Glaucoma’s global toll

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: August 22nd, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

If you could see into the future, you’d know that the global toll of the disabling eye disease glaucoma will reach sixty-million people by 2010, rising to almost eighty-million by 2020. That’s 2020 the year, not twenty-twenty vision.

Talk about a statistic that’s out of sight. Women and people living in Asia, Africa and India will be the worst affected, according to research reported recently in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

Glaucoma causes the flow of fluid out of the eye to become blocked, and pressure inside the eye rises. This high pressure may permanently damage nerve fibers in the light-sensitive retina and the optic nerve, which normally carries nerve signals for sight from the retina to the brain.

Glaucoma is the second-leading cause of blindness in the world and is responsible for about twelve percent of global blindness. The disease mainly affects people over sixty.

The researchers reviewed all the recent data on glaucoma derived from studies based on population. People living in Asia will account for almost half of those with glaucoma. Around eleven-million will be blind in both eyes by 2020, and the disease is likely to increase most rapidly in India.

There are treatments available in the developed world that would help to reduce the amount of disability glaucoma causes. But scientists say efforts to harness the disease are hampered by a lack of consensus on the definition of glaucoma, and on the absence of a simple and accurate screening test.