Open angle glaucoma (OAG), one of the leading causes of blindness, affects about 45 million individuals worldwide - about three million in the US - with that number projected to increase to 53 million by 2020. It is most commonly treated using prostaglandin analogue drops, which can lower the increased pressure in the eye, the cause of the damage to the optic nerve, and thereby delay vision loss. Researchers from the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at Moorfields Eye Hospital and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology in London led by Dr. David Garway-Heath conducted a study to determine just how effective these drugs are in protecting against blindness.
Researchers recruited 516 individuals with OAG from hospitals in the UK and randomized them into two groups: one group was given daily pressure-lowering eye drops and the other group was given a placebo. Subjects were followed for two years and given frequent visual field tests to assess deterioration. Over the two-year period, researchers found that those individuals receiving the drops had over a 50 percent reduced risk of deterioration compared to those in the placebo group.
Dr. Reena Garg, assistant professor at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mt. Sinai in New York City says that it s important to realize that in glaucoma, vision loss can only be slowed, not stopped. It is necessary to educate patients that while glaucoma cannot be cured, proper follow up with a trained specialist can slow the progression of the disease allowing patients to maintain good vision throughout their lifetime.
And, according to Dr. Anders Heijl from Lund University in Sweden, not only is it about follow-up, but this study should also serve as a stimulus to the pharmaceutical industry to continue development of new and even more potent drugs.