THE "SNEAK THIEF"
nationwide estimate that approximately 2 million people suffer the
ravages of glaucoma, called the "sneak thief" of sight, but only
about half know they have it. This eye disease has virtually no
easily detectable symptoms. The traditional view is that glaucoma
is always caused by increasing pressure within the eye that gradually
kills the optic nerve, leading to blindness. Glaucoma is the second
leading cause of blindness nationally.
help those not benefiting from traditional glaucoma treatments,
the Glaucoma Diagnostic Laboratory at UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School
(NJMS) is helping to lead the first international clinical trial
of the drug memantine to protect the eye's optic nerve and the microscopic
fibers called ganglion cells that transmit its images to the brain.
Animal studies have shown that memantine counteracts the negative
effects of an excessive amino acid produced in the eye, which can
lead to the death of ganglion cells.
to Robert D. Fechtner, MD, associate professor, Department of Ophthalmology
and NJMS glaucoma division director, protecting the optic nerve
from the progressive deterioration of glaucoma is critical, since
many glaucoma sufferers are not helped enough by standard treatments.
100 years, the only treatment for glaucoma was to lower the intraocular
pressure through drugs or surgery. We need to get beyond this single-minded
approach to treatment," Fechtner said. "This is the first and only
drug trial specifically testing a therapy for protecting the optic
five-year study is sponsored by Allergan, Inc., of Irvine, CA. NJMS
is the only New Jersey medical institution participating in the
clinical drug trial, ongoing nationwide and in Israel, Europe and
Australia. Approximately 1,000 patients will be enrolled in the
said often glaucoma is not diagnosed until 50 percent of the optic
nerve is lost. Knowing the risk factors for glaucoma is important.
(See box.) For those with a family history, particularly African
Americans, Fechtner recommends a comprehensive exam yearly after
age 35. For others, an eye exam every two years is recommended.
drug trial may help preserve vision in those glaucoma patients not
responding to conventional approaches," Fechtner added.
information on participating in the trial, call 973-972-2030.