Across Canada, glaucoma is the primary cause for irreversible blindness, but not much is known about what’s causing vision loss in cases of glaucoma. However, a new study carried out by the researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Massachusetts Eye and Ear concluded that glaucoma condition might be, in fact, an autoimmune disease.
According to the scientists, the immune system attacks the cells inside the eye triggering glaucoma, and causing vision loss, eventually.
Glaucoma is a condition characterized by a clog of the fluid that usually flows freely within the eyes. Patients typically feel the pressure inside the affected eye because of that build-up of the liquid, pressure which, ultimately, damages the nerve cells inside the retina and leads to permanent vision loss.
As far as the experts know, anyone can develop glaucoma, even though the risks boost with age. However, how that clog forms up remains a mystery.
Glaucoma might be an autoimmune disease
The discovery occurred when the team behind the new study noticed that the conventional treatment for glaucoma, which addresses the reduction of the pressure within the eyes but can slow the condition only in some patients, while in others the pressure is returning or the disease keeps evolving.
The MIT researchers thought that the pressure caused by glaucoma is triggering a reaction within the eye that keeps damaging the cells even though the treatment is successful. To examine this theory, the scientists studied the cells in the retinas of mice suffering from glaucoma.
Surprisingly, they discovered T cells which are the white blood cells that trigger the immune responses. However, the T cells should be kept away from getting in the retina by the so-called blood-retina barrier.
According to the researchers, the T cells managed somehow to bypass the barrier and trigger an immune response. The scientists concluded that glaucoma might be an autoimmune disease and an immune response could cause the vision loss.