Purpose: To examine whether high intraocular pressure (greater than or equal to 25 mm Hg) or a history of treatment for glaucoma is associated with decreased survival and, if so, how such ocular markers might be explained.
Methods: Eye examinations, including applanation tonometry, were conducted on members of the Framingham Eye Study cohort from February 1, 1973, to February 1, 1975. Participants who reported a history of treatment for glaucoma were identified. Survival data, including information on the date of death, were available from the time of the Eye Study through March 31, 1990.
Results: Of the 1,764 persons under the age of 70 years at the baseline eye examination, 1,421 persons had low intraocular pressure (< or =20 mm Hg), 264 persons had medium intraocular pressure levels (20 to 24 mm Hg), and 79 persons had high intraocular pressure (> or =25 mm Hg) or history of glaucoma treatment. During the follow-up period, 29%, 30%, and 47% died in the groups with low, medium, and high intraocular pressure (or history of glaucoma treatment), respectively. In an age-and-sex adjusted Cox proportional hazards analysis, the death rate ratio for the group with medium intraocular pressure relative to the group with low intraocular pressure was 1.04. The corresponding death rate ratio for the group with high intraocular pressure was 1.56 with a 95% confidence interval of 1.11 to 2.19 (P < .001). After adjustment for age, sex, hypertension, diabetes, cigarette smoking, and body mass index, a positive relationship remained, but at a borderline level of significance (P = .075).
Conclusions: High intraocular pressure or the presence of glaucoma is a marker for decreased life expectancy in the Framingham Eye Study cohort. The relationship is present even after adjustment for risk factors known to be associated with higher mortality such as age, sex, hypertension, diabetes, cigarette smoking, and body mass index. Special attention to the general health status of patients with high intraocular pressure or glaucoma seems warranted.