New advances, treatments thought to lower chance of vision loss

Good news for those with glaucoma: the chances of going blind from the eye disease have dropped by nearly half, according to a 2014 long-term study by Mayo Clinic researchers.

Doctor and patient discuss glaucoma

Researchers think better diagnostics and advances in glaucoma treatment over the last four decades helped keep vision loss at bay.

"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 Arthur J. Sit, MD, associate professor of ophthalmology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and lead researcher for the study.

About glaucoma

Glaucoma is a condition where the eye does not drain fluid properly, resulting in high pressure in the eye that can damage the optic nerve. More than 60.5 million people worldwide have glaucoma. In the United States, 2.7 million people age 40 and older have the condition. If left untreated, glaucoma reduces peripheral vision and eventually may cause blindness.

According to the study, the likelihood of losing sight in one eye was 28 percent for patients diagnosed with glaucoma between 1965 and1980. That number fell to 13.5 percent for patients diagnosed between 1981 and 2000.

The study cited developments in diagnosis, imaging techniques and treatment (including the development of laser trabeculoplasty) as possible reasons for the slowdown in blindness among patients in the study.

Early detection key to saving sight

Despite these advances, 15 percent of those diagnosed with glaucoma still went blind. Researchers emphasized the importance of getting regular eye exams to detect glaucoma in the early stages so that your ophthalmologist can prescribe vision-preserving treatment as soon as possible.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends all adults get a baseline eye exam from an ophthalmologist – a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis of eye diseases and conditions and the medical and surgical treatment of those conditions – by age 40, when early signs of disease and vision changes may start to occur.

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Written by and . Published by David Turbert on Feb. 28, 2014

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