Many older people have undetected eye disease, study finds

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Glaucoma is often dubbed the “silent thief of sight” due to its subtle onset, stealing vision slowly, without noticeable symptoms.

A recent study by the University of Gothenburg has revealed that nearly 5% of 70-year-olds have glaucoma, with a shocking half being unaware of their condition.

This sneaky disease can lead to serious consequences, such as blindness, making early detection and awareness crucial.

The Stealthy Nature of Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a prevalent eye disease characterized by damage to the optic nerve, impacting the field of vision.

Conducted by Lena Havstam Johansson, a specialist nurse and Ph.D. student at the University of Gothenburg, the study involved extensive examination of 560 participants by eye specialists.

It was discovered that 4.8% had glaucoma, and alarmingly, many were unaware they had the disease until their participation in the study.

This research is significant as it brings attention to the covert nature of glaucoma. Often, during its initial stages, the healthy eye compensates for the loss in the affected eye, making individuals believe their vision is intact.

This compensation can mask the early symptoms, resulting in delayed diagnoses and treatment, emphasizing the critical need for regular eye check-ups, especially for the elderly population.

Living with Glaucoma

Despite the grave risks associated with glaucoma, those diagnosed with the disease maintain similar levels of physical activity, smoking, and alcohol consumption compared to those without the disease. Remarkably, their overall quality of life was rated similarly as well.

However, glaucoma does impose challenges related to vision-specific quality of life. Tasks like climbing stairs and noticing things in peripheral vision become increasingly difficult, impacting independence and lifestyle.

Those with glaucoma might find themselves withdrawing from social activities and feeling frustrated due to their impaired vision.

The Importance of Early Detection and Treatment:

For the participants who were newly diagnosed during the study, uncovering the disease meant that they could commence treatment immediately. Treatment generally involves daily eye drops that lower the eye pressure, thereby slowing down the damage to the optic nerve, helping to preserve the remaining vision.

Early detection and intervention are paramount in managing glaucoma effectively, preventing the progression of the disease, and maintaining a good quality of life. The research underlines the silent progression of glaucoma, even with normal eye pressure, and the importance of regular eye exams, especially for those with a family history of the disease.


The University of Gothenburg’s study uncovers the silent progression of glaucoma in the elderly, illuminating the stealth with which it operates.

Despite the substantial impact on vision-related quality of life, individuals with glaucoma still find resilience and maintain their overall quality of life.

The pivotal findings from this study stress the importance of regular eye examinations and early detection, particularly for older individuals and those with a family history of glaucoma.

By fostering awareness and encouraging preventive measures, we can combat the silent thief of sight and preserve vision for many who might otherwise suffer from the covert progression of this disease.

If you care about eye health, please read studies about The growing problem of diabetic eye disease in the US and The mystery of vision loss: the role of fats in eye health.

For more information about eye health, please see recent studies about how to protect your eyes from diabetes, and results showing that vitamin B3 may help treat common blinding eye disease.

The research findings can be found in Acta Ophthalmologica.

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