The Hidden Threat of Glaucoma: Uncovering the Undiagnosed Epidemic

2023-09-09 15:00:00

THE ESSENTIAL

In a study conducted at the University of Gothenburg, almost 5% of people aged 70 suffered from glaucoma. Half of them did not know they had this eye disease. If reduced vision linked to glaucoma affects daily life, patients say they are satisfied with their quality of life.

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in developed countries, after age-related macular degeneration. This progressive, silent disease damages the optic nerve, which can lead to severe vision loss or even blindness. Unfortunately, many patients remain undiagnosed. A recent study conducted at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden found that half of people aged 70 who suffered from glaucoma were unaware of their condition.

Eye health: nearly 5% of seniors have glaucoma

To carry out this study, the researchers used the data collected as part of the study. H70, carried out for 50 years by the University of Gothenburg and which focuses on the health of older people in the Swedish city. More than 1,000 volunteers aged 70 were questioned about their eye health and the presence of glaucoma in their family. In addition, 560 participants had a consultation with an ophthalmologist. Result: 4.8% of people examined had the disease.

“Among those diagnosed with glaucoma in the study, 15 people – or 2.7% of all participants – were unaware they had the disease before being examined,” explains Lena Havstam Johansson, responsible for this work, in a communiqué published on September 7, 2023. “So half of the volunteers who had glaucoma were diagnosed because they participated in the study.”

These results concern researchers, because appropriate and early treatment can reduce damage to the optic nerve. Thus, this lack of awareness of the disorder can have consequences on vision.

Glaucoma: good quality of life despite the disease

The Swedish team also analyzed participants’ responses to the questionnaires. If activities involving vision are indeed affected by glaucoma, patients rate their overall quality of life as good as volunteers without the eye disorder. They were neither more tired nor more depressed, and had similar levels of physical activity.

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“This was a positive surprise and a discovery that I hope can bring comfort to many people who have been diagnosed with glaucoma. It is difficult to live with a disease that gradually impairs vision, but life can still be beautiful in many ways.”confides the expert.

Glaucoma: hereditary factors at play

Research has also shown that there are indeed hereditary factors that contribute to the development of glaucoma. People diagnosed with the condition were more likely to have a close relative with the same diagnosis. Furthermore, eye pressure is often associated with eye disorder. However, it is interesting to note that the majority of newly diagnosed individuals (67%) still had normal eye pressure.

“In the early stages of the disease, a healthy eye can compensate for vision loss, meaning many people think their vision is as good as before. These studies confirm that glaucoma often does not initially cause loss of visual acuity, which can make detection of the disease more difficult.”conclude the researchers including all the work were published in the journal Acta Ophtalmologica.

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