Eyedrops that reduce intraocular pressure can prevent vision loss whether treatment is begun early or late.

In a 2002 landmark study, scientists determined that using eyedrops that lower intraocular pressure can delay or even prevent glaucoma. But the study failed to answer two critical questions:

  1. How soon should treatment begin?
  2. Who should be treated?

In a follow-up study conducted to determine whether delaying treatment could be harmful, individuals in the first trial who had been using eyedrops continued to do so, while those who had not used eyedrops began using them. Follow-up results, published in the Archives of Ophthalmology, revealed that those who began treatment early reduced their risk of glaucoma by 60 percent, especially those at high risk.

But those who delayed treatment received good news, too. Those who began using eyedrops during the followup study achieved roughly the same level of benefit as the early treatment group. After 13 years, 16 percent who had received early treatment developed glaucoma, as did 22 percent of those whose treatment was delayed. There was little advantage to early treatment.

What is intraocular pressure?

Because the eye's lens and cornea have no blood supply, the aqueous humor—a clear, watery liquid—supplies nutrients and removes waste from the lens and cornea. The amount of aqueous humor produced by the eye and drained into the bloodstream are usually in balance, leaving a healthy eye with normal eye pressure.

Some people, however, develop an elevated level of intraocular pressure. Elevated intraocular pressure is a leading risk factor for open-angle glaucoma. Although not all people with an elevated eye pressure develop glaucoma, early detection through a routine eye exam can lead to sight-saving treatment.

Who needs early treatment?

Many people with high intraocular pressure are unlikely to develop glaucoma—with or without treatment. Consequently, careful monitoring through an annual eye examination, without treatment, is often your best choice. However, if your eye doctor says you are at moderate to high risk for glaucoma, you may benefit from early treatment or more frequent exams. Talk with your doctor about your risk level and whether you're a candidate for early treatment.

Source: Prepared by the Editors of The Johns Hopkins Medical Letter: Health After 50

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 07 Jul 2013

Last Modified: 07 Jul 2013