Many Glaucoma Patients Don't Adhere to Treatment

A 3-month medication monitoring study showed that 44 percent of glaucoma patients used their eye drops less than three quarters of the time, according to a study published in the journal Ophthalmology.

Glaucoma is a group of eye disorders that lead to damage of the optic nerve, which carries visual information from the eye to the brain. All types of glaucoma are characterized by increased pressure within the eyeball, which causes progressive damage to the optic nerve. The use of daily eye drops can control the eye pressure, but if left untreated, loss of vision will occur.

Among 196 men and women with open-angle glaucoma, angle-closure glaucoma or ocular hypertension, Dr. David S. Friedman and colleagues found that certain characteristics were associated with poor compliance with treatment, said Friedman, of the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

The investigators provided the glaucoma patients with free eye drops specially packaged in a levered dispensing device that recorded time and date of use.

After 3 months, the investigators identified 86 of the study participants as non-adherent, more than 75 percent of the time, in the daily use of their eye drops. Friedman and colleagues found that poor eye drop compliance was more common among African Americans, those with admitted medication adherence problems, patients who lacked an understanding of glaucoma and its treatment, and patients who were younger than 50 years or 80 years or older.

"Physicians need to ask about adherence with therapy and offer patients assistance figuring out how to be successful in taking medications as prescribed," Friedman told Reuters Health.

Friedman's team suggests these findings substantially add to the growing body of knowledge about medication usage. They call for additional investigations as to why medication adherence is poor among the African-American population.