A medical records review of more than 75,000 people with glaucoma showed that they were more likely to also have other serious illnesses than people who did not have glaucoma. The most prevalent illnesses were high blood pressure, diabetes, ulcers and/or liver disease. Records of about 230,000 people who did not have glaucoma were reviewed for comparison in this nationwide study in Taiwan.
"Doctors who treat glaucoma or the correlated medical conditions need to be aware that their patients may have multiple illnesses," said lead researcher Jai-Der Ho, MD, PhD, of Taipei Medical University, Taiwan. "Medical specialists should test and treat such patients accordingly and work collaboratively to give them the best, safest care," he added.
Dr. Ho and his team reviewed year 2005 medical records of people with open-angle glaucoma (OAG), the most common form of this sight-threatening illness, and compared them with people without OAG, matched for age, gender and other factors. More than half of the OAG patients had hypertension (high blood pressure), and more than 30 percent had either diabetes or hyperlipidemia (high levels of unhealthy fats in the blood). The prevalence of these diseases as well as stroke, liver disease or ulcer was at least 3 percent higher in OAG patients than in controls.
Glaucoma is more likely to occur in people who are also at-risk for a variety of conditions and diseases. In fact, other studies have found significant associations between glaucoma, stroke, and migraine. And glaucoma itself can lead to other health problems: when OAG damages vision so that a person is less able to read, drive, or enjoy other aspects of daily life, he or she is at higher risk for depression or other psychological illnesses. This, in combination with additional afflictions that a person with glaucoma may be suffering from, can ultimately contribute to a lower quality of life.
Ophthalmologists estimate that glaucoma is undiagnosed in as many as 50 percent of people who have it. It's important to catch glaucoma early through routine eye exams. If you are age 65 and older or have high risks for glaucoma, you may qualify for an eye exam at no out-of-pocket cost through EyeCare America. Dr. Ho's study was careful to ensure that people in the control group were unlikely to have missed diagnoses.
The researchers caution, though, that since nearly all subjects in this study were ethnically Chinese, the study results may not be applicable to other populations.