Eye drops can delay onset of glaucoma

St. Louis, June 13, 2002 -- A study led by investigators at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has found that drops that lower eye pressure can delay the onset of glaucoma. The eye drops reduced the development of open-angle glaucoma by more than 50 percent. The study appears in the June 2002 issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology.

The fundamental question we asked was whether you can delay or prevent people from developing glaucoma, says Michael A. Kass, M.D., national chair of the 22-center study and head of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at Washington University School of Medicine. There are millions of people in the United States and in other countries who are at risk of developing glaucoma because they have high pressure in their eyes. This study provides the first good evidence that treating those people may delay, or possibly even prevent, the blinding eye disease, glaucoma.

The study, called the Ocular Hypertension Treatment Study (OHTS), examined 1,636 people between the ages of 40 and 80. All had elevated pressure in the eye ocular hypertension but did not have glaucoma. About half (817) were randomly selected to use eye drops each day. The other patients (819) were closely monitored by eye specialists for a minimum of five years. Patients who received treatment were given commercially available, pressure-lowering eye drops, either a single type of drop or a combination of more than one. The drops reduced pressure in the eye by approximately 20 percent.

I think it is very significant that reducing pressure in the eye by only 20 percent reduced risk by as much as it did, Kass says. A modest drop in pressure makes a big difference.

Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma and one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States. It is the number one cause of blindness among African Americans and affects a total of about 2.2 million Americans age 40 and ove

Contact: Jim Dryden
Washington University School of Medicine

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