Turmeric Eye Drops Could Treat Glaucoma
UK scientists have found that a derivative of the spice turmeric could be used to treat people with early signs of glaucoma.
A way of producing ‘curcumin’ as eye drops has been developed, which could help prevent sight loss in people with glaucoma.
Glaucoma is a condition where the optic nerve in the eye becomes damaged because of the pressure of fluid. It can lead to permanent sight loss if it isn’t treated early.
In the UK, about 2% of people aged over 40 have the condition. People are at higher risk of developing glaucoma is someone in their family has it.
Eye drops are usually used to treat glaucoma. These help to lower the pressure in the eye and so reduce the damage and the risk of sight loss.
Researchers from University College London (UCL) have been looking at whether an ingredient that has been used in traditional medicines for centuries could help people with glaucoma.
Curcumin is an extract from the spice turmeric. It has been known to help treat the damage caused to the eyes and brain in conditions such as glaucoma and Alzheimer’s disease. However, it has previously been difficult to administer as it doesn’t easily dissolve and absorb in the blood stream.
To be effective, up to 24 tablets a day need to be taken, which can cause side effects such as stomach upset.
Nerve cell loss reduction
Scientists at UCL have found a way of containing curcumin within a compound known as surfactant and a stabiliser. This means it can be used in an eye drop.
The eye drops have now been tested on rats, using twice-daily drops for three weeks. The nerve cell loss in the eye, which is an early stage of glaucoma, was significantly reduced. There were no signs of eye irritation or inflammation.
Professor Francesca Cordeiro, lead author of the study said: “Curcumin is an exciting compound that has shown promise at detecting and treating the neurodegeneration implicated in numerous eye and brain conditions from glaucoma to Alzheimer’s disease, so being able to administer it easily in eye drops may end up helping millions of people.”
The drops could also potentially be used to diagnose glaucoma, as well as Alzheimer’s disease as curcumin is known to bind to the protein deposits that are a sign of Alzheimer’s.
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