- The Washington Times - Friday, February 17, 2006

Cases of glaucoma are expected to rise sharply both globally and domestically in the next 15 years, according to a new report on the eye disease by researchers at Johns Hopkins’ Wilmer Ophthalmological Institute in Baltimore.

There will be 60 million cases of glaucoma worldwide in the next five years and 80 million cases by 2020, researchers Dr. Harry Quigley and Aimee Broman predict in a report published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology. Those numbers would be up from a current estimate of 55 million, Dr. Quigley said yesterday in a telephone interview.

“Glaucoma cases are increasing at a rate of 30 percent for every 10 years, and glaucoma is a very large cause of blindness,” said Dr. Quigley, an ophthalmologist. “Glaucoma is getting bigger as fast or faster than any other eye problem at this time.”

Nearly 60 percent of those who develop glaucoma will be women, the researchers predict. They explain that more women than men will be affected because glaucoma disproportionately affects the aged, and women tend to live longer than men.

The researchers predict three-quarters of the higher glaucoma caseload will involve what is known as open-angle glaucoma. OAG progresses more slowly than a form known as angle-closure glaucoma, or ACG. OAG is more common than ACG in the United States, according to Dr. Quigley.

Glaucoma is the second-leading cause of blindness after cataracts, according to the World Health Organization, and it is the leading cause of blindness among U.S. blacks.

It is estimated more than 3 million Americans currently have glaucoma, a disease in which the normal fluid pressure inside the eyes slowly rises. Genetics and race are contributing factors.

Unless controlled, this increased pressure can cause damage to the optic nerve and other parts of the eye and result in loss of vision.

But Dr. Quigley said a loss of vision from glaucoma can occur even if there is no increased eye pressure. There usually are no symptoms with open-angle glaucoma.

But the organization says only half of U.S. glaucoma victims know they have the disorder, which is often symptom-free. And given that the disease is most common in people over 60, researchers say many more cases are expected in this country, given the aging of America.

The report by Hopkins eye specialists estimates that in 2002, more than 2.2 million Americans were living with OAG, the most common form of glaucoma in this country,

“Our model predicts that there will be 2.79 million people with OAG in the United States in 2010,” and a further 30 percent increase between 2010 and 2020, the investigators wrote.

About 120,000 Americans are blind from glaucoma. They account for 9 percent to 12 percent of all cases of blindness in the United States.

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