June 12, 2002
PHONE: 410-955-1534
E-MAIL: kblum@jhmi.edu

Pressure-relieving Eye Drops May Delay Glaucoma  
- -Hopkins Investigator Can Discuss Ocular Hypertension Treatment Study - -

Eye drops used to reduce elevated pressure inside the eye may delay the onset of glaucoma among people at high risk for the condition, according to a study by researchers at Johns Hopkins' Wilmer Eye Institute and 21 other institutions throughout the United States.

In a five-year study of more than 1,600 adults, pressure-lowering eye drops reduced by more than half the development of primary open-angle glaucoma, one of the nation's leading causes of vision loss. The eye drops also reduced eye pressures by about 20 percent. Results of the Ocular Hypertension Treatment Study, supported by the National Eye Institute (NEI), are published in the June issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology. The NEI estimates that between 3 million and 6 million people in the United States have elevated eye pressure.

The study looked at 1,636 adults ages 40 to 80 with raised eye pressure but no signs of glaucoma. Half received daily eye drops and the other half received no medication but were monitored by an ophthalmologist. Seventy-four participated at Hopkins. After five years, 4.4 percent of participants receiving the eye drops had developed glaucoma, compared with 9.5 percent of participants who did not get drops.

Donald J. Zack, M.D., Ph.D., professor of ophthalmology and neuroscience, served as the Wilmer Eye Institute's principal investigator. He says this study "clearly demonstrates that treating high pressures in the eye by these pressure-lowering medications can reduce the likelihood of developing glaucoma. However, this does not mean that all people with elevated eye pressure should be medically treated. The decision of whether or not to treat is complicated; patients should discuss these issues with their ophthalmologist."

The Baltimore portion of the study involved physicians at Hopkins, the University of Maryland and Sinai Hospital.

Open-angle glaucoma affects 2.2 million Americans ages 40 and up; another 2 million may have it and not know it, according to the NEI. Glaucoma occurs when the optic nerve is damaged from increased pressure in the eye, which leads to loss of peripheral or side vision. As the disease worsens, the field of vision gradually narrows.

To interview Zack, please contact me at 410-955-1534 or kblum@jhmi.edu.

For more information on the OHTS study, visit the National Eye Institute's Web site at
http://www.nei.nih.gov/glaucomaeyedrops or call there at 301-496-5248.


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