March 14, 2012

Glaucoma Screenings Too Costly To Be Beneficial, Study Says

According to a new study, the benefits to screening middle-aged African Americans for glaucoma may not out weight the cost.

The researchers said about two percent of Americans over the age of 40 are affected by glaucoma, a medical condition that is caused by too much pressure in the eye.

The team was looking to find out whether annual glaucoma screenings would help stave off vision impairment or loss in some people.

Dr. Joseph Ladapo, the study's lead author and an assistant professor at the New York University School of Medicine, and colleagues created a computer simulation using data on African Americans between 50 and 59 years old in the Eye Diseases Prevalence Research Group and the Baltimore Eye Study.

They found that the rate of undiagnosed glaucoma in African Americans would drop 50 percent to 27 percent if regular screenings were adopted nationwide.

However, the number of African Americans blinded by glaucoma would just drop from 6.1 percent to 5.6 percent, and the group with glaucoma-related vision impairment would see a decline from 4.6 percent to 4.4 percent.

The researchers determined that 875 people would have to be screened in order to prevent one person from losing their vision.  In value, this would mean that $70,000 would need to be spent on vision screenings in order to prevent blindness in that one person.

"It's just horrible when people develop visual impairment, but we didn't find that the benefits were that great," Ladapo told Reuters Health.  Ladapo's father, who was a coauthor on the paper, actually has glaucoma.

Dr. Nathan Radcliffe, director of Glaucoma Service at NY-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, told Reuters that the only way a patient would know if they had glaucoma is to have a doctor check their eye.

He recommended people over 40 years old and those who have a family history of glaucoma should get a baseline exam.

The research was published in the Archives of Opthalmology.


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