The disease often begins silently, with peripheral vision loss that occurs so gradually that it can go unnoticed. Over time, central vision becomes affected, which can mean substantial damage already has occurred before any aggressive therapy begins. Many patients start receiving treatment when their doctors discover they have elevated pressure in the eye. Those treatments, such as eye drops, are aimed at lowering pressure in the eye, but such therapies may not always protect ganglion cells in the retina, which are the cells destroyed in glaucoma, leading to vision loss. Dr. Apte, also a Professor of Developmental Biology, of Medicine and of Neuroscience, said that all current treatments for glaucoma are aimed at lowering pressure in the eye to reduce ganglion cell loss and not necessarily at directly preserving ganglion cells. Glaucoma specialists attempt to track the vision loss caused by ganglion cell death with visual field testing. That's when a patient pushes a button when they see a blinking light. As vision is lost, patients see fewer lights blinking in the periphery of the visual field, but such testing is not always completely reliable, according to the paper's first author, Norimitsu Ban, MD, an ophthalmologist and a postdoctoral research associate in Dr. Apte's laboratory.
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