Blind World

Glaucoma study stresses benefit of fast treatment.

October 31, 2002.

The Tulsa World.

Treating people with glaucoma immediately after diagnosis may delay their gradual descent into blindness, scientists are reporting.

Experts say a new study confirms the consensus among doctors that quickly lowering inside eye pressure can ease the harm from glaucoma. The disease occurs when fluid inside the eye builds up too much pressure, slowly damaging the optic nerve. It is a leading cause of blindness among Americans, especially older people. Although doctors usually treat the condition, some skeptics had argued that studies hadn't demonstrated whether treatment helped. This research "was designed to answer conclusively the question of whether treatment actually made a difference," one expert wrote this month in the journal Archives of Ophthalmology.

An international team of researchers followed 255 people who had glaucoma in at least one eye. Half the study participants received medicine that lowered eye pressure, and the other half were not treated.

After at least four years, the researchers reported in the journal, the disease had worsened in 45 percent of the patients who received treatment, compared with 62 percent of those who didn't get medicine. In addition, 49 percent of those who didn't get treatment had suffered some vision damage. Only about 30 percent of those who got treatment had lost some vision.

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