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Centers of Excellence

Glaucoma


  CENTER OF EXCELLENCE
optic nerve

Harvard Medical School Department of Ophthalmology

CO-DIRECTORS
Louis R. Pasquale, M.D.
Janey L. Wiggs, M.D., Ph.D.

Glaucoma encompasses several conditions that cause optic neuropathy, or damage to the optic nerve. Glaucoma affects an estimated 60 million people worldwide—making it the second leading cause of blindness worldwide according to the World Health Organization. Primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) is the most common form of glaucoma; it is associated with increased intraocular pressure (IOP), also known as ocular hypertension, which may in turn lead to retinal ganglion cell death and optic neuropathy. Secondary glaucoma occurs as a complication of eye surgeries, injuries, infections, or other ophthalmic conditions. Glaucoma may even occur without increased IOP in normal tension glaucoma. Many kinds of glaucoma have strong genetic and/or environmental risk factors, and any form of the disease can cause irreversible blindness if left untreated.

The most common forms of glaucoma have complex inheritance patterns that seem to involve multiple genetic and environmental factors. Research programs in glaucoma investigate risk factors for glaucoma, as well as methods for early disease detection and novel therapeutics. By identifying genes associated with glaucoma, scientists hope to develop screening tests that allow rapid risk assessment and targeted treatment. The emerging importance of environmental cues may also lead to new strategies for preventing or averting this potentially blinding disease.

Glaucoma Research Areas:

Intraocular pressure regulation
Ganglion cell biology and neuroprotection
Optic nerve imaging
Novel surgical approaches
Genetics
Epidemiology and environmental factors

Image: Detail of a fundus photograph showing the retinal vessels converging at the optic disc (bright circular area), where the retinal ganglion cell axons form the optic nerve. Photo courtesy of Mass. Eye and Ear.