Effect of aging on optic nerve appearance: a longitudinal study

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Abstract

Aim

To determine whether aging causes detectable changes in the appearance of the optic disc.

Methods

A retrospective longitudinal study was performed with quantitative and qualitative evaluations of digitised stereoscopic optic disc photographs of 224 eyes of 224 subjects. There were three groups: 100 normal subjects from the Framingham Eye Study, 68 glaucomatous patients followed longitudinally, and 56 normal subjects and glaucoma patients who had separate sets of disc photos taken on the same day. A disc was considered qualitatively worse if two of three experienced observers agreed that it was worse. Quantitative progression was defined as a >10% decrease in rim/disc area ratio measured with computer assisted planimetry.

Results

With quantitative evaluation, normal eyes (mean follow up 13 years) and same day eyes displayed no statistically significant difference in change of rim/disc area ratios (p=0.095), nor in the number of discs that progressed-five of 100 (5%) v two of 56 (4%) respectively. Glaucomatous eyes (mean follow up 9 years) showed a quantitative loss of disc rim in 24 of 68 (35%), and differed significantly from the normal eyes both in the change of rim/disc area ratio (p<0.0005) and number of discs that progressed (p<0.0005). With qualitative evaluation, the number of progressive discs in the glaucomatous eyes (31%) differed significantly (p<0.0005) from the normal eyes (3%) and the same day eyes (0%).

Conclusions

Over a period of follow up appropriate for long term outcome studies in glaucoma, there was no quantitatively or qualitatively detectable neuroretinal rim loss in normal aging optic nerves with stereoscopic optic disc photographs.

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