Introduction: In the industrialized countries 67 million people suffer from glaucoma, which represents the third most common cause of blindness and thus has a high economic impact. Early diagnosis of glaucoma, which does not necessarily involve raised intraocular pressure, is essential because by the time the patient notices functional impairment the damage is irreversible. Early treatment can decrease the rate of blindness 20 years later by about 50%.
Methods: Selective literature review and clinical investigation of early glaucoma detection and of screening methods.
Results: Currently, no evidence-based recommendations for glaucoma screening can be found in the literature. No single method or combination of screening procedures can be recommended unambiguously on economic grounds.
Discussion: From the clinical perspective sensitive, specific, and cost-effective glaucoma screening seems feasible. The high-risk group would need to be defined on the basis of age and family history. A two-stage screening process would then have to be established with initial computer-supported telemedical sorting followed by telemedical ophthalmological diagnosis of cases selected for clarification.
Keywords: early detection of disease; glaucoma; ophthalmology; prevention; telemedicine.