Americans lack knowledge of ocular hypertension

June 13, 2002, Napa, CA A national survey of 2,037 Americans sponsored by Santen Incorporated found that only 27% have heard of ocular hypertension, a generally symptomless condition that can be a precursor to glaucoma. Only 7% of those who were aware of ocular hypertension know that it has no symptoms. Additionally, only 29% of the group at increased risk for ocular hypertension -- those aged 40 and older are aware of the condition or the need for regular screening.

"Estimates of the number of people in the U.S. suffering from ocular hypertension range from 3 to 6 million," explained Dr. Kuldev Singh, Director of the Glaucoma Service at Stanford University School of Medicine. "Since ocular hypertension is usually not associated with symptoms, most individuals with the condition are unaware that they have a problem. That's why individuals aged 40 and older should see their eye doctors for annual exams to determine if ocular hypertension is present and whether treatment is needed to decrease the risk of developing glaucoma.

Ocular hypertension is diagnosed in individuals with an intraocular pressure (IOP) higher than the 95th percentile for their population in the absence of optic nerve and visual field changes characteristic of glaucoma. When IOP is elevated, a person is at greater risk of developing glaucoma a disease of the eye defined by optic nerve damage, leading to visual impairment. In the Santen-sponsored survey, only 41% could identify ocular hypertension among a list of factors that increase the risk of glaucoma.

Only 19% of those surveyed from the 40-plus age group know that they should be routinely screened for ocular hypertension. Additionally, 41% of those surveyed in the same group had not been tested for ocular hypertension or glaucoma in the past year. Eye care professionals can easily test for both conditions using a variety of devices that measure the level of intraocular pressure as well as optic nerve structu


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