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Research Project Aims to Enhance Treatment for Individuals with Chronic Eye Diseases

The VELUX FOUNDATIONS has recently granted 11 million Danish kroner to Professor Jakob Grauslund from the University of Southern Denmark. He will lead a national project with the aim of providing enhanced and more precise follow-up for patients with chronic eye diseases.

By Nana Olejank Hansen, , 1/12/2024

In 2022, over 700,000 individuals in Denmark consulted an ophthalmologist, and this figure continues to rise annually as the population ages. The field of ophthalmology encounters specific challenges, primarily stemming from sizable cohorts of chronic patients necessitating extended treatment protocols.

Updating and implementing new guidelines and treatment measures in this field pose challenges. This is primarily because most eye patients are managed by general ophthalmologists, while research typically originates from hospital departments.

- In a previous initiative, we demonstrated the viability of bringing together Danish ophthalmologists nationwide, including both private practices and hospital departments. This has provided us with a unique opportunity to conduct extensive national studies, potentially leading to improved individualized and evidence-based guidelines, explains Chief Consultant and Clinical Professor Jakob Grauslund from the Department of Clinical Research at the University of Southern Denmark.

The grant is awarded to the GARDEN project, set to become the largest of its kind globally.

Customized Check-ups and Follow-ups

With funding from the VELUX FOUNDATIONS, the project aims to cover three significant categories of chronic eye diseases. The objective is to delineate the scope and identify risk factors for these eye conditions, allowing researchers and doctors to revise national guidelines.

- It will involve a more customized approach, enabling low-risk patients to skip unnecessary check-ups, while high-risk patients can undergo more vigilant monitoring, says Jakob Grauslund.

This ensures that the healthiest patients can refrain from unnecessary visits to the ophthalmologist, while those with more severe conditions receive appropriate attention. Consequently, this is expected to result in shorter waiting lists for ophthalmologists nationwide.

- People with vision impairment often encounter difficulties leaving their homes and participating in activities and social interactions, resulting in social isolation. The VELUX FOUNDATION aims to highlight challenges faced by adults of all ages, strengthen their resources, and contribute to ensuring they receive necessary assistance in a timely manner. With this project, we hope to contribute to more people having the best opportunity to receive the right help at the right time, says Frank Ulmer Jørgensen, program manager at VELUX FOUNDATION.

About the Project

  • GARDEN (Glaucoma, AMD, and Diabetic Retinopathy: From Epidemiology to National Implementation) is a 5-year national registry project aimed at clarifying the scope and identifying specific risk factors among Danish patients with three chronic eye diseases.
  • The project focuses on the three major groups of chronic eye diseases: diabetic eye disease, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
  • Data is collected from six national registries, allowing for the study of diagnoses, medication usage, and treatment interventions for all Danish patients with these diseases.
  • By utilizing the national disease registries, it will be possible to track patients for up to 25 years, revealing previously unknown patterns that can predict how the diseases progress in different individuals. This study will be the largest of its kind globally.

Diabetic Eye Disease, Glaucoma, and AMD

Diabetic Eye Disease (Retinopathy)
In Denmark, 280,000 individuals have received a diagnosis of diabetes, and a national screening program has been implemented, provided to all these individuals to identify and address vision-threatening changes promptly. Individuals with diabetes are advised to undergo regular visits to an ophthalmologist. The frequency of check-ups is determined based on the severity of the disease and blood sugar levels. In stable conditions, check-ups are recommended every two years.
Source: The Danish Diabetes Association

In Denmark, more than 100,000 individuals are currently receiving treatment for glaucoma. Glaucoma manifests in both chronic and acute forms, with the prevalence of the disease rising with age. The condition leads to heightened pressure in the eye, potentially causing damage to the optic nerve.
Source: The Danish Eye Association

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
This condition arises from age-related alterations and the natural aging process affecting the retina of the eye. AMD is categorized into dry and wet forms, impacting a total of over 70,000 individuals in Denmark. Optimal outcomes for wet AMD are attainable through early treatment initiation, but numerous patients receive a diagnosis too late due to extended waiting lists for ophthalmologists throughout the country.
Source: The Danish Eye Association

Meet the researcher

Jakob Grauslund holds positions as Chief Consultant, Clinical Professor, and Research Director at the Department of Clinical Research within the Research Unit for Ophthalmology. Additionally, he is associated with the Steno Diabetes Center Odense at Odense University Hospital. He has authored 201 research articles in international journals and served as the primary supervisor for 78 master and PhD students. Furthermore, he serves as the lead author of the national guidelines for screening and treatment of diabetic eye disease.


Editing was completed: 12.01.2024