Eye drops may delay or prevent glaucoma in African Americans at higher risk

Eye drops that reduce elevated pressure inside the eye can delay or possibly prevent the onset of glaucoma in African Americans at higher risk for developing the disease, researchers have found. This makes it more important to identify African Americans at higher risk for developing glaucoma so they can receive prompt evaluation for possible medical treatment. These results are reported in the June 2004 issue of Archives of Ophthalmology.

Scientists found that daily pressure-lowering eye drops reduced the development of primary open-angle glaucoma in African Americans by almost 50 percent. Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma and one of the nation's leading causes of vision loss. Of the African American study participants who received the eye drops, 8.4 percent developed glaucoma. By comparison, 16.1 percent of the African American study participants who did not receive the eye drops developed glaucoma. The study was funded by the National Eye Institute (NEI) and the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD), two components of the Federal government's National Institutes of Health.

The results of this study, called the Ocular Hypertension Treatment Study (OHTS), are a followup to initial results released two years ago. In those findings, researchers discovered that treating people with elevated eye pressure could delay or prevent the onset of glaucoma. At that time, results for the subgroup of African Americans trended in the same direction, but were not conclusive.

Primary open-angle glaucoma affects about 2.2 million Americans age 40 and over, half of whom are not aware they have the disease. Vision loss from glaucoma occurs when the optic nerve is damaged. In most cases, elevated eye pressure, also called ocular hypertension, contributes to this damage. This causes gradual loss of peripheral (side) vision. As the disease progresses, the field of vision gradually narrows and blindness can r

Contact: Anna Harper
NIH/National Eye Institute

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