Rochester, Minnesota (WXOW)- Research analyzed by Mayo Clinic shows the risk of blindness due to glaucoma is half of what is used to be.
Glaucoma is not one, but multiple eye conditions that damage the optic nerve. According to Doctor Robert Freedland, Ophthalmologist at Mayo Clinic Health Systems in La Crosse, glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the country and the world.
It is also genetically based. Those with parents who have glaucoma are at higher risk.
There are two types of glaucoma. Narrow (acute) glaucoma is quickly onset and can give symptoms similar to the flu. If someone is farsighted, they are at higher risk for narrow glaucoma due to the shape of the eye. Chronic (open) glaucoma is usually painless and gradually affects your peripheral vision.
Ophthalmology researchers at Mayo compared blindness in glaucoma patients 40 years old and over, from 1981-2000 and 1965-1980 in Olmsted County, Minnesota.
They found the probability of blindness 20 years after a glaucoma diagnosis for the recent group is half of the older group's.
Although the actual number of glaucoma cases is the same, the probability of going blind in at least one eye falls from about 25 percent to 13 percent.
Doctor Arthur Sit, M.D. Mayo Clinic Ophthalmologist and senior author of the study, says, "Our improved understanding of glaucoma, along with better treatment and management of patients seem to have had this impact. Still, much research and public education remains to be performed. A 14 percent blindness rate from a common eye disease is hardly ideal."
Doctor Freedman attributes the drop in blindness to new medications offered for patients, new testing, new surgical treatments, and an overall more aggressive treatment plan to prevent blindness.
There are no early warnings signs for glaucoma other than the loss of peripheral vision. Experts at Mayo suggest an eye exam to detect glaucoma early every three to four years after the age of 40 then every year after turning 60.
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