Keeping an eye on the blood

Age-related glaucoma and cataracts are linked to abnormal plasma cell conditions in new study


Plasma cell disorders that are common in elderly patients are likely to be contributing to growing rates of glaucoma and cataracts, scientists warn.

A European research team has found significant connections between the two age-related conditions and plasma cell dyscrasias.

The group of conditions, which affect one in 10 people by the age of 80, involves the abnormal production of immune system plasma cells in the blood and the unnecessary and imperfect creation of large numbers of antibodies.

Paper lead author and Lund University, Sweden, researcher, Professor Kari Hemminki, told OT that an interest in plasma dyscrasias led his team to examine 11,233 records of Swedish patients with the pre-malignant form of the plasma cell diseases.

“We looked at synchronous diagnosis,” Dr Hemminki explained.

The Scientific Reports paper concluded that patients – especially in the older age brackets – with plasma cell dyscrasias were at an elevated risk of developing cataracts or glaucoma, likely because of the elevated protein levels and increased blood thickness found in the condition.

“The lens of the eye is considered exquisitely sensitive to protein aggregation,” the paper highlighted.

With its high prevalence in older patients, plasma cell disease could be the cause of a significant proportion of the cases of cataract and glaucoma seen today, Dr Hemminki said.

“Its contribution to the eye disease burden is expected to be remarkably high,” the paper emphasised.

To better understand this, Dr Hemminki’s team are planning to look at cataract and glaucoma patients, to see how many of them showed the symptoms of plasma cell dyscrasias.

Image credit: Nephron