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Looking at Glaucoma as a Systemic Disease
Date:11/11/2007

Lecture at American Academy of Ophthalmology Annual Meeting Examines

Glaucoma as Manifestation of a Larger Disease

NEW ORLEANS, Nov. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- Glaucoma has long been considered a disease of the eye. For most of the 20th century, it was equated with elevated intraocular pressure. Yet, over the past two decades, an increasing number of non-pressure-dependent risk factors have been identified, suggesting that glaucoma can be broadly defined as the final common pathway of a number of different disorders that affect the eye. Glaucoma may also be included in a larger group of neurodegenerative disorders that share aspects of nerve cell death, oxidative damage and low-grade inflammation. This group of disorders includes age-related macular degeneration and Alzheimer's disease.

In a lecture delivered today at the American Academy of Ophthalmology's Annual Meeting, Robert Ritch, MD, Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology at the New York Medical College, Chief of Glaucoma Services at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, and Medical Director of The Glaucoma Foundation, called upon physicians to look at glaucoma in a different light: as the ocular manifestation of a more systemic disease. Dr. Ritch examined two glaucomas with very different origins -- exfoliative glaucoma and normal-tension glaucoma, concluding that they are characterized by findings that are linked to other disorders as well.

"I would like to advocate that many of the different diseases which we categorize together as glaucoma have associated systemic manifestations," says Dr. Ritch. "We're finding a series of other risk factors that are connected to ocular disease." Dr. Ritch cites data from studies, including a recent finding linking exfoliative glaucoma with genetic variations in the formation of elastic tissue, as evidence that glaucoma is not just an isolated disease of the eye.

Exfoliative glaucoma occurs when abnormal aggregates of fibrillar material
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SOURCE American Academy of Ophthalmology
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