Purpose: To determine if photoreceptors die in primary open-angle glaucoma.
Methods: Retinas were examined in a masked fashion from nine standard locations of 14 eyes with documented open-angle glaucoma and from nine age-matched control eyes. The number and density of photoreceptors, as well as the area and height of the outer nuclear layer, were calculated with an automated image analysis system. The number of photoreceptors per 0.1 mm of retina was determined.
Results: No significant difference was seen between control and glaucomatous eyes in comparisons of photoreceptor density, outer nuclear layer height, or photoreceptors per 0.1 mm of retinal length in nine retinal zones. There was no detectable association between photoreceptor number and severity of glaucoma (defined as mild, moderate, or severe), visual field, and optic nerve fiber loss. In eyes in which damage predominated in the upper or lower visual field, no corresponding difference in photoreceptor number in upper compared to lower retinal zones was observed.
Conclusion: Photoreceptors are not lost in substantial numbers in primary open-angle glaucoma.