The second biggest cause of blindness after cataracts, glaucoma, occurs when fluid builds up in the eye, raising the pressure and damaging the optic nerve. Accurate pressure readings are crucial for giving the right treatment, whereas one-off measurements during check-ups produce variable results and can be misleading.
Yossi Mandel at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel, and his colleagues have developed a pressure sensor that can be inserted into the eye during surgery to provide easy monitoring from home. The technology, Mandel believes, would lead to better treatment of glaucoma, and could enable people to skip unnecessary appointments, saving time and money along the way.
Said sensor is only a few millimeters in length, and can be embedded into the synthetic lenses used to replace the natural lenses of people with cataracts. It works like a miniature barometer, containing a fluid column that rises with eye pressure. The level can be read at any time using a smartphone camera fitted with a special optical adapter, while the mobile app would analyze the image and calculate the reading.
Implanting the synthetic lens that contains the sensor would require invasive surgery, and is best fit for patients who need new lenses anyway.“Continuous monitoring is a clear unmet need in glaucoma,” says Francesca Cordeiro, a glaucoma researcher at University College London.
However, implanting the synthetic lens that contains the sensor would require invasive surgery, and is in that sense suitable only for patients who need new lenses anyway due to cataracts.
“Ultimately, only a small proportion of glaucoma patients could benefit from this sensor,” says Cordeiro. Developing a standalone sensor that could be implanted in front of the iris could solve this problem, suggests Mandel.