Rate of Blindness Caused by Glaucoma Greatly Improved

Glaucoma was less likely to lead to blindness when diagnosed in more recent years

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness around the world, but one new study shows how much improvement has been made, and how much more needs to be made.

This new study showed that patients diagnosed with open-angle glaucoma (OAG) between 1981 and 2009 had half the rate of blindness as patients diagnosed between 1965 and 1980.

The researchers noted that even with this improvement, the rate of OAG-caused blindness has remained far too high.

"See your optometrist for a checkup every year."

This study was led by Arthur J. Sit, MD, associate professor of ophthalmology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine.

Dr. Sit and team looked at 857 cases of OAG, the total number diagnosed in Olmstead County, Minnesota between 1965 and 2009.

These researchers found a 25.8 percent rate of blindness in at least one eye within 20 years of being diagnosed with OAG between 1965 and 1980. The study revealed a greatly improved 13.5 percent rate of blindness in at least one eye within 20 years for patients diagnosed between 1981 and 2009.

This research also showed that the rate of blindness within 10 years of being diagnosed with OAG dropped from 8.7 per 100,000 for those diagnosed in the earlier group to 5.5 per 100,000 for those who were diagnosed later.

In addition, older age at the time of diagnosis was linked to an increased risk of later blindness caused by OAG.

"These results are extremely encouraging for both those suffering from glaucoma and the doctors who care for them, and suggest that the improvements in the diagnosis and treatment have played a key role in improving outcomes," said Dr. Sit in a press statement.

"Despite this good news, the rate at which people continue to go blind due to OAG is still unacceptably high. This is likely due to late diagnosis and our incomplete understanding of glaucoma, so it is critical that research into this devastating disease continues, and all eye care providers be vigilant in looking for early signs of glaucoma during routine exams," he said.

The researchers said that glaucoma is a leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide, with an estimated 60.5 million people affected in 2010 alone.

Dr. Sit and his team believe there are several reasons from the decrease in OAG-related blindness since 1965, including improvements in detecting and managing OAG.

This study was limited by its small, community-based data size and lack of racial diversity in a population that was more than 90 percent white.

This study was first published January 21 in Ophthalmology.

The researchers made no disclosures.

This study was funded by the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, a Research to Prevent Blindness Special Scholar Award and additional grants.

Review Date: 
January 21, 2014
Last Updated:
February 12, 2014