Jan. 24, 2003 -- Early treatment of glaucoma halves the risk of worsening disease, a major study shows. And since glaucoma usually causes no symptoms -- while at the same time stealing your sight -- this is even more reason to get your eyes checked regularly.
Glaucoma occurs when pressure builds up in the eye. In the most common form, open-angle glaucoma, the eye's tiny pressure valves get clogged up. One form of treatment relieves this pressure by cutting tiny holes in the eye with a laser.
M. Cristina Leske, MD, of Stony Brook University, N.Y., and colleagues screened tens of thousands of people in two towns in Sweden. Over 250 people from that group with early signs of open-angle glaucoma were asked to join a clinical trial. About half of the participants got laser treatment; the other half were left untreated.
After six years, glaucoma got worse in more than half of all the patients. Laser treatment cut the risk of getting worse in half.
"[This study] provides conclusive evidence to confirm that reduction in [eye pressure] lowers the risk of progression in early open-angle glaucoma," Leske and colleagues report in the January Archives of Ophthalmology.
Treatment worked best in those patients whose eye pressure was lowest to begin with. The moral of this story: Get tested for glaucoma. The symptoms of early glaucoma are so slight that most people don't know they have the disease. Waiting until symptoms appear often means waiting too long. Regular eye exams -- including glaucoma testing -- can save your sight.