Glaucoma is a chronic, degenerative disease that affects the optic nerve; it is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world. The disease causes the gradual loss of retinal ganglion cells and their axons (cells that make up the optic nerve), leading to anatomical alterations (excavation of the head of the optic nerve and loss of retinal nervous fibres). The functional consequence is a progressive restriction of the field of vision which, in the absence of treatment, can lead to the full loss of visual function.
An estimated one million people are affected by glaucoma in Italy, but about half of them are not aware of it. Indeed, glaucoma can remain asymptomatic for quite a long time; vision problems often appear suddenly, and by the time the first symptoms are noted, damage is already irreversible. Blindness caused by glaucoma can be prevented with early diagnosis and treatment. Although numerous risk factors have been identified, the root cause of the disease remains unknown. The main risk factors include an increase in ocular pressure, a family history of glaucoma, thin corneal thickness, and advanced age. The main health problems tied to glaucoma have to do with the need to efficiently identify the affected individuals, ensure that they undergo specialized exams and periodical diagnostic tests, and to develop technologies that can accurately diagnose the disease as early as possible. From a scientific point of view, the main areas of interest include understanding the mechanisms underlying the onset and progression of the disease, the search for biomarkers, the development of technologies that can ensure certain and early diagnosis, and the development of new treatment and surgical strategies.
General research objectives
- Assessment of the diagnostic accuracy and clinical usefulness of the advanced morphological diagnostic instruments for the head of the optic nerve applied in the various stages of glaucoma
- Assessment of the influence of corneal biomechanical properties on the accuracy of applanation tonometry, the progression of glaucoma, and the efficacy of common ocular hypotensive drugs under normal conditions and after refractive surger
- Study of the epidemiology of glaucoma in the city of Rome
- Study of the role of inflammatory proteins in the pathogenesis of open-angle primary glaucoma
- Assessment of traditional perimetry and new perimetral strategies in the early diagnosis and in the study of the progression of ocular pathologies
- Assessment of pharmacological and non-pharmacological strategies for the treatment of glaucoma and ocular hypertension