I can help keep glaucoma at bay, according to the Ocular Hypertension Treatment Study, cospon-sored by the National Eye Institute. Researchers found that eyedrops reduced open-eye glaucoma, the most common form of glaucoma, by more than 50%.
Of 1,636 patients between 40 and 80 years old who had elevated eye pressure but no glaucoma, half were given commercially available eyedrops daily (either singly or in combination) and the other half received no medication. The eyedrops reduced eye pressure by approximately 20%—a relatively modest reduction with an apparently protective effect. Of patients who received eyedrops, 4.4% developed glaucoma within five years, compared with 9.5% of those who did not receive the eyedrops. The researchers also found several significant risk factors associated with glaucoma: older age, African descent, higher eye pressure, certain characteristics in the anatomy of the optic nerve, and thinness of the cornea.
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Despite the benefits, the researchers say, eye care professionals should not prescribe eye-drops for all people who have elevated eye pressure but no sign of glaucoma. In fact, 90% of participants in the observation group did not develop glaucoma within five years. The research team advises factoring in individual risk, health status, and life expectancy, as well as the cost, inconvenience, and possible side effects of daily treatment. Their study took into account the fact that African Americans are three to four times more likely to develop glaucoma than Caucasians, so 25% of the study participants were African American.
In the study, patients given eyedrops did not show increased evidence of health problems compared with the observation group.
The study was published in the July 2002 issue of Archives of Ophthamology.