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Frequent Testing Could Reduce Glaucoma

According to a study posted on August the 8th in the Archives of Ophthalmology frequent visual field testing could help doctors detect and treat glaucoma at an earlier stage and may even reduce the percentage of those who suffer permanent damages including blindness.

"Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide," noted Dr. Mark Fromer, an ophthalmologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "Left untreated, patients will suffer a permanent loss of vision. This disease is treatable with topical medications, laser therapy and microsurgery.

Current testing for glaucoma happens only about once per year but the study done on 381 glaucoma patients aged 31 to 80 followed from 3 years to 13 years showed that the more frequent visual field tests were done the more likely it was to detect and treat the disease early.

"In summary, we found that a twice-yearly schedule of visual field testing resulted in earlier detection of glaucoma progression compared with a yearly schedule, especially with global trend analyses," wrote Dr. Kouros Nouri-Mahdavi and colleagues at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, in a journal news release.

The only thing left to do is to convince health insurance carriers to allow for the added cost of a twice yearly screening schedule which could cost billions in tests but conceivably save even more in treatments when the disease is caught early enough for drug treatment rather then surgical treatment.

Some Interesting Statistics

  • According to estimates more then 4 million Americans have glaucoma but most don't know they do.
  • Glaucoma accounts for 12% of all blindness in the US, about 120,000 people.
  • 8% of people over 70 years of age have high eye pressure and 2% of those 40 to 50 do.

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