Underdiagnosis and overdiagnosis of glaucoma are both highly prevalent problems that have severe consequences. A new study found that many people with glaucoma are unaware that they have this serious eye disease. The population-based Thessaloniki Eye Study confirmed the finding of previous studies that claim undiagnosed glaucoma is a widespread issue, while also noting the frequency of overdiagnosed glaucoma. In this post, the vision experts at Austin Eye summarize the major findings of this study.
The Thessaloniki Eye Study examined 2,554 participants aged 60 and older, and found that 50 percent of them had undiagnosed glaucoma. Primary open-angle glaucoma was four times more likely to be undiagnosed that exfoliation glaucoma. Other factors associated with undiagnosed glaucoma were going the last 12 months without seeing an eye doctor and a smaller disc-to-cup ratio (a measurement that examines the optic nerve’s anterior “disc” and the disc’s central portion, called a “cup”). Only 43 percent of the glaucoma patients in the study had received any treatment for the condition.
The same study also found that only one-third of the participants who had been previously diagnosed with glaucoma had the diagnosis confirmed in the study. Many of the overdiagnosed participants were undergoing treatment, and some had undergone surgery. Participants who had seen an eye doctor in the previous 12 months or had a higher disc-to-cup ratio were more likely to receive an overdiagnosis.
Consequences of Undiagnosed and Overdiagnosed Glaucoma
The consequences of both undiagnosed glaucoma and overdiagnosed glaucoma can be severe. One-third of the study’s participants with undiagnosed glaucoma had progressed to advanced stages of the disease. If left untreated, this can lead to permanent blindness. Overdiagnosis also carries serious repercussions. Fear of blindness, side effects of unnecessary treatment and the cost of improper treatments are all caused by overdiagnosed glaucoma.
Visit Your Eye Doctor
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness. Because glaucoma can occur without any noticeable symptoms, a comprehensive eye exam is required to diagnose this disease and begin treatment before any permanent damage occurs. At Austin Eye, we evaluate at-risk patients for glaucoma as part of our comprehensive eye exams and offer several treatment options for glaucoma. Schedule your eye exam with one of our skilled eye doctors by calling (512) 250-2020.