The objective of this analysis was to determine the strength of association between age, gender, ethnicity, family history of disease and refractive error and the risk of developing glaucoma or ARM?
A routine eye exam serves a primary, secondary, and tertiary care role. In a primary care role, it allows contact with a doctor who can provide advice about eye care, which may reduce the incidence of eye disease and injury. In a secondary care role, it can via a case finding approach, diagnose persons with degenerative eye diseases such as glaucoma and or AMD, and lead to earlier treatment to slow the progression of the disease. Finally in a tertiary care role, it provides ongoing monitoring and treatment to those with diseases associated with vision loss.
Glaucoma is a progressive degenerative disease of the optic nerve, which causes gradual loss of peripheral (side) vision, and in advanced disease states loss of central vision. Blindness may results if glaucoma is not diagnosed and managed. The prevalence of primary open angle glaucoma (POAG) ranges from 1.1% to 3.0% in Western populations, and from 4.2% to 8.8% in populations of African descent. It is estimated up to 50% of people with glaucoma are aware that they have the disease. In Canada, glaucoma disease is the second leading cause of blindness in people aged 50 years and older. Tonometry, inspection of the optic disc and perimetry are used concurrently by physicians and optometrists to make the diagnosis of glaucoma. In general, the evidence shows that treating people with increased IOP only, increased IOP and clinical signs of early glaucoma or with normal-tension glaucoma can reduce the progression of disease.
Age-related maculopathy (ARM) is a degenerative disease of the macula, which is a part of the retina. Damage to the macula causes loss of central vision affecting the ability to read, recognize faces and to move about freely. ARM can be divided into an early- stage (early ARM) and a late-stage (AMD). AMD is the leading cause of blindness in developed countries. The prevalence of AMD increases with increasing age. It is estimated that 1% of people 55 years of age, 5% aged 75 to 84 years and 15% 80 years of age and older have AMD. ARM can be diagnosed during fundoscopy (ophthalmoscopy) which is a visual inspection of the retina by a physician or optometrist, or from a photograph of the retina. There is no cure or prevention for ARM. Likewise, there is currently no treatment to restore vision lost due to AMD. However, there are treatments to delay the progression of the disease and further loss of vision.
A periodic oculo-visual assessment is defined “as an examination of the eye and vision system rendered primarily to determine if a patient has a simple refractive error (visual acuity assessment) including myopia, hypermetropia, presbyopia, anisometropia or astigmatism.” This service includes a history of the presenting complaint, past medical history, visual acuity examination, ocular mobility examination, slit lamp examination of the anterior segment, ophthalmoscopy, and tonometry (measurement of IOP) and is completed by either a physician or an optometrist.
The Medical Advisory Secretariat conducted a computerized search of the literature in the following databases: OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE, In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE, INAHTA and the Cochrane Library. The search was limited to English-language articles with human subjects, published from January 2000 to March 2006. In addition, a search was conducted for published guidelines, health technology assessments, and policy decisions. Bibliographies of references of relevant papers were searched for additional references that may have been missed in the computerized database search. Studies including participants 20 years and older, population-based prospective cohort studies, population-based cross-sectional studies when prospective cohort studies were unavailable or insufficient and studies determining and reporting the strength of association or risk- specific prevalence or incidence rates of either age, gender, ethnicity, refractive error or family history of disease and the risk of developing glaucoma or AMD were included in the review. The Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) system was used to summarize the overall quality of the body of evidence.
Summary of Findings
A total of 498 citations for the period January 2000 through February 2006 were retrieved and an additional 313 were identified when the search was expanded to include articles published between 1990 and 1999. An additional 6 articles were obtained from bibliographies of relevant articles. Of these, 36 articles were retrieved for further evaluation. Upon review, 1 meta-analysis and 15 population-based epidemiological studies were accepted for this review
Primary Open Angle Glaucoma
Six cross-sectional studies and 1 prospective cohort study contributed data on the association between age and PAOG. From the data it can be concluded that the prevalence and 4-year incidence of POAG increases with increasing age. The odds of having POAG are statistically significantly greater for people 50 years of age and older relative to those 40 to 49 years of age. There is an estimated 7% per year incremental odds of having POAG in persons 40 years of age and older, and 10% per year in persons 49 years of age and older. POAG is undiagnosed in up to 50% of the population. The quality of the evidence is moderate.
Five cross-sectional studies evaluated the association between gender and POAG. Consistency in estimates is lacking among studies and because of this the association between gender and prevalent POAG is inconclusive. The quality of the evidence is very low.
