Over 60 million people worldwide are diagnosed with glaucomatous optic neuropathy, which is estimated to be responsible for 8.4 million cases of irreversible blindness globally. Glaucoma is associated with characteristic damage to the optic nerve and patterns of visual field loss which principally involves the loss of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). At present, intraocular pressure (IOP) presents the only modifiable risk factor for glaucoma, although RGC and vision loss can continue in patients despite well-controlled IOP. This, coupled with the present inability to diagnose glaucoma until relatively late in the disease process, has led to intense investigations towards the development of novel techniques for the early diagnosis of disease. This review outlines our current understanding of the potential mechanisms underlying RGC and axonal loss in glaucoma. Similarities between glaucoma and other neurodegenerative diseases of the central nervous system are drawn before an overview of recent developments in techniques for monitoring RGC health is provided, including recent progress towards the development of RGC specific contrast agents. The review concludes by discussing techniques to assess glaucomatous changes in the brain using MRI and the clinical relevance of glaucomatous-associated changes in the visual centres of the brain.
Keywords: Cell death; Glaucoma; Imaging; Neurodegeneration; Retina; Retinal ganglion cell.