Results of a new international survey reveal that eye exams are being ignored by many aged over 40. Only two fifths of respondents had visited an eye specialist in the last year to have their eyes checked, even though twice as many people feared going blind compared to heart disease or early death. The survey showed that awareness of glaucoma was extremely low. A total of 40 percent of people surveyed were unaware that glaucoma is linked to blindness, even though it is the second leading cause of blindness. World wide, approximately 6.7 million people are blind from glaucoma, with almost 70 million affected by the disease.
The survey was launched today as part of the All Eyes on Glaucoma”! campaign, a global initiative sponsored by Pfizer Ophthalmics and supported by the World Glaucoma Association (WGA) and the World Glaucoma Patient Association (WGPA) to educate people over age 40 on how to preserve their vision and recognize their risk of developing glaucoma. There are a number of types of glaucoma, the majority of which have high eye pressure and cause vision loss. They cause irreversible damage to the optic nerve and the eye damage develops over many years. Lowering eye pressure can prevent or slow the progression of glaucoma. Treatments are available to decrease eye pressure.
By 2020, the number of people with glaucoma is expected to rise to 80 million due to the rapidly growing aging population. The earlier glaucoma is detected, the greater the potential of limiting the economic impact of the disease by using appropriate treatment.
“Glaucoma is not just a disease of the elderly. Now is the time to change the public mindset about glaucoma,” said Scott Christensen, President of the World Glaucoma Patient Association and President and Chief Executive Officer of The Glaucoma Foundation. “People over the age of 40 need to make eye health a priority by having a complete eye examination every two years to ensure detection of glaucoma before any vision loss is experienced.”
Less than half surveyed have undergone an eye pressure check. This proportion did not increase in the older age groups, even though the risk of glaucoma increases with age. This was in contrast to blood pressure, where more respondents discussed blood pressure with their physician in the older age groups.
“Accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment of glaucoma can prevent damage to the optic nerve and preserve healthy vision, which is why check-ups are so important,” said Professor Roger Hitchings, Professor of Ophthalmology, University College London and Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon, Moorfields Eye Hospital. “Everyone should proactively assess their risk of glaucoma with an eye specialist. A complete eye exam for glaucoma will include an eye pressure check, an optic nerve assessment and visual field examination.”
All Eyes on Glaucoma Resources
One of the key components of the All Eyes on Glaucoma initiative is a new, informative website, AllEyesOnGlaucoma, where people can learn the proper steps to protect their vision, including the completion of an “Am I At Risk?” questionnaire and download tools including the “Conversation Starter” which can be taken to their eye specialist. Visitors will also be directed to local glaucoma organizations in their area for questions and support services.
About the International Survey
A multi-country survey of individuals aged 40 and above was conducted by the GfK Group. The survey included 4,352 people (2,020 males and 2,332 females) in seven countries including Australia, Brazil, Germany, Japan, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases. The two most common forms are:
Open-angle glaucoma – when the pressure in the eye increases over time due to poor drainage of the aqueous humour.
Angle-closure glaucoma – when the iris is too close to the drainage canal (trabecular meshwork).
Anyone can develop glaucoma, but the risk becomes greater as you age. People who are more likely to develop it:
– Have high eye pressure
– Are markedly nearsighted5
– Have a family history of glaucoma5
– Are of African descent (open-angle glaucoma)5
– Are of Asian descent (angle-closure glaucoma)1
– Have high blood pressure
The only modifiable glaucoma risk factor is high eye pressure, also known as intraocular pressure (IOP). This is the leading cause of glaucoma, although it is possible to develop the condition without it. Due to the build-up of natural fluid produced by the eye, high eye pressure causes permanent damage to the optic nerve, the “cable” used by the eye to communicate to the brain. High eye pressure may exist without noticeable symptoms so many people do not know they have it if their vision is not checked regularly. In fact, people may not notice vision loss until 40 percent or more of their optic nerve has been damaged.8 IOP is an easily identifiable risk factor, however people who fall within the normal IOP range may still be at risk for glaucoma.
About the World Glaucoma Association and the World Glaucoma Patient Association
Both the WGA and WGPA exist to better the lives of glaucoma patients around the world. The WGA attempts to optimize the quality of glaucoma science and care through communication and cooperation among national and regional Glaucoma Societies, with companies involved with glaucoma, glaucoma patient organizations and many others in the glaucoma community, and by the enhancement of glaucoma management by ophthalmologists around the world. The WGPA works globally to encourage the establishment of and cooperation among national Glaucoma Patient Associations worldwide. The group serves as an umbrella organization to provide useful information to individuals, health care providers and support groups that are devoting their efforts to the fight against glaucoma.
About Pfizer Ophthalmics
Pfizer Ophthalmics, a division of Pfizer Inc, is committed to preserving sight and eliminating preventable blindness. Pfizer Ophthalmics discovers, develops and provides leading treatments in ophthalmology to support patients who are at risk of blindness or suffering from vision impairment, and to serve the health care professionals who treat them.
1. World Health Organization. Bulletin of the World Health Organization. In Focus, Nov. 1 2004
2. Congdon NG, Friedman DS, Lietman T. Important Causes of Visual Impairment in the World Today. JAMA. 2003; 290: 2057-2060.
3. Quigley HA, Broman AT. The number of people with glaucoma worldwide in 2010 and 2020. Br J Ophthalmol 2006; 90: 262-267
4. Lee PP, Walt JG, Doyle JJ et al. A multicenter, retrospective pilot study of resource use and costs associated with severity of disease in glaucoma. Arch Ophthalmol 2006; 124(1): 12-19
5. The Glaucoma Foundation. Who’s At Risk? Available at: glaucomafoundation/Risk.htm. Accessed on August 24, 2007.
6. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Guarding Against Glaucoma. Available here. Accessed on August 24, 2007.
7. The Glaucoma Foundation. About Glaucoma. Available here. Accessed on August 24, 2007.
8. Distelhorts JS, Hughes GM. Open angle glaucoma. American Family Physician. 2003; 67(9): 1937-1944