Glaucoma, one of the primary causes of blindness, is being treated with a five-minute blast of ultrasound.
According to a study of more than 60 persons, the treatment is effective in eight out of 10 patients, and the results last at least two years.
Glaucoma develops when pressure builds up inside the eye, which affects more than a million Britons.
The aqueous humour nourishes the lens and keeps the shape of the eye in a healthy eye. However, if this fluid is produced in excess or the drainage ducts on the side of the eye get blocked, pressure in the eyeball can build up.
The optic nerve, which transports crucial messages from the eye to the brain, can be damaged, leading in gradual vision loss. The issue is typically only noticed during a routine eye exam because the process is so gradual.
Research on more than 60 people suggests that the treatment helps in eight out of ten patients, and that the effects last at least two years. A file photo is used above
Treatments include eye drops to reduce the amount of fluid made or to improve the drainage.
But the drops don’t work for all, and some patients forget to use them, according to a 2019 study in the Journal of Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics. The other option is surgery or laser treatment to open up the blocked drainage tubes or reduce the production of fluid in the eyes, although each procedure carries risks and may not be effective.
Ultrasound, by contrast, is a non-invasive treatment — it works by triggering shockwaves or vibrations that can break up tissue with pinpoint accuracy.
The ultrasound device, which resembles a tiny telescope, has a disposable cone tip with ultrasound emitters around it, connected to a generator. First the patient’s eye is numbed with anaesthetic drops, then the device, developed by Eye Tech Care in France, is positioned over the eye. It fires pulses of ultrasound on to the ciliary body, the area of the eye that pumps out the aqueous humour.
In the weeks following the treatment, the pressure reduces as less aqueous humour is produced —although enough is made to keep the eye healthy. The procedure can be repeated if necessary.
As part of a two-year study by ophthalmologists at Genoa University and other centres in Italy, 66 patients were treated with the device. The results, reported in the journal Scientific Reports, showed that overall patients had a 40.5 per cent drop in pressure.
‘Success’ in treatment terms is where the eye pressure falls below 21 mmHg, at which point no treatment is required — in 68 per cent of patients, the treatment was a success, with their need for eye drops halved.
Ten per cent of patients were classed as a complete success, with eye pressure below 21 mmHg.
Gwyn Williams, a consultant ophthalmologist at Singleton Hospital in Swansea, says: ‘Lasers have been tried and had similar effects, but they have serious side-effects. This might be a useful alternative, although the work into ensuring its safety is only just beginning.’
A diet rich in niacin, or vitamin B3, may cut the risk of developing the eye condition glaucoma.
People with the highest niacin intake — 24mg a day — had a 64 per cent lower risk of the problem, according to research by the University Hospital of North Tees and others.
The study, published in Nutrients, was based on data from 6,000 men and women aged 40 or over who reported what they ate each day — this was used to calculate their nutrient intake.
The scientists found those with glaucoma had a ‘significantly lower’ daily niacin intake (21 mg) compared with those who didn’t (24 mg). One theory is that the vitamin, found in liver and chicken breast as well as in supplements, may have a protective effect on optic nerve cells.
Gel that reactivates hair follicles to treat baldness
Scientists have developed a gel that triggers hair growth to treat baldness. In a trial at TCR Medical in the U.S., the gel, called TDM-105795, will be tested against a placebo in 30 men.
Hair growth is controlled by cells inside the hair follicles — these cells can shrink and become inactive, often as a result of age. The gel contains compounds thought to attach to proteins inside the hair follicle to reactivate them.
Results from animal studies have already shown that the treatment triggered significant hair growth within three to five days.
Extract from tree bark can disarm Covid-19 cells by binding to the receptors the virus uses to enter the body, according to the journal Virology.
Scientists from the University of Colorado in the U.S. tested the bark extract on human lung cells in a lab and are now trying to identify exactly which compounds were responsible.
Spine zapper helps banish constipation
Stimulating nerves in the lower back with pulses of electricity is an effective treatment for constipation, according to a study.
A pacemaker-sized implant, which is placed under the skin above the buttocks, zaps the sacral nerves, which are responsible for movement in the pelvis and bowel. When the device was tested on 21 adults, it led to a seven-fold improvement in frequency of bowel movements, reported the researchers in the Chinese Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery.
The device is controlled remotely by the patient, to alter the strength of the stimulation or simply to switch it off.
How to harness the power of your body clock. This week: Wear deodorant to bed
Antiperspirant may be more effective when applied the night before. A study of 60 women published in the journal The Dermatologist in 2009 found that those who put it on at night for ten days sweated less overall than those who used it in the mornings.
Antiperspirant blocks pores in the outer layer of skin, reducing the amount of sweat that can reach the surface. Putting it on at night gives it time to ‘set’ in these pores, allowing it to last for hours upon waking.
Doctors often refer older patients for a six-minute walking test to assess their fitness. The EXi app allows patients to take the test alone, rather than have to attend a clinic
Health apps that have an official stamp of approval.
This week: EXi, free on Google Play or AppStore
Doctors often refer older patients for a six-minute walking test to assess their fitness.
The EXi app allows patients to take the test alone, rather than have to attend a clinic.
It also creates a 12‑week personalised exercise plan which gradually increases in difficulty until the patient meets the NHS recommended amount — five, 30-minute sessions a week — by the end of three months.
In your genes
Sex-specific genes have been found in relation to chronic pain, according to researchers at the University of Glasgow and at other institutions
Sex-specific genes have been found in relation to chronic pain, according to researchers at the University of Glasgow and at other institutions.
Based on data from nearly 400,000 participants from the UK Biobank, the researchers identified 37 genes associated with chronic pain in the men, and 31 in the women. Only one chronic pain gene was found in both sexes.
They found that most of the identified pain-associated genes, except for one found in the women, are active in the dorsal root ganglion, a cluster of nerve cells in the spinal cord that send pain signals to the brain.