The 4th of July is almost here! Watching fireworks is synonymous with celebrating the holiday and you need to see them to fully enjoy them. Some have to fight for their eyesight and studies show Americans are equally as afraid of losing their vision as they are of a life-threatening diagnosis.
NewsChannel 6’s Ashley Osborne talked to an ophthalmology doctor at the Medical College of Georgia who specializes in Glaucoma. Dr. Kathryn Bollinger just received a $1.5 million grant to study better ways to treat the disease.
Everyone is at risk for glaucoma, there is no cure and there are no symptoms to warn you it is coming. If the disease goes untreated, it will lead to blindness. In fact, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness just behind cataracts.
“Vision is one of the most important aspects of your life… to look at beautiful sunrise or sunset… to read a book!” says Augusta University Health patient Lewis Bandy.
Bandy had no idea he had glaucoma until he was diagnosed in 2015.
“Thank goodness they detected it because I didn’t really have any symptoms.” Bandy says highlighting the importance of annual eye exams.
Bandy says he was eager to start treating his glaucoma because he knew people who were blind because they avoided the disease. He did not want that to happen to him.
He was referred to Dr. Bollinger for treatment and she started trying a list of things to protect his vision. Bandy takes medication and has gone through a surgery to help his eyes. This is a typical treatment plan for someone with glaucoma, but Dr. Bollinger is trying to change that.
“The research that we have been funded to pursue involves using medications that are directed towards protecting the optic nerve directly as opposed to lowering intraocular pressure,” Dr. Bollinger explains.
There are treatments out there to lower the increased pressure in the eyes caused by glaucoma, but plans typically include surgery. The method Dr. Bollinger is studying goes straight to the source with medication. Her evidence shows certain medicines make the neurons in the eyes protect themselves from high pressure instead of causing damage.
“Hopefully in the future, patients like Mr. Bandy will not have to go through a surgical procedure and instead it can be treated with a medication,” says Dr. Bollinger.
Bandy says this is exciting for future patients and will make the disease easier to manage.
Right now, Dr. Bollinger is in the laboratory phase of her research. The next step is clinical research where they test the new procedures on patients.