Objective: To detect characteristics of persons with ocular hypertension that are associated with a higher risk of future glaucomatous field loss.
Methods: Annual examinations of the optic disc, nerve fiber layer, and visual field in 647 persons with bilateral intraocular pressure higher than 21 mmHg and initially normal visual field test results with the Goldmann perimeter.
Results: Sixty-eight persons developed a field defect on two consecutive Goldmann visual field tests in at least one eye, while 579 others retained normal fields. Moderate or severe nerve fiber layer atrophy at baseline was associated with a seven to eight times greater risk of development of visual field loss. Attributes that were significantly associated with the incidence of field loss included older age, larger cup-disc ratio, smaller rim-disc area ratio, larger cup asymmetry, presence of disc crescent, and higher intraocular pressure. Characteristics found not to be associated with incidence were gender, race, hypertension, diabetes, refractive error, family history of glaucoma, smoking or alcohol drinking history, and disc area.
Conclusions: Increasing nerve fiber layer atrophy judged by a semiquantitative grading system was associated with increasing risk of development of visual field loss among persons with ocular hypertension. The relationship of the development of field loss to race, myopia, family history of glaucoma, and medical history are more complex than has been presumed.