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Knowledge of Glaucoma - Survey Findings

Patients with a good knowledge and understanding of glaucoma have shown better compliance with treatment. Misconceptions about glaucoma may result in either unnecessarily heightened anxiety levels or conversely, lack of insight into potentially blinding outcomes.

A study was conducted to assess the level of glaucoma knowledge in patients with established glaucoma, those referred to an ophthalmologist for their first glaucoma assessment and the general population; and to identify any commonly held misconceptions regarding glaucoma.

408 participants were included in the study with a self-administered true/false questionnaire containing 22 questions assessing glaucoma knowledge distributed to all participants.

Established glaucoma patients scored a median of 17/22, marginally but significantly, better than new patients (median 16/22). Both of these groups scored significantly better than the control population who had a median of 13/22.

Significant misconceptions held by participants include:

  • 80% of all participants thought that topical medications could not have systemic side-effects
  • 48% of established glaucoma patients felt that they would have symptoms warning them of disease progression
  • One-third of new patients considered blindness to be a common outcome of having glaucoma
  • Other poorly understood facts by all groups include that epiphoria (watering eyes) is not associated with a build up of pressure inside the eye, and that stress is not known to be related to glaucoma.

It is important that these misconceptions are rectified. Specifically, the established glaucoma patient should be aware that some topical medications may have potential systemic side-effects and that they will not have symptoms warning them of disease progression.

Newly referred patients need to be reassured that the majority of patients with glaucoma will not go blind, that their treatment and management is life-long and while glaucoma can be controlled it is not ‘curable’. Both groups need to be advised that significant changes of lifestyle will not influence the course of their disease.

A better understanding of the signs/symptoms, management and prognosis of glaucoma will ease anxiety and allow better adjustment to the disease amongst patients.

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