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Evidence inadequate to support glaucoma screening

Sunday February 24, 2013
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The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has posted a draft statement (meaning it is open for comment) on screening for glaucoma in adults without vision problems.

The USPSTF could not determine whether screening adults without vision problems in primary care improves their long-term health and prevents blindness. The agency cited inadequate evidence about the best ways to screen and diagnose glaucoma and the lack of evidence that screening reduces the likelihood of vision loss and blindness.

Based on this lack of evidence, the USPSTF stated it cannot make a recommendation for or against screening adults for glaucoma at this time.

The most common form of glaucoma affects about 2.5 million Americans and is a leading cause of blindness. Glaucoma progresses slowly, and people may not notice symptoms until serious vision loss occurs.

"Glaucoma is a very serious disease for many Americans, but gaps in the available evidence on the value of screening prevent us from making a recommendation," task force co-vice chairman Albert Siu, MD, MPH, said in a news release.

The draft statement applies only to adults without vision problems, the USPSTF noted. People with vision problems should continue to see their primary care clinician or eye care specialist to determine which tests and treatments they need. In the absence of definitive evidence that glaucoma screening is effective in people without vision problems, physicians and patients may choose to rely on expert guidance to decide what is best for the patient’s needs.

The task force calls on the healthcare community to prioritize research on the basic science of glaucoma, the establishment of diagnostic standards, effective screening tests and safe and effective treatments to determine whether screening all adults would be beneficial. "Investments in glaucoma research may lead to improved vision for Americans and to a clear recommendation from the USPSTF in the future," Siu said.

The draft statement is open for comment until March 18. More information about the statement and a link to comment are available at www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/draftrec.htm.


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