Pancake science helps glaucoma sufferers

It was Shrove Tuesday last week and time to flip some pancakes. A gorgeous treat whether you prefer them with lemon and sugar, or smothered with Nutella and icecream. But who knew the science behind how they cook can help stop people going blind?

In glaucoma, a very common eye condition, a build-up of fluid puts pressure on the optic nerve. The best treatment is an operation. Surgeons create an escape route for the fluid by cutting through the flexible sheets of the sclera (the outer layers of the eye). The way the fluid in the eye beneath the sclera behaves is similar to how water vapour trapped underneath a cooking pancake behaves. Understanding this process better will help surgeons to refine their procedures.

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. It’s treated mostly with eyedrops which lower the pressure within the eye, but these are expensive and beyond the reach of some people within developing countries. Improving surgical techniques could revolutionise the treatment of glaucoma.

My college friend Vijay Shankar and myself had fun flipping some pancakes in his kitchen. We also made a little film about pancakes and the glaucoma. Here it is!