Only 1 cross-sectional study compared the prevalence rates of POAG between black and white participants. These data suggest that prevalent glaucoma is statistically significantly greater in a black population 50 years of age and older compared with a white population of similar age. There is an overall 4-fold increase in prevalent POAG in a black population compared with a white population. This increase may be due to a confounding variable not accounted for in the analysis. The quality of the evidence is low.
Four cross-sectional studies assessed the association of myopia and POAG. These data suggest an association between myopia defined as a spherical equivalent of -1.00D or worse and prevalent POAG. However, there is inconsistency in results regarding the statistical significance of the association between myopia when defined as a spherical equivalent of -0.5D. The quality of the evidence is very low.
Family History of POAG
Three cross-sectional studies investigated the association between family history of glaucoma and prevalent POAG. These data suggest a 2.5 to 3.0 fold increase in the odds having POAG in persons with a family history (any first-degree relative) of POAG. The quality of the evidence is moderate.
Four cohort studies evaluated the association between age and early ARM and AMD. After 55 years of age, the incidence of both early ARM and AMD increases with increasing age. Progression to AMD occurs in up to 12% of persons with early ARM. The quality of the evidence is low
Four cohort studies evaluated the association between gender and early ARM and AMD. Gender differences in incident early ARM and incident AMD are not supported from these data. The quality of the evidence is lows.
One meta-analysis and 2 cross-sectional studies reported the ethnic-specific prevalence rates of ARM. The data suggests that the prevalence of early ARM is higher in a white population compared with a black population. The data suggest that the ethnic-specific differences in the prevalence of AMD remain inconclusive.
Two cohort studies investigated the association between refractive error and the development of incident early ARM and AMD. The quality of the evidence is very low.
Two cross-sectional studies evaluated the association of family history and early ARM and AMD. Data from one study supports an association between a positive family history of AMD and having AMD. The results of the study indicate an almost 4-fold increase in the odds of any AMD in a person with a family history of AMD. The quality of the evidence, as based on the GRADE criteria is moderate.
The prevalence of glaucoma is estimated at 1 to 3% for a Caucasian population and 4.2 to 8.8% for a black population. The incidence of glaucoma is estimated at 0.5 to 2.5% per year in the literature. The percentage of people who go blind per year as a result of glaucoma is approximately 0.55%.
The total population of Ontarians aged 50 to 64 years is estimated at 2.6 million based on the April 2006 Ontario Ministry of Finance population estimates. The range of utilization for a major eye examination in 2006/07 for this age group is estimated at 567,690 to 669,125, were coverage for major eye exams extended to this age group. This would represent a net increase in utilization of approximately 440,116 to 541,551.
The percentage of Ontario population categorized as black and/or those with a family history of glaucoma was approximately 20%. Therefore, the estimated range of utilization for a major eye examination in 2006/07 for this sub-population is estimated at 113,538 - 138,727 (20% of the estimated range of utilization in total population of 50-64 year olds in Ontario), were coverage for major eye exams extended to this sub-group. This would represent a net increase in utilization of approximately 88,023 to 108,310 within this sub-group.
The total cost of a major eye examination by a physician is $42.15, as per the 2006 Schedule of Benefits for Physician Services.(1) The total difference between the treatments of early-stage versus late-stage glaucoma was estimated at $167. The total cost per recipient was estimated at $891/person.
Current Ontario Policy
As of November 1, 2004 persons between 20 years and 64 years of age are eligible for an insured eye examination once every year if they have any of the following medical conditions: diabetes mellitus type 1 or 2, glaucoma, cataract(s), retinal disease, amblyopia, visual field defects, corneal disease, or strabismus. Persons between 20 to 64 years of age who do not have diabetes mellitus, glaucoma, cataract(s), retinal disease, amblyopia, visual field defects, corneal disease, or strabismus may be eligible for an annual eye examination if they have a valid “request for major eye examination” form completed by a physician (other than that who completed the eye exam) or a nurse practitioner working in a collaborative practice. Persons 20-64 years of age who are in receipt of social assistance and who do not have one of the 8 medical conditions listed above are eligible to receive an eye exam once every 2 years as a non-OHIP government funded service. Persons 19 years of age or younger and 65 years of age or older may receive an insured eye exam once every year.
Considerations for Policy Development
As of July 17, 2006 there were 1,402 practicing optometrists in Ontario. As of December 31, 2005 there were 404 practicing ophthalmologists in Ontario. It is unknown how many third party payers now cover routine eye exams for person between the ages of 20 and 64 years of age in Ontario.