Slower Eye Movements in Glaucoma Patients

Glaucoma can affect vision and eye movement speed

Glaucoma can affect vision and eye movement speed

A recent study in Eye and Brain, Nov 2012, found evidence that patients with glaucoma had a delayed reaction time with their eye movements.  Glaucoma is a disease where the nerve cells that send vision information from the eye to the brain progressively stop working, starting with peripheral vision and then moving towards the center.  It is the leading cause of non-reversible blindness worldwide.  Fortunately, there are many treatments to stop or slow this loss.

In the study done by Kanjee, R., et al., they compared the eye movements of 16 patients with glaucoma to 21 patients without glaucoma.  The investigators flashed a light just off to the side of where the patients were looking and measured how long it took for them to move their eyes to the target.

Patients with glaucoma had a delayed reaction time to start their eye movements.    This difference was seen even in patients with mild levels of glaucoma.  Previous studies had shown that individuals with glaucoma have some differences in the way they use their eyes when crossing the street or studying driving simulation videos.  In addition, it is known that those with glaucoma have a greater risk of falling.  The slower reaction time for quick eye movements seen in this study may help explain some of these difficulties.

The bottom line is that this study underscores the importance of routine exams.   Glaucoma usually doesn’t have any symptoms.  This mean you can’t tell if you have it or not.  The only way to find out is to see your eye doctor.  A number of important advances are now available to help us detect the problem earlier and to make it easier to treat.

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