The UAB Department of Ophthalmology’s Glaucoma Division has grown since its inception in 1999 from its single founding member, Christopher Girkin, M.D., M.S.P.H., F.A.C.S.,  to include seven fellowship-trained glaucoma specialists and a busy clinical fellowship. The division is focused on delivering tertiary care for patients with advanced high-risk glaucomatous damage.

In addition, the division has developed an extensive portfolio, including basic research in fundamental mechanisms of intraocular pressure (IOP) regulation and variation within novel models of this blinding disease, extensive evaluation of the morphology and biomechanical behavior of the optic nerve using human donor tissues, multi-center collaborative imaging studies examining the structure and function of the optic nerve in patients, and a novel health services research program in telemedicine for glaucoma management funded through the Centers for Disease Control.

Glaucoma is the leading clause of irreversible blindness, and due to the aging population its prevalence is expected to more than double by 2050. These statistics are even more striking in the regions served by the UAB Callahan Eye Hospital, where there is an expected 50 percent increase in surgical glaucoma needs during the next five years and an expected 100 percent increase in the next decade.

This rapid growth presents unique challenges in the management of this condition, and the UAB Glaucoma Division is focused on developing strategies to treat this disease through basic and translational research mechanisms in addition to designing new eye care-delivery models that bring these research findings into practical use in the care of patients across the region.

The department has made a significant investment into glaucoma research with the creation of the Ocular Biomechanics and Biotransport Program. Building on recruitments in ocular biomechanics, the department has received funding to develop a multidisciplinary collaboration between three schools and five departments at UAB. This research acceleration grant includes an international collaboration with Colm O’Brien at the University College Dublin. This team of biomedical engineers, molecular and cellular biologists, and scientists are using these funds to study the underpinnings of remodeling of the sclera and lamina cribrosa, which remains one of the fundamental unknowns in glaucoma pathophysiology.