New tech uncovers more insight on eye health and ageing

Exciting developments in science and technology are constantly emerging, unravelling the mysteries of ageing eyes. Late last year, Stanford Medicine researchers used a novel liquid biopsy technique to examine thousands of proteins in eye fluids and identify drivers for disease, promising a deeper understanding of eye health and ageing.

Below is a round-up of recent advancements in the fields of optometry and ophthalmology, helping us understand more about the changes our eyes undergo as we age, as well as measures older adults can take to prevent and manage age-related vision issues.

Nanotechnology applications for the treatment of AMD

Scientists from Anglia Ruskin University, led by Professor Barbara Pierscionek, have utilised nanotechnology dubbed 'electrospinning' to create a 3D scaffold for growing retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells. These cells, crucial for maintaining vision, are often affected by age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a common cause of blindness. The electrospun scaffold, when treated with a steroid protecting against inflammation, demonstrated increased resilience in the RPE cells, potentially revolutionising AMD treatment. With AMD projected to affect millions as the world's population ages, these findings mark a significant step in combatting AMD-related vision deterioration.

Precision medicine and genetic testing

Precision medicine is poised for significant advancements, transforming disease prevention and treatment by considering an individual's genetics, environment, and lifestyle. It's already being applied to inherited retinal dystrophies (IRDs), where genetic testing aids in identifying the genetic cause, enabling gene-specific management. This approach facilitates more accurate prognosis and genetic counselling and determines eligibility for gene therapy and clinical trials. The clinical use of genetic testing is expected to broaden across various ocular and syndromic conditions, predicting developmental risks based on genetics and ultimately creating optimism for innovative treatment methods in the near future.

Tips for preventing and managing age-related vision issues

Undergo a yearly eye exam

A host of age-related visual conditions can now be treated with medicine or outpatient surgery. The only caveat is that the problem must be caught and diagnosed early to limit the impact of age-related vision loss. This means getting a regular eye test, which has been made more accessible by optical retailer Vision Express. Healthy adults between the ages 55 and 64 are recommended to undergo eye exams every 1 to 3 years, while those aged 65 and over should get one done annually. Typically, a comprehensive eye exam will assess the presence of refractive errors, depth perception, optic nerve health, retina, and blood vessels via pupil dilation, glaucoma tests; ocular motility tests, keratometry or topography tests, and more.

Get checked for diseases that could cause eye problems

In the US, diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness and is the most common eye disease in people with diabetes. The early stages of diabetic retinopathy usually come with no symptoms, and vision changes may not occur until the disease progresses. As such, individuals with a family history of diabetes should undergo regular screening so that they can take the necessary steps to reduce the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. Fortunately, individuals can now get screened for diabetes at their GPs, and a recent drive in the UK saw 20,000 people become eligible for free screening.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle choices are controllable factors that are known to impact long-term eye health. For instance, studies show that smoking increases the risk of developing eye conditions like AMD, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and dry eye disease. High blood pressure can also cause retinal damage, fluid buildup under the retina, or damage to the optic nerve. To prevent these vision issues, older adults need to build healthier habits by quitting smoking, having a nutrient-rich diet that includes antioxidants, vitamins A, C, and E, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, and regularly exercising.

These breakthroughs in nanotechnology, precision medicine, and genetic testing are paving the way for tailored treatments. Ultimately, ongoing research in these fields promises even more discoveries about eye health, showing that the collaboration between technology and science holds the key to revolutionising our approach to age-related vision changes.

A chemical that can neutralise damaging substances called oxygen free radicals. Full medical glossary
The removal of a small sample of cells or tissue so that it may be examined under a microscope. The term may also refer to the tissue sample itself. Full medical glossary
A fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. Full medical glossary
The pressure of blood within the arteries. Full medical glossary
Loss of transparency of the lens of the eye. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of all living organisms. Full medical glossary
A disorder caused by insufficient or absent production of the hormone insulin by the pancreas, or because the tissues are resistant to the effects. Full medical glossary
Damage to the retina caused by diabetes Full medical glossary
Relating to tissues surrounding tubes and cavities in the body. Full medical glossary
One of the three main food constituents (with carbohydrate and protein), and the main form in which energy is stored in the body. Full medical glossary
A viral infection affecting the respiratory system. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of genetic material carried on chromosomes. Full medical glossary
Relating to the genes, the basic units of genetic material. Full medical glossary
Increased pressure within the eye (intraocular pressure), which leads to visual loss. Full medical glossary
An animal or plant that supports a parasite. Full medical glossary
The body’s response to injury. Full medical glossary
An element present in haemoglobin in the red cells. Full medical glossary
A progressive disorder affecting the area of the retina responsible for seeing fine detail. Full medical glossary
Bundle of fibres that carries information in the form of electrical impulses. Full medical glossary
Essential fatty acids that may help protect against heart disease and dementia. Full medical glossary
pulmonary embolism Full medical glossary
A craving to eat non-food substances such as earth or coal. Full medical glossary
An assessment of the likely progress of a condition. Full medical glossary
Compounds that form the structure of muscles and other tissues in the body, as well as comprising enzymes and hormones. Full medical glossary
The circular opening in the centre of the coloured part of the eye. Full medical glossary
The light sensitive membrane that lines the back, inner surface of the eye and enables sight. Full medical glossary
Relating to the retina, the innermost layer of the eye. Full medical glossary
Any disorder of the retina, the innermost layer of the eye. Full medical glossary
A way to identify people who may have a certain condition, among a group of people who may or may not seem to Full medical glossary
Relating to the sense of sight (vision). Full medical glossary
Essential substances that cannot be produced by the body and so must be acquired from the diet. Full medical glossary