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Experts in Eye Care and Aging Call for Renewed Efforts in Glaucoma Detection and Management Among Americans
Date:10/17/2011

NEW YORK, Oct. 17, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Americans ages 40 and older must be better educated about the risk factors for glaucoma, the silent nature of the condition, and its potentially serious outcomes, according to a new declaration issued by the Glaucoma Working Group, a panel of experts including The Glaucoma Foundation, the Alliance for Aging Research and leading ophthalmologists, in partnership with Merck. To achieve this goal, the Group encourages aging Americans to TAKE on Glaucoma (Take Action to Know your Eyes), by going to www.takeonglaucoma.com to learn about the risks, the importance of a comprehensive eye examination (including dilation) and proper disease management, if diagnosed.

"There is a silent nature to glaucoma, which often makes it difficult for people to take the condition seriously until irreversible damage is done," said Scott Christensen, president and CEO of The Glaucoma Foundation. "Our goal with this program is to make people aware of their risks, to encourage them to ask the right questions of their doctors, and to stress the importance of properly managing their disease if diagnosed."

Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness, affecting over 60.5 million people around the world. Early detection and proper management can help prevent the potential serious outcomes of the disease, yet glaucoma continues to be under-diagnosed and associated with poor treatment adherence. To help address this critical situation, the Glaucoma Working Group examined the misperceptions and behaviors that often stand in the way of optimal diagnosis and care, identifying three major factors:

  • Many older Americans do not consider glaucoma a personal health issue, even though their age alone puts them at risk;
  • Many Americans do not visit their eye care professional often enough, and may not always receive a dilated exam when they do; and
  • Adherence issues are complex and may not be addressed directly by eye doctors. Patients must be educated about the potential outcomes of poor adherence and motivated to proactively address their individual challenges.

  • "Our nation is aging rapidly and glaucoma is one of the conditions often overlooked as we grow older," said Daniel Perry, president and CEO of the Alliance for Aging Research. "Aging Americans need to think ahead, understand the risks of glaucoma and stay informed to help protect their eye health."

    Baby Boomers Need to Make Glaucoma a Priority "As a practicing ophthalmologist, I see firsthand from my patients just how important and challenging it can be to make glaucoma a priority," said James C. Tsai, M.D., chairman, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science, Yale University and Glaucoma Working Group panelist. "There are many things in life that we must juggle, but taking the time to monitor your eye health and manage glaucoma should not be ignored."

    The experts suggested several actions, to help diagnosed patients and those who may be at risk become their own best advocates for eye health.At Risk Diagnosed With Glaucoma

  • Understand the risk factors for glaucoma
    and discuss them with your eye doctor
    – including age, ethnicity, family history, etc.
  • Create a personalized routine for your
    disease management plan – one that fits
    your lifestyle and routine

  • Schedule regular comprehensive eye exams
    with your eye doctor
  • If you are having trouble following your
    plan, ask your eye doctor for help

  • Know what to expect during the exam –
    including dilation and eye pressure readings
  • Seek support from family, friends, patient
    support groups or your eye doctor's office
  • More Information about Glaucoma Glaucoma affects 60.5 million today worldwide and is set to reach 79.6 million by 2020. In the U.S., more than 2 million individuals are estimated to be living with glaucoma, and that number is expected to increase by 50%, to more than 3 million, by 2020.

    Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases which in most cases is associated with increased pressure within the eye (also called elevated intraocular pressure, or elevated IOP). While glaucoma is often associated with high eye pressure, not all patients who have glaucoma have high eye pressure. The risk for glaucoma increases considerably after age 60 (age 40 for African-Americans). In addition to eye pressure and age, there are several other risk factors for glaucoma, including family history, ethnicity and nearsightedness.

    An eye doctor may recommend prescription eye drops, laser treatment or another type of surgery. While these treatments may help reduce high eye pressure, they do not improve sight already lost because of glaucoma. Among those diagnosed with glaucoma, poor adherence to disease management plans and to follow-up care is common. In one study, at least two-thirds of patients with primary open-angle glaucoma (the most common form of glaucoma) and ocular hypertension (also known as high eye pressure without other signs of glaucoma) stopped taking their therapy within the first year. Another study showed that patients with poor adherence were five times more likely to experience disease progression compared to patients with good adherence.

    About the Glaucoma Working Group The TAKE on Glaucoma campaign aims to educate Americans about eye health, particularly glaucoma, so that the disease is detected early and managed properly for every patient. Insights from the Glaucoma Working Group, along with interactive quizzes and downloadable resources, can be found at www.takeonglaucoma.com. TAKE on Glaucoma is an educational program developed, in partnership, by The Glaucoma Foundation, the Alliance for Aging Research, and Merck, and is funded by Merck.

    About The Glaucoma Foundation The mission of The Glaucoma Foundation (TGF) is to fund groundbreaking research and to educate the public about the disease and the importance of early detection to prevent blindness. Founded in 1984 by Dr. Robert Ritch, TGF is one of the premier not-for-profit organizations dedicated to eradicating blindness from glaucoma through vital research and education.

    About the Alliance for Aging Research Founded in 1986, the Alliance for Aging Research is a nonprofit, independent organization dedicated to improving the health and independence of aging Americans through public and private funding of medical research and geriatric education. The Alliance combines the interest of top scientists, public officials, business executives, and foundation leaders to promote a greater national investment in research and new technologies that will prepare our nation for the coming senior boom, and improve the quality of life for today's older generation.

    About Merck Today's Merck is a global healthcare leader working to help the world be well. Merck is known as MSD outside the United States and Canada. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and consumer care and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to healthcare through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. For more information, visit www.merck.com  and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

    Media Contacts:Merck Sarra Herzog:

    (908) 423-6154 Hill & Knowlton Sarah Fox: (212) 885-0481 The Glaucoma Foundation Helen Murphy: (212) 651-2509 Alliance for Aging Research Debbie Zeldow: (202) 293-2856
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    SOURCE Merck
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