imaging technique – optical coherence tomography or OCT – and develop tools for analysing the images to show up changes to the lamina cribrosa in patients with glaucoma. They aim to be able to use OCT to tell the difference between healthy eyes and early glaucoma so that treatment to lower eye pressure can start earlier.