Glaucoma causing more sight loss – new study

Published: 21 October 2016 at 15:27

Prof Rupert Bourne

Cases of blindness caused by glaucoma rose by 62% worldwide in two decades

The number of people made blind due to glaucoma has risen by 62% in two decades, according to research published today in the journal PLOS ONE. The study was led by Professor Rupert Bourne, of Anglia Ruskin University.

The rise in proportion of people with blindness or visual impairment was more pronounced in high-income regions. In Western Europe, glaucoma caused 9% of all blindness in 1990 and 10.6% in 2010, while 2.3% of the vision impaired population in 1990 had glaucoma when compared to 3.4% in 2010.

These numbers are considerably higher than some lower-income regions such as South Asia, where only 4.7% of the blind population suffered from glaucoma in 2010. However, this number has still increased since 1990, when the figure was 2.4%.

Worldwide, the proportion of those who are blind due to glaucoma rose from 4.4% to 6.6%. Around 6.3 million people suffer sight loss from the condition worldwide.

Glaucoma is a condition where the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, becomes damaged. It is most common in adults in their 70s or 80s. The likelihood of developing glaucoma depends on a variety of factors, including age, family history and ethnicity.

The group examined data from studies carried out in countries all over the world between 1980 and 2012. 

Professor Bourne said: 

“Glaucoma is a growing problem in areas with an older population, such as the UK. Our study shows that western nations are seeing a higher percentage of sight loss cases that can be attributed to the condition, and shows the need for more research to be carried out to help prevent it.

“Currently, any sight loss due to glaucoma cannot be reversed but treatment is available to stop the condition getting worse if it is discovered early enough.”

The Vision Loss Expert Group is a global collaboration of 79 ophthalmologists and optometrists. The study was partly funded by the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation, Fight for Sight, the Fred Hollows Foundation, and the Brien Holden Vision Institute.

The full paper can be read here.