Lifestyle determinants of intra-ocular pressure and glaucoma

Research details

  • Type of funding: Project Grant
  • Grant Holder: Professor Paul Foster
  • Institute: UCL Institute of Ophthalmology
  • Region: London
  • Start date: July 2021
  • End Date: June 2024
  • Priority: Prevention
  • Eye Category: Glaucoma
Brief Lay background

Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness and is characterised by damage to the optic nerve – the nerve that connects the eyes to the brain. Around 80 million people across the globe have glaucoma, and with the ageing population, this number is projected to increase to 120 million by 2040.

What problem/knowledge gap does it help address

Glaucoma, which is actually a small group of similar sight loss conditions, has two major risk factors – elevated pressure within the eyes, and older age. 

But despite the strong links between high eye pressure and the development of the condition, the precise reasons for how glaucoma leads to damage to the optic nerve remain unclear. A combination of genetic, structural and environmental factors are all likely to play a role.

Aim of the project

To investigate the effect of a variety of lifestyle factors on eye pressure and the subsequent development of primary open angle glaucoma (POAG), which is the most common form of the condition.

Key procedures/objectives

The researchers are examining data collected from the UK Biobank Study, an ongoing study of half a million adults. Participants were recruited between 2006-2009, with more than 100,000 people undergoing a comprehensive eye examination at enrolment.  

The participants have now been followed up for more than ten years for the development of several health outcomes, including glaucoma. The team will analyse these data to examine the links between various lifestyle factors (including alcohol, smoking, exercise, body weight and dietary factors) on the development of eye pressure and POAG. 

Potential impact on people with sight loss

This could lead to effective new interventions (such as tailored lifestyle advice) that can help reduce the risk of developing high eye pressure and POAG – helping to prevent sight loss from glaucoma. The results may also shed light on the underlying causes of the condition, which could lead to new targeted treatments in the future.