Researchers cite advances in diagnosis and therapy as likely causes for reduction; caution that a significant proportion of devastating eye disease sufferers still progress to blindness
The probability of blindness due to the serious eye disease glaucoma has decreased by nearly half since 1980, according to a study published this month in Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. The researchers speculate that advances in diagnosis and therapy are likely causes for the decrease, but caution that a significant proportion of patients still progress to blindness.
A leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide, glaucoma affects more than 2.7 million individuals aged 40 and older in the United States and 60.5 million people globally. Significant changes in diagnostic criteria, new therapies and tools as well as improvements in glaucoma management techniques have benefited individual patients; however their effect on the rates of visual impairment on a population level has remained unclear. This study, conducted by a team based at the Mayo Clinic, was the first to assess long-term changes in the risk of progression to blindness and the population incidence of glaucoma-related blindness. By identifying epidemiologic trends in glaucoma, the researchers hope to gain insight into best practices for the distribution of health and medical resources, as well as management approaches for entire populations.