SAN FRANCISCO—Eye M.D.s are intent on finding better ways to diagnose and treat glaucoma, a complex, potentially blinding disease. September’s Ophthalmology journal includes new data from the Rotterdam Study that will help doctors better predict visual field loss (VFL) in glaucoma patients. Johannes R. Vingerling, MD, PhD, Erasmus Medical Center, The Netherlands, and his colleagues followed 6,630 participants for ten years. The patients had optic nerve damage but no VFL when they joined the study. Ophthalmology is the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Worldwide, glaucoma is the most frequent cause of preventable blindness, but up to 80 percent of people who have the disease are unaware of it and so do not receive treatment that could help save their sight. Primary open angle glaucoma (POAG) is the most common form of the disease in the United States and many other countries. Visual field loss is the shrinking of the “scope” of what a person can see; it usually begins as a loss of side (peripheral) vision in people who have POAG.
If untreated, POAG causes irreversible blindness. This occurs through progressive loss of the nerve cells in the eye’s retina, which leads to abnormal changes in the optic nerve. Over time, these changes can reduce the field of vision (visual field) and also disrupt the transmission of images to the brain’s vision center.
“In this patient population, the risk of developing VFL was related to higher intraocular pressure (pressure within the eye, IOP), older age, a high level of myopia (nearsightedness), male gender, a family history of glaucoma, and a higher vertical cup-to-disk ratio (a measurement of the optic nerve head),” said Dr. Vingerling. His team’s data also provide an estimate of the long-term incidence of VFL in an older, white European population.
Higher IOP often contributes to POAG, and patients with high IOP (a condition also called ocular hypertension) are carefully monitored by their ophthalmologists.
Eye M.D.s also use the visual field test as a screening device to identify patients who might be developing glaucoma (or other eye diseases that affect the visual field) and who need comprehensive eye exams to determine their exact diagnosis.
Eds: Full text of the study is available from the Academy’s media relations department.
About the American Academy of Ophthalmology
AAO is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons—Eye M.D.s—with more than 29,000 members worldwide. Eye health care is provided by the three “O’s” – opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists. It is the ophthalmologist, or Eye M.D., who can treat it all: eye diseases and injuries, and perform eye surgery. To find an Eye M.D. in your area, visit the Academy’s Web site at www.aao.org
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