To determine whether aging modifies the effect of intraocular pressure (IOP) on progressive glaucomatous retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) thinning over time.
This was a retrospective cohort study involving patients with glaucoma or suspected of having glaucoma who were followed over time from the Duke Glaucoma Registry. Rates of RNFL loss from spectral-domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) were used to assess disease progression. Generalized estimating equations with robust sandwich variance estimators were used to investigate the effects of the interaction of age at baseline and mean IOP on rates of RNFL loss over time. Models were adjusted for gender, race, diagnosis, central corneal thickness, follow-up time, and baseline disease severity.
The study included 85,475 IOP measurements and 60,026 SD-OCT tests of 14,739 eyes of 7814 patients. Eyes had a mean follow-up time of 3.5 ± 1.9 years. The average rate of change in RNFL thickness was -0.70 µm/year (95% confidence interval, -0.72 to -0.67). There was a significant interaction between age and mean IOP and the rate of RNFL loss (P = 0.001), with older eyes having significantly faster rates of RNFL loss than younger ones for the same level of IOP. The effect of IOP on rates of change was greater in the inferior and superior regions of the optic disc.
Age is a significant modifier of the relationship between IOP and glaucomatous loss in RNFL thickness over time. Older patients may be more susceptible to glaucomatous progression than younger patients at the same level of IOP.