Dr. Balwantray Chauhan
Dalhousie Medical School
Dr. Chauhan is on the forefront of global efforts to find ways of identifying glaucoma in its earliest stages. Dr. Balwantray Chauhan is on a mission to solve the mysteries of glaucoma. This disease of the optic nerve reduces a person’s field of vision over time, resulting in tunnel vision. If left untreated, glaucoma eventually leads to blindness.
Holder of a prestigious endowed chair in vision research in Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Chauhan is determined to learn why the optic nerve slowly dies in glaucoma, leading to the vision loss that makes this such a serious disease.
His approach to this challenge is multi-faceted. He leads the Canadian Glaucoma Study, the largest clinical study of glaucoma ever conducted in Canada, funded primarily by the Canadian Institute for the Blind. He also belongs to a group of top scientists in Dalhousie’s Retina and Optic Nerve Research Laboratory, where research is uncovering clues as to how the retina functions in health and disease. Both his clinical and basic science research is funded by the Canadian Institute of Health Research. “The basic science and clinical research work hand in hand,” Dr. Chauhan explains. “Working with patients raises questions we try to answer in the lab. Then we take those answers and apply them in the clinic.” In addition to laboratory studies of glaucoma mechanisms, he’s using sophisticated imaging techniques to track subtle changes in the optic nerve as glaucoma progresses. And he’s compiling data that will reveal risk factors for the disease and why some patients’ vision deteriorates faster than others. It’s all aimed at detecting the disease early enough to prevent vision loss. “In glaucoma, the optic nerve begins to die long before a person notices any change in their vision,” notes Dr. Chauhan. “That’s why it’s critical for people, especially those over 50, to get their eyes tested regularly. We want to help people maintain their eyesight all through their lives.”