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Twice as many people fear blindness more than premature death

Twice as many people are afraid of going blind as are afraid of premature death or heart disease1. That is according to a world wide study of more than 4,000 people (4,352) about glaucoma, the results of which are published today to mark the first World Glaucoma Day on 6th March. The research was sponsored by Pfizer and supported by the World Glaucoma Association and the World Glaucoma Patients Association. The event is supported by the “All Eyes On Glaucoma” campaign – www.alleyesonglaucoma.com – which aims to help people recognise and understand the consequences of glaucoma, the world’s second leading cause of blindness.

To mark the day, Professor Colm O’Brien, Consultant Ophthalmologist at the Mater Hospital and Ms. Aoife Doyle, Consultant Ophthalmologist at the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, will speak at a public information meeting about glaucoma at the Davenport Hotel in Dublin at 18.30 this evening (Thursday 6th March). A free booklet supported by Pfizer about glaucoma is available by calling the NCBI (National Council for the Blind of Ireland) on 1850 33 43 53 or emailing glaucoma@ncbi.ie

“Glaucoma is the name given to a number of diseases that irreversibly damage the eye’s optic nerve and can lead to progressive loss of vision if left untreated. The disease is commonly detected by measuring the pressure in the eye,” said Professor O’Brien.

Some 27% of people say they do not know what glaucoma is, nearly 40% do not know that it can cause blindness and nearly 70% have not discussed visiting an eye doctor with their GP1. Furthermore, 63% of people with eye problems do not discuss seeing an eye specialist with their doctor1 and up to 40% of the optic nerve can be damaged before vision loss is noticed2.

“The best way to tackle glaucoma is to diagnose early,” said Professor O’Brien. “The risk of getting glaucoma increases as we age. Other risk factors include having a family member with glaucoma, being short-sighted and also diabetes. All the evidence indicates that if we can diagnose a patient in the early stage of the disease, then there is every likelihood that treatment will prevent progression of the disease. Most patients are well treated with eye-drops alone, though some require laser or surgery to control the eye pressure.”

Mr. Des Kenny of the NCBI said “World Glaucoma Day was created to raise awareness of the disease and to highlight the importance of regular eye exams. As the research shows, people have a genuine fear of blindness, but it is clear that they don’t take steps to look after their eyes. In 2007 alone, 76 registered as blind as a result of glaucoma 3. Glaucoma is a preventable disease and cases in Ireland should be falling, not rising.”

Research has shown that people over the age of 40 have a significant fear of going blind. 72% said they believed that having glaucoma would impact their ability to drive, 64% said they may be unable to work and 56% said they would be unable to leave the house1.. Yet despite this and the fear of blindness over heart disease and premature death, 27% of people do not think eye health is a priority.1 World Glaucoma Day is a joint initiative by the World Glaucoma Association (WGA) and World Glaucoma Patient Association (WGPA) designed to promote awareness of eye health and the importance of regular eye examinations to reduce the onset of glaucoma. Due to the rapidly growing ageing population, the prevalence of glaucoma is expected to rise from 60 million in 2010 to 80 million in 2020 globally4. Currently glaucoma accounts for 12% of blindness in the world5.

ENDS

Further information:
Ken Rogan
WHPR
P: 01 669 0259 / 086 317 9955
E: ken.rogan@ogilvy.com

About All Eyes on Glaucoma

The campaign All Eyes on GlaucomaTM was developed by Pfizer Ophthalmics and encourages at-risk individuals to understand more about glaucoma and the practical steps that need to be taken to preserve eye health and prevent optic nerve damage. The global educational programme offers an informative website, www.alleyesonglaucoma.com that provides online resources and support to help people take action now and avoid the negative consequences of vision loss later.

About Pfizer Ophthalmics

Pfizer Ophthalmics, a division of Pfizer Inc, is committed to preserving sight and eliminating preventable blindness. Pfizer Ophthalmics discovers, develops and provides leading treatments in ophthalmology to support patients who are at risk of blindness or suffering from vision impairment, and to serve the health care professionals who treat them. Its current product line includes the most prescribed treatment to lower elevated eye pressure in patients with ocular hypertension (abnormally high eye pressure) or open-angle glaucoma. Pfizer Ophthalmics also markets a treatment for neovascular age related macular degeneration outside the U.S. This same treatment is marketed in the U.S. by (OSI) Eyetech.

Notes to Editors

Glaucoma is the name given to a number of diseases that irreversibly damages the eye’s optic nerve. If left unchecked, this can result in serious vision loss over time. Glaucoma is commonly detected by measuring the pressure in the eye, also known as intraocular pressure (IOP). When eye pressure increases over time, the optic nerve becomes damaged. Worldwide, an estimated 6.7 million people are blind from glaucoma, with approximately 70 million people living with the condition.6

The two most common forms of glaucoma are:

  • Open-angle glaucoma – when the pressure in the eye increases over time due to poor drainage of the aqueous humour.
  • Angle-closure glaucoma – when the iris is too close to the drainage canal (trabecular meshwork and closes the drainage of aqueous humour).

The only modifiable glaucoma risk factor is high eye pressure, though it is possible to develop the condition without it. Due to the build-up of natural fluid produced by the eye, high eye pressure causes permanent damage to the optic nerve, the “cable” used by the eye to communicate to the brain. High eye pressure may exist without noticeable symptoms so many people do not know they have it if their vision is not checked regularly. In fact, people may not notice vision loss until 40 percent or more of their optic nerve has been damaged.3 IOP is an easily identifiable risk factor; however some people who fall within the normal IOP range may still be at risk for glaucoma.

Glaucoma is the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness and affects approximately 70 million people worldwide. Many people do not understand the consequences of glaucoma and, more importantly, that its impact can be significantly reduced. The All Eyes on Glaucoma™ campaign has been developed to drive public awareness of risk factors for glaucoma and the critical importance of appropriate diagnosis among at-risk populations to slow down the progression of the disease

References

1. Pfizer commissioned a multi-country survey of individuals aged 40 and above and this was conducted by the GfK Group. The survey included 4,352 people (2,020 males and 2,332 females) in seven countries including Australia, Brazil, Germany, Japan, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.
2. Distelhorst JS and Hughes GM. Open-Angle Glaucoma. American Family Physician. 2003. 67(9). 1937-1944.
3. The National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI). www.ncbi.ie
4. Quigley HA, Broman AT. The number of people with glaucoma worldwide in 2010 and 2020. Br J Ophthalmol. 2006; 90: 262–267.
5. World Health Organization. Bulletin of the World Health Organization. In Focus. Nov 1, 2004. Available at: http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/82/11/feature1104/en/. Accessed July 16, 2007. – Congdon NG, Friedman DS, Lietman T. Important Causes of Visual Impairment in the World Today. JAMA. 2003; 290: 2057-2060. – Quigley HA, Broman AT. The number of people with glaucoma worldwide in 2010 and 2020. Br J Ophthalmol. 2006; 90: 262–267.
6. Congdon NG, Friedman DS, Lietman T. Important Causes of Visual Impairment in the World Today. JAMA. 2003; 290: 2057-2060.

Release Date: 
Friday, 7 March, 2008
Snippet: 
Leading Glaucoma Experts Act To Help Prevent Vision Loss as 50% of Patients Remain Undiagnosed
News type: 
Press Release